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<p>A scene from the Oscar-nominated short &quot;Pentecost.&quot;&nbsp;</p>

A scene from the Oscar-nominated short "Pentecost." 

Credit: ShortsHD/Magnolia Pictures

Oscar Guide 2011: Best Short Film (Live Action)

'Pentecost,' 'Raju,' 'The Shore,' 'Time Freak' and 'Tuba Atlantic' square off

(The Oscar Guide will be 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 26, with the Best Picture finale on Saturday, February 25.)

Quick, what do Walt Disney, Jean-Claude Carrière, Taylor Hackford, Christine Lahti, Andrea Arnold, Martin McDonagh and that bloke who directed “The Devil Wears Prada” all have in common? If you wouldn’t have needed the headline of this post to tell you that they all won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film, then you are a sage and dedicated Oscar scholar. If you didn’t know that, however, you might now realize that the winner of this humble award, used by many a viewer as a bathroom break opportunity, is often a name worth filing for future reference.

Whether any of this year’s nominees in the category have quite such bright futures ahead of them is open to question – well, except in the case of Terry George, twice Oscar-nominated in the past for feature film work. For my money, it’s a below-par field this year, with one clear standout – I hope the Academy agrees, and not just because I want to repeat my 3-for-3 prediction tally in the short races. If you fancy making your own educated guess, the films are currently in selected theaters, courtesy of Shorts International.

The nominees are... 

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<p>Belly boy: PiL in the studio in July 2011</p>

Belly boy: PiL in the studio in July 2011

Listen to Public Image Ltd.'s first song in two decades: 'One Drop'

EP due in April, full-length in May or June

"I am no vulture, this is my culture," John Lydon warns -- or is it a declaration?

Whatever he's portraying, it's in Public Image Ltd.'s first new song in 20 years, off their first studio effort since 1992's "That What Is Not." Defiant "One Drop" utilizes reggae rhythms and layers upon layers of guitars and processed noise, all with the former Sex Pistol's penchant vibrato and prrroper brrrah-brrrahing consonant rolls.

The chorus reminds me a little of LCD Soundsystem's "One Touch" -- one drop, after all, is rarely ever enough."We are the ageless, we are teenagers," he sing-says, the vocals mixed way up front. It's got a lot of character, though Lydon's certainly no teenager and the wear on his voice shows.

The song is from a new vinyl-only EP 'One Drop' out on April 21 for Record Store Day. It precedes PiL's first full-length in two decades, "This Is PiL," due in May or June.

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<p>A scene from&nbsp;Steve McQueen's &quot;Shame&quot;</p>

A scene from Steve McQueen's "Shame"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

The top 10 shots of 2011: part one

Celebrating the year in individual film images

They're heeeeeeerrrrreeeeee. That's right, the images have been assembled, the conversations have been had and the top 10 shots of 2011 are ready for their close-up (or over the shoulder, or two-shot, or insert, etc.).

It's become a bit of a tradition to note in this space that the year in cinematography wasn't particularly compelling on the whole. The 2007 season that first inspired the idea behind this piece (now entering its fifth year) really was an exceptional year for the individual film image.

However, while a year abundant in obvious visual takeaways would make writing this up quite a bit easier, I've grown to appreciate the digging and re-considering a lack-luster year requires. It's forced me to appreciate the images all the more.

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<p>Nicki MInaj at the 2012 Grammys</p>

Nicki MInaj at the 2012 Grammys

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Nicki Minaj's 'Starships' is headed straight into the stratosphere

She leaves the Grammy debacle far behind

Oh Nicki, all is forgiven. After we had to scrub our eyeballs following your truly  bizarre (and not in a good way) performance of “Roman Holiday” on Sunday night’s Grammys, you’ve now given us the perfect anecdote: a club-ready smash that is also destined for the top of the pop charts. It's good enough to even get the Catholic Church off your back after the other night... well maybe not.

