<p>Nominees Pharrell and Sandra Bullock during a very dark Oscars luncheon.</p>

Nominees Pharrell and Sandra Bullock during a very dark Oscars luncheon.

Credit: AP Photo/Jordan Strauss

Leonardo DiCaprio, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett share their joy at Oscars luncheon

Plus: Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and more

Final voting for the 86th Academy Awards is just four days away, but Monday allowed this year's nominees one more stress-free event before it all gets "oh, so serious" again. For the public at large, the annual Oscar Nominees Luncheon is a celebration of the honorees as they all crowd into one room to take the "Class of" photo. It's also a huge press opportunity where the contenders can subtly communicate their final pitches in hopes that a stray Academy member will read it or hear about it on TV.

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<p>A scene from &quot;Lone Survivor&quot;</p>

A scene from "Lone Survivor"

Credit: Universal Pictures

Wylie Stateman explains the first-person sound experience of Oscar nominee 'Lone Survivor'

Sound editor picked up his seventh nomination last month

"Lone Survivor" sound editor Wylie Stateman picked up his seventh Oscar nomination to date last month, though despite wonderful work in films like "Cliffhanger," "Inglourious Basterds" and "Django Unchained," he's yet to win an Academy Award.

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<p>Cate Blanchett arrives at the 2014 Oscar Nominees Luncheon.</p>

Cate Blanchett arrives at the 2014 Oscar Nominees Luncheon.

Credit: AP Photo

Off the Carpet: Frontrunners try to maintain buzz while others aim to capitalize in phase two

As the nominees do lunch, the machinery is starting to click back to life

The Oscar nominees are gathering for lunch this afternoon as the Winter Olympics forge ahead in Sochi, gobbling up two weeks and extending the phase two timeline of this year's film awards season. The question is, how will that extension affect the race, if at all?

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<p>The Cannes awards are moving earlier this year.</p>

The Cannes awards are moving earlier this year.

Credit: AP Photo

Roundup: Saturday night's all right for Cannes prizes

Also: The politics of movie walkouts, and how to define designing 'Gravity'

Quelle horreur! It takes a lot to make the rigidly set-in-its-ways Cannes Film Festival switch things up a bit, but the European elections on Sunday, May 25 have necessitated some shifting in the usual schedule. The Competition awards, usually presented on the last night of the fest, will now be handed out the night before, on Saturday; the final Competition film will also screen a day earlier, on Friday. Those of us to stay on until the bitter end will now have the whole weekend to catch up with any major titles we missed, while a screening of the Palme d'Or winner will close the festival. Is that in place of the usually lousy Closing Film? [Screen Daily]

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<p>Jason Clarke in &quot;The Better Angels.&quot;</p>

Jason Clarke in "The Better Angels."

Credit: Berlin Film Festival

Review: Young Lincoln portrait 'The Better Angels' amounts to more than its Malickisms

HitFix
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Jason Clarke and Diane Kruger star in A.J. Edwards's gorgeous debut feature

BERLIN - "The student has become the master" is, at least more ofthen not, a complimentary phrase, denoting the completion of an education, the expansion of a tradition or, at the very least, the perfection of one good party trick. Yet snider derivations of that sentiment have been applied my a number of colleagues to A.J. Edwards's "The Better Angels," a lushly conceived, exhaustively realized debut feature that'd be pretty formidable stuff coming from a more practised filmmaker -- and derided in some quarters as a self-impressed knock-off.  

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<p>&quot;I dunno... it looks all right to me.&quot;</p>

"I dunno... it looks all right to me."

Credit: Sony Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'The Monuments Men'

George Clooney's latest has got a critical drubbing, but is it that bad?

When George Clooney's "The Monuments Men" was pushed back from its scheduled 2013 release date, the message was clearly sent that it wasn't seen as awards material -- but that didn't have to be a bad thing. Perhaps it was simply a fun commercial caper to brighten up the drab February release slate, an "Ocean's 11" in period dress. Then the reviews came out, suggesting there truly was cause for concern: Kris is among the few with at least a kind word for it, but others (including HitFix's Drew McWeeny) have piled on it for being dull, pompous and featherweight all at once. It certainly went down like a lead balloon at the Berlinale, where it was booed by German audiences and accused of jingoism.

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<p>Chiwetel Ejiofor in &quot;12 Years a Slave&quot;</p>

Chiwetel Ejiofor in "12 Years a Slave"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Solomon Northup wins his first award of the year for '12 Years a Slave' at USC Scripter Awards

Read John Ridley's acceptance speech on his and the author's behalf

The USC Scripter Awards are one of my favorite events of the film awards season. Yes, they are unique in that they recognize the authors of both screenplays and source material, and can often present a unique slate of honorees, but it's also a lovely personal excursion when I can make it, as the echoes of my days toiling away on various papers and thesis efforts in the halls of the Doheny Library make it an annual homecoming for me.

This year's 26th annual ceremony made for a wonderful evening as not only was the master himself, "Chinatown" screenwriter Robert Towne, in the house to receive the Literary Achievement Award, but Solomon Northup himself was able to land his own prize this season due to the unique nature of the proceedings. John Ridley shared the award with the late Northup as "12 Years a Slave" beat out fellow adaptations "Captain Phillips," "Philomena," "The Spectacular Now" and "What Maisie Knew."

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<p>&quot;The Great Gatsby&quot;</p>

"The Great Gatsby"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

'Gravity,' 'Her,' 'The Great Gatsby' win Art Directors Guild Awards

All three are in contention for the Production Design Oscar

Oscar-pool betters looking for tips in the Best Production Design race shouldn't be too reliant on the Art Directors Guild Awards: in their 17 years of existence, the Academy has agreed with one of their selections on 10 occasions. Last year, they did not -- while the ADG plumped for "Anna Karenina," "Life of Pi" and "Skyfall,"  the Academy surprised most pundits by picking "Lincoln" instead.

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<p>Forest Whitaker in &quot;Two Men in Town.&quot;</p>

Forest Whitaker in "Two Men in Town."

Credit: Berlin Film Festival

Review: Forest Whitaker hits a dead end in dry desert thriller 'Two Men in Town'

HitFix
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Readers
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Rachid Bouchareb can't get back on track in his latest American-set feature

BERLIN - Just as no book should be judged by its cover, no film should be judged by its title -- though that doesn't stop us from occasionally doing so anyway. It's fair to say that any expectations set up by the title "Two Men in Town" are met by French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb's drab, western-infused thriller: it features at least two men, it's set in something more or less resembling a town, and it's sufficiently listless to make you believe no one could be bothered to think up something more flavorful. "Two Magnificent Men in Town." "Two Men in [Insert Town Name Here]." I'm just spitballing.

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<p>Robert Redford at the 29th annual Santa Barbara International&nbsp;Film&nbsp;Festival</p>

Robert Redford at the 29th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Credit: AP Photo

Robert Redford tribute provides an emotional grace note at Santa Barbara festival

An evening not nearly long enough ended with a touching ode

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Friday night ended up providing one of the most emotional moments I've seen in all my years of attending the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. It came at the end of a very long evening saluting the career of actor Robert Redford, one that wasn't even long enough, actually, as the timeline had to top out at "Ordinary People" lest the celebration spill over far too much. And it was a grace note representative of the heart of this festival.

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