Since the Academy created a casting directors' branch earlier this year, there's been a growing debate over whether or not a new Oscar category should be created for them. One person clearly in the "pro" camp is Woody Allen, who has written an open letter in praise of their work -- and, in particular, that of his longtime collaborator Juliet Taylor, whom he credits with introducing him to the work of such actors as Dianne Wiest, Jeff Daniels and Patricia Clarkson. (Wait, he worked with Clarkson in 2009 - bit slow on the uptake there, Woody!)  "Because my films are not special effects films and are about human beings, proper casting is absolutely essential," he writes. "I owe a big part of the success of my films to this scrupulous casting process which I must say if left to my own devices would never have happened." [Hollywood Reporter]

David O. Russell will be honored with a special tribute at the AFI Fest next week. [AFI Fest]

Justin Chang senses the Academy is up for a braver, bolder Best Picture choice after three years of feelgood picks. [Variety]

Sam Adams wonders if critics are too undiscriminating when they review documentaries. [Indiewire]

James Lipton on the awards race, and how actors use physical transformation to gain attention. [Vanity Fair]

Academic and graphics expert Paul Debevec talks about his work on "Gravity" and a host of past blockbusters. [The Credits

Matt Patches gives a great overview of the tortuous path "Ender's Game" has taken to the screen. [Grantland]

Zachary Wigan considers the implications of Netflix's imminent move into filmmaking. [Tribeca Film]

Catherine Shoard examines the prevalence of reality-based films in the Oscar race, and the decision made by some of them to drop out. [The Guardian