'Gatekeepers,' 'Sugar Man' among list of PGA documentary feature nominees

'Gatekeepers,' 'Sugar Man' among list of PGA documentary feature nominees

'The Island President,' 'The Other Dream Team' and 'A People Uncounted' round it out

Anne and I discussed the documentary feature category at length on yesterday's podcast, commenting on a wide array of movies. Naturally, then, most of them were featured in the PGA's list of nominees in the category.

The two that were -- "The Gatekeepers" and "Searching for Sugar Man" -- are easily two of the best in the field this year. The former, though, hasn't gotten a lot of discussion, but with a qualifying release this week, talk should start circulating. I saw it at Telluride in September, noting that it "provides an invaluable perspective on evolving methods of anti-terrorism while treading the philosophical waters of playing God and having the power to extinguish another life with the push of a button."

"Searching for Sugar Man," meanwhile, is potentially the most popular film of the lot this year, and that actually counts this time around, as the documentary feature category's process now allows for that kind of wide-spread appeal to register.

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Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour," tipped to win big at tomorrow's European Film Awards.
Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour," tipped to win big at tomorrow's European Film Awards.
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Previewing the European Film Awards: will 'Amour' find love?

What will win, and what should, at Europe's answer to the Oscars

I'm writing this from my hotel suite in Valletta, Malta, where the view from my balcony is foregrounded by scattered yachts sleeping on a still sea as the sleepy Maltese capital -- all hybrid Euro grandeur in honey-colored stone -- turns silently in for the night. Earlier, I spotted Michael Haneke and Mads Mikkelsen, among others, enjoying a gentle nightcap in a neighboring hotel bar, unbothered by press or publicists.

All told, it's hardly the circus you'd encounter the night before a major awards ceremony across the pond, but the European Film Awards have a very, well, continental way of doing things. Voted for by the European Film Academy, they may commonly be described as the transatlantic equivalent of the Oscars, but the EFAs have far less of an industry built around them. For one thing, they're something of a travelling celebration, the venue alternating every other year from their Berlin base camp to a range of more far-flung locales: it's a nifty way of honoring the continent's cultural diversity even when the nominees themselves center mostly on major European nations.

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<p>Jake Gyllenhaal at the LA premiere of &quot;End of Watch&quot;</p>

Jake Gyllenhaal at the LA premiere of "End of Watch"

Credit: AP Photo/Todd Williamson

Jake Gyllenhaal on building character with language off Broadway and in 'End of Watch'

The dark horse awards contender counts his latest film as a turning point

NEW YORK -- I'm running a little late as I make it over to the Laura Pels Theater on 46th Street. When I get there, a tiny crowd surrounds Jake Gyllenhaal, bearded and maned for his performance in the off-Broadway play "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet." He's almost unrecognizable, which goes a long way toward explaining why the crowd is tiny. He's gracious, all smiles, answering questions.

Later, backstage at the theater, he recalls what it was about the piece that made him finally break his long hiatus from the stage. Written by Nick Payne, the George Devine Award-winning play features Gyllenhaal (in his New York theater debut) as Terry, a loafer uncle to an affection-starved, overweight teenage girl. It's a quartet piece but Gyllenhaal shines, largely because of his character's idiosyncratic nature. That nature was founded in the play's dialogue, which Gyllenhaal says was like trying to unlock a Rubik's Cube.

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<p>Ang Lee and Jake Gyllenhaal on the set of &quot;Brokeback Mountain&quot;</p>

Ang Lee and Jake Gyllenhaal on the set of "Brokeback Mountain"

Credit: Focus Features

Jake Gyllenhaal recalls lessons learned from Ang Lee, Sam Mendes, David O. Russell and more

The young actor already has a wealth of collaborations behind him

One of the striking things you note immediately about Jake Gyllenhaal's portfolio of work is the caliber of filmmakers he's worked with. As a supplement to our feature interview with the star of the off-Broadway production "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet" and the screen's "End of Watch," we asked Gyllenhaal if he could recall what he's taken from the experience of working with a handful of these esteemed craftsmen -- three of whom feature in the Oscar race this year.

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Oscar Talk: Ep. 97 -- 'Les Misérables' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' enter the season

Oscar Talk: Ep. 97 -- 'Les Misérables' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' enter the season

Also: The Gothams and Spirits speak up for indies and a survey of the doc features

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>A scene from &quot;Lincoln.&quot;</p>

A scene from "Lincoln."

