<p>Andy Samberg is going to brave the always hard to win over crowd at the Independent Spirit Awards tent as this year's host.</p>

Andy Samberg is going to brave the always hard to win over crowd at the Independent Spirit Awards tent as this year's host.

Andy Samberg picks up the Independent Spirit Awards host baton

Another 'SNL' vet gets an emcee gig

Could 2013 provide the world with the best trio, er, quartet of awards show hosts ever?  "Family Guy" and "Ted" wunderkind Seth McFarlane is on board for the grand daddy, the Oscars; "SNL" vets and BFF's Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are making NBC and the Golden Globes must see TV again; and now Film Independent has announced that the usually funny and creative Andy Samberg will top line the 2013 Independent Spirit Awards.  It's signalling a new generation of emcees (for the moment) and at worst should pique casual award show viewers interest.  Granted, the Spirits are broadcast at 10 PM on a Saturday night on low rated IFC, but for those of us in the audience it should be fun.

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<p>Jessica Chastain walks the red carpet at the world premiere of &quot;Zero Dark Thirty&quot;&nbsp;in Hollywood Monday night.</p>

Jessica Chastain walks the red carpet at the world premiere of "Zero Dark Thirty" in Hollywood Monday night.

Credit: AP Photo/Dan Steinberg

Jessica Chastain and Kathryn Bigelow bring 'Zero Dark Thirty' to Hollywood

The Dolby Theater hosts an early awards season event

HOLLYWOOD - Sony Pictures and Annapurna Productions brought their celebrated thriller "Zero Dark Thirty" to the Dolby Theater Monday night for what turned out to be a star studded premiere.

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<p>Jamie Foxx in &quot;Django Unchained.&quot;</p>

Jamie Foxx in "Django Unchained."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Contender Countdown: True and False before Golden Globes and SAG Awards nods

Is 'Django' a lock for a best picture nomination?

Isn't this fun? The race for best picture continues to surprise at each turn. Outside of "Amour's" win with the LAFCA contingent Sunday, "Zero Dark Thirty" has emerged as the critics favorite winning NYFCC, Boston Society of Film Critics and the National Board of Review (among others).  So far, the other presumed best picture frontrunners "Les Miserables," "Lincoln" and "Argo" have had to make due with just acting, directing or screenwriting honors.  Of course, all this will change beginning Wednesday when SAG pipes in for its yearly honors and on Thursday when the HFPA hopes to influence something (most entertainment industry executives will tell you its ticket sales and Emmy voters).  We're in the thick of it and pronouncements about the fates of contenders are being made left and right. Taking that into account, it seems appropriate to review some of these repeated refrains and determine whether or not they have any basis in reality.

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<p>Robert De Niro poses on the red carpet before receiving the Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Santa Barbara, CA Saturday night.</p>

Robert De Niro poses on the red carpet before receiving the Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Santa Barbara, CA Saturday night.

Credit: AP Photo/Richard Shotwell

Robert De Niro turns the spotlight back on Kirk Douglas at Santa Barbara salute

96-year-old legend receives an original manuscript of 'Raging Bull' from De Niro and Scorsese

SANTA BARBARA - The Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented the 7th Annual Kirk Douglas Award for Film Excellence Saturday night to Robert De Niro.  Douglas, who turned a spry 96-years-old on Sunday, was on hand as were De Niro's "Silver Lining Playbook" cohorts Bradley Cooper and director David O. Russell.  Previous honorees include Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Quentin Tarantino, Ed Harris, John Travolta and Kirk Douglas himself.

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Exclusive: Benh and Ben meet to discuss the incredible journeys of 'Beasts' and 'The Sessions'

Exclusive: Benh and Ben meet to discuss the incredible journeys of 'Beasts' and 'The Sessions'

Two very different directors share their universal experiences in the indie film world

A year ago, Benh Zeitlin and Ben Lewin had never met, but both men were on the verge of traveling on a similar journey.  The two filmmakers found their films "Beasts of the Southern Wild" (Zeitlin) and "The Surrogate" (Lewin, and later re-titled "The Sessions") accepted into the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.  Six weeks later, both emerged from the annual indie film showcase with critical accolades and a new home under the wise eyes of noted mini-major Fox Searchlight. Fast forward 11 months and "Beasts" is a projected best picture nominee and "The Sessions" could find stars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt nominated in the best actor and best supporting actress race respectively.

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<p>Jessica Chastain in &quot;Zero Dark Thirty.&quot;</p>

Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty."

