Oscar Buzz Watch: Helen Hunt Is Definitely Getting Another Oscar Nomination

Okay, here’s how it’s going to go: you’re going to start hearing a lot of craaaazy talk in the upcoming weeks about Academy Award-winner Helen Hunt. About how she’s in a movie again, and that she’s actually really good, and that she’s on her way to a second career nomination. And your first instinct is going to be to not believe it. Not Helen Hunt! She’s history’s greatest monster! She won the 1997 Best Actress award for As Good As It Gets for being a prickly but warm-hearted waitress who had the good fortune to be the object of Jack Nicholson’s OCD affections. She beat such actresses as Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, Helena Bonham-Carter (back when she was a respectable star of English dramas and not an eccentric thatch of brambles), and Julie Christie.

At the time, it was not all that controversial a victory. As Good As It Gets was a crowd-pleaser and Hunt held her own with Nicholson (who also won the Oscar). She was also critically acclaimed for her TV work on Mad About You, and believe it or not, she had been considered overdue for an Emmy by the time she won in 1996. Of course, that was the first of four consecutive Emmys, and combined with four Golden Globes and that Oscar, it’s not all that surprising that the worm turned on her popularity. That Oscar win was looking more and more suspect. What did she even do in that movie besides sass at Jack and care for her sick kid? And what about the homerism of the one American in that category besting four Brits? Typical, right?

By the time 2000 rolled around and Hunt struck out on four high-profile releases in the final three months of the year, she had become something of a punch line among Serious Movie People and her Oscar win an object of scorn. That 2000 quartet is an interesting case study. Hunt ended up starring in two of the top five box-office hits of the year! How did it end up killing her career?? Well, her character in Cast Away wasn’t likeable, and it’s not like you could pin the success of that movie on anyone but Tom Hanks. Her chemistry with Mel Gibson was nonexistent in What Women Want, and back then, nobody could chalk that up to Gibson being a misogynist psychopath. Dr. T and the Women was a forgettable Robert Altman effort, though hardly worth sinking a career. But Pay It Forward… wow. Pay It Forward was such a complete flop commercially and critically that it sucked Hunt’s entire narrative down the toilet. The rest of the aughts saw her in only four more movies, five if you count the HBO adaptation of Empire Falls. As career nose-dives go, it was pretty dramatic, and it was proof positive for Hunt’s many detractors that she could neither act nor pick a good role.

Starting this weekend, Helen Hunt is back in theaters with The Sessions, Ben Lewin’s new movie about a polio-stricken John Hawkes who hires a "sex surrogate" (Hunt) to help him lose his virginity. It was a big ol’ hit at Sundance, and Hunt in particular got rave reviews. The positive critical notices continued at the Toronto and London film festivals, and what do you know? That old friend Oscar Buzz is back. This sounds, frankly, insane. Helen Hunt, who starred in the worst movie Woody Allen ever made (Curse of the Jade Scorpion), who cast herself in her directorial debut as Bette Midler’s daughter (the widely ignored Then She Found Me, though it should be noted that Rex Reed loved it!), is now Oscar-worthy, and possibly on a track to win her second Oscar?

As we learned with Ben Affleck last time, though, arc is everything in the Oscar race, and Helen Hunt’s comeback story gets better the more unlikely it seems. The prodigal daughter returns. And in The Sessions, she’s got a lot working for her chances at a nomination. She plays a good woman whose role in the film is to help a man achieve greatness, as reliable an Oscar niche as there is. That the "greatness" she helps Hawkes achieve has to do with having sex with a beautiful woman doesn’t hurt. She’s also, as of right now, due to be campaigned in the Supporting Actress category, despite the kind of screen time and story prominence that would support a Lead Actress claim. Ask Jennifer Connelly how that strategy worked out. (OMG, Jennifer Connelly! If Helen Hunt gets to shake off the dust of a terrible post-Oscar decade, won’t that give Jennifer so much hope that she might do the same??)

Here’s another Oscar tendency that works in Hunt’s favor: the Academy tends to hand out backup nominations every now and then, as if to prove that certain questionable award choices were justified. Remember all that grumbling about Marisa Tomei winning for My Cousin Vinny (grumbling that is TOTAL bullshit, by the way; Marisa was amazing in that movie)? Follow-up nominations for In the Bedroom and The Wrestler put that win in a different context. Charlize Theron’s win for Monster gets called a fluke? Follow-up nom for North Country. Hilary Swank and Sally Field managed to win on their follow-up nominations, so don’t think that can’t happen.

By the way, while we’re on the subject of The Sessions, John Hawkes’s chances for a second career nomination aren’t looking too shabby either. If you think the sex surrogate for a polio-stricken man in an iron lung trying to make it through like with dignity and wry humor is a winner of a role, try playing the guy with polio. It might be condescending, it might be tunnel-visioned, it might be cheap, but Oscar voters tend to leap at performances of disabilities.

I’m just saying you might want to be prepared. Try and remember how Helen Hunt looked on red carpets, because she’s coming back. (Does she still pretend to date Hank Azaria? That could be fun!)

