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<p>Karine Vanasse, Michael Mosley and Margot Robbie on &quot;Pan Am.&quot;</p>

Karine Vanasse, Michael Mosley and Margot Robbie on "Pan Am."

Credit: ABC

The Morning Round-Up: 'Pam Am,' 'The Good Wife' & 'Fringe'

Checking in on the latest episodes of some weekend dramas

Once again, it's time for a (late) morning round-up, with brief thoughts on, in order, "Pan Am," "The Good Wife" and "Fringe," all coming up just as soon as you check my Spider-Man fanny pack...

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Just a note for In Contention readers. You'll note in the right sidebar a link to receive instant alerts for In Contention content. If you're not already registered at HitFix, you can do so here, and once you're signed up (many of you already are, so thanks for that), you can go to the custom alerts page here and select the elements of the site you'd like to feed your inbox on a consistent basis, including, as of today, the nonsense we crank out here at In Contention.

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<p>Leonardo&nbsp;DiCaprio in&nbsp;&quot;J.&nbsp;Edgar&quot;</p>

Leonardo DiCaprio in "J. Edgar"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Are J. Edgar’s contradictions a mirror for the country that created him?

New film fails to capture the man but does it reflect the soul of the nation?

J. Edgar Hoover, the man, has been described (at varying points) as controversial, enigmatic, megalomaniacal, a patriot, a zealot, a master of misinformation, paranoid, a visionary, corrupt and, ultimately, one of the most powerful men in U.S. history.

Clint Eastwood’s cinematic interpretation of Hoover’s life, “J. Edgar,” has inspired an equally mixed critical response (which may have resulted in this weekend’s soft box office returns). Ostensibly, the film means to deconstruct J. Edgar’s conflicting portrayals and, in doing so, paradoxically present an image of a complex but fully realized human being.

Yet, many critics have found that the subject simply floated out of Eastwood’s grasp. The film often reads as a series of disjointed vignettes, as if each scene is a separate paragraph lifted from Mr. Hoover’s own dictated autobiography and then interspersed with minor parenthetical adjustments and corrections made by those who were present at the events he is recalling.

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<p>Ewan McGregor and Cosmo in &quot;Beginners.&quot;</p>

Ewan McGregor and Cosmo in "Beginners."

Credit: Focus Features

Oscarweb Round-up: The year of the dog

Also: Hollywood homophobia and sexual subtext in 'Shame' and, er, 'Puss in Boots'

"The Artist" is looking an increasingly safe bet in any number of Oscar categories, but Best Supporting Actor isn't one of them, and it's all because Academy rules bar canine actors from competing. That's a tough break for the film's remarkable Jack Russell prodigy Uggy, who's no less deserving than some past human nominees in the category I could mention. Gregg Kilday contemplates this injustice. On a side note, meanwhile, what's up with the bumper crop of amazing movie dogs in 2011? Between Uggy, Laika in "Le Havre," Cosmo in "Beginners," Snowy in "Tintin," Skeletor in "50/50" and others, there are at least enough contenders to form a new Oscar category. [Hollywood Reporter]   

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<p>Marge and the kids turned into foodies - with help from Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsay and Mario Batali, among others -on last night's &quot;The Simpsons.&quot;</p>

Marge and the kids turned into foodies - with help from Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsay and Mario Batali, among others -on last night's "The Simpsons."

Credit: FOX

'The Simpsons' - 'The Food Wife': Don't meth with Marge

Marge and the kids become foodies, with help from Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay

Haven't written about "The Simpsons" since the renewal deal was closed last month, but last night's episode was both good and gives me an opportunity to discuss some things about the long lifespan of the series. Thoughts coming up just as soon as my ghost has to give me the Heimlich maneuver...

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<p>A detail from the UK quad poster of &quot;The Iron Lady.&quot;</p>

A detail from the UK quad poster of "The Iron Lady."

Credit: Film4

New 'Iron Lady' trailer, plus UK quad looks us in the eye

The pearls are still absolutely non-negotiable

[UPDATE: A new trailer has just been unveiled. I haven't watched it, so no comment, but it's embedded below.]

At last night's AMPAS tribute evening to Vanessa Redgrave (which I attended, and will write up in due course), the "Coriolanus" star was self-evidently the center of attention, but high-spirited, red-clad guest speaker Meryl Streep ran her close. The 16-time Oscar nominee is in London to begin the promotion trail for "The Iron Lady," which quietly began screening last week; whispers from the few who have seen it were being passed around the room as if they were MI5 files. I heard one "transformative," one "frightening" and one "high camp" -- the latter was applied as a compliment, by the way.

In a handy bit of timing, Film4 debuted this positively terrifying UK poster for the Margaret Thatcher biopic this morning, which certainly suggests marketers are approaching the project with a welcome sense of humor. My dream outcome for "The Iron Lady" is for it the pull the rug out from under us completely by emerging as some kind of burlesque political satire; I sense we're not going that far, but I do hope Streep's having fun. Check out the full poster after the jump.

