The Best Original Song race is starting to fill out. We've added a few more to our contenders page in recent days, including tracks from "Celeste & Jesse Forever" and "West of Memphis," but today comes the news that DreamWorks Animation's "Rise of the Guardians" will feature a tune from acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming
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"Strike Back" just wrapped up its second Cinemax season (and third overall), and I have a quick review of the season coming up just as soon as I shoot you with both hands tied behind my back...
One of the things we've been looking to get confirmation on regarding Warner Bros. Pictures' Oscar campaigns this year is just where Tom Hanks and Halle Berry would be pushed for Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis' "Cloud Atlas." Lead seemed to be the obvious call (both are the movie stars and have the most screen time across the various stories in which they appear and the characters they play), but it's always possible something like this puts everyone up for supporting.
It turns out the two will indeed go lead for the film. I suppose you can consider them contenders in our Best Actor and Best Actress galleries, then. The real surprise from the studio, however, is the decision to place "The Dark Knight Rises" star Anne Hathaway in the lead actress category as opposed to supporting. Is that indicative of a serious rallying or simply a smart decision to get out of the way of another film?
Henry Winkler, who plays dedicated music teacher Marty Streb in the Kevin James comedy "Here Comes the Boom," looks pretty convincing as he conducts a high school orchestra. It turns out, he's had some practice. "Five years ago I got a call, and I was asked to conduct the Boston Pops in Cape Cod on the 4th of July. I didn't realize a piece can be 15, 20 minutes long, and how in shape you have to be. 'Cause you keep thinking okay, now, it's going... and we're still going...
In "Pitch Perfect," Anna Kendrick plays Beca, a musically inclined loner who is loath to enter into college per her dad's request, because she would much rather move to L.A. on her own and start working at a major record label.
It should be noted that "Pitch Perfect" is an exaggeration, a fiction in which the world of college a capella is about a dozen times more exciting, day-to-day, than it actually is, one in which adapting, licensing and performing hit songs is not a logistical nightmare but a dream. Furthermore, the stars in Beca's eyes broadly shine on an industry notoriously struggling with making money, turning to synch-licenses like those in "Pitch Perfect" and to product placement and commercial sponsorship after album sales have greatly decreased and digital single sales can only make up one piece of the lost pie.
Thus, Beca's desire is somewhat self-reflexive, if not dangerously outmoded, but I'll play this little game because "Pitch Perfect" is actually kind of funny and otherwise harmlessly entertaining.
When Scotty McCreery entered a Nashville studio to record his first holiday set, “Christmas With Scotty McCreery,” any dreams of a white Christmas were solely in his head.
“We recorded it in a heat wave,” says McCreery, who tweeted a photo of himself this summer in the studio with a furry Santa Claus hat perched on his head. “It was 105 in Nashville. I was singing the songs in shorts and flip-flops.” But he and his crew tried to create a festive mood. “We had a Christmas tree in the studio, Christmas lights on the mike stand. My tour manager brought in Christmas cookies and cupcakes.”
For the Oct. 16 release, which includes traditional holiday standards as well as two originals, the 2011 “American Idol” champ “knew we had to get creative” on these oft-recorded songs. “The main thing we talked about together with the band was we wanted to be different, not just to be different, but to be creative and different in a good way. Put a stamp on these songs.”
The biggest surprise to his casual fans may be the way he channels Elvis Presley on his version of “Santa Claus Is Back In Town.” He brings a Presley-like swagger to “Jingle Bells,” but he reserves his full lip-quivering, hip-shaking imitation for “Santa Claus,” even throwing in a bit of Presley’s classic cover of “C.C. Rider” in for good measure.
“I was an Elvis freak. That’s all I listened to growing up,” he says. I wasn’t listening to the Backstreet Boys,” he says. “It just got ingrained in me to where it would come out in my songs.”
The track wasn’t originally intended for the album. “We did that in one take. The drummer [plays] in a huge Elvis production that tours across the country,” McCreery recalls. “He broke into ‘C.C. Rider.’ It wasn’t planned at all. We thought we’d cut it and not put it on the album. We were high-fiving and laughing and we decided to put it on the album.”
When told that the sultry take may make his fans see a new, sexy side of him, the 19-year old reverts back to his shy self and just replied. “Dadgum.”
McCreery has been singing another of the album’s tracks, “O Holy Night,” since he was in elementary school. “I was singing it much higher then,” he laughs. “It really was difficult. As a kid, I didn’t know anything about the technical side. It was for the children’s choir.”
He included the song as a nod to his grandmother and to his first public performance of the song when he was in 4th or 5th grade. “My grandma is tough to impress. I’d sing at a competition and she’d tell me ‘ That wasn’t so good.’ When I got done, my grandma said, ‘That was beautiful.’ My mom was videotaping, so she was concentrating on that. Coming from my grandma, that meant a lot. We were thinking about her when we recorded it and the memories that we had that night.”
The album’s two originals struck the right chord with McCreery the first time he heard them. One of them seemed destined to end up in his hands.
“The week before ‘Christmas In Heaven’ got sent to me, I was writing a song called ‘Christmas In Heaven’ about my grandfather. He passed away a few years ago. It had some of the same lyrical ideas. It wasn’t a week later that my choir director was at a conference and told some folks who she is and that she knew me. They said, ‘I have the perfect song.’ It gave me chills. It was a God thing. No question is was going on the album.”
The second original tune, “Christmas Is Coming Around Again” deals with a couple with children going through a divorce, who reunite after the Christmas spirit hits them. “That’s about the message,” McCreery says. “There might be a family out there hurting and maybe this can help them.”
