<p>Milos Forman with Woody Harrelson and Courtney Love on the set of &quot;The People Vs. Larry Flynt.&quot;</p>

Milos Forman with Woody Harrelson and Courtney Love on the set of "The People Vs. Larry Flynt."

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Milos Forman wins Lifetime Achievement Award from DGA

The two-time Oscar winner is the 34th recipient of the Guild's top honor

There's something to be said for not handing out lifetime achievement awards on an annual basis: when someone gets one, it's because a voting body genuinely thinks an artist's career merits the effort that goes such a tribute, and not just because they have a space to fill and that person's number has come up.

The Directors' Guild of America has been particularly stingy with their own top honor of late: the last recipient was Norman Jewison in 2010, and that came four years after the previous presentation, to Clint Eastwood. This year, the DGA has decided it's in a generous mood again, and the beneficiary is a worthy one: 80-year-old Czech-born master Milos Forman.

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<p>(L-R)&nbsp;John&nbsp;Krasinski, Gus Van&nbsp;Sant and Matt Damon on the set of &quot;Promised Land&quot;</p>

(L-R) John Krasinski, Gus Van Sant and Matt Damon on the set of "Promised Land"

Credit: Focus Features

Matt Damon, John Krasinski and Gus Van Sant call 'Promised Land' their attempt at Capra

'It's a pro-community movie.'

NEW YORK -- Focus Features is rallying the discussion around its late-season arrival "Promised Land" with a press day on Monday and an intimate luncheon this afternoon at Aquavit on 59th. Stars/screenwriters Matt Damon and John Krasinski were on hand, as well as director Gus Van Sant.

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<p>Jennifer Lawrence in &quot;Silver Linings Playbook.&quot;</p>

Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Jennifer Lawrence named Outstanding Performer of the Year by Santa Barbara fest

The Best Actress frontrunner will receive a tribute on February 2

In case you were worried that Jennifer Lawrence is going a little under the radar this season, don't worry: the Santa Barbara International Film Festival is taking care of the situation. Festival director Roger Durling announced yesterday that the 22 year-old actress will receive their Outstanding Performer of the Year honor of February 2, in recognition of her 2012 work in both "Silver Linings Playbook" and "The Hunger Games." ("The House at the End of the Street" went unmentioned, though I assume that's an oversight.) 

It's an award that has a reliable habit of going to Oscar frontrunners. Previous recipients Colin Firth, Penelope Cruz, Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron all received the honor en route to their eventual Oscar wins, while Kate Winslet, Heath Ledger, James Franco and last year's recipient Viola Davis were honored in years they were nominated by the Academy. (The only time the SBIFF selectors behind this award haven't seen eye-to-eye with the Academy was with Angelina Jolie in 2007, who missed the Oscar cut for "A Mighty Heart.")

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<p>(left to right) Fox chairman Jim Gianopulos, French culture minister Aurelie Filipetti, Ang Lee, Melanie Laurent and Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler at the presentation of Lee's award.</p>

(left to right) Fox chairman Jim Gianopulos, French culture minister Aurelie Filipetti, Ang Lee, Melanie Laurent and Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler at the presentation of Lee's award.

Credit: 42 West

Roundup: Honors on both sides of the pond for Ang Lee

Also: The unveiling of 'The Hobbit,' and Spielberg's missing Bond movie

As if the box-office numbers for "Life of Pi" over the weekend weren't enough, Ang Lee has found himself honored with two very different accolades over the past 24 hours. First, the French Ministry of Culture presented the Taiwanese-born director with the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters for his contribution to the arts -- an honor previously bestowed on such non-French filmmakers as Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg. While that was going on, it was also announced yesterday that Lee will receive that 2013 Filmmaker Award at the Motion Picture Sound Editors' Golden Reel ceremony on February 17. MPSE president Bobbi Banks credited him with "continually break[ing] ground through the use of the latest technology both visually and sonically," adding that in "Life of Pi," "his use of Dolby Atmos guides audiences into the emotional intimacy of the sound experience." Is it one to watch in the sound categories?

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<p>Sacha Gervasi at the New York premiere of &quot;Hitchcock&quot;</p>

Sacha Gervasi at the New York premiere of "Hitchcock"

Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Sacha Gervasi refutes 'Hitchcock' criticism at Fox Searchlight holiday soirée

And Benh Zeitlin aims to be Herzog to Quvenzhané Wallis's Kinski

NEW YORK -- Fox Searchlight Pictures held its annual east coast holiday party this evening at Andaz 5th Avenue with a nice second-floor spread with principals from the studio's awards season hopefuls -- "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Hitchcock" and "The Sessions" -- on hand. Spirits were particularly high after "Beasts" and "Sessions" combined for six Independent Spirit Award nominations (with one each for "Ruby Sparks" and "Sound of my Voice").

I was glad to finally meet "Hitchcock" director Sacha Gervasi, a charismatic guy who spoke with me about film critics baring their teeth and declaring that he "made up" the events of his film. I would posit that hero-worship may have gotten the better of many -- like, say, Manohla Dargis, whose review basically refuted reporting done by her New York Times colleague John Anderson a week earlier. "It...takes extravagant liberties with the dead," Dargis wrote. "Stephen Rebello, author of 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,' the book on which 'Hitchcock' is partly based, interviewed many of Hitchcock’s collaborators on 'Psycho' and confirmed the film’s version of events," Anderson wrote.

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<p>Gael Garcia Bernal, Bidzina Gujabidze and Hani Furstenberg in &quot;The Loneliest Planet.&quot;</p>

Gael Garcia Bernal, Bidzina Gujabidze and Hani Furstenberg in "The Loneliest Planet."

