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Best Picture 2014: Oscar contenders include 'Gravity,' 'Captain Phillips' and '12 Years a Slave'

Best Picture 2014: Oscar contenders include 'Gravity,' 'Captain Phillips' and '12 Years a Slave'

Surveying this year's field of awards hopefuls

The Oscar season is howling to life in the wake of the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals. NYFF is right around the corner and very soon it'll be October, "Gravity" (with "Captain Phillips" and "12 Years a Slave" right behind it) and we'll pretty much be off to the races. It's time, then, for our annual early plunge into this year's contenders, which we'll bring to you on a category-by-category basis over the next few weeks. We begin today with, what else? Best Picture.

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<p>Olivia Colman of &quot;Broadchurch&quot;</p>

Olivia Colman of "Broadchurch"

Credit: BBC America

Interview: Olivia Colman and Jodie Whittaker talk 'Broadchurch'

BBC America drama finishes its first season on Wednesday
"Broadchurch" ends its eight-episode run on Wednesday (September 25) on BBC America. 
For American viewers patient enough to avoid just rushing to BitTorrent sites after getting hooked on this British murder mystery, answers are finally coming.
Yes, answers are coming in the death of Danny Latimer, but what are the chances that those answers will bring satisfaction to Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Oliva Colman) or closure to grieving mother Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker)? Well, that's what "Broadchurch" is really about.
Back in July at the Television Critics Association press tour, I sat down for 10 minutes with Colman ("Tyrannosaur") and Whittaker ("Venus") to talk about their twisty, emotional murder mystery, which was a sensation in the UK. The conversation took place before the premiere, but I didn't transcribe the interview in time and once I transcribed it, I realized it would be just as effective before the finale, since it really spoils nothing. 
So warm up for Wednesday's finale with my chat with Colman and Whittaker, after the break...
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Tina Fey's 'SNL' promos promise no more wardrobe malfunctions

Tina Fey's "SNL" promos promise no more wardrobe malfunctions
"It's under control," she says. "It's not going to happen again."

Dottie from "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" auditions for "The Voice"
E.G. Daly, AKA Elizabeth Daly, AKA Buttercup from "The Powerpuff Girls" and Tommy Pickles from "Rugrats," wasn't immediately recognized. That's why she went on a reality show to perform as herself.

"Breaking Bad" theme composer had been "biding his time" to use the eerie music during the show
"In the first season," says Dave Porter, "the theme may have seemed a little darker and bolder than the show actually was. But the point was to have that little taste of where the show was going. Fast forward six years, and we’re close to the end. I’ve been biding my time, looking for a moment where I could introduce the theme into the story itself."

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Ron Perlman in 'Sons of Anarchy'

Clay (Ron Perlman) survives yet again on 'Sons of Anarchy'

'Sons of Anarchy' recap: 'Poenitentia'

Clay takes his chances in prison, Toric takes a turn for the worse, and Tig lands in hot water

The problem with trying to keep a show like "Sons of Anarchy" interesting after six seasons is that viewers start to feel like they've seen it all before. A crooked cop who's no better than the MC? A mother who'll do anything to get her kid(s) back? A member of the MC facing almost certain death right before the credits roll? We've been down these roads before.

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Fox orders 'Gotham,' a Commissioner Gordon origin series

Fox orders "Gotham," a Commissioner Gordon origin series
The proposed series will follow Gordon before his first encounter with Batman.

Dr. Drew reveals he's recovered from a 2-year battle with prostate cancer
"I'm cancer-free," says Drew Pinsky, who secretly underwent surgery 14 months ago.

"South Park" targets the NSA in its season premiere
Season 17's debut episode is titled "Let Go, Let Gov."

What was Francis Ford Coppola doing on "The Young and the Restless" set?
The acclaimed director wanted to learn more about current TV filming.

Tyrion Lannister was No. 1 among "Game of Thrones" characters in screentime in Season 3

Daenerys Targaryen was No. 2, followed by Robb Stark, Jon Snow and Jaime Lannister.

