<p>Amy&nbsp;Adams,&nbsp;Bradley&nbsp;Cooper and Christian&nbsp;Bale in &quot;American Hustle&quot;</p>

Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale in "American Hustle"

Credit: Sony Pictures

Oscar-nominated 'American Hustle' designers reflect on bringing the 70s to life

Production designer Judy Becker and costume designer Michael Wilkinson had a colorful opportunity on their hands

"American Hustle" has lit up both the movie-going public and the Academy with its cool take on late-1970s Americana. While an enormous amount of credit obviously goes to the acclaimed performances and the atmosphere created by director David O. Russell, the look and feel of the era was also largely the result of the collaboration between costume designer Michael Wilkinson and production designer Judy Becker, both Oscar-nominated for their work on the film.

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Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Visual Effects - Everyone clear a path for 'Gravity'

Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Visual Effects - Everyone clear a path for 'Gravity'

Analyzing this year's nominees from outer space to the old west

In the lead-up to the 86th annual Academy Awards on March 2, HitFix will be bringing you the lowdown on all 24 Oscar categories with multiple entries each day. Take a few notes and bone up on the competition as we give you the edge in your office Oscar pool!

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<p>Christoph Waltz at last year's Oscar ceremony.</p>

Christoph Waltz at last year's Oscar ceremony.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Roundup: The science of Oscar acceptance speeches

Also: Nas doc to open Tribeca, and the worst reviews of Best Picture nominees

Who gets thanked the most in Oscar acceptance speeches? Nathaniel Rogers and Chris Kirk crunch the numbers from the last decade's worth of ceremonies, and have made some interesting discoveries -- chief among them, that Meryl Streep gets thanked more often than God. "What comes out in the moment—or doesn’t—is a true reflection of feeling, whether the speech feels rehearsed and polished or immediate and spazzy. And in Hollywood—and what’s more Hollywood than the Oscars?—billing matters," they write. Included is an exhaustive cross-referenced chart breaking down individuals actors' speech by class of person thanked, and in what order. Geek out. [Slate]

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11 suggestions to improve this year's Oscars

11 suggestions to improve this year's Oscars

They probably have it all figured out, but just in case...

By now, the ideas are already in place for the 86th annual Academy Awards. We've heard about a few of them, of course. Like the vague them of "heroes" and the celebration of "The Wizard of Oz." And of course, we all know the Best Original Song nominees will be on hand to perform. But outside of that, there are certainly a few things we HOPE we'll see on the show. The Oscars seem ever in need of improvement (and naturally, everyone's a critic). So we humbly offer 11 suggestions, should the producers be in some last-minute scramble to figure this thing out.

Check out what we're thinking in the gallery story below and feel free to offer up your own suggestions in the comments section.

<p>Bette Midler is set to perform at the Oscars</p>

Bette Midler is set to perform at the Oscars

Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Bette Midler to perform at Academy Awards Ceremony

This will be the first time Midler has sung on the show
The producers of this year's Academy Awards telecast, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, announced that award-winning singer Bette Midler will be performing on the show. In addition to having won Grammys, Emmys, and a Tony, Midler has also been nominated for two Academy Awards.
 
Midler's two Academy Award nominations are for Actress in a Leading Role in "For the Boys" and "The Rose." Midler has not been nominated for a song and the appearance this year will be the first time she will perform on the show.
 
 Zadan and Meron stated, "We are thrilled to have Bette perform on the Oscars for the very first time." They added, “We believe she will make our Oscar telecast an especially moving evening.” 
 
No word was offered in the press release about when during the Oscars Midler will be sing, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility that she will do so during the annual In Memoriam portion of the telecast.
 
Presented at the Dolby Theatre on March 2nd, this year's event will again air on ABC and Ellen DeGeneres is serving as host for the second time.

 

<p>Jared Leto in &quot;Dallas Buyers Club.&quot;</p>

Jared Leto in "Dallas Buyers Club."

Credit: Focus Features

Roundup: Could 'Dallas Buyers Club' win the makeup Oscar on just $250?

