Roundup: 'Mud' wins the Oscar screener race

Also: The greatest short speeches, and the successful anonymity of Ron Howard

<p>Tye Sheridan, Matthew McConaughey and Jacob Lofland in &quot;Mud.&quot;</p>

Tye Sheridan, Matthew McConaughey and Jacob Lofland in "Mud."

Credit: Roadside Attractions

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Being the first screener to land in Academy voters' mailboxes is a victory that sometimes brings more than just bragging rights -- especially for smaller films that might get lost in the crush later in the season. The early bird strategy has paid off handsomely for such performance-driven indies as "A Better Life" and "Frozen River" in the past, though it doesn't always get results: last year, TWC's "The Intouchables" didn't even wind up with a foreign-language nod. So, which screener was quickest on the draw this year? Jeff Nichols' coming-of-age tale "Mud" -- until recently, the year's highest-grossing art house release. Roadside Attractions are simplifying Matthew McConaughey's Best Actor drive for "Dallas Buyers Club" by running a supporting campaign for the star, who plays the title role. You can argue amongst yourselves about the rights or wrongs of that move, though the film's best shot at a nod is probably for Best Original Screenplay. Will being first pay off this year? [Deadline

Inspired by Meritt Weaver, who won everyone's heart last night with her brevity at the Emmys, Lucy Kinder considers other great short speeches in history, from Joe Pesci to Abe Lincoln. [The Telegraph]

Michael Cieply examines the tangle of real and re-interpreted narratives behind "12 Years a Slave." [New York Times]

Nathaniel Rogers on why we need to stop griping over the foreign-language Oscar race, and let the movies be the chief reward. [The Film Experience]

Scott Feinberg looks at the films blurring the line between drama and comedy in the race for this year's Golden Globes. [The Race]

On the steadfast presence of Ron Howard, "the most successful director never to be named anyone's favorite." [The Dissolve]

"Rush" costume designer Julian Day talks about recreating the gaudy glamor of 1970s couture, with some help from Gucci. [Gilt]

R. Kurt Osenlund breaks down the Oscar prospects of summer critics' favorite "Before Midnight," calling the screenplay a "sure thing." But can it go any further? [The House Next Door]

British films took top honors at this year's Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival, the winners of which now qualify for Oscar nominations. [Screen Daily]

Why Christopher Nolan needed just 15 minutes to gain custody of Batman. [The Guardian]

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Guy Lodge
Critic
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.
2013-2014 OSCAR NOMINATIONS
UPDATED: MARCH 2, 2014