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<p>Eleni Philippou (right) in &quot;Miss Violence.&quot;</p>

Eleni Philippou (right) in "Miss Violence."

Credit: Elle Driver

Jaw-dropping Venice awards make a defiant anti-mainstream statement

Bertolucci's jury clearly set out to provoke, but 'Sacro GRA' is a respectable winner

VENICE - "I have a feeling Bertolucci's going to be a bit spikier than that," a colleague said to me yesterday, after I ventured my not-at-all confident prediction that Hayao Miyazaki's romantic animated biopic "The Wind Rises" would win the Golden Lion. To some extent, actually, we agreed. This year's Bertolucci-led jury didn't exactly seem likely to hand the top prize to the comfortingly middlebrow "Philomena," however much the crowds at Venice wanted them to: with other jurors including Andrea Arnold, Pablo Larrain and Carrie Fisher, it was hard to tell just what they'd agree on, but the odds were firmly stacked against it being safe.

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<p>Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba</p>

Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba

Toronto: Best Actor contenders McConaughey and Elba debut back-to-back

Which one is now the frontrunner for Oscar?

TORONTO - As is often the case during the first weekend of the Toronto International Film Festival, two potential awards season contenders debuted within hours of each other Saturday night. In fact, "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" premiered in theaters literally across the street from one another. And, happily, both have something to add to our long road to Oscar.

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<p>The CW's &quot;Star-Crossed&quot;</p>

The CW's "Star-Crossed"

Credit: The CW

Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Star-Crossed'

It's The CW like you've frequently seen The CW before!

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"Star-Crossed" (The CW)
The Pitch: "It's like Roswell, only with aliens! Oh. Wait. It's like 'Beauty and the Beast' if the only thing beastly about the Beast was a couple marks on his face! Oh. Wait. It's like 'Vampire Diaries' if she were a human and he were the one with impressive powers! Oh. Wait. It's like every CW show ever made. It's The Uber-CW Show!"
Quick Response: On Thursdays at 9 p.m. this fall, The CW is airing the strange, risky, possibly off-brand period drama "Reign," which isn't such a terrific match with "Vampire Diaries" or anything else on the network. Part of what's allowing The CW to take that chance is that the network has possibly the most on-brand piece of programming imaginable on its bench ready to go in. It's hard to believe that Matt Lanter's only been on one CW show. It's hard to believe that Aimee Teegarden's only CW experience is a couple episodes of "90210" and the first pilot for "The Selection." Put them together and it's a match made in brooding-but-affectless and wide-eyed-but-plucky heaven. Or does that sound too positive? Or negative? I really can't say. There are aspects of Meredith Averill's script that come across as a bit more layered than necessary -- Teegarden's character is an outsider because of health problems, while the crash landed aliens have a parallel Earth society that borrows more than a little from "District 9," only with the ETs looking wicked hot instead of like prawns. It's near-future speculative fiction and "Star-Crossed" has a few ideas regarding how people and society would react to this sort of close encounter and some of those reactions are slightly fresh and not so wildly outlandish (others are wildly outlandish and fairly stale), so I guess I appreciated that degree (some degree) of differentiation from "Roswell" and whatnot? Mostly, though, this is straight-forward, generic CW love-triangle stuff, made even more generic by the presence of Grey Damon, who seems to specialize in being in the middle of semi-supernatural love triangles on either The CW or ABC Family. [And no, I don't remember if Hastings Ruckle and Julie Taylor ever shared quality time together, so "Star-Crossed" doesn't get to benefit from additional "FNL" flashback glow in the way it might have if they'd cast Zach Gilford here. Teegarden is, incidentally, nearly unrecognizable here from her Dillon Days.] There's a commentary on American immigration policy vis a vis aliens that there's a 3% chance "Star-Crossed" might become. There's a 97% chance that "Star-Crossed" will just become another CW show about the pretty girl torn between the man her loins crave and the man she knows is better for her psyche. And there's a 60% chance that I'll watch every episode of "Star-Crossed" no matter which show it becomes. Sigh. I'm weak and I feel like shows like "Star-Crossed" are mass-produced to take advantage of my weakness and the weakness of women aged 18-34. Damn you, CW.
Desire To Watch Again: Desire? Meh. Inevitability? Probably. I end up watching a lot of The CW. You know this about me. I watched the entire initial run of "Cult," for heaven's sake (before it got pulled and held to the summer, when I quit). It takes something as unbearable as "Beauty and the Beast" to scare me away. This is much, much better than "Beauty and the Beast," though it's much, much worse than "Vampire Diaries." But is it worse than "Vampire Diaries" when it first premiered? Probably not. It's just blander.


Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Intelligence' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Crisis' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Rake'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Mom' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Lucky 7'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Dads' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Super Fun Night'  
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Welcome to the Family' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Millers' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'The Goldbergs' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Ironside'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'We Are Men' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Almost Human' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Back in the Game' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Sean Saves the World' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Reign' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Crazy Ones' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Enlisted' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Betrayal' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Blacklist' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'The Tomorrow People' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show' 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries



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<p>Jason&nbsp;Bateman at the Toronto premiere of &quot;Bad Words&quot;</p>

Jason Bateman at the Toronto premiere of "Bad Words"

Credit: Getty Images

Toronto: Jason Bateman's 'Bad Words' lands at Focus

The film is set for release next year

The Toronto Film Festival is in full swing and HitFix's Greg Ellwood have chimed in on a number of films, from "Dallas Buyers Club" to "Enough Said," while a handful of Telluride players -- "12 Years a Slave," "Labor Day," "Gravity" (also Venice) have landed as well.

One of the films Greg has been high on is Jason Bateman's directorial debut, "Bad Words." Praising Bateman's transition to feature director (he's been directing television for years), Greg wrote that the film "will make many wonder if some of [Bateman's] recent flicks might have actually been even better if he'd been behind the camera instead of just in front of it." Indeed, with misses like "The Change-Up" and "Identity Thief" as of late, Bateman could certainly use a smash.

Focus Features will be aiming to turn "Bad Words" into just that as the studio acquired the film earlier this morning. Written by Andrew Dodge (and a Black List entry in 2011), it be released worldwide by Focus in 2014.

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<p>Katy Perry at the VMAs</p>

Katy Perry at the VMAs

Credit: Dario Cantatore/AP

Music Power Rankings: Katy Perry, Michael Jackson, and Fred Stobaugh?

Robin Thicke and Carrie Underwood also make the list

1. Katy Perry: She roars into the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100, finally toppling Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” after 12 weeks. She is queen of the jungle and queen of the chart.

2. Harry Connick Jr.: After causing a stir by speaking the truth when he mentored on “American Idol,” the crooner joins Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez as a judge for the upcoming season. Will he be the new Simon Cowell?

3. Adam Levine: The Maroon 5 lead singer launches his clothing line for K-Mart. Maybe they can rename the Blue Light Special the Maroon Light Special....

4. Fred Stobaugh: At 96, he becomes the oldest artist to appear on Billboard’s Hot 100 with “Oh Sweet Lorraine,” breaking the former record set by the young whippersnapper, Tony Bennett.

5. Michael Jackson:  The singer’s estate launches an Instagram account asking fans to upload videos to celebrate the anniversary of his birthday. What’s next? Bubbles’ own Pinterest account?

6. Janis Joplin: Speaking of dead celebrities, more than 40 years after her death, the Joplin estate is rolling out Made For Pearl,  a line of clothes, jewelry and other accessories. Don’t get down on me, but doesn’t that idea feel about 30 years too late?

7. Irving Azoff: The incomparable music manager announces a $300 million deal with Madison Square Garden that will include music management, music publishing, live event branding and a talent-scouting TV show. It’s Azoff’s world, the rest of us just live in it.

