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<p>A scene from the Quay Brothers' &quot;Maska,&quot; one of 45 films longlisted for the Best Animated Short Oscar.</p>

A scene from the Quay Brothers' "Maska," one of 45 films longlisted for the Best Animated Short Oscar.

Credit: Se-Ma-For Studios

45 animated shorts longlisted for Oscar

Contenders range from Pixar to the Smurfs to the Quay Brothers

Aside from being a handy wild card in any Oscar betting pool (as much as I like recent winners "Logorama" and "The Lost Thing," I value them most for what I gained from their victories), the Best Animated Short Oscar is always fun to keep an eye on at this stage, given that it's almost impossible to handicap this far out, and yet not too difficult to research. So it is with the 45 shorts that were recently revealed to have qualified for the award, any number of which look from afar like potential nominees.

As usual with this category, shorts from major animation outfits like Pixar, Disney and Warner Bros. are jostling for space with minute independent productions from various corners of the globe -- what's lovely about this category is that size is rarely an advantage here. It's interesting to note that only one of Pixar's two 2011 shorts is on the list, and it's not the one ("Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation") that preceded "Cars 2" in theaters; rather, their hopes lie with acclaimed festival player "La Luna," which you may recall Kris flipped for in Telluride. Smart move.

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<p>Selena Gomez</p>

Selena Gomez

Watch Selena Gomez be cute for several minutes in 'Hit the Lights'

Former Disney star and Bieber-lover wears some... outfits in optimistic dance track

I am not here to dump on every former Disney and/or tween-fanbased star that hits my desk. I actually want to pull for Selena Gomez, to mark a positive path for girls who want to be more than just Justin Bieber's girlfriend. I also actually, genuinely like "Who Says" and I think the styling for her "When the Sun Goes Down" was pretty stunning.

That being said, Selena Gomez' music video for "Hit the Lights" is something like a three-and-a-half-minute JCPenney commercial. Preceded by a Selena Gomez Kmart commercial. Wasn't there, like, three teases and a behind-the-scenes of this? For what?

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<p>Ringleader of &quot;The Muppets,&quot; Kermit the Frog.</p>

Ringleader of "The Muppets," Kermit the Frog.

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

The Muppets face the indignity of product placement

Our fuzzy friends star in tongue-in-cheek UK cinema ad for phone network

Okay, so they didn't get the Oscars. Boo. But hey, work is work, so the Muppets have instead lent their services to UK cellphone network Orange (which, if you squint at it, looks kind of like Oscar) for the latest entry in a series of celebrity-satirizing theatrical ads that have become a customary part of going to the movies in Britain.

Essentially elaborate reminders to cinema patrons who haven't yet turned their phones off, the ads do so by sending up the commercial evils of product placement in films ("Don't let a mobile phone ruin your movie," is the recurring punchline) and the vulnerability of fading stars seeking career resuscitation -- all of which ties in nicely with the meta-narrative around "The Muppets" as a comeback vehicle for previously down-and-out vaudeville veterans.

Previous good sports who have appeared in the ads range from Sigourney Weaver to Spike Lee to Patrick Swayze to Juliette Lewis, so the felt gang is in good human company; the latest ad (embedded after the jump) isn't the sharpest in the series, but frankly, I'll watch these guys in life insurance commercials if it comes to that. (Meanwhile, how envious am I that Kris has seen the movie and I haven't? Guess.) 

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<p>Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson &quot;Immortal&quot;</p>
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Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson "Immortal"

Listen: Michael Jackson mash-up of 'Dancing Machine/Blame It On the Boogie"

Music from Cirque du Soleil's 'Immortal' show comes out Nov. 21

Michael Jackson’s “The Immortal World Tour” opened Oct. 2 in Montreal. The show, produced in collaboration between Cirque du Soleil and Jackson’s estate, features ambitious reinventions of some of the King of Pop’s biggest hits, performed by a live band as Cirque’s acrobats do seemingly impossible feats. The band, led by keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, plays to the late singer’s vocals.

Similarly to Cirque du Soleil’s tremendsously popular “Love,” which is built around the Beatles' hits,  “Immortal” takes Jackson’s music (solo and with the Jackson 5) and creates mash-ups and new arrangements. However, in the case of “Love,” the musical designers were George Martin, who, of course, produced all the Beatles hits originally, and his talented son Giles.  Music designer Kevin Antunes handles the duties for Cirque. He is best known for his work with The New Kids on the Block, Marky Mark, Britney Spears and ‘N Sync.

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<p>Ingrid Michaelson</p>

Ingrid Michaelson

Credit: Shervin Lainez

Listen: Ingrid Michaelson's wrenching new single, 'Ghost'

When does her new album hit the streets?

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Ingrid Michaelson, but she’s back to haunt us with the dramatic “Ghost.”  She’s “broken down the middle of my heart, heart....” from love’s disastrous results.  She’s left to roam the halls with the pieces of her that haven’t already died from her lover’s negligence.

The string-laden, wrenching track, which premiered on today, is a stunning return from the New York singer-songwriter and the opening salvo from her David Kahne-produced fourth album, “Human Again,” out Jan. 24. Hear it here.   If you're having a tough time with your own relationship and need to have a good cry, you'll be sobbing by the time you reach the bridge.

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<p>A detail of the new UK poster for &quot;Shame.&quot;</p>

A detail of the new UK poster for "Shame."

