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Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour," tipped to win big at tomorrow's European Film Awards.
Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour," tipped to win big at tomorrow's European Film Awards.
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Previewing the European Film Awards: will 'Amour' find love?

What will win, and what should, at Europe's answer to the Oscars

I'm writing this from my hotel suite in Valletta, Malta, where the view from my balcony is foregrounded by scattered yachts sleeping on a still sea as the sleepy Maltese capital -- all hybrid Euro grandeur in honey-colored stone -- turns silently in for the night. Earlier, I spotted Michael Haneke and Mads Mikkelsen, among others, enjoying a gentle nightcap in a neighboring hotel bar, unbothered by press or publicists.

All told, it's hardly the circus you'd encounter the night before a major awards ceremony across the pond, but the European Film Awards have a very, well, continental way of doing things. Voted for by the European Film Academy, they may commonly be described as the transatlantic equivalent of the Oscars, but the EFAs have far less of an industry built around them. For one thing, they're something of a travelling celebration, the venue alternating every other year from their Berlin base camp to a range of more far-flung locales: it's a nifty way of honoring the continent's cultural diversity even when the nominees themselves center mostly on major European nations.

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<p>Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds</p>

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds announce first album in five years

Watch the trailer to 'Push the Sky Away'

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are getting ready to bow their first album in five years when "Push the Sky Away" drops on Feb. 19. In between, Cave has been busy in Grinderman. In fact, two-thirds of the ensemble for "Sky" have been busy with the same thing.

Multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis, bassist Martyn Casey and percussionist Jim Sclavunos, in addition to Cave, made up Grinderman in its last incarnation in 2011; Bad Seeds alumni Thomas Wydler (drums) and Conway Savage (vocals) return as well. Mick Harvey is still M.I.A. since he and Cave had a parting of ways after more than two dozen years in 2009.

But its Casey we hear from the most in the trailer for the album. That brrrring drone lays overtop studio jabber from Cave and his cohorts as they lay down their plans at La Fabrique in the south of France.

What the chatter won't tell you is the basic narrative that may make up most of "Push the Sky Away":

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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: AP Photo

5 Things to expect from Dec. 5's Grammy Awards nominations

Who will be the leading nominees?

When the nominations for the 55th annual Grammy Awards are announced on Wednesday, Dec. 5,  expect to hear a few names over and over.

This marks the second Grammy Awards since governing body NARAS  scaled down the number of categories from 109 to 78, which means a lot more artists are competing for a lot fewer slots. For example, instead of separate male and female pop performance categories, there is now only a best pop solo performance category.  In rock, best hard rock and best metal performance categories are now combined.

 A number of nominations will be announced during the “Grammy Nominations Concert Live!! — Countdown To Music’s Biggest Night,” which airs at 10 P.M. ET, with the whole list of nominations online immediately after the hour-long special’s conclusion. LL Cool J and Taylor Swift will host the special. Among the performers are The Who, The Band Perry, Dierks Bentley Maroon 5, Ne-Yo, Luke Bryan and fun.

Here are a few things to look out for on Wednesday:

*It will be a shoot-out at the pop corral this year.  As pure pop has come back into vogue over the last 18 months,  expect the best pop solo performance and best pop vocal album categories to both be packed with huge names and with several worthy contenders left out. Between Pink’s “Blow Me (One Last Kiss),” Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,”  Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake,” Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been”  and/or “Diamonds,”  Phillip Phillips’ “Home,” Ne-Yo’s “Let Me Love You,” and Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” it’s an embarrassment of riches in the best pop solo performance category alone.

*Some of the year’s biggest country albums,
including Taylor Swift’s “Red” and Jason Aldean’s “Night Train,” came out after the eligibility period. The big country nominee on Dec. 5 will be Miranda Lambert. Look for “Four The Record” to snag a nod for country album of the year (and possibly album of the year), as well as best country solo performance and best country song for “Over You.” 

*Frank Ocean will be one of the leading nominees
: No, “Channel Orange” didn’t become a blockbuster seller, but it is an incredibly well-made and strong album that critics loved with a broad base of appeal spanning pop, rock, R&B and pop.  Look for Ocean to walk away with at least five nominations, including album of the year and best new artist, as well as some potential R&B nods. Also keep an eye out for Florence & The Machine, who, if the wind's blowing right, could also snag five nominations, including album of the year for "Ceremonials." 

*It hasn’t been a particularly strong year for rock groups:
Coldplay’s “Mylo Xyloto” is eligible, but there’s nothing new from such standbys as  U2 or Pearl Jam or the Foo Fighters. Look for Bruce Springsteen, The Black Keys and Mumford & Sons to dominate in the best rock performance, best rock song and best rock album categories.

*Expect potential surprises from Imagine Dragons, 2Chainz, Kendrick Lamar, fun., the Lumineers, Ellie Goulding and Miguel. Right now, I’m expecting each of these acts to get one or two nominations, but one of them could be a wild card and score up to four.

Check out my predictions for song of the year, record of the year, best new artist and album of the year.

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<p>Metallica</p>

Metallica

Credit: AP Photo

Metallica bows own label after regaining master recordings

What does it mean for the metal meisters?

