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<p>Chris Hemsworth in &quot;Thor.&quot;</p>

Chris Hemsworth in "Thor."

Credit: Marvel Studios

'Super 8' and 'Thor' don't make the latest Oscar Visual Effects race cut

'Cowboys & Aliens,' 'Sucker Punch' and 'Sherlock Holmes' also out of contention

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the final 10 contenders for the Visual Effects Oscar today eliminating five previously announced candidates.  The Visual Effects committee has decided that "Super 8," "Thor," "Sucker Punch," "Cowboys & Aliens" and "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" are no longer eligible for a nomination.  Instead, the following 10 films will provide 10-minute excerpts that will be screened by branch members on Thursday, January 19.

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<p>&quot;Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2&quot; remains on course for an Oscar nod in the Best Visual Effects category.&nbsp;</p>

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" remains on course for an Oscar nod in the Best Visual Effects category. 

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

10 films shortlisted for visual effects Oscar

'Apes,' 'Hugo,' 'Tree of Life' still in contention; 'Super 8,' 'Thor' ditched

The Oscar race for Best Visual Effects currently seems to have more rounds of elimination than "American Idol": rarely has a nomination seemed more like the reward. Last month, a longlist of 15 titles was announced; today, that was cut down to 10, from which the eventual five nominees will be selected.

It's neat enough mathematically, I suppose, and seems less harsh than the previous bake-off system, which saw only seven films shortlisted, meaning a mere two got rather prominently ditched. At least this way, the losers have more company with which to commiserate.

Today's cull brings few surprises: all the long-predicted contenders are still in the running, from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" to "Hugo" to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" to "The Tree of Life" -- the latter still something of a lone arthouse wolf in a sea of multiplex fare.

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<p>You might see a lot more of this and a lot less Kristen Wiig if Universal moves forward on plans for a sequel to 'Bridesmaids' without her involvement</p>

You might see a lot more of this and a lot less Kristen Wiig if Universal moves forward on plans for a sequel to 'Bridesmaids' without her involvement

Credit: Universal Pictures

Panic over a Kristen Wiig-free 'Bridesmaids' sequel seems premature

Would Universal really jeopardize one of their most valued relationships?

Looking at the headlines today, it sounds like Universal threw a drink in Kristen Wiig's face in the middle of a restaurant.

I think the truth is probably a little more nuanced than what we're reading so far.  No doubt Universal would like another helping of whatever just earned them almost $300 million worldwide.  Basic studio math says "We paid $30 million, we made about $300 million.  Yep.  More, please."  The film is not just a commercial success, but a genuine awards-season contender, a critical hit.

There's a fair degree of speculation in the Hollywood Reporter piece that kicked this off today, suggesting financial tensions between Wiig and Universal.  If you read closely, Wiig did not speak to them for their story at all.  I think the choices she's making indicate that she's not looking at immediate superstardom or purely financial factors in what she's signing on to do.  She's been building towards this for a while, and things like "Friends With Kids" or "Clown Girl" or "The Comedian" all have personal, independent origins, and they sound like challenges, movies that won't be easily sold in 30-second spots.

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<p>Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher on &quot;Shameless.&quot;</p>

Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher on "Shameless."

Credit: Showtime

Review: Showtime's 'Shameless' returns confidently for season 2

Dramedy finds better balance while still making great use of Emmy Rossum and family
In one episode of the new season of Showtime's "Shameless" (it returns Sunday night at 9), Emmy Rossum's Fiona Gallagher finds herself on the run from someone who wants to beat her up with a baseball bat, and winds up cowering under a table next to her despicable alcoholic father Frank (William H. Macy). As Fiona realizes that she's now in the same position Frank has been in so, so, so many times in the past, a giddy Frank declares, "I have waited for this day!" And as much as he wants to just seem smug about the daughter who has lectured him so often in the past about his own bad behavior, there's a sense of perverse pride here, too - that this is the first time in a long time Frank has truly been able to relate to his eldest child.
 
