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<p>Quvenzhane Wallis in &quot;Beasts of the Southern Wild.&quot;</p>

Quvenzhane Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild."

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Writing - Adapted Screenplay

'Argo,' 'Beasts of the Southern Wild,' 'Life of Pi,' 'Lincoln' and 'Silver Linings Playbook' square off

(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)

After three straight years of original screenplay-based films ruling the roost, the Best Picture race this year resumes its relationship with the Best Adapted Screenplay category, as the three arguable frontrunners for the top prize are locked in closer combat here. As it stands, the presentation of this award will be a key moment, potentially telling us a lot about how the rest of the evening is going to go. If “Argo” wins, you can probably ease into your seat; if it’s something else, we might still have a race.

The Academy wasn’t given a surfeit of options in this category, especially with such prestige adaptations as “Anna Karenina” and “On the Road” proving to be either fast faders or non-starters. The field they ended up with, then, was an obvious one, comprising five of the six adaptations in the Best Picture race. (The sixth, the sung-through “Les Miserables,” was never going to feature for its writing.) It’s a shame that the widely beloved WGA nominee “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” couldn’t make the cut, but with one higher-profile, Guild-ineligible indie favorite lying in wait as a replacement, these were always the likeliest five.

The nominees are...

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<p>Tony Kushner</p>

Tony Kushner

Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Roundup: Kushner goes to bat for the competition

Also: Ephron to receive WGA tribute, and why Hollywood needs to be stricter

We begin today's roundup with a happy confluence of Oscar contenders. It's hardly surprising that a writer as intelligent and politically conscientious as Tony Kushner would be swift to stand up for a fellow artist's freedom of expression -- but it's still heartening, amid the heat of the Oscar contest, to see the nominated "Lincoln" scribe making a small but significant gesture of support for rival Best Picture contender "Zero Dark Thirty." Kushner is one of 28 signatories, alongside the heavyweight likes of Alan Dershowitz, on a letter sent to all US Senators, protesting the statements made against the film by Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin. "History demonstrates, in particular the 1950s McCarthy period, that government officials should not employ their official status and power to attempt to censor, alter or pressure artists to change their expressions, believes, presentations of facts or political viewpoints," the letter says. [The Carpetbagger]

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<p>John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer in &quot;The Office.&quot;</p>

John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer in "The Office."

Credit: NBC

Review: 'The Office' - 'Moving On'

Andy's reign of terror continues, while Pam meets a potential new boss who reminds her of the old one

A review of last night's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I hose you down...

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"Project Runway"

 "Project Runway"

Credit: Lifetime

'Project Runway' recap: 'The Ultimate Hard and Soft'

It's flowers and hardware for this week's unconventional challenge

Oh, boy! It's an unconventional challenge! I'm really hoping we get some crazy, creative stuff this week, because this season needs a boost. Sort of like how Dream Team needs a boost. Or therapy. Or a mediator. Seriously, I don't think I can stand to see the designers on this team take another drubbing, because it's only a matter of time before someone starts cutting themselves to deal with the pain. These are creative types, "Project Runway." They're sensitive. Be nice. 

Tim invites the designers into the workroom, which is stuffed full of noxious Glade candles. Please stop making Tim pimp for brands, "Project Runway." He's better than this, even if the show is not.

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<p>Judy Davis and River Phoenix in &quot;Dark Blood.&quot;</p>

Judy Davis and River Phoenix in "Dark Blood."

Credit: Berlin Film Festival

Review: River Phoenix's final film 'Dark Blood' is an unfinished oddity

George Sluizer salvages his abandoned 1993 thriller, and it's an intriguing relic

BERLIN - I toyed with not giving one of our customary letter grades to "Dark Blood," a new film from 80-year-old Dutch veteran George Sluizer that isn't new at all. (It's 19 years old, as it happens, which isn't too far off the age River Phoenix, the incandescent young actor so abruptly taken from the living in 1993, was when he filmed it.) It's only three-quarters of a movie, after all.

Phoenix, it seems unduly difficult to imagine, would be 42 were he with us today; the film, meanwhile, would be languishing on obscure DVD (or even VHS) shelves, a rarely discussed representative of a lurid strain of steamy, quasi-mystical genre cinema that had a Hollywood moment in the early-to-mid 1990s. Instead, it got its first major unveiling today at the Berlin Film Festival, nearly four months after its official, less grandiose, world premiere at the Netherlands Film Fest. Were he with us today, its star would likely took a little worse for her. The film, on the other hand, might look a little better -- it'd be finished, at the very least.

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"The Vampire Diaries"

 "The Vampire Diaries" 

Credit: The CW

'The Vampire Diaries' recap: 'Down the Rabbit Hole'

Let's just say this isn't exactly a happy Valentine's Day-themed episode

I wanted to start off this recap by wishing everyone a happy VD, as in Valentine's Day, but having seen tonight's episode, that seems horribly inappropriate. I might as well bring cookies to a funeral or hand out flowers at gastric bypass. This is not exactly a warm and fuzzy episode, even though sparks do fly between Caroline and Tyler. But I'm not even sure that's a good thing, at least in tonight's context.