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Roundup: Why this year's Oscar race is so money

Also: The playwrights in the writing race, and dressing 'Hitchcock'

We may still be in the early stages, but one of the clear narratives of this awards season has been in place for some time now: after several straight years of independent productions ruling the roost, studio fare looks set to dominate this year's Oscars, with "Argo," "Lincoln," "Life of Pi" and (we presume) "Les Mis" all riding a wave of mainstream prestige combined with multiplex appeal. Pamela McClintock examines the situation and wonders if, after recent triumphs for limited performers like "The Artist" and "The Hurt Locker," this could be the year box office once more becomes a Best Picture prerequisite, and "event pics for adults" once more become a recognized Hollywood commodity. [Hollywood Reporter]

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<p>Bryce Dallas Howard's &quot;when you find me&quot;</p>

Bryce Dallas Howard's "when you find me"

Credit: Freestyle Picture Company

Ron Howard and daughter Bryce among 11 finalists for live action short Oscar

Will star wattage win out in the category as it has in the past?

The Academy has announced that 11 films will advance in the race for Best Live Action Short Film at the 85th annual Academy Awards. A tie in the balloting resulted in 11 films as opposed to the usual 10. The press release notes that 125 films had originally qualified in the category.

Check out the full list of films below.

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<p>&quot;Cloud Atlas&quot; is one of the 10 films left in the hunt for the Best Visual Effects Oscar.</p>

"Cloud Atlas" is one of the 10 films left in the hunt for the Best Visual Effects Oscar.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

'Impossible' snubbed as Oscar's VFX race is cut to 10 films

'Life of Pi,' 'Cloud Atlas' and a trio of superhero movies all make the grade

What's that sweet smell of vanilla wafting in from the kitchen? Yep, it's bakeoff time already. Earlier today, the Academy announced the shortlist of 10 films still in the race for the Best Visual Effects Oscar. On January 3, the visual effects branch members will gather to view 10-minute excerpts from the shortlisted films before voting on the final five nominees.

None of the inclusions is as surprising as one particular omission. For its jaw-dropping re-creation of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, I had thought Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Impossible" a sure thing for a nomination, let alone a shortlist spot. However, despite nominating "Hereafter" in 2010 for a far less impressive tsunami sequence, the voters felt differently: the Spanish production failed to make a list dominated by expensive Hollywood product.

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<p>Christopher Nolan on the set of &quot;The&nbsp;Dark&nbsp;Knight&nbsp;Rises&quot;</p>

Christopher Nolan on the set of "The Dark Knight Rises"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Christopher Nolan talks Bond, Heath Ledger and his 'Dark Knight' trilogy at Lincoln Center

An intimate discussion focused on his seven-year journey with the Caped Crusader

NEW YORK -- "The Dark Knight Rises" director Christopher Nolan stopped by the Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater Wednesday night for one of the Film Society's "An Evening with…" events. Scott Foundas moderated the discussion, which didn't focus on Nolan's full career, but rather, his experience with the character of Batman across a trilogy of films that has changed the landscape of blockbuster filmmaking and, indeed, the awards race itself.

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<p>Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander in &quot;A&nbsp;Royal Affair&quot;</p>

Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander in "A Royal Affair"

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Tech Support: 'Anna Karenina,' 'Snow White and the Huntsman' and 'A Royal Affair' feature in Best Costume Design

Other contenders include 'Lincoln,' 'Les Misérables' and 'The Master'

Oscar night is known for its glamor. “Who are you wearing” becomes a popular question to ask nominees as they make their way down the red carpet. But on screen, clothes do more than make actors look good. They certainly do that, but they also tell us something about the characters who wear them. They reveal things, telling the story visually like every other element of a production.

More than any other category, period pieces tend to dominate here. In many years, all five titles could have been classified as period. While there is usually room for one or occasionally even two fantasy nominees, such titles are not as welcome here as in, say, Best Production Design. Moreover, contemporary films tend to be cited no more than a few times a decade. Indeed, no such film was nominated between 1994 and 2006! Within this realm of “period,” clothes which are foreign and/or exotic are especially welcome, as is royalty.

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