<p>Bart Layton, director &quot;The Imposter.&quot;</p>

Bart Layton, director "The Imposter."

Credit: AP Photo/Victoria Will

Bart Layton on reflecting the subjective nature of truth in 'The Imposter'

The British film is one of 15 shortlisted by the Academy for Best Documentary

Even the most banal phrases have their uses, and when it came to Bart Layton's documentary “The Imposter” earlier this year, it's easy to understand why so many critics reached for that fusty standby: “The truth is stranger than fiction.” Then again, “The Imposter” – one of 15 shortlisted films vying for an Oscar nod in the Best Documentary Feature category – tells a story that is stranger even than most truths.

Centered on the charismatic, frightening figure of Frédéric Bourdin a shapeshifting con artist and serial identity thief who claim to have masqueraded as over 500 people in his lifetime, the film peels back the covers on the Frenchman's most infamous and improbable stunt. In 1997, aged 23, he seemingly duped a Texan family into accepting him as their teenaged son who had gone missing three years previously – despite not sharing his accent, appearance or even eye color. Turning up in Spain and claiming to have been kidnapped by a military-run child prostitution ring, Bourdin sold his outlandish tale not only to the Barclay family but to the US authorities, and maintained the charade for five months before the FBI caught wise.

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<p>Diane Kruger in &quot;Farewell My Queen.&quot;</p>

Diane Kruger in "Farewell My Queen."

Credit: Cohen Media Group

Kudos for 'Farewell My Queen,' 'Holy Motors,' 'Amour' on French awards circuit

'Queen' a surprise winner of the country's most prestigious film award

I know I'm way behind the curve in reporting on these, but the weeks before Christmas kept us so busy with wall-to-wall US critics' awards that certain things passed me by -- particularly awards away from the Oscar trail. This afternoon, I suddenly remembered the Prix Louis-Delluc, arguably the most prestigious award in French cinema, and wondered if I'd missed their nominations. As it turned out, I'd missed the entire thing.

The Louis-Delluc, a single award handed to the year's best French film -- as determined by a jury headed by Cannes president Gilles Jacob -- was first presented in 1937, and the list of previous winners is a veritable who's who of classic French cinema: Renoir, Cocteau, Truffaut, Bresson, Malle, Chabrol, Rohmer, Godard, and so on.

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<p>An old-school Academy paper ballot -- on the way out.</p>

An old-school Academy paper ballot -- on the way out.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Roundup: Academy members give e-voting an F

Also: 'Argo' is Ebert's #1, and the link between 'Silver Linings' and 'Amour'

When the Oscar nominations are announced in exactly two weeks' time (!), they'll be a pioneering edition in two ways: not only will they land earlier in the season than ever before, but they'll be the first to be partially drawn from electronic voting. It's a brave new world and all, but after interviewing a cross-section of voters, Many of them aren't happy with the changes -- to the point that some of them, short of time to see the necessary films and/or befuddled by the security surrounding the online ballot -- may not bother voting at all. Scott Feinberg quotes one member as saying, "There will probably be a large percentage of people who will just say, 'Screw it,' and not even vote this year," and expresses concern that the changes could result in a record low in voter anticipation. Of course, we'll never know. [The Race]

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<p>Robert Pattinson in &quot;Cosmopolis&quot;</p>

Robert Pattinson in "Cosmopolis"

Credit: eOne Films

'Lincoln' leads Vancouver film critics nominations

'Cosmopolis' shows up strong throughout Canadian film categories

The Vancouver Film Critics Circle has announced nominees this year, and Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" led the way with five nominations, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay. "Cosmopolis," "Rebelle" and "Stories We Tell" were chalked up in the Best Canadian Film category. Winners will be announced January 7. Check out the full list below and keep track of the season via The Circuit.

