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An epic interview with 'Inside Llewyn Davis' star Oscar Isaac

And an attempt at nailing down the ethereal genius of the Coens

<p>Oscar Isaac at the 2013 BFI&nbsp;London&nbsp;Film&nbsp;Festival</p>

Oscar Isaac at the 2013 BFI London Film Festival

Credit: AP Photo

CULVER CITY, Calif. — A few weeks ago we ran an interview with the Coen Bros. about their latest film, "Inside Llewyn Davis." I put it up in a Q&A format rather than the usual prose kind of thing because the back and forth was so interesting to me. And for a pragmatic pair whose answers almost have more power in the context of the question, it made a lot of sense.

As I sat down to write up a lunch interview with star (and recent Spirit Award nominee) Oscar Isaac, it became apparent to me that it would benefit just as much from that treatment. The discussion has a natural flow and Isaac is so thoughtful in all of his responses that it would seem wrong to pick and choose the quotes that work best for a piece about the themes and character-building that went into the film.

Which brings me to another point about why a simple Q&A made a lot of sense. Just like the Coens, Isaac — as you'll plainly see in his answers — isn't too caught up in affectation and applying meaning to art. The existence of the thing is the thing. So the conversation, then, is the conversation. No fluffy piece built around choice excerpts. Just an hour-long chat about nostalgia, the life of a nomad, the impact of artists on community, music as an outlet, the inspiration of Buster Keaton and the danger of an actor's personality becoming bigger than the work itself.

This year's indie spirit at the cinema well-represented by today's nominations

A wonderful crop of films and artists reflects a fantastic year for movies

<p>Bruce Dern,&nbsp;June&nbsp;Squibb and Will Forte, all nominees this morning for &quot;Nebraska&quot;</p>

Bruce Dern, June Squibb and Will Forte, all nominees this morning for "Nebraska"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

So, this year's list of nominees for the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards have been announced. How did things shake out? Well, Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" led the way with seven nominations, but Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" wasn't far behind with six.

The nominees for Best Feature were "All is Lost," "Frances Ha," "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Nebraska" and "12 Years a Slave." My first instinct was to cry foul that Richard Linklater's glorious "Before Midnight" didn't slip in and only managed nods for screenplay and female lead, but as someone put it to me on Twitter, perhaps that just goes to show the quality of work across the independent spectrum this year. There is only so much room.

'12 Years a Slave' leads the Independent Spirit Awards nominations

Winners will be announced Saturday, March 1

<p>A scene from &quot;12 Years a Slave&quot;</p>

A scene from "12 Years a Slave"

Credit: Fox Searchlight

The nominees for the 29th annual Film Independent Spirit Awards have been announced. Check out the full list below.

Winners will be revealed at the annual pre-Oscar Santa Monica ceremony on Saturday, March 1, 2014.

Exclusive: John Goodman opines on the rules of suicide in a clip from 'Inside Llewyn Davis'

The latest from the Coen Bros. hits theaters Dec. 6

<p>John&nbsp;Goodman and Oscar Isaac in &quot;Inside Llewyn&nbsp;Davis&quot;</p>

John Goodman and Oscar Isaac in "Inside Llewyn Davis"

Credit: CBS Films

Joel and Ethan Coen's "Inside Llewyn Davis" has held a steady course since a Cannes bow, and going into the awards season, it looks to be as strong as ever. One person who could be recognized for his work in the film is John Goodman as the actor gets a whole vignette of sorts to himself in the film. And he makes the most of it, as he always does.

James Franco among nominees for Cinema Eye's Heterodox Award

Award honors narrative films that incorporate documentary elements

<p>A scene from &quot;Interior. Leather Bar.&quot;</p>

A scene from "Interior. Leather Bar."

Credit: Strand Releasing

Well, it's not every award where you'll find James Franco's oddball S&M diversion "Interior. Leather Bar." nominated alongside Mexican auteur Carlos Reygadas' wildly experimental Cannes winner "Post Tenebras Lux." To be more precise, it's not any award but this one. The Cinema Eye Honors for documentary filmmaking -- onre of the biggest precursors on the non-fiction circuit -- announced their slate of nominees a couple of weeks ago, with "The Act of Killing" and "Cutie and the Boxer" leading the pack, but they added five nominees for their Heterodox Award yesterday.

