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<p>Emmanuel Lubezki's lensing of &quot;The Tree of Life&quot; has dominated the cinematography conversation this year.</p>

Emmanuel Lubezki's lensing of "The Tree of Life" has dominated the cinematography conversation this year.

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

DPs indulge in some mutual appreciation

Top lensers share their 2011 favorites, as ASC announces tomorrow

We've reached that point in the season where one has to actually keep a diary to remember which precursor announcements are landing on which days -- as far as the guilds go, the actors, producers, writers, art directors and now the directors have all had their say, while the American Society of Cinematographers will join their ranks tomorrow.

I'd like to say I'm anticipating a surprise or two, but Best Cinematography is rapidly starting to feel like the most cemented of the craft categories. At least three of the five slots are spoken for, with a couple of ubiquitous titles jostling to fill the other two. The odds don't favor an exotic and/or pulpy interloper like "House of Flying Daggers" or "The Black Dahlia" making things a little more interesting this year.

"The Tree of Life," "Hugo" and "The Artist" all seem comfortably locked in for nominations from both the Guild and the Academy, with the eventual winner likely coming from that trio. A week ago, I might have said the same for "War Horse," but Steven Spielberg's lavish WWI epic is performing so dismally with the guilds thus far that I wouldn't be entirely surprised if it missed the cut tomorrow. Still, Janusz Kaminski is an industry favorite and the film's rampant (if peculiarly lit) pictorialism is catnip in this department: I'm not going to bet against it just yet.

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Mike Patton scoring Derek Cianfrance's 'Pines' and promises new Tomahawk album
Credit: Jay Blakesberg

Mike Patton scoring Derek Cianfrance's 'Pines' and promises new Tomahawk album

Ryan Gosling trading cars for motorcycles in 'The Place Beyond the Pines'

Ryan Gosling proved his bad-ass mettle with four wheels in "Drive." Now imagine Hollywood's boyfriend doing the same, only with motorcycles. And with a prospectively and equally bad-ass soundtrack, composed by Mike Patton.

The Faith No More/Tomahawk/Mr. Bungle frontman is on tap to score Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Beyond the Pines," which stars the director's "Blue Valentine" heartbreaker Gosling.

Not much is known beyond Patton's participation, though he's proven to keep good company on top of his experience scoring flicks like Italian film "A Solitude of Prime Numbers" (2010) and Jason Statham-starring "Crank 2: High Voltage" (2009).

"The Place Beyond the Pines" synopsis is worded thusly: "A motorcycle stunt rider considers committing a crime in order to provide for his wife and child, an act that puts him on a collision course with a cop-turned-politician." It co-stars Eva Mendes and (apparently...) the world's sexiest man Bradley Cooper (...whatever). While the premise sounds a little familiar, doubtless the score won't. 

"The Place Beyond the Pines" is also among In Contention's top 10 most anticipated films of 2012, due date pending.

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<p>Paul McCartney's &quot;Kisses on the Bottom&quot;</p>

Paul McCartney's "Kisses on the Bottom"

Paul McCartney reveals album title and track listing: 'Kisses on the Bottom'

The Beatle gets a little cheeky

Paul McCartney is really getting cheeky with the title of his new album,  “Kisses on the Bottom.”

Before you get all skeeved out (What? Too late?), the title comes from a line in Fats Wallers’ 1935 hit, “I’m Gonna Sit Write Down and Write Myself A Letter,” in which he describes that he’s going to close the letter with “a lot of kisses on the bottom.”  Yeah, it’s still a little gross.

Anyway, as we’ve previously reported, the McCartney album, out Feb. 7, includes standards that McCartney grew up listening to as well as two new originals, “My Valentine” and “Only Our Hearts.”

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<p>Andrew Bird's &quot;Break It Yourself&quot;</p>

Andrew Bird's "Break It Yourself"

Watch: Andrew Bird's new album artwork, tracklist and promo take flight

Will 'Break It Yourself' have more guitar?

"Go ahead say something dumb, boy, there's no shame" sings Andrew Bird on an unnamed guitar tune. It's a perfectly pleasant phrase on its own. Bird's just full of 'em.

The clip of the tune is available in a newly released promo video for the bard's forthcoming album, "Break It Yourself," his 12th solo set.

