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Greg P. Russell tweaks "Skyfall" for IMAX exhibition at Technicolor's post-production facility on the Paramount lot.
Greg P. Russell tweaks "Skyfall" for IMAX exhibition at Technicolor's post-production facility on the Paramount lot.
Credit: Greg P. Russell

Tech Support: Greg P. Russell on finding the nuance in action with Sam Mendes and 'Skyfall'

The oft-nominated sound mixer picked up his 16th Academy notice for the film

HOLLYWOOD - Being in sound mixer Greg P. Russell's shoes at the Oscars must be an interesting experience. He's been 14 times, you see (double nominated in 1998). But he's never heard his name called. He's watched his work on high-octane action hits like "The Rock," "Spider-Man" and the "Transformers" films lose to overall Academy favorites like "The English Patient," "Chicago" "The Hurt Locker" and "Hugo." He's been in the mix (so to speak) consistently since his first nomination, for "Black Rain" in 1989, but hasn't found himself on a project that the Academy at large -- which, whether they know from good sound mixing or not, votes collectively on the Oscar winners each year -- could warm to as worthy of their vote.

That could change this year, however. Nominated for the James Bond extravaganza "Skyfall," Russell finds himself on a production that has clear industry support and sentiment. At the same time, he's staring down Academy favorites once again in "Argo," "Les Misérables," "Life of Pi" and "Lincoln." But that's familiar territory for him.

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<p>&quot;5 Broken&nbsp;Cameras&quot;</p>

"5 Broken Cameras"

Credit: Kino Lorber

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Documentary Feature

'5 Broken Cameras,' The Gatekeepers,' 'How to Survive a Plague,' 'The Invisible War' and 'Searching for Sugar Man' square off

(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)

The staggering number of quality documentary features this year has been well-covered here and elsewhere. When the Academy made its inevitable cuts in the finalists stage, as usual, a great many gems were left off. But one couldn't argue with that slate of 15, a truly monumental set of contenders for the most part. And yet, one film has stood out as the frontrunner since it bowed at Sundance over a year ago.

The documentary features were sent to the entire voting membership of the Academy this year, along with the live action and animated shorts. That wider pool could change how one typically picks this race, but it really just means that popularity will reign supreme. And the film leading the charge this year is nothing if not popular.

The nominees are…

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<p>Get over it, people.</p>

Get over it, people.

Credit: Miramax Films

Roundup: What's the best worst Oscar moment?

Also: Oscar-nominated screenwriters get political, and a look at two VFX hopefuls

"No mass cultural event has the capacity to infuriate like the Oscars." A truer line was never written, and so Grantland writer Mark Lisanti launches a "tournament" to determine the most egregious Oscar travesty of all time, rounding up any number of supposed outrages from past Academy Awards ceremonies that people still love to bitch about, and pitting them against each other for you to vote on. Nominees range from contentious winners to infamous onstage moments, many of which I still don't understand the fuss about. I, for one, think it's nice that Angelina Jolie is close to her brother. And I'll never get why it must be a cast-iron fact that "Saving Private Ryan" is a better film than the perfectly delightful "Shakespeare in Love." Then again, I still feel less than sanguine about "Crash": everyone has their Oscar sore points. Perhaps the better question would be: what Oscar "travesties" are you totally okay with? [Grantland]

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<p>Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in &quot;Scandal.&quot;</p>

Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in "Scandal."

Credit: ABC

'Scandal' creator Shonda Rhimes on Olivia, Fitz and the craziness of season 2

'Grey's Anatomy' creator doesn't feel much changed between seasons of her new series

Last week, in praising this season of "Scandal," I complimented the show's creator Shonda Rhimes for pivoting directly into the craziness of the show in its second season.

But when I spoke to Rhimes earlier this week, she disagreed with the idea that there had been any significant change at all — that the only difference between seasons has been the length of them, and that seven episodes last spring wasn't enough to do things right.

Last week, the show concluded its first major arc of season 2, in which our every more morally ambiguous heroine Olivia Pope found out who had attempted to murder President Fitzgerald Grant, while Fitz in turn found out that Olivia and several other allies had conspired to rig the election in his favor — and, as a result, spurned Olivia to go back to his crazy wife Mellie.

The series kicks off the second big movement of the season tonight at 10, and I spoke with Rhimes about the changes (or lack thereof) in the new season, where the story will go from here (in the vaguest possible terms), why Olivia and Fitz should not be compared to any of the couples from Rhimes' "Grey's Anatomy," and more.

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<p>Jeremy Irons in &quot;Night Train to Lisbon.&quot;</p>

Jeremy Irons in "Night Train to Lisbon."

