Scoring only 3% at Rotten Tomatoes, "Abduction" looks like classic Razzie Awards bait. Lead actor Taylor Lautner has lost two Razzie races in the past for the "Twilight" films and "Valentine's Day," so this might finally be his lucky year.
Film critics certainly believe he's deserving.
REELVIEWS: "Perhaps the only way to approach 'Abduction' that will not result in a 105-minute boredom-induced coma is to think of it as a comedy, preferably with a drinking game attached."
NEW YORK POST: "Actual abduction may be preferable to the movie of the same name, but only if your kidnappers don't torture you by forcing you to watch it."
Oscar watchers are missing the big story when weighing the new campaign rules. They're looking only at how the changes will affect the Oscars, forgetting that the Academy Awards are part of a larger derby that begins in early December with the National Board of Review, followed by the film critics' awards, then the Golden Globes and guild laurels. The Oscars are just the finish line.
In the future, the new rules could trip up everything that comes earlier in the big race — and cause the smaller awards serious injury.
Currently, there are more than 500 Q&A screenings conducted on both coasts (plus more in Britain) as part of derby season. Technically, most are screenings held for guild members, critics' groups, industry leaders, etc., while the studios woo support for their awards. Most vulnerable in this group are the guild awards, which get a lot of attention, let's be honest, because they have enormous influence on the Oscars. Soon that probably won't be the case, however. Oscar leaders are investigating ways to employ electronic voting in the future so that balloting could occur as soon after Jan. 1 as possible. When that happens, the guild kudos won't be able to get out front and influence academy members.
Some cynics believe that the real reason that the studios stage so many Q&A screenings is because they're targeting guild members in the audience who might also be Oscar voters. Up until now, the studios were forbidden to stage Q&As specifically for academy members. Now that they can do so, will they care about the guild awards?
It's now possible that hundreds of these Q&A screenings could vanish during the next year or two, which would radically alter the essence of the annual Oscar race — and hurt the prestige of the smaller awards.
In the Country Music Assn. Award race for best female vocalist of the year, winners tend to reign for a while, holding on to the crown for a few consecutive years, then suddenly get dethroned.
For example, there were winning streaks by Reba McEntire (1984-86), Kathy Mattea (1989-90), Mary Chapin Carpenter (1992-93), Trisha Yearwood (1997-98) and Martina McBride (2003-04). Recently, Carrie Underwood won three in a row (2006-08), then got usurped by Taylor Swift, who couldn't hold on to the category when Miranda Lambert toppled her last year. So now what?
Below are the contenders. You predict. Winners will be unveiled on Nov. 9 (CBS, 8 p.m. Pacific/Eastern).
-- Tom O'Neil
Photos: Female vocalist of the year candidates Taylor Swift, left, and Carrie Underwood. Credits: Big Machine Records; Sony Music
As "Moneyball" opens nationally in theaters, it looks like it's going to hit it out of the park. It's already a big hit with film critics, scoring 87 at Metacritic. BoxOfficeGuru projects that "Moneyball" will bring in an impressive $16 million in ticket sales this weekend. But how will it play at the Oscars?
"Moneyball's" creators have serious Oscar pedigree: director Bennett Miller ("Capote"), writers Steven Zaillian ("Schindler's List") and Aaron Sorkin ("The Social Network") and star Brad Pitt ("Babel," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button").
However, Pitt has a problem. He has another strong role in the Oscar derby this year: "Tree of Life." Rumor has it that he'll campaign in lead for "Moneyball" and in supporting for "Tree of Life," but some academy members may believe that his performance in "Tree" is really a lead too and that it has more gravitas. His two bids could cancel each other out.
Baseball movies don't traditionally do well at the Oscars. Yes, "Pride of the Yankees" (1947) was nominated for 10, but it won only for film editing. "Field of Dreams" (1989) was nominated for best picture too, but it lost. "Bull Durham" (1988) and "The Natural" (1984) struck out in the top contest completely, despite widespread belief that they might get nominated.
Sept. 30 is the deadline for countries to submit Oscar entries for foreign-language film, so time is running out. A few countries -- Albania ("The Forgiveness of Blood"), Mexico ("Miss Bala") and Israel ("Footnote") -- announced entries over the past few days. Below is the list of where the entries stand now.
There are two things that Oscar voters adore: 1) overdue, cool directors with edgy new films and 2) movies based upon books that have a fanatical following.
