<p>Suraj Sharma in &quot;Life of Pi&quot;</p>

Suraj Sharma in "Life of Pi"

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Tech Support: 'Lincoln,' 'Life of Pi' and 'Anna Karenina' lead the race for Best Original Score

As always, international flavor abounds

We save the music categories to the end to analyze for two reasons. One is that it helps to have heard the music. While it obviously helps to have seen any contender before opining on its chances, I find that listening to the music is one that really cannot be compromised. It is easier to guess what the costumes or cinematography of a movie might be like. It's also nice to have the list of qualifying scores at the ready.

The second reason is that composers themselves are usually brought on to the films quite late. After the actors, writers, cinematographer, production designer and costume designer have all gone home, the composer is left by him or herself, watching a movie he or she had no part of shooting.

Bernard Herrmann‘s brief appearance in “Hitchcock” was, alongside the ending, my favorite scene in the movie. It also showed two very important aspects of film composing. First, it showed how composing is lonely, painstaking work with no one to keep you company save for the occasional appearance by the producer, editor, sound mixer or, most likely, the director. But second, when done well, film music can become iconic. From “Star Wars” to “Lawrence of Arabia” to “Gone with the Wind” to, yes, “Psycho,” many themes are simply unforgettable. They can also create mood and atmosphere.

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<p>Michael Barker (left) with &quot;Rust and Bone&quot; director Jacques Audiard (center) and &quot;Amour&quot; director Michael Haneke (right) at the Toronto Film Festival in September.</p>

Michael Barker (left) with "Rust and Bone" director Jacques Audiard (center) and "Amour" director Michael Haneke (right) at the Toronto Film Festival in September.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Sony Classics co-chief Michael Barker remains positive on Oscar chances for 'Amour'

He draws a line between Michael Haneke's career now and Ingmar Bergman's in 1973

"Great last week, man," Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker exclaims when he hops on the phone to discuss the Golden Globe nominations for his company's films, "Amour" and "Rust and Bone." "Between Marion Cotillard getting nominations for SAG and Golden Globes and Emmanuelle Riva winning all those prizes from critics groups, and then 'Amour' winning Best Picture with LA film critics, 'Gatekeepers' and 'Searching for Sugar Man' chugging along, we're feeling pretty good."

Well, no need to report the facts. There they are. And it's good to be positive, because while these accolades have been great, the fact is Michael Haneke's "Amour" has had a bumpy day and a half. Particularly for star Emmanuelle Riva, who, while lauded by critics groups this season, failed to grab a notice from either the Screen Actors Guild or Hollywood Foreign Press Association (though she was remembered, among five other co-nominees, by the Broadcast Film Critics Association on Tuesday). Barker's not too glum about that, though. In fact, he says it was to be expected.

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<p>Animated adventure &quot;The Croods&quot; will have its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.</p>

Animated adventure "The Croods" will have its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.

Credit: DreamWorks Animation

'The Croods,' 'Promised Land' among first Berlin competition titles

Ulrich Seidl will complete his 'Paradise' trilogy at the February fest

It may not get as much press as the sexier (and more summery) Cannes and Venice fests, but the Berlin Film Festival has quietly launched a number of major world cinema titles in recent years. Last year, "A Separation" began its golden run with a Berlinale premiere. This year, if you look down the list of 71 foreign-language Oscar hopefuls, you'll spot more Berlin titles than Cannes ones: "A Royal Affair," "Barbara," "Sister," "War Witch" and "Caesar Must Die" among them. (All that, and the festival introduced us to "Tabu" too.)

Still, while the festival is a must for aficionados of international film, it struggles to secure the A-list auteur fare and Hollywood fodder that would ensure broader media and public interest. Which is why, by their standards, nabbing the world premiere of DreamWorks Animation's "The Croods," over a month ahead of its March 2013 release, represents a pretty big get.

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Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz were nominated for supporting turns in "Django Unchained."
Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz were nominated for supporting turns in "Django Unchained."
Credit: The Weinstein Company

Golden Globe nominations breathe new life for 'The Master' stars, 'Django'

The power of Weinstein compelled them

The first thought that jumped to mind after today's Golden Globe nominations announcement was, "Not too embarrassing." Often enough awards watchers are looking to the HFPA to do what they do, fill out their list with dubious performances from movie stars and films that will guarantee a glitzy red carpet. And there's a little of that here, though in most cases, it's not as simple as that.

Richard Gere, for instance, gives one of his best performances to date in "Arbitrage," so it's a great excuse for HFPA to include him, and for quality work, thank God. Nicole Kidman's nomination for "The Paperboy" might have been dismissed as star-loving madness, too, except the Screen Actors Guild chalked her up for a nomination yesterday (and I have no idea what's going on there). And the lead actress, drama field could have been an excuse to shove in Halle Berry or something, but the group went with NYFCC-winner Rachel Weisz.

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<p>Suraj Sharma in &quot;Life of Pi.&quot;</p>

Suraj Sharma in "Life of Pi."

Credit: 20th Century Fox

'Life of Pi' tops with Las Vegas Film Critics

'Looper' picks up another screenplay award.

