Oscar Talk: Ep. 94 -- Disney buys Lucasfilm as 'Hitchcock' opens AFI Fest

Oscar Talk: Ep. 94 -- Disney buys Lucasfilm as 'Hitchcock' opens AFI Fest

Also: It's time to talk 'Skyfall!'

Welcome to Oscar Talk.

In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.

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<p>&quot;Frankenweenie&quot;</p>

"Frankenweenie"

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Academy announces 21 qualifying titles for the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar

'Dino Time' didn't bother but we get five unexpected players

Okay, well, I missed a few unseen contenders. I had a feeling I might since suddenly messages were being left on my phone from publicists pitching fringe hopefuls.

In addition to 16 of the Best Animated Feature Film contenders we have already thoroughly charted (and minus "Dino Time," which didn't bother -- who can blame them? -- and "Arjun: The Warrior Prince," which I had been led to believe by Disney would qualify), the Academy has announced five more qualifying titles for a big ole' list of 21. So that means we will definitely have a full slate of five nominees in the category, though that was already expected.

The other five are "Adventures in Zambezia" (which we had our eye on but never noticed a distributor come on board), "Delhi Safari," "Hey Krishna," "The Mystical Laws" and "Walter & Tandoori's Christmas." Check out the full slate below, as well as the aforementioned gallery running through most of the contenders, and let the guessing begin!

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<p>Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins in &quot;Hitchcock&quot;</p>

Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins in "Hitchcock"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

How will Sacha Gervasi's 'Hitchcock' fare with Oscar?

The quirky look at the legend could go either way

AFI Fest picked a fun and droll piece of work for its 2012 opener in Sacha Gervasi's "Hitchcock" last night. (Greg Ellwood's review here.) As you'll hear me mention in this evening's podcast (coming later due to technical difficulties), I found it to be strikingly emotional, though, for its depiction of an artist's plight and the joy that comes with the release of bottled creativity. And I can't help but wonder if Academy members may feel the same way.

Films about the process have a long history of awards recognition, whether satirical or sincere. Things like Robert Altman's "The Player" and Spike Jonze's "Adaptation" come to mind, or "The Bad and the Beautiful" and "A Star is Born." And there is, of course, the highest echelon of the subgenre: "8 1/2." Oscar nominees all. Though sometimes masterworks in this vein can slip through the cracks. Just ask "Sullivan's Travels." And though it landed a pair of nods, "Singin' in the Rain" was mostly passed over.

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<p>&quot;Wreck-It&nbsp;Ralph&quot;</p>

"Wreck-It Ralph"

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'Wreck-It Ralph'

HitFix
A-
Readers
B+
Disney's Pixar-level home run hits theaters today

I haven't had a chance to really get out my thoughts on "Wreck-It Ralph" beyond those in the animated feature piece, but I'm kind of over the moon for it. It's Pixar-level storytelling out of Disney with top-notch voice acting -- moving, even -- and a beautifully animated instant classic. If that's drowning it in superlatives then I'm not worried because I know this one will have its fair share of fans and I'm curious how many are out there, so when/if you see the film this weekend, let us know what you thought. And, of course, feel free to rate it via the tool above.

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<p>Denzel Washington and Kelly&nbsp;Reilly in &quot;Flight&quot;</p>

Denzel Washington and Kelly Reilly in "Flight"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'Flight'

HitFix
B+
Readers
B-
Robert Zemeckis's return to live action lands today

Alright, enough out of us about "Flight." You know I like it and you've heard what screenwriter John Gatins, co-star John Goodman and star Denzel Washington have to say. It's time to get your thoughts on the film, which finally makes it to the arrival gate (ugh, I know) nationwide today. So when and if you get around to seeing the film, come on back here and tell us your thoughts. And feel free to rate the film via the tool above.

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<p>Apparently I wouldn't like &quot;Ted&quot;&nbsp;(which I haven't seen).&nbsp;I find that hard to believe based on this still alone.</p>

Apparently I wouldn't like "Ted" (which I haven't seen). I find that hard to believe based on this still alone.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Roundup: Which awards player is for you?

