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<p>Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller are heartbreaking in the wonderful new film 'The Spectacular Now'</p>

Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller are heartbreaking in the wonderful new film 'The Spectacular Now'

Credit: A24 Distribution

Review: Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley do exquisite work in heartfelt Sundance hit &#x27;Spectacular Now&#x27;

The new film from the director of &#x27;Smashed&#x27; is gorgeous and sincere

PARK CITY - One of the benefits of staying longer than the opening weekend of the Sundance Film Festival is that you can catch up with films towards the end of the festival that have picked up buzz over the previous days.  As soon as "The Spectacular Now" made its public premiere, it became a priority for me to see during the festival, and it more than lived up to the early word.  Written by the same writers as "(500) Days Of Summer" and directed by the filmmaker behind last year's "Smashed," I think "The Spectacular Now" is better than either of those films, and it delivers a strong emotional punch in a smart overall package.

Based on a novel by Tim Tharp, "The Spectacular Now" tells the story of Sutter Keely, played here by Miles Teller, who is coasting through his high school career on a cloud of innate charm and alcohol fumes.  He is the life of the party, and that's the problem.  Constantly drunk, he seems to believe that there is no reason to think about the future at all.  He is all about the moment, all about the sensation.  As the film begins, his long-time girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) has reached the breaking point, and she can't do it anymore.  She knows how charming he is, but she also knows that he's dragging her down, and she wants more.  There is a strong tie between the two of them, and as much as it pains her, she can't continue to let him dictate the way they both seem to be failing.  Once Sutter finds himself on his own, he is rudderless, and he spends a lot of energy trying to convince himself that none of it matters, that it's okay that she left him.  His mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has a hard time really communicating with him, and the unspoken space between them has to do with Sutter's long-absent father.  His older sister (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is out of the house, married, and she married into money, doing her best to leave behind her upbringing.

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<p>Tomahawk's &quot;Oddfellows&quot;</p>

Tomahawk's "Oddfellows"

Credit: Ipecac Recordings

Review: Tomahawk's 'Oddfellows,' the rock band's first album in five years

Defining what's so 'odd'

After years and years as a rock chameleon -- in Fantômas, Mr. Bungle, Faith No More and Tomahawk -- Mike Patton, again, proves himself a master of mic technique on the latter's first album in five years, "Oddfellows." All at once wily, sensual, bonkers and practiced, that voice demands an equally versatile backing and a collaborative spirit to keep Tomahawk fans guessing.

Here, Patton grinds down "Oddfellows'" 13 songs with other members of Fantômas and Mr. Bungle, the Jesus Lizard's axeman Duane Denison and Battles drummer John Stanier. The result is a collection worthy of repeat listens, thought it's not always the most cohesive experience. It's right for a big speaker sound, in its happy accidents and tasteful, complicated back-and-forths between Patton and Denison's mini melody battles. The macho torrent that is "Waratorium" is countered by the perverse slink of "Baby Let's Play ______." The Nick Cave-ison lip curls of "A Thousand Eyes" burrow into an anything-goes genre mash on “Rise Up Dirty Waters,” like a heavy rock variety show fit for warm, red lights.

“Stone Letter” and “South Paw” are Tomahawk at its most conventional and – in no coincidence – the most dated-sounding songs on the set, drilling in the ‘90s hard rock rhythms ad nauseum. And ominous church bells aren't enough to save “I Can Almost See Them,” which goes nowhere.

Still, there's a lot to listen to on "Oddfellows," even when that band churns out only two minutes of punk and prog-opera sounds (see: "Typhoon"). The guitar sounds are particularly challenging and excellent, breeding as much poetry as Patton spits, like everyone's getting squeezed to death starting at the diaphragm in the best possible way.

You can hear all of "Oddfellows" streaming via Spin.

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<p>My Morning Jacket</p>

My Morning Jacket

Credit: AP Photo/Vince Bucci

Listen: My Morning Jacket and Brandi Carlile pay homage to John Denver

Train, Dave Matthews and Lucinda Williams also on tribute album

On April 2, ATO will release “The Music Is You: A Tribute To John Denver.”

Dave Matthews, My Morning Jacket, Train, Brandi Carlile, Emmylou Harris, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Josh Ritter are among the artists paying homage to the folky musician, who died in 1997 in a plane accident.

[More after the jump...]

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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 167: 'The Americans,' 'House of Cards,' '30 Rock' & more

Dan and Alan also review 'Do No Harm' and the 'Parenthood' and 'Fringe' finales


Happy Monday, boys and girls! Dan is back from Sundance, which means it's time for our first Firewall & Iceberg Podcast in a while, a packed episode featuring discussion of shows new ("The Americans," "House of Cards," "Do No Harm") and old (the legacy of "30 Rock," the finales of "Fringe" and "Parenthood"), plus some other miscellany (Dan's thoughts on the films he saw at Sundance, and our reaction to the end of last week's "The Office"). The lineup: 

Sundance (00:00:50 - 00:4:30)
"The Americans" (00:04:40 - 00:15:55)
"Do No Harm" (00:15:55 - 00:29:20)
"House of Cards" (00:29:25 - 00:51:30)
"30 Rock" Pre-Finale Retrospective (00:51:35 - 01:10:25)
"Fringe" Finale (01:10:50 - 01:21:20)
"Parenthood" Finale" (01:21:25 - 01:35:25)
"The Office" (01:35:30 - 01:41:50)
As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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<p>Frank Ocean</p>

Frank Ocean

Grammy Awards 2013: Handicapping the Best New Artist race

Frank Ocean and fun. lead a strong field

The 55th Annual Grammy Awards are Feb. 10 and this year there will be some hotly contested races. Unlike last year when Adele was the presumptive (and actual) winner in many categories, there are few clear frontrunners.

