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<p>B&eacute;r&eacute;nice Bejo, Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin at the AFI Fest gala screening of &quot;The Artist&quot;</p>

Bérénice Bejo, Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin at the AFI Fest gala screening of "The Artist"

Credit: AP Photo/Katy Winn

Interview: 'Surviving the silent movie' and beating the odds with 'The Artist'

Director Michel Hazanavicius and stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo speak for the film that doesn't

“People keep telling me what a good idea it was to make this movie, but the truth is that it was a bad idea, a very bad idea,” Michel Hazanavicius says on the phone from Los Angeles, a chipper lilt to his warm French accent. “I don’t even know if ‘idea’ is the word – it was more of a desire, something I needed to discover. There’s a difference. If it had been just an idea, it’d have been too far out of the market to pursue.”

The “bad idea” he’s is speaking of, of course, is “The Artist,” the director’s playful ode to classic Hollywood moviemaking that has beguiled critics and festival audiences on assorted shores, turned the head of Harvey Weinstein, scooped an award at Cannes and now finds itself among the frontrunners for this year’s Academy Awards. All this despite the minor obstacles of being French-made and in black and white. Oh, and silent. If Hazanavicius sounds like he can’t quite believe his luck, a lot of industry pundits are with him.

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<p>Kevin&nbsp;Kline won the&nbsp;Best Supporting Actor Oscar for &quot;A&nbsp;Fish Called Wanda.&quot;</p>

Kevin Kline won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for "A Fish Called Wanda."

Credit: MGM

A Fish Called Biopic

Should the Academy introduce a Best Picture category for comedies?

As I floated around the web recently, I found myself struck by a pair of (on the surface) unrelated articles on The Guardian's culture site. One dealt with John Cleese taking steps to transform his dream of staging an "A Fish Called Wanda" musical into a manifest reality and the other with the possibility of Aaron Sorkin penning a Steve Jobs biopic. Alright, they are unrelated. And yet I could not help but remember how much I loved "A Fish Called Wanda" and think to myself, 'Hmmm, Sorkin, Jobs, biopic: Oscar bait.'

It occurs to me that comedies are often given a perfunctory pat on the head in the form of a nomination, or altogether ignored by the Academy. To be fair, "Wanda" was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director and Kevin Klein won for Best Supporting actor -- but the film itself was not given a Best Picture nod (though "Working Girl" was). The revolutionary, enduring and entertaining "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" also failed to make the cut. The reality is that these films are unlikely to secure a Best Picture win against something like "Rain Man." Oscar overwhelmingly favors drama. Which brings me to a query: Has the time come for the Academy to take a page from the HFPA's book and introduce a new category?

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Could "War Horse" be one of a handful of crafts showcases fighting it out for Best Picture?
Could "War Horse" be one of a handful of crafts showcases fighting it out for Best Picture?
Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse' gallops into the Oscar season

Does the World War I adaptation arrive as a threat to the field?

The screening procedure on Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" has been an odd, not exactly particular one. I say not particular because it's not like they've been hiding the film. It's been completed since September and various long leads have gotten a look. Rival publicists have even seen the film and that's a bit of a rarity this early. And then there's the "heartland" strategy of doing pop-up screenings around the country for the public, not unlike what Paramount did with "Young Adult."

So a lot of what we've heard has been Joe the Plumber rifling off a LiveJournal entry here or a Tweet there. Others have already written about the film (one outlet, as always, making sure to be extra clear it got a look a few weeks back, as if that is relevant). Readers who caught public screenings have even posted little mini-reviews in the comments section here at In Contention. So an embargo might be tough to hold up. I was given the green light to write, but the goal is to open the movie, so funneling as much coverage to the release date as possible obviously makes sense.

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<p>A&nbsp;scene from &quot;Arthur Christmas&quot;</p>

A scene from "Arthur Christmas"

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'Arthur Christmas'

The film hits theaters this week

Yes, there is yet another film hitting theaters in wide release this week that we might as well chalk up for one of these posts: Aardman's "Arthur Christmas." I have been making my way through all the Best Animated Feature Film hopefuls the past week or two and still haven't made it to a screening for this one, but I will, as it seems to be the best bet for competition with "Rango" in the category, from what I can surmise. So if you get a chance to take a look this weekend, come on back here and tell us what you thought.

