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<p>Christian Bale in &quot;The&nbsp;Dark&nbsp;Knight Rises&quot;</p>

Christian Bale in "The Dark Knight Rises"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

'Argo,' 'Dark Knight Rises,' 'Django Unchained' make AFI's top 10 American films list for 2012

The usual collection of studio and indie fare

Adding another announcement to the stack this week is the American Film Institute. Remember, the Institute's annual list of the year's best films is limited to American cinema, so you won't see efforts like "Amour" or "Skyfall" pop up. Nevertheless, I think plenty of great American cinema is often avoided by this list in favor of the most obvious mixture of studio and indie fare.

Last year, for instance, standard awards-hunt comedies like "Bridesmaids" and "Midnight in Paris" that were threatening inclusion in the Best Picture field at the time made the cut, as well as those which clearly weren't, like Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar."

Be sure to circle back on Friday for the podcast where Anne and I will reveal our own top 10s for the year. For all my snarkiness about this lot's list, I'd be dishonest if I didn't admit a fair share of them made my own collective.

Check out the full AFI list below.

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The mock execution scene from "Argo," which William Goldenberg explains he used to frame another sequence, to dramatic effect.
The mock execution scene from "Argo," which William Goldenberg explains he used to frame another sequence, to dramatic effect.
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Tech Support: William Goldenberg on building tension in 'Argo' and 'Zero Dark Thirty'

The BSFC- and LAFCA-winning editor's busy year could yield a pair of Oscar nods

Duck into any number of industry -- and likely public -- screenings of Ben Affleck's "Argo" in the final moments of the film, and you're sure to hear a big burst of applause. It happens at the same moment every time: CIA agent Tony Mendez (Affleck) peers out the window of a plane he and six American embassy workers have boarded to flee Iran under the guise of a film crew as a number of soldiers wise to their plans at the last minute chase the flight down. The plane gains momentum then it's wheels up and, after a tense moment, clarity sets: they got away.

It's fair to attribute that burst of applause to the release of tension. The nail-biting final sequence of the film builds to a crescendo and is expertly assembled to play on that tension. But for editor William Goldenberg, with those kinds of sequences, you have to remain focused on the characters.

"That’s what I try to keep in my mind when I’m cutting it," Goldenberg says. "You’re trying to put the audience in the head of these people and not just make it about the event but the story of each person and what they’re going through, always keeping it personal. And luckily for me, the actors were all so good at being in the moment, being terrified but being under control at the same time. It made for great editing opportunities.

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<p>Bradley Cooper in &quot;Silver Linings Playbook.&quot;</p>

Bradley Cooper in "Silver Linings Playbook."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Roundup: Cooper joins the list of Palm Springs honorees

Also: Mark Harris on 'Zero Dark Thirty,' and Tarantino on 'Django' slavery

Bradley Cooper has seemed very much a touch-and-go prospect in a crowded Best Actor field, but the scales slowly seem to be tipping in his favor. In contrast to the perennially ingenue-friendly Best Actress race, youngish Hollywood dreamboats can struggle to win over Academy voters, particularly for romantic and/or comic leads, so Cooper's superb work in "Silver Linings Playbook" is at a disadvantage in several ways. But after last week's unexpected win with the National Board of Review, Cooper has also landed the Desert Palm Award for Achievement in Acting at the Palm Springs Film Festival. He's the first male acting honoree announced for this publicity-heavy Oscar-season pitstop: Sally Field, Helen Hunt, Naomi Watts and the "Argo" ensemble are also getting a boost there. The list of recent Desert Palm winners includes Colin Firth, Jeff Bridges and Daniel Day-Lewis, which doesn't hurt Cooper's Oscar voodoo any. [PSIFF]

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<p>Mel Brooks in &quot;Blazing Saddles.&quot;</p>

Mel Brooks in "Blazing Saddles."

Credit: Warner Bros.

Mel Brooks looks back on Sid Caesar, 'Blazing Saddles' and more

The comedy legend has a new HBO special and a new DVD box set

Mel Brooks is one of the great comedy minds of the 20th century. He was part of the greatest comedy writing staff ever assembledat various points, it included Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon and Woody Allen, among many others — for Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows" and "Caesar's Hour." He and fellow Caesar alum Carl Reiner gave the world the 2000-Year-Old Man, and later he and Buck Henry created the classic James Bond spoof "Get Smart." And that's all before he went into the movie business and gave us "The Producers," "Blazing Saddles," "Young Frankenstein" and all the rest.

