Oscar Talk: Ep. 86 -- 'The Dark Knight Rises' is here, but is it a player? (SPOILERS)

Oscar Talk: Ep. 86 -- 'The Dark Knight Rises' is here, but is it a player? (SPOILERS)

Also: MVPs from the year's first half and looking ahead to fall fests

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.

Two years ago we brought the podcast back for a special edition around the release of Christopher Nolan's "Inception," a highly anticipated movie. Well, here we are again, with "The Dark Knight Rises" hitting theaters and fans and fanatics alike eager to get a look. So it seemed a good time to pop our head back up. Let's see what's on the docket...

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<p>Christian Bale in &quot;The Dark&nbsp;Knight&nbsp;Rises&quot;</p>

Christian Bale in "The Dark Knight Rises"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'The Dark Knight Rises'

HitFix
C+
Readers
B+
Christopher Nolan's Batman finale hits theaters today

OMGIT'SHEREOMGOMG! Yes, "The Dark Knight Rises" has arrived. Midnight screenings are happening right now. The box office is bursting at the seams and a trilogy is wrapping itself up. With style? With class? Well, you tell us. And feel free to rate the film above. I'll get to my thoughts in tomorrow's special edition podcast, but I'll be curious to see if anyone finds the film as structurally messy and thematically confused as I do.

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<p>A scene from &quot;The Master&quot;</p>

A scene from "The Master"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'The Master' gets a full trailer and poster

The film comes along at an interesting time for Scientology

In tomorrow's podcast Anne and I touch on the possibility of Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" showing up at Venice, but we both secretly hope it goes to Telluride, too/instead. Because, yes, that's where we'll be, and like most cinephiles, we're excited for Paul Thomas Anderson's first film in five years.

The film will be coming along at an interesting time for Scientology (the "religion" sent up in some ways by the narrative with an L. Ron Hubbard-like character in Philip Seymour Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd). Tales of subterfuge and escape acts have circled Katie Holmes's divorce from Scientology golden boy Tom Cruise in recent weeks, drumming up more and more stories about the organization, some new, many old, all bizarre. But all of that will be backdrop to the film, which, to judge by the new full-length trailer (which comes after a couple of teases), presents Anderson in top form with some of the industry's best actors giving it all they've got.

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<p>Naomi Watts in &quot;The Impossible.&quot;</p>

Naomi Watts in "The Impossible."

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Summit primes 'The Impossible' for awards season

Juan Antonio Bayona's tsunami drama will open on December 21

We've had "The Impossible" -- a true-life survival drama set against the tragedy of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami -- in our Contenders section for a while now, though for whatever reason, it's been languishing in the lower reaches of our category lists. Perhaps it's the question mark of Spanish genre director Juan Antonio Bayona ("The Orphanage") handling his first English-language production. Perhaps it's that Naomi Watts, good actress though she is, has had such a tepid run of recent projects. Perhaps it's that the thought of a film on that tragedy, however indirectly, conjures traumatic memories of Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter."

Or perhaps the film is, as some advance word suggests, is really strong, and could benefit from lying low. Certainly, Summit Entertainment -- who steered "The Hurt Locker" to Oscar glory nearly three years ago -- have high hopes for the Spanish production, and have just positioned it as their prime awards pony with the announcement of a December 21 release date.

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<p>Daniel Day-Lewis on the set of &quot;Lincoln.&quot;</p>

Daniel Day-Lewis on the set of "Lincoln."

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

'Lincoln' eases the pressure with a mid-November release

A wise move for a film feeling the burden of expectation?

Sorry, John Hawkes. Better luck next time, Joaquin Phoenix. Hard cheese, Hugh Jackman. Get your gracious-loser faces perfected, because this year's Best Actor Oscar has Daniel Day-Lewis's name written all over it. Again. Because, you know, he's frickin' Daniel Day-Lewis. And he's playing frickin' Abraham Lincoln. Try fighting that. Just try. What? Have I seen the movie? That's cute.

Such, at least, is the logic of numerous comment-thread denizens (and a hasty blogger or two) who began declaring the two-time Oscar champ a racing certainty as early as November last year, when the first on-set photos of his augustly bearded visage surfaced online. "Daniel Day-Lewis + Lincoln = Oscar," opined one Awards Daily reader. "It might as well be Meryl Streep playing Jesus Christ," agreed another. Just yesterday, a Hollywood Elsewhere regular ventured that "Phoenix is a threat to Day-Lewis like Mondale was a threat to Reagan... the [only] other pseudo-competition is the duo of Crow-Jackman in 'Les Miserables.'" Bold statements for four performances no one has yet clamped eyes on.

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<p>Lisa Cholodenko (right) and her &quot;Kids Are All Right&quot; collaborator Annette Bening, now both Academy governors.</p>

Lisa Cholodenko (right) and her "Kids Are All Right" collaborator Annette Bening, now both Academy governors.

