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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 108: Best TV of 2011, plus 'Homeland'

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 108: Best TV of 2011, plus 'Homeland'

Dan and Alan offer their picks for the best shows of the year and discuss the 'Homeland' finale


It's time for the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast to count down our favorite shows of 2011. You already know what my top picks were, but now I can discuss them with Dan, here where his choices and/or rankings differ from mine, and listen to Dan's absolute dismay as I express my disinterest in his favorite character on a show on his list. Plus, at the end we break down our thoughts on the "Homeland" season finale.

The line-up: 

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, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.
And as always, feel free to e-mail us at and/or if you have questions you want answered on the show. Please put the word "podcast" in your subject line to make it easy to track them down amid the hundreds of random press releases we get every day.
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<p>Even Laura Dern may be a bit surprised that HBO&nbsp;spared &quot;Enlightened&quot;&nbsp;on a day when &quot;Hung,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Bored to Death&quot;&nbsp;and &quot;How to Make It in America&quot;&nbsp;were canceled.</p>

Even Laura Dern may be a bit surprised that HBO spared "Enlightened" on a day when "Hung," "Bored to Death" and "How to Make It in America" were canceled.

Credit: HBO

HBO renews 'Enlightened,' cancels 'Hung,' 'Bored to Death' & 'How to Make It in America'

A good news/bad news afternoon for HBO's boutique half-hours

This afternoon's HBO announcement that "Enlightened" had been renewed while "Bored to Death," "Hung" and "How to Make It in America" had been canceled was like a case study in how to manage the release of bad news.

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"The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"

 "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' - 'Uninvited'

Kyle kicks Taylor and Russell out of her party - and it doesn't go over well

 First off, apologies. We had the HitFix holiday party last night and, sadly, "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" was delayed. It's a little difficult to skip out on actual merriment for what I knew was going to be an ugly slog on tonight's episode watching Russell and Taylor get the boot from Kyle's white party. I suspected the whole uninviting (literally) scene would smack of a bad middle school party (he used to date her and now she's here with a new guy and, like, his feelings are so super hurt and we're all behind him and oh my God I feel so bad but can you, like, leave and stuff?). Guess what? I wasn't wrong. Isn't it nice to know that people with more money than common sense have no real impetus to act like adults, ever?

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The Howie Mandel-voiced Gizmo from Joe Dante's "Gremlins"
The Howie Mandel-voiced Gizmo from Joe Dante's "Gremlins"
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Lists: My top 10 perennial must-watch Christmas movies

Getting into the holiday spirit

This article first appeared in part at on December 23, 2008. It seemed like a good time to re-purpose it for new readers here at HitFix and to give the usual list-making shenanigans a rest for a week.

Tis the season, no?

I don’t have the heart to call this a “best” list per se. So I'm giving it a different angle. Every year I have a few staples of the season that make their way into my DVD player or, in some instances — gasp! — my VCR, like new friends come home to visit before going back on the shelf for another 12-month stretch.

While the films on my list might not be the "best" Christmas movies or, in some cases, even considered Christmas movies, they are my Christmas movies. Typically, I just can’t feel right about the holiday season without making my way through each of them at least once. They’ve slowly gelled into my “must-watch” Christmas movie list for various reasons: reminiscence, unavoidable television programming, uniqueness in the face of the typical seasonal film glut, etc.

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<p>Thomas Horn in &quot;Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.&quot;</p>

Thomas Horn in "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Round-up: So 'Incredibly Close,' and yet so far?

Also: Multiple identities in 'Dragon Tattoo' and a Best Picture nom for 'Bridesmaids?'

I find myself a little mystified by Stephen Daldry's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," and not just because I haven't seen it yet. Usually, at this late point in the season, we have some idea if previously mooted Oscar bait is in the mix or dead on arrival, if it's closer to "The Artist" or, say, "The Lovely Bones." But with this one, the signals are still all over the place. Reviews are predictably divided, but so are the precursors: the BFCA, always sniffing for potential Oscar hopefuls, placed some stock in it, but SAG and the Globes didn't bite. Michael Cieply investigates the film's curious campaign strategy, revealing that the HFPA was "deeply split" on the film. [New York Times]  

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<p>&quot;Drive&quot; received six nominations from the London Film Critics' Circle, including one for Ryan Gosling.</p>

"Drive" received six nominations from the London Film Critics' Circle, including one for Ryan Gosling.

