Final Cut: The gems and stars left off the Oscars list

If I could remove any word from Oscar conversations, it would be “snubbed.” It’s catchy and makes good headline fodder, but it implies that a cabal of Academy members sat in a room and consciously decided to ostracize this actor or that moviemaker. These ballots are filled out by 6,000 to 7,000 voters, ranging from visual effects experts to screenwriters to studio chiefs. I can’t envision secret meetings to decide the fate of each candidate.

Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained) and veteran French star Jean-Louis Trintignant were both considered serious contenders for a Best Actor nomination; neither made the final cut, even though Trintignant’s co-star in Amour, Emmanuelle Riva, was nominated for Best Actress. At one point, the gifted John Hawkes was touted as a shoo-in for his brilliant performance in The Sessions. But I’ve learned never to use the word “shoo-in” where the Oscars are concerned.

There were fewer surprises in the Best Actress category, although some pundits had predicted Helen Mirren for Hitchcock, Marion Cotillard for the French import Rust and Bone and Rachel Weisz, who won the New York Film Critics’ award, for (The Deep Blue Sea). As it happens, they took a collective backseat to the youngest female ever nominated in this category, 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and the oldest, 82-year-old Riva.

The always-crowded Supporting Actor and Actress rosters excluded such prominent figures as Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Maggie Smith, while admitting Philip Seymour Hoffman for what is clearly a leading role in The Master.

But the biggest buzz concerns this year’s Best Director lineup. Experienced Oscar watchers could see this brewing, as the current Oscar setup has a built-in dilemma. To understand it, one need only do the math: With the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences now enabling nine films to compete for Best Picture — in fact, they allow as many as 10 — but retaining only five slots for Best Director, at least four world-class filmmakers are guaranteed to be left out in the cold. How those four happened to be Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck, Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino this year is anybody’s guess.

Filmgoers to eat up more ‘Hunger Games’

By the size of last weekend’s lines, you’d think everyone had already seen “The Hunger Games.” But box office watchers are predicting another big turnout for the post-apocalyptic action movie this weekend.  

The record-setting Lions Gate blockbuster that stormed into theaters last Friday should pull in another $60 million or more in the United States and Canada, according to a forecast from


A tally like that would land the movie about teens forced to fight to the death among the top second-weekend performers of all time. “Hunger Games” would rank seventh on that list if it hits $60 million, according to website Box Office Mojo. The record for second-weekend ticket sales belongs, unsurprisingly, to 2009′s “Avatar.” That movie took in $75.6 million during its second weekend and went on to become the highest-grossing film ever.

Disney comes to YouTube and Google TV

Photo: Reuters

When it comes to Hollywood movies and TV shows on the Web, all the focus is on Netflix, Hulu and even BlockBuster’s online ambitions. Yet YouTube, the daddy of the online video space with some 3.5 billion views a day,  has been quietly bulking up its traditional studio content. All this while there’s been a lot written about its $100 million investment to create hundreds of new cable channels of the future.

Since May, YouTube has signed up Sony Pictures, Universal Studios and Warner Bros to offer their movies for rental through YouTube, and on Wednesday it confirmed it has inked a deal to offer initially a “handful” of Disney titles in the U.S. and Canada, with hundreds of titles to be added in the coming weeks.

The Disney movies include titles like the original Alice In Wonderland, the new version of Winnie the Pooh as well as Pixar hits like Cars and Cars 2. The shows will also be available on YouTube through Google TV.

Newest “Twilight” film flies into theaters

Twilight stars Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner pose ahead of German premiere in Berlin

Twihards are breathing new life into movie theaters this weekend.

The passionate “Twilight” fans already are turning out in droves to see the beginning of the end for the hugely popular vampire and werewolf series. Midnight screenings early Friday generated $30.3 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales for “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1,” according to studio Summit Entertainment. With many showtimes already sold out, box-office watchers predict the weekend tally will reach a massive $140 million through Sunday. Summit’s more conservative projection sees $110 million to $125 million for the first of the franchise’s two-part finale. Either way, the movie, which features a vampire-human wedding and pregnancy, looks set to record the year’s second-highest debut behind boy wizard Harry Potter’s summer farewell. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2″ opened to a staggering $169 million in July.

For families, dancing penguins return in 3D for “Happy Feet Two.” Box-office watchers forecast about $30 million domestically for the animated movie from Warner Bros. Elsewhere, new drama “The Descendants” starring George Clooney as a Hawaiian father grappling with a family crisis hits 29 theaters this weekend. The Fox Searchlight film, touted as an Academy Award contender, opened in five locations on Wednesday.

The Hoff wants a video game of his own

David ‘The Hoff’ Hasselhoff wants to stay “hip and current with the kids,” so he’s doing it the way he knows best–by getting beat up in cheerleader outfits and chicken suits in an ad campaign.

