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<p>When it comes to influence on the past decade of blockbusters, Neo is still 'The One'</p>

When it comes to influence on the past decade of blockbusters, Neo is still 'The One'

Credit: Warner Bros

'The Matrix' and Madonna top this year's National Registry additions

A typically eclectic mix of titles rounds out the film year

The first film I watched this year was a documentary called "These Amazing Shadows," a look at the work being done by the National Film Registry, and a celebration of the impulse behind the creation of the annual list.

For those of you not familiar with it already, each year, the Registry picks films that are "works of enduring importance to American culture, that reflect who we are as a people and as a nation."  This year, anything released between 1897 and 1999 was eligible, and with this year's choices, the registry now stands at 600 titles.  That's since it was created in 1989, and as with every year, the list of titles chosen includes some obvious choices, some eccentric choices, and some films you probably have never heard of, making for a typically heady mix.

I love that they've included "The Matrix," which will probably end up being one of the most influential films released since I started writing about movies.  It seems with each passing year to cast a larger and larger shadow over pop culture, and I'm wondering if the Wachowskis will ever be able to equal the impact that movie made on audiences and filmmakers alike.

Here's the full list of new films added to the Registry, as well as the explanation sent out as part of today's press release, followed by my own thoughts on each title in italics.

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<p>Ziyi Zhang in &quot;The Grandmaster.&quot;</p>

Ziyi Zhang in "The Grandmaster."

Credit: Annapurna Pictures

Wong Kar-wai's 'The Grandmaster' to open 2013 Berlinale

The director will also preside over the competition jury

As I mentioned last week, compared to Cannes and Venice, the Berlin Film Festival tends to look like something of a weak sister when it comes to securing major auteur titles. Their festival curtain-raisers, meanwhile, tend to be on the low-key side: while a good film, this year's opener, "Farewell, My Queen," wasn't exactly an event, while "True Grit" was old news by the time it kicked off the 2011 edition.

Both those traditions have been broken in grand style by this morning's doozy of an announcement. The official festival email slyly mentioned only "Opening Film" in the subject line: upon opening it, I had to blink a few times before believing that, yes, Wong Kar-wai's long, long delayed "The Grandmaster" will indeed be kicking off the Berlinale with its international premiere on February 7. (It's an international rather than a world premiere because it's scheduled for release in China the month before.)

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<p>Naomi Watts and Tom Holland in &quot;The Impossible.&quot;</p>

Naomi Watts and Tom Holland in "The Impossible."

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Roundup: Witherspoon stumps for Watts

Also: Hooper, Danna honored by Palm Springs, 'Holy Motors' tops IndieWire poll

Though the film itself can't seem to catch much of a break in the awards race -- those omissions from Oscar's VFX and makeup shortlists still sting -- "The Impossible" star Naomi Watts keeps gathering momentum. After neatly scoring SAG, Globe and BFCA nods last week, the actress now has her own vocal Academy advocate (her Julia Roberts, if you will) in the form of Reese Witherspoon. A public fan letter to Watts from Witherspoon, who is not a close personal friend, compares her performance to those of Meryl Streep in "Sophie's Choice" and Sally Field in "Norma Rae" (both Oscar winners, as it happens) and declares "The Impossible" "one of the best films I have ever seen in my entire life." Witherspoon is not the "Impossible" team's first celebrity cheerleader: Angelina Jolie hosted a screening last month. Is this the tip of the iceberg in terms of actors' branch support? [EW]

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Naomi Watts discusses the real life inspiration for 'The Impossible'

Naomi Watts discusses the real life inspiration for 'The Impossible'

SAG and Golden Globe nominee has praise for co-star Tom Holland
Naomi Watts has played her share of real people.
 
In addition to appearing in biopics like "Ned Kelly" and "J. Edgar," Watts starred as Valerie Plame in "Fair Game" and she'll be playing Princess Diana in a 2013 film. 
 
J.A. Bayona's new disaster film "The Impossible" tells the true story of a family of tourists who are separated from each other in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, with Watts' Maria and son Lucas (Tom Holland) split off from husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their younger sons (Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast). 
 
The real-life Maria Belon worked hand-in-hand with screenwriter Sergio G. Sanchez to bring the story to the big screen and took an active role in guaranteeing the story was told properly, making her perhaps the most invested and available of the actual people Watts has played over the years.
 
I sat down with Watts a couple weeks ago to talk about the role Maria Belon played in shaping her character, as well as the preparation that went into the harrowing film. [Check out the behind-the-scenes footage that plays with the interview. It's insane.]
 
Watts, who has subsequently been nominated for a SAG Award and a Golden Globe for her performance, also talked about her confidence in sharing most of her scenes with movie-acting neophyte Holland and with the challenges of crafting a character like this when working out-of-sequence.
 
