<p>John Hawkes in &quot;The Sessions&quot;</p>

John Hawkes in "The Sessions"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Interview: John Hawkes on Mark O'Brien, 'The Sessions' and maintaining an even keel

One of Sundance's favorite sons comes into full leading man bloom

NEW YORK -- The first time actor John Hawkes heard about Mark O'Brien, the polio-afflicted author, journalist and poet he portrays in the new film "The Sessions," it was due to the Oscars. Documentary filmmaker Jessica Yu had just won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short for 1996's "Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien." Hawkes read a quote from her in the newspaper basically noting that the dress loaned to her for the evening cost more than the budget for her film, and he enjoyed a chuckle over that.

Hawkes knows a little something about low-budget filmmaking, too. After working consistently for years as a character actor on screen and TV, he's become something of an indie darling. "The Sessions" in fact marked his third-straight trip to the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year (at which point the film was titled "The Surrogate"). And 16 years after the Oscars managed to put O'Brien on his radar, he looks entirely likely to pop up on Oscars' radar for his performance of the man.

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<p>Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at a Golden Globes party earlier this year.</p>

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at a Golden Globes party earlier this year.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Roundup: Globes trump the Oscars with Fey and Poehler

Also: Questioning the facts of 'Argo,' and celebrating Melissa Leo

You have to hand it to the Golden Globes. Barely had the chatter died down about the Academy's surprising choice of Oscar host than the HFPA chimed in with their own... and grabbed bigger headlines than Seth Macfarlane ever did. While the "Ted" man's appointment was welcomed in some quarters, others expressed concern that most viewers out in the real world don't know who he is -- a weak spot the Globes have cunningly zeroed in on by snapping up star comedy duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to continue the work done by Ricky Gervais in the last two years. With Fey a name many have suggested for the Oscar gig (she's presented at the big show twice), this likely ratings coup must really smart for AMPAS. I know which show I'm looking forward to more now. You? [HitFix]

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<p>Saskia Rosendahl in &quot;Lore.&quot;</p>

Saskia Rosendahl in "Lore."

Credit: Music Box Films

London: Foreign Oscar contenders 'Lore' and 'Children of Sarajevo' impress

Two further standouts in what's turning out to be a deep Oscar field

This weekend's viewing at the London Film Festival brought me to a pleasingly round, if short-lived, statistic: I've now seen 20 of the 71 films entered for consideration in this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race. That's a pretty small proportion still, yet even this sample pool feels thick with artistic virtue and contender potential alike. From this single score of films, I feel, it'd be quite easy to draw up five-nominee slate for the ages, with several worthy alternatives left over as change – and Australia's entry, the lyrical-yet-bloodied “Lore” (A-) deserves to be near the top of the heap.

Whether for arthouse or Academy targeting purposes, “Lore” seems destined to be handed the 'Holocaust film' label – a tag that, however impartially descriptive, has lately called to mind a subgenre marked by earnest moral reinscription and grayscale suffering. Neither is a convention to which this crisp, cruel, often recklessly beautiful survival story, set against the dying breaths of Nazism, feels duty-bound. It's as much a tale of an individual's selfish spurts of guilt and rapture as one of any larger communal redemption or destruction, and as such feels very much of a piece with director Cate Shortland's woozily desirous 2004 debut “Somersault” – to which “Lore” is a too-long-awaited follow-up.

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

Suraj Sharma in "Life of Pi"

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Off the Carpet: Kicking the habit, seeing the light

Looking for meaning in the season as the 50th annual NYFF comes to a close

I haven't started to look at the 2012 awards season in terms of "the year of" because it's a fool's errand. That kind of thing just bubbles up and hits you one day and it becomes clear that, however inadvertently, the season's awards product hovers around similar ideas and notions, or at least that they can be molded around same.

However, after taking in Robert Zemeckis's "Flight" for a second time last night as the 50th annual New York Film Festival drew to a close, I started to note some things. The spirituality of the film, which I was aware of initially but which really began to stand out a second time, remained intriguing. And it struck me as somewhat poignant that it served as a bookend to the fest with opening night presentation "Life of Pi," a film very much about the search for faith and its power when it takes hold, whatever one might put one's faith in.

"Flight" screenwriter John Gatins was quick to go into all of that at the Stone Rose Lounge closing night party overlooking Columbus Circle. He was working through a few things when he wrote the script and the notion of "there are no atheists in foxholes" led to "there are no atheists on crashing airplanes" and that took him on a whole other journey of reflecting his flawed protagonist's faith through a variety of prisms throughout the script.

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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: 'The Impossible' does just about that in Spain

Also: Stop-motion versus CGI, and Dustin Hoffman 'breaks through'

With the greatest of respect to a beautiful country, Spain's box office doesn't usually rate much of a mention -- but it seem worth mentioning when it addresses at least one question mark hovering over one of this year's Oscar hopefuls. Juan Antonio Bayona's tsunami drama "The Impossible" didn't get quite the level of buzz some expected out of Toronto: many reviews were strong, but others took issue with the filmmakers' decision to turn the true-life story of a Spanish family, the Belons, into one about a fictional British brood, allowing for more Hollywood-friendly casting. As it turns out, Spanish audiences couldn't care less: the film has been a domestic smash, shattering local records with its opening four-day gross. Will it connect with audiences Stateside in a tough holiday release slot? [Variety

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<p>Daniel Craig in &quot;Skyfall.&quot;</p>

Daniel Craig in "Skyfall."