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<p>Tom Hooper on the set of 'Les Mis&eacute;rables'</p>

Tom Hooper on the set of 'Les Misérables'

Credit: Universal Pictures

Tom Hooper on 'Les Misérables' as 'the great cry from the heart of those who suffer'

The filmmaker discusses the zeitgeist elements of his latest, among other things

The last time I spoke with director Tom Hooper feels like centuries ago. That's because it came the afternoon after his film "The King's Speech" screened for audiences at the 2010 Telluride Film Festival, before that film would go on to the Toronto festival and explode into the season as an unassuming heartwarmer destined for Oscar gold. It was the calm before the storm, and Hooper thinks back on it now with a hint of longing in his voice.

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<p>Renee Zellweger in &quot;Chicago.&quot;</p>

Renee Zellweger in "Chicago."

Credit: Miramax

Roundup: Is authenticity ruining the musical?

Also: Portman named most bankable star, and Hathaway's Oscar hosting advice

The live-sung approach of "Les Misérables" may have yielded glowing reviews for the likes of Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne, but less vocally gifted stars -- principally Russell Crowe -- have taken some flak. Back in the golden age of the Hollywood musical, his musical numbers might well have been dubbed, as Audrey Hepburn's were in "My Fair Lady" or Natalie Wood's in "West Side Story." Inkoo Kang wonders why we can't go back to that system: "The tendency toward multi-hyphenation is also a treat for celebrity gawkers, who get a glimpse behind the curtain, or at least feel like they are doing so, by watching stars in a rawer, less accomplished form." Personally, I don't mind an imperfect vocal when it's part and parcel of the performance and character: the very narrative of "Chicago," for example, benefits from Renee Zellweger being a more awkward performer than legions of Broadway Roxie Harts. You? [Salon]

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<p>Rodrigo Prieto (left)&nbsp;and Ben&nbsp;Affleck on the set of &quot;Argo&quot;</p>

Rodrigo Prieto (left) and Ben Affleck on the set of "Argo"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Tech Support: Rodrigo Prieto on finding the right trio of looks for 'Argo'

The DP worked out distinct visual cues for each of the film's three worlds

Over the past month, Ben Affleck’s “Argo” has firmly entrenched itself as a surefire Oscar contender. Since it opened to outstanding reviews and box office earlier in the year, numerous commentators have lauded it for its portrayal of how Canadian diplomats, American spies and Hollywood big shots worked together to rescue six Americans from Iran in 1980. It has also been praised for its gripping suspense and aesthetic.

Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto was responsible in significant part for that aesthetic – a look he is the first to admit was also the result of a team. I recently spoke to the Oscar nominee (“Brokeback Mountain”) about his part in creating the film.

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<p>Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington in &quot;Django Unchained.&quot;</p>

Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington in "Django Unchained."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

The Long Shot: Hot potato shuffle

A number of Best Picture hopefuls are prompting healthy debate

What are the worst Best Picture winners of all time? Though the answers may overlap, it's a question that's not entirely the same as, "What are the worst films ever to win Best Picture?" Several titles on the Academy's ultimate honor roll are artistically lacking, though that doesn't necessarily make them terrible winners. Accepting as most of us do that the Academy is rarely, if ever, going to agree with us on the year's single greatest film, we begin to value alternative virtues in Oscar champs: durability, universality, pop-cultural standing, provocation, reach.

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<p>Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in &quot;Les&nbsp;<span style="color: rgb(45, 45, 45); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">Mis&eacute;rables.&quot;</span></p>

Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in "Les Misérables."

Credit: Universal Pictures

Review: The dream remains distant in garishly grim 'Les Misérables'

HitFix
D
Readers
B
Rousing source material sunk by directorial affectations

(I had scheduled this review to go up yesterday, but held back in the interests of not being a total Christmas Day Scrooge. Keep sharing your reactions.)

"Do you hear the people sing?" blusters the famous closing chorus of stage blockbuster "Les Misérables," and rarely in musical theater has a question been more rhetorical. The line is an imperative, a war cry, sounding not only the purposeful social discontent firing the 1832 June Rebellion, but a proactive admonishment to the show's critics.

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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

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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