Credit: Berlin Film Festival

Berlinale: Jeremy Irons derailed in 'Night Train to Lisbon,' but Arvin Chen charms again

Chen's 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow' a worthy follow-up to 'Au Revoir, Taipei'

BERLIN - Looking at the list of seen films I have yet to write up out of the Berlinale, I'm finding it harder than usual to forge connections between them that would make for a satisfying review roundup. Some have been good. More have been bad. That's about the extent of the narrative at a festival that, while enjoyable as ever, hasn't so far maintained the standard of last year's "Tabu"-"Sister"-"Barbara"-"War Witch"-"A Royal Affair" mini-feast. Only Sebastian Lelio's wonderful "Gloria," meanwhile, seems to have buyers buzzing along with the critics; it'll be a major shock if it doesn't take a significant prize from Wong Kar-wai's jury on Saturday.

So forgive this rather randomly paired duo of reviews, which have little in common beyond their presence in lineup and... well, they're both vaguely Valentine's Day-friendly. I thought I'd at least couch bad news with good, which wouldn't have been the case if I'd opted to pair up two former Best Foreign Language Film winners instead. (More on Danis Tanovic's drab Competition entry "An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker" -- surely a candidate for the most parodic-sounding arthouse movie title of all time -- at a later stage.)

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Bryan Singer says he'll be able to 'correct a few things' in 'X-Men: Days of Future Past'

Bryan Singer says he'll be able to 'correct a few things' in 'X-Men: Days of Future Past'

Does Singer view this as a reset? And who is Hoult psyched to meet?
RICHMOND, ENGLAND - Earlier this week, I was sitting in the drafty, damp, historically epic recesses of the Hampton Court Palace chatting with "Jack the Giant Slayer" director Bryan Singer and star Nicholas Holt.
Most of our conversations revolved, of course, around their upcoming 3D reimagining of the classic fairy tale, which opens on March 1 at theaters everywhere. But that doesn't mean that I didn't sneak in a question or two about Singer and Hoult's upcoming work on "X-Men: Days of Future Past," which will begin production in April and will hit theaters in 2014.
"This movie's gonna be not only quite epic, 'Days of Future Past,' but it also takes place in completely different times than the 'X Men' movies have taken place," Singer told me. "There'll be new technology, new things we haven't seen before in 'X-Men' films. Certain characters and certain story and certain drama that hasn't be done yet, so it's not so much sequel. It's more of its own kinda thing."
I like, however, Singer's reaction to my follow-up using the word "reset."
"I'll be able to correct a few things," he hints, with a smile.
As for Hoult, making his second appearance as Hank McCoy and Beast, he wouldn't give away details, but he admitted to excitement about getting to work with original "X Men" castmembers like Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellen.
"As much as it felt like a real 'X Men' film last time, because we were all a new cast it almost felt like it didn't, whereas doing one with those guys is going to feel very much like..." he said, before adding that he's going to be like a big fanboy.
Check out the video above.
And stay tuned for more of my interviews from Hampton Court as we get closer to the "Jack the Giant Slayer" release date.
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<p>Andrea of &quot;Survivor: Caramoan&quot;</p>

Andrea of "Survivor: Caramoan"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: Caramoan' Premiere - 'She Annoys Me Greatly'

A second 'Fans versus Favorites' showdown begins with familiarity
Welcome to "Survivor: Caramoan." It takes three seconds for me to realize I can't tell the difference between a bushbaby and a spectral tarsier. Based on geography, I'm saying those were spectral tarsiers in the opening. Not that that has anything to do with anything. Oh gracious. What sort of wormhole did I just go down? Oy. Let's start over again, shall we?
Pre-credit introductions. Bearded Matt, already a pre-show favorite, calls this surreal. Shamar, an Iraq veteran, says that this game (or his competitors) will be lunchmeat. A blonde, I think it's Allie, says she knows enough about people to make it to the very end. A different, totally indistinguishable blonde, [Laura, I guess?] profiles that because Michael wears glasses, he's going to be a strategist. Michael thinks Laura looks too young to be out there. Or maybe he thinks that about Allie. Or possibly Hope. Come on! It's bad enough I can't tell spectral tarsiers from bushbabies, but differentiating between Hope, Laura and Allie may kill me. Fortunately, speaking of telling people apart, Jeff Probst is reminding us who each of the "favorites" is or was. I remember nothing about two or three of these people and I wouldn't call more than four or five of them "favorites." Adorable Andrea helpfully explains that the theme of this season is people who made big mistakes. But if that's the case, why is CBS calling it "Fans versus Favorites" as opposed to "Newbies versus Ooopsies" or something?
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"Top Chef: Seattle"

 "Top Chef: Seattle"

Credit: Bravo

'Top Chef: Seattle' recap: 'Glacial Gourmand'

It's time for the final three chefs to cook from the heart

 So, I've had a very "Top Chef" kind of week. First I got to interview season 6 winner Michael Voltaggio (and eat very tasty sandwiches from his ink.sack restaurant),  and now I'm watching the final three (well, final three before the winner of "Last Chance Kitchen" is dumped back into the mix) duking it out for the title of season ten winner. I won't lie -- I'm rooting for Brooke, though I wouldn't complain too much if Sheldon or Kristen (via "Last Chance") took the prize. The only chef I would be a little sad to see win is, honestly, Josh. He seems like a nice guy, but his reliance on bacon and breakfast just makes me wonder if he has the breadth of skills to make him a worthy winner. 