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Will You Forgive Mel Gibson for Robert Downey Jr.’s Sake?

Robert Downey Jr. has risen to the top after being hooked on drugs and locked up in prison. The guy knows a thing or two about the value of forgiveness. But can he seriously think America could open their hearts to Jew-hating, wife-beating, super-racist Mel Gibson? Apparently, yes. And he’d like to help the healing process along.

Last night, during the American Cinematheque tribute honoring Downey Jr., he asked the crowd of Hollywood elites to “forgive” Gibson, whom he starred with in Air America and who was on hand to present the award.

“Unless you are without sin – and if you are, you are in the wrong [expletive] industry, you should forgive him and let him work,” Downey said. “This is my fuckin’ time. Mel and I have the same lawyer, same publicist and same shrink. I couldn’t get hired and he cast me. He said if I accepted responsibility – he called it hugging the cactus – long enough, my life would take meaning. And if he helped me, I would help the next guy. But it was not reasonable to assume the next guy would be him.”

The crowd applauded. Which, what? We are a nation that loves second chances, that roots for the underdog, that can embrace someone after they get caught with a hooker or speed down Sunset Boulevard with a Magnum while high on heroin and cocaine. Bad judgement, but hey, he wasn’t really trying to hurt anyone but himself. But can the public actually forgive someone who has battered a woman, and spewed mountains of vitriolic hate just because they made a couple of good movies?

Chris Brown seems to be doing alright, so who knows. Maybe? Brown makes decent (according to album sales) music for his demographic, but even without all Gibson’s crazy, morally reprehensible behavior, will people forgive him for Signs? What about The Beaver?

Warner Bros. Wants Spielberg to Direct New Moses Movie

Rumors are adrift that Warner Bros. is asking Steven Spielberg to direct a movie about the life of Moses. Deadline reports that the studio is “courting” the E.T. director to helm Gods and Kings, a Biblical super-epic that follows Moses’ life from river-floating babe to sea-parting holy man. Spielberg and Warner Bros. haven’t even had a meeting yet, but everyone is getting twitterpated about the possibility a movie that would be enormous in every sense of the word. Happy Rosh Hashanah!

Michael Green and Stuart Hazeldine wrote the script and it has all the makings of a Spielberg flick. Child with a complex relationship with adults? Check. Characters battling nature? Forty years in the desert, boom. Giant man-eating shark? Why not, I’m sure they can throw one in there. Hazeldine has experience writing screenplays with Biblical themes; he penned the upcoming adaptation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost as well as Green Lantern, where Ryan Reynolds played the fabled Green Lantern, son of Abraham in the Book of Leviticus. The studio has already made it clear that this won’t be a remake of the Charlton Heston classic The Ten Commandments. It’d be nice to say, “This isn’t your grandfather’s Moses,” but given the script’s reported faithfulness to the Old Testament, this is, in fact, your grandfather’s Moses. Warner Bros. is also developing a movie based on the story of Judah Maccabee, the Jewish warrior who fought off the Greek empire. Mel Gibson has the first option to direct, and given Gibson’s bigoted complicated attitude about Judaism, that film has caused quite a stir already. Our guess is that the sheer controversy will probably make it profitable. Combine that with the possibility of a Spielberg / Moses epic, and Warner Bros. will be partying like it’s 1999 B.C.

Morning Links: Odd Future Get an Adult Swim Show, Chris Brown’s Lucky Day In Court

● Adult Swim has bravely and — given the success of their YouTube channel — very wisely given Odd Future their own television show. Loiter Squad will feature “sketches, man on the street segments, pranks and, naturally, music.” [LAT] ● Warner Bros. is letting known anti-semite Mel Gibson work on a movie about Juddah Maccabbee. In the past, Gibson’s said he was drawn to the Jewish warrior’s story because “It’s like a Western.” [THR] ● A particularly unflattering photo of Ali Lohan has sparked rumors that the 17-year-old might have gone under the knife in preparation for her new model lifestyle. When asked to confirm such rumors, older sister Lindsay said she was certain “She has never.” Case closed! [E!]

● Lucky Chris Brown got 95 parking tickets dismissed in one day! Unlucky Chris Brown still has 22 parking tickets left to pay. Alternate-side parking’s tough. [TMZ] ● Kylie, youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner brood, will make her New York Fashion Week debut in Avril Lavigne’s Abbey Dawn show. [Huff Post] ● So there you have it: the Home Improvement cast, reunited for Jonathan Taylor Thomas’s 30th birthday. [People]

Morning Links: Mel Gibson Could Quit Acting, Peaches Geldof Gets Divorced

●”I don’t care if I don’t act anymore,” admitted Mel Gibson in his first interview since his much-scrutinized split form Oksana Grigorieva and the accompanying anti-Semetic rants. “I could easily not act again. It’s not a problem.” [Deadline] ● Concerned that it is is “enticing young people with hip-hop themes and lollipop flavors,” attorney generals in 17 states have teamed up in hopes of banning Snoop Dogg’s malt beverage, Blast. Snoop Dogg was too high to care. [CNN] ● Yesterday in New Jersey, titans of fashion Valentino and Karl Lagerfeld’s private jets landed, as a matter of coincidence, with in five minutes of each other, spilling an “amazing array of luxury suitcases,” “beautiful entourages,” and “quite a few dogs,” onto the runway. A runway is a runway is a runway. [Page Six]

