Special awards to 'The Artist,' 'Potter' franchise

The inclusion of raunchy laffer “Bridesmaids” and dark thriller “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in the American Film Institute’s film selections for the 2011 AFI Awards has added more fuel to the kudos-season fire.

The AFI mention will help “Bridesmaids” be seen as a possible contender in thesping and screenplay races, while anticipation has been building on “Dragon Tattoo’s” prospects. Most of the other AFI film picks unveiled Sunday are titles that are already enjoying award-season buzz: Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants,” which also topped the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. list this weekend; DreamWorks/Touchstone’s “The Help”; Martin Scorsese’s 3D extravaganza “Hugo”; Clint Eastwood’s Leonardo DiCaprio starrer “J. Edgar”; Woody Allen’s ensembler “Midnight in Paris”; Brad Pitt starrer “Moneyball”; Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” which also stars Pitt; and Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse.”

Awards-circuit darling “The Artist” and box office titan “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2″ received special awards instead of being a part of the official list. AFI’s special kudos recognize films that don’t meet the org’s general awards criteria, most notably that a production be primarily American-generated

In TV, there were few surprises. AFI’s choices for programs of the year are: “Boardwalk Empire,” “Breaking Bad,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Good Wife,” “Homeland,” “Justified,” “Louie,” “Modern Family” and “Parks and Recreation.”

Showtime’s “Homeland” and HBO’s “Game of Thrones” were the only frosh series recognized. FX’s “Louie” and “Justified” cracked the list for the first time. HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and AMC’s “Breaking Bad” drew their second consecutive mentions (“Bad” also made the 2008 list), while ABC’s “Modern Family” logged its third in a row.

With the exception of “The Town,” all of the pics on last year’s AFI film list went on to earn Oscar noms. “The King’s Speech,” because of its British pedigree, received the same special recognition mention that AFI was given “The Artist” this year.

A mention from AFI helps a number of films remain a part of the awards conversation at a crucial time.

For “The Help,” “The Descendants” and “Midnight in Paris,” the AFI spotlight underlines these pics as must-see entries for Academy voters, who often use the downtime during the holiday season to catch up on their homework before tackling their Oscar nom ballots next month.

For “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” AFI showed that months of industry screenings aren’t really the key to achieving recognition. The inclusion of “J. Edgar” and “War Horse” show that online sniping doesn’t negate industry sentiment for veteran filmmakers. And there’s been a groundswell of awards buzz for Melissa McCarthy as a supporting actress contender for “Bridesmaids” — chatter that is likely to only get louder in the next month.

AFI’s selections are unlikely to have much sway on the outcome of Thursday’s Golden Globes nominations because those ballots are due to the accounting firm by today.

Creatives behind the pics and TV shows will receive awards at an invitation-only luncheon set for Jan. 13 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles.

The complete list of honorees follows:

AFI Movies of the Year

“Bridesmaids”

“The Descendants”

“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”

“The Help”

“Hugo”

“J. Edgar”

“Midnight in Paris”

“Moneyball”

“The Tree of Life”

“War Horse”

AFI Special Awards

“The Artist”

The Harry Potter Series

AFI TV Programs of the Year

“Breaking Bad”

“Boardwalk Empire”

“Curb Your Enthusiasm”

“Game of Thrones”

“The Good Wife”

“Homeland”

“Justified”

“Louie”

“Modern Family”

“Parks and Recreation”

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