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<p>&quot;The Artist&quot;&nbsp;and &quot;The Descendants&quot;&nbsp;appear to be slugging it out for the frontrunner spot, but watch for something like &quot;Hugo,&quot; strong throughout the categories, as a Best Picture spoiler.</p>

"The Artist" and "The Descendants" appear to be slugging it out for the frontrunner spot, but watch for something like "Hugo," strong throughout the categories, as a Best Picture spoiler.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Off the Carpet: Setting the field with the precursors so far

'The Artist' and 'The Descendants' are in a dead heat, and has Michelle Williams become the frontrunner?

In just three weeks we've gone from zero to a hundred on the circuit as the film awards landscape has been sculpted into a bit of a consensus in these waning moments of 2011. And now that I've consolidated all the announcements into an easy-to-navigate post, I can dig in and see what that consensus is.

Michel Hazanavicius's "The Artist" is considered far and away the frontrunner for Best Picture at the moment by a number of pundits, having won six Best Film prizes from various groups. But would you be shocked to know that "The Descendants" has just as many? And Terence Malick's "The Tree of Life," meanwhile, isn't going away. It has landed four Best Picture honors and today was crowned the year's best in a survey of critics and pundits at indieWIRE.

As for the directors, it's Martin Scorsese and Michel Hazanavicius currently eking out the edge with six wins each for "Hugo" and "The Artist" respectively. But Malick isn't far behind with four of his own. We can tip the scales back in Scorsese and Hazanavicius's favor a bit, though, as both received BFCA and Golden Globe nominations, while Malick did not.

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EXCLUSIVE Song Of The Day: Shelby Earl's 'This Christmas Is For Us'

EXCLUSIVE Song Of The Day: Shelby Earl's 'This Christmas Is For Us'

Alt-country cut will light your tree

I often find myself looking to veteran music critic Ann Powers, in matters of taste and prose. On the topic of Seattle songwriter Shelby Earl, I'll take a quote straight from her: "Over the years I’ve become friendly with a few musicians... In general, though, I’ve clung to that old idea that critical perspective and personal connection don’t mix. Until now. I’m writing this note to ask you to listen to an album by a friend."

I met Earl through mutual friends years ago, and it's been a thrill to see her successes this year. She released "Burn the Boats" this year through Immaculate Noise favorite Rachel Flotard's Local 638 Records label, the album featuring John Roderick of the Long Winters. The alt-country artist brings the same amount of heart and bits of sentimentality into new holiday track "This Christmas Is For Us."

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<p>Katy Perry</p>

Katy Perry

Listen: Katy Perry and B.o.B on 'The One That Got Away' remix

Will it propel the song to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100?

Katy Perry really doesn’t want her current single to be forever known as the song that kept her from setting the record for most No. 1 songs on Billboard Hot 100 from one album...and she’s so close now that she can taste it.

So to help push the song, which was No. 4 last week on the chart, she’s now released this remix featuring B.o.B. Similarly to her remix of “Last Friday Night” featuring Missy Elliott, the new version serves two purposes:  to garner more radio play for the song, but the primary goal is to drive digital downloads sales (both airplay and sales combine to determine chart position). "The One That Got Away" is the sixth single from "Teenage Dream." 

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Paul McCartney</p>

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney reveals new details about new album, including guest stars

You can hear a new track... for $50

So it looks like there’s more to the story on Paul McCartney’s new album coming Feb. 7.

Last week we reported that Macca will release a newly-recorded set of  classic love songs from the 1920s- 1940s. Now more details are surfacing: The Beatle's still-untitled album will feature guest appearances from Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder.

We don’t know if the “still-untitled” part means that the report that the set will be called “My Valentine” were wrong or just premature. Regardless, the track “My Valentine” is available for streaming for 24 hours via to premium members. It costs $50 to be a premium member, so you won’t be hearing our thoughts on the song here.

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Rob Zabrecky

Rob Zabrecky

Credit: Photo by August Bradley from the Hasselblad Masters Book

HitFix Interview: Ryan Gosling's favorite magician is one Odd Man

Former rocker-turned-tap dancing trickster Rob Zabrecky starts his third act

Most people, when they think of magic (if they think of magic at all) dwell on the usual suspects. Criss Angel. David Blaine. That guy who turned a wand into a bunch of flowers at their fifth birthday party. What they don't think of is someone like Rob Zabrecky.

As wraith thin as an Edward Gorey drawing with a piercing stare and an unnervingly wide selection of bow-ties, Zabrecky's creepy, witty Odd Man character might best be described as "a mix of Vincent Price and David Byrne." Unlike most modern magicians, who either portray an amped up version of themselves or just let the magic itself take center stage, Zabrecky's creation is a fully-fleshed out character who tap dances, sings, tells jokes -- and oh yeah, makes things disappear, too.

I've been an Odd Man fan for a few years, but before you roll your eyes, note that I'm not alone. Ryan Gosling (yes, that Ryan Gosling, Time magazine's Coolest Person of 2011, thank you) was so taken with Odd Man that he recruited Zabrecky to pair up with his band, Dead Man's Bones, for a series of performances. Fittingly, Odd Man joined an event that featured a children's choir painted like skeletons, a chocolate fountain and attendees dressed in 1950s attire to capture the band's dark sense of childlike wonderment.

