From an original list of 65, nine films remain in the derby for the foreign language film Oscar at the 82nd Academy Awards. The short list:
"El Secreto de Sus Ojos" (Argentina)
"Samson and Delilah" (Australia)
"The World is Big and Salvation is Right Around the Corner" (Bulgaria)
"Un Prophete (A Prophet)" (France)
"The White Ribbon" (Germany)
"Winter in Wartime" (The Netherlands)
"The Milk of Sorrow" (Peru)
Missing from this list are such critical and popular favorites as Romania's "Police, Adjective," Sweden's "Involuntary," Canada's "I Killed My Mother" (the latter two both recent winners at the Palm Springs International Film Festival), the U.K. documentary "Afghan Star," "Mother" from Korea's Bong Joon-ho, and recent Golden Globe nominee "Baaria" from Italy. With "White Ribbon" director Michael Haneke pulling somewhat into the lead with his Golden Globe win on Sunday, the race seems to be his to win, but there remains competition from Jacques Audiard's "A Prophet" and Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani's "Ajami," both of which, like "Ribbon," took honors at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, among many other awards.
From here, the list will be pared to five nominees by committees in New York and Los Angeles. They'll spend Jan. 29-31 (nice work if you can get it) screening the films on the short list and then picking the official nominees. Their decision, along with the rest of this year's nominees, will be announced Feb. 2, with the ceremony itself taking place March 7. Place your bets now.
Meanwhile, in the Land of Television, the Paley Center for Media has announced its lineup for the 27th PaleyFest, which presents panel discussions with the cast and creators of some of the most popular and critically acclaimed current series, including recent Golden Globe winner "Glee" as well as such hits as "Modern Family," "NCIS," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Cougar Town" and "Dexter." Audiences get to see highlights or episodes from the shows and then engage in a Q&A with the attending talent. This year's roster, which takes place from Feb. 26 to March 14:
Feb. 26: "Modern Family"
Feb. 27: "Lost"
March 1: "NCIS"
March 3: "Community"
March 4: "Dexter"
March 5: "Cougar Town"
March 6: "The Vampire Diaries"
March 9: An evening with Seth Macfarlane and friends
March 10: "Breaking Bad"
March 11: "Flashforward"
March 12: "Men of a Certain Age"
March 13: "Glee"
March 14: "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
In addition, recorded discussions with panels from the past 27 PaleyFests will screen from Feb. 24 through March 14. Got a burning question for the folks from "Lost?" Dying to find out what the cast of "True Blood" said last year? Here's your place to find that satisfaction.
-- Paul Gaita
Top photo: Image from "The White Ribbon." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.
Oh, my God, did we not mention a new batch of presenters at either the Golden Globes or Screen Actors Guild Awards today? Let me correct that immediately: Amy Adams, Kate Hudson, "Avatar" star Zoe Saldana and Ashton Kutcher will serve as presenters at the 67th Golden Globes ceremony on Sunday. Feeling better?
As the days tick down until Sundance 2010, Indiewire presents its report on the competition film class of Sundance '09 and how it fared at the box office, post-festival. Not surprisingly, "Precious" was the top grosser of the lot — as Indiewire notes, it's just $100,000 shy of besting "Napoleon Dynamite" as the biggest moneymaker to come from Sundance in the last 10 years. "Sin Nombre" and "An Education" also fared well; the piece also notes the biggest disappointments, of which Lynn Shelton's well-received "Humpday" takes top honors.
For some (and we're not mentioning any names), Sundance is less about the business of film and more about the festivities and chances to be seen. If you happen to fall into that category, here's a handy rundown of where the swelegant will be during the fest. As scribe Jay Fernandez notes, this does NOT include any private functions, so if that's your goal, don't bother. And don't ask us, either.
Meanwhile, the Writers Guild of America has announced the 2010 nominees for outstanding achievement in video game writing. Save your puns, please. (You gotta hire someone to write, "Ouch!" or "Pow"?) Video game technology grows more complex, and buyer demand has risen for more complex stories beyond the traditions of the first-person shooter. The nominees are culled from the most popular and critically acclaimed releases of 2009, including Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, which was the best reviewed game of the year, according to Metacritic.
