<p>Lea Seydoux in &quot;Sister.&quot;</p>

Lea Seydoux in "Sister."

Credit: Adopt Films

Roundup: Is the foreign-language category still broken?

Also: Haneke out of home awards, and an Oscar for the director of 'Contraband?'

The Best Foreign Language Film race so far has proceeded with a minimum of the usual controversy: most countries' selections were met with approval, and the Academy's eventual shortlist is a credible one. Still, dissatisfaction lingers, whether it's with the overwhelmingly European slant of this year's shortlist, or the one-film-per-country rule. Mark Olsen speaks to the directors and distributors of this year's shortlisted films to get their take on the fundamentally flawed award. Jeff Lipsky, head of "Sister" distributor Adopt Films has this to say: "The category is called best foreign language film, not best foreign language film as selected by an overly politicized committee in every nation of the world." (He also describes the widespread presumption that "Amour" is going to win an "inexplicable manifest avalanche.") [LA Times

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<p>Emma Stone at last year's Academy Awards ceremony.</p>

Emma Stone at last year's Academy Awards ceremony.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Emma Stone and Seth MacFarlane to announce Oscar nominees

A break from the usual tradition - should we expect some banter?

I'm not aware of this news breaking in any other format, so I guess it fell to Seth MacFarlane's Twitter feed to announce that he and Emma Stone will be announcing the nominations for the 85th Academy Awards at 5am PST on Thursday.

This marks a break from tradition in a few ways. As long I've been watching the Oscars, it has been the president of the Academy who has delivered the crack-of-dawn news, joined by a former Oscar winner or nominee. (Recently, Jennifer Lawrence, Mo'Nique, Anne Hathaway and Forest Whitaker have all had the bleary-eyed pleasure.)

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<p>Alan&nbsp;Arkin and Ben&nbsp;Affleck in &quot;Argo&quot;</p>

Alan Arkin and Ben Affleck in "Argo"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

'Argo' wins with Houston film critics

Daniel Day-Lewis and Jennifer Lawrence win top acting honors

After "Lincoln" led the way with nominations from the Houston Film Critics Society last month, it was "Argo" that took the prizes for Best Picture and Best Director. Steven Spielberg's film did win Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay, while most other awards followed established canon. This is the seventh Best Film prize for "Argo" on the critics circuit so far, bringing it ever closer to the "Zero Dark Thirty" tally of eight. Check out the full list of winners below and as always, keep track of the season via The Circuit.

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<p>Emmanuelle Riva in &quot;Amour.&quot;</p>

Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour."

Credit: Sony Classics

'Amour' wins top honors from National Society of Film Critics

Michael Haneke's film also takes Best Director and Actress

The last of the major US critics' awards landed today, and the National Society of Film Critics sided with the Los Angeles crowd, handing their Best Picture award to Michael Haneke's "Amour." The French-Austrian production narrowly saw off "The Master" to the top prize, also nabbing Best Director and Best Actress for Emmanuelle Riva. Paul Thomas Anderson's film had to settle for Best Supporting Actress for Amy Adams (again echoing the LA Critics' choice), as well as the Best Cinematography prize.

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<p>&quot;Ai Weiwei:&nbsp;Never Sorry&quot;</p>

"Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry"

Credit: Sundance Selects

From 'Ai Weiwei' to 'Sugar Man,' handicapping this year's documentary feature race

Which five will be left standing from this competitive lot?

The field of documentary feature contenders this year is bursting at the seams with quality and the signs of a true golden age for the form. And this even with a number of the year's best having failed to make the finalists cut. Issues tackled are wide-ranging, artistry is apparent in a number of entries and the stories that are being shared are as powerful as ever. How do you even begin to handicap this thing?

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<p>&quot;The Perks of Being a Wallflower&quot; found its way into the line-up. Could it be a surprise Oscar nominee, too?</p>

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" found its way into the line-up. Could it be a surprise Oscar nominee, too?

Credit: Summit Entertainment

'Perks,' 'Flight,' 'Master' make the list of WGA nominees

'Central Park Five' and 'West of Memphis' included in doc nominees

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has announced its screen nominees for the year. As always, certain films were ineligible with the WGA due to signatory issues. Examples this year which could still make a play at Oscar recognition include "Amour," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Django Unchained," "Les Misérables" and "Seven Psychopaths." So let's get that out of the way right at the top.

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<p>&quot;Skyfall&quot;</p>

"Skyfall"

Credit: Sony Pictures

Oscar ceremony to include a 50th anniversary tribute to James Bond

One way or another, the franchise will be acknowledged on the night

Less than a week away from the unveiling of the Academy Award nominations, a question near the top of many Oscar pundits' minds is whether or not "Skyfall" can actually crack a Best Picture nomination. What seemed a long shot just two months ago has since become a far less fanciful notion, as the 23rd official entry in the James Bond franchise has consolidated its strong reviews and gangbusters box office with a healthy precursor showing, most notably with the guilds.

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Oscar Talk: Ep. 101 -- Mulling over the tight races in the home stretch

Oscar Talk: Ep. 101 -- Mulling over the tight races in the home stretch

Is 'Skyfall' a threat? Are we calling it too early for 'The Master?'

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>John&nbsp;Toll on the set of &quot;Cloud Atlas&quot;</p>

John Toll on the set of "Cloud Atlas"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Tech Support: John Toll and Frank Griebe on shooting 'Cloud Atlas' across six stories

The two DPs faced the challenge of sustaining a continuity in the ambitious film

As usual, the Oscar race for Best Cinematography presents an embarrassment of riches this year. Contending directors of photography have offered exemplary work, whether highlighting fantasy or history, focusing on land or water, displaying composed and gorgeous widescreen shots or gripping action and dynamic camera movement.

One film managed to do all of these things, and used two DPs to do it. I'm referring, of course, to “Cloud Atlas,” where John Toll and Frank Griebe collaborated with the Wachowskis and Tom Twyker on what is widely considered one of the most ambitious films of the year.

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<p>Ang Lee on the set of &quot;Life of Pi.&quot;</p>

Ang Lee on the set of "Life of Pi."

Credit: AP Photo

Roundup: 'Visionary' Ang Lee rewarded by Visual Effects Society

Also: Reviewing the original song contenders, and 'Disconnect' to open SBIFF

Ang Lee could well miss the Best Director cut when the Oscar nominations are announced next week, but even if he does, the "Life of Pi" director is receiving plenty of appreciation from below-the-line branches. The Motion Picture Sound Editors will be feting him in February, and now the Visual Effects Society has followed suit: Lee will receive their Visionary Award, first presented last year to Christopher Nolan, at their awards ceremony next month. VES awards chair Jeff Okun says, "[Lee] pushed the envelope of creation of visual effects for telling a story. In our generation, only 'Star Wars' did that." It certainly won't be the only recognition "Life of Pi" receives from this particular guild. [Variety]  

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