Oscar Talk: 'Hustle,' 'Wall Street,' precursors and the 10 best films of 2013

Oscar Talk: 'Hustle,' 'Wall Street,' precursors and the 10 best films of 2013

How did a fantastic year of filmmaking shape up on our lists?

Welcome to Oscar Talk.

In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is broadcast in special installments throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.

On the docket today…

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Martin Freeman in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug."
Martin Freeman in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug."
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'

The second part of Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth hits screens today

I haven't yet caught up with "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" myself. On my one opportunity to see it this week, it was scheduled against "The Wolf of Wall Street" and -- well, you know. I didn't get on at all with "An Unexpected Journey" last year, finding it narratively listless and visually garish (not helped by the divisive 48fps technology).

But my curiosity has been renewed after a number of trusted colleagues deemed the new instalment significantly superior to its predecessor. Drew McWeeny is among the believers, declaring the film a "thrilling" improvement. Now it's your turn. Do you agree that "Smaug" is a step up? Perhaps you thought the first film required no improvement? Or can you still not get over the division of one slender book into three films? Share your thoughts in the comments if and when you've seen the film, and vote in our poll below.

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<p>Calin Peter Netzer with the Golden Bear at the 2013 Berlinale.</p>

Calin Peter Netzer with the Golden Bear at the 2013 Berlinale.

Credit: AP Photo

Calin Peter Netzer on maternal inspiration in foreign Oscar hopeful 'Child's Pose'

The Berlin Golden Bear winner is Romania's entry to the Academy Awards
As competitive as the current Oscar race is for Best Picture, the Best Foreign Language Film field is several times more feisty – with 76 films, precious few (if any) sure things and precious few (if any) joke contenders, it’s a tough road even for the most prestigious titles in the race. Prominent among those is Romania’s entry “Child’s Pose,” winner of the Golden Bear at Berlin earlier this year -- recent winners of which include eventual Oscar winner “A Separation” and surprise nominee “The Milk of Sorrow.”
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<p>Another dominant showing for &quot;12 Years a Slave&quot;</p>

Another dominant showing for "12 Years a Slave"

Credit: Fox Searchlight

'12 Years a Slave' leads with 11 Chicago Film Critics Association nominations

What might the late Chi-town legend Roger Ebert have thought of this year's films?

I was hit with a pang of sadness this morning when it occurred to me that the Chicago Film Critics Association's list of nominees this year are the organization's first since the passing of legendary Chicago critic Roger Ebert. What would he have thought of "12 Years a Slave," which led the way with 11 nominations? How would he have responded to "Gravity?" What invaluable insight might he have afforded films like "American Hustle," "Her" and "Inside Llewyn Davis," all of which fill out the group's Best Picture slate? We'll never know, and I don't know — it strikes me as particularly unfortunate in a year like this, which has been so, so extraordinary. Rest in peace, Roger. Check out the full list of CFCA nominations below. And remember to keep track of the season via The Circuit.

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<p>&quot;Fruitvale Station&quot;</p>

"Fruitvale Station"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'Fruitvale Station' to receive PGA's Stanley Kramer Award

Awards to be held on Jan. 19

The Producers Guild of America (PGA) has announced that Ryan Coogler's Sundance sensation "Fruitvale Station" will be the recipients of this year's Stanley Kramer Award. Established in 2002 to honor a production, producer or other individual whose achievement or contribution illuminates and raises public awareness of important social issues, the honor is of considerable note in a year featuring a number of films that have tackled racial injustice and inequality, Coogler's film being one of the very best among them.