The nominees are as follows:
Assassin's Creed II - story by Corey May; script writers Corey May, Joshua Rubin, Jeffrey Yohalem; Ubisoft Entertainment
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - written by Jesse Stern; additional writing Steve Fukuda; story by Todd Alderman, Steve Fukuda, Mackey McCandlish, Zied Rieke, Jesse Stern, Jason West; Battlechatter dialogue, Sean Slayback; Activision
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - written by Amy Hennig; Sony Computer Entertainment
Wet - written by Duppy Demetrius; Bethesda Softworks
X-Men Origins: Wolverine - script writer Marc Guggenheim; Activision
The winner will be announced at the 2010 Writers Guild Awards on Feb. 20 in both Los Angeles and New York.
And in dancing news: Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer of "So You Think You Can Dance" and "American Idol," among other massively popular shows, was named chairman of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts/Los Angeles (BAFTA/LA) for an initial one-year term. So you know I'm going to make this joke: Did he win the position in a dance-off? Funny thing is, if he did, he won it in a landslide, as this clip from the BBC's '60s-era Young Generation dance troupe shows. Nigel is the gent in blue, and he can clearly shing-a-ling like nobody's business.
And lastly, can you dance? Or, to paraphrase the title of Mr. Lythgoe's series, do you think you can dance? If so, there might be a job for you at the 82nd Academy Awards. Open auditions for professional-level dancers between the ages of 18 and 30 and familiar with contemporary and hip-hop styles will be held on Jan. 22 and 23 at CenterStaging in lovely downtown Burbank. Show co-producer Adam Shankman — whom, it should be noted, once danced for the Oscars many moons ago, prior to directing "Hairspray," among other films — is choreographing the audition numbers. Oh, and they're not paying for parking, so bring quarters along with your Danskins.
After a successful career as a screenwriter ("Jesus' Son," "I'm Not There"), former journalist Oren Moverman made his directorial debut in 2009 with "The Messenger."
The drama stars Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson as soldiers assigned to the Casualty Notification service, which has the unenviable task of informing the families of servicemen of their deaths in the line of fire. Harrelson's older, more experienced Capt. Tony Stone warns Foster's Will Montgomery to avoid emotional connection with the individuals they encounter, but Montgomery finds himself drawn to a widow (Samantha Morton) as the job begins to take its emotional toll. Though in limited release, the film has netted a slew of awards, from the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Spotlight Award for Moverman from the National Board of Review.
The Circuit spoke to Moverman on the eve of the Golden Globes, which has nominated Harrelson for best supporting actor; the pic is also up for four Independent Spirit Awards, including best first feature and best screenplay for Moverman and Alessandro Carnon.
How did your own experiences in the military affect the making of this film?
To tell you the truth, I think it had an impact on directing the film, much more than in writing it. There's nothing in the movie that I can say is my own experience. But what I think my experience allowed me to do was to understand the emotional landscape of a combat soldier. I could then communicate to the actors what the characters they're portraying are going through and what kind of experiences they're having and how they're feeling about it. The problem was projecting my own personal biases of how I felt about being in a combat zone, or what we call in the movie "the other planet," and then coming back from that.
Since a big part of the movie took place on the home front, it was all about what kind of emotions the combat vet was experiencing, and I think I was able to communicate that by telling stories and by talking with them about my feelings.
Was it easy to share those stories with your cast?
You know, it was Ben Foster that really got me talking. I had no plans of sharing my stories, and to tell you the truth, I've never had an idea about making a movie about the military -- my experiences or anyone else's experiences. But in sitting down with Ben and preparing for the movie, which we did for a good eight weeks before shooting, he was just drawing these stories out of me, and it was really easy to communicate them [to him] once I saw that he was drawing inspiration from them, because it demanded that I go back almost 20 years. It was a different time and a different place, but I think the experiences were pretty universal with soldiers.
Recent films about the Iraq War have received positive reviews but haven't fared well at the box office. Did you experience any outside resistance in making this movie?
