<p>Forest Whitaker at a Chicago screening of &quot;Lee Daniels' The&nbsp;Butler&quot;</p>

Forest Whitaker at a Chicago screening of "Lee Daniels' The Butler"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Forest Whitaker scores an early Oscar season honor

Black tie affair set for Dec. 15

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film has been presented every fall since 2006. The honor frequently goes to a filmmaker or actor in the early awards conversation with a sizable body of work primed for toasting. Previous recipients include Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Quentin Tarantino, Ed Harris, John Travolta, as well as Douglas himself at the first annual ceremony. The 2013 edition of the award will go to Forest Whitaker, star of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” at a black-tie Gala dinner in Santa Barbara on Sunday, Dec. 15.

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Greta Gerwig in "Frances Ha."
Greta Gerwig in "Frances Ha."
Credit: IFC Films

Roundup: Greta Gerwig waxes philosophical on awards season

Also: What 'Gravity' and '12 Years a Slave' have in common, and J.Law vs. K.Stew

When yesterday's Gotham Award nominations were announced, many noted with some surprise that the very good, very independent and very Gotham-centric "Frances Ha" was left off the list entirely. One of those was Nathaniel Rogers, who wound up accidentally breaking the news to the film's star and co-writer Greta Gerwig. Unsurprisingly, she's not that bothered -- about this, or awards in general. "I think if you're in the film business long enough they eventually get around to you somehow. Or at least when you die a picture of you goes up onscreen ... I also think filmmakers who I love -- sometimes the movies they get recognized for aren't as good as some of their other movies. 'Oh, we sat on it when it was fascinating in the 80s or something, so now we're going to do it!'" [The Film Experience]

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<p>&quot;Rush&quot;</p>

"Rush"

Credit: Universal Pictures

Tech Support: What films headline this year's race for Best Sound Editing?

And are there any animated films that could slide in this time around?

Last February’s Academy Awards ceremony produced a nice handful of surprises, but none was more jaw-dropping than the wacky turn of events than when “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Skyfall” tied for the Best Sound Editing Oscar. I found the moment quite appropriate, actually, as not only were they both deserving victors (in different ways) but they demonstrated different sorts of films that tend to be honored in this category.

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It's official: George Clooney's 'Monuments Men' moves to February 7
Credit: Sony Pictures

It's official: George Clooney's 'Monuments Men' moves to February 7

Will the wartime romp follow the 'Shutter Island' route to success?

Well, that was fast. Late on Tuesday, the news dropped that Sony was pulling George Clooney's "The Monuments Men" from the release calendar. Yesterday, Kris, Greg and I speculated as to when the film would (or should) open in 2014.  Today, we got our answer -- and, as Clooney hinted when the news initially broke, the all-star WWII story will indeed be a February release. Deadline revealed that the film has been set for February 7, 2014, booting Sony's "Robocop" remake to February 12 instead.

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<p>Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in &quot;Before Midnight.&quot;</p>

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in "Before Midnight."

Credit: Sony Classics

'12 Years a Slave,' 'Before Midnight' in line for gold at Gotham Awards

Acting nominees include Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson

I guess you could say awards season has officially kicked off, with the Gotham Independent Film Awards -- as usual -- providing the race with its first slate of nominees. And to the surprise of absolutely no one, "12 Years a Slave" leads the field with three nominations -- get used to it coming out on top in pretty every nomination list for the next three months. Those nods include Best Feature (of course), and Best Breakthrough Actor for Lupita Nyong'o, while Chiwetel Ejiofor is mentioned in the newly created Best Actor category.

Its rivals for the top award include the Coen Brothers' upcoming "Inside Llewyn Davis," and three critics' favorites from earlier in the year: "Before Midnight," "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" and "Upstream Color." ("Upstream" lead Amy Seimetz has much to celebrate this morning, having scored a Best Actress nod, as well a Best Breakthrough Director nod for her first feature "Sun Don't Shine.")

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<p>Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper in David O. Russell's &quot;American Hustle.&quot;</p>

Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper in David O. Russell's "American Hustle."

Credit: Sony Pictures

Contender Countdown: Is Oscar ready to do the 'Hustle?'