The Mom + Pop artist has also lifted the veil on the set's tracklist, below, as well as its grainy, mysterious cover art, as seen on the left.

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<p>John Hillerman, Madeline Kahn, Cybill Shepherd,&nbsp;Burt Reynolds, and Eilieen Brennan would like to remind you all not to drink and drive.</p>

John Hillerman, Madeline Kahn, Cybill Shepherd, Burt Reynolds, and Eilieen Brennan would like to remind you all not to drink and drive.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Peter Bogdanovich screens new cut of 'At Long Last Love' and tells story behind it

We were there for what turned out to be a night of many surprises

When I was much younger and starting to actively get interested in film, there were a few key books that helped ignite that interest and validate it.  First, there was a copy of the Pauline Kael book "For Keeps," a sampler from her other published books of film criticism, that I must have read cover to cover a good four or five times.  Her book taught me to dig deeper into a movie, and to be able to articulate why I love something even when no one else does.

The Danny Peary "Cult Movies" books also were important to me because they suggested that the world of film outside of the mainstream might actually be more interesting or rewarding.  Peary's descriptions of these films have stayed with me so vividly that even this last year, when I finally checked one more title off the list, it was his book that was forefront in my mind as I sat down to watch.

There was another book that made an equally large impression on me, but for different reasons.  In 1978, Harry Medved, Randy Dreyfuss, and Michael Medved wrote "The Fifty Worst Films Of All Time (And How They Got That Way)," and what I didn't know at the time was that Harry Medved was 17 when he wrote it, while Dreyfuss was 19.  Makes sense, because the book is written with an insistent attitude that seemed very persuasive to nine-year-old me, but that I have found more grating each time I've gone back to it over the years.

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<p>The Shins' James Mercer</p>

The Shins' James Mercer

Listen: The Shins' new single, 'Simple Song' from album 'Port of Morrow'

Band sets first tour dates for 2012

The Shins’ myriad influences bleed all over their new single, “Simple Song,” the first from new album “Port of Morrow.”

Head Shin James Mercer realigned the band over the last few years and this iteration provides some muscle and a little more heft. Hence, after opening with a very melodic Brian Wilson-esque feel, the tune grabs onto a Who-like guitar and drum rift before adding a sparkly glockenspiel later on. There’s a lot going on musically, but it never gets messy. It’s charming and it’s also about four songs in one.

The song, which streams for free today before going on sale on iTunes tomorrow, is about his girlfriend Mercer revealed when he first unveiled it at a small Shins concert last month.  “I know that things can really get rough when you go it alone, don’t go thinking you gotta be tough and play like a stone,” he sings over a cascading piano.

[More after the jump...]

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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 111: Press tour, 'Alcatraz,' 'Rob,' 'The Finder' & more

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 111: Press tour, 'Alcatraz,' 'Rob,' 'The Finder' & more

Dan and Alan also review 'Are You There, Chelsea?' and 'Napoleon Dynamite'


Welcome to the first of what should be two press tour editions of the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, in which an ill Dan and I break down what's happened at TCA so far while offering reviews of several shows debuting over the next week.

The line-up: 

TCA Press Tour (00:00 - 31:15)
"Are You There, Chelsea?" (31:15 - 36:40)
"Rob" (36:45 - 41:50)
"The Finder" (43:10 - 50:20)
"Napoleon Dynamite" (50:20 - 55:40)
"Alcatraz" (55:45 - 01:05:00)
As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.
And as always, feel free to e-mail us at and/or if you have questions you want answered on the show. Please put the word "podcast" in your subject line to make it easy to track them down amid the hundreds of random press releases we get every day.
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<p>Vanessa Redgrave in Roland&nbsp;Emmerich's &quot;Anonymous&quot;</p>

Vanessa Redgrave in Roland Emmerich's "Anonymous"

Credit: Columbia Pictures

'Artist,' 'Harry Potter' and 'Hugo' among Academy's makeup finalists

'J. Edgar' and 'Green Lantern' won't be advancing

The Academy has announced seven advancing finalists in the race for Best Makeup, and among the chosen are the Meryl Streep-starrer "The Iron Lady," which transformed the beloved actress into former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Another film that transformed a recognizable actor into a famous political figure, Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar," was snubbed, as was comic book blockbuster "Green Lantern" (which featured impressive, heightened work on actor Peter Sarsgaard but was obviously not well-received by critics or audiences).

