You need only look to "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" to observe how hard the fall festival circuit can be on certain prestige hopefuls: prime Oscar bait on paper, The Weinstein Company contender's buzz plummeted after a first wave of reviews that deemed it (not inaccurately, I think) turgid biopic-by-numbers stuff, however well-acted. How to get people talking about it again? Well, the announcement of an official White House screening this week for President Obama, due to be attended by Mandela's daughters and stars Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, will earn it a fresh batch of headlines and nifty photo opportunities. Will it help? Tim Gray considers the value of a political endorsement. [Variety]

Mike D'Angelo revisits the 1988 Best Supporting Actor race -- declaring one time the Academy (gasp!) actually got it right. [The Dissolve]

R. Kurt Osenlund considers the Oscar prospects of "Nebraska," and wonders whether arguments over the film's misanthropy will reach the Academy. [Slant]

Ranging from Oscar-tipped Jared Leto to Belgium's Veerle Baetens, Logan Hill rounds up some of the season's most noteworthy acting breakthroughs. [New York Times]  

James Gray, Ryan Coogler, Oliver Hirschbiegel (still fuming over those "Diana" reviews), Atom Egoyan and Jonathan Teplitzky talk industry woes and indie advantages. [Hollywood Reporter]

Glenn Whipp on how "Dallas Buyers Club" and "The Book Thief" are angling for the "passion vote." [LA Times]

Previewing the superb soundtrack to "Inside Llewyn Davis." [NPR]

David Cronenberg talks about his new Toronto exhibition, and why Kubrick apparently didn't get horror. [Toronto Star]

David Cox on how "Philomena" reveals both the sins and strengths of Catholicism. [The Guardian]

I love this piece: Justin Chang on the joys of time-travel romances -- even ones as ropey as "About Time." [Variety]

Guy Lodge is a South African-born critic and sometime screenwriter. In addition to his work at In Contention, he is a freelance contributor to Variety, Time Out, Empire and The Guardian. He lives well beyond his means in London.