<p>Asa Butterfield&nbsp;(left)&nbsp;and Chlo&euml; Grace Moretz in &quot;Hugo&quot;</p>

Asa Butterfield (left) and Chloë Grace Moretz in "Hugo"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

'The Artist' isn't the only film celebrating Hollywood's Golden Age this year

Mr. Hazanavicius, meet Mr. Scorsese and Mr. Spielberg

Okay, I've been a bit down on "The Artist" since day one. And I took another shot this morning. Well, allow me to take one more.

Really, I don't want to be a wet blanket. I appreciate that people are discovering and loving the movie on the festival circuit. I think it's a thin sort of satisfaction, though, and oddly enough, some of the same people who took "The King's Speech" to task for being (in their view) a trifle against the STAGGERING density of "The Social Network" last year are glomming onto Michel Hazanavicius's film like it were a blast of freshness. It's not. It's novel. And charming. And yes, it celebrates Hollywood's Golden Age, which is delightful.

The thing is, when I see a runaway locomotive narrative getting out of hand like the idea that "we should award 'The Artist' because it celebrates film history" or what have you, I feel like I have to step in. Especially since that narrative isn't at all unique to "The Artist" this season, or even this weekend, for that matter.

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Jean Dujardin and Missi Pyle in "The Artist"
Jean Dujardin and Missi Pyle in "The Artist"
Credit: The Weinstein Company

Oscarweb Round-up: Pitching Chaplins for 'The Artist'

Also: Muppet Walter modeled after Michael Cera and Hamm hearts Wiig

There's a really annoying campaign going on that is nevertheless SO Harvey Weinstein (meaning it will get the job done): Charlie Chaplin's granddaughters are going around waxing on about how they love "The Artist," and The Weinstein Company is happy to bring that message and the messengers to any and all who'll listen. But the thing is, while I get it, I couldn't care less what Chaplin's granddaughters think of "The Artist." I'd rather hear what they thought of, say, "Shame." You know, a film with a conversation that stretches past the concession line? Anyway, all that aside, the cast and crew of the film are also making the rounds and Bret Brevet recently chatted up director Michel Hazanavicius. [Rope of Silicon]

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<p>Rooney Mara in &quot;The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.&quot;</p>

Rooney Mara in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

Credit: Columbia Pictures

David Fincher plays it cool with Academy on 'Dragon Tattoo'

Could downplaying film's Oscar chances be a canny move?

In our newly revised (and newly two-headed) Contenders section, you may have noticed a slight uptick for one of the year’s last great unknowns, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Kris has placed David Fincher’s remake of the Swedish blockbuster thriller as a dark-horse Best Picture outsider, while Fincher himself cracked the top 10 in my own rejigging of the Best Director category. The film also pops up in a couple of tech categories, while Rooney Mara is waiting to pounce into the Best Actress inner circle.

With the film not yet seen, there’s no telling whether this is that start of greater upward movement, or if we’re just catching some December fever. I’ve been sceptical for some time that the Academy will warm to a nasty pulp remake by a director they seem to admire more than they like, however expertly executed it is, and I remain so.

Certainly, Fincher would discourage us from getting too excited. He’s taking great pains to distance his film from the Oscar race in the advance publicity trail: first, he quipped to Entertainment Weekly last week that his violent genre piece had “too much anal rape” to win over the Academy, and he pretty much repeats that statement in this Total Film interview, where he says he “can’t imagine anyone in their right mind” describing the script as Oscar bait.

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<p>Tilda Swinton in a scene from &quot;We Need to Talk About Kevin&quot;</p>

Tilda Swinton in a scene from "We Need to Talk About Kevin"

Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Off the Carpet: Deep breath before the critics have their say

It's screener season as precursor groups check off their 'to see' lists

Such a weird year for movies, this. I feel like it's been a rather weak one, to be honest. Not in terms of the quality of what's there, but in terms of the quantity of quality. And even then, I note that so many of my favorite movies this year carry that designation with more caveats than normal.

Yet I really am enjoying 2011 in cinema, or at least, I'm enjoying my favorite movies from the year quite a bit. And it's interesting to note so many of them are all about a state of mind. "Rampart," "Shame," "Drive," "Take Shelter," "We Need to Talk About Kevin," "Martha Marcy May Marlene," all films that play in the abstract and put the viewer into a character's frame of perception, at times painting a bit of a dreamscape to do so. Fascinating.

Where the art is meeting commerce, there are still joys to be had. "The Descendants" opened this weekend and landed on my doorstep this morning. Even though I was cooler on it than most at Telluride over two months ago, I find myself eager to give it another look. "Young Adult" and "Hugo" are films that expect to be repeat viewings on my Blu-ray player when I get them, as will "Moneyball" and, most definitely, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

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Production still from 'Bellflower'
"Bellflower"'s Medusa
Credit: AP Photo/Oscilloscope

Bella versus 'Bellflower'

The 'Twilight' installment dominated the box office this weekend while the indie favorite made its way into homes

The color of love was a fetching blood red in both theaters and on VOD this weekend.

It's possible that two more divergent explorations of the agony and the ecstasy of love could be found. Possible. But the synchronistic release of the micro-budgeted, darkly masculine fantasy of love "Bellflower" vs. the blockbusting female fantasy "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" warrants a mention and a brief examination. The former represents an independent passion project 8 years in the making for writer/director/star Evan Glodell, while the latter represents the penultimate instillation in a YA phenomena.

