Oscar Shortlist: Best Visual Effects 

We all know that Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" will win this award, but let's pretend we don't know that. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has released the 10 movies shortlisted for Visual Effects Oscar. Besides "Gravity," it's also fitting that Peter Jackson's sequel "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" was included.

But "The Lone Reanger" really? Okay, there are two eye-popping train sequences there, and perhaps, Johnny Depp's hairpiece is considered a visual effect! HA!

The Visual Effects branch will whittle down the list on January 9, and we'll find out the final nominees on January 16th when the Oscar noms are revealed.

Here's the complete list:



"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"

"Iron Man 3"

"The Lone Ranger"


"Star Trek Into Darkness"

"Thor: The Dark World"

"Pacific Rim"

"World War Z"

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"Her" Wins Big at National Board of Review Awards 

The awards season just got more unpredictable. The last three award-giving bodies have chosen different movies for their top honors. The Gotham Awards picked the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" as their top choice while the New York Film Critics Circle awarded David O. Russell's "American Hustle" with the Best Picture of the Year nod.

Now comes the National Board of Review. They chose the equally fantastic movie "Her' from Spike Jonze as the Best Film of the year. Even in acting categories, the three award-giving organizations vary. For Best Actor, Gotham chose Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club," while New York Film Critics crowned Robert Redford for "All is Lost." The NBR chose Bruce Dern from "Nebraska" as the actor to beat.

Same can be said with the Best Actress category. Gotham chose Brie Larson for "Short Term 12," while NYFCC picked Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine."

Emma Thompson for her wonderful portrayal of P.L. Travers in "Saving Mr. Banks" won Best Actress at the NBR.

In a year where there are just so many great movies, this unpredictability is bound to happen. Gone were the years of "No Country for Old Men" or "The Artist" dominating the award season.

Here are the complete list of winners of the 2013 National Board of Review awards:

Best Film: HER

Best Director: Spike Jonze, HER

Best Actor: Bruce Dern, NEBRASKA

Best Actress: Emma Thompson, SAVING MR. BANKS

Best Supporting Actor: Will Forte, NEBRASKA

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, FRUITVALE STATION

Best Original Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

Best Adapted Screenplay: Terence Winter, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Best Animated Feature: THE WIND RISES

Breakthrough Performance: Michael B. Jordan, FRUITVALE STATION

Breakthrough Performance: Adele Exarchopoulos, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

Best Directorial Debut: Ryan Coogler, FRUITVALE STATION

Best Foreign Language Film: THE PAST

Best Documentary: STORIES WE TELL

William K. Everson Film History Award: George Stevens, Jr.

Best Ensemble: PRISONERS

Spotlight Award: Career Collaboration of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio

NBR Freedom of Expression Award: WADJDA

Creative Innovation in Filmmaking Award: GRAVITY

Top Films (in alphabetical order)

"12 Years a Slave," "Fruitvale Station," "Gravity," Inside Llewyn Davis," "Lone Survivor," "Nebraska," "Prisoners," "Saving Mr. Banks," "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (In Alphabetical Order)

"Beyond the Hills," "Gloria," "The Grandmaster," "A Hijacking," "The Hunt"

Top 5 Documentaries (In Alphabetical Order)

"20 Feet from Stardom," "The Act of Killing," "After Tiller," "Casting By," "The Square"

Top 10 Independent Films (In Alphabetical Order)

"Ain’t Them Bodies Saints," "Dallas Buyers Club," "In a World…," "Mother of George," "Much Ado About Nothing," "Mud," "The Place Beyond the Pines," "Short Term 12," "Sightseers," "The Spectacular Now"

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Steve Coogan Talks About "Philomena!" 

Steve Coogan co-wrote, co-produced, and co-starred in one of the year’s best films, “Philomena.” Starring Dame Judi Dench, the film is based on the investigative book by Martin Sixsmith called “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee.” Coogan is Sixsmith and Dench is Philomena in this thought-provoking film from director Stephen Frears.

I interviewed Coogan via satellite and we talked about:

*** At the heart of the film is faith and devotion – is that what attracted Coogan to making “Philomena?”
*** How this film is a passion project for him.
*** When I interviewed Coogan for “Hamlet 2,” I observed his penchant for turning human frailties into comedies
*** Coogan and Dench – the buddy pairing we all want to see!
*** He loved when I said – “Philomena” still makes you feel good but you won’t be hating yourself for doing so!

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"American Hustle," Jennifer Lawrence Win Big at New York Film Critics Circle 

The New York Film Critics Circle have announced the winners of their 2013 awards and they crowned David O. Russell's "American Hustle" as the Best Film of the Year! But wait there's more! "American Hustle" also won Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Jennifer Lawrence. She's really on fire!

Robert Redford won Best Actor for "All Is Lost" while Cate Blanchett took home the Best Actress award for "Blue Jasmine." My favorite, Jared Leto, won Best Supporting Actor for "Dallas Buyers Club."

Presumed front-runner, "12 Years a Slave," only managed one award and that's for its visionary director, Steve McQueen.

Here's the full list of winners of the 2013 New York Film Critics Circle awards:

Best Film:
"American Hustle"

Best Director:
Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave"

Best Screenplay:
Eric Singer & David O. Russell, "American Hustle"

Best Actress:
Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"

Best Actor:
Robert Redford, "All Is Lost"

Best Supporting Actress:
Jennifer Lawrence, "American Hustle"

Best Supporting Actor:
Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"

Best Cinematography:
Bruno Delbonnel, "Inside Llewyn Davis"

Best Non-fiction Film:
"Stories We Tell," directed by Sarah Polley

Best Foreign Language Film:
"Blue is the Warmest Color," directed by Abdellatif Kechiche

Best Animated Feature:
"The Wind Rises," directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Best First Feature:
"Fruitvale Station," directed by Ryan Coogler

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Oscar Shortlist: Best Documentary Feature 

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the 15 films that will vie for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar. Out of a record 147 films qualifying in this category, we're now down to 15.

Then, the Academy's Documentary Branch will now select the five nominees that will be announced on Thursday, January 16 when the Oscar noms are revealed.

I am hoping that "The Act of Killing" will make the final cut! This is what documentary cinema is all about -- haunting, provocative, and confrontational!

And the 15 movies buying for the final five spot in the Documentary Feature category are:

"The Act of Killing," Final Cut for Real
"The Armstrong Lie," The Kennedy/Marshall Company
"Blackfish," Our Turn Productions
"The Crash Reel," KP Rides Again
"Cutie and the Boxer," Ex Lion Tamer and Cine Mosaic
"Dirty Wars," Civic Bakery
"First Cousin Once Removed," Experiments in Time, Light & Motion
"God Loves Uganda," Full Credit Productions
"Life According to Sam," Fine Films
"Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer," Roast Beef Productions
"The Square," Noujaim Films and Maktube Productions
"Stories We Tell," National Film Board of Canada
"Tim’s Vermeer," High Delft Pictures
"20 Feet from Stardom," Gil Friesen Productions and Tremolo Productions
"Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington," Tripoli Street

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