Mel Brooks is also one of the great talkers in showbiz, which is apparent if you've ever seen him on a talk show (say, telling his classic Cary Grant story on "The Tonight Show"), or if you watch him in tonight at 9 on the HBO special "Mel Brooks Strikes Back!," where he's interviewed by BBC creative director Alan Yentob about the ups and downs of his career.

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"The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

 "The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

Credit: Bravo

'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' recap: 'Hold on to Your Weaves'

Kenya flirts shamelessly with Apollo, then pressures Walter for a ring

Before we get started, here's a question... What the hell is up with Walter? Kenya is clearly insane, and that's fine. We know why the other women hang out with her -- Bravo makes them -- and she's highly entertaining. Few things are more enjoyable than watching a card-carrying lunatic swan around a reality TV show and annoy all the other slightly-less-loco people on the show. But she's nuts, right? I can understand that Walter finds her attractive; she was a Miss USA (or is that Miss America? Kidding!) She can be charming. But I would think when girlfriend starts yapping about how her baby oven is sad and lonely and how she needs to get married NOW NOW NOW before her ovaries dry up, he'd necessarily run from the room screening, change his cell phone number, and spend a month overseas until she stopped driving past his house, breaking windows. Kenya redefines high maintenance. She makes Mariah Carey look like she could be the chick with uncombed hair checking you through the express lane at Target. What man would willingly sign up for this walking nightmare?

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<p>Jamie Foxx in &quot;Django Unchained.&quot;</p>

Jamie Foxx in "Django Unchained."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Contender Countdown: True and False before Golden Globes and SAG Awards nods

Is 'Django' a lock for a best picture nomination?

Isn't this fun? The race for best picture continues to surprise at each turn. Outside of "Amour's" win with the LAFCA contingent Sunday, "Zero Dark Thirty" has emerged as the critics favorite winning NYFCC, Boston Society of Film Critics and the National Board of Review (among others).  So far, the other presumed best picture frontrunners "Les Miserables," "Lincoln" and "Argo" have had to make due with just acting, directing or screenwriting honors.  Of course, all this will change beginning Wednesday when SAG pipes in for its yearly honors and on Thursday when the HFPA hopes to influence something (most entertainment industry executives will tell you its ticket sales and Emmy voters).  We're in the thick of it and pronouncements about the fates of contenders are being made left and right. Taking that into account, it seems appropriate to review some of these repeated refrains and determine whether or not they have any basis in reality.

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<p>&quot;Look, it's the bad guy for 'Star Trek Into Darkness'!&nbsp;I can't believe it's...&quot;&nbsp; &quot;SHHHH!&nbsp;Not one more word, Uhura!&quot;</p>

"Look, it's the bad guy for 'Star Trek Into Darkness'! I can't believe it's..."  "SHHHH! Not one more word, Uhura!"

Credit: Paramount/Bad Robot

IMAX prologue to 'Star Trek Into Darkness' teases expertly and answers nothing

One thing's for sure: the chemistry is definitely in full force for the sequel

Earlier this evening, I took the biggest "Star Trek" fan I know to see the nine-minute prologue that will be screened in IMAX venues in front of the release of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," and based on his reaction, I'd say JJ Abrams and crew have absolutely nothing to worry about when the film hits theaters in May of 2013.

Even now, at the end of the nine-minute presentation, I cannot conclusively tell you who Benedict Cumberbatch is playing.  We do meet him very early in the footage, though.  The film starts with an alarm clock going off, waking a married couple played by Nazneen Contractor and Noel Clarke.  They quickly get ready, peeking out their window at the rainy cityscape of London in the year 2259.  They drive to the London Children's Hospital to visit their little girl, who appears to be aging prematurely, sick and near-bald, completely unresponsive.  Clarke walks outside to catch some air and try to pull himself together, and someone steps up behind him to say, "I can save her."  Clarke turns around and we get our first look at Cumberbatch.

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<p>Claire Danes as Carrie on &quot;Homeland.&quot;</p>

Claire Danes as Carrie on "Homeland."

Credit: Showtime

Review: 'Homeland' - 'In Memoriam'

Carrie leads a search through the tunnels, and Brody considers his future

A review of tonight's "Homeland" coming up just as soon as I'm sometimes called The Bear...