Credit: Momentum Pictures UK

UK poster for 'Shame' puts its two stars on an equal footing

British quad is film's first poster design to give actors face time

The collected press on Steve McQueen's "Shame" thus far has presented the film very much as The Michael Fassbender Show -- understandable, given that his superb performance in it represents the creative peak of a breakout year for the actor. Still, I do feel for Carey Mulligan, whose similarly startling work in what is arguably a co-lead role also marks exciting (I'd say career-best) new territory for a rising star, but has been somewhat sidelined in the conversation around the film.

The film's new UK poster, however, puts that to rights: each actor is given precisely half the available space, selling it very much as a two-hander. It's an elegant if not terribly inventive design, but I find it interesting in that it's the first poster for the film to place the emphasis squarely on its stars -- previous designs for the marketing challenge of a movie have skewed distinctly more oblique and theme-oriented.

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<p>Merida, voiced by Kelly MacDonald, is the lead in Disney/Pixar's 'Brave,' due in theaters June 2012</p>

Merida, voiced by Kelly MacDonald, is the lead in Disney/Pixar's 'Brave,' due in theaters June 2012

Credit: Walt Disney Company/Pixar

First full trailer for Pixar's lush 'Brave' arrives online

Their first female lead looks like a strong role model

There was a teaser over the summer that I thought set an immediate tone, but now, we've got our first big look at "Brave," and for anyone concerned that "Cars 2" signaled a shift into a lower gear for Pixar, this seems to be a pretty strong repudiation of that idea.

It's especially interesting to see how strong this female-driven fairy tale looks coming on the heels of the two "Snow White" trailers.  I'm an immediate fan of what we're hearing of Kelly MacDonald as the voice of Merida, the main character in the film.  I was totally dumbstruck by MacDonald in "Trainspotting," her first big film role, and it has been a pleasure to watch her repeatedly prove that she's one of the most consistent and endearing actors of her age group.  If you're looking to cast a strong voice that's genuinely Scottish to anchor this attempt to really shake things up at the studio, then MacDonald seems positively inspired.

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<p>A&nbsp;scene from Fernando Meirelles' &quot;City of God&quot;</p>

A scene from Fernando Meirelles' "City of God"

Credit: Miramax Films

Aiming for head of the cinematic class

It's early yet, but how is a new decade in cinema shaping up?

We are right in the midst of a cinephile’s favorite time of year. Though there is no hard and fast rule, many of our darlings make their way to theaters just in time for an Oscar run from September to December. But whether it is an Academy Awards contender or not, whether it is released in November or (as rare as this may be) January, each year brings us a favorite film.

Every so often, however, a selection leaps beyond the limited scope of “best of the year” into the realm of “that against which all other films will now be measured.” It becomes the golden child to which the competing star pupils are compared.

We typically frame cinema “classes,” as it were, by decade. For me, the straight-A student that ruined the curve for all the others this past decade was Fernando Meirelles’ “City of God.” Though other films carved a space in my heart and mind, “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” among them, I have yet to find a film that was released in that same 10-year span (2000-2009) that hits every single note quite the way that “City of God” does.

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<p>George Clooney at the Los Angeles premiere of &quot;The Descendants.&quot;</p>

George Clooney at the Los Angeles premiere of "The Descendants."

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Oscarweb Round-up: Clooney cheers on the competition

Also: breaking down the screenplay race and Cooper wins the meat market

Ask most awards analysts who the current frontrunners for the Best Actor Oscar are, and you'll probably get some combination of the names George Clooney, Jean Dujardin and Brad Pitt. Clooney probably knows that, which is why it's both magnanimous and, who knows, perhaps slyly strategic for him to name Dujardin and Pitt's performances, in "The Artist" and "Moneyball" respectively, as being among his favorites of the year: I don't for a minute doubt his ingenuousness (or his judgment) when he describes Dujardin's work as "spectacular," but by singling out these performances, he indirectly puts himself in their company. The man's smoothness knows no bounds. [Los Angeles Times]

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<p>Sometimes, &quot;Parenthood&quot;&nbsp;can drive Julia (Erika Christensen)&nbsp;to drink.</p>

Sometimes, "Parenthood" can drive Julia (Erika Christensen) to drink.

Credit: NBC

'Parenthood' - 'Sore Loser': You're the one that I want

The show goes 3 out of 4 with its stories, but the 4th is a doozy

A review of last night's "Parenthood" coming up just as soon as I hate all puns...

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<p>Zooey Deschanel and Justin Long on &quot;New Girl.&quot;</p>

Zooey Deschanel and Justin Long on "New Girl."

Credit: FOX

'New Girl' - 'Thanksgiving': New guy

Justin Long checks in as Jess' spiritually compatible new boyfriend

A review of last night's "New Girl" coming up just as soon as I put the turkey on permanent press…

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<p>Alexander Payne, Shailene Woodley and George Clooney at the Los Angeles premiere of &quot;The Descendants&quot;&nbsp;at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences theater Tuesday night in Beverly Hills.</p>

Alexander Payne, Shailene Woodley and George Clooney at the Los Angeles premiere of "The Descendants" at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences theater Tuesday night in Beverly Hills.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris PIzzello

'The Descendants' finally makes its Academy debut as the raves come in

Is that the creator of 'Mad Men' in the house?

Three months after dazzling audiences at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals, Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" is finally hitting theaters in New York and Los Angeles today. And that opening timed perfectly to the film's Los Angeles premiere Tuesday night at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

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