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Controversy surrounds ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” premieres this weekend, and the film is getting a ton of buzz. It’s also generating a ton of controversy around the torture scenes. Does the movie endorse torture in the context of the killing of Osama bin Laden, or does it instead reveal the horror of torture and the mistakes we made in reaction to 9/11?

Andrew Sullivan is one of the writers taking this issue on, and you can follow his blog for other reactions from around the web.

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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Directors Guild and Visual Effects Society Nominations

Historically, the Directors Guild nominations, and even the actual awards, have tended to correlate with the Oscars both for Best Picture and Best Director to some degree. Now that the Oscars have ten nominations, that might dilute things a bit. Even so, I think it’s fair to say that the this year’s five nominees have excellent shots at getting a Best Director nomination and are close to a lock for Best Picture nominations.

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The nominees are: Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan,” David Fincher for “The Social Network,” Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech,” Christopher Nolan for “Inception,” and David O. Russell for “The Fighter.” Among the directors excluded who made films a lot of people are pulling for are two women: Lisa Cholodenko of “The Kids Are All Right” and Debra Ganik of “Winter’s Bone.” As Anne Thompson points out, the Guild has been slightly more open to nominating women than the Academy in the past. On the other hand, after last year’s big win for Kathryn Bigelow, it’s possible some of the pressure is off, or not.

Though it’s not as earth shaking, we movie fans like our movie special effects and the Visual Effects Society has made their nominations. No big surprises here either as the nominees for the movie with best effects are “Inception,” “Iron Man 2 ,” “Tron: Legacy,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.” I think it’s fair to say that visually stunning “Inception” should have the lead here, but we’ll see. In animation the nominees are: “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Toy Story 3,” “Tangled,” “Shrek Forever After,” and “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.”

The complete lists of award nominations, including a huge list from the VSA, are after the jump.

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Midweekish movie news

It’s oh so late (or early) as I write this, but let’s see how much I can cover before my very late dinner and maybe a cocktail.

* I woke up to this morning the realization that Netflix has become a liberal cause celebre. It has to do with Comcast attempting to charge Level 3, a provider of Netflix’s streaming, a fee which the company says would effectively block access by cable companies to the interwebs and threaten the net neutrality that allows a site like this one to be readily usable. Brian Stetler at NYT has the details.

* Not sure how the Deadline team got scooped on this, but some lesser known sites have word that Tom Hanks‘ next acting gig, after wrapping directing duties on the upcoming “Larry Crowne,” will be in the new drama from the team that brought us “The Hurt Locker,” writer Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow. It’s the Latin America set “Triple Frontier.”

* Two categories of people get to say exactly what they want: the elderly and universally beloved film stars who took a creative risk and essentially made a franchise. Johnny Depp isn’t quite yet at the early bird dinner stage of his life, but he had some interesting things to say about Disney executives’ initial reaction to his Jack Sparrow — really, the only thing I ever liked about the “Pirates of the Carribean” franchise, other than the ride. They hated Depp’s performance, and for some rather disturbing juvenile reasons.

Johnny Depp runs for his life

* Nikki Finke claimed her “toldja” this morning over the actually really smart choice of having this year’s Oscar telecast hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Both clearly have comedy chops, Hathaway can sing, as she showed a couple of years back during the “Frost/Nixon” gag in Hugh Jackman’s opening number, and best of all, they’re not satirists like Jon Stewart and Chris Rock and therefore probably won’t perturb Hollywood’s well-manicured egos. The egos must, above all, be maintained. (H/t Anne Thompson for the Jackman vid.)

* The Independent Spirit Award nominations were announced today. Not too surprisingly, some of the biggest nominees were “127 Hours,” “The Black Swan,” “Greenberg,” “The Kids Are All Right,” (directed by Lisa Chodelenko, interviewed here by Ross Ruediger) “Rabbit Hole,” and “Winter’s Bone,” which already collected some Gotham Awards a day or so back.

* I’m sure the role of the U.S. Secretary of State in “X-Men: First Class” isn’t huge, but anything that keeps Ray Wise onscreen, where he belongs, works for me.

* RIP director Mario Monicelli, who passed on a day or so back at age 95. I have no excuse for having never seen “Big Deal on Madonna Street,” I fear.

Okay, that’s all for tonight. The gods of sleep and hunger have just about claimed me.

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Your Premium Hollywood Oscar Live Blog

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Yes, my friends, the action starts right here, right now, right after the jump.

New comments will go above older remarks, so if you’re reading this later and want to start at the beginning, you’ll scroll down to the end. Got that? Good. Let’s hope for an interesting night and don’t forget to keep refreshing — the page and yourself with the commestibles of your choice.