"NCIS: LA" premiere: What to expect

Season 5 picks up where Season 4 left off.

Is "Breaking Bad's" Heisenberg dead?

Or is Heisenberg still a part of Walter White that can never truly die? These questions imply different views on morality, psychology and human nature. PLUS: Why use the "Breaking Bad" theme music in the bar scene?, "The Shield's" Vic Mackey meets Hank Schrader, "Breaking Bad"-ize any web page, Jesse Plemons is a singer/songwriter in a band called Cowboy and Indian, "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" director isn't upset with this week's episode, what does "Breaking Bad" actually mean?, RJ Mitte's big moment was meeting Saul, see fake posters for "Breaking Bad's" best episodes.

Jay Pharoah can impersonate almost the entire cast of "Love And Hip Hop Atlanta"
Watch the "SNL" impersonator unleash his VH1-inspired impressions.

Amy Poehler raps

Listen to Poehler tackle Paula Deen and butter on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast. PLUS: Nick Offerman & Megan Mullally have a "silent but deadly" love for each other.

"Girls" star Allison Williams recalls Tina Fey's advice: "Wear a bra, don't smoke"

Williams once worked as Fey's assistant on "30 Rock."

Esquire Network: Does it live up to its "Man at his Best" tagline?

Yes, it does, including no T-and-A or reality shows that would appeal to Spike TV viewers. PLUS: Esquire has a shallow idea of modern manhood.

2 out at "Real Housewives of Orange County"

Gretchen Rossi and Alexis Bellino are not expected to return for Season 9.

Another Mulder & Scully 20th-anniversary "X Files" reunion will take place next month
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will reunite at a Paley Center event in October.

"HIMYM" unveils "Bangity Bang" song sung by Sam "Soul Man" Moore
"Bangity Bang" has been a tongue-and-cheek staple on the show for years.

"The Price is Right" stays relevant with a "secret formula" of wins-per-minute

 "It's a beautifully conceived game show in that every act has so many things that happen in it," says exec producer Mike Richards. "There's a chance for three wins in a four-minute act -- which is unlike any other game show."

"Big Bang Theory" bringing back Kate Micucci
Raj's ex will make a cameo in Season 7. PLUS: Kunal Nayyar visits "Sesame Street" to help Grover.

"Homeland's" Zuleikha Robinson to play Josh Holloway's "Intelligence" wife
She'll recur as an "intelligence officer missing from duty."

Watch Kris Humphries play himself on "The Mindy Project"

The Kim Kardashian ex was part of Mindy's "Getting Over It Gang."

"American Dad" recruits Kim Kardashian ... to play an alien

She'll lend her voice to a furry alien whose spaceship crash-lands in Langley Falls.

From The Onion: "New Netflix Gas Lets Users Inhale Multiple Seasons Of TV Shows"
Says a company spokesperson: "“With Netflix Gas, we’re really hoping to tap into a demographic that’s a little more fast-paced, a little more on-the-go, and that just wants to sit down whenever they have the chance and breathe in three or four seasons of, say, 'Fringe' in less than 10 seconds."

Will "Trophy Wife" suffer the same burden as "Cougar Town"?

The ABC comedy starring Malin Ackerman has a title that is very much at odds with its focus on female relationships. PLUS: "Trophy Wife" is funny but kind of overwhelming.

Watch the official "Ravenswood" trailer

The "Pretty Little Liars" spinoff debuts Oct. 22.

John Stamos is not a TV junkie

"I watch 'The Daily Show,' Letterman," he says. "I'm not into shows like 'Boardwalk Empire' or 'Breaking Bad.'"

"Heroes" alum Jack Coleman joins "Scandal"
He'll recur as a "charming Southerner." Meanwhile, "Warehouse 13's" Joanne Kelly is joining "Hostages." PLUS: Richard Kind joins USC comedy.

