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"Top Chef: Seattle"

 "Top Chef: Seattle"

Credit: Bravo

'Top Chef: Seattle' recap: 'Pike Place Pickle'

A gross elimination challenge results in a no-win situation

Another day, another challenge awaiting our chefs, and poor Stefan is worried. It's his birthday, and during his season there was a birthday curse -- chefs seemed to go home on their birthdays or immediately thereafter. Happy birthday, losers! I want to tell Stefan he shouldn't be so negative. He makes great food! He has his own restaurant! There's no way that could happen, right? Sorry, didn't mean to laugh right then. Something in my eye. Or throat. Whatever. Really, this season the chefs seem to be performing at a particularly high level (if the judges can be believed), and maybe Stefan should prepare to pack his bags. Anything could happen, curse or no curse.  

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<p>One Direction</p>

One Direction

Credit: AP Photo

What's behind the One Direction snub by the Grammys?

Why was the boy band left out of the best new artist category?

Hear that sound? It’s the wailing of millions of tween and teenage girls, howling in righteous indignation that One Direction did not get a nod for best new artist tonight when the Grammy nominations were handed out.

To be sure, the Recording Academy’s relationship with boy bands has, to quote Katy Perry, run “hot and then cold.”  Some years, they’ve favored acts like Backstreet Boys, who were nominated for best new artist in 1999 or Boys II Men in 1992, but they ignored N’Sync and New Kids On The Block in the same category.

One Direction seemed like a sure bet... and a deserving one at that. Not only had their first album, “Up All Night” come in at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, making the group the first British band to ever bow at No. 1 with its debut album, the group played before tens of thousands of screaming girls every night. And they actually sound good. Though relatively sterile, their songs on catchy and well made. Not only were they locked out of best new artist, they were locked out of every pop category.

In a year when the best new artist nominees included Alabama Shakes and the Lumineers, it’s clear that the voters were looking for a grass-roots authenticity that One Direction does not have. It could also have hurt them that they were put together by Simon Cowell after the members individually auditioned on “The X Factor” in the U.K.

However, how do you explain Hunter Hayes’ nomination? Easy: He counts for the teen vote, and the country contingent coalesced behind him to push him. Plus, his win as best new artist at the Country Music Awards last month gave him a certain credibility among voters.

My vote would have gone to One Direction over Hayes, despite my fondness for his hit, “Wanted.”  Is nominating them any different than nominating Justin Bieber last year?

Though it’s very small consolation (and just more salt on the wound) to One Direction fans, had their beloved British boys gotten a nomination, there was no way they would have won. Despite nominations for the above mentioned—plus Hanson and Jonas Bros. in years past—for the last 20 years, the Grammys have largely awarded best new artist to an act that has a much wider and more respected  (sorry) base than teen girls, instead handing the award to artists with a little more perceived gravitas, such as Amy Winehouse, Adele, Zac Brown Band, Esperanza Spalding and Bon Iver. In fact, the Beatles were the closest thing to a boy band to win a best new artist Grammy. And that was in 1965. Whether the Grammys are still trying to make sure the Milli Vanilli fiasco never happens again or they just feel that boy bands aren't worthy, the result is the same.

So wipe your eyes, my One Direction fans. While we’re sure you’re wearing out your thumbs tweeting about the horrible miscarriage of justice done to 1D, just know they are in very good company and they will need your love all the more to see them through the dark days ahead.

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"American Horror Story"

 "American Horror Story"

Credit: FX

'American Horror Story' recap: 'Unholy Night'

'Deadwood''s Ian McShane appears as a very bad Santa

Entertainment has a long and storied history of nasty Christmas tales. There's "Bad Santa," piles of slasher movies devoted to the season (I stopped counting at ten), and I personally think the Little Matchstick Girl is all kinds of twisted. Now "American Horror Story" is adding its two cents to this dispiriting niche, and after watching this Very Special Christmas Episode I'm about ready to lock myself inside my home until we're safely into February.