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<p>Phil Keoghan of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>

Phil Keoghan of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' Season 21 Finale - 'Take Down That Million'

Which team made it to Phil first and won the big prize?
There's something to be said for dominance.
 
The 20th installment of "The Amazing Race," which aired last spring, culminated in bickering married couple Rachel & Dave winning the million dollars and finishing first in an astounding eight of 12 competitive Legs on the Race.
 
They were the New York Yankees of "The Amazing Race." They dominated from start to finish and there was almost no suspense. In fact, they were such an obscenely strong team that they screwed up the final task of the season, ran through the finish line, were corrected, went back and completed the task and ran through the finish line a second time, as if to mock the other teams. 
 
You looked back on Season 20 of "The Amazing Race" and you said, "Well duh. No other team possibly could have won and it was really cute that Rachel & Dave let the other teams travel with them around the world."
 
But the Yankees don't win the World Series every year, no matter how high their payroll happens to be.
 
Some years, the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals or the 1987 Minnesota Twins win the World Series. Sometimes, a team does exactly enough to make the playoffs and then exactly enough to win a series or two and then, on the biggest available stage, that team does exactly enough to come out on top. If you look at the 2006 baseball season, the Cardinals were only the best team in baseball on October 27, but that was the last day of the season, so that's the only day that counts. 
 
There probably wasn't a New York Yankees for the 21st installment of "The Amazing Race." Abbie & Ryan thought they were going to be, but multiple travel gaffes in Germany sent them packing. Several teams won a couple Legs. One team won three Legs. But if you want to talk about the importance of finishing strong, the teams in this season's "Amazing Race" Top 3 finished 10th, 9th and 7th in the season-opening Leg. So maybe the final results on Sunday (December 9) night were appropriate. If no team was going to be able to win "The Amazing Race" and claim unquestioned supremacy, maybe this was exactly the correct result for this season.
 
More after the break...
 
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<p>Best Supporting Actress BIFA winner&nbsp;Olivia Colmasn in &quot;Hyde Park on Hudson.&quot;</p>

Best Supporting Actress BIFA winner Olivia Colmasn in "Hyde Park on Hudson."

Credit: Focus Features

'Broken,' 'Berberian Sound Studio' win big at British Independent Film Awards

Acting wins for Olivia Colman and Andrea Riseborough, 'Best Exotic' shut out

The British Independent Film Awards are known for surprises, and true to form, they sprung a last-minute one at tonight's ceremony. As I'd anticipated, Peter Strickland's critically beloved horror homage "Berberian Sound Studio" enjoyed a great haul, taking Best Director, Best Actor for Toby Jones and two extra prizes for production and technical achievement. But just as it seemed set to take the night, they swung left, handing the top prize to "Broken," the debut feature from acclaimed theater director Rufus Norris -- an unexpected choice both because it received mixed reviews upon its Cannes premiere, and won't  be released until the spring in the UK. The film won in only one other category, for Best Supporting Actor.

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<p>Best Actor winner Joaquin Phoenix in &quot;The Master,&quot;&nbsp;an obvious favorite with the LAFCA</p>

Best Actor winner Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master," an obvious favorite with the LAFCA

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'Amour,' 'The Master' win big with Los Angeles Film Critics Association

'Zero Dark Thirty' finally hits the brakes

Over a week after their colleagues on the east coast went in big for Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," the Los Angeles Film Critics Association put the brakes on Kathryn Bigelow's film, which has been dominating the circuit. It even won two Best Picture prizes today, but one of them was not LAFCA's crown. Instead, the LA critics went with Michael Haneke's "Amour," and as a runner-up, a film clearly beloved by the group that won four other prizes, including Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

Check out the full list of winners below with running commentary.

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Anne Hathaway reasserted herself in the Best Supporting Actress competition despite heat from Sally Field.
Anne Hathaway reasserted herself in the Best Supporting Actress competition despite heat from Sally Field.
Credit: Universal Pictures

'Zero Dark Thirty' tops New York Film Critics Online winners

Are we sensing a pattern here?

Just minutes after the Boston Society of Film Critics crowned "Zero Dark Thirty" the year's best film, the New York Film Critics Online went and did the very same thing. They also spotlighted Kathryn Bigelow in the Best Director category (as well as Mark Boal's screenplay), and, like Boston, went with Daniel Day-Lewis and Emmanuelle Riva in the lead acting categories.

Check out the full list of NYFCO winners below with running commentary.

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