And that, boys and girls, is "Shameless" in a nutshell. It is messy. It is vulgar. It is crude and loud and low-class. And it takes great joy in being all of those things.
 
It is also, despite being an hour each week and featuring dramatic moments - many of them heart-wrenchingly good - funnier than pretty much all of the half-hour shows Showtime tries to pass off as comedies, and it's a pleasure to have it back.
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<p>Melanie Amaro</p>

Melanie Amaro

'The X Factor's' Melanie Amaro and Chris Rene head to Epic Records

Are Astro and Josh Krajcik next?

Can the first crop of “X Factor” finalists strike sales gold (or platinum) for Sony Music? The record company certainly hopes so as it moves into final stages of negotiations with at least four of the contestants.

Both winner Melanie Amaro and finalist Chris Rene are in discussions with Sony’s Epic imprint, which is run by “X Factor” judge Antonio “L.A.” Reid, according to The Hollywood Reporter.   However, Hits Daily Double says that Amaro’s deal is already done and that she will start in a Pepsi Super Bowl commercial in February as well.

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<p>The Weeknd, &quot;Echoes of Silence&quot;</p>

The Weeknd, "Echoes of Silence"

Today in mixtapes: Raekwon, The Weeknd, Meek Mill, Rick Ross, T.I.

Das Racist's Kool A.D. offers you a drink of palm wine

Hip-hop didn't take this week -- the week after New Year's -- off. Raekwon, The Weeknd, Meek Mill, Rick Ross, T.I. and Das Racist's Kool A.D. all have new material from mixtapes to offer this week, some of which comes in advance of full-length studio sets.

Das Racist had some heads bobbing and others being scratched in 2011 with their set "Relax" which, retrospectively, was not all that relaxing. Kool A.D. (Victor Vasquez), one-third of DR, has palm wine on the mind for his solo 'tape. "The Palm Wine Drinkard" takes its name and general ideas from an African novel; it involves 1) drinking and 2) adventures with a wizard while drinking. The titles "Titties Out," "Fun" and "Flying Thru the Air inna Airplane" should give you some funky ideas.

Download Kool A.D.'s "The Palm Wine Drinkard" here.

All three of Das Racist's members are plotting solo sets for 2012.

Wu-Tang's Raekwon, as expected, has something "Unexpected" for you, with features and help from 9th Wonder, Mobb Deep, Styles P and more.

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<p>Cobra Starship</p>

Cobra Starship

Credit: AP Photo

Cobra Starship and Mac Miller's 'Middle Finger' gets official release

Will a new dance be born?

“Middle Finger” may be the cheeriest song about flipping the bird ever released.

Fans of Mac Miller and Cobra Starship (and whatever that seemingly small overlapping intersection may be) will surely already be familiar with the downright jaunty, toe-tapper about throwing your middle fingers up, “to the sky-y-y-y” since the promotional track surfaced on the internet months ago.

Now, however, the song will get its proper release as an official single from Cobra Starship’s  2011 album, “Night Shades,” according to The Boombox. Available on iTunes starting yesterday, it goes to radio next week. 

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Martin Scorsese will receive a BAFTA Fellowship, the British Academy's highest career honor, next month.</p>

Martin Scorsese will receive a BAFTA Fellowship, the British Academy's highest career honor, next month.

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Martin Scorsese to receive BAFTA Fellowship

Will a career honor affect his chances of a BAFTA for 'Hugo?'

Rather like Meryl Streep, who has been racking up career honors of late, it's all but impossible to argue with any kind of lifetime achievement award for Martin Scorsese: in addition to his own deathless body of work, his efforts in the fields of film preservation and documentation make him one of the medium's greatest servants. So the news that he is to receive BAFTA's highest honor, the Fellowship, at the British Academy's awards ceremony next month is neither unexpected nor unwelcome.

