<p>Chilean actress Paulina Garcia is the Best Actress favorite for &quot;Gloria.&quot;</p>

Chilean actress Paulina Garcia is the Best Actress favorite for "Gloria."

Credit: Funny Balloons

Romania's 'Child's Pose' takes Golden Bear at Berlin, David Gordon Green gets Best Director

Danis Tanovic takes Grand Jury Prize, 'Gloria' star Paulina Garcia is Best Actress

I saw fewer Competition films than usual at this year's Berlin Film Festival, having drawn much of my viewing schedule around other sections of the vast programme -- after all, with almost 200 feature films jostling for your attention, you simply have to accept that you're going to end up missing a lot of worthwhile stuff. And so it is that I must make the admission that no Berlinale journalist ever wants to make: I haven't seen the winner of the Golden Bear.

I had a feeling that missing Romanian director Calin Peter Netzer's film "Child's Pose," about a wealthy, fiercely driven mother playing the system to wrangle her adult son out of a murder charge, was going to haunt me one way or another -- one of the few Competition films to generate across-the-board critical approval, it seemed at the very least a strong Best Actress contender for Romanian veteran Luminita Gheorghiu. I'd missed the screening to catch up with another Competition buzz title, "Gloria" -- which, as it turned out, won Best Actress instead -- and never found a suitable gap in my diary for the Romanian film. Festival scheduling is like Jenga that way. 

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<p>Thomas Newman at the BAFTA&nbsp;Awards last weekend</p>

Thomas Newman at the BAFTA Awards last weekend

Credit: Jonathan Short/Invision/AP

Tech Support: Thomas Newman on 'Skyfall' and the everyday challenges of a film composer

Could the film be a double winner for music on Oscar night?

Film music composer Thomas Newman landed his 11th Oscar nomination to date last month, for his original contributions to "Skyfall." It's the latest in a long line of Academy mentions both in the song and score categories for two decades for him, but despite the strong showing, he has yet to wrangle one of the trophies for himself.

Last weekend he won his second BAFTA Award to date (on just three nominations from the group throughout his career). And, along with "Skyfall" colleague Roger Deakins, he is putting a little bit of pressure on the presumed frontrunners in his category.

A handful of those Oscar nominations along the way have come for Sam Mendes films, including the director's latest. Mendes likes to showcase Newman's work in his films, being very detailed with his sound mixers about how he wants it to shine, and that was a particular note on "Skyfall." This was, after all, the new chapter of a franchise that has music woven into the fabric of its very identity.

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<p>Kelly Reilly and Denzel Washington in &quot;Flight.&quot;</p>

Kelly Reilly and Denzel Washington in "Flight."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Writing - Original Screenplay

'Amour,' 'Django Unchained,' 'Flight,' 'Moonrise Kingdom' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' square off

(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)

Best Original Screenplay is perhaps my favorite of all Oscar categories, and I know I'm not alone in that. So often it has been a sanctuary for adventurous, important and, yes, original films that are just a little too fresh to triumph in the top categories: it's thanks to this award, after all, that the likes of "Pulp Fiction," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Chinatown," "Talk to Her," "The Red Balloon" and, of course, "Citizen Kane" all get to call themselves Oscar winners.

While for the last three years, the category has housed the eventual Best PIcture winner, Best Original Screenplay is back on outsider duty this year. While the adapted category will be breathlessly scrutinized for Best Picture signals, none of the frontrunners here are likely to triumph in the top race. It's still an equally competitive category -- and, despite many pundits' odd assertions that it was a "thin" field, was far more contested than its counterpart at the nominations stage, where at least two slots remained consistently in flux between an array of mainstream and independent outliers.

The nominees are...

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Oscar Talk: Ep. 106 -- BAFTA and Scripter recap, WGA preview and more shorts

Oscar Talk: Ep. 106 -- BAFTA and Scripter recap, WGA preview and more shorts

Plus: How stellar is that slate of documentary feature nominees?

Welcome to Oscar Talk.

In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday 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.

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

Quvenzhane Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild."

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Writing - Adapted Screenplay

'Argo,' 'Beasts of the Southern Wild,' 'Life of Pi,' 'Lincoln' and 'Silver Linings Playbook' square off

(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)

After three straight years of original screenplay-based films ruling the roost, the Best Picture race this year resumes its relationship with the Best Adapted Screenplay category, as the three arguable frontrunners for the top prize are locked in closer combat here. As it stands, the presentation of this award will be a key moment, potentially telling us a lot about how the rest of the evening is going to go. If “Argo” wins, you can probably ease into your seat; if it’s something else, we might still have a race.

The Academy wasn’t given a surfeit of options in this category, especially with such prestige adaptations as “Anna Karenina” and “On the Road” proving to be either fast faders or non-starters. The field they ended up with, then, was an obvious one, comprising five of the six adaptations in the Best Picture race. (The sixth, the sung-through “Les Miserables,” was never going to feature for its writing.) It’s a shame that the widely beloved WGA nominee “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” couldn’t make the cut, but with one higher-profile, Guild-ineligible indie favorite lying in wait as a replacement, these were always the likeliest five.

The nominees are...