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Review: Bond takes it personally in high-shine 'Skyfall'

Javier Bardem and Roger Deakins are the stars of the series' 23rd entry

In case the marketing spiel has somehow escaped you, James Bond is 50 years old this year. Well, maybe a bit older – he wasn’t exactly a newborn in “Dr. No” – or a bit younger, if you choose to take only 44-year-old Daniel Craig’s salt-and-pepper-stubbled visage into account. Either way, he’s not young anymore, and boy, does “Skyfall” ever want you to know that.

“Brave new world,” 007 mutters grumpily, after his first encounter with a whizzy new Q (Ben Whishaw) who scarcely needs to shave yet. “Old dog, new tricks,” twinkles Naomie Harris’s sexy MI6 underling, her tone vaguely patronizing, as if teaching an elderly uncle how to send an email. 

As such platitudes suggest, clever quippery is not one of the many strengths of Bond’s 23rd feature outing. They aren’t even accurate: the perma-dapper spy isn’t learning any new tricks, but rediscovering ones fallen into disuse, like scuffed Oxfords polished to a high shine. The same goes for “Skyfall,” which endearingly stresses fashionably analog traditionalism at every turn: Bond’s gadgets are restricted to a gun and a radio, the beloved, Connery-era Aston Martin makes a reappearance, while for the bulk of the action, far-flung locales are curbed in favour of the Land of Hope and Glory. (In Britain’s banner year of Jubilee and Olympic celebration, that can’t be an accident.) Another old-school touch, Adele’s Bassey-aping title ballad, is pretty splendid, but they may as well have gone with a big-band cover of “Everything Old Is New Again.”

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<p>Denzel&nbsp;Washington in &quot;Flight&quot;</p>

Denzel Washington in "Flight"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Zemeckis's 'Flight' features Denzel Washington at his best in a powerful character study

The two-time Oscar winner gives a complex performance in the NYFF closer

NEW YORK -- The modest similarities between Robert Zemeckis's last live action film, 2000's "Cast Away," and his latest, "Flight," are interesting. Both begin with a plane crash that changes a man's life, a man who goes on a journey of finding himself and restarting his life anew. Both are films about rebirth. One chooses a tale of a company guy stranded on a desert island to convey the theme. The other chooses that of a pilot caught up in a malfeasance nightmare.

Each commits to film one of the most harrowing plane crashes ever seen*, but while Tom Hanks's time-obsessed protagonist in "Cast Away" learns to take his time through life, Denzel Washington's addiction-afflicted hero in "Flight" learns to admit his problem to the one person he's still fooling: himself.

And that's what the film is about. It may have elements of action filmmaking and courtroom drama, but it is, ultimately, a character study about the sickness of addiction. It captures the embarrassment, the denial, the rage and, crucially, the chronic fallibility that comes with it. The screenplay, from writer John Gatins, pulses with an authenticity that suggests personal experience, but married to a narrative that all but asks whether impairment might have sparked the inspiration to save a hundred lives in a bold way, it becomes something more complex.

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<p>Matthias Schoenaerts, Marion Cotillard and Jacques Audiard hit the red carpet for tonight's gala screening of &quot;Rust and Bone.&quot;</p>

Matthias Schoenaerts, Marion Cotillard and Jacques Audiard hit the red carpet for tonight's gala screening of "Rust and Bone."

Credit: AP Photo/Miles Willis

London fest prioritizes the people over the premieres

'Frankenweenie,' 'Rust & Bone,' 'The Hunt' among the festival's hits so far

LONDON - At no other festival I've attended is the faintly absurd bubble we film critics live in made more apparent than the BFI London Film Festival -- a buffet far more concerned with serving the public the best world cinema has to offer, whether or not another festival got to it first, than with providing media outlets with grabby exclusives and world premieres.

For me and many of my colleagues, a Cannes-premiered film like "Rust and Bone" is already old news, despite not having officially opened yet; for London cineastes in the real world, tonight's gala screening, with Marion Cotillard in attendance, is an eagerly anticipated event. That is as it should be: one of the things I love about my hometown festival is that it re-sparks thoughts and conversations about such films in a much more lively public context.

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<p>Ren&eacute;e Fleming</p>

Renée Fleming

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Exclusive: Renée Fleming to perform original song 'Still Dream' from 'Rise of the Guardians'

The song was written by composer Alexandre Desplat and screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire

The Best Original Song race is starting to fill out. We've added a few more to our contenders page in recent days, including tracks from "Celeste & Jesse Forever" and "West of Memphis," but today comes the news that DreamWorks Animation's "Rise of the Guardians" will feature a tune from acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming

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<p>Anne Hathaway in &quot;The&nbsp;Dark&nbsp;Knight&nbsp;Rises&quot;</p>

Anne Hathaway in "The Dark Knight Rises"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Hathaway, Hanks and Berry get lead Oscar pushes for 'Dark Knight Rises' and 'Cloud Atlas'

The studio steers clear of Hathaway's 'Les Misérables' campaign

One of the things we've been looking to get confirmation on regarding Warner Bros. Pictures' Oscar campaigns this year is just where Tom Hanks and Halle Berry would be pushed for Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis' "Cloud Atlas." Lead seemed to be the obvious call (both are the movie stars and have the most screen time across the various stories in which they appear and the characters they play), but it's always possible something like this puts everyone up for supporting.

It turns out the two will indeed go lead for the film. I suppose you can consider them contenders in our Best Actor and Best Actress galleries, then. The real surprise from the studio, however, is the decision to place "The Dark Knight Rises" star Anne Hathaway in the lead actress category as opposed to supporting. Is that indicative of a serious rallying or simply a smart decision to get out of the way of another film?

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