8. Alabama: The legendary country group bows at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 with “Alabama & Friends,” marking its best ranking ever on the all-format album chart. Imagine if the album had included a duet with Fred Stobaugh?

9. Robin Thicke: “Blurred Lines’” reign atop the Billboard Hot 100 may have ended, but he snags the song of the summer title from Billboard. As if there were even any doubt?

10. Carrie Underwood: She bows her version of Sunday Night Football’s theme, “Waiting All Day For Sunday Night” this weekend because nothing says football like an “American Idol” winner married to a hockey player.


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<p>Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley are both excellent in John Carney's enchanting new film 'Can A Song Save Your Life?'</p>

Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley are both excellent in John Carney's enchanting new film 'Can A Song Save Your Life?'

Credit: Exclusive Media Group

Review: Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo are luminous in the beautiful 'Can A Song Save Your Life'?

John Carney's latest musical is another gorgeous story of love and art

TORONTO - One of the things I love about music is the way it can act like a sort of time machine, transporting you back to the moment you first heard it or a particular performance you saw, and more than that, it can remind you of the person you were at that moment. I hear certain songs, and the world around me melts away and I find myself feeling and remembering and I can't think of anything else that does it quite the same way.

In 2001, I made a last minute trip to Sundance with Kevin Biegel, another of the writers for Ain't It Cool. We didn't plan it. We had no idea what we were doing. It was the first time at a major film festival for either of us. And for the most part, we just sat in the press screening rooms watching whatever played, not sure what to expect. At the end of one of those days, already packed with great movies like "Chain Camera" and "Dogtown & Z-Boys," we saw the first screening of "Hedwig And The Angry Inch," and when it got to the song "Origin Of Love" in the middle of the film, I was transported. It seemed to me to be the perfect explanation of what it is we look for in this world in other people, inclusive of everyone, optimistic but heartbroken, and by the time the song was over, it was one of my favorite songs of all time.

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<p>Matthew McConaughey's strong, empathetic work is one of the highlights of 'Dallas Buyers Club'</p>

Matthew McConaughey's strong, empathetic work is one of the highlights of 'Dallas Buyers Club'

Credit: Focus Features

Review: Matthew McConaughey is terrific in the moving historical drama 'Dallas Buyers Club'

Hollywood finally seems ready to have a real conversation about AIDS

TORONTO - At some point in the future, when people are writing a history of how cinema processed and showcased the way HIV and AIDS affected life in the late 20th century and beyond, "Dallas Buyers Club" will definitely be part of that conversation, and the film seems to occupy a space at both ends of the timeline right now. It deals with the early days, when people still didn't understand much about it, but it looks at that time with the perspective of right now, allowing them the distance to really get the story right.

It is my sincere wish that we never see Matthew McConaughey star in another shitty romantic comedy again. He is way too interesting for that, and there's a reason he became a punchline for a few years. It's not because he's a bad actor; far from it. It's because it looked like he decided just to coast and not push himself. You cannot say that about "Dallas Buyers Club," though. This is a ferocious performance, funny and angry and emotional, and watching it, I felt like it fulfilled all of the promise he has shown over the years and then some. There is nothing held back here, and that laconic cowboy charm of his is put to perfect use. Ron Woodruff was an electrician and a sort of low-level hustler/party boy who loved his drugs almost as much as he loved his sex. In the early sequences in the film, he is blatantly homophobic, a "good ol' Texas boy," through and through, and it's so casual, so much a part of the everyday language he and his buddies use, that when he learns he has HIV, he practically goes crazy and attacks the doctor. He is furious that anyone would accuse him of having something that is supposed to only kill gay people.

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Report: Bruno Mars to perform at Super Bowl halftime

Report: Bruno Mars to perform at Super Bowl halftime
An announcement should be made soon, according to the LA Times. The NFL, meanwhile, would only jokingly say that Janet Jackson and Miley Cyrus have been ruled out. UPDATENFL confirms Bruno Mars as Super Bowl halftime performer.