As we lead up to the ceremony, we’ll take a different category every day and evaluate the nominees. Today, we look at Best New Artist.

Best New Artist nominees:

Alabama Shakes
Hunter Hayes
The Lumineers
Frank Ocean

WHO’S MISSING: First off, let’s look at who’s not here: While the field is strong, leaving out One Direction seems like a major oversight. Though she hasn’t had the same success here as she has in the U.K., Emeli Sande was also a strong contender and while she’s looking a little like a one-hit wonder right now, Carly Rae Jepsen had the pop culture hit of the year with “Call Me Maybe.”

THE PLAYERS: Instead, based on Alabama Shakes and The Lumineers, it’s clear the Grammy voters leaned toward authentic, roots-oriented rock. Both groups are known for their rambunctious, free-flowing live shows and reliance on acoustic instruments as much as for their radio hits: The Shakes with “Hold On,” and the Lumineers with the seemingly omnipresent “Ho Hey.” Both look like solid bets for artists who will have good, long careers regardless of radio support.

Neither fun. nor Frank Ocean are roots-oriented, but they represent a new standard bearer for the Grammys: Fun.’s brand of pop is commercial and wildly successful, but is also well-crafted, intelligent, well-sung and well-played. R&B artist Ocean, whose “Channel Orange” topped many best-of lists for 2012 (including mine) was a fresh voice that arrived fully formed.  

Hunter Hayes may be unknown outside of his country base, but he’s a budding star within the format and Nashville’s collective voting power helped seal his nomination over some more likely pop contenders.

This is a race between fun. and Ocean. In addition to best new artist, fun. ran the board: receiving nominations in the other three general categories: record, song and album of the year. Only a handful of artists, such as Norah Jones, Amy Winehouse, and Christopher Cross have ever achieved that feat. Ocean almost scored as well, landing album and record of the year nods (both artists also have nominations in other fields).

It’s almost too close to call this year. If only music critics were voting, Ocean would be the clear winner. Both acts have had great years and show tremendous promise, the question will come down to whether fun’s greater dominance at pop radio will get them more votes. It’s the first year in many that I’ve wished for a tie.

WINNER: Frank Ocean

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 167

Dan and Alan talk 'House of Cards,' 'The Americans' and much more


Happy Monday, Boys & Girls!
After taking last week off, we're back for another installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
We didn't miss any new shows in our absence, but we did miss the series finale of "Fringe" and the season (hopefully not series) finale of "Parenthood." So we talked about those. We also reviewed FX's "The Americans," NBC's "Do No Harm" and the first two episodes of Netflix's "House of Cards." We also pre-eulogize NBC's "30 Rock" on the eve of its series finale. We may check back in on "30 Rock" next week after Thursday's finale, so if there's anything retrospective you want from us, feel free to ask.
It's a full podcast and next week's podcast also seems likely to be busy!
Today's breakdown:
Sundance (00:00:50 - 00:4:30)
"The Americans" (00:04:40 - 00:15:55)
"Do No Harm" (00:15:55 - 00:29:20)
"House of Cards" (00:29:25 - 00:51:30)
"30 Rock" Pre-Finale Retrospective (00:51:35 - 01:10:25)
"Fringe" Finale (01:10:50 - 01:21:20)
"Parenthood" Finale" (01:21:25 - 01:35:25)
"The Office" (01:35:30 - 01:41:50)


As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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Watch: Grizzly Bear's 'gun-shy' video is a minor medical drama

Watch: Grizzly Bear's 'gun-shy' video is a minor medical drama

Latest clip to arrive from 'Shields'

File under "Do Not Try This At Home." Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear work their way through various minor medical experiments, with their hair, skin, bllod, tears, sweat and nails in the latest video to arrive from their album "Shields."

"gun-shy" was directed by Kris Moyes, who helmed that Sia video you really, really liked, for "Buttons." I like his use of stop motion here, like a series of coordinated animated gifs, to a beat. The theme of renewel is there too, if you can shake the heeby-jeebies of acupunture and skin-shaving.

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<p>Justin Bieber</p>

Justin Bieber

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Justin Bieber's heart breaks over Selena Gomez in new song 'Nothing Like Us'

Piano track leads 'Believe Acoustic' album

Justin Bieber spills pieces of his broken heart in his new song, “Nothing Like Us.”

The piano ballad, featured on “Believe Acoustic,”  is an anguished tale of his break-up with Selena Gomez.