Joss Whedon mastery of TV is put to best use on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Despite an awkward and irritating title, "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is perfectly suited for television, thanks to Whedon's past on "Buffy" and "Angel." As Mary McNamara notess, "Though there's CG aplenty, the pilot is nowhere near as in-your-face as one might expect. Whedon understands that though television can do many things, it cannot out-blockbuster a blockbuster." PLUS: Whedon is too cautious in explaining everything, and it's sort of a middle ground between "The Avengers" and "Buffy."

"Lucky 7" feels too much like failed ABC shows "Six Degrees" and "The Nine"
It's another show about disparate people brought together by fate. PLUS: Its traits and twists are so tired.

"Person of Interest" Season 3: "What is The Machine up to?"
What to expect as Season 3 kicks off tonight.

ABC has something special with "The Goldbergs"
The Jeff Garlin sitcom is like a modern and more "Jewish Wonder Years," with many of the same elements that made "Modern Family popular. PLUS: Enough with '80s nostalgia!

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<p>Jerry Bruckheimer</p>

Jerry Bruckheimer

Credit: AP Photo

American Cinematheque honors Jerry Bruckheimer

The blockbuster merchant is the first producer to receive the award

It's been a time of mixed fortunes for Jerry Bruckheimer, the Hollywood super-producer ("Beverly Hills Cop," "Top Gun," "Black Hawk Down") whose surname is as distinctive a cinematic brand as that of any auteur. Not long after his overly expensive western "The Lone Ranger" took a beating (undeservedly so, in my opinion) from critics and ticket-buyers alike, it was announced that he and Walt Disney Pictures would be ending their once-lucrative deal. As Greg noted when reporting the news last week, it wasn't his first such flop -- is there still room for studio mega-producers in this day and age?

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<p>Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher in &quot;Brooklyn Nine-Nine.&quot;</p>

Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."

Credit: FOX

Evening TV Round-Up: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' & 'New Girl'

Peralta and Holt chase a tagger, and Winston tries to kill a cat

It's evening round-up time, with brief thoughts on tonight's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and "New Girl" coming up just as soon as I'm tried as an adult Highlander...

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<p>Brett Dalton in &quot;Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.&quot;</p>

Brett Dalton in "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

Credit: ABC

Series premiere talkback: 'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'

What did everybody think of Joss Whedon's new ABC drama?

I published my review of ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." this morning. Now it's your turn. For those of you who tuned in tonight, what did you think? If you haven't memorized all the different Marvel movies, could you follow this? If you're a devout fan of Marvel comics and/or movies, how do you feel the world of SHIELD was adapted for TV? Did Clark Gregg work as the lead? Did you like the younger actors, or did you find yourself wishing J. August Richards was taking one of their places? Did the superhero police procedural format work for you, or did it feel too similar to non-super shows like "NCIS" or "Bones" (some of which already have pretty high-tech gadgets)?  Did the whole thing feel like a Joss Whedon show, or like Whedon (and Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen) as guns for hire for a larger entity? And will you watch again?

I'll keep watching, but the plan right now is for someone else at HitFix — most likely Drew McWeeny, who has written extensively about all of Marvel's film projects at various phases of development at his Motion Captured blog — to do weekly coverage. If I have specific thoughts on specific episodes, I'm more than free to write them here; this is just a matter of time management.

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"Little Couple"

 "Little Couple"

Credit: TLC

Exclusive clip: 'Little Couple' preps for Will's first surgery

Sometimes being a little person is not much fun

Just in case you were thinking being a little person was only a hassle when you need to get the peanut butter on the top shelf, this might be the right clip for you to watch. On this week's episode of "Little Couple" (Tues. Sept. 24 at 10:00 p.m. ET on TLC) Will has to undergo surgery, and poor Jen and Bill can't do much more than sit on the sidelines. Being a parent is hard; being the parent to a little person is that much harder.

In this clip, Jen and Bill deal with what it's like to feel powerless to help the little guy who's just getting to know them. No one will tell if you tear up a little.

Will you be watching? 