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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: AP Photo

Live Blogging the Grammy Nominations Concert Live

Performances from Maroon 5, The Who, and a few nominations

9:55 p.m.: The Grammy Nominations Concert Live starts in a few minutes. Instead of announcing the nominations for the 55th Annual Grammy Awards at the crack of dawn, like any good awards show, the Grammys decided a few years ago to make the announcement into a special event...sort of a mini-Grammys with performances and big acts reeling off the names of a the nominees in a few select categories.

10:03: It can only go up from here. The show opens with the most cliched of cliches: that a black person can't possibly be up on country music and know what a honky tonk is. That follows with Taylor Swift, or T-Swizzle, turning into a beat box while LL Cool J horribly sings a few lines of "Mean." It's going to be a long hour.

10:05: The Grammys have to go back a few decades to find a real legend: we switch to footage of Johnny Cash who is then honored by Dierks Bentley and The Band Perry, who duet on "Jackson." Better that than "Ring of Fire," but sometimes an homage just feels like a pale imitation.

10:08:  Country cutie Hunter Hayes performs a medley of the songs from the albums up for Pop Vocal Album (though no one actually announces the category). Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger,"  Florence & the Machine's "Ceremonials," fun.'s "Some Nights," Maroon 5's "Overexposed," and Pink's "The Truth About Love" are the nominees for Pop Vocal Album. Their joy at being nominated we're sure mitigates the fact that Hayes completely butchered most of the songs.

10:15: Maroon 5 is performing a medley of all their hits they've had in the past year, which is considerable, especially given that the band was on the verge of extinction until Adam Levine's stint on "The Voice" revived the band: "One More Night," "Moves Like Jagger" (no Xtina) and "Daylight." No "Payphone."

10:21: "Lonely Boy," The Black Keys; "Stronger," Kelly Clarkson," "We Are Young," fun., "Somebody That I Used To Know," Gotye, "Thinking About You," Frank Ocean," and "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," Taylor Swift are the nominees for record of the year. In my predictions, I thought that "We Are Young" and "Somebody" weren't eligible because they started being worked to radio prior to the Sept. 30 eligibility period, but that's clearly not the case. That changes everything...

10: 23: I'm not sure why we have footage of the Who playing from their Nashville show earlier in the week as an outro, but we do. Maybe because it was their first concert in Nashville? Hard to believe, but true!

10:28: Luke Bryan performs "I Don't Want This Night To End."  Perhaps in deference to the occasion, he's not sporting his usual baseball cap. I have a friend who counts the number of times that Bryan switches his cap from forwards to backwards on concert. I think it's about 2,439 times usually. It's a smoke-plume, confetti-dropping energetic performance that they should have saved to close the show. He sounds a little flat, but it's a good overall performance from a country performer who it's been fun to watch get better and better.

10:31 Little Big Town is singing "Yesterday" in tribute to the Beatles who won best new artist. Why not "Afternoon Delight" for Starland Vocal Band?  The nominees are Alabama Shakes, fun., Hunter Hayes, The Lumineers and Frank Ocean. That sound you hear? Ten million One Direction fans rushing to Twitter to denounce the horror of it all!

10:39: Fun, who already has three nominations tonight, is performing "We Are Young," or as I like to call it, the Record of The Year. It will win and they will win best new artist. It's a beautifully produced record and the performance tonight  with Janelle Monae will garner them votes...even though it's a little rough around the edges. Plus, just listen to Nate Ruess sing...

10:51: Ne-Yo brings down the house with "Let Me Love You (Until You Can Love Yourself)." Love him. Nominations for best country solo performance: "Home," Dierks Bentley;  "Springsteen,"  Eric Church; "Cost of Livin'," Ronnie Dunn, "Wanted," Hunter Hays, Blake Shelton, "Over," and Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away." What? 

10:55: Album of the year nominees: "El Camino,""Black Keys, "Some Nights," fun., "Babel," Mumford & Sons, "Channel Orange," Frank Ocean, and "Blunderbuss," Jack White.

