Oscar news: Red-hot reax to ‘Into the Woods,’ Jennifer Aniston dishes ‘Cake’

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Pete Hammond saw “Into the Woods” Saturday and called it “the most dazzling movie musical since ‘Chicago.’ ‘Chicago’ had the benefit of a great and smart screenplay by Bill Condon, who was nominated for an Oscar.” As he notes, “despite the inherent stage-bound theatricality of the setting, Rob Marshall, James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim have been smart enough to realize the difference between what worked on a stage and what will work on film.” Deadline<

RELATED: ‘Selma’ intensifies its march on Oscars: Can it go all the way?

Concurs Greg Ellwood: To say that Meryl Streep is the standout in Rob Marshall’s “Into the Woods” is somewhat of an understatement. Chris Pine does steal almost every scene he’s in as the Prince (more on that in a moment), but it’s Streep’s performance as the Witch that is transfixing. She has three showcase numbers, “Stay With Me,” “Last Midnight” and “Children Will Listen,” the latter also featuring other cast members, and she knocks both of them out of the park. HitFix

And in a must-read piece, Anne Thompson recaps a busy week on the awards circuit, from last Monday’s lunch at Spago for “Interstellar” to Saturday’s streaming of the “Into the Woods” event from Gotham. As she notes in her intro: “At this time of year, Academy voters in New York and Los Angeles are deluged with invitations to one screening/party after another, with multiple choices on a given day, from lunch to dinner. Sometimes the media join the scene.” TOH

RELATED: Oscar voters received these screeners so far: ‘Theory of Everything,’ ‘Whiplash’ …

For Oliver Gettell: Part of the art of acting lies in navigating the subtleties of and transitions between emotions. From scene to scene and moment to moment, an actress may find herself laughing, crying, shouting, whispering or … drunk singing? Indeed, at least for Jennifer Aniston in the Daniel Barnz-directed drama “Cake,” which finds her portraying a woman who becomes fascinated by the suicide of a member of her chronic-pain support group. “I wasn’t actually supposed to sing along with it,” Aniston recalls. “They did playback of it and it was Billy Joel‘s ‘Honesty,’ and so you couldn’t help but do the stupid imitation of pretending to know the words, but you don’t know the words.” Los Angeles Times

As Jordan Ruimy observes: Movies from countries like Ukraine, Sweden, Canada, Turkey, France and Italy are in a heated race for the gold, but only a single film will emerge as the winner. Having covered more than 5 major film festivals this year I’ve had the chance to see most of the big contenders vying for the top prize. The quality this year has been unprecedented, so has the fact that now, more than ever, there are more ways than one to catch up with these fantastic films. Awards Daily

And Teresa Jue reports: Richard Linklater will be honored by the Casting Society of America with the Career Achievement Award at the 30th annual Artios Awards. He will join previously announced award recipients, director Rob Marshall and casting director Ellen Lewis. Marshall will be receiving the New York Apple Award, which celebrates individuals who have made special contributions to the New York entertainment industry with their collaborations with casting directors. Lewis will be receiving the Hoyt Bowers Award, which honor the most esteemed casting professionals in the industry. EW

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