We experienced nothing but resistance. Lawrence Inglee, who put together the financing for this movie, really had a tough time because everywhere we went, people were patting us on the back and saying, "Good job, nice try, it's very compelling, but forget it. It's just not going to connect with audiences, because they don't want to see these movies." In regard to the other movies, people were leaping to the same conclusions: They said it was too early [to talk about the war], they'd had enough, so it was nothing but resistance. We believed we had something special on our hands and wanted to communicate that to audiences, so we just kept going and ultimately found people who said, "You know what? We hear what everyone else is saying, but we feel that there is something special about this, and we'd like to support this movie." So that's how we got our financing.
With the release of "The Hurt Locker" and now your film, there seems to be a shift in that public resistance. To what do you attribute that shift?
I think that's a very complicated question with a very complicated answer. I do think that our tendency as filmmakers or as journalists is to create narrative around these things. We like to look at the trend and say, "Well, this is what's happening with this kind of movie." But the truth of the matter is that every movie is a case study in itself. And I really think it takes real analysis of how a movie is made and marketed, because not all the films in this arena that have failed are bad films. Quite a few of them that I've seen have been good films. Ultimately, their success or failure at the box office is a product of the machine that was behind them and the timing. I think that they've created an openness that wasn't there before, and I think that the dialogue about this war has shifted somewhat -- not enough, in my opinion -- to a more sober [tone], whereas before it was more impassioned and not particularly productive.
And I think that you have to look at the fact that, for whatever reason, "The Hurt Locker" connected with audiences in a way that others have not been able to by doing some very smart things in the marketing of the film but also in the making. For us, our exposure has been very great, but it's also been limited. It's only now that we're starting to get a bit of mainstream attention. It's a work in progress.
In our case, it's because it's a small film with not a lot of money behind it and something that really has to work through word of mouth. We can't put a big marketing campaign behind it, so we're fortunate that the word of mouth has been good.
I know that the military gave its approval to the script -- what has been the reaction from veterans who have seen the film?
We've had a lot of feedback from veterans as well as active duty members, and I have to say that the reactions have been similar but different. The Vietnam vets have really treated this film as their own. Even though it takes place during the Iraq War, the reaction from Vietnam vets has been overwhelming. They've shown up at screenings to say a few words, and they've written us letters; some novelists of the Vietnam era, like Tim O'Brien ("The Things They Carried") have reacted very strongly to the film. With the Iraq and Afghanistan guys, it's a lot harder for them. It's a lot closer to home. They've just come back, and it's very, very emotional, but the overwhelming response from them has been gratitude. Of course, I'm only talking about the guys we spoke to -- I'm sure there are a bunch of guys who hate the movie and never want to see it again, but they didn't speak up. But the guys who liked it have thanked us for shooting a portrait of how they're feeling right now, without any politics or agenda.
I think it's also a big deal for them that Woody Harrelson is in this movie, because he's so outspoken as an anti-war activist. And he's playing a soldier with a lot of empathy and respect for soldiers, and I think they're as surprised and pleased by it as he is.
"The Messenger" marks your directorial debut, but you've been involved in filmmaking as a screenwriter for many years. Can you talk about the challenges of switching roles?
I think the biggest challenge lies in communication. When you're writing a script, you have a very specific way of communicating your movie to people -- it's on the page. You express yourself in that way, and if taken to the next level and made into a film, then your role, depending on the director, is either done or just ceremonial from that point on. When you're directing, you have to communicate with every single person working on the film and find a way of talking about the movie in a practical sense but also in a creative way.
"The Messenger" has received a number of awards and nominations. What has the impact of this recognition had on the film?
I would like to think that the effect an award has on a film is that more people become aware of the film and then check it out. I can't hide my secret agenda when I'm talking to you -- it's more of a dream, really. We started early in November, but we got squeezed out of a lot of theaters. So my dream is that if we do get more nominations, then we can relaunch the film in cities that we're not in right now and get more people to see it. The motivation is very simple -- this movie, partially because of what we did on it, but mostly because of what it is, sparks a dialogue and gets people to be aware of something that's going on in this country right now. It's been a real gift to get involved in that dialogue and get people engaged.
