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<p>Joseph Gordon-Levitt in &quot;Looper.&quot;</p>

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "Looper."

Credit: TriStar Pictures

Previewing the WGA Award nominees

Don't expect the Academy to mirror them too closely

The Producers' Guild of America caught us unawares this afternoon by announcing their nominees a day ahead of schedule, and while we're currently expecting the Writers' Guild to reveal their picks on Friday, it seems safest to preview them two days in advance. Guild award season is upon us (the Art Directors' Guild also offers its own list tomorrow), so we're trying not to be caught out.

As any practised awards-watcher knows, while the Guilds are generally the most reliable of all precursors when it comes to anticipating Oscars fortunes, the WGA are a notable exception -- not least because, every year, much of the heavyweight competition in the screenplay categories is disqualified.

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<p>Leonardo DiCaprio in &quot;Django Unchained&quot;</p>

Leonardo DiCaprio in "Django Unchained"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'Django Unchained' star Leonardo DiCaprio to receive Santa Barbara's American Riviera Award

Event to take place on February 1

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has announced that "Django Unchained" star Leonardo DiCaprio will received its American Riviera Award.

It's a nice bit of recognition for one of the film's more dynamic performances. Christoph Waltz has received the bulk of the precursor awards attention, owed plenty to his co-lead status, while DiCaprio and co-star Samuel L. Jackson have been largely ignored. DiCaprio did, however, pick up an early prize from the National Board of Review.

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<p>Real-life heroes, Earth-bound gods, and hyperviolent hockey stars all made 2012 a year worth remembering at the movie theater.</p>

Real-life heroes, Earth-bound gods, and hyperviolent hockey stars all made 2012 a year worth remembering at the movie theater.

Credit: Warner Bros/Marvel Studios/Magnolia Pictures

When 'The Avengers,' Ben Affleck, and 'Damsels' are all runners-up, it's been a good year

Our comprehensive look back at 2012 continues

So 2012 is over.  Done.  Gone for good.

All that's left now is to put one final list together, and I love this time of year because it allows us to look back at the whole year and celebrate all the things that made the year special.  Often we just look at our top picks, though, and the truth is that there were way more than ten films that made my time in the theater worthwhile.  Now that I've published my list of my ten favorite films this year, it's time to dig deeper and look at all the other moments I'll remember when I think back on 2012.

This year, I've done something a little different.  First, I'll list my ten runners-up, which I always view as the alternate top ten list.  I would have been happy with any or all of these in the top ten, which is why I consider these the runners-up.  They were all in play while I was trying to sort out the list.  After that, we're going to look at the other films that made this year worthwhile, a much longer list, and point out what made each of them special.

This may take a while, so get comfortable.

11. "The Avengers"

Joy, pure and simple. In an age where even our blockbusters seem to focus on the dark and dour, "The Avengers" was a celebration of the pop iconography of the Marvel universe, a movie where Joss Whedon's strengths finally found their perfect expression. So far, television seemed like his perfect storytelling forum, but the truth is that Joss Whedon is the grown-up version of The Kid Who Is Most Fun To Play Action Figures With, a pop culture Dungeon Master, and Marvel should thank their lucky stars that he was the guy to carry the football across the finish line.  As much as I've enjoyed the other movies in the Marvel universe, this is the moment where every character finally came into perfect focus, where the humor was right, where the action was right… and the best part of all? He made it look easy.

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Listen: Azealia Banks rings in the New Year with 'BBD'

Listen: Azealia Banks rings in the New Year with 'BBD'

From rapper's forthcoming album debut 'Broke with Expensive Taste'

It's crunch-time for Azealia Banks' album promotion cycle behind her forthcoming full-length, and to bring in the new year and the new set is fresh "BBD."

While the rapper does name check the original BBD -- Bel Biv Devoe -- she's coining the abbreviation for Bad B*tches Do It with this upbeat track. Her raps are mixed low, letting the marching production take the front, and that at least sounds good. She's got ADHD more than BBD here, but it's arrived at a time where she's just looking to whet whistles.

"BBD" will be featured on Interscope debut "Broke with Expensive Taste," due Feb. 13, right around Grammys. You think she's ready for primetime and, if so, will she be at the show?

Azealia Banks was among our Most Anticipated for 2013 artists, check those below.

