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"Top Chef"

 "Top Chef"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'Top Chef' - 'BBQ Pit Wars'

It's a barbecue challenge, and it sends one chef to the hospital

So, we're down to just nine chefs, but that doesn't mean we're going to be low on tension, interpersonal conflict and really dumb moves in the kitchen. I would have hoped that at this point we wouldn't be seeing the kind of mistakes usually associated with "Hell's Kitchen" (Too salty! Overcooked! Undercooked!), but then, the chefs on "Hell's Kitchen" never have to cook for hundreds of people in insane Texas heat. The fact that we haven't had more chefs passing out, throwing up and/or getting speedy trips to the hospital is really a surprise, honestly.

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<p>B&eacute;r&eacute;nice Bejo in &quot;The Artist.&quot;</p>

Bérénice Bejo in "The Artist."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

The Long Shot: Backlash to the future

Most Oscar favorites face a 'backlash' at some point, but is it all in our heads?

With the critics' awards largely played out and the industry awards beginning to idly rev their engines, we're at that point in the season -- a point prematurely frazzled Oscar pundits might call the halfway mark, surprising sane laymen who think the race hasn't even started yet -- when certain terms start flying around the blogosphere with all-too-casual abandon. "Overrated" (translation: "I don't personally think it deserves as many awards as it's getting") is one. "Underrated" (translation: "Forget critical reception, it's not winning enough awards for my liking") is another. And somewhere in between lies the Oscar-watcher's favorite alarm word for loosening semi-cemented races, if only in their own imaginations: yes, the trusty old "backlash."

A "backlash," you understand, can describe anything from perceptible public resistance to a once-favored film or artist (the post-"sugar tits" Mel Gibson, say) to a strategized protest from a concentrated political or cultural faction with a sizable audience (the conservative anti-"Brokeback Mountain" bloc, say) to bored journalists and bloggers talking about how too many people are talking about a certain popular phenomenon -- and it's this last, most tenuous and tail-eating, form that "backlashes" in the realm of awards analysis usually take.

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<p>PBS President &amp; CEO Paula Kerger</p>
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PBS President & CEO Paula Kerger

Credit: Rahoul Ghose/PBS

Press Tour: PBS chief defends Big Bird against Mitt Romney's commercial plan

Paula Kerger sticks up for public broadcasting against the Republican front-runner
In a public appearance last week, Republican president candidate Mitt Romney expressed support for PBS, but also support for completely overhauling the way that PBS stays afloat.
 
"I like PBS. We subsidize PBS. Look, I'm going to stop that. I'm going to say, ‘PBS is going to have to have advertisements,'" Romney told Iowa voters, according to ABC. "We're not going to kill Big Bird, but Big Bird's going to have to have advertisements, all right?"
 
This, of course, would be a total upheaval of the way that PBS does business.
 
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday (January 4), the first morning of the Television Critics Association press tour, PBS President & CEO Paula Kerger offered her somewhat partisan take on Romney's plan.
 
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Thanks, America!
Thanks, America!
Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini

LMFAO is still sexy on Billboard's Hot 100

Does Katy Perry get any closer to setting the record?

LMFAO is still sexy as “Sexy and I Know It” spends its second week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Not only is the duo sexy, it’s hot as “Party Rock Anthem” climbs 9-6 this week on the back of a Christmas sales surge.

Former No. 1, Rihanna’s “We Found Love” featuring Calvin Harris, remains at No. 2, while Katy Perry’s “The One That Got Away” stays at No. 3 and Bruno Mars’ “It Will Rain” holds at No. 4.

Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling” ticks up one spot to No. 5, while Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Ni**as In Paris” falls two to No. 7.

Like LMFAO, Adele takes up two slots in the Top 10 as third single “Set Fire to the Rain” is No. 8 and former No. 1 “Someone Like You” is at No. 9.  Both songs are on Adele’s “21,” which was 2011‘s top selling album.

Rounding out the top 10 is Gym Class Heroes’ “Stereo Hearts” featuring Adam Levine, which sneaks up on from No. 11. 

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<p>I have a feeling it's not going to be all 'pretty dresses and happy dwarves' when Lily Collins stars in the upcoming remake of 'Evil Dead'</p>

I have a feeling it's not going to be all 'pretty dresses and happy dwarves' when Lily Collins stars in the upcoming remake of 'Evil Dead'

Credit: Relativity Media

Lily Collins steps in for Bruce Campbell as star of 'Evil Dead' remake

The new film widely avoids using Ash, so what do they have planned instead?

Speaking of remakes…

Even though "Carrie" is considered a classic of the genre and was both a critical and commercial hit, there seems to me to be enough flexibility to allow for a new interpretation.  That story can be retold in new ways to find new resonance.  That's one sturdy central metaphor they're dealing with.

I'm not sure the same is true of "Evil Dead," which isn't particularly built on theme and subtext in the first place.  "Evil Dead" was a purely visceral experience, terrifying because of how stark and ugly and isolated it was.  Thanks to the much-larger success and visibility of "Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn," many people define the "Evil Dead" series with a sense of humor.  "Army Of Darkness," the third film in the series, pushed it even further, and for many fans, that was their first "Evil Dead" in a theater, meaning there are many different groups of fans who have many different ideas of what "Evil Dead" even means.

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The Year in Numbers: Adele leads the album and singles pack
Credit: Columbia Records

The Year in Numbers: Adele leads the album and singles pack

Who else is in the top 5 as industry sees first uptick since 2004?

