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<p>Frank Ocean</p>

Frank Ocean

Credit: AP Photo

Grammy Awards 2013: Handicapping Best Urban Contemporary Album

It's Chris Brown vs. Frank Ocean....again

As the Feb. 10 55th annual Grammy Awards edge closer, we’re analyzing a category a day. Today, we look at Best Urban Contemporary Album.

Best Urban Contemporary Album nominees:
“Fortune,” Chris Brown
“Kaleidoscope Dream,” Miguel
“Channel Orange,” Frank Ocean

WHO’S MISSING: Lots of folks. Usher's“Looking 4 Myself,” for one. At this point, you may be asking yourself why are there only three nominees?  According to Recording Academy rules, a category must receive at least 40 entries for five recordings to receive nominations. If the category receives between 25-39, then only three recordings receive nominations. Maybe the labels applying were as confused about the difference between Best Urban Contemporary Album, a new category this year,  and Best R&B Album as I am. For example, Anthony Hamilton’s “Back to Love” and R. Kelly’s “Write Me Back” are up for Best R&B Album. To complicate matters, Chris Brown won Best R&B Album two years ago. According to the description, Best Urban Contemporary Album goes to a work that “includes more contemporary elements of R&B” and may also elements of other musical forms.

THE PLAYERS: In case you missed it, two of the nominees, Chris Brown and Frank Ocean got in a little dust-up at a Los Angeles recording studio last week, so this has now turned into a bit of a grudge match. Brown, who last won in 2011 for “F.A.M.E.,” didn’t have as much success with “Fortune,” whereas Miguel’s single, “Adorn,” from “Kaleidoscope Dreams,” has spent 20 weeks atop Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

In a just world, this is a race between Miguel and Ocean’s albums, both of which are far superior to Brown’s “Fortune.” Both “Kaleidoscope Dream” and “Channel Orange” are career-making albums and creative tours de force, but Ocean has the greater awareness across multiple genres.

THE WINNER: “Channel Orange,”  Frank Ocean

Previous predictions:

Song of the Year
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Best Rock Song
Best R&B Performance
Best Pop Vocal Album
Best New Artist

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Watch: Bruno Mars' new video for 'When I Was Your Man'

Watch: Bruno Mars' new video for 'When I Was Your Man'

No-fuss video fits stripped-down song

Bruno Mars keeps it simple for the video for current single, “When I Was Your Man.”

The gorgeous ballad is a highlight on Mars’ former chart-topping sophomore album, “ Unorthodox Jukebox.”

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Mumford and Sons</p>

Mumford and Sons

Credit: AP Photo

Vampire Weekend and Mumford & Sons to headline Sasquatch Festival

Phoenix and Kendrick Lamar tapped for Sweetlife Festival

Vampire Weekend, Mumford & Sons, the Postal Service, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis will headline this year’s Sasquatch! Music Festival.

The alternative music festival takes place at the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Wash., May 24-27.

The line-up also includes Sigur Ros, The xx, The Lumineers, Arctic Monkeys, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. Imagine Dragons, Grimes, Built to Spill and Alt-J, among others.

An internet pre-sale starts Feb. 6, with tickets going on sale to the general public on Feb. 9. Four-day passes are $337.50 and includes camping and parking.

For more information, go here.

In other festival news, Phoenix will headline Maryland's Sweetlife Festival, which takes place May 11 at the Merriweather Pavilion in Columbia. Other acts on the bill include Kendrick Lamar, Passion Pit, Solange and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.


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"Fresh Guacamole"

Credit: PES Productions

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Short Film - Animated

'Adam and Dog,' 'Fresh Guacamole,' 'Head Over Heels,' 'The Longest Daycare' and 'Paperman' square off

(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film.  A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)

There is a key change in the way the Best Animated and Live Action Shorts, as well as the Best Documentary Feature categories will be decided. Members will receive screeners of all nominees and the voting will be opened up to the entire membership, and the honor system will be used, as it is with every other category, as to members actually seeing the films in play and voting accordingly. No more showing up at special screenings and proving you saw them by signing in, at least with these categories.

This could be huge in a category like Best Animated Short, where big studio productions often lose out to smaller, more artful fare because those voting are usually animators very interested in the product. This is why it's been a while since Pixar has won here, for instance, and this year, it'll be all the more crucial, because three of the nominees are involved with big companies.