10:58: Maroon 5 close out the evening with "Payphone." Off to look at the full list of nominations. Keep tuning in to Hitfix throughout the night as we dive deep into the nominations and who, besides One Direction, was snubbed, and who, like Fun. and Frank Ocean, are already big winners.


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<p>Rachel Weisz in &quot;The Deep Blue Sea.&quot;</p>

Rachel Weisz in "The Deep Blue Sea."

Credit: Music Box Films

The Long Shot: It's an award, not a precursor

Critics' choices remind us their awards are more than a means to an Oscar

It's getting harder to identify an official kick-off point for the precursor run – is it the Gotham Awards? The Independent Spirit nominations? Such-and-such magazine's Top 10 list? But whether it began days or weeks ago, we are already in the thick of it: by Friday, two of the Big Three critics' groups will have showed their hand, while the picks of the not-quite-critics' group that is the National Board of Review are still on the cooling rack. 

Next week: SAG, Globes, the BFCA Awards, sundry small critics' groups... you know what, I can't think about next week for now. I still have a truckload of movies to see, for starters, and my own critics' group voting deadline is just nine days away. My family may just have to settle for opened screener discs as Christmas gifts this year. If I find time, I'll wrap them. 

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<p>&nbsp;Fifth Harmony of &quot;The X Factor&quot;</p>

 Fifth Harmony of "The X Factor"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' Top 6 - Unplugged Performances

The contestants sing a second song affiliated with a soft drink

"The X Factor" lost a bit of talent last week with the eliminations of Vino Alan and Paige Thomas. I doubt that either singer is going to become an international superstar, but until Cece Frey goes home, every "X Factor" elimination will be a minor injustice. 

That means we're down to the Top 5 + Cece Frey.

Click through for the full recap of Wednesday's (December 5) telecast...

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<p>Amy Seitz is one of the stars of what appears to be one of the most promising movies of the year, 'Upstream Color,' the long awaited return of the director of 'Primer'</p>

Amy Seitz is one of the stars of what appears to be one of the most promising movies of the year, 'Upstream Color,' the long awaited return of the director of 'Primer'

Credit: ERPB

Which new trailer release counts as the most exciting film news of the week?

Shane Carruth's new film is set for Sundance and we couldn't be more excited

What is truly the biggest story for film fans in a week that has seen the first "Hobbit" reviews, building buzz on "Django Unchained" and "Zero Dark Thirty," news on "Justice League," "Star Trek," "Man Of Steel," "Man Of Steel," then "Man Of Steel" again, 48FPS and the hailing of Anne Hathaway as the one sure thing of the year?  Easy.  For me, there's nothing more exciting than the fifty-three seconds of film that were released to promote a film called "Upstream Color."

"Oooooh," I can imagine some of you saying. "Is this some secret something from someone like Chris Nolan or JJ Abrams or Guillermo Del Toro or the Wachowskis or the Coens or some other mainstay in the film nerd universe?"  Nope.

It is one of many titles announced already for the Sundance Film Festival, and my first priority of the fest.  I will skip a day of movies if it means I guarantee my seat at the first possible screening of the movie.  Because while the guy who made it is not a household name, he is a name who should already be on the short list of talents to watch for anyone who saw "Primer," the stark, fascinating time travel exercise that was Shane Carruth's first and until now only film.  Shane Carruth has been slowly but steadily putting together the pieces to make a new film to follow up that 2004 debut.  For a first time filmmaker to take eight years between his debut and his follow up, that must have been a real test of Carruth's faith in film.  His is not an obvious, mainstream talent, and that's exactly what I love about him.

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<p>Johnny Depp and Terry Gilliam, seen here on the set of 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,' will not be collaborating as Depp sets up a new version of the Cervantes classic.</p>

Johnny Depp and Terry Gilliam, seen here on the set of 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,' will not be collaborating as Depp sets up a new version of the Cervantes classic.