-- Paul Gaita
Top photo: Oren Moverman. Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories.
Bottom photo: Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster in "The Messenger." Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories.
Admit it: You're dying to know what Ricky Gervais is going to say when he hosts the 67th Golden Globes. Well, if you'd like to ask him in advance, your chance has arrived: The video broadcast platform uStream, which has partnered with the Globes to provide exclusive content, is offering an interactive chat with the writer-comedian at 5 p.m. Friday. You can submit your burning questions to Gervais via Facebook or by downloading the uStream app to your iPhone. And lest you forget, Gervais hosts the Globes on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) announced its nominations for outstanding directorial achievement in documentary. The quintet of pictures includes three on the Oscar documentary shortlist — Agnes Varda's "The Beaches of Agnes," Robert Kenner's "Food, Inc." and Mai Iskander's "Garbage Dreams" — along with the year's underdog, Sacha Gervasi's "Anvil! The Story of Anvil." Geoffrey Smith's "The English Surgeon," about a British neurosurgeon who travels yearly to the Ukraine to help patients in need, rounds out the group; all five are first-time DGA Award nominees. The winners will be announced at the 62nd DGA Awards Dinner on Jan. 30.
It's been a tough week for Tobey Maguire. Not only is he out of his gig as Spider-Man following Sony's decision to shelve the fourth film in the Sam Raimi-directed series in favor of a complete revamp of the franchise, but he's fairly sure that he's out of the Oscar race as well in regard to his acclaimed performance in "Brothers." Though Maguire received a Golden Globe nomination for his turn as a shellshocked veteran of Afghanistan, he was passed over for a nod from the Screen Actors Guild and expects that he'll fare the same come Oscar time. "I'm OK with that," he said in an Associated Press interview. I'm just really excited about the attention that the film has gotten. It's been a thrill to get a Golden Globe nomination and get some of the attention personally, but I'm honestly more excited that the film's gotten the attention." Such modesty in the face of unemployment ...
The 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards announced its nominees in a wide variety of categories today. The event, presented by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), honors outstanding entertainment programming and news about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues; among the year's 116 nominees in 24 English-language categories and 36 Spanish-language nominees in eight categories are the series "Mad Men," "Modern Family," "Glee" and "Grey's Anatomy"; the feature films "A Single Man," "Precious" and "Everybody's Fine"; recording artists Lady Gaga, Adam Lambert and Brandi Carlile; and publications Entertainment Weekly, The Advocate and the Los Angeles Times.
"Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon will also be feted with the Vito Russo Award, which pays tribute to an openly LGBT individual who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights in that community. The Broadway cast of "Hair" will also receive special recognition for bringing attention to the issue of marriage equality.
The GLAAD Media Awards will take place in three cities from March through June. Nixon will be feted at the New York event, which will be hosted by Tony Award-winning actor Alan Cumming on March 13. The Los Angeles event takes place April 17 and the San Francisco ceremony June 5, with Emmy-winning writer and actor Bruce Vilanch serving as emcee for the San Francisco event. More special honorees will be named for these events in the near future.
A complete list of nominees follows after the break.
David Lynch's 2001 feature "Mulholland Drive" was named the best film of the decade by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. (LAFCA). It's the third prestigious honor the picture has received in recent weeks; Film Comment placed it atop their list of the 150 best films of the decade, as well as an Indiewire survey, which polled 100 film critics and bloggers. The complete list of LAFCA's top films of the decade are as follows:
1. "Mulholland Drive"
2. "There Will Be Blood"
3. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
4. "Brokeback Mountain"
5. "No Country for Old Men"
6. "Yi Yi"
7. "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy (tie)
8. "Spirited Away"
9. "United 93"
How does your best of the decade film list read?
And because we haven't featured any news about the 21st Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) in, oh, a day or so, here's the latest: Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss and Oscar nominee Blythe Danner will be in attendance for the screening of their latest picture, "The Lightkeepers," which closes the festival on Jan. 17. The period romance, which also stars Mamie Gummer, was directed by Daniel Adams, who will also be present.