Credit: Film District

'Drive' and 'Tinker, Tailor' top London Film Critics' Circle noms

'A Separation' breaks into the top races, Paquin and Lonergan score for 'Margaret'

I feel a bit awkward commenting on a set of critics' award nominations that I had a hand in voting for -- any credit or blame for the choices can only bounce back to me and my colleagues in the London Film Critics' Circle. Happily, in this case, it's mostly credit: I realize how absurdly self-congratulatory this sounds, but for my money, this is the strongest of the countless such nominee lists that have been released in the past few weeks.

What can I say? I'm proud that the LFCC is the first group to promote Asghar Farhadi's Iranian Oscar entry "A Separation" from the foreign-language ghetto to the Best Film category. (It scored five nods overall, including a pleasantly surprising Supporting Actress bid for Sareh Bayat.) I'm proud that Kenneth Lonergan was recognized for the screenplay of late-breaking critics' cause "Margaret," while Anna Paquin made it into the Best Actress field. I'm pleased that Kirsten Dunst (look out for my interview with her later this week) cracked the same category for "Melancholia," while more obvious candidates, including Viola Davis, were left out. Critics should be there to mix up the awards race, not handicap it.

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<p>Keira Knightley has reunited with her &quot;Atonement&quot;&nbsp;director Joe Wright in &quot;Anna Karenina.&quot;</p>

Keira Knightley has reunited with her "Atonement" director Joe Wright in "Anna Karenina."

Credit: AP Photo

Oscar Bait: 'Moonrise Kingdom' and 'Anna Karenina' set their sights on 2012

Focus Features dates their awards players for next year

In theory, there is nothing wrong with having your film labeled "Oscar bait."  Sure, it insinuates that the picture is being released or aimed at an audience interested in awards worthy films, but most of the time they usually turn out more than O.K.  Some major Oscar bait movies this year were "The Descendants," "War Horse," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," "The Ides of March" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."  Of course, "Carnage," "Anonymous" and "J. Edgar" had that label too.  Focus Features, which has had a superb year so far with "Beginners," "Tinker," "Jane Eyre" and the upcoming "Pariah," released their 2012 schedule today and - no surprise - a number of potential contenders for the next Oscar season made the list.

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

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Ozzy Lusth talks 'Survivor: South Pacific'

Ozzy spills on Coach, Cochran and whether he's done with 'Survivor'
When you get deep enough into "Survivor," every little mistake is a Million Dollar Mistake, even when you're widely regarded as one of the best challenge players in the game's 23-season history.
For Ozzy Lusth, the third time was very nearly the charm. 
After withstanding two tours of duty on Redemption Island, Ozzy returned to the game, won his first Immunity challenge back and stood one challenge away from facing an overwhelmingly Savaii-heavy Jury just itching to vote for him.
And the challenge seemed perfectly tailored to Ozzy's strengths, a puzzle that could only be completed after a five-tier obstacle course. After completing the obstacle course with a predictably big lead, it was the puzzle that stymied Ozzy. Instead, Sophie finished the puzzle, won Immunity, secured Ozzy's eventual Jury vote and won the prize Ozzy hasn't been able to take home.
In our exit interview, Ozzy discussed his America's Player consolation prize, his feelings about Coach and Cochran and his thoughts on someday playing "Survivor" for a fourth time.
Click through for the full Ozzy interview and check back over the next few days for my exit interviews with Coach, Albert and Sophie...
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<p>Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier in 'My Week with Marilyn.'</p>

Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier in 'My Week with Marilyn.'

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Interview: Kenneth Branagh on his 'dangerously obvious' casting in 'My Week with Marilyn'

Discussing the function of awards and the ecstatic agony of the creative process

Kenneth Branagh embraced what he describes as potentially “dangerously obvious” casting with his portrayal of Sir Laurence Olivier in “My Week with Marilyn.” The actor has, of course, quite notably been compared to Olivier throughout the course of his career. He was given the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1983 for Most Promising Newcomer. Both he and Olivier directed themselves as “Hamlet” and “Henry V” and both men often directed the women that they were involved with and/or married to.