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Batman (Christian Bale) squares off with Bane (Tom Hardy) in "The Dark Knight Rises."
Batman (Christian Bale) squares off with Bane (Tom Hardy) in "The Dark Knight Rises."
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The new 'Dark Knight Rises' trailer is the best of the franchise

Is this Nolan's version of 'The Dark Knight Returns?'

If you made it out to "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" at IMAX venues this weekend, you likely saw the opening prologue for "The Dark Knight Rises." The new trailer for the film was also attached to prints of Brad Bird's actioner, as well as prints of WB's own "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows."

That trailer has now popped up (officially) online, and more and more, it seems obvious this will be Christopher Nolan's version of Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns." We already know the film takes place eight years after the events of "The Dark Knight," but in the new trailer, I'm pretty sure we see Bruce Wayne walking around with a cane, and we definitely see the graying of the hair.

It's time for old man Wayne to come out of retirement and kick some ass, it seems, just like in Frank Miller's industry-changing series.

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"The Real Housewives of Orange County"

"The Real Housewives of Orange County"

Credit: Bravo

'Real Housewives of Orange County' adds a (gasp!) brunette to the cast

The blondetourage must deal with the trauma of a dark-haired vixen in their midst

When “The Real Housewives of Orange County” returns for season seven (Tues. Feb. 7 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo), fans will be treated to a new, dark twist. Actually, dark-haired. Heather Dubrow, the show's only brunette and a former actress-turned-stay-at-home mom to four (and wife of a plastic surgeon), will be joining the cast. Quick, somebody, grab the highlights!

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<p>Michael Fassbender won Best Actor for his performance in&nbsp;Steve McQueen's &quot;Shame.&quot;</p>

Michael Fassbender won Best Actor for his performance in Steve McQueen's "Shame."

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Florida critics spring for 'Descendants,' Scorsese

Michael Fassbender and Michelle Williams win top acting honors

The Florida Film Critics Circle has tossed its hat into the over-stuffed precursor ring this year by picking "The Descendants" as the year's best film. Martin Scorsese picked up the Best Director prize for "Hugo" while Michelle Williams continued a dominating streak by nabbing Best Actress. Check out the full list of winners below.

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<p>Rooney&nbsp;Mara won Best Actress for her performance in&nbsp;&quot;The&nbsp;Girl with the Dragon&nbsp;Tattoo.&quot;</p>

Rooney Mara won Best Actress for her performance in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

Credit: Columbia Pictures

'The Artist' wins five from St. Louis critics

Rooney Mara wins Best Actress for 'Dragon Tattoo'

After submitting nominees last week, the St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association has picked "The Artist" as this year's Best Picture winner. Michel Hazanavicius won Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, while Rooney Mara was singled out for her lead actress performance in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Check out the full list of winners below.

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<p>&quot;Midnight in Paris&quot; won the groups' Best Original&nbsp;Screenplay prize.</p>

"Midnight in Paris" won the groups' Best Original Screenplay prize.

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Southeastern film critics go for 'Descendants,' Scorsese, Clooney, Streep

No wins for 'The Artist,' which raises a question

If you somehow haven't noticed, I'm right in the middle of a massive update of film awards announcements. But something stuck out to me when I noted that the Southeastern Film Critics Association didn't give "The Artist" a single award.

Of the five groups announcing today and yesterday (two of which I still have to publish), only one awarded "The Artist" this year's Best Picture prize (the St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association). Everyone else relegated it to runner-up consideration or perhaps a bone for Best Original Screenplay.

This is interesting to me. After a wave of groups anointed the film "the one," everyone (okay, not everyone, but almost) apparently feeling safe in going to that place, given the back-up, suddenly we get a chunk who shied away from it. I'm not saying it means anything but I do think it could be representative of something I was getting at in Friday's Oscar Talk podcast.

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<p>Terrence Malick's &quot;The&nbsp;Tree of Life&quot;&nbsp;won&nbsp;Best&nbsp;Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress and Best&nbsp;Cinematography from the group.</p>

Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress and Best Cinematography from the group.

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

'Tree of Life' wins four awards from Chicago critics, including Best Picture

Terrence Malick's film continues to have presence on the precursor circuit

After Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" led with seven nominations from the Chicago Film Critics Association, it seemed obvious the film was likely to win the group's Best Picture award. But the film ended up walking away with four big wins in total. Check out the full list of winners below.

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<p>George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in &quot;The&nbsp;Descendants&quot;</p>

George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in "The Descendants"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

'Descendants,' 'Drive' win big at Satellite Awards

'The Help' and 'The Tree of Life' also win top awards

After nominating any and everything under the sun, the International Press Academy (Satellite Awards) has tapped "The Descendants" as this year's Best Picture of the year. The group, however, gave "Drive" a field-leading four wins, and overall, it's a unique set of superlatives. Check out the full list below.

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