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<p>Daniel Craig in &quot;Skyfall&quot;</p>

Daniel Craig in "Skyfall"

Credit: Columbia Pictures

'Skyfall' joins indies 'Beasts' and 'Moonrise' on list of PGA nominees

Money-making fare such as 'Argo' and 'Lincoln' also included

Nominees for the 24th annual PGA Awards have been announced. Expected money-makers such as "Argo" and "Lincoln" which have been mainstays in the season joined blockbuster fare such as "Skyfall" (Sony's first billion-dollar grosser to date and an over-performer overall) as well as indies such as "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Moonrise Kingdom."

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<p>If everyone in Hollywood wanted you for every part, you'd be smiling, too.</p>

If everyone in Hollywood wanted you for every part, you'd be smiling, too.

Credit: Todd Williamson/Invision/AP Photo

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is latest name in the mix for 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' starring role

Could he be heroes for both Marvel and DC at once?

One of the most surprising things about the evidently heated battle to see who is going to end up starring in Marvel's upcoming "Guardians Of The Galaxy" film is that there is a heated battle to see who is going to star in "Guardians Of The Galaxy."

James Gunn is directing the film, which is perhaps the riskiest of all the Marvel movies coming in the near future.  At this point, I trust Marvel's development process, and I suspect this will fit neatly into the cinematic universe they've been building since 2008.  When they were getting ready to launch "Iron Man," I remember seeing many outlets write about how it was unlikely Marvel was going to be able to sell a second-tier lesser-known hero like Iron Man to the general public, and I heard the same hesitations before the release of "Thor."  Didn't really seem to pan out that way, though, and at this point, I think Marvel's name is enough of a stamp of quality for movie audiences that they can launch pretty much anything.

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<p>Britney Spears</p>

Britney Spears

Credit: AP Photo

UPDATED: Britney Spears reveals she's 'really focused' on new music right now

Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines also delivers solo album details

While the rest of us were ringing in the New Year and taking down the tree, some artists were hard at work.

Britney Spears took to Twitter  to tell fans that she was “really focused on my music right now.” Whether that’s a veiled reference to all the rumors that swirled over the holidays that she has been kicked off of “X Factor,” we don’t know, but it’s good news for Spears fans regardless.

In her chat, she also reveals that she’s “collaborating with some new inspiring producers,” without naming names, and that she’s “excited” about the new stuff.

Spears last album was 2011’s “Femme Fatale,” though she and will.i.am more recently dropped the tune, “Scream And Shout,” late last year. It debuted at No. 12 on Billboard's Hot 100.

In December, Elijah Blake, who’s written for Usher and Rihanna, revealed that he’s working with Spears on a new album. “I think her fans will be surprised by it,” he told thatgrapejuice.net. “I would say it’s definitely the ‘unexpected’ Britney in so many ways, in that she’s playing with new textures and stomping on new grounds and genres.” He added that “she’s definitely trying to push the envelope this time and really talk from a more personal point of view.”  

As we reported in October, it looks like Spears may be working with “Blackout” collaborator/producer Nate “Danja” Hills. 

Spears wasn’t the only one working on a new set over the holidays. The Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines tweeted  that she had finished her first solo album, “Mother,” which will come out May 7.  The first single is the title track, a cover of the Pink Floyd song.

Producer Ben Harper produced the rock album, according to a number of outlets. She and Harper have performed the song together live on selected Harper tour dates this past year.

The song also appears on “West Of Memphis: Voices of Justice,” a compilation album also featuring Lucinda Williams, Marilyn Manson, Band Of Horses, Eddie Vedder, Bob Dylan and others. The album is the companion to “West of Memphis,” a documentary about the West Memphis Three, three young men convicted for the murder of three 8-year old boys. Their conviction was overturned in 2011 after a number of artists, including Maines, had worked hard for their release.

The album will be Maines’ first release since the 2006 Dixie Chicks’ album, “Taking The Long Way.” While there are no plans for Dixie Chicks to record together any time soon (if ever again), they will reunite for a show on July 13at the Craven Country Jamboree in Canada. The Chicks are filling in for Lady Antebellum, who canceled the date due to Hillary Scott’s pregnancy.

UPDATE: Spears is also working with will.i.am and Hit-Boy, who has become very sought after following his collaborations with Kanye West and Jay-Z on "Ni***s in Paris" and Kendrick Lamar's "Backseat Freestyle," according to Entertainment Weekly.  A rep told EW that Spears has not worked with Blake, as we wrote above.