Trying to avoid heartbreak in the Best Picture race

Last week this pundit discussed the buzz that was circling back on "Saving Mr. Banks" before its world premiere as the closing night film at the 2013 London Film Festival. And as chronicled by Guy Lodge's review and my own rundown of "Banks'" Oscar chances, the film is truly a player. Fast forward two days and in something of a surprise, another potential contender, "The Monuments Men," moves to 2014. That means we have just two unseen contenders left: "American Hustle" and "The Wolf of Wall Street."

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<p>&quot;Blue is the Warmest Color&quot;</p>

"Blue is the Warmest Color"

Credit: Sundance Selects

Roundup: Defying the NC-17 rating for 'Blue is the Warmest Color'

Also: Clooney justifies 'Monuments' delay, and is 'Captain Phillips' jingoistic?
There's been much fuss about the MPAA hobbling "Blue is the Warmest Color" with an NC-17 rating, the film's inability to screen in Idaho, and so on. In New York, however, one theater -- the IFC Center, of course -- is taking matters into their own hands by ignoring the restrictive rating. Manager John Vanco says viewers of high-school age will be admitted, stating: “This is not a movie for young children, but it is our judgment that it is not inappropriate for mature, inquiring teenagers who are looking ahead to the emotional challenges and opportunities that adulthood holds.” That strikes me as a sensible attitude, and A.O. Scott -- who has permitted his 14-year-old daughter to see the sexually explicit film twice -- agrees. [New York Times]
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<p>Lea Seydoux, Abdellatif Kechiche and Adele Exarchopoulos at the Cannes Film Festival.</p>

Lea Seydoux, Abdellatif Kechiche and Adele Exarchopoulos at the Cannes Film Festival.

Credit: AP Photo

Uh, oh. 'Blue is the Warmest Color' director goes on epic rant

Kechiche accuses the actress of 'arrogance' and 'opportunism' in an open letter

Palme d'Or winner "Blue is the Warmest Color" may still be one of my favorite films of the year, but director Abdellatif Kechiche sure is doing his damnedest to make me sick of hearing about it. His ongoing feud with the film's stars and Palme co-winners -- in particular, Léa Seydoux -- has been a hot media topic for a couple of months now, with Kechiche rather melodramatically stating at one point that the film had been tainted and shouldn't be released. He's since retracted that particular outburst, but if you thought he was done, you thought wrong.

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Matt Damon, Hugh Bonneville and George Clooney in "The Monuments Men."
Matt Damon, Hugh Bonneville and George Clooney in "The Monuments Men."
Credit: Sony Pictures

3 on 3: Who wins and who loses with the 'Monuments Men' move to 2014?

The Oscar race just got a bit less crowded, but what's in it for the movie?

And another one, as they say, bites the dust. Well, for this year, anyway. Most Oscar pundits had George Clooney's WWII adventure "The Monuments Men" placed fairly prominently on their prediction lists, and with the unveiling of a high-toned new trailer last week, the all-star attraction seemed primed for the season ahead. That is, until Sony Pictures dropped the bombshell that the film would not be ready for release this year after all. "The Monuments Men" thus becomes the highest-profile film so far -- following others like Sony Classics' "Foxcatcher" and The Weinstein Company's "Grace of Monaco" -- to bow out of the awards race before it's begun.

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Roundup: Why the Oscars matter, even if they don't
Credit: AP Photo

Roundup: Why the Oscars matter, even if they don't

Also: Breaking down '12 Years a Slave,' and how Jared Leto got cool

The best Oscar-related piece on the internet comes from Salon critic Andrew O'Hehir, who examines our fascination with the awards, as as we concede that they mean little in the grand scheme of things: "The Oscar race has things to teach us, every single year; but on the other hand, the manufactured narrative that gets spun out of it is almost entirely devoid of meaning ... like electoral politics with the ideology shoved under the carpet." The difference this year, he says, is that neither of this year's two apparent race-leaders fit the usual Oscar formula: "12 Years a Slave" is a "valuable historical corrective" and "formally audacious," while "Gravity" "may have too much catharsis ... a remake of Kubrick’s '2001' made by HAL." [Salon]

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