<p>Cate Blanchett at the&nbsp;Paris premiere of &quot;Blue Jasmine&quot; in August.</p>

Cate Blanchett at the Paris premiere of "Blue Jasmine" in August.

Credit: AP Photo

Cate Blanchett named Santa Barbara's Outstanding Performer of the Year

The Oscar winner will receive her prize at the 29th annual festival in February

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has kicked off a wave of tribute announcements today with the revelation that Cate Blanchett will receive this year's Outstanding Performer of the Year award for her work in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine."

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<p>Idris Elba and Naomie Harris in &quot;Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.&quot;</p>

Idris Elba and Naomie Harris in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Roundup: 'Mandela' goes to Washington

Also: Independent directors dish, and how the Academy got it right in 1988

You need only look to "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" to observe how hard the fall festival circuit can be on certain prestige hopefuls: prime Oscar bait on paper, The Weinstein Company contender's buzz plummeted after a first wave of reviews that deemed it (not inaccurately, I think) turgid biopic-by-numbers stuff, however well-acted. How to get people talking about it again? Well, the announcement of an official White House screening this week for President Obama, due to be attended by Mandela's daughters and stars Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, will earn it a fresh batch of headlines and nifty photo opportunities. Will it help? Tim Gray considers the value of a political endorsement. [Variety]

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Wes Anderson's 'Grand Budapest Hotel' to open 2014 Berlinale
Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Wes Anderson's 'Grand Budapest Hotel' to open 2014 Berlinale

The all-star comedy will have its world premiere at the February fest

The Berlin Film Festival is generally seen as the least glamorous of the three major European fests: taking place in snowy February, it lands either too late or too early in the calendar to grab the sparkly awards-season hopefuls or the A-list international auteur titles. So landing the world premiere of Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" as their Opening Film on February 6, 2014 is obviously a great get for the Berlinale -- one that may attract more international press than usual.

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<p>&quot;The Act of Killing&quot;</p>

"The Act of Killing"

Credit: Drafthouse Films

Three documentaries nominated for European Film Award

Can 'The Act of KIlling' score on both sides of the Atlantic?

The European Film Awards are really spreading out their nominations announcement this year -- a couple of weeks ago, we got the nominees for Best Animated Feature, last week brought the winners in the technical categories, and today we have the final three films in the running for Best Documentary Feature. On Saturday, nominees in all remaining categories will be revealed; I guess this is their way of shining an individual spotlight on less covered races.

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<p>&quot;This is the End&quot;</p>

"This is the End"

Credit: Sony Pictures

Five Golden Globe comedies the HFPA should be considering but probably isn't

The usual suspects are sure to dominate but these deserve a boost

The deadline for Golden Globe submissions was Friday and so studios had to declare whether their contenders would be aiming for comedy or drama consideration. Of course, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) can overturn these categorizations, as they have in the past with films like "True Grit." Between now and the time ballots go out to members of the organization on Nov. 27, the group may do that with one or more of the films that straddle the line between comedy and drama, but it's a rare occurrence.

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<p>Everything seems to be in &quot;Gravity's,&quot;&nbsp;well, gravity at the moment.</p>

Everything seems to be in "Gravity's," well, gravity at the moment.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Off the Carpet: The awards circuit comes to life ahead of AFI Fest

With new entries set to unveil, studios get their ducks in a row

It's been a few weeks since I've been prepared to offer much of anything in this space, and really, it's been good to let the dust settle, as plenty has happened. "The Monuments Men" got out of dodge. "The Wolf of Wall Street" committed to Christmas. "Her" found critical embrace and "The Book Thief" has emerged as Fox's best bet for awards success. AFI Fest is on the horizon, and with it, the fates of "Out of the Furnace," "Lone Survivor" and, in some ways, "Saving Mr. Banks." The groundwork has mostly been laid otherwise and the circuit work is starting to click in.

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<p>&quot;Nebraska&quot;&nbsp;and &quot;Paper&nbsp;Moon&quot;</p>

"Nebraska" and "Paper Moon"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Paramount plays up 'Nebraska's' old-fashioned charms with 'Paper Moon' double bill

LA's New Beverly Theater will host the Nov. 10 event

Every once in a while a studio capitalizes on parallels between one of its awards hopefuls and a classic of the medium that also did pretty well on the circuit by booking a double bill. Fox Searchlight did it with "The Wrestler" and "On the Waterfront," for instance. This year, Paramount is going that route with Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" and Peter Bogdanovich's "Paper Moon."

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"Dallas Buyers Club"
"Dallas Buyers Club"
Credit: Focus Features

Roundup: Truth and fiction in 'Dallas Buyers Club'

Also: James Franco's 'Taxi Driver' comparison, and Netflix shoots for an Oscar

From "12 Years a Slave" to "Captain Phillips" to even fictional contenders like "Gravity," a number of Oscar hopefuls are being subjected to rigorous fact-checking in the blogosphere. The latest to go under examination is "Dallas Buyers Club." In an interesting piece, Slate writer Aisha Harris explains that the film is in an unusual position relative to other biopics, in that protagonist Ron Woodroof's life hadn't really been documented in other media; screenwriter Craig Borten, who began the project after interviewing Woodroof in 1992, is his own most informed source, and admits to taking some artistic license in a "pretty accurate" portrayal. Harris separates the film's facts from its fiction. [Slate]

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<p>Asa Butterfield in &quot;Ender's Game.&quot;</p>

Asa Butterfield in "Ender's Game."

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Tell us what you thought of 'Ender's Game'

The controversial sci-fi adaptation hits U.S. theaters today

Lots of talk about Gavin Hood's "Ender's Game" this week -- not all of it the kind a potential sci-fi franchise-starter might want. The controversial homophobic beliefs of Orson Scott Card, the film's producer and author of the popular source novels, have prompted a widespread campaign to boycott the film, regardless of its own merits. That's unfortunate since, as I wrote in my review, it's rather impressive: smart, idea-driven mainstream entertainment that doesn't patronize its young audience, and has a promising lead turn from star Asa Butterfield. But what do you think? The film's been out in other territories for a week, so a number of you might have caught it by now -- or are you joining the boycott? Share your thoughts in the comments, and vote in the poll below.

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<p>Naomi Watts in &quot;Diana.&quot;</p>

Naomi Watts in "Diana."

Credit: Entertainment One

Review: Naomi Watts is a plastic people's princess in misguided 'Diana'

HitFix
D-
Readers
A+
Sadly, Oliver Hirschbiegel's dreary biopic is as bad as its reputation suggests
How do you solve a problem like "Diana?" How do you catch a bomb and pin it down? How do you find a word that means--okay, that's enough of that. Since its UK release six weeks ago, Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Princess of Wales biopic has been pinned down, all right. Exhaustively humiliated by critics and more unexpectedly rejected by the British public, it’s this year’s chief sacrificial lamb of the prestige film season, the turkey dressed in ragged swan’s clothing – choose your own demeaning fauna-based metaphor – and many reviews have jeered its gold-plated aspirations as much as its own chipboard flaws.
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