<p>Four songs from&nbsp;&quot;Django Unchained&quot;&nbsp;qualified for Best Original&nbsp;Song, more than any other film.</p>

Four songs from "Django Unchained" qualified for Best Original Song, more than any other film.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Tech Support: International lineup of Best Original Song contenders presents a great opportunity

From Adele to Paul Williams, Ennio Morricone to Bombay Jayashri

With the recent reveal of the Academy's list of Best Original Song qualifiers -- all 75 of them -- the music branch has a wide swath of popular artists to choose from. Of course, the branch tends to focus on the work itself, not necessarily the talent involved, but it's worth mentioning that Fiona Apple, Florence + the Machine, Karen O, Christina Aguilera, Adele, Keith Urban, Mumford and Sons, The Bootleggers & Emmylou Harris, Arcade Fire, Dolly Parton, Katy Perry, Paul Williams, Jordin Sparks and Norah Jones are all in the mix. That's quite the role call.

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<p>Jason Clarke in &quot;Zero Dark Thirty.&quot;</p>

Jason Clarke in "Zero Dark Thirty."

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Roundup: Senators take on 'Zero Dark Thirty'

Also: Ann Dowd's self-funded Oscar dream, and 2012's most overlooked gems

Looks like the debate over the depiction of torture in "Zero Dark Thirty" isn't going to end any time soon. Three US senators, all in positions concerning national security, have taken it upon themselves to dismiss the film's portrayal is "grossly inaccurate and misleading" in an open letter to Sony Pictures chairman Michael Lynton. "'Zero Dark Thirty' is factually inaccurate," they write, "and we believe that you have an obligation to state that the role of torture in the hunt for Usama (sic) bin Laden is not based on facts, but rather part of the film's fictional narrative," They further accuse the film of having "the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner." There is plenty to counter in such claims -- both regarding the events on screen and their relative fictional status -- so I expect this conversation to continue. [Variety]

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<p>Ben&nbsp;Affleck</p>

Ben Affleck

Credit: Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP

Ben Affleck sets the record straight on 'Justice League'

The 'Argo' director recently praised Marvel's 'Avengers' build and welcomed smart genre projects

The internet was abuzz a few months back when what turned out to be an overzealous report put Ben Affleck in the driver's seat of the planned Warner Bros. team-up film "Justice League." The report was soon enough shot down and everyone went about their business, but in a recent interview about his work on "Argo," Affleck said he hated talking about it in the media at all because the eventual stories shed a negative light on the project.

"I just want to make it clear because it’s not like I had something to even pass on," he said. "Because someone will eventually do 'Justice League' and they'll go, like, 'Ben Affleck passed on it,' and it won't be true. So I don’t mind setting the record straight. It's one of those things where the closest I came was some people talked to me about it like at a meeting. They were like, 'Here's the stuff we’re doing,' you know? 'Here’s what we're looking at.' That kind of thing. And they suggested it. But I don’t think there’s a script. I don’t think there’s anything."

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<p>Ben Affleck and Chris Terrio on the set of &quot;Argo&quot;</p>

Ben Affleck and Chris Terrio on the set of "Argo"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Ben Affleck and Chris Terrio on 'Argo,' the Middle East and the root of all drama

The director and writer of one of the season's biggest hits discuss their process

NEW YORK -- When he made his way into the director's chair for a new phase in his career, Ben Affleck always assumed that if he came across an existing script, he would likely just take over and re-write it. And of course, he has the credentials: an Oscar for co-writing "Good Will Hunting" with Matt Damon goes a long way toward legitimizing his talent as a writer. But when "Argo" was fired across his bow by Smoke House honchos Grant Heslov and George Clooney, that wasn't the case.

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

Ziyi Zhang in "The Grandmaster."

Credit: Annapurna Pictures

Wong Kar-wai's 'The Grandmaster' to open 2013 Berlinale

The director will also preside over the competition jury

As I mentioned last week, compared to Cannes and Venice, the Berlin Film Festival tends to look like something of a weak sister when it comes to securing major auteur titles. Their festival curtain-raisers, meanwhile, tend to be on the low-key side: while a good film, this year's opener, "Farewell, My Queen," wasn't exactly an event, while "True Grit" was old news by the time it kicked off the 2011 edition.