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<p>No one accepts an award as well as Peter Dinklage, seen here linked in by satellite to this year's Scream Awards live from the set of 'Game Of Thrones'</p>

No one accepts an award as well as Peter Dinklage, seen here linked in by satellite to this year's Scream Awards live from the set of 'Game Of Thrones'

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello/Invision

Bryan Singer confirms Peter Dinklage will be joining 'X-Men: Days Of Future Past'

Plus new details emerge about what sounds like a super-sequel

It feels to me like Bryan Singer is desperately trying to put together a version of "X-Men: Days Of Future Past" that will erase any lingering bad feelings about what has happened to the "X-Men" franchise since he jumped ship to run off and make "Superman Returns."

If that's true, then hiring Peter Dinklage to play a key role in the film is a major step in the right direction.

Right now, there's no word on who he's playing, but that's the great thing about a guy like Dinklage.  No matter who you've hired him to play, you know you're going to get something interesting out of him.  It's been really exciting watching him blow up as a nerd icon in the last few years thanks to "Game Of Thrones," because he's one of those guys who has been highly respected by film fans for years, even if there are times where he's felt like a well-kept secret.

Now what I'm most curious about is how Singer's going to juggle what sounds like a positively massive cast of characters.  He's had fun announcing new additions to the cast on Twitter, and he seems positively giddy about returning to the franchise he kickstarted.  Our own Dan Fienberg was in London over the weekend to discuss "Jack The Giant Killer" with Singer and his cast, and he talked to the director and Nicholas Hoult about the sequel, and we'll have that up for you soon.

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<p>Margo Martindale as &quot;Grannie&quot;&nbsp;in &quot;The Americans.&quot;</p>

Margo Martindale as "Grannie" in "The Americans."

Credit: FX

Review: 'The Americans' - 'Gregory'

Margo Martindale and Derek Luke turn up for the strongest episode yet

A review of tonight's "The Americans" coming up just as soon as I talk to your eighth grade science teacher...

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Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich discuss forging 'Beautiful Creatures' chemistry

Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich discuss forging 'Beautiful Creatures' chemistry

The two young stars also chat about fate and destiny in their careers
The cast of "Beautiful Creatures" may be dotted with Oscar and Emmy and Tony winning actors, but at the film's center are a pair of young stars who you may not have heard of yet. Don't worry. You're gonna hear more about them.
Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich play the couple at the center of the young adult romance. He's Ethan, a motherless dreamer who wants nothing more than to escape his South Carolina hometown. She's Lena, a young witch -- Sorry, "caster" -- counting down the days til her true nature is revealed, dark or light.
For now, chances are good that unless you were a big fan of "Tetro," the best way to ID Ehrenreich for you is from that Natalie Portman Dior commercial. And while Englert has generated strong buzz for the indies "Ginger & Rosa" and "In Fear," it's still coolest to think of her as Jane Campion's daughter.
I sat down the two stars to talk about the challenges to forging their "Beautiful Creatures" chemistry on the fly after Ehrenreich was a late addition to the cast. And since "fate" and "destiny" play a major role in the movie, I asked about how those forces impacted their career choices. 
You can also check out my interviews with "Beautiful Creatures" co-stars Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis and Emmy Rossum.
"Beautiful Creatures" opens on February 14.
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<p>The Women take Hollywood!</p>

The Women take Hollywood!

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 12 Live-Blog - Hollywood Round, Part 3

Finally the 'Idol' Women do Hollywood

I'll repeat this again for "American Idol" producers: I appreciate the need for occasional formula innovation, so you didn't do anything wrong by splitting Hollywood Week up into separate segments for Men and Women. 

Just don't do it again, OK? Consider this a failure, but don't be bothered or disturbed. Dust yourself off and figure out an another twist for next year. 

Because... I'm done with Hollywood. I did it last week. There were solos. There was Group Night and people whined and cried. And then there were more solos and the judges made their decisions. I took that journey. It wasn't entirely satisfying, because the men don't seem all that great this year and there were no women, but I went through that arc. Now I'm ready for what comes next. I'm not especially interested in deja vu sans man-parts. 

But... Here we go!

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