Also: An anti-feminist moment in 'Frozen,' and Rob Reiner's Lincoln Center award

"Dallas Buyers Club" is looks likely to win the Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar, not least because AMPAS members might feel happier checking that off than "Bad Grandpa" or "The Lone Ranger." If it does, though, it'll surely be the humblest achievement ever to take the award, as Katey Rich learns that makeup artist Robin Mathews' entire budget for the film was just $250: "'The Academy just gasped when they heard that,' Mathews says, with no lack of pride in her voice ... 'We had to take them back and forth from their sickest look to their healthiest look, up to five times in one day ... They maintained that 40-pound weight loss throughout. So when you see them in the film, and they look like they’re 25 pounds heavier and healthier because of the medication, that’s just makeup.'" [Vanity Fair]

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<p>Zhang Yimou</p>

Zhang Yimou

Credit: AP Photo

Zhang Yimou reunites with Sony Classics for 'Coming Home'

Meanwhile, he's readying for a Robert Ludlum adaptation with Universal

There's a lot going on in the world of Zhang Yimou these days. Only last week, it was announced that he'll be directing his first U.S. feature with Universal -- a rare instance of a Chinese director getting to steer an English-language film with an American studio. The project is an adaptation of Robert Ludlum's bestselling thriller, "The Parsifal Mosaic" -- not exactly the first match of director and material that comes to mind, but Zhang has already proven his deftness as a genre stylist, so we'll see. (Just as long as he fares better than his compatriot Chen Kaige did in "Killing Me Softly.")

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20 years later: An oral history of 'Reality Bites'
Credit: Universal Pictures

20 years later: An oral history of 'Reality Bites'

How an unassuming romantic comedy defined and defied a generation

It was February 18, 1994. Kurt Cobain was still with us, but the grunge revolution had already begun to morph into something more palatable: "alternative." A generation labeled "X" was struggling to enter the work force amid a recession, that economic reality yielding "slackers" and "sell-outs" in equal measure — labels that would soon enough become little more than pop cultural shorthand.

Ben Stiller's "Reality Bites" had already premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and an intense marketing campaign had the film aimed squarely at a target audience destined to deny it. It was an unassuming romantic comedy invested in its characters more than its setting, but it registered — rightly or wrongly — as an attempt to define a generation. Two decades on, it exists less as a snapshot of an era than an emotional Polaroid of what it's like to go out and make your way in the world.

On the occasion of the film's 20th anniversary, HitFix talked to 10 individuals involved with the production of the film: stars Ethan Hawke, Winona Ryder, Janeane Garofalo and Steve Zahn; screenwriter Helen Childress; producers Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher; cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki; and singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb. What follows is their recollection of how it all came to be.

(Note: Ben Stiller declined requests to comment for this article. His quotes in this piece have therefore been taken from the 18th anniversary screening of "Reality Bites" at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.)

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<p>Matthew McConaughey in &quot;Dallas Buyers Club.&quot;</p>

Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club."

Credit: Focus Features

Roundup: Is Matthew McConaughey this year's Julia Roberts?

Also: Daniel Day-Lewis to present at Oscars, and Steve McQueen's UN date

Matthew Eng makes the case for this year's Best Actor race boasting several parallels with the Best Actress race of 2000, likening Matthew McConaughey's Ron Woodroof to Julia Roberts' Erin Brockovich: Roberts and McConaughey’s performances force us to rethink the performer him/herself and to firmly reconsider their reliable if occasionally misguided talents, right at the moment when everyone began to wonder if that was all there is ... Much like McConaughey, Roberts’ nomination initially seems like a longtime celebrity going through the standard biopic motions [but both are] stellar, indelible examples of two time-tested and admittedly type-cast stars giving peak performances by using the vitality of their respective star personas." [The Film Experience]

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25 best Oscar-winning performances of all time

25 best Oscar-winning performances of all time

Heath Ledger, Julie Andrews, Jack Nicholson and who else?

We're in the 86th annual Oscar voting window and two weeks from today, we'll know the champions of the 2014 Academy Awards. Winners in the performance categories seem to be all lined up, though we've gotten a surprise in those four arenas the last couple of years. Maybe we'll get a few this year, too, but come what may, a quartet (or maybe more if there's a tie — who knows, given the events of this season) will join the echelon of Oscar winning actors dating back to inaugural victors Emil Jannings and Janet Gaynor on March 2.

With that in mind, HitFix's awards staff put our heads together to come up with a list of the best of, well, the best. We dug through the 325 actors and actresses to win (competitive) Academy Awards for screen performances over the years and we were left with 25 sterling examples from AMPAS' gallery of titans — well, in our opinion, anyway. Click through the gallery story below to see who came out on top and feel free to offer your thoughts and own picks in the comments section below.

Oh, and in the way of a teaser, the handful of names that juuuuust missed the list include Sissy Spacek ("Coal Miner's Daughter"), Faye Dunaway ("Network"), Liza Minelli ("Cabaret"), Dianne Wiest ("Bullets Over Broadway"), Cloris Leachman ("The Last Picture Show") and Philip Seymoure Hoffman ("Capote"). If those top-notch performances couldn't squeeze in, who did?