<p>&quot;The Pirates!&nbsp;Band of Misfits&quot;</p>

"The Pirates! Band of Misfits"

Credit: Sony Pictures

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Animated Feature Film

'Brave,' 'Frankenweenie,' 'ParaNorman,' 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits' and 'Wreck-It Ralph' slug it out

(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.)

This year's race for Best Animated Feature Film was as competitive as it's ever been. There were a boatload of qualifying contenders (21) and many of them had an angle on a nomination. And after last year's one-two punch from GKIDS, many wondered whether the usual studio product would be laced with indie players, or whether an atypically quality slate of Hollywood toons would dominate the list.

As it turned out, it was the latter, as none of the four GKIDS hopefuls this year found room. But while studios were out in force in the category, one in particularly was tellingly left out of the conversation: DreamWorks Animation's "Rise of the Guardians" failed to land a nod after turning out to be a critical and financial disappointment. It was instead replaced by a surprise nominee from a highly respected animation studio.

The nominees are…

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<p>&quot;Django Unchained&quot;</p>

"Django Unchained"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Roundup: Have the Oscars reconnected with America?

Also: The sequels we need to see, and why Jessica Chastain is exhausted

The great Frank Rich has weighed in on the Oscar race with what is sure to remain one of the best pieces of the season, in which he celebrates what he sees as the Academy's return to relevance: "Whatever the explanation—and little in show business happens by design—the movie industry has reconnected with the country. It has produced no fewer than four movies that have provoked animated, often rancorous public debate: 'Zero Dark Thirty,' 'Argo,' 'Lincoln,' and 'Django Unchained,' a film that pushes so many hot buttons you can’t quite believe it was made." He goes on to make the case for why "Django" deserves the Best Picture award, and even if you disagree -- I certainly do -- it's an essential, exuberant read. [New York]

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<p>Daniel&nbsp;Craig in &quot;Skyfall&quot;</p>

Daniel Craig in "Skyfall"

Credit: Sony Pictures

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Music - Original Score

'Anna Karenina,' 'Argo,' 'Life of Pi,' 'Lincoln' and 'Skyfall' 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 Original Score, are you ever predictable. This year’s nominees are not diverse in terms of being films not cited in other categories – Best Picture nominees took three of the spots, while the other two contenders are from films that have nine nominations between them. Also predictably, only one first-time nominee is in the mix. Diversity was nonetheless made up for in the nationalities of the composers (four countries represented) and the locales of the nominated films – the nominees are set on three different continents and the movies’ themes resulted in Russian, Indian and Persian influences, among others, on the music.

To most of us watching this race, there were four very predictable nominees and all came through. The fifth spot was always up in the air so there were no shocking omissions. That said, I think three titles could reasonably considered “snubbed”: “Cloud Atlas” and “The Master” both received notable precursor attention. It’s also somewhat odd that “Beasts of the Southern Wild”’s great score by Benh Zeitlin and Dan Romer couldn’t score even with the film’s four big nominations. The branch kept up its tradition of only nominating one new composer.

The nominees are…

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<p>Matthew McConaughey in &quot;Mud&quot;</p>

Matthew McConaughey in "Mud"

Credit: Roadside Attractions

Jeff Nichols' 'Mud' with Matthew McConaughey gets a poster

Film is set for April 26 release

If I wasn't clear enough at Sundance, I'm a huge fan of Jeff Nichols' "Mud." I can't wait to see it again and I have no doubt it will linger in my top 10 list until the end of the year. Roadside Attractions has begun its roll-out of the film, which is set for an April 26 release, first with a trailer in advance of the North American premiere at Sundance and now with a sweet poster that puts the film's star, Matthew McConaughey, front and center. Check out my interview with McConaughey from Park City here and get a load of the full poster (which debuted at Entertainment Weekly) below.

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<p>Tim Burton on the set of &quot;Frankenweenie&quot;</p>

Tim Burton on the set of "Frankenweenie"

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Tim Burton on Ray Harryhausen, stop-motion and the personal touch of 'Frankenweenie'

The Oscar nominee discusses coming back to the property that got him fired

The last time Tim Burton made the awards press rounds, he was a nominee for 2005's "Corpse Bride." Interestingly enough, after a few decades in the live action trenches carving out his own identity and aesthetic on the screen, it's been only in the animation arena that Oscar has taken notice. He's back again this year as a nominee for his most personal film in some time, "Frankenweenie."

