<p>&quot;Life of Pi&quot;</p>

"Life of Pi"

Credit: 20th Century Fox

'Life of Pi' and 'Lincoln' among International Film Music Critics Association award winners

Danny Elfman crowned Film Composer of the Year

Mychael Danna was awarded Film Score of the Year by the International Film Music Critics Association for his work on Ang Lee's "Life of Pi." Danny Elfman was recognized as Film Composer of the Year while "Lincoln," "Ted," "Skyfall," "John Carter" and "Rise of the Guardians" won throughout the genre categories. Check out the full list of winners below and keep track of the 2012-2013 film awards season at The Circuit.

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<p>Naomi Watts in &quot;The&nbsp;Impossible&quot;</p>

Naomi Watts in "The Impossible"

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Actress

Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Emmanuelle Riva, Quvenzhané Wallis and Naomi Watts 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.)

The race for Best Actress this year started out typical: it was thin. That's not a knock on the performances but really a knock on the kinds of roles open to women in this day and age. That dearth frequently yields a lackluster showing for the category, not that there aren't other great performances worth looking at. The problem is, those great performances aren't usually the sort that tickle the Academy's fancy.

By the end of the season, it got tighter. The supposed frontrunner first got some serious competition from a leading lady few saw coming, while things started percolating for a foreign film hopeful at just the right time. Meanwhile, performances nominated elsewhere from the likes of Helen Mirren ("Hitchcock") and Marion Cotillard ("Rust and Bone") were left by the wayside.

The nominees are…

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<p>Keira Knightley in &quot;Anna Karenina&quot;</p>

Keira Knightley in "Anna Karenina"

Credit: Focus Features

Tech Support: Final thoughts on the 2012 crafts races

From Best Cinematography through Best Visual Effects, what will win?

I am already having withdrawal symptoms from this year’s Oscar race. I don’t need to repeat the litany of reasons this has become a unique year in Oscar history. I’ve loved (almost) every minute of it. SO many categories are exceptionally tight races. The crafts categories are no exception and there are many below-the-line artists to cheer for this year.

I think the Oscar Guides have been superb this year, and I don’t mean to duplicate them, so I’ll try to cut to the chase as I give a final preview of the 10 crafts categories set to be awarded at Sunday's 85th annual Academy Awards.

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<p>Joaquin Phoenix in &quot;The&nbsp;Master&quot;</p>

Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Actor

Bradley Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis, Hugh Jackman, Joaquin Phoenix and Denzel Washington 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.)

Down the stretch in phase one, and certainly once the nominees had been set in stone, an obvious Best Actor frontrunner emerged as maybe the safest bet on Oscar night. But the Best Actor race was competitive all season long in the nominations stage. A tight seven- or eight-horse race led to surprises here and there in the various precursor announcements, and even a slight one in the ultimate nominations announcement.

SAG nominee and expected contender John Hawkes ("The Sessions") was left on the sidelines, but he joined hopefuls like Jean-Louis Trintignant ("Amour"), Anthony Hopkins ("Hitchcock"), as well as Golden Globe-nominee Richard Gere ("Arbitrage") and BAFTA nominee Ben Affleck ("Argo") on the outside. But the ultimate line-up featured the ill and the impaired, the criminal and the Presidential, as two Oscar virgins joined a trio nominated a collective 14 times over the years.

The nominees are…

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<p>Kristin Chenoweth</p>

Kristin Chenoweth

Credit: AP Photo/Carlo Allegri

Roundup: The show's not over 'til Seth MacFarlane sings

Also: The women on the sidelines, and Jean Dujardin's Oscar signal

In case you were worried that this year's Oscar ceremony won't feature enough musical numbers -- you know, besides the nominated songs, Barbra Streisand's In Memoriam moment and the odd-sounding tribute to "Chicago," "Dreamgirls" and "Les Mis" -- you can breathe a sigh of relief. Apparently the show won't conclude with the Best Picture presentation, but with a "special" song from Kristin Chenoweth and Seth MacFarlane that producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron claim will be "a can't-miss moment." (Of course, the producers who misguidedly chose to end the 2010 show with a children's choir singing "Over the Rainbow" probably thought that too.) On the one hand, the Academy has definitely let go of the "young, hip Oscars" meme that failed so dismally a few years ago, and for that we're grateful. But is this overkill? [The Vote

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<p>&quot;Argo&quot;</p>

"Argo"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Long Shot: When good enough is good enough

Why 'Argo' is right for Oscar, plus my latest predictions

There's nothing like an imminent Oscar to remind previously indifferent observers just how vociferously they actually dislike a film. With Ben Affleck's "Argo" four days away from an all-but-certain Best Picture win, it's been the subject of far more takedown pieces and message-board ire than it appeared to merit upon its autumn release -- back when you might have been forgiven simply for thinking it a tidily enjoyable little studio thriller.

