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Thursday Roundup, Part 1: Oscar secrets, 'Ghost Writer' trailer, 'Avatar' accusations and Johnny Depp's statue

January 14, 2010 |  4:54 pm


Hush-hush and Strictly on the QT Dept.: Hitflix has revealed a fistful of scoop in regard to the upcoming Oscar telecast. Reportedly, the theme to the Bill Mechanic-Adam Shankman show is "team" -- as in hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, and to underscore that idea, they've cooked up an opening number by musical director Marc Shaiman that will introduce the dual hosts. There are a few other tidbits (a tribute to John Hughes that will stand apart from the regular In Memoriam segment, which seems sorta silly to me), but the key ingredient for 2010 Oscar success? Taylor Lautner. Yep, the "New Moon" star is who Mechanic and Shankman have in their back pocket to lure the broadest audience possible to the telecast. I raise an eyebrow at such thinking, but then again, I possibly doubt the collective power of the "Twilight" faithful.

Speaking of Oscars, will charges of plagiarism cast a pall over James Cameron's inevitable trophy collection at this year's ceremony? The Guardian is reporting that Russian critics are noting similarities between his blockbuster "Avatar" and a popular series of 10 novels written by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in the mid-1960s (the Strugatskys may be best known to stateside audiences for Andrei Tarkovsky's "Stalker," which was based on their novel "Roadside Picnic"). Like "Avatar," the "Noon Universe" cycle takes place on a lush jungle planet called Pandora, which is inhabited by an indigenous race called the Nave. Cameron's CGI creatures are called the Na'vi. The global success of "Avatar" has sparked considerable debate in the Strugatskys' native country, with one paper devoting an entire page to the similarities. Cameron -- who is no stranger to charges of plagiarism, having dealt with them in regard to "The Terminator" (which bore a strong resemblance to stories written by legendary author Harlan Ellison for "The Outer Limits") -- has denied all allegations, and appears to have an ally in Boris Strugatsky (brother Arkady died in 1991). The 76-year-old writer has dismissed any carbon claims, as well as the notion that he is seeking legal action against Cameron. None of this is likely to have any impact on box-office results for "Avatar," which is now past the $1-billion mark worldwide.

In other international news, a trailer has been released for Roman Polanski's latest film, "The Ghost Writer." It's nice to finally get a glimpse at the thriller, which stars Pierce Brosnan, Ewan McGregor, Kim Cattrall and Tom Wilkinson, which has been completely overshadowed by Polanski's legal woes. No word on when it'll reach our shores, but it's slated to play the 60th Berlin International Film Festival, which runs from Feb. 11 to 21.

You know, Europe is lovely this time of year, so let's stay there for our final item. Polanski's "Ninth Gate" star, Johnny Depp, was in Serbia this week -- why, you ask? To attend the third International Kustendorf Film and Music Festival, of course, and to unveil a statue of himself as part of the opening ceremonies. The statue (which looks an awful lot like Keanu Reeves, if you ask me) depicts Depp in his 1993 film "Arizona Dream," which he made with director Emir Kusturica in 1993. The two-time Palm d'Or winner ("When Father Was Away on Business" and "Underground") is reunited with Depp for his next feature, "Seven Friends of Pancho Villa and the Woman with Six Fingers," which also reportedly stars Salma Hayek. Here's a shot of Depp, his wooden likeness and director Kusturica, for your viewing pleasure.


-- Paul Gaita

Top photo: Taylor Lautner. Credit: Getty Images.

Bottom photo: Johnny Depp and Emir Kusturica. Credit: Getty Images.

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