<p>Sarah Paulson and Chiwetel Ejiofor in a scene from Steve McQueen's &quot;12 Years A Slave.&quot;</p>

Sarah Paulson and Chiwetel Ejiofor in a scene from Steve McQueen's "12 Years A Slave."

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Exclusive: Sarah Paulson questions Chiwetel Ejiofor in '12 Years a Slave' clip

'American Horror Story' actress the film's unheralded performance

The cast of Steve McQueen's acclaimed new drama "12 Years a Slave" is something of a wonder. Whether it's the remarkable work of Chiwetel Ejiofor as kidnapped freeman Solomon Northup or Michael Fassbender as the shockingly inhumane plantation owner Edwin Epps or Best Supporting Actress contender Lupita Nyong'o, the film features some of the most riveting performances of the year. What has gone slightly unheralded, however, are the fantastic smaller turns by the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano and Alfre Woodard. And, the always wonderful Ms. Sarah Paulson.

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Introducing HitFix Oscar Picks!

Introducing HitFix Oscar Picks!

Go on the record with your own predictions this year

We've been teasing a new feature here at In Contention for a few months now and I'm happy that we can finally lift the veil on HitFix Oscar Picks!

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Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in "Philomena."
Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in "Philomena."
Credit: The Weinstein Company

The Long Shot: Two shades of Britain

Two of this year's Oscar hopefuls show the UK industry at a crossroads

Two British (or part-British) films came out on top at the Toronto Film Festival this year -- and they haven't much more in common than what's already in this sentence. Unless you've just returned from an extended meditation retreat in the Hindu Kush, you're probably aware that Steve McQueen's biographical slavery drama "12 Years a Slave" emerged most triumphant all from the fall fests, bearing bushels of critical praise, the much-coveted TIFF Audience Award and a position as Oscar frontrunner that only "Gravity" has seen fit to challenge so far. We have yet to see how it fares in the real world, but it's an impressive run for a film that, by consensus, takes a brutal, unyielding approach to an eternally tough historical subject.

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<p>Barkhad Abdi in &quot;Captain Phillips.&quot;</p>

Barkhad Abdi in "Captain Phillips."

Credit: Sony Pictures

Roundup: Let the whisper campaigns begin

Also: Bullock rules Hollywood, and 'Croods' wins the animated screener race
Every Oscar season it happens: a strong Oscar contender (or several) has to battle the negative publicity that comes from charges of factual inaccuracy. "Argo" survived it last year. Ditto "A Beautiful Mind" a few years back. And like clockwork, the knives have started to come out for some of this year's frontrunners: biographical dramas "Captain Phillips" and "12 Years a Slave," and even the fictional "Gravity." Steve Pond looks into the shadowy world of whisper campaigns:  "They’re designed to be untraceable, and to offer plausible deniability. Why wouldn’t CNN have pulled out a three-year-old interview that ties into a big movie opening in a few days?" Will all three films ride it out? Probably. [The Wrap]
 
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Best Actress 2014: Oscar contenders include Amy Adams, Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep

Best Actress 2014: Oscar contenders include Amy Adams, Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep

Oscar vets face newcomers in a competitive year for the category

This year's Best Actress race is full of Oscar veterans, but there are also a fair amount of up-and-coming indie hopefuls, outsider foreign film players and fresh faces to the awards scene looking for their first trip to the Dolby Theater.

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<p>Robin Weigert</p>

Robin Weigert

Credit: AP Photo/Taylor Jewell

Robin Weigert on leaving TV (and her inhibitions) behind in 'Concussion'

The Emmy-nominated actress is a revelation in the sexually charged indie

“Brave” is a word sorely overused by critics when describing any actor taking on a somewhat sexualized character – especially when they take off their clothing in the process. If the sexuality in question is LGBT, so much the “braver,” apparently. It's a word, then, that you may have read applied a few times to Robin Weigert's terrific performance as a dissatisfied lesbian wife and mother in Stacie Passon's sharp, sensual debut feature “Concussion” – released last Friday on the Weinsteins' TWC-Radius label.

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<p>Ben&nbsp;Stiller in &quot;The Secret Life of Walter Mitty&quot;</p>

Ben Stiller in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Second trailer for 'Walter Mitty' has a little more Ben Stiller flavor

The fantastical romance received mixed reviews at NYFF

There's a reason why teaser trailers are called just that -- they tease our imaginations with suggested possibilities, but tend to withhold the full picture. The initial teaser for Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" did a great job in that regard -- intriguing in its choice of sound and image, it provided several conflicting hints of where the romantic fantasy could go tonally. Now, with a complete trailer revealing more of the film to us -- well, those of us who haven't yet seen the whole thing at the New York Film Festival -- it would appear that "Walter Mitty" is slightly more straightforward than it initially appeared to be.

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<p>A scene from &quot;To the Wonder.&quot;</p>

A scene from "To the Wonder."

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Roundup: On the mastery of Emmanuel Lubezki

Also: Why Timberlake needs to give acting a rest, and Oscar doc overload

Right up there with Roger Deakins, Mexican master Emmanuel Lubezki is surely among the cinematographers most due for Oscar recognition: he'll surely get his sixth Oscar nomination for "Gravity," and this looks increasingly likely to be the year he finally takes the gold. Today's must-read is a Vulture "master class" with Lubezki, in which he talks us through five dazzling shots from his career, focusing exclusively on his partnerships with Alfonso Cuaron and Terrence Malick, including this year's gorgeous twofer of "Gravity" and "To the Wonder." Take note, Academy. [Vulture]

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<p>Martin&nbsp;Scorsese's &quot;The Wolf of Wall Street&quot;&nbsp;was a good bet for a secret screening at NYFF&nbsp;until its release date woes.</p>

Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" was a good bet for a secret screening at NYFF until its release date woes.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

No (high profile) secret screening for NYFF this year?

The recently established tradition looks to be forgone in 2013

While films like "Hugo" and "Lincoln" may have received their first looks at the annual New York Film Festival via "secret screenings" in recent years, attendees can probably stop holding their breath for another surprise at the on-going 51st annual.

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<p>Sandra Bullock in Alfonso Cuaron's &quot;Gravity.&quot;</p>

Sandra Bullock in Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity."

Credit: Warner Bros.

Stop comparing 'Gravity' to 'Avatar' when it comes to Oscar

Not all apples and oranges are the same

After a film strikes a chord with moviegoers like "Gravity" did last weekend, it's easy to try and find analogies for it among previous Best Picture nominees or winners. One comparison that continues to be made is to James Cameron's 2009 game changer, "Avatar." Before we judge the merits of that argument, let's jog your brain and revisit some movie history, shall we?

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