Traditions at that Oscar time of year



One of my favorite traditions that coincides with the Academy Awards nominations is Newsweek magazine's annual "Oscar roundtable," probably because every year I forget that it's a tradition, so it's a pleasant surprise.

The most interesting conversations in previous years involved directors (like the 2005 roundtable with Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee and George Clooney) or screenwriters (like the 1999 chat that included Warren Beatty, Roberto Benigni and Tom Stoppard). This year's talk focuses on movie stars: Clooney (again), Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie — the latter of whom, conspicuously, were not among the acting nominees this morning. As usual, Clooney (shown with fellow Michael Clayton nominee Tom Wilkinson) proves to be a master of self-deprecating humor, as shown by this anecdote:

"I just found out about 10 days ago that I must live 300 or 400 yards from Britney Spears. I found out because I came home at 10 at night and there's all these helicopters over my house with these spotlights on. I have a guesthouse where my assistant sometimes stays, and I thought someone had broken out of prison. Like something out of 'Die Hard.' I get my baseball bat, which is what you always do in every film, and I called up my assistant, who I thought was in the guesthouse, and I said, 'Are you OK?' And she said, 'Yes.' And I said, 'Look, if there's someone in the house with you and you can't talk, say the word 'Stonehenge'.' And she's like, 'What the f--- are you talking about? I'm in my apartment.' I go, 'You're not in the guesthouse?' 'No.' So I'm, like, 'Well, then, what the f--- is going on?' And I go out and I'm running around with a baseball bat in my robe. And it turns out it's paparazzi over at Britney Spears's house. So now I have to move."

The Razzie nominations, a ritual for cinematic awfulness for nearly three decades — always arrive shortly before the Oscars. This year I only notice because Eddie Murphy received a record-breaking five Razzie nominations for his reviled comedy Norbit. Ironically, Norbit actually picked up an Oscar nomination this morning for its admittedly impressive make-up work. Last year, some Oscar-watchers theorized that Norbit's release when the Academy was voting for last year's awards may have cost Murphy the statuette for Dreamgirls. With Norbit's nod, does Murphy get the last laugh? Oh, probably not.

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