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By United Press International   |   Dec. 2, 2011 at 3:54 AM
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'HUGO:' America's National Board of Review Thursday declared the family movie "Hugo" the Best Film of 2011.

Martin Scorsese earned the Best Director prize for helming it.

"'Hugo' is such a personal film by Martin Scorsese," Annie Schulhof, NBR's president, said in a statement. "It is a tribute to the early years of cinema that uses today's cutting-edge technology to bring the audience into a completely unique and magical world. It is visually stunning and emotionally engaging."

"The Descendants" was another of the board's favorites this year. The film's stars, George Clooney and Shailene Woodley, won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively, while its scribes, Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, shared the Best Adapted Screenplay honor.

The Best Actress award went to Tilda Swinton for her work in "We Need to Talk About Kevin," while Christopher Plummer earned the Best Supporting Actor title for "Beginners."

Will Reiser won the award for Best Original Screenplay for "50/50" and "Rango" was named Best Animated Feature.

The organization said the other films it deemed the best of 2011, in alphabetical order, are "The Artist," "The Descendants," "Drive," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2," "The Ides of March," "J. Edgar," "Tree of Life" and "War Horse."


ROGER EBERT: Chicago film critic Roger Ebert says he has put "At the Movies" on hold indefinitely because he has not found funding for the weekly half-hour show.

Ebert and his wife Chaz paid most of the production costs for the PBS program for a year while they looked for other investors.

The famed film critic announced on his blog Wednesday his decision to place the show on hiatus at the end of the month, the Chicago Tribune said.

"It was a sad but necessary moment of realism," Ebert said.

"We've spoken to the top executives of several channels and film distributors, charitable foundations, Web delivery services, potential corporate sponsors and crowd-funding sources," Ebert said in his blog. "And we are still talking with them, but the time crunch has intervened. It is a complicated process, and so we are going on hiatus while we sort it out."

The syndicated show starred film critics Ignatiy Vishnevetsky and Christy Lemire. It was produced in Chicago at WTTW, where Ebert and the late Gene Siskel began taping their "Sneak Previews" review program 35 years ago. Co-producer Ebert also served as host of a special segment each week.

Ebert, a longtime columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and former co-host of "Siskel and Ebert at the Movies," has battled cancer for years and lost his ability to speak. A syndicated version of "At the Movies," featuring lesser-known critics, was canceled in 2010.


CHRIS MELONI: U.S. actor Chris Meloni is in talks to join the cast of the vampire drama series "True Blood," TV Line reported Thursday.

Meloni is the former star of "Law & Order: SVU" and "Oz."

TV Line said the actor is now in negotiations with HBO for a "major role" as a vampire in the show's upcoming fifth season.

The television news Web site said HBO has declined to comment on its story.


'CELEBRITY WIFE SWAP:' Actor Gary Busey, rapper Flavor Flav and rocker Dee Snider are to star in the upcoming U.S. reality series "Celebrity Wife Swap," ABC said Thursday.

Also set to trade spouses for a week are Evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, former child stars Tracey Gold and Tina Youthers, singer Carnie Wilson, wrestler Mick Foley, actor-model Antonio Sabato Jr., and comedienne Niecy Nash, UsMagazine.com reported.

The series is scheduled to premiere next month with the first of five hourlong episodes.

"The two moms are given the chance to see how another celebrity raises their children and deals with life in the spotlight, while allowing both couples the opportunity to rediscover why they love each other and decided to get together in the first place," ABC said in a statement issued to UsMagazine.com. "It's a mind-blowing experiment that will change their lives forever."

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