I can't help wondering, however, why they've chosen to honor him in this way in a year when he will most likely be in the regular BAFTA race for "Hugo." On the one hand, BAFTA voters may feel that the Fellowship is a sufficient reward for one year, and feel disinclined to vote for him in competitive categories. If they don't, and Scorsese were to win Best Director and/or Best Film into the bargain, it could come across as overkill -- particularly given that the Fellowship is traditionally the last presentation of the BAFTA ceremony. Why not wait, and spread the love by picking a worthy luminary who isn't already getting honored in other departments this year? Just my take.

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<p>Yes, &quot;Bridesmaids&quot;&nbsp;is likely to keep the hope alive with a WGA nomination tomorrow.</p>

Yes, "Bridesmaids" is likely to keep the hope alive with a WGA nomination tomorrow.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Predicting the 2011 WGA nominees

Which scripts benefit in the wake of ineligibilities?

Tomorrow the Writers Guild of America (WGA) announces its narrative feature and documentary nominees. Something to remember is that a number of this year's Oscar-contending screenplays are ineligible for the award due to membership or signatory issues, meaning this is just an opportunity for other films that wouldn't normally have much room to get into the awards conversation.

The list of ineligibilities seems longer than normal this year. Or maybe it just seemed like there were more Oscar possibilities on that list than normal. In any case, you can count films like "The Artist," "Drive," "Martha Marcy May Marlene," "Shame," "My Week with Marilyn," "Rango," "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and more out.

So what does that leave? Well, there are some options. But the ultimate list of nominees here won't do a whole lot to clear up the Oscar race, both as a result of the above and the fact that the Academy's writers branch can often stray from the expected path a bit.

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<p>Among the questions I&nbsp;intend to ask at press tour:&nbsp;why would&nbsp;&quot;Scandal&quot; boss Shonda Rhimes make Henry Ian Cusick ditch his Scottish accent for the show?</p>

Among the questions I intend to ask at press tour: why would "Scandal" boss Shonda Rhimes make Henry Ian Cusick ditch his Scottish accent for the show?

Credit: ABC

A couple hundred TV critics walk into a bar...

The Television Critics Association winter press tour starts today
It's that time of year again, TV fans, when the a couple of hundred TV critics and reporters from the U.S. and Canada descend on a single Los Angeles area hotel for the Television Critics Association winter press tour.
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<p>Oscar Isaac, Ryan Gosling and THAT jacket in &quot;Drive.&quot;</p>

Oscar Isaac, Ryan Gosling and THAT jacket in "Drive."

Credit: Film District

Round-up: What the movies wore in 2011

Also: The darkening of Keira Knightley and Kingsley's under-acting

I may have said this a few times before, but Clothes On Film is one of the smartest film blogs out there. Viewing and analyzing cinema from a sartorial perspective, Chris Laverty understands that there's more to great costume design than lavish corsets and hoop skirts, and his round-up of 2011's collected cinematic wardrobe is a case in point. Alongside appreciations of awards-bound threads from "Hugo" and "The Artist," Laverty is no less intrigued by the non-period work in such films as "Source Code" and "Drive": not only Ryan Gosling's already-iconic satin jacket, but his simple, dirty Henley tee, "reinvent[ing] the uniform of the protector." The Academy's costumers' branch could do worse than take a look at this piece for ideas. [Clothes on Film]

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<p>Zeek (Craig T. Nelson)&nbsp;visits his mother Blanche (Frances Sternhagen)&nbsp;on &quot;Parenthood.&quot;</p>

Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) visits his mother Blanche (Frances Sternhagen) on "Parenthood."

Credit: NBC

'Parenthood' - 'Road Trip': Is it much further, Papa Zeek?

The Bravermans take a long drive together in one of the series' best episodes

A review of last night's "Parenthood" coming up just as soon as I give you some fuzzy dice and a switchblade...

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