Speaking of Oscar nominees, the American Cinematheque will host a three-day screening of Uli Edel's harrowing "The Baader Meinhof Complex." The 2008 film, which tells the story of the militant West German group RAF that carried out lethal terrorist attacks against the German government from 1970 to 1998, was the official German selection for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009, and received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations that year. If you missed the last showing in 2009 (and chances are, you did, because they were sold out), here's what the Cinematheque is calling the "positively last chance" to see it at the Egyptian from Jan. 14 through 16.
Science fiction films soared in the best edited feature film category for the American Cinema Editors' 60th Annual ACE Eddie Awards announced Monday evening.
"Avatar" (Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua & James Cameron), "District 9" (Julian Clarke), and "Star Trek" (Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey) were nominated in the dramatic feature film category along with "The Hurt Locker" (Bob Murawski and Chris Innis) and "Up in the Air" (Dana Glauberman). Nominees in the comedy or music category are "(500) Days of Summer" (Alan Edward Bell), "The Hangover" (Debra Neil-Fisher), "Julie & Julie" (Richard Marks), "A Serious Man" (Roderick Jaynes, who is actually Joel and Ethan Coen) and "It's Complicated" (Joe Hutshing and David Moritz).
Vying in the animated feature film category are "Coraline" (Christopher Murrie and Ronald Sanders), "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (Andrew Weisblum) and "Up" (Kevin Nolting).
On the television front, the nominees in the best-edited half-hour series for television category include Ken Eluto for the "Apollo Apollo" episode for "30 Rock," Steven Rasch for the "Bare Midriff" episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and Steven Sprung for the "The Sorkin Notes" installment of "Entourage." Nominees for best-edited one-hour series for commercial television are Leon Ortiz Gil for the "8 p.m. to 9 p.m." episode of "24;" Lynne Willingham for the "ABQ" episode of "Breaking Bad;" Randy Jon Morgan and Jacque Toberen for the "And in the End" episode of "ER;" Karen Stern for the "Hardwired" installment of "Law & Order: SVU;" and Christopher Nelson for the "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham" installment of "Lost." For more information on the nominees and the American Cinema Editors, go to the official site.
The winners will be announced Feb. 14 in a ceremony at the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
-- Susan King
Photo: Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in "Avatar" and Spock (Zachary Quinto) in "Star Trek." Credit: 20th Century Fox / Paramount Pictures
A full list of nominees, provided by the American Cinema Editors, follows ...
Apparently, the folks at the Golden Globes read our item about the A-list presenters at the Screen Actors Guild awards, because they've just ramped up the glitz factor for their event. A slew of major players have been tapped to present at the 67th annual festivities on Jan. 17, including Golden Globe winners Kate Winslet, Jennifer Garner, Kiefer Sutherland and Cher, who''ll appear with her "Burlesque" co-star Christina Aguilera. These latest additions come on the heels of previous announced mega-stars such as Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Halle Berry, Jennifer Aniston, Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Matthew Fox, Nicole Kidman, Mickey Rourke and Sophia Loren. Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio will present Martin Scorsese with this year's Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contribution to the entertainment field. When -- and where -- will this game of celebrity one-upmanship end? Keep reading this blog for updates.
Meanwhile, the Emmys face an entirely different predicament: disappearing from broadcast TV. ABC News reports that the Primetime Emmys are in their final year of contracts with the major networks with this year's event, which with air on NBC on Aug. 29. After that, its fate is undecided. Low ratings for the last few Emmy broadcasts -- due in part to consistent wins by series with small but loyal audiences like "30 Rock" and "Mad Men" -- have made the event's high licensing fees somewhat less attractive to the Big Four networks. And that's unfortunate, as said fees are a key source of income for the Television Academy. For now, there are no plans to move the Emmys to basic cable (like the Screen Actors Guild). Instead academy chief John Shaffner promises more year-in-review segments as a means of keeping the show fresh and relevant. More hosts like Neil Patrick Harris, whose stint in 2009 was the highest-rated broadcast in years, might be a more effective move.