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Another awards non-shocker: “The Hurt Locker” takes BAFTAs

Jeremy Renner in Really, the headline here tells the tale about last night’s awards from the English equivalent of our Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “The Hurt Locker” won six awards from the Orange British Academy Film Awards (which makes me wonder what other colours British film awards are available in). As described by Indiewire’s Peter Knegt — who also kindly provides a complete list of the awards — they include Best Picture, a directing award for Kathryn Bigelow, as well as for Mark Boal’s screenplay, editing, photography, and sound –  the better part of the whole behind-the-camera British enchilada. And, no, I don’t think that sounds very appetizing, either. Not quite all of it, though. For example, “The Young Victoria” got the awards that usually go to period dramas, costumes and make-up.

Perhaps almost as predictably, the main acting awards, however, did go to more local talent. Specifically Colin Firth won for his performance as a man in mourning in “A Single Man” and Carey Mulligan for her teen learning some hard, yet kind of fun, life lessons in “An Education.” Still, the BAFTAs bowed to standard practice by giving the supporting actor awards to Mo’Nique of “Precious” and Christoph Waltz of “Inglourious Basterds,” yet again. (Also truish-to-form, Mo’Nique wasn’t there.)

Best British film went to the highly praised “Fish Tank,” which happens to feature “Basterd” secret weapon Michael Fassbender opposite Kierston Wareing and newcomer Katie Jarvis. As for the lastest from the onetime Mr. Kathryn Bigelow, “Avatar,” it met the once traditional fate of well-regarded science fiction movies at the Oscars, and only got a Best Visual Effects and Production Design awards but, of course, is only making a double gazillion dollars. Aaah. Geeks may be take some solace, however, in learning that “Outstanding Debut By A British Writer, Director Or Producer” went to Duncan Jones for his intriguing feature debut, “Moon,” a small-scale space tale like they used to make.

Sam Rockwell in

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Some not very newsy awards news (updated)

The Writers Guild and the Sound Editors gave out their awards last night and it’s safe to say that, winners aside, no one’s world was too terribly rocked.

Journalist-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal was rewarded for his hard-earned real-world experience as an embedded reporter with a Best Original Screenplay nod for “The Hurt Locker.” In another completely unsurprising award, the well-liked and respected Jason Reitman was similarly rewarded for his critically acclaimed work on the adult-aimed topical comedy, “Up in the Air.” The documentary category wasn’t much of a surprise either, with the muckraking “The Cove” picking up yet another award.

This isn’t quite on the level of a statistical study, but it’s worth noting that, for the last couple of years at least, the WGA awards and the Oscars have been lining up 100% in the writing categories, so Oscar betters should take note.  This is a bit of a blow to any fans of Quentin Tarantino“Pulp Fiction” screenplay and the writers tend to be a bit more openminded about offbeat films than Oscar voters as a whole. who might have been hoping for some Oscar wins, as Best Original Screenplay has been “his” category in the sense that his only Oscar win so far has been for his

Still, older and/or less geeky fans of old-school post-war (as in WWII) realism are likely impressed by the real-life underpinnings of Boal’s work and Kathryn Bigelow’s film is just edgy enough, while not marred in the minds of some by being a “fun” war movie, and “Inglourious Basterds” is definitely fun. It’s also controversial to some degree, perhaps not the best combination if all you want out of a movie is award wins.

James Gandolfini and Mimi Kennedy in In the adapted screenplay category, I personally wouldn’t have minded seeing the award go to the brilliant and scabrous “In the Loop,” but that film was less widely seen and it’s humor might be bit too nasty (in a good, cleansing way) and British for some.

[UPDATE: Aren't you people supposed to correct me when I write complete nonsense? If I had bothered to check a bit more carefully this morning before I wrote this, I would have noted/remembered that "Basterds" was not nominated for a Writers Guild award and therefore might have somewhat better Oscar screenplay chances than I initially thought. The same applies to "In the Loop." These scripts were not eligible under the WGA's rather arcane rules which also disqualified such worthy films as "An Education." If you're curious about the reasons why, Steve Pond, via Anne Thompson, had a partial explanation back in January. Anyhow, thanks to Anne Thompson, whose post on this showed me the error of my ways, or whatever. We now resume our regularly scheduled blog post.]

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Awards news: Director’s Guild and Sundance

There’s some sadness hanging over the American film world this morning due to the tragic and disturbing death of highly respected 39 year-old editor Karen Schmeer, best known for her work on Errol Morris projects as “Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control,” “Mr. Death,” and “The Fog of War.” (Shawn Levy of The Oregonian has much about piece her shockingly random death in a crime-related automotive accident, her work, and her early start in the documentary film business.)

