Besides a few stills, very little has been seen of major awards season contender "Invictus," but that's standard protocol for a Clint Eastwood film.  The cinematic icon pretty much dictates how and when marketing materials are released for his pictures and considering his track record its hard to argue with how late they typically are.  Today, the movie's poster debuted less than two months before release.   And somewhat surprisingly, it's a winner.

The true story of a star South African rugby player (Matt Damon) who partnered with new president Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) to help kick start the country's reconciliation movement after decades of apartheid.  The movie is meant to be an inspirational tale and the poster immediately sells that optimism.  Most of Eastwood's movie posters have followed a blue, black or brown color scheme but the "Invictus" key art uses white and a beaming Damon that may help push a film in a sports setting to a female audience.  The only surprising element of the images is how much Freeman is secondary to the rest of the composition. [See the entire image at the end of this post.] 

Obviously, we all anxiously await the first trailer.  Especially with "Invictus" opening nationwide on Dec. 11.

On the other hand, one movie that appears to have lost any hopes for major awards consideration is "Amelia."  There are numerous victims along the road of award season and critics are working to hard to make the Amelia Earhart biopic this year's first major casualty.  Word had already flowed around town that Hilary Swank's passion project was not solid enough to make even a ten-nominee best picture field, but there was hope that the two-time Oscar winner's performance could provide her a third best actress nod.  Considering how stinging the reviews have been for the film overall, that will be a mighty high mountain to climb.

The current rating for "Amelia" on Rotten Tomatoes is 21% and on premier critic site Metacritc it has an average rating of 41 out of 100.  Some eye-popping comparison?  Two of this weekend's other releases, "The Vampire's Assistant" polls with a 34% and 44 and "Astro Boy" has a respective 48% and a 55.  Ouch. 

It's not clear what Fox Searchlight could have done to avoid this overly harsh criticism, because regardless of the professional reviews, "Amelia" is not a bad movie.  Is it a great film?  No, but it's equal to or better than your typical HBO flick and that's heads and shoulders above most of the dreck moviegoers find these days.  And yet, because Swank is an Oscar favorite, because the film is a biopic about a major historical figure and because Searchlight's expertise is in launching awards flicks, the microscope and knives get sharpened by critics looking to go for the jugular.  Newsflash: film criticism is not a profession without prejudice.   For every professional "major" critic who is as close to objective as possible there is another with an agenda or even worse, a vendetta.  And the longer one works in this business the more obvious they are, no matter how good or bad their overall taste.  Sigh.

All is not lost, however.  A few years ago, Shekar Kapur's "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" had a disastrous premiere at the Toronto Film Festival (personally witnessed by this commentator) and a disappointing box office take a few weeks later.  For comparison, "The Golden Age" received a 34% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 45 on Metacritc (sound similar?).  Many assumed that even with Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett in the fold that the film was D.O.A. for awards season.  Instead, Blanchett landed a best actress nomination (in a similarly weak year in that category) and the film won for best costumes.  So, those prognosticators ready to throw "Amelia" to the Oscar season wolves should be wary.  Crow can be awfully hard to swallow once nominations are announced in February.

  For constant updates on awards season and entertainment news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter at Twitter.com/HitFixGregory

The poster for Clint Eastwoods