America's appetite for espionage dramas is going into overdrive. Hot on the heels of Ben Affleck's hit movie Argo, the ongoing popularity of TV series Homeland and the still-smouldering Petreaus affair, director Kathryn (Hurt Locker) Bigelow has just started screening her highly anticipated procedural docudrama Zero Dark Thirty for Oscar voters who are going gaga over Jessica (The Help) Chastain's killer performance as a Langley operative obsessed with hunting down Osama bin Laden.
Ironically the movie, which initially stirred controversy for suggestions that the Obama administration gave Bigelow access to classified material about Bin Laden's assassination, now seems more likely to raise a storm over its brutally explicit take on torture – particularly the graphic opening 15-minute scene showing the harrowing waterboarding of a prisoner.
The intense and dense 160-minute film, which Time magazine raves "blows Argo out of the water", is expected to give Chastain a second Oscar nomination, pitching her against Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence, whose dazzling performance in Silver Linings Playbook just scored her Outstanding Performer of the Year from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Apart from Chastain, Lawrence will also have to contend with competition from Sally Field (Lincoln), Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) and Naomi Watts (The Impossible) as well as potential spoilers including Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone), Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina), Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables), Helen Mirren (Hitchcock) and Judi Dench (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Pity the expected three-way race for Best Actor, pitching favourite Daniel Day- Lewis (Lincoln) against Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) and Denzel Washington (Flight) won't exactly gin up the same kind of excitement.
Whew! Demi dating again
Revenge romance or not, news that Demi Moore is back on the dating scene must be a relief to Ashton Kutcher, who is said to have become increasingly frustrated by her attempts to drag out their acrimonious year-long divorce battle. "She cannot forgive Ashton for moving on so quickly to Mila Kunis and flaunting their relationship publicly," a source tells Radar Online, claiming that Demi has been "playing hardball... every time they come close to reaching an agreement, she throws up another objection or demand".
Moore's headline-grabbing new romance with dashing 26-year-old art-dealer Vito Schnabel, son of esteemed artist/filmmaker Julian, is also giving the 50-year-old actress a welcome break from the relentless coverage about her meltdown following the split with Kutcher and his subsequent "humiliating" insta-serious relationship with Kunis. Apart from the damage control benefits, Schnabel who is six years younger than Kutcher (and just two years older than Demi's daughter Rumer) has far more experience handling cougars than his predecessor: ex-girlfriends include Liv Tyler, who is nine years his senior as well as Elle Macpherson, who at the time was 44 to his 21.
Brad's a sensitive guy
Brad Pitt is a very sensitive soul. In a round of interviews to promote his uber-violent dark comedy Killing Them Softly (which, much like his recent ad campaign for Chanel, is not expected to be a career highlight) the 48-year-old actor revealed a surprising reason behind his "relaxed" approach to any signs of Santa anxiety among kids Maddox (11), Pax (8), Zahara (7), Shiloh (6) and twins Knox and Vivienne (4).
"What I tell [my children] is some people believe it's Santa Claus, and some people believe it's parents, and you get to believe whatever you want," Pitt told E! News, explaining that his laissez-faire attitude stems from a painful childhood memory that obviously still stings.
"I thought it was a huge act of betrayal when I was a kid," Pitt says of the day he discovered where his Christmas gifts had really come from. "I didn't like that. When I found out the truth, I was like, 'Why would you lie to me? Why?'" Another slightly jarring revelation: he calls his bride-to-be "Mama." Guess it beats Mammy. But only slightly.
Suri, happy Cruisemas
The publicity machine behind Tom Cruise is beginning to come across as a little needy. During a week when his ex Katie Holmes stole the spotlight with great reviews for her performance in Dead Accountants which opened on Broadway last Thursday, someone thought to share Tom's Christmas reading list for Suri with gossip queen Liz Smith. "Just because Tom Cruise is a Scientologist that doesn't mean he's not into a good old-fashioned Christmas. He is," Smith wrote before going on to list the books "illustrated in classic watercolour style," Tom intends to read to his six-year-old daughter. The line-up, FYI, includes The Night Before Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa's Toy Shop.
Smith also noted that "Tom especially loves the picture of Frosty peering into the window of a pastry shop". Two words: cute overload.