The nominees are…

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<p>Dominic Monaghan of &quot;Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan&quot;</p>

Dominic Monaghan of "Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan"

Credit: BBC America

Interview: Dominic Monaghan talks BBC America's 'Wild Things' and the lizard he wants next

What makes a good or bad nature show for the 'Lost' star?
It's tempting to look at BBC America's "Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan" and compare his new creepy, crawly adversaries to creatures that Dominic Monaghan has battled in scripted projects like "Lost" and "Lord of the Rings" and "X Men Origins: Wolverine."
That would be an inappropriate comparison.
Yes, "Wild Things" finds Monaghan face-to-face with reticulated pythons, ultra-poisonous spiders, venom-spewing beetles and, nastiest of all, terrestrial leaches. And yes, some viewers would, if they found themselves in Monaghan's shoes, be using those shoes to squish more than a few of his new co-stars.
But for Monaghan, these creatures and critters aren't objects of fear and disgust. They're subject to respect and admiration and, assuming nothing strangles him or nothing poisonous bites him, each of the wild things opens a pathway for education. 
I sat down with Monaghan at the Television Critics Association press tour a couple weeks back to talk about "Wild Things," which is part nature documentary, part extreme travelogue and part exploration into the fascinations and passions of one actor-and-enthusiast. 
It's an in-depth interview about one of the pleasant TV surprises of the spring. Click through for the full conversation... 

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<p>Tim &nbsp;McGraw's 'Two Lanes of Freedom'</p>

Tim  McGraw's 'Two Lanes of Freedom'

Credit: Big Machine Records

Review: Tim McGraw is in the driver’s seat on 'Two Lanes of Freedom'

Taylor Swift and Keith Urban are along for the ride on new album

Tim McGraw started having hits with his second album in 1994, but he didn’t really get interesting until he ditched the hokiness of songs like  “Indian Outlaw” and  the treacly “Don’t Take The Girl” and started addressing life’s larger themes on 1999’s “A Place In The Sun.”

With songs like the yearning “Please Remember Me” and the wistful “My Next Thirty Years,”  he started getting stronger material. By the time 2001’s “Set This Circus Down” came out, with such tracks as  “Angry All The Time,” and the next album’s “Red Ragtop,”  he had completely re-energized his career and given it a gravitas it has been missing.

On “Two Lanes of Freedom,” out today,  the lite McGraw is largely in charge. On songs like last summer’s throwaway “Truck Yeah” and the infinitely better and bouncier “Mexicoma,” the only goal is  good time, whether it’s in an effort to escape a past love or just get some mud on the flaps.

Maybe he’s feeling lighter because he’s finally been unshackled from his onerous contract with Curb Records and is now on Big Machine.
To be sure, there are hints of deeper meaning, such as on the poignant “The Book of John.” The cleverly-titled song details going through a father/husband’s photo albums and effects following his death as they head to his funeral. “It’s almost like he’s not really gone/and I know one day I’ll be passing on,” McGraw sings. As he’s moved into middle age, McGraw does death well.

Without McGraw’s own backstory, a song like “Number 37405” would just be another singer-turned-convict tale, but the story of the entertainer who goes to jail for killing someone while driving drunk has an added weight given that McGraw gave up drinking more than five years ago after he found it had too strong a hold on him.

The album, which is sure to be his 12th album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, begins and ends with the open road and the word “shotgun” here is reserved solely for the passenger front seat.  On album opener “Two Lanes of Freedom,” a sense of wide open spaces is bolstered by the big backing vocals, redolent of fun.’s “Some Nights.” Closing tune, midtempo “Highway Don’t Care” is a sure future No. 1 as McGraw duets with Taylor Swift, who sounds sweet and all grown up here,  on the tale of a man who just wants his lover to stay closer to home no matter how much the road calls. Keith Urban turns some tasty guitar work on the tune. Unlike some superstar projects (like McGraw’s duet with Kenny Chesney, “Rock Star), this combined effort seems more organic than an idea conceived in the VP of marketing’s office.

With McGraw feeling like he’s back in the driver’s seat, good things are sure to come. “Two Lanes” is a strong start, but it feels like only the tip of the iceberg, especially when fans know McGraw is capable of so much more range.

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<p>Howard Berger applies makeup to &quot;Hitchcock&quot;&nbsp;star Anthony&nbsp;Hopkins.</p>

Howard Berger applies makeup to "Hitchcock" star Anthony Hopkins.

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Tech Support: Makeup artist Howard Berger on fleshing out 'Hitchcock'

The previous winner could claim his second Oscar this year

The ever-adventurous Makeup and Hairstyling branch once again showed independence in its choice of nominees this year. While many people assumed transforming Daniel Day-Lewis into Abraham Lincoln would yield a nod for “Lincoln,” it was turning Anthony Hopkins into Alfred Hitchcock that tickled the branch’s fancy as Sacha Gervasi’s film managed to score its sole nomination in the category.

