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<p>&quot;The Tree of Life&quot; and director Terrence Malick came first in Indiewire's poll of over 150 critics.</p>

"The Tree of Life" and director Terrence Malick came first in Indiewire's poll of over 150 critics.

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Round-up: indieWIRE survey plants 'Tree of Life' at the top

Also: Brad Bird's winter playlist and Kim Jong-il on film

With travel and near-terminal laptop trouble consuming the last two days for me, I was late getting to Indiewire's 2011 critics' poll, the most comprehensive collective of its type, and one in which Kris and I both participated. The results are unsurprising, but no less gratifying for it -- I'm particularly pleased to see "Margaret" scoring in the Top 10, while Anna Paquin, Jeannie Berlin and Kenneth Lonergan's screenplay all place in the top three of their respective fields. Additionally, they collected some observations from participants about the year in film: I muse on the British auteur revival, Mike D'Angelo celebrates the Team Margaret hashtag phenomenon and Richard Brody tackles the distribution racket. Fun reading all round. [Indiewire]

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<p>Albert Brooks as Bernie Rose in &quot;Drive.&quot;</p>

Albert Brooks as Bernie Rose in "Drive."

Credit: FilmDistrict

Q&A: Albert Brooks talks 'Drive,' awards love, the problem with twitter and Judd Apatow

Was I awake enough to ask coherent questions?

After a long and very busy Golden Globes morning last Tuesday, this pundit collapsed into a well deserved nap.  Being an entertainment writer/journalist/critic/commentator is a fantastic job, but the back to back days you have to get up at 5 AM to hear both SAG and Globe nominations are arguably the toughest of the year.  An hour later, I groggily woke up and stared at the 40 new E-mails that somehow found their way into my inbox.  Just two minutes later the phone rang.  Smartly, I answered the unknown number and heard, "Greg?  This is Albert Brooks."

Crap Ellwood.  You better wake up, snap out of it and get it together.

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<p>Albert of &quot;Survivor: South Pacific&quot;</p>
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Albert of "Survivor: South Pacific"

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Albert Destrade talks 'Survivor: South Pacific'

The season's third place finisher makes his case for the million
Although "Survivor" shifted to a three-person finale back in the "Cook Islands" season, Jury votes turned nearly every season into a two-castaway contest, leaving one finalist suffering the ignominy of a Jury shutout.
 
In the case of "Survivor: South Pacific," the castaway who left Sunday (December 18) night's finale voteless was Albert Destrade, who finished third behind Sophie Clarke and Coach.
 
Throughout the season, Albert never lacked for confidence and he headed into the final Tribal Council convinced he'd trounce his rivals and take the million.
 
Instead, Albert chatted with me on Monday morning still irked at the Jury shutout, but also irked at himself for not properly positioning himself as the season's mastermind, which he believes himself to be.
 
In our exit interview, Albert passionately makes his case for his influence on this "Survivor" season, while also lamenting the moves he didn't make that could have won the game for him.
 
Click through and see if you've been swayed to Albert's cause [Coach's exit interview tomorrow, followed by Sophie's the following day.]...
 
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<p>Martin Freeman in &quot;The Hobbit:&nbsp;An Unexpected Journey&quot;</p>

Martin Freeman in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

First trailer for 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' brings back memories of Oscars past

Will the new prequels find similar luck in the awards season?

Nearly eight years ago, the Academy Awards saw one of the great clean sweeps of all time as "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" walked away with the 11 Oscars for which it was nominated. The grand release at the end of a three-year journey that saw a total of 30 Oscar nominations and 17 wins, the film was the bow on a lucrative, critically acclaimed series that could only again be matched by the same unique mixture.

After legal disputes and a non-starting try with a different filmmaker at the helm, audiences will again be treated to that same unique mixture after all as the Peter Jackson-directed "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" hits theaters in one year's time, with a part two, "There and Back Again," to follow in 2013. And with the release of the first full trailer for the former, one can't help but wonder: will Oscar come calling again?