Check it out...
 
"The Impossible" opens Friday (December 21) in limited release and goes nationwide on January 4.

 

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<p>Mike Skupin of &quot;Survivor: Philippines&quot;</p>

Mike Skupin of "Survivor: Philippines"

Credit: CBS

Interview: Mike Skupin talks 'Survivor: Philippines'

Returning player avoided falling into the fire and made the Top 3
More than any of the returning players on "Survivor: Philippines," Mike Skupin was an enigma. 
 
Jonathan Penner had played twice and we knew what to expect from him.
 
Russell Swan was a mystery, because barely anybody remembered him, but saying he was an enigma implies people had given him thought.
 
But Mike Skupin? He killed a pig. He fell into the fire. But for the full decade after his departure from "Survivor: The Australian Outback," he was always the show's great "What if?"
 
After seeing Skupin make it to the end of a "Survivor" season, some of the uncertainty has been cleared up. Even 11 years older, Skupin remains a formidable challenge force and a strong, uncompromising personality. And he made a strong alliance with Lisa Whelchel and knew when to break up his old alliance, which took him all the way to the finale. 
 
Something was still missing from Skupin's game. He and Lisa only got one Jury vote apiece, losing to Denise, who Skupin was determined to take to the end because he was sure she was more beatable than Malcolm. He misjudged the Final 3 strategy and based on some of the less-than-complimentary reactions from his fellow castaways, he misjudged several of parts of the social game.
 
In our exit interview, Skupin mostly filibustered. He didn't answer several of my questions and dodged a couple others. He was, however, very happy to discuss whether or not he's accident-prone in his everyday life [a question I rushed to when it became clear I wasn't getting anything on my original approaches]. So there's that.
 
Click through for the full interview...
 
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<p>Paul Williams, feeling moody.</p>

Paul Williams, feeling moody.

Credit: Abramorama Films

Check out the moving new video for 'Paul Williams Still Alive'

One of our favorite songwriters is gunning for an Oscar this year

I reviewed "Paul Williams Still Alive" when I was the Toronto Film Festival in 2011, and I think of the film as a 2011 release because of that.  Technically, though, it's eligible for awards this year, and one of the ones they're aiming for is an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.

Much of what you hear in the film comes from his long and remarkable career, and for many people, the film serves to connect dots they may not have known were connected at all.  The Carpenters, the Muppets, commercial work… so many of his songs have sunk into our collective cultural subconscious that we know them more than we know him.

When I spoke to Williams during the Toronto Film Festival, it was one of those interviews that could have gone on another two hours, and I wouldn't have even begun to run out of things to talk to him about.  I feel bad that we never made it to the subject of "Still Alive," the original song he wrote for the documentary, and I'm glad to see that the company behind the film is working hard to get it out there.

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The final three contestants of "The Voice". Oh, and Carson Daly.

The final three contestants of "The Voice". Oh, and Carson Daly.

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' Tuesday - Top 3 Results

Who will be crowned the winner in tonight's final episode?

We’re here at the end of the road for this cycle of “The Voice”. NBC looked into it, but it couldn’t find a way to extend the season any further. (Lord knows the one-hour repeat hour before the finale proper demonstrates how badly this network is milking this franchise.) But that’s all for the best, as the outcome tonight looks pretty much preordained. I went on record saying this last night, but I’ll once again reiterate that it’s Cassadee Pope’s contest to lose at this point. Assuming they stagger the eliminations, we should have Pope and Terry McDermott standing alone in the final moments before the champion is crowned.

But who knows? That’s why we have to watch the show and find out how close those predictions match reality. All we knows is that tonight’s 2-hour finale will feature a slew of performances by the final three contestants, the coaches, and a parade of other artists taking advantage of the spotlight in order to spike record sales before the holidays are over. Even though we have 120 minutes to get through, I’ll be sparing in tonight’s liveblog when discussing things non-show related. I’m sure you’re dying to hear my thoughts about The Killers’ latest single, but there’s a top-notch team of music critics here at HitFix that can fill that role nicely.
 
Let’s get the final running diary of the Fall underway!

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<p>Juan Antonio Bayona's &quot;The Impossible.&quot;</p>

Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Impossible."

Credit: Summit Entertainment

'The Impossible,' 'Zero Dark Thirty' and 'Holy Motors' are the best films of 2012

Generally a passionless but very good year for movies

If you were to have asked me last June if 2012 was a good year for movies my answer would have been a definitive "no."  Sure, "The Avengers," "Moonrise Kingdom," "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and the long delayed "Cabin the Woods" provided some refuge, but for the most part the first half of this year was full of forgettable films.  This isn't necessarily anything new.  The better prestige films always tend to begin their roll outs in September.  By December - all of a sudden - there are seemingly enough great movies for people to champion.  The difference with 2012 is that while there were a lot of very good movies, there weren't necessarily a significant number of great movies.