McCreery is already collecting tunes for his next studio album, which he hopes to release in Spring 2013. He’s writing for the album with two top Nashville songwriters, Ashley Gorley and Kelley Lovelace. “My songwriting craft isn’t perfect yet,” he says. “Hopefully it can get there.”
In the meantime, he is half-way done with his first semester at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, just down the road from his hometown of Garner. He takes classes a few days a week and then is out on the road opening for Brad Paisley on the weekends.
College has been a blast so far, he says. “I’ve loving every second of it. As far as people freaking out” when they see him, he notes, “it hasn’t been that way at all. Maybe they’d want a handshake or a ‘hey.’ I wore my cap pulled down the first couple of days, but after a few days, I didn’t even worry about the hat and sunglasses any more.”
NBC has announced that after just five seasons, it's time for a greatest hits version of Donald Trump's C-list beat down. "All-Star Celebrity Apprentice" (which will air mid-season 2012-13) brings back a roster of favorites and a few memorable contestants whom we probably didn't want to see again. As usual, they'll be competing to raise money for charity when not tearing out their hair and picking fights.
Ever wonder how we’ll be partying in 3012? According to Justin Bieber, it will be primarily underwater (maybe it’s all a subtle illusion to global warming the polar ice caps melting. Or maybe it's his homage to Kevin Costner's "Waterworld?"...nah).
[More after the jump...]
Interview: Andrea Arnold on 'Wuthering Heights,' crying to Mumford & Sons and having faith in a face
In an era of filmmaking where producers and moneymen seem shyer than ever of original screenplays, hungry for the built-in audience of a known quantity, “This again?” is a question we seem to find ourselves asking on a weekly basis. That may most frequently be in response to high-concept Hollywood franchises and superhero movies, but it's no less applicable to the classic literary adaptation. This autumn alone has brought us new versions of oft-filmed chestnuts in “Anna Karenina” and “Great Expectations,” with Baz Luhrmann's “The Great Gatsby” narrowly scuttling out of the fray; each one invites a fresh round of comparisons, with varying assertions of redundancy or reinvention.
It's all the more impressive, then, that British director Andrea Arnold's pared-back, wind-whipped and wholly remarkable adaptation of Emily Brontë's “Wuthering Heights” – which itself premiered only months after Cary Fukunaga's fresh take on another standard from the Brontë family canon, “Jane Eyre” – feels both very new and very necessary indeed. If Arnold's film, already on release in New York and opening today in Los Angeles, feels to some extent like the first true version of this dog-eared Yorkshire romance, that could be because it's the first film to realize that the story of farmgirl Cathy and founding Heathcliff's unfettered, ultimately damaging passion isn't really a romance at all.
I've been high on Ben Affleck's "Argo" since way back at Telluride over a month ago. It is, I feel, the current Best Picture frontrunner. We've sussed out its zeitgeist potential, talked to Affleck, Alan Arkin and Bryan Cranston and pretty much covered all bases on the way to release, which is finally here. So if you make it out to see the film this weekend (and you should), hustle on back here and tell us what you thought. It's time for a wider audience to chime in. And feel free to rate the film via the tool above.
Welcome to the weekend, those en route to Austin. Or wish they were in Austin. This weekend marks the 11th Austin City Limits music festival, in Zilker Park in the Texas capitol.
Below, I outline ACL, for those on their way and those who missed out.
When does it run?
Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12-14.
Is it sold out?
Big time. All regular weekend and one-day passes are sold out, and have been since May 22. But you can get schmancy VIP passes at $1,050 each and Platinum Passes at $3,600. About 50,000 people go.
What time does it start every day? Is it worth going early?
Around 11:15 a.m. And yes, there's some great acts like Caveman, Asleep at the Wheel, the Deep Dark Woods, Alt-J and the Kopecky Family Band that play super-early in the day?
Wait, the who, who and who? Just tell me who the big acts are.
The headliners are the Black Keys (8:15 on Friday), AVICII (8:15 on Friday), Jack White (8 on Saturday), Neil Young and Crazy Horse (also 8 on Saturday) and Red Hot Chili Peppers (8:15 on Sunday).
What makes ACL different from the other music festivals?
ACL is basically in downtown Austin, a notoriously awesome party town. It is not in the middle of a desert or field somewhere, like Coachella and Bonnaroo are. It's on par with Lollapalooza, the Chicago-based fest that is also run by C3, the fest producers who are actually based here. So, in a way, this is their home territory, which shows in the familiarity with the vendors and the lay of the land.
ACL is also heavily rock-based, as is reflected in its headliners. It skews a little older in its programming, a little safer, but the upshot is early end-times, so that you're not wasted at tired at 1 a.m.. Instead, you're wasted and tired at 10 p.m. They have night programming at local clubs with some of the same bands that you missed during the day so that you, too, can get a lay of the land.
How about the park itself, how's the weather? Texas is hot, I hear.
Yeah, it is hot. It's also gonna rain a little bit this weekend.
WHAT, BUT I THOUGHT IT'S TEXAS.
It's rained the last couple of years, too. Just be glad, it keeps the temperature down.
What else are the perks?
Man, get this: NO SMOKING. Now, I know you're trying to quit...
It's hard man.
I know buddy. But there's no smoking, so all patrons including kids can breathe your BO safely. It's one of the biggest no-smoking fests in the country.
What about parking?
There's no parking at the fest. Bike, walk or take a shuttle there.
Again, It's really close to downtown. Not gonna say this makes things simpler, but organizers are centered around sustainability, "green" festival-going and recycling and hug the earth stuff.
What are you doing there all weekend?
I'll be taking photos, interviewing artists, reviewing the big shows and pulling out artists-to-watch. Stay tuned.
I can't go. Is there some way I can watch stuff?