What do "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Lincoln" have in common? Beyond both being American Oscar hopefuls that happen to be his two favorite films of the year, A.O. Scott thinks they share something else: a "Spielbergian" quality: "Both films have been accused of painting some of the calamities of American life, past and present — poverty, slavery, racism, environmental disaster — in unduly optimistic colors.“Lincoln” and “Beasts” are radically, fundamentally and in complementary ways, about freedom... They are also examples of what, for an American filmmaker, freedom looks like." Good points all round, and also indicative of why, in my opinion, "Beasts" has a cleaner shot at a Best Picture nod than many believe it does right now. [New York Times]

Tom Shone examines a tighter-than-usual Best Picture race and comes to the conclusion that, after all this time, "Argo" may still be The One. [The Guardian

Veteran character actor Charles Durning, Oscar-nominated 30 years ago for "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," passed away on Christmas Eve at the age of 89. [HitFix]

Andrew O'Hehir weighs in with his top 10 films of the year, and Andrea Arnold's "Wuthering Heights" (which cracked my 2011 Top 10) tops the list. A great read. [Salon]

Oscar-winning cinematographer Andrew Lesnie talks about revisiting Middle Earth, this time with very different technology, for "The Hobbit." [Below the Line

Sasha Stone adds her voice to the debate over the depiction of torture in "Zero Dark Thirty," concluding that it should be viewed as nothing more -- or less -- than a thoughtful Hollywood take on a dangerous subject. [Awards Daily]

How "Les Mis," according to Frank Shyong, answers the apprehensions of skeptical theater geeks. [LA Times]

Chris Laverty, meanwhile, reviews the film with a specific eye on its costume symbolism. [Clothes on Film]

R. Kurt Osenlund considers the diminished Oscar possibilities of "Anna Karenina." [The House Next Door]

Nathaniel Rogers gets some melancholy reflections from Nicole Kidman on her Oscar win 10 years ago: "I really remember going back and the next morning waking up and I didn't have anybody, really, to call or celebrate with." [The Film Experience]