Nevertheless, the awards beat goes on and today, as Nikki Finke points out, we can chalk up a big victory for female directors as Kathryn Bigelow of “The Hurt Locker” defeated a boys club of directors that included such ultimate mega-males as Quentin Tarantino and her one-time husband, James Cameron.  Bigelow, of course, has been a noted director since her early features, 1982′s “The Loveless,” which introduced Willem Dafoe, and 1987′s ahead-of-its-time vampire drama, “Near Dark” attracted the attention of genre friendly critics. Her best known film, ironically enough, is probably the silly action flick, “Point Break,” which has emerged as a culty guilty pleasure after its 1991 release.

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“The Hurt Locker” is the first time Bigelow has been associated a project to get this kind of near-universal acclaim. It’s a major departure stylistically from her often slick and superficial past work, looking at an unexploded bomb team with the same kind of dispassionate intensity as “The French Connection” examined police work. This award definitely makes Bigelow the apparent favorite for the Best Director Oscar. It also doesn’t hurt it’s chances at the Best Picture award either.

“Hurt Locker” also swept the Producers Guild award earlier this week. Similar to the DGA, that award is widely seen as a harbinger for the “Best Picture” category, in which the producer is the one who actually receives the award. Still, as Dave Karger reminds us, the DGA doesn’t make the award inevitable. Also with the nominees this year doubled to ten and a more complex voting system for “Best Picture” that category, at least, remains open to any of the four or five most frequently nominated films in my opinion.

In other awards, “The Cove” got a boost in the nevertheless very hard-to-predict documentary Oscar category with an award for its director, Louie Psihoyos. I usually don’t cover TV, but it is worth a mention that the winner of the award for direction in a TV drama series was also won by a woman. Lesli Linka Glatter was awarded for her work on the action-packed “Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency” episode of “Mad Men.” Not a bad choice.

Meanwhile, over in Park City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival presented its awards, which offer a fairly significant peak into what are likely to be some of the most acclaimed and potentially award-winning films of the next year or so. Young people with family ties to crime seemed to be a winning theme in the dramatic categories: “Winter’s Bone,” about a young girl in search of her crystal meth manufacturing father, won the U.S. Prize; the Australian crime drama “Animal Kingdom,” about a teen boy born into a crime family in 1980s Melbourne, took the international award.

The documentary award went to one of the festival’s most high profile entries, “Restrepo.” From two-first first-time directors, journalist/author Sebastian Junger (the book, The Perfect Storm) and documentary cinematographer Tim Hetherington. The film is follows a U.S. Army platoon in Afghanistan for a year. As the offical Sundance description has it, it depicts a “surreal combination of back breaking labor, deadly firefights, and camaraderie….”  Indiewire’s Eugene Hernandez has a complete rundown.

Battle Company

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Friday movie news dump: Critic’s Choice Awards; Hollywood helping Haiti (updated)

I’m getting off to a late start tonight, so let’s get on with it.

* Via Roger Ebert’s tweet, we have the news on the Critic’s Choice awards, which are voted on by broadcast and some internet critics. “The Hurt Locker” won best picture, and best director for Kathryn Bigelow. “Inglourious Basterds” also had an extremely good night, as did Jeff Bridges. There was a tie for best actress between Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep. Good ol’ Nathaniel R. liveblogged the proceedings.

Christoph Waltz in And, if I was a betting man (and I sorta kinda am), I’d be tempted to head up to Vegas and bet the farm on basterd Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique of “Precious” for the supporting role categories at the Oscars.

UPDATE: I failed to note  earlier that “Avatar” managed a near clean-sweep of the more production/technical oriented awards, though the Best Make-Up award went to “District 9.”

* In light of what’s been going in Haiti, I’ve been feeling a bit guilty on not mentioning it and focusing on what is, after all, a business that is all about diversion and distraction. So, I’m glad to be able to make tonight’s longest item a mention of the massive fundraising telethon George Clooney is organizing and cohosting, along with Wyclef Jean and Anderson Cooper, on January 22nd. Nikki Finke is also reporting that Not On Our Watch, an “international advocacy and grantmaking organization” founded by Clooney and friends Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, and others has donated $1 million to emergency medical care. The super-cool Anne Thompson has some more details and links to places where you can give, and also has some additional news on good works done by show biz folks.

