<p>&quot;Les Mis&eacute;rables&quot; will be opening while voters have ballots in hand. Could inevitable box office stories help push it along?</p>

"Les Misérables" will be opening while voters have ballots in hand. Could inevitable box office stories help push it along?

Credit: Universal Pictures

Off the Carpet: Ballots are out

As the Academy prepares to speak up, where are we now?

Normally this column would begin with something like, "Ballots have been mailed to Oscar voters today," but that begs reminding that for the first time ever, the Academy has adopted an electronic voting system in addition to paper ballots (for those who request them). How will that change the course of the season? Is chatter about glitches and lack of understanding just a facile talking point blown out of proportion? Maybe. The Academy has been very diligent in reminding its membership of the changes, so I think it'll be fine, but what is tangible in all of this is the landscape as a result of the first major nominations announcements of the season.

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<p>Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro in &quot;Silver Linings Playbook.&quot;</p>

Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro in "Silver Linings Playbook."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'Silver Linings Playbook' rules the Satellite Awards

Five awards for the comedy, including Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress

As I've said before, I don't know a lot about the International Press Academy, which quietly holds the Satellite Awards every year, but I've gathered this much: they really, really like "Silver Linings Playbook." At last night's ceremony, David O. Russell's pleasantly frayed romantic comedy won Best Picture, Director and Film Editing, as well as the top two acting prizes for stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.

One of the few major categories it didn't scoop was Best Adapted Screenplay, which went to "Life of Pi" -- Ang Lee's FX-heavy meta-fable also won Best Cinematography, but oddly lost the Best Visual Effects award to "Flight." As their unusual slate of nominees already showed, the Satellites don't generally follow the herd: Javier Bardem took Best Supporting Actor, while two films, neither of them "Amour," tied in the foreign -language race. Still, even they couldn't resist Anne Hathaway in "Les Misérables," which, with two extra trophies for its aural elements, ended up the night's second-biggest winner. Full list of winners after the jump, with everything else at The Circuit..  

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<p>Richard Gere in &quot;Arbitrage.&quot;</p>

Richard Gere in "Arbitrage."

Credit: Roadside Attractions

Roundup: Richard Gere joins the Palm Springs honoree list

Also: Composing 'Skyfall,' and should we know the Oscar voting tallies?

Another day, another Palm Springs Film Festival honoree. (I totally missed the addition of Helen Mirren to the list last week, but I imagine even she can't keep up with the honorary awards she racks up these days.) The latest one is "Arbitrage" star Richard Gere, who'll receive the Chairman's Award -- following Bradley Cooper, he's the second actor tapped for a gong at this year's festival. After a slow start to the season that saw him miss out on an Indie Spirit nod, Gere has rallied a bit in the last week: this publicity-friendly Palm Springs honor consolidates a semi-unexpected Best Actor Golden Globe nod that saw his stock rise in a very crowded race -- where potential vote-splintering at the bottom end of the Oscar ballot, combined with distributor Roadside Attractions' campaign savvy, raises the possibility of a surprise entry. Could it be Gere? I'm increasingly tempted to go there. [PSIFF]

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'The Master,' Bigelow, Phoenix, Riva win San Francisco Film Critics Circle awards
Credit: Columbia Pictures

'The Master,' Bigelow, Phoenix, Riva win San Francisco Film Critics Circle awards

'Lincoln' wins for screenplay and supporting actor

The San Francisco Film Critics Circle has joined the game, and the bandwagon for Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master," handing the film Best Picture and Best Actor honors. Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director for "Zero Dark Thirty" while Emmanuelle Riva won Best Actress for "Amour." Check out the full list of winners below and keep track of the season at The Circuit.

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<p>Pedro Almodovar and Jean-Paul Gaultier at the former's Academy tribute on Thursday.</p>

Pedro Almodovar and Jean-Paul Gaultier at the former's Academy tribute on Thursday.

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Stephen Frears, Jean-Paul Gaultier and others honor Pedro Almodóvar at Academy tribute

The two-time Oscar winner was toasted by AMPAS on Thursday in London

LONDON -- It scarcely needs to be stated that, in terms of professional arduousness, film journalism is not exactly coal-mining -- so I understand when our occasional complaints about the wearying nature of the circuit rankle with some readers. Too many festivals. Too many parties. Too many canapés. How your hearts must bleed.  

Still, the truth is that when attending such events becomes a key part of one's job -- and compared to my across-the-pond colleagues, it's a far smaller component of mine -- not everything is an unqualified pleasure. So when an invitation drops in your inbox that gets you even half as excited as a "Twilight"-bound tween, it must be for a rather special occasion. Such was the case when I was asked if I'd like to attend AMPAS's intimate tribute to one of our most essential living auteurs, Pedro Almodóvar, in London -- and that was before I knew Grace Jones and Kristin Scott Thomas were also on the guest list.

