<p>Charlize Theron in 'Snow White and the&nbsp;Huntsman&quot;</p>

Charlize Theron in 'Snow White and the Huntsman"

Credit: Universal Pictures

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Visual Effects

'The Avengers,' 'The Hobbit,' 'Life of Pi,' 'Prometheus' and 'Snow White and the Huntsman' 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.)

I can’t say the nominees in the Best Visual Effects category this year are unusual. We have three summer blockbusters, one Christmas blockbuster and one gorgeous 3D Best Picture contender. Two films could perhaps be considered “snubbed,” though.

“Cloud Atlas” being left off became more and more predictable as we got closer and closer to the nominees – this divisive bomb just wasn’t that loved in Hollywood. “The Dark Knight Rises,” however, is a surprising omission. It joins “Insomnia” and “Following” as rare Christopher Nolan films to be shut out of Oscar nominations. As far as the race for the win is concerned, this ranks right up with Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress as being a done deal.

The nominees are…

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

"Django Unchained"

Credit: Gallery1988/AMPAS

The Academy teams with Gallery1988 for Best Picture print exhibition

Which one is your favorite?

The Academy has teamed up with Gallery1988 in Los Angeles to present a new Oscar-centric exhibition, "For Your Consideration," featuring originally designed artwork for each of the nine Best Picture nominees this year.

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Oscar Talk: Ep. 105 -- Affleck wins another and the nominees do lunch

Oscar Talk: Ep. 105 -- Affleck wins another and the nominees do lunch

Also: Digging into the visual effects and animated categories

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>Anthony Hopkins and Scarlett Johansson in &quot;Hitchcock&quot;</p>

Anthony Hopkins and Scarlett Johansson in "Hitchcock"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Oscar Guide: 2013: Best Makeup and Hairstyling

'Hitchcock,' 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' and 'Les Misérables' 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.)

The first year of “Best Makeup and Hairstyling” doesn’t suggest much has changed in this category with the hairstylists now being more prominently recognized. We continue to have a biopic where a famous actor was transformed into a famous historical figure, a historical epic with aging and battle wounds, and a fantasy epic which created many a monster.

As this category was whittled down to seven bake-off finalists and three nominees, there were surprise omissions at both the first (“Cloud Atlas”) and second (“Lincoln”) stages. But for those of us who have watched this category for years, we have come to realize nothing can really be considered a surprise with this lot. And this year, the category is WIDE OPEN. That is refreshing.

The nominees are…

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<p>At least one Academy member is voting for &quot;Silver Linings Playbook&quot; across the board.</p>

At least one Academy member is voting for "Silver Linings Playbook" across the board.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Roundup: Inside the minds of three Oscar voters

Also: The politics of the In Memoriam montage, and 'Lincoln' vs. Connecticut

Various outlets do features along these lines every year, but for some reason, getting Academy members to share their ballots anonymous never loses its thrill for me -- they may just be single voices out of 6000-plus members, but they often make it that much easier to understand where certain Oscar voting trends are coming from. The LA Times has printed the picks of three members -- a producer, director and actor, two of them former nominees themselves -- with commentary. The actor is clearly indicative of where the Academy's "Silver Linings Playbook" love has been coming from, voting for it in every possible category, while the producer and director spread their affections around a little more, with "Zero Dark Thirty," "Argo," "Lincoln" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" all getting some respect. No unanimous choices, either. [LA Times]

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

Zhang Ziyi in "The Grandmaster."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: Wong Kar-wai's long-awaited 'The Grandmaster' opens Berlin on a conflicted note

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
Typically gorgeous but narratively choppy martial arts epic fails to fly

BERLIN - The waiting, as noted philosopher Thomas Earl Petty once said, is the hardest part. Just as some of Terrence Malick's languorously produced films premiered as near-mirages, to the point that the mere fact of their existence had to be absorbed before the critical conversation could begin in earnest, it's difficult to consider Wong Kar-wai's "The Grandmaster" without its extensively delayed arrival having some effect on one's gut response.