It’s also nice to report that the interwebs have been doing a fabulous job of fundraising but, of course, this is a really massive disaster and more will be needed for a nation that has already been long on the ropes. On the political net, DailyKos diarists are posting new rundowns of places to help each day. The Huffington Post and Rachel Maddow‘s sites have an excellent rundown of organizations that need your help. If those links are a bit too latte-sipping Blue State for your tastes, conservative blogger the Anchoress has also posted a list of many of the same organizations. I’d also like to put in a plug for the excellent Oxfam America which is already on the the ground in Haiti and has been especially active in terms of providing water and sanitation, which is going to be absolutely vital. Please click on any of these links and, especially if you can afford to an haven’t already given something, do what you can.

* The bidding, or whatever it is, on MGM is underway.

* I should probably have mentioned yesterday how Nikkie Finke’s “Toldja!” yesterday was that Disney has a new production chief with a quite interesting creative background that includes the upcoming “Tron: Legacy” and Project Greenlight. Following up on yesterday’s news, Finke points out an apparent irony.

* The extremely smart Jonah Hill to turn producer for…”21 Jump Street” with the directors of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs“? Sure, why not?

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DGA nominations: no surprises

If you’ve been following the various awards and awards nominations that have been coming out of the past several weeks, there’s a good chance you can guess exactly what the Directors’ Guild nominations are without me even telling you. But just for the sake of latecomers, the casual and those who can’t be bothered, they are:  Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker,” James Cameron for “Avatar,” Lee Daniels for “Precious,” Jason Reitman for “Up in the Air” and Quentin Tarantino for “Inglourious Basterds.” It would be a fairly big surprise if the Oscar’s nominees were a whole lot different.

Gregg Kilday at THR points out that Lee Daniels is the first African-American to be nominated (!!!!) and Kathryn Bigelow is joining the very small club of women to be nominated for the award. However, you can be sure that if she wasn’t nominated, her absence would have been the story, considering how her film has been received up to now. The same might have gone for Daniels, though perhaps to a lesser degree as he has more detractors.

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My hunch is that Bigelow also enjoys a somewhat better better chance to actually win than did such past female nominees as Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion, Sofia Copolla, and, yes, Barbara Streisand, though the competition is mighty stiff. Of course, there’s always some controversy, so now the question is, why leave out first-timer Tom Ford of “A Single Man”? And so, the Playlist asks  a related question: “Too Gay or Too Little Money?”

Fun fact time: This is also the first time, I’m pretty sure, a once-married coupled (Bigelow and James Cameron) have been nominated to oppose each other for the directors’ awards. Of course, once we succeed with overturning Proposition 8, that could get more common even if the DGA remains predominantly a boys’ club.

On a related note: The BAFTAS long list.

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“The Hurt Locker” sweeps the National Society of Film Critics Awards

The National Society of Film Critics has bestowed another big awards win on the Iraq war thriller, “The Hurt Locker,” which won’t hurt its Oscar possibilities.  As with the two other most prestigious critics groups — the Los Angeles and New York film critics — the highly praised tale about a bomb disposal unit during the chaotic early days of the U.S. invasion won the group’s best picture award scroll.

The Hurt Locker

Ironically, according to Peter Knegt of Indiewire, the last time a single film swept the best picture prize from all three groups was when Curtis Hanson’s outstanding “L.A. Confidential” managed the coup in 1997. It lost the Oscar to James Cameron‘s sentimental and spectacular romantic melodrama, “Titanic” — one of the most widely disagreed with Best Picture winners in recent history. With “Avatar” becoming a wide popular favorite and a gigantic hit, a repeat of this scenario is not outside the realm of possibility.

“The Hurt Locker” also won major prizes for director Kathryn Bigelow and star Jeremy Renner, who edged out Jeff Bridges, currently a favorite the win the Best Actor Oscar for “Crazy Heart,” as well as Nicolas Cage for “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.” For Best Supporting Actor, once again “Inglourious Basterds” break out bad guy Christoph Waltz took the top prize, with another former unknown, Christian McKay, getting the second largest number of votes from critics for “Me and Orson Welles.”  The best screenplay nod went to the Coen Brothers’ ultra-dark black comedy, “A Serious Man.”

Mo'Nique in In something of an upset that, I’m guessing, might not be repeated at the Oscars, Yolande Moreau, of the French language biopic “Seraphine,” beat Meryl Streep in “Julie and Julia” by one vote for Best Actress. Once again, however, talk show host and comedian Mo’Nique added to a truly impressive number of wins with her work in “Precious,” taking yet another Best Supporting Actress prize.

You can see the complete list of winners at bottom of the Indiewire article I linked to above.

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