Metallica has regained its catalog from Warner Music Group and launched its own label, Blackened Recordings.

Metallica has long wanted control of its master recordings. In 1994, the heavy metal group sued WMG’s Elektra Entertainment, its home since 1984, under California’s “seven-year statute.”  The statute, used primarily for actors, was invoked by a number of artists in the mid-‘90s seeking to get out of their music contracts. All of the cases settled and the law  remained untested as to if it pertains to music acts as well.

In that 1994 settlement,  Metallica received one of its main goals: to restructure its deal to form a joint venture with the label for future music and video releases.  It would now also appear that the deal included the reversion of Metallica’s masters to the band. In 2004, Metallica switched from Elektra (which was folded into Atlantic)  to WMG sister label, Warner Bros.

The first release through Blackened Recordings will come in less than two weeks, when the band puts out the live concert DVD/Blu-Ray “Quebec Magnetic.”

“You may have heard us say it once or twice or a thousand times before, but it’s always been about us taking control of all things ‘Tallica to give you 110% on every single level every single time,” posted the band in a statement on its website. “Forming Blackened Recordings is the ultimate in independence, putting us in the driver’s seat of our own creative destiny. We’re looking forward to making more music and getting it all out to you in our own unique way.”

Metallica, who started its own music festival, Orion, this year,  is the perfect act to proceed on its own.  Other than advance money, there’s not a lot that a major label could offer the band now that it can’t provide on its own and given its years of success, Metallica probably has all the money it needs to front its own projects. Plus, while the band still receives radio play, it doesn’t need the mighty machinery of a major label promotion team behind it: the group can hire indie promoters next time it has a song to push to radio.

Regaining control of its masters also allows the band to repackage the music in any way it sees fit to present to its loyal fans. We’ve already seen more and more veteran acts who have build up their own following not resign with major labels and expect more in the future.

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<p>Rick Ross</p>

Rick Ross

Credit: AP Photo

Listen to Rick Ross' song for Quentin Tarantino's 'Django Unchained'

Whistle... oh no!

I think some artists thrive when they're given constraints, like writing for a film. I think of RZA with his various soundtracks, like his own "Man with the Iron Fists," or latter-day Trent Reznor who hasn't wholly succeeded with How to Destroy Angels but can write the hell out of a score for "The Social Network" or "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

Rick Ross is an interesting choice for Quentin Tarantino as promo season for "Django Unchained" goes into hyperdrive. Tarantino hasn't shocked with his musical choices before. And part of me wanted to be shocked at how Ross could be under constraints.

The trailer, with the Bawse, was pretty dope. This song "100 Black Coffins," on the whole, is kind of a dud.

The chorus has a strong center and a good delivery, with the whistling and the ominous beat (which I feel should be credited to producer and movie star Jamie Foxx). But outside of that, Ross sounds a bit lost when he can't be dropping watch brand names and various metaphor for T-and-A, forcing that verse in about Django and his strife against his bawse.

But the imagery of a hundred black bibles ("so we can send em all to hell") is good enough to sell a movie.

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<p>Abbie and Ryan of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>

Abbie and Ryan of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

Interview: Abbie & Ryan talk 'The Amazing Race'

Frankfurt and U-Turn talk with the latest eliminated team
In order to make it home for Sunday night's installment of "The Amazing Race," I had to make a tight flight connection at a German airport, sweating it out through international customs and racing across terminals to catch my Lufthansa plane. 
 
In that respect, I understand what "Amazing Race" contestants Abbie Ginsberg and Ryan Danz were going through.
 
The key difference: I made it to my gate and my plane departed successfully, which allowed me to watch Abbie & Ryan struggle in a German airport for the second time in three weeks, as travel inconveniences and a U-Turn by chums James & Jaymes led to their elimination.
 
Two other differences: I was making my connection in Munich and Abbie & Ryan were in Frankfurt, while I was returning from a vacation and they were racing for $2 million.
 
By virtue of winning the season's opening "Amazing Race" Leg, the competitive dating duo had a chance to be the first "Amazing Race" team to double the show's standard $1 million prize. And, for several Legs, it looked like they might dominate the course, finishing first or second in five of the first six Legs before the two travel disasters eventually did them in.
 
In their "Amazing Race" exit interview, Abbie & Ryan talk about the free coffee at the Frankfurt airport, the reason for their frustration at Jaymes & James' U-Turn decision and their ongoing confidence that they were dominating the controllable elements of the Race.
 
Click through for the full conversation
 
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<p>Nicole Kidman at the world premiere of &quot;The Paperboy&quot;&nbsp;at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival last May.</p>

Nicole Kidman at the world premiere of "The Paperboy" at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival last May.