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Top 10 Best Albums Of 2012: Fiona Apple, Kendrick Lamar, Swans, Miguel

Top 10 Best Albums Of 2012: Fiona Apple, Kendrick Lamar, Swans, Miguel

Where do Death Grips, Grizzly Bear and Frank Ocean land on Immaculate Noise's list?

If there had to be any trend from my top 10 albums from 2012, the word of the year would be "lean." I admire the understated displays of self-editing. Fiona Apple's album didn't have a note or breath wasted; Miguel's tracklist was tidy, whereas Frank Ocean could learn to trim; Kendrick Lamar and Killer Mike ably balanced comedy and drama with carefully selected words; and mostly-instrumentals like Swans, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the Dirty Three sequenced those excesses into something tangible and rare.

Other trends: I fell in love with very few country and Americana albums this year, though there will be plenty of those artists that dominate my songs lists. I did, however, fall in love with Emeli Sande, who is clearly the Real Deal. So is How to Dress Well, who broke my heart 10 different ways. I don't think Tallest Man on Earth or Grizzly Bear can make a bad album. Hundred Waters -- who were the first signees to Skrillex's label -- surprised the hell out of me and I hope the hype index of the IDM poster-child won't have a negative impact on their future successes. Matthew Dear, Goat, Burial and Diiv make dark-rooms music.

You can hear samples of most of these albums -- if not just most all of the artists -- on Immaculate Noise's 2012 Top Albums Spotify list.

Some people make great collections of songs, and some artists make albums. Here are 30 of my favorite albums from 2012, with their artists, because 30 is a nice round number...

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<p>Elle Fanning in &quot;Ginger &amp;&nbsp;Rosa&quot;</p>

Elle Fanning in "Ginger & Rosa"

Credit: A24

10 outside-the-box considerations as the Academy votes

Performances that could use a look

With ballots in Academy members hands as of yesterday, the great settling is off and running. Various critics groups and top 10 lists have narrowed the pile enough that voters have a pretty good idea of the landscape in each category. More than that, "frontrunners" have staked their claim on the race, leaving precious little space for dark horses to maneuver.

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Daniel Day-Lewis to receive Montecito Award at Santa Barbara fest
Credit: Nino Munez

Daniel Day-Lewis to receive Montecito Award at Santa Barbara fest

Can anyone come between the man and his third Oscar?

When you're winning, you're winning. Daniel Day-Lewis hasn't missed a stop on the awards circuit so far this season, and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival wasn't about to be the first. It was announced today that the two-time Oscar champ will receive one of the festival's loftiest honors, the Montecito Award, both in recognition of his work in "Lincoln" and his career as a whole.

The award, which will be presented to Day-Lewis at a tribute evening on January 26, recognizes "a performer who has given a series of classic and standout performances throughout his/her career," and has been presented to Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Javier Bardem, Kate Winslet, Julianne Moore and Geoffrey Rush since its instatement in 2005. I don't think many would deny that Day-Lewis meets the criteria. 

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<p>Imagine Dragons</p>

Imagine Dragons

Exclusive: Behind the scenes on Imagine Dragons' 'Radioactive' video shoot

What happens when Superstorm Sandy shuts down production?

Music video shoots are often fraught with drama, but rarely so much so as Imagine Dragons’ shoot for “Radioactive.” While the  Las Vegas rock band was filming the clip in New York, the quartet came face to face with Superstorm Sandy.

In this exclusive behind-the-scenes footage below, lead singer Dan Reynolds talks about how the wacky concept for the video came about.  As you know, the music video, which came out last week, features stuffed animals and puppets fighting it out in a “puppet octagon.” The losers who survive are sent to a prison, where the members of the band are being held.  The clip also stars Lou “Diamond” Phillips as the evil overlord and Alexandra Daddario as a force for good. Director James Larese calls it “‘Fight Club for puppets.’”

Not only do the band members, Daddario and Phillips talk about making the clip in this exclusive footage, the victorious Pink Bear, whom Phillips refers to as “The Jackie Chan of the bear world,”  also does his share of interviewing. Turns out shooting lasers out of his eyes isn’t his only talent.

About half-way through the the shoot, Sandy closed production down and after being evacuated, the band hightailed it to London to complete the shoot. Appropriately, the band realizes its trials are nothing in the grand scheme of things. “We all got stuck [In New York] for a few days, but we made it out with our health, so we count ourselves as lucky for that,” Reynolds says.

“Radioactive,” the band’s follow up to its breakthrough hit, “It’s Time,” is No. 8 with a bullet on Billboard’s Rock Songs chart. The group’s new album, “Night Visions,” bowed at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September.  The band will embark on its first headlining tour this spring. For more tour info, go here.
 

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