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<p>Dave Grohl</p>

Dave Grohl

Credit: AP Photo

Dave Grohl formed a new band for 'Sound City'

Who should be in the Sound City Players? Trent Reznor? Butch Vig? Paul McCartney?

The sights and sounds of Dave Grohl's directorial debut "Sound City" feature Paul McCartney, Trent Reznor, Tom Petty, members of Rage Against the Machine and more. Maybe some of those guys will end up in Dave Grohl's next performing project.

Grohl is introducing the Sound City Players at Park City, Utah during the Sundance Film Festival this month, the event at which doc "Sound City" is getting its bow. The group will debut on Jan. 18 at Park City Live, though its members besides Grohl are under wraps.

"Sound City" chronicles the California studio of the same name, with interviews from some very famous rock bands; as previously reported, Grohl is also releasing a soundtrack/inspired-by album "Sound City: Real to Reel" in conjunction. The 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief was highlighted with a song from that compilation, "Cut Me Some Slack," with Paul McCartney performing with the surviving members of Nirvana (Grohl, Pat Smear, Krist Novoselic).

"Sound City," the film, heads to digital shelves on Feb. 1, while the soundtrack will hit on March 12. Grohl told Rolling Stone in an interview that he'd like screenings of the documentary to be amplified by a concert afterward, so the Sound City Players may make their Sundance stint into more than one stop.

Who would you like to see perform with Grohl at Sundance? I'm crossing my fingers for something icy with Reznor and melodic with Lindsey Buckingham.

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<p>David Cronenberg on the set of &quot;Cosmopolis.&quot;</p>

David Cronenberg on the set of "Cosmopolis."

Credit: Entertainment One

Roundup: David Cronenberg on the 'problematical' nature of Oscar season

Also: The year's best LGBT characters, and Jay-Z goes 'Gatsby'

In the ranks of major filmmakers never to have received so much as an Oscar nomination, David Cronenberg sits pretty high on the list. Though it has its critical champions, his 2012 effort "Cosmopolis" certainly isn't going to change that -- though in a Movieline interview marking the film's DVD release, the veteran Canadian auteur says it doesn't concern him one bit: "It's not sour grapes... The people who are releasing the movie get excited, they want you to do more, and you understand it because the awards can maybe get more people to see the film. This, on its face, is a good thing. However, it is all bullshit, it is all annoying and it is all very problematical. But it gives people stuff to write about, gives structure, we understand. But I won't be watching any of the awards shows." [Movieline]

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<p>Monica Potter as Kristina in &quot;Parenthood.&quot;</p>

Monica Potter as Kristina in "Parenthood."

Credit: NBC

Review: 'Parenthood' - 'Keep On Rowing'

Kristina gets a haircut, Crosby gets a houseguest and everything gets messy between Julia and Victor

A review of last night's "Parenthood" coming up just as soon as my butcher looks at me like I have leprosy...

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<p>Jessica Chastain talks about her award-winning role in Kathryn Bigelow's &quot;Zero Dark Thirty.&quot;</p>

Jessica Chastain talks about her award-winning role in Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty."

'Zero Dark Thirty's' Jessica Chastain says she's 'far too emotional' to ever be a CIA agent

'The Help' star might also have a problem with keeping secrets (maybe)

NEW YORK - How on earth did it take this long for Jessica Chastain to come to Hollywood's attention?  She's spending the day talking about her role as Maya, a hard edged CIA analyst on the difficult hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" and her genuine charisma is beyond infectious. She practically glows when talking about the project. Of course, the truth is it didn't take Hollywood that long.  Chastain booked her first major movie role over three years ago and shot six other movies before "The Tree of Life" finally brought her to moviegoers attention in May, 2011.  Three months later "The Help" hit theaters and she went from relative unknown to finding herself recognized on the street.

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<p>John Goodman and Alan&nbsp;Arkin in &quot;Argo&quot;</p>

John Goodman and Alan Arkin in "Argo"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

'Argo' wins three from Phoenix critics including Best Picture

Daniel Day-Lewis and Jessica Chastain take top acting honors

"Argo" won top honors with the Phoenix Film Critics Society, which announced nominees two weeks ago. Kathryn Bigelow took the Best Director prize for "Zero Dark Thirty," however. Daniel Day-Lewis and Jessica Chastain took top acting honors, with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Anne Hathaway filling out the supporting ranks. Check out the full list of winners below and as always, keep track of it all at The Circuit.

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