Branagh has been nominated for four Academy Awards (Best Actor and Best Director for “Henry V” in 1990, Best Live Action Short for “Swan Song” in 1992 and Best Adapted Screenplay for “Hamlet” in 1996), but has yet to secure a win. Olivier himself was granted an honorary award in 1979 for the full body of his work. It would be somehow poetic if Branagh were to take home the Best Supporting Actor statue for his depiction of the man that paved the road for much of the trajectory of his own career.

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<p>Adele makes Melinda Newman's Top 10 of 2011 best albums list.</p>

Adele makes Melinda Newman's Top 10 of 2011 best albums list.

The Beat Goes On's Top 10 albums of 2011

Adele is a given, the others are not

Making a Top 10 list is hard. Not busting-up-concrete kind of hard, but in an instant-remorse kind of hard. It never fails —the minute it’s unchangeable and I’m locked in, I inevitably remember something that I wish I’d put on the list or a great new album comes out after my deadline (for me, that was Anthony Hamilton’s “Back To Love”). Then other top 10 lists make me realize how many albums I was unable to give a full and fair listen to in their totality, even when I liked the individual tracks I heard. Among the albums in that category this year are Wild Flag’s self-titled set, Cut Copy’s “Zonoscope,” The Weeknd’s “House of Balloons” and tUnE-yArDs’ “whokill.”

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<p>Stephen Lang of &quot;Terra Nova&quot;</p>
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Stephen Lang of "Terra Nova"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Terra Nova' Finale - 'Occupation/ Resistance'

A strong season finale, but was it worth the lame hours leading up to it?
Back in the 1980’s, Wendy’s ran a successful ad campaign based around a single catchphrase: “Where’s the beef?” You could apply the same question to “Terra Nova,” which we can now safely say was a 4-hour television movie that managed to also have nine inconsequential hours between the season premiere and season finale. (We might be able to eventually substitute “series” for “season,” but as of the time I’m writing this, that’s still up in the air.) It’s not that there wasn’t another nine hours of story here. It’s that the writers/producers of the series didn’t know how to fill those hours with compelling characters, interesting action, or philosophical inquiry. They knew the starting point, and they knew the ending point. Everything in between wasn’t an opportunity so much as an obstacle.
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Madonna attends a special screening of "W.E." at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Madonna attends a special screening of "W.E." at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini, file

Why is Madonna's 'Masterpiece' ineligible for the Best Original Song Oscar?

One major factor kept the 'W.E.' tune out of contention

Though Madonna is clearly beloved by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association - having been nominated for a total of six Golden Globes (five for Best Original Song - Motion Picture and one for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical) and won once (in the latter category for "Evita") - the venerable performer simply can't catch a break from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Case in point: "Masterpiece", the Material Girl's now-Golden Globe-nominated song contribution to her second directorial effort "W.E.", was not among the 39 tunes announced by the Academy today as eligible for next year's Best Original Song Oscar. So what gives? Was it something she said?

As it turns out, the snub isn't personal - "Masterpiece" really isn't eligible. See, in order to qualify for the category, the song in question needs to:

a) Consist of words and music, both of which are original and used specifically for the film; and

b) Be used either in the body of the film, or as the "first music cue" in the closing credits (i.e. the first song that plays once the screen fades to black).

The latter of the above two criteria appears to be the problem for "Masterpiece", which isn't featured in the context of the film itself and also happens to be the second song featured during the movie's closing crawl. (The first being a continuation of composer Abel Korzeniowski's score.)

Maybe the Oscar-obsessed Weinsteins figured the Academy would overlook the established rules when coming up with the Best Original Song eligibles - you know, because they're the Weinsteins? Or were they simply unaware of the Academy's specific requirements before sending out those "Masterpiece"-touting "W.E." screeners? 

In any case, looks like poor old Madge is once again being denied the opportunity to add "Oscar nominee/winner" to her substantial list of accomplishments (particularly given that "W.E." isn't expected to pick up nods in any of the major categories), a designation that I can't imagine she isn't at least a little bit hungry for (she is Madonna, after all).

But hey, buck up kiddo; there's always next year. And just remember - the Hollywood Foreign Press Association loves you no matter what.

What do you think of the Academy's Best Original Song rules? Should the eligibility requirements be loosened? Sound off with your comments below!

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