In the moment, heated anticipation can turn a merely good film into a masterpiece, a mere misfire into a disaster. "The Grandmaster," a predictably picturesque but surprisingly unconfident foray into would-be lusty commercial movie-making for the singular arthouse stylist of "Chungking Express" and "In the Mood for Love," goes to neither of these extremes, but its missteps are doubly dismaying for the knowledge that Wong deliberated over them so long.

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<p>Roman Coppola poses for a portrait at the 2013 Oscar Nominee Luncheon</p>

Roman Coppola poses for a portrait at the 2013 Oscar Nominee Luncheon

Credit: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Roman Coppola on collaborating with Wes Anderson on 'Moonrise Kingdom'

The Oscar nominee calls their process 'practical' and 'matter of fact'

It was a series of circumstances that led to Roman Coppola's working relationship with director Wes Anderson. Filmmaker Kit Carson first introduced the two after being involved with Anderson's short film (and soon-to-be feature) "Bottle Rocket." Coppola really liked the film but doesn't recall whether there was necessarily any spark of a future collaboration in there. It was just the beginnings of an aesthetic appreciation.

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<p>&quot;Asad&quot;</p>

"Asad"

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Live Action Short Film

'Asad,' 'Buzkashi Boys,' 'Curfew,' 'Death of a Shadow' and 'Henry' square off

For professional pundits and armchair awards geeks alike, the short film categories can be the most fun to handicap -- since there's little basis on which to size up the race beyond the films themselves, and even then, it can hard to guess what Academy voters will see in them. For every year that the winner seems patently obvious, there's another in which the voters surprise with something out of left field. And getting a look at the nominees before the ceremony is no longer the rare advantage it once was: Magnolia Pictures and Shorts International released this year's live-action and animated short nominees on February 1.

Though last year's winner in the category, Irish writer-director Terry George, was an established name in feature film circles, this category is traditionally the domain of up-and-comers, with a number of past champions progressing to bigger things: Andrea Arnold ("Fish Tank"), Martin McDonagh ("In Bruges"), David Frankel ("The Devil Wears Prada") and current DGA president Taylor Hackford all made significant breakthroughs with a win here. Whether any of this year's finalists will progress to their ranks is, like everything about this category, anyone's guess. 

The nominees are...

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<p>Ben&nbsp;Wishaw in &quot;Cloud Atlas&quot;</p>

Ben Wishaw in "Cloud Atlas"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

'Cloud Atlas,' 'Impossible,' 'Life of Pi,' 'Lincoln' lead International Film Music nominations

Alexandre Desplat also has a strong showing

Sometimes I feel like it would be helpful for the International Film Music Critics Association to release its list of nominees prior to the Oscar nominations. There is no real "precursor" to help understand what the music branch might be thinking. Then again, as evidenced by this year's slate, maybe they wouldn't be that helpful at all. A critics group's choices are bound to differ from a group of composers' choices, and so it has this year.

Four films led the way with three nods each: "Cloud Atlas," "The Impossible," "Life of Pi" and "Lincoln." Only the last two, of course, managed Oscar nominations. But Alexandre Desplat also had a great showing, nominated for film composer of the year and receiving individual notices for work on "Moonrise Kingdom," "Rise of the Guardians" and "Zero Dark Thirty." He was Oscar-nominated for "Argo" and also cranked out music for "Rust and Bone." I imagine he'll be right back in the thick of it next year with "The Monuments Men."

Check out the full list of nominees below. Winners will be announced on February 21. And as always, you know, The Circuit.

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

"The Boxtrolls"

Credit: Focus Features

LAIKA and Focus Features announce start of production on 'The Boxtrolls'

Coming October 2014

Focus Features is very much in he LAIKA business now, and after the success of "Coraline" and "ParaNorman," the two are teaming up again on "The Boxtrolls."

The film, which began production today and is set for an October 17, 2014 release, will be another stop-motion/CG hybrid 3D endeavor directed by Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable. It's based on Alan Snow's best-selling fantasy adventure novel "Here Be Monsters" and will feature actors Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Elle Fanning and Isaac Hempstead-Wright on the voice cast, among others.

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