Credit: IFC Films

Johnny Depp is now officially the man who killed 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote'

The actor sets up a new version of the Cervantes classic with Disney

The efforts to get "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" onto the bigscreen were well documented in the harrowing and ultimately heartbreaking documentary, "Lost In La Mancha," and it was a brutal reminder that no matter who you are and what your resume, filmmaking can kick the crap out of you at any point.

I would imagine that Terry Gilliam is somewhere today fuming about the idea that Johnny Depp just set up "a modern re-imagining of 'Don Quixote'" with Walt Disney, and Steve Pink & Jeff Morris will write the script.  It's interesting that Depp's still circling the character, but not surprising.  Don Quixote has a way of doing that to filmmakers, which was the whole point of "Lost In La Mancha."  Orson Welles spent much of his career chasing the story, trying to figure it out, and in the end, it broke him just like it broke Gilliam.  Depp was attached to star in the first version of Gilliam's film, and then ended up moving on, eventually replaced by Ewan McGregor when Gilliam tried to get the film off the ground a second time.

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Credit: AP Photo

Rihanna shines atop the Billboard Hot 100 for another week

Will.I.Am and Britney Spears make a big splash

Rihanna continues to shine brightly atop the Billboard Hot 100 as “Diamonds’ mines a third week at No. 1.

“Diamonds” hold in the pole position is strengthened by the song’s rise to No. 1 on Billboard’s Radio Songs chart. The song spends its ninth week atop Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, according to Billboard.

“Diamonds” locks Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” out of the top spot as the soulful singer’s new single leaps 4-2. “Locked” pushes Ke$ha’s “Die Young” out of the secondary slot, down one to No. 3.  In turn, “Die Young” displaces Maroon 5’s former chart topper, “One More Night,” down from No. 3 to No. 4.

The Lumineers score their first top 5 as “Ho Hey” climbs 7-5.

The bottom half of the Top 10 finds fun.s’ “Some People” hanging at No. 6, while Phillip Phillips’ “Home” rises 8-7.  Flo Rida’s “I Cry” also rises one spot to No. 8. Ne-Yo’s “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself)” inches 10-9 and Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” forever locked out of the No. 1 spot at seven weeks at No. 2, likely sees its last week in the Top 10 as it falls 5-10.

Two big moves just outside of the Billboard Hot 100: Alicia Keys’ “Girl On Fire” leaps 21-11 as the album of the same name bows at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.  Also, “Scream & Shout” from Will.I.Am featuring Britney Spears bows at No. 12, bolstered largely by digital sales.


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<p>Mariah on &quot;Fallon&quot;</p>

Mariah on "Fallon"

Christmas, Good and Bad: Mariah Carey and 'Fallon' vs. John Travolta and Oliva Newton-John

Music videos made for viral marketing

Today is a lesson for making-of viral hits. Make them very darling or make them insanely bad. These two particular approaches are exemplified by Mariah Carey with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots, and by John Travolta with Olivia Newton-John. Both clips are for Christmas. Both will succeed in procuring clicks from the collective Internet. One is what we could call "nice," the other "naughty."

First off, Carey stopped by "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" and video recorded her hit "All I Want For Christmas Is You" with her host and house band The Roots. It was done in a similar "home movie" style that Fallon has done other hits, like with Carly Rae Jepsen and "Call Me Maybe." This one is particularly successful with a dash of children singing and a prominent kazoo and Casio "drum" parts. The result is a better Wednesday.

Secondly, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John reunited for a Christmas album this year, if you haven't heard (or seen), and for it they combined for "I Think You Might Like It," a music video weaved from iPhone footage and your nightmares. It features a crumpled Kleenex, an inexplicably slow-moving vehicle, a cheesy "I'll run for you" jaunt and footage taken at an airport. Did you know Travolta has his pilots license? Of course you did. Merry Christmas and pick up your jaw from the floor as you leave. The result of this video is also a better Wednesday.

