<p>Quvenzhane Wallis in &quot;Beasts of the Southern Wild.&quot;</p>

Quvenzhane Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild."

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Roundup: Bless the 'Beasts' and 'Lincoln'

Also: Why 'Argo' is still the one to beat, and R.I.P. Charles Durning

What do "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Lincoln" have in common? Beyond both being American Oscar hopefuls that happen to be his two favorite films of the year, A.O. Scott thinks they share something else: a "Spielbergian" quality: "Both films have been accused of painting some of the calamities of American life, past and present — poverty, slavery, racism, environmental disaster — in unduly optimistic colors.“Lincoln” and “Beasts” are radically, fundamentally and in complementary ways, about freedom... They are also examples of what, for an American filmmaker, freedom looks like." Good points all round, and also indicative of why, in my opinion, "Beasts" has a cleaner shot at a Best Picture nod than many believe it does right now. [New York Times]

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<p>&quot;Django Unchained&quot;</p>

"Django Unchained"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Tell us what you thought of 'Django Unchained'

Quentin Tarantino's latest hits theaters this holiday

If you listened to the top 10 podcast or read through the subsequent column, you know very well what I think of Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained." It is perhaps for me his best work since "Jackie Brown" and easily one of the year's best films. And it's hitting screens this holiday with a lot of anticipation built-up and ready to pop. So here's your space to tell us what you thought of the film, so rifle off your take here when/if you get a chance to see it, and feel free to rate it above.

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<p>&quot;Les Mis&eacute;rables&quot;</p>

"Les Misérables"

Credit: Universal Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'Les Misérables'

Tom Hooper's musical adaptation finally comes out into the spotlight

The wait is over for those heavily anticipating the transition of "Les Misérables" from stage to screen as the film hits theaters this holiday season. I'll be very interested to know how it plays for our readers. It's been a funny thing, watching such split reactions. Critics are mostly lukewarm but Academy members eat it up. I'm somewhere in the middle there. I cried a bit, cringed a bit, and mostly enjoyed the enterprise. But do tell us what you thought. And feel free to rate it above.

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<p>Helen&nbsp;Mirren in &quot;Hitchcock&quot;</p>

Helen Mirren in "Hitchcock"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Off the Carpet: Academy members have numerous tight races to mull over this season

The major categories have rarely been this competitive

As members of the Academy hurry through the last screeners they need to see before committing an opinion on the year's best (for those who bother trying to get as deep into the stack as possible, that is), a number of races hang in the balance as extremely tight categories are sure to leave a number of contenders feeling the sting of "also-ran" on Thursday, January 10.

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<p>&quot;The Cabin in the Woods&quot; nabbed a screenplay nod.</p>

"The Cabin in the Woods" nabbed a screenplay nod.

Credit: Lionsgate

'The Master' leads Online Film Critics' Society nominations

'Holy Motors' nabs a Best Picture nod

I had thought we were done with critics' awards until the holidays subside, but the Online Film Critics Society decided to make us a Christmas present of their nominations -- or perhaps that should be a gift for "The Master," which underlined its status as a critical darling with a field-leading eight nominations. "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty" were a distant second with five each.

It's a strong list, the most distinctive feature of which is a Best Picture nod for "Holy Motors," the first such citation I can recall this season. Also relatively unique: a double shot of genre fare in the Best Original Screenplay category, with "The Cabin in the Woods" joining the more frequently cited "Looper"; David Cronenberg's slavishly faithful "Cosmopolis" screenplay scoring in the adapted race, and foreign-language nod for Oscar-shortlisted doc "This Is Not A Film."

Check out the full list below and, of course, at The Circuit.

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<p>Spike Lee at a New York Knicks game last week, looking suitably festive.</p>

Spike Lee at a New York Knicks game last week, looking suitably festive.

