<p>&quot;The&nbsp;Hunger Games:&nbsp;Catching&nbsp;Fire&quot;</p>

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"

Credit: Lionsgate

Tech Support: Can 'Catching Fire' crack the costume design Oscar race?

An array of periods and genres make for a very wide-open race

The category of Best Costume Design is always one of my favorite races, particularly in the pre-nominations stage. It can be so unpredictable. This is also the first year where the costume designers have formed a separate branch from the art department. While it is difficult to know precisely how this will affect the race, it only increases my curiosity in what appears to be a very open category beyond two rather obvious leading contenders.

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<p>Tom Hardy in &quot;Locke.&quot;</p>

Tom Hardy in "Locke."

Credit: A24

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy in Spotlight and New Frontier films at Sundance 2014

With a new, experimental directorial project, is JGL becoming James Franco?

Hard to believe that we're a little over a month away from Sundance, a film festival so sprawling that the announcement of its lineup is staggered over several days. Along with the rest of Team HitFix, I'll once more be braving the cold to give you the first word on eagerly awaited heavyweights and undiscovered gems alike. But not everything at the Sundance Film Festival is shiny and new -- some premieres from other fests are too exciting not to be cherry-picked, which brings us to the Spotlight section. 

This year's selection of eight Spotlight titles includes films initially premiered at Cannes, Venice and Toronto, among others -- some of which perhaps didn't get the attention they deserved in the initial festival rush, and some of which certainly did.

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<p>&quot;Pacific Rim&quot;</p>

"Pacific Rim"

Credit: Warner Bros.

'Man of Steel' grounded by Best Visual Effects Oscar bake-off list

You will believe a man...can't fly to the Oscars

Sorry, it's a little ridiculous that "Man of Steel" — I don't care WHAT you think of the film otherwise — was left off the Academy's list of seven bake-off finalists for Best Visual Effects. But these things are often about politics, and I imagine there was plenty of that at play here.

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<p>Shia LaBeouf in &quot;Nymphomaniac.&quot;</p>

Shia LaBeouf in "Nymphomaniac."

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Brace yourself, America: 'Nyphomaniac' coming your way for Easter

Magnolia confirms US release dates for Lars von Trier's two-part sex epic
Okay, so we still have Christmas to deal with, but in the unlikely event that you've already been making plans for your Easter weekend next April, you may want to adjust them. Hunting for chocolate eggs? Check. Going to church? Check. Baking hot cross buns? Check. Watching the conclusion of a Lars von Trier sex epic? Check.

Yes, Magnolia Pictures has at last confirmed the US release dates for both halves of "Nymphomaniac," and it all comes to a head, so to speak, on Good Friday, April 18 -- when Part Two will be set free into theaters. Part One, meanwhile, precedes it by nearly a month, hitting screens on March 21.

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<p>Detail of &quot;Tim's Vermeer&quot;&nbsp;poster</p>

Detail of "Tim's Vermeer" poster

Credit: Sony Classics

Exclusive: 'Tim's Vermeer' poster finds genius between the brushstrokes

Penn & Teller's film opens in limited release this Friday

When I idly caught Teller's documentary "Tim's Vermeer" at Telluride back in August, it was an instant sensation. I adored its vision of art as ingenuity and the profound places it went. The film's subject, Tim Jenison, received one of the most enthusiastic standing ovations I've ever seen at Telluride, and the film, thankfully, made the cut with the Academy's list of documentary feature finalists earlier this week.

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<p>Joaquin Phoenix in &quot;Her.&quot;</p>

Joaquin Phoenix in "Her."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Roundup: The fashion-forward futurism of 'Her'

Also: On the early critics' award blitz, and a bit of Sundance fakery

Among the many things I liked about yesterday's NBR champ "Her" is the sleek, subtle futurism of its design elements -- Casey Storm's costumes, in particular, are among my favorites of the year, and while I wouldn't expect the Academy to spring for them, I really hope the Guild takes notice of Storm's cleverly evolved silhouettes and punchy color palette. After all, it's the only film this year to inspire a range from a high-end fashion house: with Spike Jonze's collaboration, Opening Ceremony is introducing the technology-minded line this month. Says Storm of his designs: “The idea was to create a world that looks a lot like the world we live in, but just different enough to tell you that you are not 100 percent in the present.” [New York Times]

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<p>Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams in &quot;American Hustle.&quot;</p>

Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams in "American Hustle."

Credit: Sony Pictures

The Long Shot: The critics' award conundrum

Overthinking these early precursors does no one any favors

Following the awards race for a living can have depressingly season-warping effects: Christmas shoppers line the streets of London, my local grocer is flogging fir trees on the pavement, and yet it only really felt like December to me when people started arguing about the New York Film Critics' Circle awards on Twitter. The arguments varied -- some were over the worthiness of the Circle's actual selections, others over their impact on the Oscar race going forward, still others about the apparent racial implications of voting for Jennifer Lawrence. (I wish I was making that last one up.) Ah yes, 'tis the season. Isn't it lovely?

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Golden Globes 2014 Contenders: Who is a lock for a nod and who's not?

Golden Globes 2014 Contenders: Who is a lock for a nod and who's not?

Everyone's favorite Foreign Press Association is back

As Amy Poehler succinctly noted last January, it's once again time for the Golden Globes. The one night a year where the beautiful people of film rub shoulders with the rat-faced people of television (we kid).  Of course, that also means some of Hollywood's biggest names need to socialize with the dreaded Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) in order to get that Golden Globes boost.  While the Globes mean little in terms of actual Oscar nominations or final wins, they have been a big help at the box office. And, when it all comes down to it, that's what really matters most in awards season: money.

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First Look: Anne Hathaway, Aaron Paul and Christina Hendricks lead Sundance 2014 films
Credit: Sundance.org

First Look: Anne Hathaway, Aaron Paul and Christina Hendricks lead Sundance 2014 films

Zoe Saldana, Dane DeHaan, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader also featured in lineup

The lineup for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival has been revealed, and it's among the starriest in recent memory. Take a look at new images from some of the films unspooling at the Park City event, featuring such Hollywood names as Anne Hathaway, Aaron Paul, Christina Hendricks, Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Lena Dunham, and Dane DeHaan.

Check out the photos here:

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Sundance 2014: Kristen Stewart heads to Guantanamo in first image from 'Camp X-Ray'
Credit: Beth Dubber

Sundance 2014: Kristen Stewart heads to Guantanamo in first image from 'Camp X-Ray'

'Twilight' actress is a long way from Forks

Kristen Stewart has come a long way from Forks.

The "Twilight" actress dons military fatigues in the very first image from "Camp X-Ray," an upcoming military drama slated to screen in competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Written and directed by Peter Sattler (making his feature-length helming debut with the film), "Camp X-Ray" centers on Stewart's character Cole, a young American soldier stationed at Guantanamo Bay who strikes up a friendship with a Muslim prisoner (Peyman Moaadi) who's been held there for eight years. The title is a play on a now-defunct temporary detention facility at Gitmo that opened in 2002.

Check out the image below.

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