“Starships” is an instantly catchy tune that combines rapping, singing, pop, electro-clash and only enough auto-tuning to still sound like it was recorded by a human. It’s put together as if constructed in Dr. Frankenstein’s lab, but, by God, it works. It’s as if LMFAO, Taio Cruz, and Minaj had a baby and this is what popped out.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Scott Rudin added a Grammy to his mantel on Sunday, joining the select group of individuals to have won all four major showbiz awards.</p>

Scott Rudin added a Grammy to his mantel on Sunday, joining the select group of individuals to have won all four major showbiz awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Amy Sancetta

Round-up: Scott Rudin joins the EGOT club

Also: Betting against 'A Separation,' and some Streep family history

The showbiz-geek fascination with the holy grail of the EGOT – that is, an individual who wins Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Awards over the course of their career – is something I don’t entirely share in, largely because because at least one of the wins always comes with some kind of diminutive asterisk. (Seriously, should spoken-word Grammys even count? Call me when someone wins a Best Actress Oscar, Album of the Year and the Nobel Peace Prize. In a single year.) Still, I’d never have guessed that the first new member of the club in over 10 years, joining the likes of Whoopi Goldberg and Audrey Hepburn, would be super-producer Scott Rudin: he made the list on Sunday by sharing “The Book of Mormon”’s Grammy for best musical-theater album. At least the man behind “Extremely Loud” and “Dragon Tattoo” has won something this season. [Carpetbagger

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<p>Becki Newton and Neil Patrick Harris on &quot;How I&nbsp;Met Your Mother.&quot;</p>

Becki Newton and Neil Patrick Harris on "How I Met Your Mother."

Credit: CBS

'How I Met Your Mother' - 'The Drunk Train': She's the one?

The show revisits a familiar story that not everyone may be happy about

A review of tonight's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I drop some sweet wordplay about logarithms...

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<p>&quot;Cougar Town&quot;&nbsp;co-star Busy Philipps.</p>

"Cougar Town" co-star Busy Philipps.

Credit: ABC

Interview: 'Cougar Town' co-star Busy Philipps

On fan screenings, working in a vacuum and memories of 'Freaks and Geeks'
"Cougar Town" finally returns to ABC tonight at 8:30. As I wrote about yesterday, the show has come a long way from its early days when its horrible title could be taken fairly literally. It's now a goofy, sweet, quirky, fun and at times incredibly romantic comedy about friends and family.
 
Tonight's premiere leans heavy on both the goof and the romance, which is either brilliant or horrible timing given that it's Valentine's Day. In terms of timing, though, the larger problem may be that the show has been off the air for almost nine months, which means all but the most passionate fans — or people who didn't delete their DVR season pass(*) — may have forgotten it existed by now.
 
(*) As mentioned in last week's story, those season passes are the reason the show won't abandon the terrible title, because an old show with a new title would be treated as a new show by DVRs, and it wouldn't record for anyone who didn't know to update things.  
 
ABC left the Courteney Cox comedy off its fall schedule, then bumped it from a planned mid-season debut a couple of months ago, which is tough sledding for a show that will be airing for the first time without the security of "Modern Family" as its lead-in. To keep the fans engaged during the long time off — and to keep the actors and writers from feeling too disconnected from their audience — the show's creators Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel mounted a multi-level guerrilla marketing campaign, that included cameos by most of the cast in the background of other shows and a series of screenings of season 3 episodes in cities around the country. (I talked with both Lawrence and Biegel about the campaign at press tour.)
 
One of those screenings was in Chicago, where co-star Busy Philipps and writer Melody Derloshon represented the series. Last month, before ABC announced the show's premiere date, I spoke with Philipps about the screening, making these episodes in a vacuum, and the show's optimistic approach to her dim-witted character, Laurie.
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<p>Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) stops to explain something to Dill (John Megna), Jem (Phillip Alford), and Scout (Mary Badham) in a scene from the classic 'To Kill A Mockingbird'</p>

Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) stops to explain something to Dill (John Megna), Jem (Phillip Alford), and Scout (Mary Badham) in a scene from the classic 'To Kill A Mockingbird'

Credit: Universal Home Video

Film Nerd 2.0: A screening of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' uplifts, enlightens, and even terrifies

Whatever experience I expected with this one, the reality was far more fulfilling

"So, are they going to kill a mockingbird?"