Howard Berger, Oscar winner for “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” shares this nomination with co-special makeup effects artist Peter Montagna and hair stylist Martin Samuel. But a little over a year ago, in November 2011, he was getting ready to wrap up shooting of “Oz: The Great and Powerful” when Gervasi called him to say the project had been given the green light.

Convincing the audience that Anthony Hopkins was Alfred Hitchcock was always going to be a daunting task. “We had a very little amount of time and money but I wanted to take that time and money and use it towards testing,” Berger says. “We were able to get six different makeup tests to see what was and was not going to work on Tony.”

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<p>Best Actress winner Andrea Riseborough at last night's Evening Standard Film Awards.</p>

Best Actress winner Andrea Riseborough at last night's Evening Standard Film Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

'Skyfall' comes out on top at Evening Standard Awards

Bond takes his biggest win of the season, but indies rule elsewhere

Determined as they are by a small jury of London print critics, the Evening Standard British Film Awards -- which are limited to British cinema, as well as British artists in international films -- tend to occupy the independent end of the spectrum. Recent winners of their Best Film award include such small-scale critical favorites as "We Need to Talk About Kevin," "Neds," "Fish Tank," "Hunger" and "Control."

So it represents a significant deviation from the norm that the winner of the top prize last night was a blockbuster franchise entry that has become the highest-grossing film in UK box office history. But "Skyfall" has itself been something of an anomaly in the way it has curried critical and audience favor to an extent that the James Bond series has never previously managed in 50 years of trying. I had thought that BAFTA would be keen to recognize the achievement of Sam Mendes's slick, savvy spy game, but they somehow resisted nominating it for Best Film; instead, it fell to a generally highbrow critics' award to give 007 the first Best Film win of his long career.

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<p>&quot;The Pirates!&nbsp;Band of Misfits&quot;</p>

"The Pirates! Band of Misfits"

Credit: Sony Pictures

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Animated Feature Film

'Brave,' 'Frankenweenie,' 'ParaNorman,' 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits' and 'Wreck-It Ralph' slug it out

(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film.  A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)

This year's race for Best Animated Feature Film was as competitive as it's ever been. There were a boatload of qualifying contenders (21) and many of them had an angle on a nomination. And after last year's one-two punch from GKIDS, many wondered whether the usual studio product would be laced with indie players, or whether an atypically quality slate of Hollywood toons would dominate the list.

As it turned out, it was the latter, as none of the four GKIDS hopefuls this year found room. But while studios were out in force in the category, one in particularly was tellingly left out of the conversation: DreamWorks Animation's "Rise of the Guardians" failed to land a nod after turning out to be a critical and financial disappointment. It was instead replaced by a surprise nominee from a highly respected animation studio.

The nominees are…

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<p>Katharine McPhee in &quot;Smash.&quot;</p>

Katharine McPhee in "Smash."

Credit: NBC

Review: NBC's 'Smash' continues to stumble in season 2

Many small fixes have been made, but the bigger problems remain the same
Julia Houston, the playwright heroine of NBC’s “Smash” — and also the fictional stand-in for the show’s ousted creator, Theresa Rebeck — declares early in the musical drama’s new season (it returns tonight at 9 with back-to-back episodes) that she doesn’t like to read reviews of her work.
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<p>&quot;Django Unchained&quot;</p>

"Django Unchained"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Roundup: Have the Oscars reconnected with America?

Also: The sequels we need to see, and why Jessica Chastain is exhausted

The great Frank Rich has weighed in on the Oscar race with what is sure to remain one of the best pieces of the season, in which he celebrates what he sees as the Academy's return to relevance: "Whatever the explanation—and little in show business happens by design—the movie industry has reconnected with the country. It has produced no fewer than four movies that have provoked animated, often rancorous public debate: 'Zero Dark Thirty,' 'Argo,' 'Lincoln,' and 'Django Unchained,' a film that pushes so many hot buttons you can’t quite believe it was made." He goes on to make the case for why "Django" deserves the Best Picture award, and even if you disagree -- I certainly do -- it's an essential, exuberant read. [New York]

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<p>Robin Sparkles (Cobie Smulders) turns into Robin Daggers on &quot;How I&nbsp;Met Your Mother.&quot;</p>

Robin Sparkles (Cobie Smulders) turns into Robin Daggers on "How I Met Your Mother."

Credit: CBS

Review: 'How I Met Your Mother' - 'P.S. I Love You'

Paul Shaffer, Jason Priestley and friends highlight another trip to Canada

A review of last night's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I'm subject to a 50-meter restraining order...

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