The Hoff is Electronic Arts’s latest pitchman in online videos for “Burnout Crash,” a racing video game on Xbox Live with the motion controller, Kinect, but he’s not stopping there: He wants a game of his own, he told Reuters in an interview this week.

“I’ve wanted to develop my own game so this was a way of seeing if this works and maybe we can take this one step further with using the same concept as ‘Burnout Crash,’ and maybe do something with the Hoff,” he said.

The fall TV season, beyond Jay Leno

What’s that? Jay Leno is moving to prime-time? You don’t say!

Frankly, it’s hard to remember the last time there was such hubbub about a TV show. It was, after all, the cover story in Time magazine. Not to be outdone, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, AP, and probably every local news outlet between New York and Hollywood had a story about the talk show host — more often than not raising the question of whether he’s going to save network TV.

(You’ve got to give it to the public-relations machine on this one. They really worked the story. Of course, their spinning was augmented by a huge marketing effort. Stuart Elliott of the New York Times today estimated that NBC put out more than $10 million in promoting the show).

But there is more to the fall TV season than Jay Leno. The media buyers and planners over at  RPA offer a useful road map to the season in a recent report.

Are advertisers giving Olympics the cold shoulder?

Are the Winter Olympics getting frozen out? Not exactly, but drumming up advertising and sponsorship dollars isn’t as easy as it used to be. Here’s how Andrew Benett, the global chief strategy officer of Euro RSCG, described what’s happening:  “You have a confluence of many factors happening here. One, winter versus summer. Two, a hangover from Beijing. And three, the economic times.”

Of those, the economic situation is the one that’s drawing away most of the money. Bank of America, General Motors, and Home Depot are just some of the big names that have dropped their sponsorship of the U.S. team.

But experts we spoke to also pointed to some broader problems facing the Winter Games. For one thing, behind the scenes, they say the IOC and USOC haven’t always been accommodating with the advertising community. For another, younger audiences (and thus advertisers) just aren’t that into some of the classic winter sports. It’s not that they don’t want to see athletes competing on the mountain — they would just prefer to watch them competing in newer, thrill sports like those of the X Games.

Bollywood to plagiarism: Bye bye?

Filmmakers in Bollywood, India’s movie industry, are notorious for borrowing liberally from foreign films far and wide, especially Hollywood.

Even when they don’t copy an entire film frame by frame, Bollywood directors often borrow from several films at once, melding story lines and adapting them to an Indian setting, complete with song and dance. They do this, of course, without buying the remaking rights. Despite a lot of original cinema coming out of Bollywood, plagiarism is rife.

Hollywood hasn’t cared until now, The Washington Post’s Emily Wax reports. Twentieth Century Fox recently settled a lawsuit with BR Films — a well-known banner — over its remake of the 1992 hit “My Cousin Vinny.” Fox accepted $200,000, paving the way for a release of the Hindi version, called “Banda Yeh Bindaas Hai” or “This Guy is Fearless”.

MGM to remain independent no longer?

What’s going to happen to MGM?

On Tuesday, the Hollywood studio announced it was replacing its chief executive Harry Sloan with a team that includes a turnaround expert. It’s a well-known fact that MGM, which is owned by private equity firms and Comcast, has struggled with a massive debt load. It has payments due on $3.7 billion of debt and the future isn’t looking too good, given the down market and shrinking DVD demand.

Media and entertainment industry analysts believe MGM won’t last much longer as an independent studio, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times:

Most industry watchers believe that MGM will not survive much longer as an independent studio and is likely to be sold to a bigger media company such as Time Warner Inc. or merged with another movie and TV studio like Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. Qualia Capital, a private investment firm headed by Amir Malin and Ken Schapiro, is actively looking at MGM, said a person with knowledge of the situation.

MGM Studio: CEO Sloan out, turnaround star Cooper in

Debt-ridden Hollywood studio MGM, whose library is home to such gems as the Rocky and James Bond flicks, has replaced CEO Harry Sloan, appointing a three person team to run the show: famed turnaround ace Stephen Cooper, motion pictures group boss Mary Parent, and CFO Bedi Singh.

Sloan is out as CEO but the veteran Hollywood businessman, who took the helm a few months after MGM’s 2005 buyout by a group of private equity and media investors,  will stay on MGM as non-executive chairman of the studio. The studio has been grappling with a massive $3.5 billion debt load stemming from its 2005 buyout by private equity and media firms.

Along with the debt load, MGM , which has not had a major film release since Tom Cruise’s ”Valkyrie”  in December, has been struggling like other Hollywood studios with  lining up fresh film financing due to the economic crunch and dropping DVD sales.