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<p>Vanessa Redgrave in&nbsp;&quot;Coriolanus&quot;</p>

Vanessa Redgrave in "Coriolanus"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Oscarweb Round-up: Trying to get a bead on Best Supporting Actress

Also: Alexandre Desplat hits the circuit and celebrating the makeup of 'Super 8'

There are two main categories that really have me scratching my head at times this year: Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. The Jessica Chastain situation has become maddening for me. It should be a no-brainer: "The Help," by miles. Yet there's confusion. But whatever. We were probably the first to have Shailene Woodley in the mix, but I still find myself wondering if she'll just be skipped over. And the frontrunner, which we've had at the top since day one thanks to Guy having had a look at Berlin in February, still sits on my stack of screeners. Maybe I should finally watch "Coriolanus" and get the perspective I need. (Talk about a no-brainer.) Anyway, Jeff Wells recently offered his thoughts on how he'd like it all to pan out. [Hollywood Elsewhere]

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<p>Jessica Chastain in &quot;Take Shelter.&quot;</p>

Jessica Chastain in "Take Shelter."

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Chastain, Lawrence, Jones longlisted for BAFTA Rising Star Award

Voting opens on only BAFTA category determined by the public

I've never really understood why BAFTA makes such a song and dance of publicizing every stage of its voting process -- the pre-nomination longlists they release for each award category every January are both suspense-draining and indicative of the overly small pool of films they consider, but I suppose when you're not the Oscars, you have to drum up attention however you can.

Perhaps it makes slightly more sense to release a longlist of contenders for the one BAFTA category determined by a public vote -- the Rising Star Award. With voting now open, the public is thus offered a say in the nominee list as well as the final outcome, though with only eight names to whittle down to five in January, it seems an odd half-measure. Clearly, BAFTA doesn't trust the public to single out the worthiest names themselves -- and given a number of the winners they've chosen, they have little reason to do so -- so giving them the liberty of booting three names from the group is a bit of a token gesture.

Check out the full longlist, with more thoughts on the names includes, after the jump.

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<p>Jean Dujardin and B&eacute;r&eacute;nice Bejo discuss &quot;The Artist.&quot;</p>

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo discuss "The Artist."

Meet the celebrated stars of 'The Artist': In sound and living color

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo

If you're in the vicinity of Los Angeles or New York for the holidays you've already had a chance to catch such awards season players as "My Week with Marilyn," "Hugo," "The Descendants" and maybe even "Melancholia" if you didn't watch it on VOD already.  Today, one of the frontrunners in the race finally hits screens on this side of the Atlantic, "The Artist."

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<p>George Clooney at the Los Angeles premiere of &quot;The Descendants&quot;</p>

George Clooney at the Los Angeles premiere of "The Descendants"

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Michelle Williams, George Clooney, Michel Hazanavicius set for Palm Springs awards

Fest officially selects this year's honorees, unofficially selects Oscar horses

The Palm Springs International Film Festival has announced the directorial and female acting honorees for this year's Awards Gala. Michelle Williams will receive the Desert Palm Achievement Award for Acting and French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius the Sonny Bono Visionary Award for "The Artist."

As Guy pointed out during last year's awards season, though the festival is ostensibly meant to celebrate the unsung heroes of cinema, it (like so many other smaller festivals) in fact acts as a precursor to, and predictor of, the Academy Awards.

The male recipient of the Desert Palm Achievement Award has gone on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for the past four years. Palm Springs has had a more storied history with their female honorees, but showed remarkable foresight when they selected Natalie Portman rather than Annette Bening last year.

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<p>The U.S. poster for Angelina Jolie's directorial debut &quot;In the Land of Blood and Honey.&quot;</p>

The U.S. poster for Angelina Jolie's directorial debut "In the Land of Blood and Honey."