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<p>Elizabeth Reaser talks about &quot;The Twilight Saga:&nbsp;Breaking Dawn&quot; and Jason Reitman's &quot;Young Adult.&quot;</p>

Elizabeth Reaser talks about "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn" and Jason Reitman's "Young Adult."

'Breaking Dawn's' Elizabeth Reaser talks about the climactic scene in 'Young Adult'

Busy schedules for Reaser and 'Nurse Jackie's' Peter Facinelli

Let's be frank.  For Elizabeth Reaser and Peter Facinelli, being part of "The Twilight Saga" hasn't given them that much to do.  As Dr. Carlisle Cullen (Facinelli) and his wife Esme Cullen (Reaser), the two pros are usually background players to the drama following their on screen adopted "son" Edward (Robert Pattinson) and the love of his, um, life, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart).  While that changes just a bit in "Breaking Dawn," it's given two of the more experienced members of the ensemble a different perspective on the fourth production in the series.

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"The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

 "The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' - 'Surprisingly Rich'

NeNe's done with the haters, but Phaedra's still down with the dead

Following last week's blow-up between NeNe and Sheree, it seems that things have simply gotten too hot in Atlanta for NeNe. As Cynthia informed us, NeNe is really just a sensitive little flower under the surface, so it should come as no surprise that she would scurry out of town, muttering expletives and screaming "I'M RICH, BITCH!" to anyone who will listen, to soothe her poor, battered psyche. That NeNe, she's just too delicate for this world. 

In any case, she's not too delicate for Miami Beach, because that's where she's headed with Kandi and Cynthia for a girls' getaway weekend. And, as befits a girls' getaway weekend, the three immediately check in to their hotel, flop onto the bed in one of their rooms and start talking about having sex. Of course, they might have wanted to hold off on this conversation until AFTER the poor bellhop, whom they've completely forgotten about, has left the room. Instead, he's left to ask them if they need anything else in a slightly strained voice, probably because he's afraid NeNe will growl, "Yes, YOU" and pounce on him, before they give him a tip and let him run for his life. 

Back in Atlanta, Kroy and Sweetie are planning a surprise birthday for Kim. She's going to be 33, which she seems to think is the worst thing that will be happening to her this week. Considering it looks like she's going to squeeze out a baby at any moment, I'd think that might be a larger concern than an extra candle on the old birthday cake, but okay. 
Death obsessed Phaedra goes to Willie Watkins to ask for advice on how to open her own mortuary. She wants to leave a legacy for Ayden, and besides that, she just loves this funeral business. Willie warns her that her outfit, though it is fabulous and it is Chanel, is too short.  She busts out her prayer cloth, which she always carries with her for modesty purposes. Or it's just a big handkerchief she keeps in her purse, but in any case, she's quickly funeral-ready. I think Willie is impressed, because he agrees to mentor her. Phaedra's over the moon, because Willie is a rock star, at least in the mortuary business. I never really thought of the mortuary business as having rock stars, but I guess Willie's as close to a Lady Gaga for the dead as you're going to get. 
Our gaggle of girls in Miami Beach talk, very briefly, about the fight with Sheree. Kandi seems a little appalled that NeNe made that comment about being rich to Sheree, but NeNe insists she really is rich, so there. Kandi's clearly skeptical, though, and I have to admit that I am, too. Reality TV pays, but it doesn't pay that well. I mean, yes, she was on "Celebrity Apprentice," but let's face it, it's NBC. 
During their linner (or dunch, whatever -- they're just eating at some random time of day when Bravo could get the space to themselves), the girls are approached by two women who inform them that it's Lesbian Pride weekend in Miami Beach. So that explains all the women at the hotel! NeNe admits she is confused by lesbian girls, though this does not mean she's bi-curious, mind you. As she explains, she is "strictly dickly." Thank you, NeNe, for spelling that out. 
Sheree and her 14-year-old son Kairo go shopping for cleats. She tries to ask him about girls and dating, and Kairo, who is already basketball player-tall, tries to disappear into the floor. Sheree wishes his dad spent time with him and wrestled with him, and I wish he'd spend time with him so he doesn't have to talk about the huge embarrassment of being a teenager with a camera recording every word. Sheree thinks he's shy. I think he's smart and has boundaries. 
Because it's a fun girls' weekend, NeNe decides she wants to look at houses. That's fun for everyone! The first one they see is listed for $9 million. Kandi doesn't think NeNe's ready to spend that type of money, which is Kandi's tactful way of saying she thinks NeNe is off her damn rocker. Cynthia, on the other hand, wants her to buy it so she can vacation there. Cynthia is shaping up to be one hell of a suck up. 
After they look at real estate, it's off to the beach. NeNe pushes Kandi to take off her cover up -- then snipes that her thighs are huge in her one-on-one. NeNe never stops finding new reasons for me to hate her. Wanting to get the conversation off of the topic of her butt, Kandi asks NeNe how long she has to date before she has sex. Then, she and Kandi dive into a conversation about sex, sex toys, oral sex and lesbianism while Cynthia looks stricken. Cynthia is a married woman -- she can't be talking about sex! Because why, she thinks you stop having sex after you get a ring? Of course, we've seen the old goat Cynthia's married to, so maybe that's true. 
Now that they're in hormonal overload, the girls find some guys to play frisbee with and make vague plans to hook up that evening. Cynthia will be, I suppose, the designated driver and den mother.  We'll never know, because either this didn't come together or Bravo just didn't film it.
Sheree and Kim go for steaks. They talk about NeNe, of course. Sheree notes that NeNe burns through friends at an extremely fast pace and she suspects something is wrong with her. She just figured that out? 
Phaedra talks to her husband Apollo about her funeral passion. She loves the dead because they're so quiet! Big props to Phaedra for not only being funny in a sick way, but being honest. She likes money and she likes dead people, and what could be wrong with that? Plenty, according to Apollo. He does relocation and asset recovery (which honestly doesn't sound like much more fun than dead people), and he doesn't want this mortuary business getting in his way. He doesn't share Phaedra's passion for the dead, and honestly, he seems to think it's a tad creepy. I'm not sure if Apollo is the right guy for Phaedra, especially when he calls her fat and pretends to slug her in the face like he's some thick-skulled 15-year-old boy. 
So, Operation Surprise Kim But Not So Much That She Pees on the Floor is in effect. Kroy takes Kim out for her birthday dinner... and starts talking about guns and teaching their unborn son to shoot. This is not a hit with Kim, who does not relish the idea of her little boy shooting squirrels in the backyard. Kroy quickly changes the subject by giving her a ridiculous diamond bracelet which is both exceptionally ugly AND exceptionally expensive. Kim is, of course, thrilled, so she immediately has to pee. And complain that the baby is pressing on her vagina. This I did not need to know. 
Kandi, Phaedra and Sheree show up for Kim's surprise birthday party. Kim's happy and, luckily, she pees before she walks into the kitchen, so no puddles! During the party, the girls talk about NeNe. Or rather, Sheree and Kim talk about NeNe. Kandi laughs but otherwise stays out of it. Kandi knows that she's only recently become sort-of friends with NeNe, so she's not going to take any chances. Of course, we know NeNe will blow up with her eventually and there's really nothing Kandi can do about it, but I appreciate her optimism.
At the party, there's fun and margaritas (for everyone but Kim -- happy birthday!) and a Louis Vuitton bag-cake. It's all good fun and a surprisingly happy ending for a surprisingly mellow episode. But we can assume this week is just a breather before next week's guy-on-guy battle at Kim's baby shower. I can't imagine what the guys are fighting about, but that's much more likely to end in fisticuffs than a housewife fight (no weaves to pull), so brace yourselves. 
Do you think NeNe's as rich as she thinks she is? Do you think Apollo will warm up to the mortuary business? And do you think Kandi can stay on NeNe's good side?
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<p>Sgt. Brody (Damian Lewis)&nbsp;lays his cards on the table in &quot;Homeland.&quot;</p>

