2013 Awards Season Cheat Sheet

PHOTO: Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are seen in a still from "Silver Linings Playbook."
The Weinstein Company

With awards season upon us, there are six movies you're going to be hearing a lot about over the next couple months. We've rounded up what you need to know about the films likely to dominate the Golden Globes, SAG Awards and the Oscars. Other flicks will fall into the fray, but if you get to know these frontrunners, you'll be able to hold your own when talk of golden statues comes up:

PHOTO: Navy SEALs are seen fighting through a dust storm in the new thriller directed by Kathryn Bigelow, "Zero Dark Thirty."
Columbia Pictures/AP Photo
Zero Dark Thirty

What Critics Are Saying: Kathryn Bigelow's tour de force about the CIA agent whose obsession led to the killing of Osama bin Laden has earned rave reviews almost across the board. The New York Times dubbed Bigelow's direction "stunning, at once bold and intimate" and Rolling Stone called the pic "the knockout punch of the movie season." One sticking point, for some critics: a lack of character development. "While this decade-long look at the inner workings of the CIA is intriguing, the movie would have benefited by more character development and additional editing," said USA Today.

What the Cast and Crew Are Saying: It's all about Maya, the single-minded CIA genius who finds bin Laden. Played by Jessica Chastain, she's cold, calculating and completely uninterested in anything but killing the 9/11 mastermind. "Historically in movies, lead female characters are defined by men: They are usually either a victim or a love interest," Chastain told the Miami Herald. "Maya is none of those things. She is capable and intelligent, and she stands on her own. We're not used to seeing a lead female character like that in American movies. She's the perfect representation of this generation of women, and no other filmmaker except Kathryn Bigelow could have captured her so well."

What You Need to Know: The thriller is up for four Golden Globes and a SAG Award, and it won best film at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards in December. It's likely to get a number of Academy Award noms -- Bigelow swept up a slew of golden statues for her last film, 2009's "The Hurt Locker," including Oscars for best director and best picture.

The making of the film has garnered headlines as well. The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has begun an examination to see if Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal were given inappropriate access to secret materials about the government's efforts to find bin Laden. The movie has also been criticized for its graphic depictions of torture.

PHOTO: Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Django Unchained'
Andrew Cooper/The Weinstein Company
Django Unchained

What Critics Are Saying: The majority of critics have praised Quentin Tarantino's shoot 'em up Western about a freed slave turned bounty hunter. The Los Angeles Times called "Django Unchained" Tarantino's "most articulate, intriguing, provoking, appalling, hilarious, exhilarating, scathing and downright entertaining film yet." But some have lamented its length (nearly three hours) and raucousness. "It is a tribute to the spaghetti Western, cooked al dente, then cooked a while more, and finally sauced to death," The New Yorker said.

What the Cast and Crew Are Saying: The film has come under fire for its gleeful violence and general un-PC-ness -- the N-word factors heavily into nearly every scene. When Spike Lee called for a boycott of the film, Jamie Foxx, who stars as Django, stepped up to Tarantino's defense. "'He's making entertainment," Foxx told the L.A. Times. "Hopefully, it makes you go ask questions and you Google it." He also said "Django" isn't meant to be a history lesson: "If you want to learn something from a movie, go watch a documentary."

What you need to know: With five Golden Globe nominations, "Django's" likely to earn some Oscar love as well. Tarantino's last film, "Inglourious Basterds," scored eight Oscar nominations and one award -- best supporting actor for Christoph Waltz, who's also a main character in "Django." But it's interesting that "Django" was snubbed by the SAG Awards, whose nominees usually overlap with the people up for Oscars.

PHOTO: Daniel Day-Lewis, center rear, as Abraham Lincoln, in a scene from the film, "Lincoln."
Twentieth Century Fox

What Critics Are Saying: Many movie reviewers ate up Steven Spielberg's Abraham Lincoln bio pic. "The experience of watching Daniel Day-Lewis in this role is nothing less than thrilling," raved the San Francisco Chronicle. "This is Lincoln. No need for a time machine, there he is." A few lamented the movie's slow pace and academic emphasis. "The result looks as much like a Natural History Museum diorama as it sounds: a respectful but waxy re-creation," said Variety.

What the Cast and Crew Are Saying: Daniel Day-Lewis' uncanny portrayal of Lincoln had people buzzing long before the movie came out. But the method actor has declined to talk in detail about getting into character -- even Spielberg didn't press him. "I never once looked the gift horse in the mouth," the director told The New York Times in October. "I never asked Daniel about his process. I didn't want to know."

What you need to know: The Academy's love for historical bio pics is well documented, and they swoon over Spielberg and Day-Lewis. (Day-Lewis has won two, Spielberg's got three.) "Lincoln" is up for seven Golden Globes and four SAG Awards -- surely, Oscar nominations are next.