Both those traditions have been broken in grand style by this morning's doozy of an announcement. The official festival email slyly mentioned only "Opening Film" in the subject line: upon opening it, I had to blink a few times before believing that, yes, Wong Kar-wai's long, long delayed "The Grandmaster" will indeed be kicking off the Berlinale with its international premiere on February 7. (It's an international rather than a world premiere because it's scheduled for release in China the month before.)

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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: Witherspoon stumps for Watts

Also: Hooper, Danna honored by Palm Springs, 'Holy Motors' tops IndieWire poll

Though the film itself can't seem to catch much of a break in the awards race -- those omissions from Oscar's VFX and makeup shortlists still sting -- "The Impossible" star Naomi Watts keeps gathering momentum. After neatly scoring SAG, Globe and BFCA nods last week, the actress now has her own vocal Academy advocate (her Julia Roberts, if you will) in the form of Reese Witherspoon. A public fan letter to Watts from Witherspoon, who is not a close personal friend, compares her performance to those of Meryl Streep in "Sophie's Choice" and Sally Field in "Norma Rae" (both Oscar winners, as it happens) and declares "The Impossible" "one of the best films I have ever seen in my entire life." Witherspoon is not the "Impossible" team's first celebrity cheerleader: Angelina Jolie hosted a screening last month. Is this the tip of the iceberg in terms of actors' branch support? [EW]

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<p>Elle Fanning in &quot;Ginger &amp;&nbsp;Rosa&quot;</p>

Elle Fanning in "Ginger & Rosa"

Credit: A24

10 outside-the-box considerations as the Academy votes

Performances that could use a look

With ballots in Academy members hands as of yesterday, the great settling is off and running. Various critics groups and top 10 lists have narrowed the pile enough that voters have a pretty good idea of the landscape in each category. More than that, "frontrunners" have staked their claim on the race, leaving precious little space for dark horses to maneuver.

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Daniel Day-Lewis to receive Montecito Award at Santa Barbara fest
Credit: Nino Munez

Daniel Day-Lewis to receive Montecito Award at Santa Barbara fest

Can anyone come between the man and his third Oscar?

When you're winning, you're winning. Daniel Day-Lewis hasn't missed a stop on the awards circuit so far this season, and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival wasn't about to be the first. It was announced today that the two-time Oscar champ will receive one of the festival's loftiest honors, the Montecito Award, both in recognition of his work in "Lincoln" and his career as a whole.

The award, which will be presented to Day-Lewis at a tribute evening on January 26, recognizes "a performer who has given a series of classic and standout performances throughout his/her career," and has been presented to Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Javier Bardem, Kate Winslet, Julianne Moore and Geoffrey Rush since its instatement in 2005. I don't think many would deny that Day-Lewis meets the criteria. 

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Jessica Chastain on mining for details and feminism's new moment in 'Zero Dark Thirty'

Jessica Chastain on mining for details and feminism's new moment in 'Zero Dark Thirty'

And, of course, the nuance of depicting torture in the film

NEW YORK -- As the stage lights dim at the Walter Kerr Theatre, signaling an act break for "The Heiress," actress Jessica Chastain gets up off the floor and exits stage left. She sniffles back the tears she effortlessly manifested for the previous scene, preparing for the next act. Her character, Catherine, is frail, emotional, precious, and at the end of this act, burdened by the unloving eye of her father and twisted-up passion for a would-be beau. One can't help but think, "Maya would never be in this position."

Maya is Chastain's character in Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," a dense and principled account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. She's driven, single-minded, seemingly without emotion, save for the tears she can finally shed when her mission is over. It's a fascinating foil to Catherine, who spends the entirety of "The Heiress" moving to a place of rigid, emotionless resolve. And so while on the stage Chastain is performing a fragile character's journey of clenching up, strengthening and hardening, on the screen she's performing a hardened character's journey of releasing, letting go and softening.

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<p>&quot;Zero&nbsp;Dark&nbsp;Thirty&quot;</p>

"Zero Dark Thirty"

Credit: Columbia Pictures

'Zero Dark Thirty' wins Best Picture from Austin film critics...and nothing else

'The Master' picked up three awards, however

"Zero Dark Thirty" remains on top of the critics awards haul today with another Best Picture nod, this time from the Austin Film Critics Association. Oddly, though, the film won nothing else. "The Master" seemed to be more of a favorite, taking Best Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematography. Check out the full list of winners below and, well, you know -- The Circuit.

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