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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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<p>Albert (Jeremy Irvine) is distraught when his father sells his beloved horse Joey to Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston), kicking off an amazing journey in Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse'</p>

Albert (Jeremy Irvine) is distraught when his father sells his beloved horse Joey to Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston), kicking off an amazing journey in Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse'

Credit: Disney/Dreamworks

Review: Spielberg's 'War Horse' offers big emotional beats in a simple story

Spielberg is the real star here as he expertly plays his audience once again

Steven Spielberg's films are events at this point, even when he tries to go low-key, simply by virtue of who he is and what he's done.

Even if I wanted to, I'm not sure I could ever shut myself off from Spielberg's films.  His voice as a filmmaker is a crucial part of the DNA that made me into the film fan that I am today.  Early viewings of "Jaws," "Duel," "Close Encounters," and "Raiders" hardwired me to his particular emotional vocabulary, and watching his evolution over the course of my life has been fascinating.  Even if you ignore his work as a producer, his contribution to film has been rich and varied, and he's managed to remain dead center in the mainstream for longer than almost any director I can name.

It's been three years since his last film, the decidedly mixed bag of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull," and six years since his last non-sequel, "Munich."  Now, we've got two very different new Spielberg films within a week of one another.  There's "The Adventures Of Tintin," which I reviewed earlier, and which I think is one of the most unfettered examples of his imagination as a filmmaker, breathless fun and invention.  He's also the director of "War Horse," a sprawling and intentionally old-fashioned adaptation of the novel by Michael Morpurgo, and his sensibilities are on display in a way that should prove pleasing to most viewers while driving his harshest critics up a wall.

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<p>Taking the dog for a walk evidently really sucked in the days of 'Wrath Of The Titans'</p>

Taking the dog for a walk evidently really sucked in the days of 'Wrath Of The Titans'

Credit: Warner/Legendary

Watch: 'Wrath Of The Titans' trailer promises giants and monsters a-plenty

Sam Worthington's back, but can they deliver a better film this time?

Not long after the release of "Clash Of The Titans," I had occasion to speak to Thomas Tull, the CEO of Legendary Pictures.  He was one of the main reasons that the remake of "Clash" happened in the first place, as he holds the first film as one of his most cherished geek treasures.  He wanted to do something grand and amazing and really dig into the potential of the mythology of that world, and instead…

… well, if you saw "Clash Of The Titans," you know that didn't really work out.  And no one seemed more aware of the film's shortcomings than Tull.  Star Sam Worthington has been blunt about the film's problems as well in interviews, and so as they were gearing up for the sequel, it seemed that everyone had the same goal in mind:  they wanted to set things right.  Tull told me that he felt obligated to make a sequel just so they had another shot at making the film he had in mind the first time around, which seems to me as good a reason to make a sequel as any.

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<p>Cat Power</p>

Cat Power

Today in Christmas: The Kills, Cat Power, Blitzen Trapper and Macy Gray

Amazon giving away a free holiday song every day in December until Christmas

And so starts the week-long stretch to Christmas, with a few more new songs, covers and holiday news from The Kills, Cat Power, Blitzen Trapper, Macy Gray and more.

"The moon makes me want to eat you alive,” sings The Kills' Alison Mosshart. "Sleep if you do wake, dear."

Is that how you really feel, Alison? Don't look for little Baby Jesus in this classic carol re-make of "Silent Night," below. The singer's boozy howl is gorgeous, even if she seems transfixed more on death than she is on new life. Whatever, pass the coke.

Meanwhile, there's new news from Cat Power's camp. Chan Marshall Tweeted on Friday that there will be a new Christmas charity single and accompanying video out on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24); those who wish to download the as-yet-unnamed track will have a list of charities to choose from to put their donated dollars toward.

Due to the overwhelming use of all caps, I shall repeat only one of her Tweets, abridged, this one pertaining to a new studio album, anticipated since 2006's "The Greatest" and 2008's covers album "Jukebox."

"ALMOST DONE WITH ALBUM."

OK!

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<p>Two Bret McKenzie-penned tracks submitted from &quot;The&nbsp;Muppets&quot; made the cut, as did "Pictures in My Head."</p>

Two Bret McKenzie-penned tracks submitted from "The Muppets" made the cut, as did "Pictures in My Head."

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

39 tunes announced as eligible for Best Original Song Oscar

Madonna out, 'Our Idiot Brother' in

The Academy has announced via press release the 39 eligible songs eligible for this year's Best Original Song Oscar. As I look over the list, I only noticed two songs on our on-going list of 24 at the Contenders section that didn't make the cut.

The first is "Fake I.D." from the "Footloose" remake, which I guess it was written prior to the film or something. The other is Madonna's Golden Globe-nominated "Masterpiece" from "W.E.," which you'll recall I had a hunch might be in trouble because it's the second cue of the film's closing credits (and the rules stipulate that if it's a closing credits number, it has to be the first cue).

All three tracks submitted by "The Muppets" are on there, and that's really where the story is, because at the end of the day, I expect there to be two of them in the mix. Which two is anyone's guess, but my favorite has always been "Pictures in My Head."

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<p>Claire Danes of &quot;Homeland&quot;</p>
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Claire Danes of "Homeland"

Credit: Showtime

HitFix Interview: Showrunner Alex Gansa discusses the 'Homeland' finale

What happened? What didn't happen? And what's coming up next?
Showtime's "Homeland" wrapped up its acclaimed first season on Sunday (December 18) night, just days after snagging a slew of Golden Globe nominations, including Best Drama Series and nods for stars Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. 
 
Of course, it's become the de rigueur rite of passage that any and all drama finales must instigate blog wars over whether or not they went far enough or delivered closure enough. You can follow that heated discussion over on Sepinwall's recap.
 
On Monday, I got on the phone with "Homeland" showrunner Alex Gansa, who co-created the drama (based on an Israeli format) with fellow "24" veteran Howard Gordon. 
 
We discussed the explosive (and in some cases not-so-explosive) finale, where "Homeland" is headed in Season Two and what it means to have guts when determining the fate of characters.
 
Click through for the interview, which obviously includes spoilers...
 
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<p>&quot;The Artist&quot;&nbsp;and &quot;The Descendants&quot;&nbsp;appear to be slugging it out for the frontrunner spot, but watch for something like &quot;Hugo,&quot; strong throughout the categories, as a Best Picture spoiler.</p>

"The Artist" and "The Descendants" appear to be slugging it out for the frontrunner spot, but watch for something like "Hugo," strong throughout the categories, as a Best Picture spoiler.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Off the Carpet: Setting the field with the precursors so far

'The Artist' and 'The Descendants' are in a dead heat, and has Michelle Williams become the frontrunner?

In just three weeks we've gone from zero to a hundred on the circuit as the film awards landscape has been sculpted into a bit of a consensus in these waning moments of 2011. And now that I've consolidated all the announcements into an easy-to-navigate post, I can dig in and see what that consensus is.

Michel Hazanavicius's "The Artist" is considered far and away the frontrunner for Best Picture at the moment by a number of pundits, having won six Best Film prizes from various groups. But would you be shocked to know that "The Descendants" has just as many? And Terence Malick's "The Tree of Life," meanwhile, isn't going away. It has landed four Best Picture honors and today was crowned the year's best in a survey of critics and pundits at indieWIRE.

As for the directors, it's Martin Scorsese and Michel Hazanavicius currently eking out the edge with six wins each for "Hugo" and "The Artist" respectively. But Malick isn't far behind with four of his own. We can tip the scales back in Scorsese and Hazanavicius's favor a bit, though, as both received BFCA and Golden Globe nominations, while Malick did not.

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