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<p>I'm the only one of Gold Derby's 31 pundits predicting a nod for Brad Pitt in &quot;The Tree of Life.&quot;</p>

I'm the only one of Gold Derby's 31 pundits predicting a nod for Brad Pitt in "The Tree of Life."

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Round-up: 'Twas the night before Oscar noms

Also: Spike Lee's Sundance protest, and the craftwork of 'Drive'

You want Oscar predictions? You got 'em. I posted mine last night, and Kris and Gerard's will arrive today, but if that's still not enough for you, Tom O'Neil has gathered the guesswork of 31 pundits (yours truly included) across 14 categories -- more than enough to make you second-guess yourself many times over. With this vast chart of predictions, it's most interesting to seek out the wild-card picks: I'm somewhat alarmed to see I'm the only one stumping for Brad Pitt in Supporting Actor, while you might be surprised to see a few mentions of Charlize Theron in the Best Actress rundown. As for Best Picture, I'm not alone in my "Tinker, Tailor" hunch, while others are plumping for "Bridesmaids" -- and there's no consensus whatsoever on how many nominees there even will be. Browse away. [Gold Derby]

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<p>James Murphy</p>

James Murphy

Credit: HitFix

Watch: LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy talks 'Shut Up and Play the Hits'

The dance band frontman opens new chapter, eyes DFA and new collaborators

PARK CITY - James Murphy wants a new job in music. Or rather, "to figure out how to make it my job without making it my job in the same way."

It's been about nine months since the LCD Soundsystem frontman waved goodbye to fans from the stage at Madison Square Garden and during those weeks he's busily helped build the film "Shut Up and Play the Hits" around LCD's final hours, the days before after the band had officially called it quits.

And now the movie has bowed, at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, another job done.

When I spoke to Murphy at the film premiere last night (Jan. 22), he seemed calm, if not plainly wary of the fact that every fan (and journalist) wants to know what he's up to next.

"I had fun and I want to be able to do things that I wouldn’t have been able to do before in the band. And ['Shut Up...'] is one of the things that I wanted to do that I couldn’t do before," he said. Beyond this, he said, he doesn't know.

Collaboration wouldn't be out of the question, since its been central to his career with LCD and beyond. He had help from Arcade Fire and Reggie Watts at the finale. Aside from starring in "Shut Up...," he also plays a role in another Sundance pick "The Comedy," directed by Rick Alverson and starring Tim Heidecker along with half a dozen musicians and comedians like Richard Swift, Heidecker's other half Eric Wareheim and Okkervil River's Will Sheff. Murphy plans to continue working with the roster at DFA Records, the label he helped to co-found. He's obviously got plenty of old and new friends who could help out on whatever it is he wants to do. But with his unsurety comes some skepticism and even healthy cynicism.

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<p>William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher on &quot;Shameless.&quot;</p>

William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher on "Shameless."

Credit: Showtime

'Shameless' - 'I'll Light A Candle For You Every Day': Finders keepers?

Did Frank and Fiona both go too far last night?

A quick review of last night's "Shameless" coming up just as soon as I misspell my name on a loan application...

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<p>Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski in their earliest days on &quot;Chuck.&quot;</p>

Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski in their earliest days on "Chuck."

Credit: NBC

'Chuck' vs. the Retrospective Interview, Part 1

Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz talk about the show's origins and that truncated first season
"Chuck" ends its improbable 5-season run with back-to-back episodes this Friday at 8 & 9 p.m. on NBC. This will be, by my count, at least the sixth different time that creators Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz have had to conclude the series, but where all the previous finales were followed by unexpected renewals or extensions, this one's the absolute, no doubt about it finish.
When I was in California earlier this month for press tour, I went over to the Warner Bros. lot to interview Fedak and Schwartz (and then just Fedak after a certain point, since Schwartz has responsibilities to a bunch of shows at the moment) and look back over the life of one of my favorite series. It's a very long interview — the transcript is about 16,000 words — so I'm breaking it up into five parts, roughly covering one season each day. (Though as you'll see, we bounce back and forth in time a lot.) Today, we're covering the show's origins through the abrupt end of the first season when the writers strike shut down production.
So buckle up, and let's head back to those very early days when Schwartz was still running "The O.C.," Yvonne Strahovski's last name was still spelled Strzechowski, and the fan community believed Adam Baldwin would always be the hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne. (Some still believe this, by the way, and that's okay.)
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<p>Alex Reeder is about to learn the hard way that some footage should never be found in the terrifying anthology film 'V/H/S'</p>

Alex Reeder is about to learn the hard way that some footage should never be found in the terrifying anthology film 'V/H/S'

Credit: Bloody Disgusting/The Collective

Review: Terrifying anthology 'V/H/S' creates new ghost stories for the video age

What could have easily been a failed experiment delivers massively at midnight debut

Anthology movies are incredibly difficult to pull off, and when you add "anthology film" to "found footage," a genre buzzword that is starting to wear out its welcome thanks to countless awful examples, it sounded to me like "V/H/S" was about as big a risk as anything playing here this week.