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"Once Upon A Time"

 "Once Upon A Time"

Credit: ABC

Kitsis and Horowitz reveal what's next on 'Once Upon A Time' season 3

Warning: character, storyline spoilers dead ahead

Not everyone cares for spoilers, but "Once Upon A Time" creators Adam Horowitz and Ed Kitsis know that fans of the show sometime can't wait. Though the show makes its third season premiere on Sunday (Sept. 29 at 8:00 p.m. on ABC), they invited a few journalists to drop by Disney to watch the first two episodes of the season, then answered questions we had. If you're wondering, yes, spoilers ahead. I'll even say it loud: SPOILERS AHEAD. No complaining that you weren't warned, people.

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<p>Elton John - 'The Diving Board'</p>

Elton John - 'The Diving Board'

Album Review: Elton John's 'The Diving Board' proves the perfect platform

Superstar's 30th studio album takes a cinematic look at America

Improbable as it may sound, 30 albums in, Elton John has made the most piano-focused album of his legendary career.

On “The Diving Board,” John’s first solo album in seven years, out today, John’s piano playing is center stage in a way he’s never presented so fully on record. The album opens with a rarity: “Oceans Away” is John alone with his piano and the song, about WW1 and WW2 war veterans, serves as an invitation for what’s to come in the next 14 tracks.

Although occasionally augmented by strings, guitars and horns, “The Diving Board” primarily consists of John on vocals and piano, Raphael Saadiq on bass, and Jay Bellerose on drums and it’s all he needs. That trio (with Nigel Olsson on drums and Dee Murray on bass) is how John started more than 40 years ago and when producer T Bone Burnett suggested that John revisit it, he readily agreed.

At 66, John’s voice and playing is still so strong and nimble that he has no need to hide behind superfluous backing vocals or tracks crowded with unnecessary fillers.

Bernie Taupin’s lyrics are among his most cinematic. The Brown Dirt Cowboy has always had a fascination with America and Americana and his stories here reflect that, especially such tracks as “The Ballad of Blind Tom,” where he addresses Jim Crow laws. On “Oscar Wilde Gets Out,” Taupin writes about the year the exiled writer spent lecturing in the U.S. in the late 1800s. “The New Fever Waltz” addresses WWI soldiers in the trenches.

John’s  rollicking playing on “Jubilee” is a staccato delight, as is his barrelhouse turn on the jaunty, “Mexican Vacation (Kids in the Candlelight),” the albums most upbeat track. The classical, taut intro to “The Ballad of Blind Tom” jumps off the album. On “My Quicksand,” he turns the middle section into a jazz improvisation.  The swaying, breezy “Can’t Stay Alone Tonight” will remind longtime fans of “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues.”  “Take This Dirty Water” starts out like a saloon-hall rag before morphing into a gospel number.

First single, “Home Again,” is a wistful, haunting ballad about longing to return to the place we’re from. “We all dream of leaving but spent all our time trying to get back home again.” Though John has made it clear that he is not chasing radio play again, the song is his 69th entry on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart, far and away the most of any artist in the chart’s history.

To drive home the point that this is a piano-based album, John includes three instrumental interludes, none longer than 97 seconds, titled “Dream # 1,”  “Dream # 2,” and “Dream # 3.”

John has said the languid title track, which closes the album, is about the troubles that starlets like Lindsey Lohan find themselves in as they seem to spiral downward. “Sink or swim,” he sings in the cautionary tale, “in your lily white skin, high above the diving board.”

To his credit, John has no interest in trying to recapture the days of “Crocodile Rock” or “The Bitch Is Back," although the album could have used a few more uptempo tunes.Instead, he’s made a record that captures where he is today. And as the album proves, he’s definitely still standing.


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<p>Drake, &quot;Nothing Was the Same&quot;</p>

Drake, "Nothing Was the Same"

Album Review: Drake, 'Nothing Was the Same'

Why does Drake wear his chains around the house?