The makeup branch tends to go its own way, though, regardless of perceived quality. And the branch can often throw a curve ball, as it did two years ago by advancing and ultimately nominating Paolo Sorrentino's "Il Divo" and again this year by standing up for Joann Sfar's Serge Gainsbourg biopic "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life."

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"The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

 "The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' - 'Unlikely Duos'

NeNe and Marlo connect, but Cynthia and Peter seem destined to fall apart

There's a lot going on in this episode of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," but the truth is, the only really important storyline is the one involving Peter and Cynthia. While everyone else is running around, writing songs, spending money and generally enjoying life, our beleaguered couple seems to be waltzing ever closer to divorce. In most cases I'd say that was a sad state of affairs, but each week I find myself hoping that Cynthia will realize that Peter is an obnoxious, rigid, self-absorbed ass and get the hell out. 

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<p>Sean&nbsp;Penn with Oprah&nbsp;Winfrey on a visit to Port-au-Prince, Haiti last month</p>

Sean Penn with Oprah Winfrey on a visit to Port-au-Prince, Haiti last month

Credit: AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery

Sean Penn to receive Joel Siegel Award at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards

Actor to be honored for his commitment to philanthropic endeavors

George Clooney will present Sean Penn with the Joel Siegel Award at the Broadcast Film Critics Association's 17th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards this coming Thursday. Siegel was the “Good Morning America” film critic for over a quarter of a century as well as a BFCA member. The award is meant to “honor those who understand, as Joel did, that the greatest value of celebrity is as an enhanced platform to do good works for others.”

Among other charitable and political endeavors he is and has been associated with, Penn founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organization in the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. “We are extremely proud to be able to make this presentation to Sean on this night in particular, exactly two years after the devastating earthquake struck Haiti,” BFCA President Joey Berlin said via press release. “While it was heartening to see such an outpouring of support and aid for the Haitian people in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, the long-term commitment made by Sean and his organization is particularly notable. The Joel Siegel Award was created to spotlight such above and beyond efforts by the leading lights of our industry and its spirit is truly personified by Sean Penn.”

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<p>Beyonce and Jay-Z</p>

Beyonce and Jay-Z

Credit: AP Photo

Jay-Z posts new song in 'Glory' and honor of his and Beyonce's new baby

Give this newborn child a contract, already

Jay-Z made a song just for you, baby.

He and wife Beyonce welcomed their first child into the world this weekend, in case the story hasn't gotten around to breaking your Internet yet today. And thus, he has deemed his new daughter Blue Ivy Carter "the most beautiful girl in the world" in a rap track posted to his lifestyle website Life And Times.

"Glory" has the veteran rapper all misty-eyed, admitting some of his own failings, and the failings of his father. But between the sentimental beat and the amended text on the post ("Life just got REALLY good."), it's all gushy baby-love.

"Baby I'll paint the sky Blue / my greatest creation was you," he touts, calling it early that Blue Ivy will be "a younger smarter faster me." Hov also injects some unexpected, highly personal info into his rhymes: "Last time the miscarriage was so tragic/We was afraid you'd disappear/But nah baby you magic."

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<p>Rooney Mara in&nbsp;PGA&nbsp;and DGA&nbsp;nominee &quot;The&nbsp;Girl with the Dragon Tattoo&quot;</p>

Rooney Mara in PGA and DGA nominee "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Off the Carpet: Wrench in the works

The guild circuit continues to keep things interesting this season

Well. This has been an interesting couple of weeks to start the new year.

As the 2011-2012 film awards season forges ahead, general assumptions and standby wisdom are beginning to fly out the window. What was beginning to seem somewhat settled is anything but. The bed looked like it was made, now the covers are thrown to the far reaches of the room.

And that, by the way, is a very good thing. As flabbergasted as I am by the fact that David Fincher's least compelling film to date seems to be riding residual respect from his impressive awards season showing last year, I am nevertheless happy that "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and "Bridesmaids," for that matter, are keeping things interesting, keeping the circuit on its toes, drawing everything into a place of exciting unpredictability.

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