Roundup: NYT's short film project, starring Oprah, Cate Blanchett and more

Also: Animal abuse in Hollywood, and a whole lotta Emma Thompson in conversation

<p>Oprah Winfrey in her &quot;Making a Scene&quot; short.</p>

Oprah Winfrey in her "Making a Scene" short.

Credit: New York Times

By far the coolest thing on the internet was the New York Times' Making a Scene project, in which 11 of the year's most celebrated actors -- ranging from Cate Blanchett to Oprah Winfrey, Adele Exarchopoulos to Robert Redford -- perform in individual short films directed by Oscar-winning cinematographer (and Steven Spielberg's right-hand man) Janusz Kaminski. "Short" is the operative word: advertisement-like in length and style, they're not exactly deep, but they're a lot of fun, whether it's Oprah channelling her inner torch diva or Bradley Cooper doing some rain ballet, all to stray strands of dialogue from the likes of Seth Rogen and Spike Jonze. Have fun. [New York Times]

Troubled Natalie Portman western 'Jane Got a Gun' gets release date

Controversy-plagued film to hit theaters next summer

<p>Natalie Portman</p>

Natalie Portman

Credit: Greg Allen/Invision/AP

Almost miraculously given its troubled production history, Natalie Portman's "Jane Got a Gun" has been given a release date.

The Gavin O'Connor-directed western, which also stars Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor and Noah Emmericah, has been slated to hit theaters on August 29, 2014, it was announced today. O'Connor ("Warrior") came aboard the project at the last minute after original director Lynne Ramsay ("We Need to Talk About Kevin") declined to show up for the first day of filming back in March.

Sandra Bullock (who else?) is EW's Entertainer of the Year

The 'Gravity' star is the first two-time winner of the honor in its 24-year history

<p>Sandra Bullock</p>

Sandra Bullock

Credit: AP Photo

More serious than People's Sexiest Man Alive, less prestigious than Time's Person of the Year, Entertainment Weekly's annual selection for Entertainer of the Year is one of those oddly intangible magazine-cover accolades -- not quite an award, not quite a personal tribute -- that may not mean much individually, but is usually indicative of a larger wave of audience and industry appreciation. On the one hand, it congratulates the recipient on a very good year; on the other, it anticipates still better things to come.

EW's Entertainer of the Year 2013, then? Sandra Bullock. Well, of course.

Oscar hopefuls 'The Grandmaster' and 'Ilo Ilo' rule Asia's Golden Horse Awards

Ang Lee was president of this year's award jury

<p>Zhang Ziyi won&nbsp;Best Actress at the Golden Horse Awards for &quot;The Grandmaster.&quot;&nbsp;</p>

Zhang Ziyi won Best Actress at the Golden Horse Awards for "The Grandmaster." 

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Best Foreign Language Film Oscar contenders from Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan were among the winners at this weekend's Golden Horse Awards -- effectively the Oscars of the Chinese-speaking film industry. And while there were some heavy-hitting auteurs in the running for top honors (Wong Kar-wai, Jia Zhang-ke, Johnnie To and Tsai Ming-liang among them), it was ultimately a modest debut feature that won out, as young Singaporean director Anthony Chen's gentle family drama "Ilo Ilo" took four awards, including Best Picture.

Roundup: Is 'Dallas Buyers Club' the film equivalent of Macklemore?

Also: The two-pronged future of 'Nymphomaniac,' and John Landis vs. Hollywood

<p>Matthew McConaughey in &quot;Dallas Buyers Club.&quot;</p>

Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club."

Credit: Focus Features

So far, "Dallas Buyers Club" has had a fairly smooth ride, but it was inevitable that its social and sexual politics would at some point find vocal dissenters. R. Kurt Osenlund certainly does his best to trigger a debate, calling it "one of the year's worst films," and likening it to Macklemore's hit single "Same Love" as a work of "warped queer advocacy." "I sure as hell don't want to see the first major movie about AIDS in 20 years to be about a goddamned queer-hating hick," he fumes. "I want more from my art, I want better advocates, and more than anything, I want more people, and colleagues, to acknowledge the problem." He then goes on to suggest director Jean-Marc Vallée's heterosexuality might "in a way" be problematic. I can't say I agree with him one iota, but there's a longer discussion to be had here. [House Next Door]

2013-2014 OSCAR NOMINATIONS
UPDATED: MARCH 2, 2014

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