Credit: Sundance Selects

Rewinding to surprise Spirit nominee 'The Loneliest Planet'

Julia Loktev's fascinating microbudget indie also scored a top Gotham nod

Every year, the Independent Spirit Award nominations reveal American independent cinema to be a landscape where, to pinch Orwell's well-worn line, some are more equal than others. The awards may idealistically present themselves as a union of Davids standing tall against the hulking big-studio Goliaths, but the cosy we're-all-in-this-together front doesn't ring true when the nominees show up the gaping class chasms that exist merely within the so-called indie sphere.

No one's pretending a shoestring independent like "Middle of Nowhere" genuinely comes from the same stock as a starry mainstream entertainment like "Silver Linings Playbook"; these awards may ostensibly pitch them as fighting the same good fight, but they're doing so against very different obstacles. 

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<p>A scene from &quot;Moonrise Kingdom.&quot;</p>

A scene from "Moonrise Kingdom."

Credit: Focus Features

'Silver Linings Playbook,' 'Moonrise Kingdom' lead Indie Spirit noms

'Beasts,' 'Bernie,' and 'Keep the Lights On' round out top category

The season's first major precursor nominations (sorry, Gotham Awards) have landed and, as usual, the Independent Spirit Awards have given the biggest boost to the biggest indies, amplifying the Oscar buzz they already had. It's no surprise, then, to see the Weinsteins' "Silver Linings Playbook" and Focus Features' "Moonrise Kingdom" leading the field with five nods apiece.

However, while the former's Best Picture Oscar nod was already a sure thing, the haul for "Moonrise," coming on the heels of its Gotham triumph last night, raises the question of whether Wes Anderson's nostalgic bauble, earmarked by most pundits chiefly as a screenplay contender, can crack the Academy's top field.

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<p>Helen Mirren and Athony Hopkins in &quot;Hitchcock.&quot;</p>

Helen Mirren and Athony Hopkins in "Hitchcock."

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Roundup: The trouble with the artist biopic

Also: The foreign-language Oscar boost, and holding off the 'Les Mis' train

It sure feels like a long time ago that Fox Searchlight announced it was releasing "Hitchcock" in 2012 and multiple Oscar pundits adjusted their Best Picture charts: the film's detractors keep growing in number, some offended, others merely bored. (I haven't had an opportunity to see it yet.) One of the best pieces for the prosecution I've read comes from Scott Tobias, who uses his issues with the film as a springboard for a discussion about the problem with artist biopics in general: they tend to be so much more conventional than the figures they're about, and "any scene that fails to illuminate the creative process is more banal than trivia." He cites "Topsy-Turvy" and "32 Short Films About Glenn Gould" as examples of films that successfully dodge the "Wiki-movie" pitfalls of the artist biopic; I'd add "I'm Not There" and "Before Night Falls," among others. [A.V. Club]

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<p>&quot;Moonrise Kingdom&quot;</p>

"Moonrise Kingdom"

Credit: Focus Features

'Moonrise Kingdom' takes top honors at 22nd annual Gotham Awards

'Beasts of the Southern Wild' takes two prizes

NEW YORK -- The Gotham Awards at Cipriani Wall Street were a first for me this evening. Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Jack Black, Mark Duplass, Melanie Lynskey, David O. Russell, Marion Cotillard, all on hand to ring in the season with the first (real) awards show of the year.

There's very little I could add that Greg didn't already cover in his live-blog of the awards, New York's answer to the Independent Spirit Awards. I sat, I ate, I endured Mike Birbiglia (hey, he tried). "Moonrise Kingdom" was the big winner as "The Master" got nowhere (and looks to be going nowhere fast in the awards race unless a critics group or two speaks up fast).

I was very happy for documentary winner "How to Survive a Plague," which will be discussed at length along with other docs in the race in Friday's podcast. But the rest felt like my screener pile awards, because other winners -- "Middle of Nowhere," "Your Sister's Sister" -- and nominees -- "Safety Not Guaranteed," "Hello, I Must Be Going" -- are sitting over there on the shelf, waiting for me to see them. And I will.

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<p>Denis Lavant in one of his many, many &quot;Holy Motors&quot; guises.</p>

Denis Lavant in one of his many, many "Holy Motors" guises.

Credit: Indomina Releasing

The not-impossible dream: an Oscar nomination (or two) for 'Holy Motors'

Could the unpredictable music and makeup branches throw a wild card?

With awards season now unavoidably under way -- the Oscar nominations are just over six weeks away, if you can get your head around that -- I'm facing the possibility of another year where few of my personal favorites are in the hunt. Of course, I have yet to see the likes of "Zero Dark Thirty," "Les Misérables" or even "Lincoln": I could fall in love with any one of them, as so many others have, and thus have something to root for as fervently as I did "The Hurt Locker" a few years ago. For now, however, the projected Best Picture roster and the early drafts of my 2012 Top 10 mostly appear poles apart. 

Which is all the more reason to get invested in the finer details of the race: the narrow openings and blind spots that could benefit less expected films in less keenly scrutinized categories. Be it last year's Best Sound Editing nod for "Drive," a Costume Design mention for "Bright Star" or an Original Song bid for "Dancer in the Dark" -- making Lars von Trier an Oscar-nominated songwriter, if nothing else -- I've come to treasure isolated votes of Academy approval for adored outsiders. Such nominations are almost comical in how inadequately they represent the films' qualities, but there's something perversely satisfying about seeing these largely uninvited Cinderellas turning up at the dance after all. And the outlier I'm rooting for most this year? "Holy Motors." 

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