<p>Spike Lee and one his &quot;Bad 25&quot; interviewees, Mariah Carey.</p>

Spike Lee and one his "Bad 25" interviewees, Mariah Carey.

Credit: Optimum Productions

Spike Lee unveils adoring Michael Jackson doc 'Bad 25' in Venice

Tribute to Jackson's 1987 blockbuster album will air on ABC at Thanksgiving

VENICE - In a strangely programmed day at the Venice Film Festival -- no competition films are premiering, so we're feeling the effects of the slimming-down of the lineup this year -- so Spike Lee is enjoying the plum screening spot with his music documentary "Bad 25." It played for the critics this morning, and had its grand outing this evening, following a ceremony where Lee was presented with the festival's Jaeger-Le Coultre Glory To The Filmmaker Award.

It's the start of what should be a busy publicity trail for the film, a thorough, track-by-track study of the making of Michael Jackson's mega-selling 1987 album "Bad" -- marking, as depressing as this is to contemplate, the 25th anniversary of its release. (How did we ever think we could live so large and get so old?) The film will also play as a Special Presentation at the Toronto Film Festival, and ushers in a lavish reissue of the album itself on September 18, with all manner of bells and whistles. Meanwhile, Lee's two-hour-plus film will be televised by ABC on Thanksgiving in November -- though whether that precludes any form of theatrical distribution in the US, I haven't yet worked out. (It'll surely see the inside of a few more theaters internationally.)

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<p>Roger Corman</p>

Roger Corman

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Filmmaker Roger Corman to be toasted by the Telluride Film Festival

The maverick filmmaker gets another tribute in the twilight of his career

TELLURIDE - What else can one say about Roger Corman? He may think his influence on the film industry has been "overrated," but when future stars like Jonathan Demme, Curtis Hanson, Jack Nicholson, John Sayles, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone cut their teeth under your wing, your mark on the form is undeniable.

That idea was explored in an interview I conducted with Corman last year on the occasion of the documentary "Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel." It was on the heels of a David O. Selznick award from the PGA in 2006, Honorary Oscar recognition in 2009, a Fantastic Fest fete in 2010 and a Los Angeles Film Festival tribute in 2011. Indeed, it's become rather posh to toast the maverick filmmaker, whose 400+ features may be on the fringes of cinema, but whose impact on some of its most successful artists simply means his fingerprint will always be on the industry.

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<p>Zac Efron in &quot;At Any Price.&quot;</p>

Zac Efron in "At Any Price."

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron defeat the dream in smart, muscular 'At Any Price'

Boos greeted Ramin Bahrani's unsubtle but gutsy film at first Venice screening

VENICE - "God, that was a lot of America," I heard an Italian critic remark to his companion as they slouched out of "At Any Price" at the Venice Film Festival earlier this evening. His tone did not convey great delight at this perceived abundance; perhaps he was among the few but unignorable critics heard lustily booing as the credits rolled on Bahrani's classically involving and unexpectedly robust drama of heartland morality spread thin amid the cornfields of Southern Iowa .

He wasn't wrong, however. America is an almost punitively dominant presence in "At Any Price": we're treated to a complete rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," sung in an assortment of isolated, unlovely voices, midway through the film, while the Red, White and Blue itself is a pronounced presence in many a composition, furling and flapping above characters' heads like a veritable reproach.

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<p>Clint Eastwood</p>

Clint Eastwood

Credit: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Clint Eastwood to serve as 'mystery guest speaker' for Republican National Convention

What could it mean for his Oscar season hopes?

It had been rumored that the "mystery guest speaker" at the on-going Republican National Convention (which I've avoided like the plague, save for the inevitable Twitter eruptions over this or that nonsensical speech) would be Clint Eastwood. And today, CNN confirmed it.

My question is: why now?

Yeah, Eastwood backed Romney publicly earlier this month, just like he bumped his head and came out for Sarah Palin in 2008. He's long been considered more libertarian than conservative, though. And I've always liked that his work as a director has never seemed agenda-driven (even if I don't like a number of the films). Indeed, sometimes the art would paint a fuzzier portrait of the artist's political leanings. But I guess in the world of "mystery guest speakers" for such a thing, he makes sense.

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Academy Awards

Credit: AP Photo/Amy Sancetta

Academy changes original song rules again

Plus: Best Art Direction becomes Best Production Design

They just keep going back and forth on this. It really is time to let the category die its deserved death, but in any case, I'll just let the press release convey the news:

"The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has approved additional rules for the 85th Academy Awards. The most significant changes affect the Original Song category, in which there will now be five nominees.

"During the nominations process, all voting members of the Music Branch will receive a Reminder List of works submitted in the category and a DVD copy of the song clips. Members will be asked to watch the clips and then vote in the order of their preference for not more than five achievements in the category. The five achievements receiving the highest number of votes will become the nominations for final voting for the award.

"Additionally, upon the recommendation from the Designers Branch (formerly the Art Directors Branch), the Art Direction award will be known as the Production Design award.

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<p>Dave Eggers's artwork for the 39th annual Telluride Film&nbsp;Festival</p>

Dave Eggers's artwork for the 39th annual Telluride Film Festival

Credit: Telluride Film Festival

'Frances Ha,' 'Hyde Park on Hudson' and more set for 39th Telluride Film Festival

Marion Cotillard, Roger Corman and Mads Mikkelsen will get tributes

MONTROSE, Colo. - I've just landed at the airport and gotten a look at the fresh-off-the-presses release announcing the line-up for the 39th annual Telluride Film Festival. As I await the shuttle into Telluride for my fourth-straight SHOW, and as many of my Los Angeles brethren board the charter flight into Montrose here, let's dig in and see what's in store.