And the Sundance Film Festival finds yet another way to get its message of independent film to audiences unable to attend the yearly event in Park City, Utah. Hot on the heels of its Sundance Film Festival USA program, which brings festival films and directors to art houses around the country, Sundance will use its video-on-demand channel, Sundance Selects, to offer three features debuting at the festival: Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitehouse's political documentary "The Shock Doctrine," based on the book by journalist Naomi Klein, on Jan. 28; the Safdie brothers' comedy "Daddy Longlegs" on Jan. 22; and the thriller "7 Days," about a surgeon who seeks revenge after the murder of his daughter, also on Jan. 22. Each of the films will on Sundance Selects concurrently with their Sundance screenings, and will be available on the VOD channel for 30 days. Future Sundance Selects screenings include Dominic Murphy's "White Lightnin'," (Jan. 27) which played at the 2009 festival, and Don Argott's documentary "The Art of the Steal."
Promotion, in the form of interviews, is one of the main tools of an awards campaign, and "Up in the Air" director Jason Reitman has released this short to illustrate the flurry of activity and faces (and microphones and questions) that are a part of every contender's day to day. No doubt, you'll recognize a few faces in there (like Roger Ebert), and you might experience a pang for either a drink from Starbucks or your old vinyl copy of "The Clash" after viewing.
"The Hurt Locker" continued its winning ways in this award season by capturing four of the top honors from the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS).
Kathryn Bigelow's war drama was named best picture, with star Jeremy Renner and Bigelow taking the best actor and best director laurels; editors Chris Innis and Bob Murawski were also named best in their category.
Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" also earned four from the society; Tarantino took home the best original screenplay, while on-screen antagonists Melanie Laurent and Christoph Waltz walked off with best actress and best supporting actor. "Basterds" cinematographer completed the WWII meta-actioner's quartet. Few surprises were found in the remaining awards; Mo'Nique was the expected winner of the best supporting actress race, while "Up" and Michael Haneke's Palm d'Or-winning "White Ribbon" swept the animation and foreign film (or as the OFCS calls it, "Best Film Not in the English Language") categories. Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach's script for "Fantastic Mr. Fox" won best adapted screenplay, while the underdogs of "Anvil!" got one more affirmation by landing best documentary. For the full list of winners and nominees, visit the OFCS blog.
Though the official lineup announcement won't be revealed until February, Cinematical has word on additional titles for the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. Among the more highly anticipated screenings is "Kick-Ass," the live-action adaptation of the Marvel Comics series by "Layer Cake" director Matthew Vaughn. The comedy, which stars Nicolas Cage, Aaron Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, will serve as the fest's opening night feature. Also on the docket: "Lemmy," a documentary about Motorhead's indestructible frontman, Lemmy Kilmister, and "Saturday Night," a documentary by actor James Franco that takes a look behind the scenes on "Saturday Night Live," as well as Sebastian Gutierrez's "Electra Luxx" and Steve James' "No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson," as reported on Monday. The 2010 edition of SXSW takes place in Austin, Texas, from March 12 to 21.
Elsewhere, the Guardian has an amusing essay from playwright Joe Penhall, who wrote the screenplay for "The Road," on meeting author Cormac McCarthy, who penned the Pulitzer Prize-winning source material. Penhall met the notoriously private writer for the purpose of getting his notes on the film. Over burgers and a nice Shiraz, McCarthy ended up giving him a whole lot more. It's a lovely and charmingly off-kilter story, and a rare glimpse into McCarthy's inner circle.
And then there were seven: That's the number of features still in contention for the visual effects award in this year's Oscar race. The group was whittled down from an initial short list of 15, which were announced in early December; the seven that remain in the running are:
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"
Gone from the contender list are such critical hits as "Coraline" and "Where the Wild Things Are," and popular favorites like "Watchmen," "Sherlock Holmes," "G-Force" and "Disney's A Christmas Carol." What remains now is for the members of the academy's visual effects branch to view 15-minute clips of the remaining titles on Jan. 21 and vote on three as the official nominees. The question, of course, remains: Can any of these beat "Avatar"? You'll have to wait until Feb. 2 to get the official word on Oscar nominations; the ceremony itself is March 7.