Credit: AP Photo/Michel Spingler

Academy welcomes six new governors, including Lisa Cholodenko and Bill Condon

New Academy president to be elected in two weeks' time

Female directors and producers may have received relatively short shrift at the Academy Awards over 84 years -- for those of you keeping score, only seven women have won Best Picture, while that number famously drops to one for Best Director. Within the Academy itself, however, they get a little more respect: following yesterday's announcement of their rejigged Board of Governors, women occupy two-thirds of the spaces in the director and producer sections.

One of them is also one of six new governors: Lisa Cholodenko, the Oscar-nominated writer-director of "The Kids Are All Right," joins recent Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow and Michael Mann at the directors' table. Mann returns to the board after a hiatus, while Bigelow retains her place (and also holds a spot in the documentary field, making her the only governor doing double duty).

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<p>&quot;Finding&nbsp;Nemo&quot;</p>

"Finding Nemo"

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

'Finding Nemo 2' is apparently happening

Bummer

A colleague was recently bemoaning Pixar's descent into the world of, as he put it, "Roman numerals, Roman numerals, Roman numerals."

Indeed, after turning "Toy Story" into an amazing franchise that got better with each installment, the company has added onto the "Cars" series with a sequel, has "Monsters University" (a follow-up to 2001's "Monsters, Inc.") on the way next year and, as broken today by Deadline, is priming "Finding Nemo" for another trip to the well.

This makes me really sad. Some are saying there's a whiff of director Andrew Stanton retreating to safe territory after the disaster of "John Carter," but he has always said he wouldn't be averse to a sequel if he found the right concept. Well, it appears he has, and what I consider to be Pixar's best film and one of the decade's best, too, will no longer go unsullied by franchising.

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<p>A classic image from &quot;Batman Begins,&quot; which was largely inspired by Frank Miller's &quot;Batman: Year One&quot;</p>

A classic image from "Batman Begins," which was largely inspired by Frank Miller's "Batman: Year One"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

10 Batman arcs to prepare you for 'The Dark Knight Rises'

Which stories have inspired Christopher Nolan's trilogy?

This Friday the giant zit that is "The Dark Knight Rises" hype will finally be popped and the anticipation for Christopher Nolan's superhero denouement will give way to discovery. But the great thing about Batman is that the character endures, even if Nolan's interpretation takes its leave.

"Definitive" will be a word thrown around a lot when considering these films, but -- and not to take anything away from Nolan -- when stacked against what? Nothing that came before understood the character well enough to be considered the mold. So I hope future filmmakers will not feel trepidation when saddling up to give their take. In this world of reboots, we all know it's coming. But I wouldn't let Nolan's trilogy cast too daunting a shadow. Again, the character endures. He was here long before Nolan.

And indeed, one of the reasons I'd argue this series has been so successful has been its reverence for that source material. Story arcs from Batman's 70-plus years were fruitful inspiration for the filmmakers, and with the closing installment right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to call back to those yarns from the pages of DC Comics.

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<p>Aris Servetalis in &quot;Alps.&quot;</p>

Aris Servetalis in "Alps."

Credit: Kino Lorber

'Alps' does the (limited) Stateside rounds

Catch Yorgos Lanthimos's 'Dogtooth' follow-up if you can

This is a total cop-out of an admission, but the best film I saw in my recent trip to the Karlovy Vary Film Festival was one I'd seen before. (Okay, including what I caught in the Jean-Pierre Melville retrospective, I should amend that to the best few films. But let us not split hairs.) The week hadn't wanted for worthwhile discoveries, but things swam into perspective when, in the last few hours before I had to leave for the airport, I impulsively ducked into a screening of Yorgos Lanthimos's "Alps." Coming out of it a second time, everything else I'd seen that week looked a shade smaller, a little more finite, by comparison.

Regular readers might remember I fell hard for Lanthimos's playful, existentially preoccupied follow-up to "Dogtooth" at Venice nearly a year ago: it was my favorite film of the festival, and wound up in my Top 5 of 2011. But it plays even better on a second go-round.

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<p>Christopher Nolan at the New&nbsp;York premiere of &quot;The&nbsp;Dark&nbsp;Knight Rises&quot;</p>

Christopher Nolan at the New York premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises"

Credit: AP

'Dark Knight Rises' cast and crew speak of 'bittersweet' goodbye at New York premiere

The family Christopher Nolan built bids farewell

Manhattan played host to the world premiere of Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises" today on a hot day in the city (which also served as one of the key locations of the shoot). The Associated Press offered a live stream of the red (make that black) carpet arrivals, which, in addition to principals from the cast and crew of the film, included other such celebrities as Ron Howard and Dennis Haysbert.

"I'm very proud of what we've accomplished with the three movies," star Christian Bale said. "I'm very honored to have played this character and to have recreated it in our own fashion. And I'm very fascinated to see what consequent Batman incarnations will look like."

In many ways, Bale said he was amazed to be there for the premiere of a third and final film. Everyone involved with the production always said they should just assume one movie at a time and "not be arrogant enough" to assume they would have the opportunity to make sequels.

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