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<p>&quot;The Master&quot;</p>

"The Master"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'The Master,' 'Ang Lee' win with Kansas City Film Critics Circle

Other prizes to 'Argo,' 'The Cabin in the Woods' and 'Amour'

The second-oldest critics group in the country (behind the NYFCC), the Kansas City Film Critics Circle, has announced its slate of 2012 winners. "The Master" took Best Picture while "Life of Pi" helmer Ang Lee won Best Director.  Daniel Day-Lewis and Jennifer Lawrence won top acting honors for "Lincoln" and "Silver Linings Playbook," respectively. Check out the full set of winners below and remember to keep track of the season at The Circuit.

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<p>Emayatzy Corinealdi in &quot;Middle of Nowhere.&quot;</p>

Emayatzy Corinealdi in "Middle of Nowhere."

Credit: AFFRM

African-American Film Critics hail 'Zero Dark Thirty,' 'Middle of Nowhere'

Ben Affleck takes Best Director, Denzel Washington is Best Actor

The African-American Film Critics' Association is an interesting group on the precursor circuit -- while not explicitly dedicated to promoting black cinema and artists in the manner of, say, the Image Awards, their selections invariably reflect their identity to some extent. This year, for example, four of their five acting winners -- Denzel Washington, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Nate Parker and Quvenzhané Wallis -- are African-American.

Meanwhile, though Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" scooped yet another Best Picture gong, the group's biggest winner was African-American writer-director Ava DuVernay's "Middle of Nowhere." The indie drama landed four awards for Best Actress, Screenplay, Independent Film and Music, as well as placing at #4 on their 10 Best list. Nice to see this strong film having a day in the sun, even if its dynamite pair of supporting actresses, Lorraine Toussaint and Edwina Findley, couldn't defeat the redoubtable Sally Field. Full list of winners after the jump, and keep up with the trophy trail so far at The Circuit.

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<p>Tommy Lee Jones in &quot;Lincoln.&quot;&nbsp;</p>

Tommy Lee Jones in "Lincoln." 

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

'Lincoln' leads Houston Film Critics nods

'Anna Karenina' nabs a nomination... as the year's worst

“I think with each year, we come out and stake our ground on the question of best film, and particularly with some of our out-of-the-box choices.” So says Houston Film Critics' Society president Josh Starnes, and while I admire the sentiment, I'm struggling to identify too many out-of-the-box picks in their 2012 nominations list -- led by "Lincoln," with eight nods. Save a Best Picture nomination for the contentious "Cloud Atlas," and arguably a supporting mention for Judi Dench in "Skyfall," this looks largely like a copy-paste of umpteen other groups' lists this season, with "Les Misérables" and "The Master" also doing well with six nods apiece.

More wilful is their Worst Film of 2012 category, where the critics have decided to give Joe Wright's ambitious "Anna Karenina" a kicking -- and it's not the only film on the list that I rather like. Anyway, check out the full slate after the jump, and everything else at The Circuit.

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<p>&quot;Beasts of the Southern&nbsp;Wild&quot;</p>

"Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Exclusive: 'Les Mis,' 'Django,' 'Beasts,' 'Amour' among 2012 scripts not eligible for WGA

A look a the official ballot reveals the absence of a few usual suspects

Every year it's worth noting that a number of the original and adapted screenplays in the hunt for Oscar consideration won't get the extra bump of a nomination from the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Reasons for failing to qualify include the writer of the script not being a guild member or not retroactively handling the requisite process, among other things.

After taking a look at the official WGA ballot this season, I count 15 scripts from our screenplay Contenders pages that will not be eligible for consideration. Many of them seem out of the Oscar hunt for the most part and the number of notable exclusions is smaller than normal.

In the original screenplay category, as always, Quentin Tarantino will not be competing for his work on "Django Unchained." He has never been a member of the guild, but of course, that didn't stop his scripts for "Pulp Fiction" and "Inglorious Basterds" to go on to Oscar recognition. (Tarantino was similarly not a member of the DGA until this year, but he received two nominations prior nominations from that group, nevertheless.)

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<p>&quot;Men in&nbsp;Black 3&quot;</p>

"Men in Black 3"

Credit: Columbia Pictures

'Cloud Atlas' fails to make the finalists for Best Makeup and Hairstyling

'Hitchcock,' 'Looper' and 'Snow White and the Huntsman' are among the seven

The Academy has announced its shortlist of seven Best Makeup and Hairstyling contenders. The films will proceed to the "bake-off" stage, where reels of the work put into the makeup and hairstyling effects will be screened for the branch and three nominees will be chosen, revealed alongside the rest of the Oscar nominations on January 10.

The immediate exclusion of note is "Cloud Atlas," which transformed a number of movie stars across a variety of eras, ages and even races. Some of the work was quite wonderful, but much of it was a bone of contention for some, and clearly, that bore itself out in the narrowing process for the branch.

Also absent is "Holy Motors," which isn't a shock, one supposes. Who knows if the membership even bothered to watch the film. Because you'd think, if they had, they would have seen that it's far and away the best representation of their contribution to the form this year. Alas, it wasn't meant to be, and with "Who Were We?" failing to make the finalist cut for Best Original Song, the film's Oscar hopes in general have likely been dashed.

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