That combo bodes well for David Fincher's new release this Oscar season: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." The helmer is considered to be so hip with academy voters that his last two flicks earned nominations for best picture and director: ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Social Network"). Both were also based upon notable published material: a classic short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald ("Button") and a bestseller about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg ("Social Network").
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is a crime thriller based upon the hit "Millennium series" of books by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. A Scandinavian film version was directed in 2009 by Danish director Niels Arden Oplev. The new English-language screen version was penned by Steven Zaillian, who won an Oscar for "Schindler's List" and was nominated for "Awakenings" and "Gangs of New York." It stars Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer and Rooney Mara, who is considered to be a strong Oscar contender for lead actress.
At her personal blog, Gwyneth Paltrow describes her recent adventure at the Emmys, where she won guest actress in a comedy series for "Glee."
She wasn't present at the Creative Arts Ceremony when the victory was announced, but she traveled from Britain to Hollywood the following weekend to accept the statuette and to bestow the award for best comedy series at the prime-time ceremony. Her blog logs every detail of the journey, including makeup and hair preparation, plus photos of her being sewn into her dress.
Paltrow notes that her late father, Bruce Paltrow, would've been thrilled with her Emmy success: "This was especially meaningful, as my father (who made great TV shows back in the day — 'The White Shadow,' 'St. Elsewhere') had been nominated and lost the Emmys nine times. So I'm pretty chuffed about the whole thing. And my dad would have been over the moon."
Her mom, Blythe Danner, won two Emmys for supporting drama actress on "Huff" (2005, 2006).
Thank goodness there's a detective on the Oscar case — and the granddaddy of them all, no less: J. Edgar Hoover.
A senior sleuth is needed. As Warner Bros. releases the trailer to "J. Edgar," Clint Eastwood's latest flick starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the patriarch of the FBI, we're reminded of the lousy luck both have had at the Academy Awards of late. The mystery is why. Their work and reputations are impeccable. One of them did spectacularly well at Oscars past. Can they rally now with this impressive collaboration delving into the complex drama of one of America's most beguiling leaders?
DiCaprio has been nominated three times by Oscar voters: twice in lead ("Blood Diamond" in 2007 and "The Aviator" in 2005) and once in supporting ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" in 1994). He probably could've ridden "The Departed's" best picture wave to win for lead actor in 2006, but he campaigned in supporting, not wanting to compete against his rival turn in "Blood Diamond" (in which, granted, he had more screen time) — and that bid fell between the Oscar cracks. He deserved nominations for "Catch Me If You Can" (2002) and "Gangs of New York," but got skunked.
Clint Eastwood has won four Oscars, for both producing and directing best pictures "Million Dollar Baby" (2004) and "Unforgiven" (1992). He was last nominated for directing and producing best picture contender "Letters From Iwo Jima," which lost to "The Departed." Despite high expectations, Eastwood's other recent flicks failed to generate much Oscar heat: "Hereafter" (2010), "Invictus" (2009), "Gran Torino" (2008), "Changeling" (2008) and "Flags of Our Fathers" (2006).
When the Producers Guild of America doles out its laurels at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 21, a special honor will be bestowed to Steven Spielberg: the David O. Selznick Award.
The prize recognizes "a producer's outstanding body of work in motion pictures," notes the press release. "The honor has a rich and distinguished history with past recipients including such legendary producers as Stanley Kramer, Saul Zaentz, Clint Eastwood, Billy Wilder, Brian Grazer, Jerry Bruckheimer, Roger Corman, Laura Ziskin, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, John Lasseter and last year's 2011 recipient Scott Rudin."
Before his death in 1965, Selznick reigned as one of Hollywood's greatest producers, working at MGM, RKO and independently. He produced two Oscar best picture champs: "Gone with the Wind" (1939) and "Rebecca" (1940). Spielberg's long list of producing credits includes "E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial" (1982), best picture winner "Schindler's List" (1993), "Saving Private Ryan" (1998) and "Memoirs of a Geisha" (2005).
Producers Guild Awards co-chairs Paula Wagner and Michael Manheim issued this comment: "As one of the most prolific filmmakers of all time, Steven's continued genius, imagination and fearlessness in the world of feature film entertainment is unmatched in this industry. Steven has produced some of the most iconic films in the history of cinema and we have no doubt he will continue to bring thrilling adventures, emotionally moving story lines, thought-provoking characters and cult classics to audiences across the globe. We're extremely proud to recognize Steven's contributions to the producing craft as well as the entire film industry with the David O. Selznick honor."