<p>Jessica Chastain in &quot;Zero Dark Thirty.&quot;</p>

Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty."

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Review: Bigelow conquers talk and action in unflinching 'Zero Dark Thirty'

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The film opened in limited release yesterday

Kathryn Bigelow deserves credit for many, many things about her tremendous military thriller "The Hurt Locker," but she'd be the first -- and probably the gladdest -- to admit that the simple fact of her gender isn't one of them. That didn't stop multiple media commentators from sanctifying her as some kind of poster girl for "anything you can do, I can do better"-style feminism in Hollywood, as if a woman could only direct a stone-cold action picture as a reproach to the men who handle most such fare, and not merely because it's what she's good at -- and has been good at for over 20 years.  

Bigelow bore this unsolicited symbolic weight with patient, if seemingly weary, grace all the way to the Oscar podium, offering multiple polite statements to the effect that she's not so much a "woman filmmaker" as a woman who makes films, and refusing the Academy's unspoken invitation to turn her history-making Oscar acceptance speech into a self-aggrandizing soapbox stand.

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<p>&quot;Rise of the Guardians&quot;</p>

"Rise of the Guardians"

Credit: DreamWorks Animation

Black Film Critics Circle springs for 'Zero Dark Thirty,' 'The Intouchables,' 'Rise of the Guardians'

Daniel Day-Lewis and Jessica Chastain steam roll right along

The Black Film Critics Circle has jumped on the "Zero Dark Thirty" bandwagon, handing the film Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress honors. "Django Unchained" and "Lincoln" each won a pair of awards, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz) for the former, Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Best Ensemble for the former. Check out the full list of winners below and keep track of the season via The Circuit.

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<p>Lucy Alibar at the Los Angeles premiere of &quot;Beasts of the Southern Wild&quot;</p>

Lucy Alibar at the Los Angeles premiere of "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Credit: AP Photo/Todd Williamson

For writer Lucy Alibar, 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' couldn't be more personal

How an intimate play exploring her relationship with her father became one of 2012's most lauded indie films

As indie sensation "Beasts of the Southern Wild" makes its way through the awards season, and director Benh Zeitlin and star Quvenzhané Wallis pick up countless breakthrough prizes along the way, it would be worth bearing in mind how the identity of the film grew from a little play by writer Lucy Alibar.

In the stage production "Juicy and Delicious," there is no little girl. There is a boy, whose father is dying, much like Hushpuppy's in the feature film, and for Alibar, it was a way of working through emotions she was feeling in the midst of a health scare with her own father.

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<p>Four songs from&nbsp;&quot;Django Unchained&quot;&nbsp;qualified for Best Original&nbsp;Song, more than any other film.</p>

Four songs from "Django Unchained" qualified for Best Original Song, more than any other film.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Tech Support: International lineup of Best Original Song contenders presents a great opportunity

From Adele to Paul Williams, Ennio Morricone to Bombay Jayashri

With the recent reveal of the Academy's list of Best Original Song qualifiers -- all 75 of them -- the music branch has a wide swath of popular artists to choose from. Of course, the branch tends to focus on the work itself, not necessarily the talent involved, but it's worth mentioning that Fiona Apple, Florence + the Machine, Karen O, Christina Aguilera, Adele, Keith Urban, Mumford and Sons, The Bootleggers & Emmylou Harris, Arcade Fire, Dolly Parton, Katy Perry, Paul Williams, Jordin Sparks and Norah Jones are all in the mix. That's quite the role call.

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<p>Jason Clarke in &quot;Zero Dark Thirty.&quot;</p>

Jason Clarke in "Zero Dark Thirty."

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Roundup: Senators take on 'Zero Dark Thirty'

Also: Ann Dowd's self-funded Oscar dream, and 2012's most overlooked gems

Looks like the debate over the depiction of torture in "Zero Dark Thirty" isn't going to end any time soon. Three US senators, all in positions concerning national security, have taken it upon themselves to dismiss the film's portrayal is "grossly inaccurate and misleading" in an open letter to Sony Pictures chairman Michael Lynton. "'Zero Dark Thirty' is factually inaccurate," they write, "and we believe that you have an obligation to state that the role of torture in the hunt for Usama (sic) bin Laden is not based on facts, but rather part of the film's fictional narrative," They further accuse the film of having "the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner." There is plenty to counter in such claims -- both regarding the events on screen and their relative fictional status -- so I expect this conversation to continue. [Variety]

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<p>Ben&nbsp;Affleck</p>

Ben Affleck

Credit: Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP

Ben Affleck sets the record straight on 'Justice League'

The 'Argo' director recently praised Marvel's 'Avengers' build and welcomed smart genre projects

The internet was abuzz a few months back when what turned out to be an overzealous report put Ben Affleck in the driver's seat of the planned Warner Bros. team-up film "Justice League." The report was soon enough shot down and everyone went about their business, but in a recent interview about his work on "Argo," Affleck said he hated talking about it in the media at all because the eventual stories shed a negative light on the project.