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<p>Emma Stone (left)&nbsp;and Viola Davis in &quot;The Help&quot;</p>

Emma Stone (left) and Viola Davis in "The Help"

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Black Film Critics Circle taps 'The Help' best of the year

Olivier Litondo and Viola Davis win top acting honors

The Black Film Critics Circle has chosen "The Help" as the best film of the year. The film won four other awards, including Best Actress for Viola Davis. "Pariah" director Dee Rees won Best Director, one of three awards for the film. And Albert Brooks added yet another honor to his mantle. Check out the full list of winners below.

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<p>Martin Freeman is front and center as young Bilbo Baggins in the first trailer for Peter Jackson's highly anticipated 'The Hobbit' adaptation</p>

Martin Freeman is front and center as young Bilbo Baggins in the first trailer for Peter Jackson's highly anticipated 'The Hobbit' adaptation

Credit: Warner Bros/New Line

Watch: First 'Hobbit' trailer takes us back to the Shire and intros new faces

Has Peter Jackson recaptured that 'Lord Of The Rings' magic?

It's hard to believe that we're a year away from the release of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," and even harder to believe we're a full decade out from the release of "Fellowship Of The Rings."

It's bold of Warner Bros. and New Line to throw down a full year ahead of release, but there are very few films that come with as much built-in anticipation as this one.  Sequels are one thing, and most of them arrive with a certain amount of hype, but in this case, you're talking about a follow-up to one of the most beloved film trilogies of all time, and it's not someone making up some flimsy excuse to make a new movie… it's a book that may even be more beloved than the books that were the source material for the trilogy.

I know that "The Hobbit" was my gateway drug to the larger world of high fantasy, well before I read "Lord Of The Rings."  And I still think "The Hobbit" is one of the great simple beautiful books of any genre, a perfect piece of storytelling that has left seismic ripples throughout all of fiction for the last 60 years or so.  Great characters, great set pieces, a great sense of time and place… "The Hobbit" has it all.

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<p>Glenn&nbsp;Close won the Courage in Acting award, which recognizes actresses for &quot;taking on unconventional roles that radically redefine the images of women on screen.&quot;</p>

Glenn Close won the Courage in Acting award, which recognizes actresses for "taking on unconventional roles that radically redefine the images of women on screen."

Credit: Roadside Attractions

Women critics like 'The Help,' 'The Iron Lady' and 'The Whistleblower'

And Melissa McCarthy gets another feather in her cap

The Women Film Critics Circle has come out in strong favor of “The Help,” “The Iron Lady” and “The Whistleblower.” The association (which consists of 57 female film critics and scholars) has made selections that feel generally in line with the films and performances one would imagine ought to be be highlighted in this year’s landscape.

I will confess that their choices are seasoned with one or two surprises. Having said that, organizations such a this one are absolutely crucial. One hopes that enough balance will be achieved that they eventually become irrelevant. But as Melissa Silverstein pointed out in a November 17 Women and Hollywood article on The Hollywood Reporter’s directors roundtable, the feminine voice is still by-and-large underserved.

There are no real shakeups in the Best Film By A Woman category, which resulted in a tie between “The Iron Lady” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin." Both have been in the larger critical conversation, though primarily for the performances of their respective leads. Adapted from the novel by Kathryn Stockett by her childhood friend Tate Taylor, “The Help” feels like a no-brainer for a strong depiction of women (which is what I assume is meant by Best Movie About Women), as well as Best Ensemble. Viola Davis’s Best Actress win is another tip in a very tight Best Actress field.

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<p>Nicki Minaj</p>

Nicki Minaj

Listen: Nicki Minaj calls detractors, Lil Kim 'Stupid Hoes' in new 'Roman' song

What do you think of this next single from 'Roman Reloaded'

Taking a page from Nicki Minaj's "Stupid Hoes," here's an easy lob: "Stupid Hoes" is kinda stupid.

It's less so that the non-beat of this meandering rap track only augments the shrillness of Minaj's character voices, but more that I keep expecting the star to move on from Lil Kim diss tracks. Her character Roman seems to have more worthy adversaries; she even quotes "Roman's Revenge" -- her track with Eminem -- like she already knows it.