Listening to Drake’s “Nothing Was the Same” in the context of the rapper/singer’s other albums is a far richer experience than taking it in alone. The Young Money star is continually earning his stripes after two acclaimed, chart-topping albums that made his money off similarly dark and hungry productions, emo lyrics and electrifying bluster. Drake’s a better rapper now, and his multiple personalities – each in orbit around the same, central “I’m famous and I’m lonely” hangups – are more keenly expressed, sometimes in shameless pop gems like “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and others like gnashing, bitchy “Own It.”

Drake’s combo with longtime producer Noah "40" Shebib has been a fruitful one. On “Nothing Was the Same,” the sequencing of these 16 songs show a mastery of facing Drake off with other versions of Drake, synth for synth, beat for beat. (Part of the problem is 16 full songs is a lot coming from Drake.)

Songs like “Worst Behavior,” a hating haters anthem, competes against stronger beats and rhymes from this album, though it offers up classic Drake-onian cognitive dissonance. “This ain't the son you raised who used to take the Acura / 5 a.m. then go and shoot Degrassi up on Morningside / For all the stuntin', I'll forever be immortalized” runs in direct contrast with the album’s first single “Started from the Bottom” plus “All Me” which has the former television child-actor bowing to the fantasy that he started from the most modest of means in his rise to rap fame.

There, that’s part of why Drake has become not just a successful name in hip-hop, but became an idea in hip-hop, or “Somewhere between psychotic and iconic” as he says in the second track. “I wear every single chain, even when I'm in the house” he raps in “Bottom,” like he even needs to convince himself sometimes of his making-of mythos when he’s alone in his jammies. Psychotic he’s not, but self-awareness can be its own mental curse.

His insecurities worn plainly on his sleeves, he’s proclaims his imperfections “on the low” in “Furthest Thing,” “…just like everyone I know.” Everyone he knows is imperfect, so at least all of you (the audience) can relate. He does the petty naming-of-ex-lovers again all over “Nothing Was the Same” including “Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree” in “From Time,” intentionally inflicting his exes and with the same spotlight that so alienates him. The slow-grinding trap of “305 to My City” has Drake sympathizing with his stripper, from one performer to another. Again, Drake is not as alone as he thinks.

For every “good girl” (“Hold On…”) and sexytime passer-by (“Come Thru”), there are women he rejects with the same toss-offs, like in “The Language.” “Come get your girl, she been here for three days and she way too attached to me,” he sing-raps over a melody that sounds like a horror film interstitial. “She just want to smoke and fuck / I said ‘Girl, that's all that we do’… it could all be so simple.” He demands conformity to his romantic longings, and when they’re fulfilled, he can’t even nut up to throw her out himself.

Women as a commodity is no new concept in hip-hop, but the boredom and loathing by which Drake casts off and puts on his ladies all plays into that whole “icon” status. I – the listener – may not like his “realness” IRL, but those fantastical flaws are interesting, especially when the music is oh-so-chilly, his delivery so moody, the humble-brags so ballsy up next to his most bombastic indulgences (see chorus-less “Tuscan Leather”). He and his bros can fill their Benzes with bad bitches but he’s still the guy who’s panting all over “Marvins Room”: emotional crookedness is an elegant selling point. Jay Z’s verse in lumpy “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” is almost like a betrayal of that realness, what with all that joy Hov expels. Fun has no place next to stunner “Too Much” featuring melancholy Sampha, Drake waxing that being the best in the rap game means “No dinners, no holidays, no nothing.” Is Drake asking for pity? Is he asking for understanding? Hey, Drake, do you want some company?

Not all rap records invite these questions, and not many have the listener assenting to that latter question. That’s in part why “Nothing Was the Same” works, because by exposing his vulnerabilities, you’re invited in (while Kanye West’s "Yeezus" victory is in kicking you out).  The-Dream made a whole album this year of screaming out for pussy like Dennis Hopper in “Blue Velvet,” while Drake’s pinings are an exposure of self and worth, elements of a truly successful rapper and this mostly successful album.

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