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Owen Gleiberman and Lisa Schwarzbaum: Is the Academy using the Oscars to promote its own credibility? -- VIDEO

Hollywood’s biggest night is only two days away — do you have your special Academy Awards sweats picked out yet?

Get a head start on your Oscar weekend debates with Movie Talk with Owen and Lisa — in which EW critics Owen Gleiberman and Lisa Schwarzbaum lament how the Oscars aren’t channeling the public anymore and name their picks for who should win Lead Actor and Lead Actress. Spoiler: It’s not “this French guy no one has ever heard of”! READ FULL STORY

Oscars 2012 Behind the Scenes: Casting 'The Help' nominees Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain

Each year, the Oscars recognize A-list talent we regularly see on screen, on the red carpet, and in tabloids. But the Academy Awards also reward those who work behind the scenes: the writers, editors, costume designers, and others who help create trophy-worthy movie magic. This Oscars season, we’ll be toasting those off-screen artists by delving into the hidden secrets that helped create the on-screen magic that we — and the Academy — fell in love with. For more access backstage during this Oscars season, click here for EW.com’s Oscars Behind the Scenes coverage.

Only one film has three acting Oscar nominations this year: Tate Taylor’s The Help. We asked the movie’s casting directors, Kerry Barden and Paul Schnee, to tell us how Best Actress nominee Viola Davis and Supporting Actress nominees Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain each landed their roles. READ FULL STORY

Pitt, Clooney, Davis, Mara and more talk performances, inspiration at annual Oscar luncheon

George Clooney came for the “free booze.” Octavia Spencer was stoked to just be in the “room with all those luminaries,” while Kenneth Branagh claimed it was “the camaraderie” that brought him to the annual Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. But no matter what their reason for attending, most of the folks in the acting categories first stopped by the press room to talk shop, give praise and, in the case of Nick Nolte, threaten to tell a joke (which never materialized).

Here is taste of what the actors had to say about their performances, awards season, and their fellow nominees: READ FULL STORY

'Beautiful Creatures' movie adaptation finally underway, with Viola Davis attached

BEAUTIFUL-CREATURES-COVER

In the fall of 2009, writer-director Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love Yousigned on to adapt Beautiful Creatures, the first of three novels by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl about Ethan, a mortal boy living in the South, and Lena, the girl he loves with enigmatic powers she’s trying to keep hidden. Interest in the project has been high as Hollywood hunts for another Twilight-esque literary phenom to turn into a blockbuster franchise.

More than two years later, Alcon Entertainment has announced it will finance and produce LaGravenese’s adaptation of Beautiful Creatures, in partnership with Warner Bros. Academy Award nominee Viola Davis has signed on to play Amma, described as “a seer who looks after Ethan and his father after Ethan’s mother’s death.”  READ FULL STORY

Oscars 2012: Watch videos for the major nominees

While you should see all the nominated films by Oscar night, Feb. 26, of course, here’s a good place to start, with clips from all the Best Picture, acting, and director nominees.

First up, the trailers for the nine films nominated for Best Picture:  READ FULL STORY

'My Week With Marilyn', 'Tinker Tailor' lead BAFTA longlists

With 16 inclusions each, My Week With Marilyn and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy are leading the pack in the longlists for the 2012 British Academy Film Awards, which were announced today. In addition to making the cut for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, both films have their stars in contention. (Marilyn‘s Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Judi Dench, and Zoe Wanamaker, as well as Tinker Tailor‘s Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, John Hurt, and Kathy Burke, are all on the acting longlists.)

Following Marilyn and Tinker Tailor for the most entries on the BAFTA longlists were The Iron Lady (14), The Artist, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Midnight in Paris, War Horse (13 each),  The Help, Hugo, Drive (12 each), and The Ides of March and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 (11 each.) Notable exclusions from the BAFTA longlist include Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Melancholia, and Martha Marcy May Marlene, while major Oscar contender The Tree of Life earned just one mention in the cinematography category.

The longlist kicks off the first round of voting for the BAFTAs, which includes 15 entries in most categories. The five nominees will be chosen from these longlists in the second round. However, there are only five for animation and documentary in the first round of voting.  Nominations in all categories, including the shortlist for the Rising Star Award, will be announced on Jan. 17. Check out the entire BAFTAs 2012 longlist, including Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Documentary, Foreign Language Film, and Outstanding British Film here.  (Note: * marks  the five chapter picks.) READ FULL STORY

'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' trailer: Tom Hanks will send you on a journey... and make you cry

There are moments in Jonathan Safran Foer’s best-selling 2005 novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close that are so unimaginably heartbreaking, it’s hard — despite how good the book is — to not to need to put it down and take a breather (or just have a really good cry). For those unfamiliar with Foer’s novel, about a young, imaginative New York City boy named Oskar (Jeopardy! winner Thomas Horn, making his big screen debut) who loses his father (Tom Hanks) in the Sept. 11 attacks, the trailer might be just as weepy.

The trailer sets up the story (after the tragedy, Oskar embarks upon a journey around the city with a mysterious key that belonged to his father) and its tender moments (all the people Oskar meets during his quest). The U2 song actually pushes the trailer in to dangerous schmaltzy territory, but readers have to have faith in the Oscar-friendly combination of director Stephen Daldry (The Hours), writer Eric Roth (Forrest Gump), and two of the biggest stars on the planet (Hanks, Sandra Bullock). Watch the full clip below: READ FULL STORY

Is 'The Help' a condescending movie for white liberals? Actually, the real condescension is calling it that

Lots of movies divide audiences (you liked it, I hated it, and the world goes round). But a liberal message movie about race has the power to divide audiences — and critics — in a special way. The people who respond to it are likely to feel moved, uplifted, morally transported, emotionally activated. Others may feel not so much that they don’t respond but that they’re reacting against what they’re seeing — a “hard-hitting” mass-audience truth that is actually a feel-good lie. READ FULL STORY

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