"I just want to make it clear because it’s not like I had something to even pass on," he said. "Because someone will eventually do 'Justice League' and they'll go, like, 'Ben Affleck passed on it,' and it won't be true. So I don’t mind setting the record straight. It's one of those things where the closest I came was some people talked to me about it like at a meeting. They were like, 'Here's the stuff we’re doing,' you know? 'Here’s what we're looking at.' That kind of thing. And they suggested it. But I don’t think there’s a script. I don’t think there’s anything."

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<p>Ben Affleck and Chris Terrio on the set of &quot;Argo&quot;</p>

Ben Affleck and Chris Terrio on the set of "Argo"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Ben Affleck and Chris Terrio on 'Argo,' the Middle East and the root of all drama

The director and writer of one of the season's biggest hits discuss their process

NEW YORK -- When he made his way into the director's chair for a new phase in his career, Ben Affleck always assumed that if he came across an existing script, he would likely just take over and re-write it. And of course, he has the credentials: an Oscar for co-writing "Good Will Hunting" with Matt Damon goes a long way toward legitimizing his talent as a writer. But when "Argo" was fired across his bow by Smoke House honchos Grant Heslov and George Clooney, that wasn't the case.

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<p>Ziyi Zhang in &quot;The Grandmaster.&quot;</p>

Ziyi Zhang in "The Grandmaster."

Credit: Annapurna Pictures

Wong Kar-wai's 'The Grandmaster' to open 2013 Berlinale

The director will also preside over the competition jury

As I mentioned last week, compared to Cannes and Venice, the Berlin Film Festival tends to look like something of a weak sister when it comes to securing major auteur titles. Their festival curtain-raisers, meanwhile, tend to be on the low-key side: while a good film, this year's opener, "Farewell, My Queen," wasn't exactly an event, while "True Grit" was old news by the time it kicked off the 2011 edition.

Both those traditions have been broken in grand style by this morning's doozy of an announcement. The official festival email slyly mentioned only "Opening Film" in the subject line: upon opening it, I had to blink a few times before believing that, yes, Wong Kar-wai's long, long delayed "The Grandmaster" will indeed be kicking off the Berlinale with its international premiere on February 7. (It's an international rather than a world premiere because it's scheduled for release in China the month before.)

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<p>Naomi Watts and Tom Holland in &quot;The Impossible.&quot;</p>

Naomi Watts and Tom Holland in "The Impossible."

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Roundup: Witherspoon stumps for Watts

Also: Hooper, Danna honored by Palm Springs, 'Holy Motors' tops IndieWire poll

Though the film itself can't seem to catch much of a break in the awards race -- those omissions from Oscar's VFX and makeup shortlists still sting -- "The Impossible" star Naomi Watts keeps gathering momentum. After neatly scoring SAG, Globe and BFCA nods last week, the actress now has her own vocal Academy advocate (her Julia Roberts, if you will) in the form of Reese Witherspoon. A public fan letter to Watts from Witherspoon, who is not a close personal friend, compares her performance to those of Meryl Streep in "Sophie's Choice" and Sally Field in "Norma Rae" (both Oscar winners, as it happens) and declares "The Impossible" "one of the best films I have ever seen in my entire life." Witherspoon is not the "Impossible" team's first celebrity cheerleader: Angelina Jolie hosted a screening last month. Is this the tip of the iceberg in terms of actors' branch support? [EW]

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<p>Elle Fanning in &quot;Ginger &amp;&nbsp;Rosa&quot;</p>

Elle Fanning in "Ginger & Rosa"

Credit: A24

10 outside-the-box considerations as the Academy votes

Performances that could use a look

With ballots in Academy members hands as of yesterday, the great settling is off and running. Various critics groups and top 10 lists have narrowed the pile enough that voters have a pretty good idea of the landscape in each category. More than that, "frontrunners" have staked their claim on the race, leaving precious little space for dark horses to maneuver.

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