Advance word on Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks" -- one of the season's few remaining big reveals -- is increasingly positive ahead of its world premiere this Sunday in London: I've spoken to some fairly hard-to-please critics who were charmed by the true-life Hollywood tale. That might be because it's slightly less softball filmmaking than it appears to be from the outside. Speaking to the NYT's Brooks Barnes, director John Lee Hancock and others discuss their determination to present Walt Disney as he really was: “I was a bit afraid because we wanted to be honest about Walt ... I imagined the moment when Disney would say, ‘Sorry, we like him better as a god than a human.’ To their credit, they were smart enough and brave enough to realize that a human Walt was not only a better character, but was easier to love.” [New York Times
 
Demanding historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. gives "12 Years a Slave" the fact-checking treatment -- and a firm thumbs-up. [Mother Jones]
 
Ramin Setoodeh argues that the casting woes of "Fifty Shades of Grey" point to a leading-man crisis in Hollywood. Isn't it simply that no A-list actor wants the part? [Variety]
 
Why the much-ballyhooed sex scenes in "Blue is the Warmest Color" are hot... but also kind of boring. [IndieWire]

Steve Pond wonders if Oscar voters in the Best Foreign Language Film category will see the "wrong" version of "The Grandmaster." At this point, I no longer know which version I've seen. [The Wrap]  

Katey Rich on the prevalence of survival stories in the acting Oscar races. [Cinema Blend]

R. Kurt Osenlund profiles Lupita Nyong'o, the film debutante turned Oscar frontrunner for "12 Years a Slave." [The House Next Door]

Brenda Chapman, the jilted co-director of "Brave," has strong words for the "boys' club" of studio animation. [The Dissolve]

Scott Feinberg breaks down seven films he sees as strong contenders for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar. [The Race]

Oliver Stone reflects on his critical relationship with Roger Ebert. [Roger Ebert]