"Dad, what did the bird do?"

This was the first response from Toshi and Allen, verbatim, when I was picking titles with them for this year's Film Nerd 2.0 line-up, and I stopped to look at the discs for "To Kill A Mockingbird," the 1962 film adaptation of Harper Lee's classic novel.

Toshi takes titles literally.  The idea of metaphor is beyond him.  It is not something he fully gets yet, the double-meanings of things.  And so when we're talking about movies, he asks for title, plot, and an explanation if necessary.  I like that he thinks that way, that he knows what it takes for him to understand something, and he knows how to interrogate me to get it.

It reminds me of the bit on "The Simpsons" where it shows Bart Simpson walking out of a theater showing "Naked Lunch" and he says, "I can think of at least two things wrong with that title."  I remember as a kid when I would try to see movies that were forbidden to me, and I would sometimes succeed in my quest only to be confused and irritated by the result.  Nine year old kids really aren't the target audience for "An Unmarried Woman," but I was sure I wanted to see it because it was rated R.  I wish I'd had Paul Mazursky there to ask questions afterwards, because I had plenty of them.

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"The Bachelor"

 "The Bachelor"

Credit: ABC

Recap: Is Courtney getting kicked off 'The Bachelor'?

The girls are ready to mutiny against the model, but is Ben ready to hear it?

Ben and the girls are off to Belize, and Ben is so excited! I'm less excited because Courtney is still on the show. This girl practically defines the word simpering, and with the baby voice, the lip sucking and the general childishness, I can't quite wrap my head around the idea that Ben has an interest in this manipulative, catty airhead. Each week that passes that doesn't result in her getting the boot just convinces me that Ben is 1) stupid 2) completely superficial and/or 3) an insecure little boy who's looking for someone as close to simple minded as possible so he can feel better about himself. In any case, I'm beginning to think that any of the girls who seem the least bit funny, smart or bubbly will really be better off getting kicked off the show at this point. Increasingly, it seems like dodging a bullet. 

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Watch: Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars in 'Safe and Sound' clip from 'The Hunger Games'

Watch: Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars in 'Safe and Sound' clip from 'The Hunger Games'

Plus, hear the Decemberists' song and check out the track listing

It’s a cold, cold world out there, but Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars will be there to protect us. In the video for “Safe & Sound,” from “The Hunger Games,” the threesome vow that “no one can hurt you now,” but it looks like our odds aren’t good.

The video, which has a bleak, winter chill feel to it, even though Swift is dressed in a billowy white summery dress, opens with The Civil Wars’ Joy Mitchell and John Paul White  in a cabin with a roaring fire. So they’re fine, but what about Swift, who seems destined to roam the plains with no shelter? Even the trees are barren. She seems slightly bothered, but mainly she’s looking beatific as she walks the land as if she’s the last person left on earth. She does see a deer, but the deer comes to an untoward end.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>The Mars Volta</p>

The Mars Volta

Listen: The Mars Volta's 'Jewel' was kept in the garage

Newest track from new album 'Noctourniquet'

It's a little hard to believe this is Mars Volta.

"The Malking Jewel" is a murky garage growler with a dash of late '70s jam, not the psych space journey we've all come to know and love. This is like inviting your weed-selling neighbor over to party, and instead his scuzzy-but-awesome cousin shows up, borrows your bowl and asks too many weird questions about your turntable.

Listen to Mars Volta's "The Maling Jewel" here.

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<p>Debra Messing and Christian Borle in &quot;Smash.&quot;</p>

Debra Messing and Christian Borle in "Smash."

Credit: NBC

'Smash' - 'The Callback': Being Marilyn Monroe

Karen and Ivy go down to the wire for the lead role, while Julia writes a letter

A review of tonight's "Smash" coming up just as soon as I get you to understand p orbitals...

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