Like a political campaign, awards season is about making the right moves at the right time to take the biggest prize of them all; best picture.  There are over 5,000 Academy members studios are looking to win over and some experts argue you can never start too early.  While most filmmakers insist they want audiences of any kind to see their films in a theater, the true contenders know screeners sent to member's homes are how you really play the game.

The two prime periods to get Academy and SAG members' attention is over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and during the week between Christmas and New Year's when the town pretty much shuts down.  You can argue when is the better time to mail them out, but if you wait until after Christmas, you can become a quick afterthought. This week,  two prime best picture contenders, "The Kids Are All Right" and "The Social Network" made sure their screeners arrived before anyone went out of town for Thanksgiving.  For "Network," it's a significant move (and gamble) considering the drama is still playing well in theaters.  Focus Features also showed it was serious about another drama on its slate, "Somewhere," but sending a screener out over a month before Sofia Coppola's latest even opens in limited release.  

Out of all three pictures, "Network" is the one pundits think could win best picture and Sony Pictures and, no doubt, producer and award season vet Scott Rudin, are hoping getting in the screening pile now will help it offset the expected second round of buzz its main challenger, "The King's Speech," will receive when it opens next week.  

And in a move that might not seem as significant as it could be, "Network" star Jesse Eisenberg made a headlining appearance on "Conan" Thursday night.  A best actor hopeful, it appears Eisenberg was supposed to be there to promote his indie comedy "Holly Rollers" which is coming out on DVD, but a good chunk of the chat became a big plug for the actor's role in "Network" and pushing his Oscar chances (something no doubt worked over in the pre-interview script).  As strange as it sounds, these late night talk show interviews can have an impact -- see Sandra Bullock memorable visit with David Letterman last year just when she was beginning to pull away from Meryl Streep -- and that's because Conan O'Brien doesn't just have a huge 18-49 audience, he has a big industry viewership as well.  It was a smart publicity play that keeps "Network" on the minds of voters and, luckily, Eisenberg was able to charm both O'Brien and the studio audience.  Check out the interview below and see for yourself.


In other awards season news…

- Christian Bale gave a revealing or not so revealing (depending on your perspective) Q&A in Esquire magazine this month.  He doesn't make things easy for his interviewer, but you have to respect his intent to keep as much of his own life as private as he can. Intriguing reading for sure.

- Tom O'Neil of Goldderby has some interesting news in the Golden Globes races.  Unexpectedly, Sony Classics has submitted "Get Low" as a drama putting it in a much more competitive field.  And, believe it or not, guess what action comedy might crash the best musical or comedy race?  "Red."  Gotta love the HFPA.

- Paramount Pictures hasn't released the final poster domestically for "True Grit" yet, but it has debuted a very star friendly international poster.  In addition, a number of U.S. character posters featuring stars Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld are out and about.  You can check out the global key art embedded below and the new character posters here. What do you think?
 

The international poster for TRUE GRIT starring Josh Brolin, Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges

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