Hats off, then, to the entire team of filmmakers who collaborated on what I would honestly call one of the scariest movies I've seen in recent memory.  And unlike many anthology films, "V/H/S" works as a cohesive piece, which is even more surprising because at the Q&A tonight, it was apparent that the filmmakers did not compare notes on their individual segments.  What works first and foremost is the aesthetic of the film.  One of the things that drove me crazy about "The Pact" the other night is just how threadbare most of the ideas were.  We live in a world full of technology and marvels that horror films almost seem to resist acknowledging.  How many horror films have you seen that treat cell phones as little more than an inconvenience to be explained away?  How many horror films rely on tropes that have been around since before you were born?  While I love the genre, I often get frustrated at how few new ideas there are in horror, and how slow filmmakers often are to even try innovation.

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<p>Victoria Justice and Dylan O'Brien of &quot;The First Time&quot;</p>
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Victoria Justice and Dylan O'Brien of "The First Time"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: Jonathan Kasdan's 'The First Time'

Britt Robertson and Dylan O'Brien star in an appealing coming-of-age film
It's easy to pitch "The First Time" in terms that aren't going to make it sound appetizing to most of the snooty film fans up in Park City for the Sundance Film Festival.
Jonathan Kasdan's coming-of-age dramedy features a cast led by stars of "The Secret Circle," MTV's "Teen Wolf" and "Victorious" and plays more like a 90-minute episode of "Dawson's Creek" than like the John Hughes classics that inspired The WB drama.
There's something very "TV" about "The First Time," which sounds like it ought to be pejorative, but really isn't. It just happens that when you have a writer-director who cut his teeth working for the small screen and you bring in an ensemble of actors who honed their craft on the small screen, the result is sometimes a little more polished than what you might get from an art school grad making the leap from short films and working with a cast of unknowns he or she started using back in college.
"The First Time" doesn't look or feel like a Sundance competition entry, but if you overlook it due to that television pedigree, you'll miss out on an effectively sweet, frequently clever offering buoyed by an attractive group of stars who aren't really newcomers, but will seem like newcomers to most festival audiences. 
Click through for my full review of "The First Time"...
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<p>Chris Crocker of &quot;Me @ The Zoo&quot;</p>
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Chris Crocker of "Me @ The Zoo"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: 'Me @ The Zoo' exposes Chris Crocker

When you gaze long into the YouTube abyss, the YouTube abyss gazes into you
We credit Socrates with the observation that the unexamined life is not worth living, but for an entire generation, that's no longer particularly apt. For thousands or millions of people accustomed to posting their every thought on Twitter, their every photographed moment on Facebook and their every vocalizable emotion on YouTube, the truth is that the unexposed life is not worth living. Leave the examination for other people.
Why be self-aware, when you can make other people aware of you?
Introspection is so pre-2005, when a YouTube co-founder posted a video of himself at the zoo. 
Extrospection is the new introspection. 
Few people better illustrate the evolving nature of celebrity and the blurring between fame and notoriety better than Chris Crocker. Best known as The "Leave Britney Alone!" Guy, Crocker's YouTube videos have been viewed hundreds of millions of times, but among those viewers, the ratio of hate-to-love or annoyance-to-appreciation likely tips to the negative.
Sometimes flamboyant and shrill, but occasionally exhibiting the flair of a natural improv comedian, Crocker has milked his Internet persona well beyond any logical lifespan, seemingly never breaking character.
Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch's "Me @ The Zoo," playing in the US Documentary competition at Sundance, emphasizes either Crocker's dedication to the "Chris Crocker" persona, or confirms that the what-you-see-is-what-you-get nature of Crocker's performance art. While biographic details and psychological motivations are implied, "Me @ The Zoo" is enlightening precisely for how unenlightening it is. The documentary doesn't get inside the Chris Crocker phenomenon so much as it becomes another facet of the phenomenon.
Of course, the bottom line with any film focusing on this sort of cult of personality is whether or not it will play to viewers who exist outside of the cult. Crocker's fans will probably appreciate the additional context and some people on the fence will admire Crocker's confidence and his commitment to this long-running bit, but if you don't care for Chris Crocker, "Me @ The Zoo" is an awful lot of Chris Crocker. While it's never uninteresting, "Me @ The Zoo" often feels like a feature film based around the most annoying sketch character in "Saturday Night Live" history. It's not quite "Superstar," but it's not "Wayne's World" either.
Full review after the break...
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<p>&nbsp;Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson and Karan Soni in &quot;Safety Not Guaranteed.&quot;</p>

 Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson and Karan Soni in "Safety Not Guaranteed."