Thanks to the Oscar race, we've since learned that "Argo" is at once so much more and less than that: it's a blind signifier of western anti-Iranian sentiment, a jumped-up betrayal of a true story with an irresponsibly embroidered final act, a smug example of Hollywood self-mythologising and a slap in the face of Canada to boot. Much column ink (or the intangible online equivalent) has been spent on telling us what a grave mistake the Academy is heedlessly making or all these reasons, not to mention the formal limitations and alleged martyr complex of Affleck himself -- whom we are repeatedly told is winning out of collective industry pity, as if the lack of a Best Director nod for a successful, handsome, moneyed Hollywood prince is a sob story that has moved voters en masse, despite their complete disregard for his film. 

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<p>&quot;What does this thing do,&quot;&nbsp;one Academy voter apparently wonders.</p>

"What does this thing do," one Academy voter apparently wonders.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Why the entire Academy should not be allowed to vote on every category

Someone tell this guy what a re-recording mixer does

In case you needed reminding that there are those in the Academy ignorant to the various crafts and trades recognized at the Oscars, I direct you to this Hollywood Reporter piece built around one brave soul's ballot and open reasoning about his vote.

The voter is a member of the Academy's directors branch and, quite frankly, is a perfect case study for why the Academy should not be allowed to vote for the winners in every category. This is my opinion, of course, but maybe this will be a bit of illumination as to why I have that opinion. Because there are guys like this throughout the organization. There are plenty who are astute and get the nuance in this or that category. But many simply don't.

Take Best Sound Mixing, for instance. It's a shame to me that a member of an esteemed branch such as the directors apparently has no clue whatsoever as to what a re-recording mixer does. "This is the award for sound that is mixed on the set on the day," he says, clueless, getting it dead wrong.

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<p>Charlize Theron in &quot;Snow White and the Huntsman.&quot;</p>

Charlize Theron in "Snow White and the Huntsman."

Credit: Universal Pictures

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Costume Design

'Anna Karenina,' 'Lincoln,' 'Mirror Mirror,' 'Les Misérables' and 'Snow White and the Huntsman' 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 Costume Design is one Oscar category for which I have particular affection -- partly because I find the discipline itself so interesting, but largely because it's arguably the most forgiving and open-minded of all the Academy's below-the-line races. Whereas most other branches allow their voting to be at least partially dictated by their feelings for the films in question, the Academy's costume designers routinely focus on the craft itself, regardless of the surrounding vehicle. You can rely on this category to single out remarkable costume work in films otherwise forgotten by Oscar, from outright bombs ("W.E.," "Across the Universe") to arthouse outsiders ("Bright Star," "I Am Love"), and for that we should all be grateful.

When it comes to the award itself, however, things tend to get markedly more predictable, as the winner often seems to be determined by the sheer number corsets, ruffles and hoop skirts filling every frame. Last year's win for the sleek, monochrome 1920s Hollywood fashions in "The Artist" was a relatively atypical one, presumably assisted by the film's Best Picture momentum, but this year promises a return to colorful, aristocracy-based period spectacle, unless one of the category's two outliers -- both, coincidentally enough, based on the same storybook classic -- proves a spoiler.   

The nominees are...

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<p>Ian McKellen in &quot;The Hobbit:&nbsp;An&nbsp;Unexpected Journey&quot;</p>

Ian McKellen in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit' leads the way with Saturn Awards nominations

Oscar nominees 'Les Misérables' and 'Life of Pi' have strong showings

Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," led the way with nine nominations for the 39th annual Saturn Awards, recognizing the best in genre filmmaking. It picked up nods in the Best Fantasy Film and Best Director categories, among others. Not far behind were Ang Lee's Oscar nominee "Life of Pi" with eight and Sam Mendes's James Bon actioner "Skyfall" with seven.

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<p>Martin Freeman in &quot;The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.&quot;</p>

Martin Freeman in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Production Design

'Anna Karenina,' 'The Hobbit,' 'Life of Pi,' 'Lincoln' and 'Les Misérables' 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 Art Direction was one of two Oscar categories to get rechristened last year: from here on out, it'll go by the rather more imposing-sounding Best Production Design. It was a long-overdue change, really, given that the award includes production designers and set decorators among its nominees... but not, funnily enough, art directors. Go figure.

The name may be new, but this year's slate of Best Production Design nominees otherwise finds the award on familiar ground, offering voters a choice between period spectacle and fantasy spectacle -- though none of it in films too far outside the Academy's comfort zone. (Three of the nominees are also up for Best Picture.) Compounding the sense of familiarity: all but two of the 11 names cited have been to the dance before, while one of the nominated films adjoins a franchise previously rewarded in this category. In recent years, the Academy has often opted for films that combine fantasy and period elements, with expensive, effects-heavy productions winning out for the last few years running. Still, this year's field offers more traditionalist voters a couple of attractive handmade options. 

The nominees are...

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