The spare track, which premiered today, features a subdued Bieber plaintively telling Gomez,  “I wish I could give you what you deserve because nothing can ever, ever replace you... you know there’s no one I can relate to/you know we won’t find a love that’s so true.”

He later sings, “I gave you everything/everything I had to give/Girl, why would you push me away?” It’s a raw, simple song delivered at points in a near whisper by Bieber as he goes through the five stages of grief over their parting.

While Bieber seems to blame the break-up on Gomez, asking her “was it worth it,” he finally comes to the acceptance stage, resigned to the fact that they are truly over: “That is the past now/we didn’t last now.”

[More after the jump...]

Bieber told Billboard he wrote the song while staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles. “They have a piano in the room. I sat down and it was something that came out and I recorded it on my iPhone. Then I went to the studio and I really recorded it and sang it better.”

He added “I want people to hear what’s coming from my heart, and this is definitely the most that I’ve been sharing what I’m actually feeling.”

While the song doesn’t have the bite of Justin Timberlake's  “Cry Me A River,” which Gomez performed at a Unicef benefit on Jan. 19, it does have the authentic ring of a young man dealing with heartache. “Believe Acoustic” comes out Jan. 29 and featues acoustic versions of songs from “Believe,” as well as a few new tracks in addition to “Nothing Like Us.”

Bieber, who has more than 33 million followers on Twitter,  will host and perform on “Saturday Night Live” on Feb. 9.

What do you think of “Nothing Like Us?”


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<p>Paul Giamatti, seen here at the Sundance Film Festival, is in talks to join the cast of 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'</p>

Paul Giamatti, seen here at the Sundance Film Festival, is in talks to join the cast of 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'

Credit: AP Photo/Victoria Will

Paul Giamatti may be The Rhino for 'Amazing Spider-Man' sequel

And Felicity Jones is also preparing to join the cast for part two

Paul Giamatti as The Rhino?

I'll say this for Marc Webb.  He's got one hell of a cast put together for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."  At this point, it seems like actors have all decided that everyone does a superhero movie at some point, so why not pick a side (good or evil) and just have fun with it?

Giamatti is a real-deal genre nerd.  The first time I was introduced to him was on the set of "Shoot 'Em Up," and it was obvious after a half-hour of conversation that this was a guy with a voracious genre appetite.  He's joining a great cast.  Obviously you've got Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Sally Field all returning from the first film, and two of the darlings of this year's Sundance Film Festival are joining the cast, since Shailene Woodley has been added as Mary Jane Watson and Dane DeHaan is going to play Harry Osborne.

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<p>Norah Jones</p>

Norah Jones

Norah Jones to perform Oscar-nominated song during 85th Academy Awards

Grammy winner will sing 'Everybody Needs A Best Friend'

Add Norah Jones to the list of pop singers performing at Feb. 24’s Academy Awards.

Jones will sing “Everybody Needs A Best Friend,” the theme song to “Ted,” the comedy directed by Oscar host Seth MacFarlane. The tune, written by MacFarlane and Walter Murphy, is nominated for best original song, alongside “Before My Time” (“Chasing Ice”), “Pi’s Lullaby” (“Life of Pi”), “Suddenly” (“Les Miserables”)  and “Skyfall” (“Skyfall”)

Adele, who co-wrote and performs “Skyfall” has already been announced as a performer.

Jones recently released “Little Broken Hearts Remix EP,”  a digital EP of seven songs from “Little Broken Hearts” re-envisioned by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, Jose Padilla, and Peter, Bjorn & John.  Jones also put out “Covers,” a 10-song compilation of songs made famous by artists such as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Wilco, reinterpreted by Jones over the first decade of her career. The set is available exclusively at Target.

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<p>Ang Lee on the set of &quot;Life of Pi&quot;</p>

Ang Lee on the set of "Life of Pi"

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Off the Carpet: Ang Lee's position in all of this

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming

I have to say, it was nice to spend a week or so away from the Oscar fray, and for its part, the Oscar fray seemed to be very content with putting things on hold while the Sundance Film Festival did its thing in the mountains of Utah. I guess maybe that's one good thing about this season's scheduling change: room to breathe in January.

But the festival is over and now it's back to our regularly scheduled programming, with the deep dive happening this weekend as the guild awards got going. And the question rises once again: What's going to win Best Picture? Though that would seem to have been answered by the events of the last two days, it's still a question for some.

But I'll leave that for now. Lately I've been curious about the Best Director race. With an "Argo" win would obviously come a split director decision (unless that write-in stuff finds traction). My instinct has been Steven Spielberg, because "Lincoln" is a hell of an accomplishment and even if I'm betting "Argo" will reap the benefits of the preferential ballot system (born out by its victory Saturday), it still makes sense for Spielberg to get some love.

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<p>Josh Charles as Will in &quot;The Good Wife.&quot;</p>

Josh Charles as Will in "The Good Wife."

Credit: CBS

Review: 'The Good Wife' - 'The Seven Day Rule'

Alicia gets an offer, Louis Canning goes after his money and the firm battles Neil Gross again

A quick review of last night's "The Good Wife" coming up just as soon as I insist our children be raised Jewish...

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