Unless you’ve been under a rock—and perhaps, even then— it will come as no surprise that Adele’s “21” is the best selling album of the year.

The British singer’s second set sold 5.82 million copies in the U.S. during 2011, according to Nielsen SoundScan, making it the best-selling album since Usher’s “Confessions” sold 7.98 million in 2004. The title is in its 14th non-consecutive week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 this week.

Adele is a double winner in that “Rolling In the Deep,” the biggest cross-format smash in two decades, sold  5.2 million copies, making it the top selling single of 2011.

Returning to albums, Michael Buble’s “Christmas,” which came out in mid-October, covered a lot of territory quickly to claim the No. 2 spot with sales of 2.45 million albums. It sprinted past Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” which sold 2.1 million.

Rounding out the diverse list of  top five album sellers for 2011 were Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter IV” at 1.92 million units and Jason Aldean’s “My Kinda Party” at 1.58 million.

Overall, album sales were up 1.3% in 2011 over 2010, reported Billboard. Modest as it was, the growth marked the first annual uptick since 2004.  Album sales tallied 330.6 million compared with 2010’s 326.2 million. 

Though much was made of the demise of the physical CD, with many reports claiming that some major labels would quit manufacturing the discs in 2012, it looks like the CD has a little life left in it yet. Yes, digital sales continue to climb, and for the first time, digital album sales and digital track equivalents (when someone purchases 10 tracks from an album) surpassed the 50% mark for the first time this year, yet 49.7% of all album sales are still from physical goods.  The industry isn’t about to walk away from those kinds of numbers any time soon. In fact, when the fan decided to purchase an entire album (excluding track equivalent albums), the physical CD percentage soared to 68.7%.

Digital track sales saw an 8.5% gain over 2010, with total numbers reaching 1.27 billion. Think we aren’t totally living in a singles world? In 2011, 112 tracks scanned more than 1 million units, compared with 80 in 2010. Only 13 albums sold more than 1 million copies last year, the same number as 2010.

Following “Rolling in the Deep,” the top digital single sellers were LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” at No. 2 with 5.47 million copies, Katy Perry’s “E.T.” at 4.83 million, Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” featuring  Christina Aguilera at 4.11 million and Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything” featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer at  3.87 million.

Follow me on Twitter @HitfixMelinda

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<p>From &quot;July&quot;</p>

From "July"

Watch: Youth Lagoon tackles suburban decay with 'July' video

And you thought Arcade Fire's bummed you out

Bundle up. It may be "July" in Youth Lagoon's world, but wherever you are tonight, i just got a little colder.

Youth Lagoon mastermind Trevor Powers' 2011 album "The Year of Hibernation" wasn't named for nothing. It hypnotizes on the whole as it warmly mellowed and "July's" no exception. Where it gets messed up is the pristine pacing as bodies seize with the ambiguous (and literal?) hurt of our least-favorite memories of the suburbs.

"For my whole life I've dealt with extreme anxiety," said Powers in a release, on "Hibernation." "I sometimes feel like I'm literally being eaten up inside. So I started writing these songs. Not just songs about my anxiety, but about my past and my present. Songs about memories, and all those feelings that those bring. I know that if I can be honest about what is inside my mind, there will be others that will be able to relate to it."

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<p>I don't want to turn this into a contest, but I'm pretty sure my prom was worse than this.</p>

I don't want to turn this into a contest, but I'm pretty sure my prom was worse than this.

Credit: MGM/UA Home Video

'Boys Don't Cry' director Kimberly Pierce may direct new version of King's 'Carrie'

Can the story withstand another interpretation, and why try again?

Since it was the first major thing he published, little wonder "Carrie" has had a longer and more robust multi-media life than almost any other Stephen King novel.

It was a novel, and then obviously a very well-liked Brian De Palma film with Sissy Spacek, and then a much-much later sequel that no one remembers, a huge terrible infamous Broadway musical bomb, a TV remake, and now, if MGM and Screen Gems have their way, another remake.

And oddly, I'm not opposed to the idea.

There is a reason "Carrie" keeps coming up, a reason people keep returning to the material.  There is something potent about the idea of the outsider looking for acceptance and getting snubbed, something rich in the notion of the cruelty of teenagers, and something brilliant in the concept of budding sexuality tied to the unleashing of terrifying powers.  King hit the jackpot with that book, and De Palma's film benefitted greatly from the collision of a hungry young filmmaker, the right material, and a cast that was loaded with budding movie and TV stars.

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<p>Are these three of your acting Oscar frontrunners? &nbsp;Or are they three other contenders?</p>

Are these three of your acting Oscar frontrunners?  Or are they three other contenders?

Oscar's Acting Races: Who's in and who's out?

it's likely down to the wire this year for all four categories

As awards season enters the last week and a half before Oscar nomination ballots are due, the "great settling," as its been called, isn't yet upon us.  This magical few days or weeks when the collective Academy consciousness coalesces to determine one best picture winner (whether they know it or not) usually occurs before the nominations are announced, but not always.  Yes, "The Artist" is clearly the frontrunner this time around, but its hardly the lock "Slumdog Millionaire" or "The King's Speech" were in recent years.  That could easily change over the next few weeks as guilds such as SAG, PGA and DGA determine their own year end winners.  What's much more intriguing this season, however, are the acting races. 

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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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