Credit: AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams

Roundup: Spike Lee (surprise!) isn't down with 'Django'

Also: Why 'It's a Wonderful Life' is 'cracked,' and less likely holiday viewing

Well, you wouldn't exactly have expected Spike Lee to be leading the cheers for "Django Unchained." The firebrand filmmaker has previously taken Quentin Tarantino to task over his use of the n-word, and while it's liberally used in QT's new slavery-era Southern western, that's far from the only thing that has Lee riled up -- even though he admits he has no intention of seeing it. "All I'm going to say is that it's disrespectful to my ancestors, to see that film," he told VIBETV. "I can't disrespect my ancestors. I can't do it. Now, that's me, I'm not speaking on behalf of anybody but myself."  He later hit Twitter to add: "American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them." Of course, Lee is hardly the only opponent of a film that looks set to generate continued discussion and debate. [The Playlist]

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<p>Robert Forster in &quot;Jackie Brown&quot;</p>

Robert Forster in "Jackie Brown"

Credit: Miramax Films

With 'Django Unchained' on the way we pick Quentin Tarantino's 'Greatest Hits'

The best tracks from his filmography

The moment the guitar on Dick Dale's "Misirlou" struck on the soundtrack of "Pulp Fiction" and those giant titles slowly, methodically crawl up the screen, we knew we were in the hands of a master. And indeed, Quentin Tarantino had already established a unique ear for the songscape of his work two years prior in "Reservoir Dogs."

How about the fact that no one will ever use The Meters' "Cissy Strut" better than he did in "Jackie Brown?" Or how effectively the march of Ennio Morricone's "Rabbia E Tarantella" closes out "Inglourious Basterds?" What about Elle Driver's eerie whistling of Bernard Herrmann's "Twisted Nerve" theme in "Kill Bill" Vol. 2?"

The director's latest, "Django Unchained," takes a whole other step forward, adding four original songs to the usual mix of source music. Elayna Boynton and Anthony Hamilton's "Freedom" gets us going early on while the Morricone-penned "Ancora Qui" slows us down later.

And yet, none of these made our list of the director's "Greatest Hits" to date, showing just how expansive his work infusing music to image has been.

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Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Oklahoma critics name 'Argo' the year's best, stick to the book elsewhere

Ben Affleck's film keeps it tight with 'Zero Dark Thirty' in the race for critics' fave

The Oklahoma Film Critics Circle has also chimed in for "Argo" today, giving the film Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay honors. The group was in lock-step with the rest of the season throughout: Daniel Day-Lewis, Jessica Chastain, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anne Hathaway, etc. Check out the full list below and keep track of the season via The Circuit.

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<p>John&nbsp;Hawkes and Helen&nbsp;Hunt in &quot;The Sessions&quot;</p>

John Hawkes and Helen Hunt in "The Sessions"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Nevada critics go for 'Argo,' John Hawkes, Helen Hunt

Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field clean up the supporting fields for 'Lincoln'

The Nevada Film Critics Society has added one more notch to "Argo"'s tally of Best Picture wins. The group tied Ben Affleck with "Zero Dark Thirty" helmer Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director and went in a relatively unique direction with its Best Actor call, opting for John Hawkes in "The Sessions." Check out the full list of winners below and keep track of the season via The Circuit.

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<p>Kacey Mottet Klein and L&eacute;a Seydoux in &quot;Sister.&quot;</p>

Kacey Mottet Klein and Léa Seydoux in "Sister."

Credit: Adopt Films

A closer look at Oscar's foreign-language shortlist

Few surprises in a strong slate of contenders

I've been saying for some time now that the Academy's cull of the foreign-language field from 71 to nine contenders would be a heartbreaker, and so it was.

Among the standout films eliminated from the competition after yesterday's announcement are: Australia's vivid, perspective-bending WWII tale "Lore," Belgium's wrenching domestic drama "Our Children," Hungary's brutal Berlin Silver Bear winner "Just the Wind," Mexico's disquieting conversation piece (and Cannes Un Certain Regard champ) "After Lucia" and Germany's acclaimed, elegant Stasi-era character study "Barbara." We salute them, and many others: here's hoping they find the international audiences (and, in some cases, distributors) they deserve in spite of this setback.

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