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<p>Sandra Bullock and George Clooney share one of the few quiet moments before 'Gravity' sends them both spinning through space.</p>

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney share one of the few quiet moments before 'Gravity' sends them both spinning through space.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Review: Sandra Bullock is amazing in Alfonso Cuaron's dazzling 'Gravity'

How often can you claim you saw something genuinely brand-new?

TORONTO - Living at this point in the history of cinema is a privilege, thanks to the way we are able to enjoy movies from any previous era while also seeing how cinema continues to grow and change and adapt, and one might be forgiven for thinking that at this point, we've seen it all. It's not true, though, and the proof this year comes from director Alfonso Cuaron, whose new movie "Gravity," his first in seven years, seems determined to actually push the visual language of film forward.

Even better? He actually succeeds at that lofty goal.

On the page, "Gravity" is the very definition of simplicity. Two astronauts are working on a space shuttle when they get a warning that a satellite explosion has now created a field of debris that s moving in an incredibly fast orbit around the planet, and that they are in its path. Before they can do anything about it, the debris smashes into their shuttle, utterly destroying it, stranding the two of them in space. The rest of the insanely-tight 88 minute running time is spent trying to figure out how to survive and, if at all possible, make it back to the surface of Earth.

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<p>James&nbsp;Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Nicole Holofcener's &quot;Enough Said.&quot;</p>

James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Nicole Holofcener's "Enough Said."

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Review: 'Enough Said' featuring a fine James Gandolfini in one of his last roles

Holofcener's dialogue is great, but the end result feels lacking

TORONTO - Over the course of her four previous pictures, Nicole Holofcener has proven to be one of the most observant and insightful American filmmakers working today. Her latest endeavor, "Enough Said," would be noteworthy just based on the fact that its star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, hasn't appeared in a live action movie since 1997's "Deconstructing Harry." Sadly, what has put the film on the radar of many moviegoers is the fact its features one of the last performances of the late, great James Gandolfini.

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<p>Steve Coogan won the Best Screenplay award for &quot;Philomena.&quot;</p>

Steve Coogan won the Best Screenplay award for "Philomena."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Upset in Venice as Italian doc 'Sacro GRA' takes Golden Lion, Steve Coogan wins screenplay

Bernardo Bertolucci's jury makes some bold decisions

VENICE - Bernardo Bertolucci proved one thing this evening: he still has the power to surprise us. Tonight's Venice Film Festival awards ceremony was the most surprise-laden (at this festival, or any other) in recent memory. In the press room, where I was watching it, the swiftly announced winners induced one gasp after another from the crowd -- along with a smattering of boos -- until the crowning stunner: the Golden Lion for "Sacro GRA," an Italian documentary about a famous Roman highway from Gianfranco Rosi that was surely one of the most little-seen films in Competition. (I missed it too, and will be catching up with it tonight.) Hot Best Actress favorite Judi Dench missed out, though her "Philomena" co-star Steve Coogan was rewarded for his screenplay. I'll have more analysis later; for now, the full list of winners is after the jump.

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<p>Xavier Dolan in &quot;Tom at the Farm.&quot;</p>

Xavier Dolan in "Tom at the Farm."

Credit: MK2

'Philomena' dominates preliminary Venice awards, as 'Tom at the Farm' takes critics' prize

Does this bode well for their chances at tonight's jury awards ceremony?

When I said in yesterday's predictions piece that "Philomena" was the most broadly well-liked film of the festival, I wasn't kidding. Stephen Frears' gentle dramedy, widely tipped to win Best Actress for Judi Dench at tonight's Competition awards ceremony, handily leads the way in the festival's vast array of preliminary awards from alternative juries. Its eight wins include Best Film from the festival's Youth Jury, an INTERFILM award for "promoting interreligious dialogue," even a Cinema for UNICEF mention. No one's singled it out yet for walking on water, but it's only a matter of time.

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