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<p>&quot;Her&quot; is prime fodder for the Anti-Traditionalists, says Mark Harris.</p>

"Her" is prime fodder for the Anti-Traditionalists, says Mark Harris.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Roundup: The building blocs of the Academy

Also: Should the Globes give up on dividing comedy and drama?
Now that the SAG and Golden Globe nominations have lent a little more shape to the Oscar race, Mark Harris examines a more determining factor than precursors: the various, contrasting voting contingents of the Academy itself. In an interesting piece, he breaks the body down into seven blocs: Traditionalists (those likeliest to vote for the Weinsteins' titles this season), Anti-Traditionalists (think "Her"), American Auterists (Scorsese and Coen sympathizers), Underdog Fetishists (the best hope for "Fruitvale Station"), Spectacle Guys (hello, "Gravity"), Actors (look at the SAG ensemble picks) and Message Voters (well, someone has to vote for "The Book Thief"). Not to be taken as gospel, of course. [Grantland]
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<p>The Milk Carton&nbsp;Kids' Kenneth Pattengale (left)&nbsp;and T Bone Burnett in &quot;Another Day,&nbsp;Another Time:&nbsp;Celebrating the Music of 'Inside Llewyn&nbsp;Davis'&quot;</p>

The Milk Carton Kids' Kenneth Pattengale (left) and T Bone Burnett in "Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of 'Inside Llewyn Davis'"

Credit: Showtime

T Bone Burnett on a New York evening of music and magic: 'Another Day, Another Time'

The documentary airs Friday night on Showtime

LOS ANGELES — When I spoke to "Inside Llewyn Davis" star Oscar Isaac a few weeks back, he had just come from seeing "Another Day, Another Time." The music documentary, which airs on Showtime Friday night, covers the Sept. 29 concert celebration of American folk music held at New York's Town Hall in honor of the Coen brothers' latest film.

At the time, Isaac noted how T Bone Burnett, the mind behind the film's soundtrack and the concert, seemed to hover over the proceedings like an ethereal presence. "I don't think he even really says anything but he's just floating around," the actor said. "I mean, literally, sometimes he just walks up behind someone that's playing and just stands there, feeds the mojo, and walks away."

Talking over a cappuccino at one of his favorite Brentwood haunts, the music maestro laughs at the quote. "There is a bit of that," he concedes in his smooth yet weathered tone. "I feel like I walk around until it sounds exactly right. Especially when a lot of musicians are playing, you walk around until you can sort of hear everybody. You become sort of a conduit."

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<p>&quot;The&nbsp;Book Thief&quot;&nbsp;looks like it could bring John&nbsp;Williams his 49th nomination to date.</p>

"The Book Thief" looks like it could bring John Williams his 49th nomination to date.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Tech Support: John Williams, Arcade Fire and Hans Zimmer (x2) duke it out for Best Original Score

And can Thomas Newman land his first win to date for 'Saving Mr. Banks?'

Earlier today the list of eligible original score Oscar contenders was revealed by the Academy, so consider it great timing as we focus on the category today in our final craft category analysis of the season.

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'American Hustle's' Christian Bale says other actors ask him for weight loss advice

'American Hustle's' Christian Bale says other actors ask him for weight loss advice

And gaining 40 pounds was completely his idea

Have you caught any interviews with Christian Bale over the past year or so?  Something's changed. During his Batman years Bale was almost always a tough chat. Often it was because he seemed loathe to answer questions about the Nolan franchise when he was promoting other films, but even when he was doing press for "The Dark Knight" or "The Dark Knight Rises" he seemed well, for lack of a better descriptor, "oh, so serious."  Due to two the fact he has two films releasing within two weeks of each other, an unusual occurrence for any star, Bale has been on something of a media blitz.  And, shockingly, he's being more candid and friendly than ever.

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"All is Lost," a Golden Globe nominee for Best Original Score.
"All is Lost," a Golden Globe nominee for Best Original Score.
Credit: Lionsgate Films

From 'All is Lost' to 'The Wolverine,' 114 films vying for the Best Original Score Oscar

But don't look for 'Frozen,' 'Nebraska' or 'The Lone Ranger'

The Academy has just announced the 114 films eligible for this year's Best Original Score Oscar, and all the usual suspects are present. That includes the five films nominated this morning in the category at the Golden Globes: Hans Zimmer for "12 Years a Slave," Steven Price for "Gravity," John Williams for "The Book Thief," Alex Ebert for "All is Lost" and Alex Heffes for "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." At least the first three of those are widely predicted to score Oscar nominations too.

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