Sgt. Brody (Damian Lewis) lays his cards on the table in "Homeland."

Credit: Showtime

'Homeland' - 'The Weekend': Carrie'd away

Carrie and Brody get quality time in a cabin, while Saul tries to work Aileen

A review of tonight's "Homeland" coming up just as soon as I take a nosegay...

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<p>Christopher Heyerdahl as The Swede on &quot;Hell on Wheels.&quot;</p>

Christopher Heyerdahl as The Swede on "Hell on Wheels."

Credit: AMC

'Hell on Wheels' - 'Immoral Mathematics': Swede emotion

Christopher Heyerdahl makes a strong first impression as The Swede

As I said last week, I don't like "Hell on Wheelsenough to do weekly reviews (especially while covering three other cable dramas every Sunday night), but as I'll be watching the episodes, I'm going to try to do weekly talkback posts like this one so long as the interest is there.

In the case of the second episode, I imagine the main topic of conversation will be the introduction of Christopher Heyerdahl as The Swede, who's far and away the best part of what I've seen of the series so far (including three episodes past this one). Vivid character, strong performance, and just plain fun. (Fienberg interviewed him about the role over at The Fien Print.)

What did everybody think, of both The Swede and the episode that introduced him?

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<p>Ernie and Cindy of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>
<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;">&nbsp;</div>

Ernie and Cindy of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' - 'Super Shady'

Dancing, butter-churning, a Double U-Turn and... bunnies!
Here I was terrified that Sunday (November 13) night's "The Amazing Race" would continue this season's every-other-Leg pattern and be a Non-Elimination Leg and while I was bracing for annoyance, a really excellent episode broke out.
There was travel intrigue, a solid Roadblock, two photogenic Detour options, a Double U-Turn that was actually used and... BUNNIES!!!!
Oh and best of all... A team went home. Huzzah, "The Amazing Race." Huzzah.
Full recap, devoid of much of my typical irritation, after the break...
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<p>Steven Yeun in &quot;The Walking Dead.&quot;</p>

Steven Yeun in "The Walking Dead."

Credit: AMC

'The Walking Dead' - 'Chupacabra': Roll in the hay?

Daryl goes solo, and Glen makes a discovery

A review of tonight's "The Walking Dead" coming up just as soon as I'm wearing ears...

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