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<p>Max von Sydow received one of two surprise nominations for &quot;Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close&quot; this morning.</p>

Max von Sydow received one of two surprise nominations for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" this morning.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Stuck in the middle with you: thoughts on the Oscar nominations

This year's nominee list points to an Academy in flux

I am no fan, to put it gently, of John Williams's chintzily instructive and inevitably Oscar-nominated score for "War Horse," but I'll admit I've been feeling the need for it all day. Williams is a master in the art of telling you how to feel, and several hours after hearing this years Academy Award nominations, I could really use some plaintive strings or percussive rumbling to tell me what on earth I'm supposed to feel about them.

Am I happy they took a chance on some adventurous arthouse fare like "The Tree of Life" and "A Separation?" Am I dismayed they haven't yet caught wise to Michael Fassbender? Am I perplexed that they seem to be actively sabotaging the admittedly inessential but once-entertaining Best Original Song category? Am I pleased that the animation branch showed some solid brass balls this year, even as I question the wisdom of their choices? Am I concerned that their barometer for the year's best documentaries bears no relation to anyone else's? Am I satisfied I predicted 73 out of 104 nominations, even if I hated myself for making some of those predictions in the first place? I'm certainly annoyed I have to see the wildly unalluring "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" now, after thinking I might just have dodged that bullet.

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<p>'Captain America:&nbsp;The First Avenger'</p>

'Captain America: The First Avenger'

Credit: Marvel Studios

What do the Oscar voters have against music?

Some thoughts on today's shocking best original song choices

Why do the Oscar voters hate songs so much?  Once again, the music branch has shown utter contempt for contemporary songwriters as they nominated only two tunes in the best original song category out of the 39 deemed eligible. What an insult.

A few years ago the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences changed the way it nominated songs, making it much harder for a tune to qualify.  The Academy now holds a session to screen movie clips featuring the eligible songs. The members of the music branch then assign the songs a score. Those scores are then averaged; to be eligible a song must receive an average score of 8.25 or more (if only one song achieves that criteria, the second highest score is also selected). If two or more songs achieve the 8.25 benchmark, they will be the nominees up to a total of five.

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<p>&quot;Transformers:&nbsp;Dark of the Moon&quot;&nbsp;received three nominations across the craft categories.</p>

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" received three nominations across the craft categories.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Tech Support: 'The Artist,' 'Hugo,' 'Dragon Tattoo' and 'War Horse' feature heavily in Oscar's crafts categories

'Harry Potter,' 'Moneyball' and 'Transformers' also get multiple nominations

This morning, many crafts artists in Hollywood (and elsewhere in the world) found out that they are heading to the Kodak Theatre for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. The thrill they are experiencing must be difficult to describe.

The reaction of many to the nominations has simply been “wow.” While I wasn’t as floored as some, I confess to being surprised by many of this morning’s events, and the crafts categories proved no exception.

Before embarking on analysis of the individual categories, two trends should be noted: first, in the vast majority of categories, previously nominated veterans were tapped over up-and-comers. Second, with a few exceptions – notably “The Artist,” “Hugo” and “War Horse” – films either tended to be embraced across the board or confined in their nominations to one or two branches.

So now, on to the individual categories…

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Watch: Aaron Paul talks 'Breaking Bad' from Sundance

The 'Smashed' star discusses letting his AMC hit end on its own terms
PARK CITY, UTAH - Aaron Paul can't really sneak up on viewers anymore, or at least he can't sneak up on fans of AMC's "Breaking Bad." That's one of the problems with giving what is frequently the best performance on TV.
Over four seasons, Paul's "Breaking Bad" character has gone through enough roller-coasters to fill a Six Flags, tracing a believable, scary and sometimes heartbreaking path of addiction, redemption, backsliding and recovery. He has a well-deserved Emmy to show for it.
The ending of "Breaking Bad" isn't near, but it's on the horizon with only 16 episodes remaining.
Paul was up in Park City this week for the premiere of "Smashed," a quirky indie dramedy in which he plays a very different kind of substance abuser, a fun-loving alcoholic who shares his addictions with his wife (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), until she decides to go sober.
In the longer chunk of this interview, posting in the next day or two, Paul discusses what attracted him to "Smashed" and the different approach to playing Jesse Pinkman versus this new character. 
But just to whet your appetites, here's our brief interview-ending conversation about "Breaking Bad" and approaching the remaining episodes. It contains some very limited spoilers for past seasons...
Check it out. And stick around for the "Smashed" interview...
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Oscar Talk: Ep. 79 -- Special Edition! -- Thoughts on the the 2011 Oscar nominations

Oscar Talk: Ep. 79 -- Special Edition! -- Thoughts on the the 2011 Oscar nominations

Also: Predictions in each field as Guy Lodge joins in

Welcome to Oscar Talk.

In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.

Today Anne is still up in Park City for the Sundance Film Festival while I'm back home in Los Angeles. We're joined today by Guy Lodge to discuss a little bit of business that dropped this morning, so let's see what's on the docket today…

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Bruce Springsteen starts U.S tour in March, adds New Orleans Jazz Fest gig
Credit: AP Photo

Bruce Springsteen starts U.S tour in March, adds New Orleans Jazz Fest gig

Six-week tour for 'Wrecking Ball' starts in Atlanta

Bruce Springsteen will kick off a 19-date U.S. tour two weeks after his new album, “Wrecking Ball,” comes out.