"Stupid hoes is my enemy / Stupid hoes is so wack / Stupid ho shoulda befriended me / Then she could’ve prolly came back," comes the final refrain. Is that a tinge of support? A whiff of maybe propping other female rappers up? Naw. Most of the zingers come from Minaj alternating between male (albeit gay) alter-ego "Roman Zolanski" ("But no relation to Roman Polanski") and the "frontman" of a the all-male Young Money: she invites her detractors to "suck her diznick," then to eat her "coo-coo raw" then tips her hat to Lil Wayne's "It's Good" and returns to her line from Birdman's "Y U Mad," "I am the female Weezy." As your mother asks, what's wrong with just being yourself?

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<p>Ryan Gosling in &quot;Drunk History&quot;</p>

Ryan Gosling in "Drunk History"

Today in Christmas: Sarah McLachlan, Justin Bieber and 'Drunk History'

Ryan Gosling and Jim Carrey are merry, Black Lips and Deer Tick sound sick

Today in Christmas news, there's Justin Bieber using "swag," Sarah McLachlan helping her own charity, "Drunk History" with Ryan Goslin and Jim Carrey in funny hats and a supergroup boasting members of the Black Lips and Deer Tick sit down for some Christmas Chinese food.

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"Say Yes to the Dress"

 Randy Fenoli on "Say Yes to the Dress" 

Credit: TLC

Watch: A first look at TLC's rundown of 2011's top celebrity weddings

Yes, Kim Kardashian's debacle is on the list, too

Don't you love weddings? Especially lavish, over-the-top weddings of stars who will likely be in divorce court before the ink is dry on the marriage certificate? It that sounds good to you, TLC has just the thing -- a little special called "Top 10 Weddings of 2011" (airing Fri. Dec. 23 at 10 p.m. ET) 

Hosted by "Say Yes to the Dress"' Randy Fenoli, the show will feature new (and probably old as well) footage of stars like Kim Kardashian, LeAnn Rimes and Prince William tying the knot as well as commentary from celebrities, wedding gurus and journalists, including Sherri Shephed ("The View), Rob Shuter (PopEater.com), Kate Coyne (People magazine), Bonnie Fuller (HollywoodLife.com), Joe Zee (Elle magazine), Sheryl Lee Ralph (singer/actress) and others. So forget holiday spirit -- indulge your passion for cake, rubber chicken and sappy first dances!

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 108 - Best of 2011

Dan and Alan go through the year's TV highlights

The

Happy Tuesday, Boys & Girls.
 
It's time for our special Best of 2011 Podcast.
 
In this podcast, Alan and I discuss our Top 10 lists for the 2011 calendar year. Alan's Top 10 list is already up. Mine isn't. So I guess that makes it a surprise! Mine'll be up in video form in the next day or two.
 
Then, after a long discussion of the year's highlights, we spend a good chunk of time on the finale of "Homeland." It's a nice and extra-long podcast, which'll make up for the fact that next week's podcast -- Worst of 2011!!! -- also won't go up before Tuesday. 
 
As a caveat, I say "s***" once during this podcast. While that would barely earn this podcast a PG rating, we know some of you listen with impressionable youngsters. Or something.
 
Anyway...
 
Today's basic breakdown:
TV's Best of 2011 (04:15 - 01:13:00)
"Homeland" finale (01:13:15 - 01:31:00)

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.] 

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<p>Paul McCartney</p>

Paul McCartney

Credit: MJ Kim

Listen: Paul McCartney adds Eric Clapton for 'My Valentine'

One of two originals from the Beatles legend's forthcoming album

Just a day after he announced a new forthcoming album, Paul McCartney's already showing some of his cards. Or, rather, his "Valentines."

"My Valentine" is one of two original songs to be released on the forthcoming, as-yet-untitled album, due on Feb. 7. Note to lovers: that's a week before actual Valentine's.

This track features Eric Clapton accompanying the easy ballad on nylon-string guitar. The whole mix is very upfront, with a lot of room noise. It could supposedly reflect what is the breeziness of the record to come.

"It was very spontaneous, kind of organic, which then reminded me of the way we'd work with the Beatles," Macca said in a press release. "We'd bring a song in, kick it around, when we found a way to do it we'd say 'OK, let's do a take now' and by the time everyone kind of had an idea of what they were doing, we'd learnt the song. So that's what we did, we did the take live in the studio."

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