The words "passion vote" get repeated with numbing frequency in the Oscar prediction racket, as pundits try to separate the niche contenders who inspire fierce devotion from the broadly agreeable ones who appear to be nobody's favorite. Year after year, we convince ourselves the former are in a more advantageous position; year after year, films like "Frost/Nixon" somehow get nominated. Mark Harris addresses this dichotomy in his column this week, acknowledging the films and actors that seem primed for passion votes (Fassbender, Swinton, "Margaret"), while wondering if they have enough support to overcome the Academy's dutiful tendency to reward dull familiarity and hard work ("an A-for-effort nomination for Leonardo DiCaprio" about sums it up). [Grantland]

Anne Thompson talks to WGA nominee John Logan, whose diverse 2011 accomplishments include "Hugo," "Rango" and "Coriolanus." [Thompson on Hollywood]

The venerable David Thomson closes his long-running Biographical Dictionary series at The Guardian with an entry on Michael Fassbender. [The Guardian]

Stephanie Zacharek tells the detractors why she loves "The Artist," despite it being "allegedly the Philistine's choice for movie of the year." [Slate]

Richard Brody bemoans the flawed foreign-language Oscar selection process, suggests the same sensible alternative many of us have called for. [New Yorker]

The release of "The Wettest County in the World," one of our most anticipated of 2012, has been pushed back to August. No worse than April, surely. [LA Times]  

Steven Soderbergh on "Haywire," and why he likes killing movie stars. [The Independent]

R. Kurt Osenlund weighs up the Oscar potential of "The Tree of Life." [Slant]

Marc Lee on the sort-of-campaign that just won't die: an Oscar for Uggie! I'm still entirely on board. [The Telegraph]

Elton John, the man who stands to make "Gnomeo and Juliet" an Academy Award nominee, talks to Steve Pond about his film work. [The Odds]