Credit: AP Photo

Nicole Kidman calls from France to revisit 'The Paperboy' and proclaim her love for 'Amour'

And yeah, 'The Others' is pretty good too

When Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy” debuted at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival last May, the reviews were hardly glowing.  The Twitterverse was full of salacious tweets of crude acts by an Oscar winning actress and snarked about over-the-top Southern campiness – all out of context, of course.  Even In Contention’s own Guy Lodge seemed torn over the film seemingly want to like it, but only rewarding it with a B- (and that was one of the more initial positive reviews).  In fact, so few of my peers seemed to champion it (and those who didn’t like it hated it), that I tossed it in the back of my mind as a disappointing misfire for Daniels.  Financier Millennium Entertainment decision to distribute the picture themselves seemed to be the final nail in the coffin.  If no mini-major was going to take the time to acquire a “sexy melodrama” starring a mostly shirtless Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey it wasn’t worth rushing to see, right?

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<p>Jake Gyllenhaal at the LA premiere of &quot;End of Watch&quot;</p>

Jake Gyllenhaal at the LA premiere of "End of Watch"

Credit: AP Photo/Todd Williamson

Jake Gyllenhaal on building character with language off Broadway and in 'End of Watch'

The dark horse awards contender counts his latest film as a turning point

NEW YORK -- I'm running a little late as I make it over to the Laura Pels Theater on 46th Street. When I get there, a tiny crowd surrounds Jake Gyllenhaal, bearded and maned for his performance in the off-Broadway play "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet." He's almost unrecognizable, which goes a long way toward explaining why the crowd is tiny. He's gracious, all smiles, answering questions.

Later, backstage at the theater, he recalls what it was about the piece that made him finally break his long hiatus from the stage. Written by Nick Payne, the George Devine Award-winning play features Gyllenhaal (in his New York theater debut) as Terry, a loafer uncle to an affection-starved, overweight teenage girl. It's a quartet piece but Gyllenhaal shines, largely because of his character's idiosyncratic nature. That nature was founded in the play's dialogue, which Gyllenhaal says was like trying to unlock a Rubik's Cube.

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<p>Ang Lee and Jake Gyllenhaal on the set of &quot;Brokeback Mountain&quot;</p>

Ang Lee and Jake Gyllenhaal on the set of "Brokeback Mountain"

Credit: Focus Features

Jake Gyllenhaal recalls lessons learned from Ang Lee, Sam Mendes, David O. Russell and more

The young actor already has a wealth of collaborations behind him

One of the striking things you note immediately about Jake Gyllenhaal's portfolio of work is the caliber of filmmakers he's worked with. As a supplement to our feature interview with the star of the off-Broadway production "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet" and the screen's "End of Watch," we asked Gyllenhaal if he could recall what he's taken from the experience of working with a handful of these esteemed craftsmen -- three of whom feature in the Oscar race this year.

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Oscar Talk: Ep. 97 -- 'Les Misérables' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' enter the season

Oscar Talk: Ep. 97 -- 'Les Misérables' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' enter the season

Also: The Gothams and Spirits speak up for indies and a survey of the doc features

Welcome to Oscar Talk.

In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.

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<p>I cannot explain why JCVD's wearing white paint all over his bald head in this scene, but I'm sure it has nothing to do with Col. Kurtz.</p>

I cannot explain why JCVD's wearing white paint all over his bald head in this scene, but I'm sure it has nothing to do with Col. Kurtz.

Credit: Magnet Releasing

Review: Loopy and brutal 'Universal Soldier 4' should make fans Van Damme happy

I am so so sorry for that headline, but I would do it again in a heartbeat

I was going to write a formal review of "Universal Soldier 4: Day Of Reckoning," and then I put it in the player tonight and the following happened on Twitter:

"Okay, 'Universal Soldier 4,' here's your chance. Thrill me.

I will say that it's a good sign that the first face I see in the film is Scott Adkins. That guy is awesome.

So far, Adkins seems to be doing nice work playing a sensitive father dealing with a personal trauma. When does he kick someone's spine out?

I'll say this much for 'Universal Soldier 4': I'm 40 minutes in and I have no idea what the hell is going on.

I am compelled to keep watching if only for the freaky Jean Claude Van Brando thing they're going for. #thehorror #thehorror

Scott Adkins just got superpowers. Not sure why, but Scott Adkins with superpowers means I keep watching.

Two, two, two times the Adkins! Two, two, two times the confusion!

I love that Adkins is in 'Zero Dark 30," but watching this, I wonder why they didn't send him after Bin Laden alone. Woulda been easier.

Another way they could have improved 'Zero Dark 30'? Jean Claude Bin Laden.

John Hyams loves 'Blade Runner,' 'Apocalypse Now,' and dudes kicking holy hell out of other dudes."


Technically, I feel like I could leave it at that and we'd be good.  That is a very accurate moment-to-moment summary of how odd it is to sit through the film, but I do have a little more to say about it.  When I say I had no idea what was going on, that's not hyperbole.  There were stretches where I was baffled by the things people were doing or the way they were behaving or just the simplest of exchanges between them. 

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<p>Tina Fey and James Marsden in &quot;30 Rock.&quot;</p>

Tina Fey and James Marsden in "30 Rock."

Credit: NBC

Morning TV Round-Up: '30 Rock' & 'The Office'

Liz and Criss want to get married, while Dunder-Mifflin builds a house of complaint cards

It's morning round-up time, with thoughts on last night's "30 Rock" and "The Office" coming up just as soon as I talk on my Bluetooth to a guy at the octopus auction...

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