News Nuggets: What are the Best Picture Oscar contenders from the first half of 2015?

Sasha Stone showcases several possible Best Picture Oscar contenders from the first half of 2015. She admits that “Oscar season really starts around early September,” and that recent indicators show that the eventual top winner will be seen by October. With that in mind, she says that the following films from January through June could be in the conversation when autumn arrives: new Pixar release “Inside Out” (voices of Amy Poehler and Bill Hader), Beach Boys biopic “Love and Mercy” (John Cusack, Paul Dano), action-adventure movie “Mad Max: Fury Road” (Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron), and Cannes favorite “Carol” (Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara). Awards Daily

For the first time, Pixar does not open a film in the top box office spot. Even though “Inside Out” is in second place this weekend, it scores the most money ever for a Pixar original (non-sequel) with $91.1 million. It is just behind the second week for “Jurassic World” starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard with $102 million. The third spot is held by “Spy” starring Melissa McCarthy with $10.5 million. Hollywood Reporter

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Tim Gray reports that the next board meeting for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences could bring another significant membership shift. The June 23 vote should include a larger number of invitations, much like last year’s that included 271 new members. That is roughly double the number of other recent years because they want an even more diverse group of “various races, ethnic backgrounds and ages.” They will also consider reducing the number of Best Picture nominees back to five per year, but “that change seems unlikely.” Variety

Steve Pond encourages Emmy voters to give David Letterman a “shiny gold goodbye.” He says that “a farewell Emmy will no doubt make the least sentimental guy in late night uncomfortable, but so what?” He won many trophies in the 80s and 90s but hasn’t seen 2001 “and that feels wrong.” After 33 years in broadcasting “it got easy to take Dave for granted” but Emmy voters could take care of that oversight this year. The Wrap

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Lena Headey is the Performer of the Week for Sunday’s season finale of “Game of Thrones.” The episode “Mother’s Mercy” shows her character Cersie taking a “walk of shame” after admitting to sins. Her performance is a “subtle, beautiful portrayal of a woman burning with thoughts of revenge” and “conveying so much while saying… so little.” TV Line

Pete Hammond reports that Helen Mirren is receiving a big Oscar push for the sleeper hit “Woman in Gold.” Fresh off her recent Tony Awards victory, The Weinstein Company is already campaigning her for playing an Austrian woman who fled during World War II and returns many years later to retrieve a valuable painting. With a haul of over $32 million domestic, it is the top-ranking independent release so far this year. Deadline

Producer and talent manager Jack Rollins dies at age 100 in New York. His clients included Woody Allen, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, David Letterman, Lenny Bruce, Harry Belafonte, and the team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May. He co-produced most of Allen’s earlier films and was the loosely-based model in his film “Broadway Danny Rose.” New York Times

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