Bradley Cooper has seemed very much a touch-and-go prospect in a crowded Best Actor field, but the scales slowly seem to be tipping in his favor. In contrast to the perennially ingenue-friendly Best Actress race, youngish Hollywood dreamboats can struggle to win over Academy voters, particularly for romantic and/or comic leads, so Cooper's superb work in "Silver Linings Playbook" is at a disadvantage in several ways. But after last week's unexpected win with the National Board of Review, Cooper has also landed the Desert Palm Award for Achievement in Acting at the Palm Springs Film Festival. He's the first male acting honoree announced for this publicity-heavy Oscar-season pitstop: Sally Field, Helen Hunt, Naomi Watts and the "Argo" ensemble are also getting a boost there. The list of recent Desert Palm winners includes Colin Firth, Jeff Bridges and Daniel Day-Lewis, which doesn't hurt Cooper's Oscar voodoo any. [PSIFF]

Wayne Blair ("The Sapphires"), Tobias Lindholm ("A Hijacking") and Czech Oscar hopeful David Ondricek ("In the Shadows") have been named among Variety's 10 Directors to Watch, also set to be honored at Palm Springs next month. [Variety]

Been missing Mark Harris this Oscar season? Then you'll enjoy his excellent portrait of how Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal brought "Zero Dark Thirty" to the screen. [New York]

At last week's BAFTA screening of "Django Unchained," Quentin Tarantino defended his film's depiction of slavery as less violent than the reality. [The Guardian

After limp box office weekend, "Skyfall" -- though not the record-breaker it is across the pond -- came out on top again, while "Lincoln" races toward the $100 million mark. [Box Office Mojo]

Scott Harris counts down what he believes are the 10 best animated films of the year. Can't say I agree, but nice to see a mention for "Arrietty." [Film.com]

Scott Feinberg surveys the spread of critics' awards so far, and wonders if Academy voters are paying attention -- particularly to less obvious champs like Rachel Weisz and Dwight Henry. [THR]

J.A. Bayona and shamefully Oscar-ignored VFX artist Felix Berges reveal how they went about recreating a tsunami to bone-shaking effect in "The Impossible." [New York Times]

David Poland chats to "Anna Karenina" star Keira Knightley, who seems slowly to be slipping out of the Best Actress conversation. Can she get back in? [Hot Blog]

Ava DuVernay talks about the inspiration behind her self-distributed feature "Middle of Nowhere" -- which I finally saw this weekend, and deserves the creeping awards buzz. [Gold Derby]