Nuggets: ‘Shame’ in Oscar race; Venice falls for ‘Faust’; Globes on NBC Jan. 15

Sasha Stone reports that Fox Searchlight has picked up “Shame” for distribution: “Fox Searchlight continues its commitment to back daring and brilliant work with its acquisition of Steve McQueen’s ‘Shame,’ one of the best films to play Telluride, and I’m going to bet, the entire year.  They’ve already got ‘The Tree of Life‘ and ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene‘ – and to add ‘Shame’ to that list is a marvel.” AWARDS DAILY

Opening weekend at the Toronto Film Festival is chock full of studio acquisitions and an extended preview of a new film by director Zhang Yimou: “Meanwhile every distributor in town turned up Friday for a screening of 20 minutes of gorgeous, horrifying footage of master auteur Zhang Yimou’s once-titled ‘Heroes of Nanking,’ starring Christian Bale as mortician in wartorn 1937 Nanking who steps up to protect a group of schoolgirls and prostitutes taking shelter at the Winchester Cathedral. The movie, which is adapted by Liu Heng from the novel by Geling Yan, is inspired by true events during the Rape of Nanking, and now has a new, if not better title, ‘The Flowers of War.'” INDIEWIRE

Scott Feinberg believes the stars the low-budget indie “Martha Marcy May Marlene” are Oscar-bound: “My sense is that 22-year-old [Elizabeth Olsen] — Mary-Kate and Ashley‘s younger and fuller-figured sister — has a decent shot at scoring a best actress Oscar nod, but that an even safer bet for awards attention is the great character actor John Hawkes, who plays the charismatic but deranged leader of the cult.” HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

Alexander Sokurov‘s “Faust” won the top prize, the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival Saturday, edging out films such as “Tinker, Tailor Soldier Spy” and “Carnage.” “Shame” star Michael Fassbender won Best Actor while Deanie Ip (“A Simple Life”) claimed Best Actress. The Silver Lion for directing went to Cai Shangjun (“People Mountain People Sea”). THE AUTEURS

Susan Wloszczyna finds it difficult to identify a clear Oscar frontrunner at the Toronto Film Fest: “Unlike 2010, when ‘The King’s Speech’ pulled out of the pack quickly and became the one to beat — signaled by taking the People’s Choice award as the Toronto voting public’s favorite — there is no front-runner yet in the best picture race. Complicating matters is that some expected contenders, such as Clint Eastwood‘s ‘J. Edgar‘ and David Fincher‘s ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ will be kept under wraps for a while.” USA TODAY

Kyle Buchanan thinks George Clooney‘s Oscar chances for “The Descendants” are climbing: “The most popular man in Telluride had a performance that impressed many. ‘George Clooney’s performance as a beleagured, soon-to-be-widowed dad is touching, real, honest. He’s immediately in Best Actor contention,’ tweeted Jeff Wells.” VULTURE

Despite a battle over television rights, the Golden Globes show must go on: “On Friday morning, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., creator and owner of the high-profile event; Dick Clark Productions, which produces the show; and broadcaster NBC plan to announce that they have cobbled together a one-year agreement to jointly stage the annual awards fest at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 15.” LA TIMES

Roger Ebert joins the chorus of critical raves for the modern silent film “The Artist“: “I had great admiration for the film as a whole, and so did the audience in the big Elgin Theater, which was possibly the warmest crowd I’ve been in at Toronto since the premiere of ‘Juno.’ This would not seem a likely time for a silent movie, but ‘The Artist’ ignores that and goes about its business. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s a significant box office success.” CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

Kenneth Jones reports that Tony-winner Hugh Jackman will join Russell Crowe in the film adaptation of the musical “Les Miserables”: “The stage musical’s producer, Cameron Mackintosh, who is also the film’s producing partner, confirmed the news in a Sept. 8 statement: ‘Even though I have dreamt about making the film of ‘Les Miserables’ for over 25 years, I could never have imagined that we would end up with the dream director Tom Hooper, and the dream cast of Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe as the two great protagonists Jean Valjean and Javert.” PLAYBILL

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