The Las Vegas Film Critics Society announced their picks yesterday, and clearly liked "Life of Pi" a lot more than most of their peers thus far: Ang Lee's effects-heavy spectacular took six awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and a Youth In Film citation for Suraj Sharma. They're the first group to celebrate the film, though they went a little more by-the-book for their acting picks. Further down, I'm liking the "Prometheus" call for Production Design. Check out the full list of winners after the jump, and catch up with the season thus far at The Circuit.  

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<p>Christoph Waltz in &quot;Django Unchained.&quot;</p>

Christoph Waltz in "Django Unchained."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

The Long Shot: Categorically speaking

The leading-supporting divide is blurrier than ever in this year's Oscar race

“Category fraud.” It's a phrase that means precisely nothing to anybody who doesn't scrutinize the Oscars with all the methodical dedication of a veteran trainspotter – but within that self-selecting circle, it's an issue that seems to prompt more heated opinions by the year.

Implying veritably criminal levels of bad faith, it's a strangely emphatic term for a practice that frequently occurs in the grayest of areas, amid such intangibles as narrative, perspective and character. The Oscar campaigning game has seen many dirty tricks and cynical strategies pass undetected over the years, but woe betide the supporting hopeful whose role is seen as a little too large for his targeted trophy, or the uppity ensemble player with ideas above his station – awards geeks do not easily forget such infractions.

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Wes Anderson on being surprised every step of the way on 'Moonrise Kingdom'

Wes Anderson on being surprised every step of the way on 'Moonrise Kingdom'

He's in the thick of the awards race with perhaps his most personal film yet

One of the unlikely mainstays of the season, since its world premiere as the opening night presentation of the Cannes Film Festival in May, has been Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom." The filmmaker's (lucky) seventh feature has generated plenty of awards season love and critical approval, picking up Independent Spirit Award nominations, a Gotham Awards trophy and critics awards recognition, and it appears likely to bring him his second Oscar nomination to date as screenwriter.

On a brief call before being whisked away on a location scout, Anderson speaks of these kinds of things as a crap shoot. "You spend all this time working on the thing and you do your best and you have absolutely no idea how it's going to go over," he says. "I've had the experience of thinking, 'This one might really land with an audience,' and then suddenly 'x' number of days after it comes out we realize, 'Well, this is not going to happen this time.' I've had movies where it did really well in the limited release and you go from 75 screens to 300 and by Saturday morning you know, 'Well, that's the end of it for this one. This is about where this one's going to top out.' It's so much more fun to have a kind of good following for it. But it shouldn't really be the end-all. You better be doing it because you love the movie yourself or you're signing on for an extremely risky life."

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

"Moonrise Kingdom"

Credit: Focus Features

Roundup: Good and bad news for Desplat in the Oscar race

Also: R.I.P. Ravi Shankar, and why film culture lives on

Sorry for the late roundup today -- I was waylaid by SAG's dawn chorus. That's obviously the news on everyone's minds right now, but I'm going to rewind to an Oscar announcement I failed to mention yesterday: the official list of 104 films eligible for the Best Original Score award. Not a particularly newsworthy list and one I was initially going to skip -- except that, when searching for conspicuous omissions, one name came up... twice. Alexandre Desplat, one of the hardest workers in the game, may be a regular nominee these days, but he only went three-for-five with his 2012 slate -- and for my money, the two Desplat scores that missed the cut showcase his best work this year. "Moonrise Kingdom"'s interpolations of existing classical work doubtless cost it a place (furthering the case for a Best Adapted Score category), but I'm less sure why his moodily throbbing work on "Rust and Bone" isn't on the list. His Oscar hopes now rest with "Argo," "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Rise of the Guardians." [AMPAS]   

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<p>Nicole Kidman in &quot;The Paperboy&quot;</p>

Nicole Kidman in "The Paperboy"

Credit: Millennium Entertainment

Some SAG surprises indicate unexpected currents in the season

Is Nicole Kidman really in the hunt? Did Joaquin Phoenix take too much damage?

The awards-obsessive corners of the web were all abuzz this morning with murmurs of a supposed "leak" of the 19th annual SAG nominees. Intrepid net hounds had apparently gone into the guild's website and done some choice searching to turn out what ended up being, indeed, the full list of nominees. So what were they and what do they mean? Let's take a look.

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<p>Could Linda Cardellini be a surprise SAG nominee for &quot;Return?&quot;</p>

Could Linda Cardellini be a surprise SAG nominee for "Return?"

Credit: Focus World

Predicting the Screen Actors' Guild film nominees

Who do you expect to see nominated tomorrow?

A couple of you have asked for a space in which you can toss around your predictions for tomorrow's Screen Actors' Guild Award nominations, and we are nothing if not obliging. I've listed my own best guesses after the jump to get the ball rolling.

I'm not going to waste too much time analyzing the possibilities. I expect "Lincoln" and "Silver Linings Playbook" to come out on top numbers-wise, while this will be an interesting place to see where seemingly on-the-bubble contenders like Bradley Cooper or Matthew McConaughey currently stand in the race.

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