The Boss had already announced a European tour that started in May, but today he confirmed rumors that the E Street Band would have a short U.S. swing before crossing the Atlantic.

The tour opens March 18 at Atlanta’s Philips Arena and closes May 2 at Newark, N.J’s  Prudential Center. The European leg kicks off May 13 in Seville, Spain. “Wrecking Ball” comes out March 6. Springsteen is slated to deliver the keynote address at this year's South By Southwest March 15.

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<p>The usually smiling Albert Brooks looking more stern than usual at the NYFCC awards dinner earlier this month. &nbsp;Brooks won the org.'s best supporting actor honor.</p>

The usually smiling Albert Brooks looking more stern than usual at the NYFCC awards dinner earlier this month.  Brooks won the org.'s best supporting actor honor.

Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini

Albert Brooks reacts as only Albert Brooks can react to not getting nominated

There's always 'This is Forty' right?

For those of us who are fans of "Drive," no nomination was more important this morning than Albert Brooks in the best supporting actor category.   However, after Brooks surprisingly failed to land the equivalent SAG Awards honor, many began worrying he wouldn't make the Oscar cut.  That sadly came to pass as Max Von Sydow was the surprise fifth nominee for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."  

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<p>David Mazouz and Kiefer Sutherland in &quot;Touch.&quot;</p>

David Mazouz and Kiefer Sutherland in "Touch."

Credit: FOX

Review: Kiefer Sutherland and son look for patterns in FOX's 'Touch'

Drama gets off to good start, but can 'Heroes' creator Tim Kring make it work long-term?

In the new FOX drama "Touch," Kiefer Sutherland plays a single dad whose son Jake — diagnosed for much of his life as severely autistic — is revealed to have a special, near-superhuman ability to identify and manipulate the patterns in the universe that appear to most of us to be a series of isolated, random events.

And if I were to look at the premiere episode of "Touch" the way everyone other than Jake views the world — and the way that FOX is treating it, by airing it after "American Idol" tomorrow night at 9, separated by almost two months from when the rest of the series will air on Mondays at 9 starting March 19 — then it's an interesting, emotionally manipulative but still effective hour of television.
But my job asks me to look at TV shows the way Jake looks at everything. There are almost always patterns and connections to spot, whether how some piece of a pilot episode may be tough to duplicate week after week, or how one writer may repeat the same tricks over and over from show to show.
And in that case, knowing what I know about "Touch" creator Tim Kring — and seeing the many commonalities between this show and his work on NBC's "Heroes" — makes me much less optimistic about the new series' future than I might be if I couldn't recognize the order lurking within the chaos.
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<p>&quot;Rango&quot; sidles back into theaters for a one week limited engagement. </p>

"Rango" sidles back into theaters for a one week limited engagement.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Paramount is bringing Oscar nominee ‘Rango’ back into theaters

One more week to get to know the town of Dirt

With “The Adventures of Tintin” out of the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar race, Gore Verbinski’s “Rango” can breathe a bit as it feels like the field’s frontrunner. In any event, it’s the standout as far as I’m concerned.

In light of its nomination this morning, Paramount was quick to announce that the studio will re-release the film for a one-week limited engagement at the Arclight Hollywood beginning this Friday, January 27th.

A Spaghetti Western animated comedy about a chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp) who is unleashed from his enclosed glass terrarium only to find himself the (unqualified) leader and hero of the town of Dirt, it is one of the films that is markedly filled with homage this season. It feels like a film lovers' film to some degree, though its charms have also reached into the hearts of the audience at large.

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Adam Lambert reveals cover art for 'Trespassing'

Adam Lambert reveals cover art for 'Trespassing'

Does the cover make you want to cross the line?

The release of Adam Lambert’s sophomore set, “Trespassing,” is still two months away, but the “American Idol” runner up revealed the album cover via Twitter late Monday night.

Lambert also divulged that he has a major hand in all facets of “Trespassing”: he is the album’s executive producer and creative director. He made a special shout out to Lee Cherry, his art director and photographer.

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<p>Jennifer Lawrence and Tom&nbsp;Sherak deliver the news to the world at this morning's nominations announcement.</p>

Jennifer Lawrence and Tom Sherak deliver the news to the world at this morning's nominations announcement.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

The Lists: Top 10 things we learned about the Academy today

What can we glean from the Oscar nominations about this group of people?

It's been a busy morning. The nominees are out. About a thousand different variations of "it's humbling and exciting" are coming through from the various contenders. And all eyes are fixing on February 26. But as we transition into phase two of the 2011-2012 film awards season, it's worth it to pause and consider what we might have learned today.

Each and every year, the eventual slate of Oscar nominations reflects a number of key things about the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Often they solidify already agreed-upon truths, but sometimes other things are illuminated. It's silly, of course, to be overly reductive and chalk the Academy up as a singular entity. It's a wide-ranging group with a bunch of different perspectives bouncing around within its ranks, but nevertheless, when they get together to tap the year's excellence in this and that, it's an eye-opening experience.

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<p>Norah Jones</p>

Norah Jones

Credit: AP Photo

Norah Jones and Danger Mouse pair for new set, 'Little Broken Hearts'

Pair co-write Jones' fifth studio album following 'Rome' connection

Norah Jones and Danger Mouse have collaborated on the Grammy winner’s next set, “Little Broken Hearts.”

The exact release date has yet to be firmed: Jones’ label, Blue Note, will only narrow the time table down to Spring. However, when we talked to Jones in December about the Little Wilies, she hinted that the release may be in May.

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