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<p>Tony Kushner</p>

Tony Kushner

Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Roundup: Kushner goes to bat for the competition

Also: Ephron to receive WGA tribute, and why Hollywood needs to be stricter

We begin today's roundup with a happy confluence of Oscar contenders. It's hardly surprising that a writer as intelligent and politically conscientious as Tony Kushner would be swift to stand up for a fellow artist's freedom of expression -- but it's still heartening, amid the heat of the Oscar contest, to see the nominated "Lincoln" scribe making a small but significant gesture of support for rival Best Picture contender "Zero Dark Thirty." Kushner is one of 28 signatories, alongside the heavyweight likes of Alan Dershowitz, on a letter sent to all US Senators, protesting the statements made against the film by Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin. "History demonstrates, in particular the 1950s McCarthy period, that government officials should not employ their official status and power to attempt to censor, alter or pressure artists to change their expressions, believes, presentations of facts or political viewpoints," the letter says. [The Carpetbagger]

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<p>Judy Davis and River Phoenix in &quot;Dark Blood.&quot;</p>

Judy Davis and River Phoenix in "Dark Blood."

Credit: Berlin Film Festival

Review: River Phoenix's final film 'Dark Blood' is an unfinished oddity

George Sluizer salvages his abandoned 1993 thriller, and it's an intriguing relic

BERLIN - I toyed with not giving one of our customary letter grades to "Dark Blood," a new film from 80-year-old Dutch veteran George Sluizer that isn't new at all. (It's 19 years old, as it happens, which isn't too far off the age River Phoenix, the incandescent young actor so abruptly taken from the living in 1993, was when he filmed it.) It's only three-quarters of a movie, after all.

Phoenix, it seems unduly difficult to imagine, would be 42 were he with us today; the film, meanwhile, would be languishing on obscure DVD (or even VHS) shelves, a rarely discussed representative of a lurid strain of steamy, quasi-mystical genre cinema that had a Hollywood moment in the early-to-mid 1990s. Instead, it got its first major unveiling today at the Berlin Film Festival, nearly four months after its official, less grandiose, world premiere at the Netherlands Film Fest. Were he with us today, its star would likely took a little worse for her. The film, on the other hand, might look a little better -- it'd be finished, at the very least.

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<p>Emmanuelle Riva, Michael Haneke (center)&nbsp;and Jean-Louis Trintignant on the set of &quot;Amour&quot;</p>

Emmanuelle Riva, Michael Haneke (center) and Jean-Louis Trintignant on the set of "Amour"

Credit: Sony Classics

A Valentine's Day conversation with 'Amour' writer/director Michael Haneke

Accessible though it may be, his latest is no compromise

Every time Michael Haneke has an idea for a film, there's always a different catalyst that makes him sit down and write it. It might be an image that comes to him, or a newspaper clipping that will stir his creativity. "The motivation has to be something that already interests you enough to want to think about it and reflect on it," he says, calling from Madrid where he's preparing a new opera. "Then you start collecting material and observations until you feel you have enough to start trying to order the material, structure. And that ordering and structuring is the longest, most difficult process."

Other times, like in the case of something like "Amour" and star Jean-Louis Trintignant, it might be a specific actor for whom he wishes to write a part. But his latest film, which has landed five Oscar nominations including Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Haneke, had darker and more meditative beginnings than just that. He had an aunt once who asked him to help her pass away and he was forced to look on as a loved one suffered. And yet, "Amour" is a love story, with all the deeply considered complications of love and a life lived with another. It's fitting, then, that we're speaking on Valentine's Day.

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<p>Michael Haneke at the Golden&nbsp;Globes in January</p>

Michael Haneke at the Golden Globes in January

Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Michael Haneke responds to 'his' Twitter handle

Have you been following @Michael_Haneke?

Hey, have you heard about the Michael Haneke Twitter account? No, of course the "Amour" director hasn't set up a bit of social networking self-promotion, but someone with a sense of humor sure has.

Yes, in this "Catfish" world of cyber fakery, anybody can be anybody. But I guess it can be particularly hilarious when there isn't much pretending going on, as is the case with the @Michael_Haneke handle.

Throwing around web verbiage you might attribute to a 12-year-old girl obsessed with Hello Kitty (or something) rather than an astute, multi-Palme-d'Or-winning practitioner of the filmmaking form, the account has amassed some 25,000 followers since it was set up on November 12. And it's that very aspect that has the REAL Haneke so bewildered.

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Greg P. Russell tweaks "Skyfall" for IMAX exhibition at Technicolor's post-production facility on the Paramount lot.
Greg P. Russell tweaks "Skyfall" for IMAX exhibition at Technicolor's post-production facility on the Paramount lot.
Credit: Greg P. Russell

Tech Support: Greg P. Russell on finding the nuance in action with Sam Mendes and 'Skyfall'

The oft-nominated sound mixer picked up his 16th Academy notice for the film

HOLLYWOOD - Being in sound mixer Greg P. Russell's shoes at the Oscars must be an interesting experience. He's been 14 times, you see (double nominated in 1998). But he's never heard his name called. He's watched his work on high-octane action hits like "The Rock," "Spider-Man" and the "Transformers" films lose to overall Academy favorites like "The English Patient," "Chicago" "The Hurt Locker" and "Hugo." He's been in the mix (so to speak) consistently since his first nomination, for "Black Rain" in 1989, but hasn't found himself on a project that the Academy at large -- which, whether they know from good sound mixing or not, votes collectively on the Oscar winners each year -- could warm to as worthy of their vote.

That could change this year, however. Nominated for the James Bond extravaganza "Skyfall," Russell finds himself on a production that has clear industry support and sentiment. At the same time, he's staring down Academy favorites once again in "Argo," "Les Misérables," "Life of Pi" and "Lincoln." But that's familiar territory for him.

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