As is custom, Telluride withholds its line-up until the day before the festival really kicks off, but in the weeks leading up to the fest, people are talking and titles start to trickle out. A number of films have been expected presentations for a while now. Some respect the festival's wishes and keep mum about it online. Others don't.

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<p>Paul Newman arriving at the 1963 Venice Film Festival.</p>

Paul Newman arriving at the 1963 Venice Film Festival.

Credit: THR

A look ahead to the rest of the Venice Film Festival

Fest kicked off today with 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist,' but what's coming up?

VENICE - Bar this morning's review of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," which christened the 69th Venice Film Festival (and the first under new director Alberto Barbera's rule) this evening, I'm afraid I haven't offered much in the way of festival foreplay.

I had meant to write up some form of preview piece, but travel preparations were more manic than usual, and Venice itself always offers its fair share of practical obstacles. Since arriving yesterday afternoon at the otherwise delightful flat I'm sharing with two colleagues, we've been trying to solve the riddle of how to run electricity, wi-fi and air conditioning simultaneously without short-circuiting the building's entire switchboard. I'm not going steal Jeff Wells' schtick with a diary of technical woes, but suffice to say we're still working on it.

Anyway, offering up a "preview" after the opening film would be more than a little redundant -- and anyway, yesterday's combined HitFix gallery of our most anticipated titles of the fall festival season, to which Kris and I both contributed, set the festival mood rather nicely. The long and short of it is that I'm here and, with the programme's prime offerings still under wraps -- well, mostly -- I'm excited.

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<p>&quot;Le Tableau&quot;</p>

"Le Tableau"

Credit: GKIDS

More on the four GKIDS animated feature qualifiers

'Poppy Hill,' 'Le Tableau,' 'The Rabbi's Cat' and 'Zarafa' officially join the race

As noted in the updates of Monday's Best Animated Feature Film ponderings (which revealed the acquisition of Cannes hit "Ernest & Celestine" for a 2013 release), the indie distributor GKIDS will be qualifying four films for Oscar contention this year: "From Up on Poppy Hill," "Le Tableau," "The Rabbi's Cat" and "Zarafa." Added to Disney's "Secret of the Wings" and "Arjun: The Warrior Prince" (which were confirmed to me as well), that puts us at 17 titles officially in the running thus far, one more than the 16 necessary for a full slate of five nominees. And I don't see any eligibility concerns being raised for any of them on the horizon, so we should be good to go.

I assume many readers would like to know more about these films, which could ultimately shake up the race much like the studio's efforts did last year. So below, read through the official GKIDS synopses of each and start your speculating: which, if any, could end up on the eventual slate of nominees? My bet is currently on "Poppy Hill," but each film has a shot and each, most importantly, could really connect with animators -- you know, the folks who have the ultimate say on the matter.

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<p>Kate Hudson and Riz Ahmed in &quot;The Reluctant Fundamentalist.&quot;</p>

Kate Hudson and Riz Ahmed in "The Reluctant Fundamentalist."

Credit: K5 International

Review: 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' weighed down with all-caps ambiguity

Mira Nair's touch still AWOL in thoughtful but drab Venice opener

VENICE - I haven't got my Peanuts archives to hand at the moment, unfortunately, but I think it was that pint-sized sage Linus Van Pelt who once opined that "there is no heavier burden than good intentions." Mira Nair's "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," a commendably argumentative but airlessly diagrammatic plea for parity in the still-ragged post-9/11 dialogue between Islam and the West, feels that strain more than most. A somewhat speciously juiced-up adaptation of Mohsin Hamid's acclaimed 2007 novel, adding a shrill hostage-thriller framework to an otherwise theory-based study of mutable cultural and spiritual identity, it would be typical book-club cinema even without a noble literary source: distributors might want to consider handing a bulleted printout of Points For Discussion to patrons as they leave the cinema.

In a nutshell -- and the film is rather fond of nutshells -- "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" tells the story of Changez (Riz Ahmed), a young, whip-smart Pakistani immigrant whose vertiginous ascent up the Wall Street ladder begins to stall when the grim events of September 2001 raise external barriers of xenophobic American paranoia, not to mention internal concerns of cultural betrayal. It's material that seems tailor-made for the touch of Mira Nair, the maddeningly inconsistent Indian-American director, many of whose best films to date have focused on brittle clashes between Eastern and Western social and political mores, sometimes within a single character.

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<p>Sam&nbsp;Riley in &quot;On the Road&quot;</p>

Sam Riley in "On the Road"

Credit: IFC Films

Toronto festival audiences to see a different cut of Walter Salles's 'On the Road'

The Jack Kerouac adaptation was met with mixed reviews at Cannes

Despite mixed reaction at Cannes, one of the films I've been most looking forward to all year has been Walter Salles's "On the Road." It's set to play Toronto next month, and I have heard that Tom Luddy -- one of the Telluride Film Festival co-founders and co-directors -- is high on the film, so it could pop up there, too (fingers crossed). But as it turns out, it won't be the version seen on the Croisette in May.

Indiewire's Jay Fernandez sat down with IFC Films president Jonathan Sehring recently, and amid a bunch of talk about the film being "an opportunity [he] couldn't pass up" and apparently loving it just the way it is ("for us it's a step up"), it seems Salles went back to the cutting room and came out with a new cut. According to Sehring, this was the filmmaker's decision, as he took a lot of the summer reactions to heart.

The new cut "is about 15 minutes shorter," Sehring tells Fernandez. "It’s a little over two hours now. He’s added certain things that weren’t in the cut that was in Cannes. He has been in New York and Rio and L.A. working on it the past couple of months, and it’s going to be very wet when it gets to Toronto. We’re locked, but they’re finishing the mix up right now."

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