<p>&quot;Prisoners,&quot; one of Toronto's &quot;world premieres&quot; scooped by Telluride last year.</p>

"Prisoners," one of Toronto's "world premieres" scooped by Telluride last year.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Toronto and Telluride lock horns over festival premieres

Toronto joins Venice in taking issue with Telluride's 'sneak previews'

Festival programming can be a competitive business to begin with, but when you have three major international fests in close proximity, things are bound to get a little bit heated. So it is with Venice, Telluride and Toronto, the latter two of which actually overlap with the first -- the whole marathon playing out over a condensed three-week period in late August and early September. And where Cannes gets to luxuriate in having May all to itself, there's no such comfort for the autumn trio: given that they mark the unofficial start of awards season, getting first dibs on heavyweight titles (and the media coverage that comes with them) is of increasing importance to festival directors.

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<p>Kelly Reilly and Brendan Gleeson in &quot;The Calvary.&quot;</p>

Kelly Reilly and Brendan Gleeson in "The Calvary."

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Did Oscar return to the Sundance Film Festival this year?

Did the 2015 season sprout in Park City?

Did you know that over the past seven years, six films that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival have been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars? Or, that last year "Beasts of the Southern Wild's" Benh Zeitlin became only the third Sundance helmer after Peter Cattaneo ("The Fully Monty") and Lee Daniels ("Precious") to earn a Best Director nod? Were you aware of the impressive number of nominated actors whose performances first played Park City, including Melissa Leo ("Frozen River"), Jennifer Lawrence ("Winter's Bone"), Mo'Nique ("Precious"), Terrence Howard ("Hustle & Flow"), Michelle Williams ("Blue Valentine"), Carey Mulligan ("An Education") and Laura Linney ("The Savages")?

Sure, there have been some off years, but in general, Sundance has been a major player in the awards season ever since "Little Miss Sunshine" shook the annual indie conclave in 2006. And its influence appeared to be on the upswing. Emphasis on "appeared."

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<p>Spike Jonze on the set of &quot;Her.&quot;</p>

Spike Jonze on the set of "Her."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Get closer to 'Her' with new behind-the-scenes featurette

A nice insight into Spike Jonze's unique creatiuve process

"Gravity" may still be my favourite of the Best Picture nominees by a long chalk, but there's no film I'm happier to see in the mix than "Her" -- Spike Jonze's wistful 21st-century love story was perceived by many as being a little too cool for the Academy, but its healthy haul of five nominations suggests its bittersweet charms may not be quite as socially or generationally specific as you might think. Meanwhile, I'm glad voters also noticed what an immaculately crafted piece it is: those nominations for Best Production Design and Original Score are among my favorites of this year's field.

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<p>Charlotte Gainsbourg in &quot;Nymphomaniac: Volume Two.&quot;</p>

Charlotte Gainsbourg in "Nymphomaniac: Volume Two."

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

New trailer for 'Nymphomaniac: Volume Two' offers more of the exciting same

No nudity in this one, but plenty of Talking Heads

[UPDATE: Unfortunately, this video has been removed at the distributor's request.]

You can't stop what's, er, coming. As I made clear in my review last week, the first part of Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac" was one of my highlights of the Sundance Film Festival, delivering all the brazen daring, operatic beauty and discomfiting hilarity any von Trier fan could want. Having not seen the entire beast like some of my colleagues, Volume Two is now top of my Most Anticipated list, and this new international trailer promises more of the same -- in the best possible way.

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<p>Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor in &quot;12 Years a Slave.&quot;</p>

Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor in "12 Years a Slave."

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

'12 Years a Slave' tops UK Regional Critics' vote

Public vote 'Philomena' the year's best British film

A reader asked me the other day if the UK has county-divided critics' awards to match the multitude of local US groups. The answer is no -- the nation isn't quite big enough for such madness -- but while the London Critics' Circle (which hands out its awards on Sunday) remains the highest-profile British critics' award, other UK critics and bloggers have banded together to form the UK Regional Critics' Awards, also known as the Richard Attenborough Awards. Despite the "regional" remit, their awards were presented in London last night, and also included a number of public-voted categories. No big surprises, and more good news for "12 Years a Slave"; check out the list after the jump, and keep up with the season at The Circuit.

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<p>George&nbsp;Clooney and Bill Murray in &quot;The&nbsp;Monuments Men&quot;</p>

George Clooney and Bill Murray in "The Monuments Men"

Credit: Sony Pictures

George Clooney's 'Monuments Men' was smart to dodge the Oscar season

A movie like this that avoids the bait would have been devoured

As Oscar's phase one drew to a close and the nominations were set to be unveiled, the film press corps was getting its first look at one movie that dodged all of that commotion last year: George Clooney's "The Monuments Men." It's set for release next week and with its arrival, one can only ask: was Sony smart to move it out of the season?

The easy answer is "yes." This isn't the awards film it might have been. But that's not a value judgment or a criticism. Let me explain.

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<p>Jennifer Lawrence and Tom Sherak read out the 2011 Academy Award nominees.</p>

Jennifer Lawrence and Tom Sherak read out the 2011 Academy Award nominees.

Credit: a

Former Academy president Tom Sherak passes away

The 68-year-old LA film czar lost his battle with cancer yesterday

If it seems like just the other day that Tom Sherak was in the headlines for happier reasons, that's because it pretty much was. Only last autumn, the former 20th Century Fox chief was named by Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti as the city's senior film advisor, or "film czar." And that appointment came with his presidency of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences still a very fresh memory: he stepped down from the position in 2012. He was a hard worker -- all the more so when you consider that he had been battling prostate cancer for the last 12 years. Sadly, the fight ended yesterday; Sherak passed away at his California home aged 68.

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<p>&quot;The Wizard of Oz&quot;</p>

"The Wizard of Oz"

Credit: MGM

Roundup: Oscars to pay tribute to 'Oz'

Also: ACE names lifetime achievement honorees

This strikes me as, at best, a half-baked idea: in addition to the theme of "heroes" for this year's ceremony, the Oscars will also feature a tribute to "The Wizard of Oz" to mark the 75th anniversary of its release. (Well, sort of: it was an August release.) ”We are delighted to celebrate the birthday of one of the most beloved movies of all time at this year’s Oscars,” say producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. Still, why single out just one film from 1939, widely perceived as Hollywood's annus mirabilis? And why not wait until next year, the 75th anniversary of the 1939 ceremony, and do a more considered tribute to the Oscar class of that year, including "Oz," "Gone With the Wind," "Stagecoach" and so on? Just a thought. [Deadline]

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HitFix's downloadable Oscar ballot

HitFix's downloadable Oscar ballot

We've got you covered for your annual parties and pools

The Oscars are on the way and with it, a slew of viewing parties and office pools in need of downloadable Oscar ballots. Well, look no further, because HitFix has you covered. Print a bunch of these out and pass them around at your Oscar night gathering, and get a leg up on your friends by studying the race with us here each and every day in the lead-up to the Academy Awards.

Click here to download this year's Oscar ballot!

Gayle King says Oprah Winfrey doesn't feel snubbed after Oscar nominations

Gayle King says Oprah Winfrey doesn't feel snubbed after Oscar nominations

Which supporting actress nominee is she pulling for instead?

One of the big names missing when the Oscar nominations were revealed earlier this month was media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who won acclaim for her supporting turn in "Lee Daniels' The Butler," but failed to pick up a nomination.

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