Also: 'Promised Land' as a Capra ode and on the makeup of 'Cloud Atlas'

When I sat down with "Flight" screenwriter John Gatins a few weeks back, he spoke about the release date of the film and how Robert Zemeckis's theory was that there are a lot of people out there who get to see maybe one film each year. And it's usually at the end of the year around the holidays when there's time, etc. Hence the desire to open it later in the year. With that in mind, maybe there are some out there trying to narrow the list down for themselves. If so, London's Guardian newspaper has a matchmaker for you. Apparently I'd dig "The Hunt" (haven't seen it) "Killing Them Softly" ditto) and "The Iceman" (liked it...though it won't be released this year). And apparently I won't do well with "Ted" (haven't seen it), "This is 40" (ditto) and "Silver Linings Playbook" (nailed it). You give it a try. [The Guardian]

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<p>&quot;Rise of the Guardians&quot;</p>

"Rise of the Guardians"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

DreamWorks pitches 'Rise of the Guardians' for SAG ensemble consideration

Is it time for voice performances to get their due on the circuit?

DreamWorks brought out their animated fall player "Rise of the Guardians" for Los Angeles press Tuesday at a tastemaker event with director Peter Ramsey and executive producer Guillermo del Toro (who had a big hand in character designs) in tow. Earlier in the day press were rounded up for a trip to the studio's Glendale, California campus for a full day of presentations and buttering-up, the usual.

I wasn't at those events (I saw the film a few weeks back in New York and made some cursory comments in our survey of the Best Animated Feature Film contenders). But even from way out here you can see the heat is on as the studio preps the film to open just a few weeks after Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph" gobbles up a lot of the demographic pie.

Looking back on the film with some time in between, I still feel the same as I did then. It's beautifully animated but feels somewhat empty. "Empty" isn't the right word. It's very clearly a movie about faith and how that translates to childhood, and kids will love it, so it's nice that it's playing off an interesting theme. But there's a thinness to it. The film's heart doesn't feel like much more than artifice, and that's particularly pronounced when you put it up against a film like "Wreck-It Ralph" that is swimming in heart and thematic virtue.

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<p>Jodie Foster arriving to the Golden&nbsp;Globes in January</p>

Jodie Foster arriving to the Golden Globes in January

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Jodie Foster to receive HFPA's Cecil B. DeMille Award

The seven-time Golden Globe nominee is the first woman to receive the honor in 12 years

It's nice that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association opted, finally, for a woman to receive its Cecil B. DeMille Award, analogous to a lifetime achievement honor. Sure, Lucille Ball, Joan Crawford, Doris Day, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine and Elizabeth Taylor have received the distinction over the years, but the last time a woman received the special Golden Globe was 12 years ago when Barbra Streisand won it.

The stated criteria for the Cecil B. DeMille Award is for individuals who have made an impact on entertainment. And Foster certainly qualifies. Ever since she leaped onto the scene in 1976's "Taxi Driver" (from fellow DeMille-recipient Martin Scorsese), Foster has been a leading force in the industry.  She's won two Best Actress Oscars (for "The Accussed" and "The Silence of the Lambs") and been nominated for one more ("Nell"). She was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for the aforementioned "Taxi Driver."

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<p>Keira Knightley in &quot;Anna Karenina&quot;</p>

Keira Knightley in "Anna Karenina"

Credit: Focus Features

Tech Support: 'Anna Karenina,' 'Les Mis' and 'Lincoln' lead the race for Best Production Design

Period, fantasy and contemporary films duke it out in a diverse mix

Ah, Best Production Design. It was about time the name was changed.

Previously known as “Best Art Direction,” the award doesn’t cite a movie’s art director. Rather, it recognizes both the production designer, who is in charge of the set designs and the overall art department, and the set decorator, whose responsibility it is to fill up those environments with accouterment that truly brings them alive.

The Designers Branch, as it is now known, votes for the nominees in Best Production Design. It also contains the costume designers, making the branch responsible for two of the Oscar categories, like the sound branch. And while the category’s name has changed, the rules have not, so branch's past behavior provides helpful guidance in handicapping this race.

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<p>Anthony Hopkins in &quot;Hitchcock.&quot;</p>

Anthony Hopkins in "Hitchcock."

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Will 'Hitchcock' remind the Academy of its own Hitch neglect?

The biopic is set to premiere tonight at AFI Fest

Tonight, Sacha Gervasi's "Hitchcock" will kick off the AFI Fest in Los Angeles, giving Oscar-watchers more to murmur about while critics decide if it's a tribute worthy of Hitch himself or a disposable dress-up piece in the "My Week With Marilyn" mold.

Either way, Fox Searchlight -- who sprang a surprise on the season by moving the film up from its scheduled 2013 bow -- will be aiming to get more awards traction for their starry prestige item than almost any film directed by Hitchcock himself managed.

That tidy irony, meanwhile, could emerge as the chief hook for "Hitchcock"'s Oscar campaign: many voters will be aware of how the Academy neglected the master in the past, so might they choose to demonstrate their latter-day awareness of his greatness by voting for a film in which he's the subject?

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