<p>Emayatzy Corinealdi in &quot;Middle of Nowhere.&quot;</p>

Emayatzy Corinealdi in "Middle of Nowhere."

Credit: AFFRM

African-American Film Critics hail 'Zero Dark Thirty,' 'Middle of Nowhere'

Ben Affleck takes Best Director, Denzel Washington is Best Actor

The African-American Film Critics' Association is an interesting group on the precursor circuit -- while not explicitly dedicated to promoting black cinema and artists in the manner of, say, the Image Awards, their selections invariably reflect their identity to some extent. This year, for example, four of their five acting winners -- Denzel Washington, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Nate Parker and Quvenzhané Wallis -- are African-American.

Meanwhile, though Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" scooped yet another Best Picture gong, the group's biggest winner was African-American writer-director Ava DuVernay's "Middle of Nowhere." The indie drama landed four awards for Best Actress, Screenplay, Independent Film and Music, as well as placing at #4 on their 10 Best list. Nice to see this strong film having a day in the sun, even if its dynamite pair of supporting actresses, Lorraine Toussaint and Edwina Findley, couldn't defeat the redoubtable Sally Field. Full list of winners after the jump, and keep up with the trophy trail so far at The Circuit.

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<p>Tommy Lee Jones in &quot;Lincoln.&quot;&nbsp;</p>

Tommy Lee Jones in "Lincoln." 

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

'Lincoln' leads Houston Film Critics nods

'Anna Karenina' nabs a nomination... as the year's worst

“I think with each year, we come out and stake our ground on the question of best film, and particularly with some of our out-of-the-box choices.” So says Houston Film Critics' Society president Josh Starnes, and while I admire the sentiment, I'm struggling to identify too many out-of-the-box picks in their 2012 nominations list -- led by "Lincoln," with eight nods. Save a Best Picture nomination for the contentious "Cloud Atlas," and arguably a supporting mention for Judi Dench in "Skyfall," this looks largely like a copy-paste of umpteen other groups' lists this season, with "Les Misérables" and "The Master" also doing well with six nods apiece.

More wilful is their Worst Film of 2012 category, where the critics have decided to give Joe Wright's ambitious "Anna Karenina" a kicking -- and it's not the only film on the list that I rather like. Anyway, check out the full slate after the jump, and everything else at The Circuit.

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<p>&quot;Beasts of the Southern&nbsp;Wild&quot;</p>

"Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Exclusive: 'Les Mis,' 'Django,' 'Beasts,' 'Amour' among 2012 scripts not eligible for WGA

A look a the official ballot reveals the absence of a few usual suspects

Every year it's worth noting that a number of the original and adapted screenplays in the hunt for Oscar consideration won't get the extra bump of a nomination from the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Reasons for failing to qualify include the writer of the script not being a guild member or not retroactively handling the requisite process, among other things.

After taking a look at the official WGA ballot this season, I count 15 scripts from our screenplay Contenders pages that will not be eligible for consideration. Many of them seem out of the Oscar hunt for the most part and the number of notable exclusions is smaller than normal.

In the original screenplay category, as always, Quentin Tarantino will not be competing for his work on "Django Unchained." He has never been a member of the guild, but of course, that didn't stop his scripts for "Pulp Fiction" and "Inglorious Basterds" to go on to Oscar recognition. (Tarantino was similarly not a member of the DGA until this year, but he received two nominations prior nominations from that group, nevertheless.)

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<p>&quot;Men in&nbsp;Black 3&quot;</p>

"Men in Black 3"

Credit: Columbia Pictures

'Cloud Atlas' fails to make the finalists for Best Makeup and Hairstyling

'Hitchcock,' 'Looper' and 'Snow White and the Huntsman' are among the seven

The Academy has announced its shortlist of seven Best Makeup and Hairstyling contenders. The films will proceed to the "bake-off" stage, where reels of the work put into the makeup and hairstyling effects will be screened for the branch and three nominees will be chosen, revealed alongside the rest of the Oscar nominations on January 10.

The immediate exclusion of note is "Cloud Atlas," which transformed a number of movie stars across a variety of eras, ages and even races. Some of the work was quite wonderful, but much of it was a bone of contention for some, and clearly, that bore itself out in the narrowing process for the branch.