● Two years after ending their six-month marriage, Peaches Geldof and Chester French rocker Maxwell Drummey are just now getting around to filing their divorce papers. [TMZ] ● This celebrity’s canine disguise is so cute we almost can’t tell who she is! [ONTD] ● Teen Mom Maci is hoping she’ll get asked to be on Dancing With The Stars. “Professional Reality Television Star” is a career path, apparently. [Us]

Morning Links: ‘American Pie’ Reunion Special, Suri’s X-Rated Gummy Bears

● Wheels are rolling on the fourth installment of the American Pie franchise, American Reunion. Jason Biggs, Sean William Scott, and Eugene Levy are all signed on, while the rest of the cast is still determining the price of its dignity. [HR] ● TMZ got hold of The Situation’s terribly unfunny (and at times racially charged) jokes that didn’t make the Comedy Central Roast Of Donald Trump broadcast. Read only if you must. [TMZ] ● First they sold the surveillance tapes for $35,000, and now they are shopping a book deal? These jewelers are making it hard not to feel bad for Lindsay. TMZ]

● “He’s not saintly, and he’s got a big mouth, and he’ll do gross things your nephew would do,” said Jodie Foster of her friend and costar, the embattled Mel Gibson. “But I knew the minute I met him that I would love him the rest of my life.” [Yahoo/AP] ● Snooki is surprised people don’t know her new friend Paris Hilton is a party girl. And we’re surprised she’s surprised? [Ok] ● Sure, Suri, anything your little heart desires. Oh, you want those? Honey, those are just for adults. [E! ● Rebecca Black would like it if you called the symptoms of her viral fame “black plague” now. [Twitter]

Afternoon Links: Scarlett Tears Up, Taylor Lautner Is Loaded

● The Los Angeles Swan Lakers: In a pep talk to teammate Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant told the forward that he needs to be the Black Swan to Kobe’s White Swan. [ESPN] ● Watch a very loving encounter between ABC reporter Christiane Amanpour and some angry Egyptians. They “hat” her? Awww. [Gawker] ● Scarlett Johansson reportedly got teary-eyed during a recent reunion with her ex Ryan Reynolds, and we reportedly don’t care (a report that later proved to be false). [Us Weekly]

● The Mel Gibson saga takes a dark turn: His 2006 anti-semitic rant against Malibu police offers might have been a death wish, or “death by cop,” according to Peter Biskind. Fortunately, he only managed to kill his career. [VF via PageSix] ● Dana Carvey is back on SNL this week, and they’ve got the promos to prove it. Schwing, indeed. [NBC] ● News flash! Taylor Lautner makes more money than you! And Will Smith, Robert Downey Jr., Jerry Bruckheimer, Robert Pattison etc. [VF]

Links: Winona Ryder Remembers Drunk Mel Gibson, Kevin Spacey Almost Says He’s Gay

● Winona Ryder knew about Mel Gibson’s penchant for drunken tirades long before everyone else: “He made a really horrible gay joke. And somehow it came up that I was Jewish. He said something about ‘oven dodgers,’ but I didn’t get it.” [GQ] ● Ryan Reynolds may have cheated on Scarlett Johansson with his Green Lantern costar Blake Lively, known in some circles as Johansson with emptier eyes. [Popeater] ● Breakfast at Tiffany‘s director Blake Edwards, also known for the Pink Panther series, died at the age of 88. [HuffPo]

● Kevin Spacey insists on not discussing his personal life, but basically winks at the whole world, allowing insinuations to be made that he is, in fact, gay. [The Daily Beast] ● Demi Lovato, currently in rehab to deal with a host of issues, can now add “sexy pictures on the internet” to her list of worries, because being a teenager (owned by Disney) isn’t hard enough. [Egotastic] ● Michael C. Hall’s divorce might have something to do with Julia Stiles, from that one dancing white girl movie. [Celebitchy]

Links: Eva Longoria & Tony Parker Really Are Done, Mel Gibson Was Extra Abusive

● Although she denied initial reports yesterday, Eva Longoria has filed for divorce from her NBA star husband Tony Parker, with allegations now surfacing that he had at least a text message affair with a teammate’s wife. [HuffPo] ● Patti Smith won a National Book Award in non-fiction for her memoir Just Kids, which proves rock stars can both read and write. [Vulture] ● Sex with David Arquette was “quick and painless,” according to his mistress. Another satisfied customer! [Page Six]

● Oksana Grigorieva told Larry King that Mel Gibson hit and choked her while waving a gun around in front of her two children. Then she reacted to the violent recordings live on television. [TMZ] ● Lindsay Lohan is not happy that her mother appeared on the Today Show; Lindsay’s mom is not happy that her daughter is in rehab. [Celebuzz] ● Sexiest Man Ryan Reynolds says he looked like a “very athletic girl” until he was 21. [People]