Credit: Sony Pictures

‘Zero Dark Thirty’ comes out of hiding with best picture win as NYFCC stirs things up

Some unconventional picks for the east coast crew

If the New York Film Critics Circle believed they might cause a commotion with a number of their 2012 selections, they certainly succeeded in rattling the awards season boat.  The NYFCC, like their Los Angeles counterparts, have rarely gone with the collective wisdom unless it’s the best picture or best director category.  This year? They made sure Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” remained a centerpiece in the best picture race with honors for best actor (a very deserving Daniel Day-Lewis), best screenplay (cultural touchstone Tony Kushner) and, um, best supporting actress (Sally Field).  Where they really stirred things up was by giving the season’s first major kudos to “Zero Dark Thirty" and pretty much anointing best actress and best supporting actors out of left field.

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<p>Anne Hathaway in &quot;Les Miserables&quot;</p>

Anne Hathaway in "Les Miserables"

Watch: Four examples of why 'Les Miserables' is generating major Oscar hype

Scenes featuring Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Hugh Jackman and newcomer Samantha Barks

NEW YORK -- Having just come from interviewing the cast of "Les Miserables," I can tell you there is a genuine excitement in the air. Tom Hooper's adaptation of the long-running and now classic musical was a difficult gig for everyone involved and the almost unanimous enthusiasm over the finished product has clearly lifted a weight off their shoulders (you'd have to assume Hooper's as well, but he was still in Los Angeles where he attended last night's Governors Awards). 

Many moviegoers don't like to watch clips before seeing a film, but if you're still unsure what the hype is all about these four should make it incredibly clear.  Hooper's decision to have his actors sing live is close to a game changer and are one reason "Les Miz" is going to be part of the Oscar discussion for quite some time. Universal Pictures was also smart in making sure each preview was over a minute long so viewers could appreciate the performances and music at work.

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<p>Nicole Kidman at the world premiere of &quot;The Paperboy&quot;&nbsp;at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival last May.</p>

Nicole Kidman at the world premiere of "The Paperboy" at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival last May.

Credit: AP Photo

Nicole Kidman calls from France to revisit 'The Paperboy' and proclaim her love for 'Amour'

And yeah, 'The Others' is pretty good too

When Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy” debuted at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival last May, the reviews were hardly glowing.  The Twitterverse was full of salacious tweets of crude acts by an Oscar winning actress and snarked about over-the-top Southern campiness – all out of context, of course.  Even In Contention’s own Guy Lodge seemed torn over the film seemingly want to like it, but only rewarding it with a B- (and that was one of the more initial positive reviews).  In fact, so few of my peers seemed to champion it (and those who didn’t like it hated it), that I tossed it in the back of my mind as a disappointing misfire for Daniels.  Financier Millennium Entertainment decision to distribute the picture themselves seemed to be the final nail in the coffin.  If no mini-major was going to take the time to acquire a “sexy melodrama” starring a mostly shirtless Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey it wasn’t worth rushing to see, right?

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<p>Robert Zemeckis</p>

Robert Zemeckis

Credit: AP Photo

'Flight' director Robert Zemeckis to be honored by Palm Springs Festival

Helen Hunt and Naomi Watts also receiving awards

Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis will need to make some more room on his award shelf.

The 24th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival will present Zemeckis with the Director of the Year Award for "Flight."

The Awards Gala will be held Saturday, January 5, at the Palm Springs Convention Center.

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<p>&quot;Beasts of the Southern Wild,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Magic Mike&quot;&nbsp;and &quot;Keep the Lights On&quot; all founds some love from the 2013 Independent Spirit Awards nominations.</p>

"Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Magic Mike" and "Keep the Lights On" all founds some love from the 2013 Independent Spirit Awards nominations.

2013 Independent Spirit Awards nominations winners and losers

"Beasts of the Southern Wild," Ezra Miller, Matthew McConaughey and more

As always, the Spirits are an intriguing beast. Originally a fly by the seat of your pants awards show meant to give exposure to indie films they couldn't find anywhere else the Spirits have morphed into a prestigious honor that people in the industry actually care about. This year it appears the nominating committees got it mostly right. Sure, there's that always sticky $20 million or less budget figure qualification no one wants to pay attention to (until they do) and some blatant omissions here and there.  But, at the end of the day the Spirits still provide an important platform for new filmmakers to make their mark with moviegoers and the larger movie industry.  Taking that into account, here are the winners and losers after the announcement of the 2013 Independent Spirit Awards nominees this morning.

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