Credit: FilmDistrict

Angelina Jolie's 'In the Land of Blood and Honey' gets a bloody romantic poster

Jolie's directorial debut arrives next month

Is "In the Land of Blood and Honey" really an awards player?  That remains to be seen, but   FilmDistrict is providing Angelina Jolie's directorial debut with a prestige release to make Madonna (aka "W.E" helmer) envy. The mini-major already made noise by deciding to release the drama in the native Bosnian language of the film's characters and setting (although it's know officially called Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (Bosanski/Hrvatski/Srpski)).  Joust in case, Jolie shot each scene in English, but the studio and Jolie felt it was better served in  Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian.  The studio has also released a trailer which shows that Jolie may have more cinematic talent than many would have believed (she also has sole credit on the picture's screenplay).  Now, a striking and iconic poster for "Blood" has hit the web and it should absolutely draw moviegoers attention.  And, considering the lack of star power in front of the screen, that's a very good thing.

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<p>Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender in &quot;A Dangerous Method.&quot;</p>

Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender in "A Dangerous Method."

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Tell us what you thought of 'A Dangerous Method'

The film begins rolling out this week

We seem to be posting a lot of these lately, but it's a major week for releases and we're keen to know what you make of it all. David Cronenberg's measured Freud-Jung study "A Dangerous Method" opened in limited release earlier this week and is slowly rolling out to other areas -- critical reaction to Cronenberg's newly demure style, not to mention Keira Knightley's bold performance, has been varied since it premiered in Venice, so I'm particularly interested to hear where you land on this one. I wasn't entirely sold in my review, though Cronenberg's explanation of his approach made for one of my favorite interviews I've done on this site. If you've managed to see it, share your thoughts below.

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<p>Ah, the old Savaii Tribe. Good times...</p>
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Ah, the old Savaii Tribe. Good times...

Credit: CBS

Not-a-Recap: Things learned from the 'Survivor: South Pacific' clip show

Guess what? Whitney and Keith were an island couple. Shocking, right?
I'm suggestible. 
 
So when CBS spent seven days relentlessly promoting this week's "new" episode of of "Survivor: Pearl Island," eventually it infiltrated my brain. 
 
Even though I knew that the pre-Thanksgiving episode of "Survivor" (or the Thanksgiving episode before the shift to Wednesday) is always a clip show, I somehow convinced myself that I would glean copious insights from everything "new" in the episode and that I would be able to use those insights in future recaps and "Survivor" exit interviews. It would be just like that season I watched all of the Ponderosa videos on the "Survivor" website, when surely all of those post-eviction weigh-ins and grotesque peanut butter pig-outs left me with ample wisdom. Right?
 
Honestly, I watched the Ponderosa episodes in the "Heroes vs. Villains" season because I couldn't bring myself to say farewell to Amanda Kimmel. 
 
I haven't watched since.  
 
And I won't watch another "Survivor" clip show ever again. It turns out that for the most part, "Survivor" editors put great effort into attempting to craft the season's storylines and if material didn't make the final cut, it was left out for a reason. 
 
"For the most part."
 
There were still some precious kernels to be gleaned from the clip show. 
 
Yes, that's an overstatement of the word "precious." It's possibly even an overstatement of the word "kernel."
 
Click through for the bullet-point highlights... It'll be just like you wasted the hour, too!
 
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<p>A scene from &quot;The Artist&quot;</p>

A scene from "The Artist"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'The Artist' among contenders for Louis Delluc Prize

Oscar entries 'Le Havre' and 'Declaration of War' also shortlisted for France's top film award

It's not often (or indeed ever) that the Louis Delluc Prize overlaps with the Best Picture Oscar race, but here we are: Michel Hazanavicius's "The Artist," not content with being one of the leading candidates for US awards glory, has been shortlisted for what is arguably the most prestigious trophy in French cinema.

The Oscar-equivalent César Awards may receive more publicity, but the Delluc, awarded each year to a single French film, has a far longer and more illustrious history -- the list of previous winners is a veritable checklist of Gallic cinema titans, beginning with Jean Renoir in 1937, and extending to Cocteau, Bresson, Tati, Truffaut, Godard, Malle, Resnais, Rohmer, Chabrol... you get the idea. It's a list you wouldn't mind being on, and for Hazanavicius, I imagine that's no less enticing an honor than an Academy Award. 

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