PHOTO: This undated publicity photo provided by Universal Pictures shows Anne Hathaway, left, as Fantine, being thrown out of the factory in a scene from director, Tom Hooper's new film, "Les Misérables," the motion-picture adaptation of the beloved globa
Universal Pictures/AP Photo
Les Miserables

What Critics Are Saying: The big-screen adaptation of Victor Hugo's book and the subsequent hit musical, "Les Miserables" has received largely favorable reviews (73 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Peter Travers called it "gutsy filmmaking"; Richard Roeper said, "This is an unforgettable movie going experience"; and USA Today gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars. But not everyone likes it. Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune wrote, "I didn't like it" and Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter said, "There are large, emotionally susceptible segments of the population ready to swallow this sort of thing, but that doesn't mean it's good."

What Cast and Crew Are Saying: Recently Russell Crowe, who plays the ruthless policeman Javert, responded to criticism from "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert, who tweeted that the film "suffered massively" from "great actors PRETENDING to be singers." Lambert lauded director Tom Hooper for having the actors perform live rather than lip synch to a recorded track but said Hooper should have "sweetened the vocals" in the studio. Crowe's response: "I don't disagree with Adam, sure it could have been sweetened, Hooper wanted it raw and real, that's how it is."

What You Need to Know: "Les Mis" is likely to pick up Oscar nods for its stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, who's considered the frontrunner for best supporting actress. At the Golden Globes, where it's up for four awards, Yahoo! Movies contributing editor Thelma Adams predicts Jackman and Hathaway will take home trophies, but the film may lose in the best musical/comedy category to "Silver Linings Playbook." The entire cast is up for a Screen Actors Guild award and the film is tied with "Lincoln" and "Silver Linings" for most nominations at four.

PHOTO: Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are seen in a still from "Silver Linings Playbook."
The Weinstein Company
Silver Linings Playbook

What Critics Are Saying: The critics love David O. Russell's oddball romantic comedy "Silver Linings Playbook." It scored a 91 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The New York Times' Manohla Dargis said, "For all its high-flying zaniness the movie has the sting of life"; Entertainment Weekly wrote, "Family nuttiness, football madness, romantic obsession, and certifiable mental illness coexist happily"; and Roger Ebert noted, "We're fully aware of the plot conventions at work here ... but with these actors, this velocity and the oblique economy of the dialogue, we realize we don't often see it done this well."

What Cast and Crew Are Saying: Star Jennifer Lawrence, who also starred in the 2012 blockbuster "The Hunger Games," has cemented her star status with "Silver Linings." But she doesn't think very much of her chosen profession. The 22-year-old told the February issue of Vanity Fair: "Not to sound rude, but [acting] is stupid. Everybody's like, 'How can you remain with a level head?' And I'm like, 'Why would I ever get cocky? I'm not saving anybody's life. There are doctors who save lives and firemen who run into burning buildings. I'm making movies. It's stupid.'"

What You Need to Know: "Silver Linings Playbook" is on a roll, picking up a best picture nomination from the Producers Guild to add to its four SAG nominations, four Golden Globe nods and five Independent Spirit noms. Expect the film to be a major contender at the Academy Awards as well. Yahoo! contributing editor Adams thinks Lawrence will most likely take home the Golden Globe for best actress in a musical/comedy.

Warner Bros.

What Critics Are Saying: "Argo," Ben Affleck's Iranian hostage drama based on historic events, was also extremely popular with critics, scoring a whopping 96 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Richard Roeper called it "one of the best movies of the year"; Slate's Dana Stevens said it's "easily the most cohesive and technically accomplished of Affleck's three films so far, but a part of me wishes the director hadn't cast himself in the lead role"; and the Christian Science Monitor wrote, "The movieland satire is laid on thick, but it's also deadly accurate. Schlock has never seemed so patriotic."

What Cast and Crew Are Saying: Affleck has come out defending his movie against innuendos that it is historically inaccurate. In December the director was joined by CIA officer Tony Mendez, who conceived and ultimately executed the plot to smuggle six State Department employees out of revolutionary Iran by disguising them as Hollywood filmmakers, at lunch for journalists and Academy members. "My movie is -- it's extremely accurate," Affleck said. "It's Tony's story. It was so faithful to him and his story." He also pointed out that "Argo" is at least as relevant as Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln." "Because we were talking about America's larger role in the Mideast," Affleck said, "I felt a kind of responsibility that I didn't feel making 'Mall Rats.'"

What You Need to Know: "Argo" is the kind of movie Hollywood loves and is sure to be awarded with several Oscar nominations. A movie about a movie -- even a fake movie -- is an easy sell, Affleck told the New York Times. That might explain why it picked up a best picture nod from the Producers Guild, five Golden Globe nominations and two SAG mentions, including best ensemble cast. Adams thinks it has a good shot at winning best picture/drama at the Globes. "No one says, 'I didn't like it.'"

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