Also absent is "Holy Motors," which isn't a shock, one supposes. Who knows if the membership even bothered to watch the film. Because you'd think, if they had, they would have seen that it's far and away the best representation of their contribution to the form this year. Alas, it wasn't meant to be, and with "Who Were We?" failing to make the finalist cut for Best Original Song, the film's Oscar hopes in general have likely been dashed.

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<p>&quot;Cloud Atlas&quot;&nbsp;had a strong presence throughout.</p>

"Cloud Atlas" had a strong presence throughout.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Indiana Film Journalists Association announces longlists of nominees, 'The Master' leads the way

'Beasts of the Southern Wild' not far behind with seven

The Indiana Film Journalists Association has, for the first time this year, elected to publicly acknowledge its full list of nominees for superlatives to be announced on Monday. It's a massive list including, apparently, every film mentioned in each category by the group's respective members. Check out the full list of contending films and individuals below. "The Master" led the way with nine mentions. "Beasts of the Southern Wild" wasn't too far behind with seven. As always, keep track of all this madness throughout the season via The Circuit.

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<p>Martin Freeman in &quot;The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.&quot;</p>

Martin Freeman in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'

Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth opens today

Peter Jackson's franchise-christening "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" arrives under no small amount of pressure: not only does the shadow of the impressively executed "Lord of the Rings" trilogy loom large over it, but the new film faces widespread cynicism over Jackson's decision to stretch J.R.R. Tolkien's slender children's yarn into three gargantuan films.

Sad to say, I'm not the only one to think it buckles rather catastrophically. Unexpected or otherwise, this is one dourly overextended journey, sorely missing the jaunty dramatic propulsion of the source material -- and that's before I factor in my concerns about the deadening, daytime-drama effect of the sleek but texture-draining 48fps technology. Still, the film has some ardent advocates, and not necessarily among the Tolkienite crowd, while our colleague Drew McWeeny deemed it a qualified success. So I'm very curious to know what you make of it -- in any frame rate. Do share your thoughts in the comments.

<p>Jafar Panahi &amp; Moitaba Mirtahmasb's &quot;This is Not a Film,&quot;&nbsp;a finalist for the Best Documentary&nbsp;Feature Oscar, made the list.</p>

Jafar Panahi & Moitaba Mirtahmasb's "This is Not a Film," a finalist for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar, made the list.

Credit: Palisades Tartan

'Holy Motors' tops Film Comment's list of the year's best

'Our Chidren' leads list of undistributed films

It really feels petty and pointless in light of this morning's events to forge ahead with stuff like this. Anne Thompson and I dropped our top 10 lists to start the day and, quite clearly, more important things are dominating our hearts and minds at the moment. Nevertheless, diversion and the distraction has always been the identity of the magic of the movies, so Film Comment's announcement of the year's best comes at as appreciated a time as any.

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<p>Joaquin Phoenix in &quot;The Master.&quot;</p>

Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'The Master' leads with 10 Chicago critics' nods

'Beasts of the Southern Wild' also gets a boost

It may have struggled to gain a foothold this week with groups like SAG and the HFPA, but "The Master" remains a pet of the critical community that has championed it since the fall. Right after The Guardian team named it the top film of 2012, Paul Thomas Anderson's thorny character study received further good news today from the Chicago Film Critics' Association, as it led their nominations list with a whopping 10 mentions.

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Oscar Talk: Ep. 99 -- The top 10 films of 2012

Oscar Talk: Ep. 99 -- The top 10 films of 2012

Other than a brief bit of business it's all about top 10 lists this week

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>Jackie Weaver and Robert De Niro in &quot;Silver Linings Playbook&quot;</p>

Jackie Weaver and Robert De Niro in "Silver Linings Playbook"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'Silver Linings Playbook' wins with Detroit film critics

'Lincoln' picks up two prizes

After leading the way with nominations recently, David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" has been crowned Best Picture by the Detroit Film Critics Society. David O. Russell won Best Director and Best Screenplay, Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress and Robert De Niro took Best Supporting Actor. Check out the full list of winners below and as always, keep track of the ups and downs of the season via The Circuit.

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