Unraveling this episode takes some doing, as quite a bit happens and the intrigue surrounding the hunt for Silas has more layers than your standard Awesome Blossom. 

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<p>Emmanuelle Riva, Michael Haneke (center)&nbsp;and Jean-Louis Trintignant on the set of &quot;Amour&quot;</p>

Emmanuelle Riva, Michael Haneke (center) and Jean-Louis Trintignant on the set of "Amour"

Credit: Sony Classics

A Valentine's Day conversation with 'Amour' writer/director Michael Haneke

Accessible though it may be, his latest is no compromise

Every time Michael Haneke has an idea for a film, there's always a different catalyst that makes him sit down and write it. It might be an image that comes to him, or a newspaper clipping that will stir his creativity. "The motivation has to be something that already interests you enough to want to think about it and reflect on it," he says, calling from Madrid where he's preparing a new opera. "Then you start collecting material and observations until you feel you have enough to start trying to order the material, structure. And that ordering and structuring is the longest, most difficult process."

Other times, like in the case of something like "Amour" and star Jean-Louis Trintignant, it might be a specific actor for whom he wishes to write a part. But his latest film, which has landed five Oscar nominations including Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Haneke, had darker and more meditative beginnings than just that. He had an aunt once who asked him to help her pass away and he was forced to look on as a loved one suffered. And yet, "Amour" is a love story, with all the deeply considered complications of love and a life lived with another. It's fitting, then, that we're speaking on Valentine's Day.

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<p>Anthony Edwards, Addison Timlin and Scott Michael Foster in &quot;Zero Hour.&quot;</p>

Anthony Edwards, Addison Timlin and Scott Michael Foster in "Zero Hour."

Credit: ABC

Series premiere: 'Zero Hour' - Strike'

What did everybody think of ABC's new evil Nazi clock drama?

I posted my review of ABC's "Zero Hour" yesterday. Now it's your turn. What did everybody else think of the evil Nazi clock drama? Was it too crazy for you? Not crazy enough? Did you think Anthony Edwards was well-cast, or would you have preferred someone less straight-laced? Would you, like me, be happy to have the entire series narrated by the German clockmaker? Are you eager to learn more about these Rosicrucians and the baby with the eyes? Did the final revelation at pilot's end scare you or make you laugh? And will you watch again?

Have at it. Also... CLOCKS!

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<p>Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in &quot;Parks and Recreation.&quot;</p>

Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in "Parks and Recreation."

Credit: NBC

Review: 'Parks and Recreation' - 'Emergency Response'

Leslie has one last hurdle to clear to turn Lot 48 into a park and beat Jamm

A review of tonight's "Parks and Recreation" coming up just as soon as I help a child perform a tracheotomy on his elderly uncle...

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<p>When you see what James McAvoy's looking at, you'll understand his incredulity.</p>

When you see what James McAvoy's looking at, you'll understand his incredulity.

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Danny Boyle's 'Trance' has a red-band trailer that will blow your mind

A crime movie and a head game in one? Count us in.

Danny Boyle is a trickster spirit.

That's the only explanation for the way he's been able to morph from one filmmaker into another, covering a wide range of subject matter and tone, and it looks like he's pushing into some strange new territory with his new film "Trance," which just got a new red-band trailer today.  I'm not sure when the first trailer came out, but I somehow missed it completely.

After seeing the red-band trailer today?  I'm in.  Let's see it now.

He's working with his longtime screenwriting collaborator John Hodge again, and it looks like a mystery thriller with a crazy psychological component.  James McAvoy plays an auctioneer who works with big-ticket art items.  One painting in particular goes missing, and people are convinced the answer to what happened is locked inside McAvoy's head.  He says he doesn't remember, and he agrees to allow a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to try to help him unlock the secret.

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<p>Joel McHale and Chevy Chase in tonight's &quot;Community.&quot;</p>

Joel McHale and Chevy Chase in tonight's "Community."

Credit: NBC

Thursday's ghostly 'Community' guest speaks

Who was haunting Pierce's mansion? And how did this actor wind up on tonight's episode?

Tonight's "Community" haunted house episode (I reviewed it here) concluded with the surprise appearance of a very special guest, whom I was able to interview earlier today about their cameo, and another project they're currently involved in. That guest star's identity, and our conversation, coming up just as soon as I set my shrink ray to Daddy Issues...

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<p>The &quot;Community&quot;&nbsp;gang got dressed up for Halloween, but the episode aired on Valentine's Day.</p>

The "Community" gang got dressed up for Halloween, but the episode aired on Valentine's Day.

Credit: NBC

Review: 'Community' - 'Paranormal Parentage'

The study group investigates a haunting at Pierce's house on 'Valloween'

A review of tonight's "Community" coming up just as soon as I've been offended by this coat rack before...

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