Most readers will already be familiar with the general story structure of "Breaking Dawn," but for referential purposes: Bella and Edward get married. Jacob gets sad. Bella gets pregnant. Jacob gets mad. The werewolves turn against the Cullen vampires.The fetus threatens to drain Bella of her life from the inside out. Edward begs for death alongside his beloved. Bella learns to love the taste of blood, blooood, blooooooood! Jacob is forced to gag. All of this culminates in a frighteningly intimate c-section with teeth and Jacob "imprinting on" (aka falling in enslaving love with) an infant.

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<p>Johnny&nbsp;Depp at the Golden&nbsp;Globes in 2005</p>

Johnny Depp at the Golden Globes in 2005

Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Oscarweb Round-up: HFPA don't need no stinkin' stars

Also: 'Descendants' screens for AMPAS and WB cranks 'Contagion' campaign

So the HFPA tapped Ricky Gervais last week as Golden Globes host despite cries from within that he went too far last year. Hell, even the organization's brass hit the stage THAT NIGHT to bemoan the comedian's taunts. Anyone with eyes can see it's a ratings grab, just like a number of the dubious nominations equate to star-f***ing over the years. They beg to differ on that, but come on: "While the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. takes the firm position that its members are not starstruck and an actor's place in Hollywood hierarchy doesn't mean anything when it comes to who'll appear at the org's kudocast, the list of recent noms may prove otherwise." [Variety]

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James Cameron (left) talks "Hugo" with Martin Scorsese
James Cameron (left) talks "Hugo" with Martin Scorsese
Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Avatar' director James Cameron talks 'Hugo' and 3D with Martin Scorsese

He calls Scorsese's latest 'a 16-cylinder Bugatti firing on all cylinders'

What do James Cameron, Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson have in common? Well, a number of things, probably, but as of late, they are directors who have moderated Q&As with Martin Scorsese following screenings of his latest film, "Hugo."

Paramount has a history of slotting filmmakers for Q&As. It's something they try to do as often as possible, anyway, and in the case of DGA screenings (one of which Wes Anderson moderated in New York a few weeks back), the requirement is that members serve as moderators. All that aside, it's an interesting accent on a film like "Hugo," which is ultimately about the magic of cinema, from the larger-than-life experience of a movie to the joy of the nuts and bolts of making one.

With that in mind, the studio has made available a featurette with Cameron (who moderated a guild Q&A here in Los Angeles for "Hugo" and called it a "masterpiece") and Scorsese talking about the film, its themes, the 3D technology employed and more.

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<p>A scene from &quot;Project Nim&quot;</p>

A scene from "Project Nim"

Credit: Red Box Films

Academy advances 15 doc features, 'Senna,' 'Interrupters' stunningly snubbed

'Pina' makes the cut while Werner Herzog and Errol Morris are ignored yet again

The documentary branch of the Academy is beginning to get as crazy with it's random snubs as the music branch, I have to say. Today's announcement of 15 eligible contenders for the Best Documentary Feature category revealed outright snubs of two of the most acclaimed hopefuls of the year -- "Senna" and "The Interrupters" -- while perhaps less surprisingly, Werner Herzog got the shaft once again for his best film in years, "Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life."

Errol Morris was also shafted for "Tabloid" (which is embroiled in a lawsuit threat from subject Joyce McKinney), while other high-profile hopefuls like "Being Elmo: A Pupeteer's Journey" and "Page One: Inside the New York Times" were also ignored.

Interestingly, Wim Wenders's 3D Pina Bausch ode (and German selection for Best Foreign Language Film) "Pina" made the cut. So did "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," which slated a one-week theatrical qualifying run ahead of its HBO premiere expressly for the purposes of being in this discussion.

Check out the full list of advancing titles below.

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<p>&quot;It's time to light the lights...&quot;</p>

"It's time to light the lights..."

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Interview: Nicholas Stoller on writing 'The Muppets' for generations young and old

How 'the gateway drug to comedy' got another curtain call

It had been nearly 12 years since Jim Henson's beloved creation the Muppets had seen any sort of action on the big screen when Jason Segel took a meeting with Disney execs about potential properties the studio owned that might be of interest to him. The first thing out of Segel's mouth: "What are you guys doing with the Muppets?"

The thing is, the studio didn't know. "Which is funny," screenwriter Nicholas Stoller says, "that a corporation lost one of their brands. I think there were a variety of corporate reasons. Things I don't really understand. Like, I mean, 18 different people seemed to have owned the property in the past 10 years."

That idea of "where have the Muppets been?" is what drove the original story process. Segel phoned up Stoller and asked, simply, "Do you want to write a Muppet movie?" And of course, Stoller jumped at the opportunity.

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<p>The motley crew from Alexander Payne's &quot;The Descendants&quot;</p>
<br />

The motley crew from Alexander Payne's "The Descendants"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'The Descendants'

The film hits theaters this week

The Telluride premiere of Alexandre Payne's "The Descendants" seems like ages ago. I saw the film there and had my say on it at the time, and we circle back again in today's Oscar Talk. Plus, earlier in the week, we dedicated an installment of The Lists to the best George Clooney performances. But the film hit theaters this week and it's time for you to have your say. If you get around to it this weekend, come on back and give us your thoughts.

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