Review: Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson spotlight crowd-pleasing 'Safety Not Guaranteed'

Another great role for Mark Duplass too

PARK CITY - It took long enough, but the 2012 Sundance Film Festival finally produced a big winner.  The feature debut of Colin Trevorrow, "Safety Not Guaranteed," premiered Sunday evening to a festival looking to embrace something (anything entertainingly good) and this new comedy absolutely fit the bill. 

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"American Idol"

 "American Idol"

Credit: Fox

Recap: 'American Idol' gets nautical in San Diego

It's another day of auditions for our intrepid judges

We're off to San Diego for another day of auditions. If you're still watching, that is. In other news, the New York Giants are going to the Super Bowl.  Now, let's get to the really important stuff -- singing!

10:58 p.m. EST Today's auditions will be like no other… because they will take place on the U.S.S. Midway in San Diego. That's nice, I guess, although I'd think an aircraft carrier and its crew has more important work to do than hosting 10,000 people and a TV show. 

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<p>Lake Bell, Katie Aselton, and Kate Bosworth seem like a pretty formidable trio, and that's just during the interview, much less in 'Black Rock'</p>

Lake Bell, Katie Aselton, and Kate Bosworth seem like a pretty formidable trio, and that's just during the interview, much less in 'Black Rock'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell, and Katie Aselton share 'Black Rock' memories

We sat down with the director of the survival thriller and her co-stars

This was a nice way to wake up.

Back in 2009, which was the first HitFix trip to Sundance, I enjoyed two of the movies we saw, "Humpday" and "The Freebie."  This year, both creative teams are here in different combinations, and again, I think it's interesting work.  In the case of "Black Rock," this is about as far away from Katie Aselton's first film as it could be.

"The Freebie" told the story of a married couple, played by Aselton and Dax Shepherd, who decide to give each other the night off from marriage, with no consequences, allowing their partner to sleep with anyone they want. There are, of course, ramifications to a choice like that, and the film did a nice job of showing how that fallout might land.  This time, Aselton is working in a very different genre, one that she's not a fan of for the most part, and she had to develop a tight relationship with the two women who co-star both with and for her.

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"The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

 "The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' - 'Shaping Up and Shipping Out'

Everyone's excited about going to Africa - but not everyone knows Marlo will be joining them
It's our last episode before the ladies leave for their trip to Africa, so it's a chance for fond good-byes (or passive-aggressive sniping, at least in Peter and Cynthia's case), worry (Phaedra's probably a bit justified in suspecting Apollo is going to drop Ayden on his head at some point) and whining (and most of that is from someone who isn't even going on the trip). Not much happens in this episode, but what does happen is surely setting up a battle royale next week, so hold on to your hats. 
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<p>I still almost look like I'm coherent at this point in the Sundance Film Festival, but there's plenty of fatigue a-comin'</p>

I still almost look like I'm coherent at this point in the Sundance Film Festival, but there's plenty of fatigue a-comin'

Credit: HitFix

Sundance Diary Day Two: Coscarelli, red carpets, and midnight movies

We share more of the experience on the ground in Park City

Day two of Sundance was really my first full day, starting around 7:00 AM and ending at about 2:30 the next morning.  I did my best to capture images and moments and a few on-the-fly chats as I went, and hopefully this should give you some sense of things.

One of the things that's a little hard to fully convey, even in video, is the random nature of encounters up here.  You'll be sitting in the Yarrow lobby writing and suddenly Mike Judge walks by, or you're walking out at the end of the movie and Malin Ackerman is in front of you, excitedly discussing the movie with her friends, or, as you'll see in this piece, you might even run into a director as he arrives at the festival, film literally in hand.

It was great to catch up with Don Coscarelli, who I got to know a little bit during the "Masters Of Horror" process, and I'm excited to see what he's done with David Wong's novel "John Dies At The End."  It amazes me how filmmakers never really get over that nervousness about showing their film to an audience for the first time, and I spent some time talking to him about this movie, our experiences on "Masters," and just catching up in general.  We'll have a more formal sit-down in a few days, but it was a great moment.

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