Holidays are just full of misfires, crass commercialism, unnecessary slow-motion and unwieldly ways of dress. Some just do it better than others. Enjoy both videos-gone-viral below.

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<p>Lady Gaga vs. Jack White</p>

Lady Gaga vs. Jack White

Credit: AP Photo

A few thoughts on Jack White's non-apology to Lady Gaga

When in doubt, compliment someone's charity work

When is an apology not an apology? When it comes from Jack White. As you may have seen earlier today, the former White Stripes front man seemingly went after Lady Gaga in a story in the UK edition of Esquire. In a excerpt from the piece, he said of Momma Monster: “I don’t think she lives it because it’s all artifice...It’s all image with no meaning behind it. You can’t sink your teeth into it. It’s a sound bite. It’s very of this age because that’s what people want.”

Shortly thereafter, he walked back a little and clarified his comments via a statement, but in our mind, he only made it worse.

He doesn’t go after Esquire; he goes after the NME, whom he says took his comments out of context in a blogpost on their site. The quote we posted above is taking directly from Esquire’s site.  Regardless, he stresses that, even to Esquire, he “never said anything about her music or questioned the authenticity of her songs in any way. I was in a conversation about the drawbacks of image for the sake of image....I don’t like my comment about Lady Gaga’s presentation being changed into some sort of negative critique of her music.”

So then here in his statement, when he had a chance to say something about Lady Gaga’s music, he did not. Instead, he said, “Peace to Lady Gaga and I fully congratulate and compliment her on her championing of gay rights issues and the momentum it’s given to help create change.”

That’s nice, but it’s a little like if someone asks you, “Do these jeans make me look fat?” and you answer “I love that purse!  Where did you get it?” It’s as if he really wanted to say something nice about Lady Gaga and her, admittedly swell, championing of gay rights was it.  Maybe he also would like to comment on what a nice bouquet her perfume has?

While we’re at it, no, White doesn’t dress up in a meat suit, but he’s worked plenty hard to cultivate his own image of a hat-wearing, pale-faced rocker who likes to see himself as an acolyte of blues and rock greats of yore. And that’s fine. Everyone has an image. For as much as Lady Gaga’s fame is based on style, it’s also based on a very real substance that makes her fans feel tremendously connected to her. Whether that’s because of her music or because of a tweet, that doesn’t seem like artifice to me.

Though he had no comment on her music for Esquire or in his new statement, a few years ago he said he channeled her when writing the music for The Dead Weather’s track, “The Difference Between Us.”  He said, according to AceShowbiz, “I was thinking of the type of song a contemporary musician would write so I started thinking about [Lady Gaga]. I starting thinking of how she would write the music to this song and got quite into being Lady Gaga in an odd way.”

So even if he’s not a fan, it looks like she’s seeped into his pores, nonetheless. Just as she has with the rest of us. No reply yet about all this from Lady Gaga, who, according to her Twitter page, is too busy working with the United Nations on her compassion campaign to worry about this kind of stuff.

Lest we take any of this too seriously, White certainly lets us know that he isn't above poking plenty of fun at his own musical detractors. On the landing page of his website are two comments from critics that are hilariously negative, including "His songs are often little more than de-fanged blues, lacking the passion and grizzled realness that makes the genre speak to so many people." 

Maybe we all just need to lighten up.



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Very funny: Eels frontman thanks Grammys for all those nominations

Very funny: Eels frontman thanks Grammys for all those nominations

Best catalog number

Happy Grammy Nominations day! Eels aren't really up for any awards, but the frontman wanted to thank the Recording Academy anyway, y'know, for all those awards they gave him.

Mark Oliver Everett allows his sarcasm to shine in all its glory in a newly posted video, as though it were his own album. He awards himself various honors like "best female slow jam," "best good hair day," for commercial flops and "catalog number." He is phoning in his acceptance speeches because he's detained at previously scheduled events, like those at the "Sydney Rock Opera House." It's all good stuff, give the man an award.

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