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<p>Michael Haneke and Emmanuelle Riva on the set of &quot;Amour&quot;</p>

Michael Haneke and Emmanuelle Riva on the set of "Amour"

Credit: Sony Classics

Stumping for Emmanuelle Riva

An impassioned plea to hold-out voters: Watch 'Amour'

There were precious few of us who thought Michael Haneke's brilliant "Amour" had the proper support to show up in the major categories at the Academy Awards. At the end of the day, it was faith well-placed, as the film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay (though I still wonder why Jean-Louis Trintignant was lost in the shuffle).

That is, in some ways, a win in and of itself. It's huge, really. But I'm troubled in my calls and conversations lately: many members, despite this strong showing, still haven't seen the film. And I would like to implore them now: watch the movie. It's not as much of a downer as you think it is. It's a beautiful exploration of its namesake. Actors in particular, it's a stunning display of your craft. And with a Best Actress race that has some excitement to it, it behooves you to make an educated pick.

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<p>&quot;Chasing Ice&quot;</p>

"Chasing Ice"

Credit: Submarine Deluxe

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Music - Original Song

'Chasing Ice,' 'Les Mis,' 'Life of Pi,' 'Skyfall' and 'Ted' 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.)

FINALLY! The music branch smartened up about this category, changed its rules and put together five entirely respectable nominees. Two major Best Picture contenders with prominently placed songs managed to score, as did a haunting new tune for a documentary, the sultry and epic opening credits title song to a major franchise movie and the cute, somewhat tongue-in-cheek opening credits title song to a comedy about a potty-mouthed, pot-smoking teddy bear.

Old favorites such as Paul Williams (“Still Alive” from “Paul Williams: Still Alive”) and Dolly Parton (“From Here to the Moon and Back” from “Joyful Noise”) must be disappointed to miss the cut. Ditto for a big younger star like Keith Urban (“For You” from “Actor of Valor”). But perhaps the most obvious surprising omission is Ennio Morricone and Elisa for “Ancora Qui” from “Django Unchained”; who knows if there will be a chance to honor Morricone again? But this category has a heavy favorite, and justly so. An upset would be disconcerting to a lot of people, for a lot of reasons.

The nominees are…

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<p>Eddie Redmayne is competing for Best Actor for his work in &quot;Les Miserables.&quot;</p>

Eddie Redmayne is competing for Best Actor for his work in "Les Miserables."

Credit: Universal Pictures

Evening Standard nominees pit 'Skyfall' against UK indies

The British film awards take place tonight

The Evening Standard Film Awards -- among the most independent-minded stops on the UK awards scene -- have a rather circuitous way of revealing their nominees, first revealing a longlist too unruly to warrant a mention (this year's featured "The Dictator" up for Best Film, for example), before announcing a three-per-category shortlist a couple of weeks before the ceremony.

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<p>Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig on the set of &quot;Skyfall.&quot;</p>

Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig on the set of "Skyfall."

Credit: Sony Pictures

'Argo' and 'Skyfall' tops with UK Regional Critics

Meanwhile, Team Edward makes its vote count

"Argo" may have been ruling the awards roost in the US for a couple of weeks now, but only this week are we going to learn if the Brits are quite as enamored of Ben Affleck's political thriller. It lost all four of its bids at the London Critics' Circle Awards two weeks ago, but this weekend, we'll see if BAFTA adds to its laurels -- I increasingly suspect they will, though it's no sure thing.

Still, "Argo" has received at least one British vote of confidence from the UK Regional Film Awards, representing the country's non-London-based critics. It received their Film of the Year award, though Affleck was pipped by "Skyfall" helmer Sam Mendes to Director of the Year. In their one public-voted award, meanwhile, Robert Pattinson took British Performance of the Year for the last "Twilight" film, which must come as some consolation after being cruelly shut out all season. Winners after the jump, and at The Circuit.   

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<p>Sheila Vand in &quot;Argo.&quot;</p>

Sheila Vand in "Argo."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Roundup: On the humbler supporting stars of 2012

Also: Guessing the win tally for 'Argo,' and trailer trickery

One of the reasons I get more bothered than some over the admittedly nebulous issue of so-called category fraud is that for every Christoph Waltz or Helen Hunt who gets slotted into the supporting race for a major role, it's harder for lesser-known actors who stand out in far smaller parts to get the recognition they deserve. If Hunt is supporting in "The Sessions," for example, then what is the superb Moon Bloodgood? So I'm glad Lisa Rosen has written this LA Times piece celebrating a number of uncelebrated faces from assorted awards contenders, including Bloodgood, Sheila Vand in "Argo" (not included in SAG's ensemble listing, by the way) and Gina Montana in "Beasts of the Southern Wild." I'd add Jesse Plemons in "The Master" and Corinne Masiero in "Rust and Bone," among others. What lesser-spotted supporting stars stood out to you? [LA Times]   

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