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Exclusive: 2012 Fantastic Fest debates to feature blogger, twins and a 'Miami Connection'

Exclusive: 2012 Fantastic Fest debates to feature blogger, twins and a 'Miami Connection'

Joe Swanberg puts his game face on

AUSTIN -- It's only right that Fantastic Fest's signature event is the potent combination of intellectual discourse, visual culture and blood sport. The Fantastic Fest Debates have become more prominent with each passing year and according to Carrie Matherly, Assistant Director of Fantastic Fest, 2012's crop of showdowns will be no exception.

The premise remains the same: two combatants debate on a topic, and then fight -- or "fight" -- in a boxing ring. This year's crop of four debates includes a couple new twists, in that martial arts will replace boxing in some cases, and the opening fight will feature a woman-on-woman scuffle.

As for the latter, they're siblings -- twins, actually. And both are martial arts experts. And co-directors. And they'll be dressed as Kitana and Mileena from "Mortal Kombat."

Jen and Sylvia Soska, the directors of Fest U.S. premiering "American Mary," will literally kick things off on Saturday at the Debates, on the topic of remakes. "They had a hard time coming up with a topic, because they agree on almost everything," Matherly conceded.

Is Exploding Pants Syndrome a thing?

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<p>Elijah Wood in &quot;Wilfred.&quot;</p>

Elijah Wood in "Wilfred."

Credit: FX

Season finale review: 'Wilfred' - 'Secrets'

An old picture causes major complications at Jenna and Ryan's wedding

A review of the "Wilfred" season finale coming up just as soon as I hear you with a French accent...

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Heather Morris on 'Glee'

Why can't Heather Morris have a major story on every episode of 'Glee'?

Credit: Fox

'Glee' recap: 'Britney 2.0' lets Heather Morris shine

Remember when 'Glee' was funny? Let's get back to that

Now, that was better. After last week's lackluster introduction to the multiple new characters on "Glee," it's a relief to get a second episode more focused on old favorites.

The newbies were all still around (even Marley's lunch lady mom had an encore), but "Britney 2.0" worked better as a showcase for Heather Morris, a reminder the writers really should be using Chord Overstreet more, and a tiny glimpse of what might have been if Kurt and Rachel actually got that New York spinoff. Plus, we saw a real Puckerman back in action.

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<p>John McCain and Amy Poehler goofing around between takes on the &quot;Parks and Recreation&quot; season premiere.</p>

John McCain and Amy Poehler goofing around between takes on the "Parks and Recreation" season premiere.

Credit: NBC

Season premiere review: 'Parks and Recreation' - 'Ms. Knope Goes to Washington'

A trip to our nation's capital proves unexpectedly disappointing for Leslie, but fun for us

"Parks and Recreation" is back for a new season, and I have a review of the premiere coming up just as soon as I'm mistaken for Beverly D'Angelo by a Japanese tourist...

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<p>Rainn Wilson and Clark Duke in &quot;The Office&quot;&nbsp;season premiere.</p>

Rainn Wilson and Clark Duke in "The Office" season premiere.

Credit: NBC

Season premiere review: 'The Office' - 'New Guys'

Dunder Mifflin says some hellos and goodbyes as the final season begins

"The Office" has begun its final season, and I have a review of the premiere coming up just as soon as I take a course at the Weintraub Memory Academy...

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"Project Runway"

 "Project Runway"

Credit: Lifetime

'Project Runway' recap: 'I Get a Kick Out of Fashion'

The designers must create a costume for the Rockettes

Judging from last week's promo, the theme for this week is the word "bitch." It's like "Sesame Street," but a little naughty! Oh, and there will be Rockettes. I can't get too excited about a challenge focused on dressing Rockettes, because that seems to have as much to do with sophisticated fashion as drag or NASCAR.

Anyway, given that Ven is still in the competition, "bitch" is probably the nicest word I can come up with for a theme this week. Weren't you more than a little disappointed he didn't get booted out last week? I'm fairly certain that his crappy attitude has cemented his place in the final three, however, as he gives us all a reason to watch simply to root against him. I hate the idea that "Project Runway" is becoming so conditioned in these ratings-grabbing ways. Remember when it used to be about talent? But let's get to the show. I'm going to try live blogging this week, so bear with me!

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<p>Fantastic Fest is a face-meltingly good time: my personal favorite as a 100 Best Kills contender (&quot;Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark&quot;)</p>

Fantastic Fest is a face-meltingly good time: my personal favorite as a 100 Best Kills contender ("Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark")

Fantastic Fest: 5 Great Events That Aren't Movies

Haunted houses, the boxing ring debates and fantastical sex

The undead in slow-motion; gore-stained flesh; firearmed robots; foreign language throw-downs; webby animated fictions; and a documentary about penises. I'm not saying Fantastic Fest attendees can get sick of such things. I'm saying there's something more in case you want it.

Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League and his team have locked down a schedule of genre-driven extra-curriculars from seasonally appropriate hauntings to the famed Debates to having sex with air in a public formum.

And this year, I'm not only soaking in Fantatstic Fest for the first time, but attending the fest for the first time as a newly transplanted Austinite. The upshot to this is that my comfort zone isn't challenged to heartily: the various events essentially take place in the same block at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and League's own Highball lounge and bar, the epicenter of post-film playtime in Austin.

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<p>Kalvin McManigle of &quot;The X Factor&quot;</p>

Kalvin McManigle of "The X Factor"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' Thursday - Auditions #4

Yup. More 'X Factor' auditions with Simon, Britney, Demi and L.A.

After Wednesday's 5-ish hours of recapping and live-blogging, it's almost a relief to only have one hour of "The X Factor" looming in front of me tonight.

So with that burgeoning excitement...


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<p>Daniel&nbsp;Day-Lewis in &quot;Lincoln&quot;</p>

Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln"

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Steven Spielberg to close AFI Fest for a second year in a row with the premiere of 'Lincoln'

Gala screening will take place on November 8

Well, I pretty much nailed this likelihood in a tweet on Tuesday. With very little left to choose from in the way of North American premieres, what with NYFF really diving in big this year on that front and Telluride and Toronto taking their fair share as usual, it seemed like Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" would be a good fit for AFI Fest. And so it shall be. The November festival always has one or two premieres every year, and last year, one of them was a Spielberg film -- "The Adventures of Tintin" (which closed the fest while Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" opened it). He'll be back for more in 2012.

”Steven Spielberg is an American master, enriching the cultural legacy of our nation with each new film in his extraordinary career,” AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale said via press release. ”We are honored he has chosen AFI FEST for the World Premiere of 'Lincoln,' an historic cinematic event in itself as it brings the most dramatic American history to life for new generations.”

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Justin Timberlake

 Justin Timberlake

Credit: HitFix

Justin Timberlake talks about turning blue for 'Trouble with the Curve'

Co-star Amy Adams was the one who said 'we need to cut'

For "Saturday Night Live" fans, Justin Timberlake's finest comedic moments may have come in that Emmy-winning video in which he bears a very, um, special gift tied with a bow ("Dick in a Box"). But for those who are more interested in seeing his subtle side, "Trouble with the Curve" features Timberlake as Johnny "The Flame" Flanagan, a former big league pitcher who fantasizes about becoming a sports announcer. He's also paired up with two major league talents -- three-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams as buttoned-up lawyer Mickey, and Clint Eastwood's aging, cranky baseball scout Gus. Still, despite Timberlake's credentials, the job didn't come easy -- and even once he got it, it almost gave him pneumonia. 

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In Contention formally acquired by HitFix

In Contention formally acquired by HitFix

A year into the relationship, we put a ring on it

There is no press release planned for this news but I wanted to pass it along to our readership in any case. After seven years of owning and operating In Contention, first as a blogspot thingamajig, then guiding the .com forward as (I think) one of the preeminent awards season outlets in the space, I'm happy to announce that our little company has been formally acquired by HitFix.

The final signatures were committed to paper just after Telluride, which is serendipitous as at last year's fest, just before the premiere of "Albert Nobbs," Greg Ellwood first bent my ear and told me his ideas. Then, three swift weeks later -- a year ago today, in fact -- we officially hitched our wagon to HitFix.

These last 12 months have been kind of a trial run, if you will. And it's been a wonderful experience, a great partnership and a solid foundation on which to build a more permanent and organic relationship. Handing over something you've built from the ground up is a scary thing, but I can't think of a better, more fiercely competitive and consistently growing outlet to have bought In Contention.

And no, nothing's changing. I'm not going anywhere. Guy's not going anywhere. Gerard's not going anywhere. If anything, the coverage will get more angles. Greg Ellwood's material will be folded in here (as you've seen) and some of the other members of the HitFix team may have things to offer, hands to lend as the season really heats up.

So with that, I'm looking forward to moving ahead as HitFix's Editor-at-Large, overseeing the awards coverage of the site and continuing to be dominant in the face of a game that wasn't much more than a few amateur outlets when I first started doing it 11 years ago.

Wow. 11 years. Time flies.

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<p>The official cover art for Michael Jackson's &quot;Bad 25.&quot;</p>

The official cover art for Michael Jackson's "Bad 25."

Credit: Sony Legacy

Revisiting Michael Jackson's 'Bad' 25 years later

How has the post-'Thriller' album held up?

This week, to celebrate the silver anniversary of Michael Jackson’s now classic “Bad” album,  Epic/Legacy released a deluxe 3 CD/1 DVD version of the set Tuesday.

For those old enough to remember, the set was MJ’s seventh studio album and his follow-up to “Thriller.” Tales run rife of Jackson putting up notes with “100 Million” on them all over the studio to remind him of his sales if he weren’t under enough pressure.

[More after the jump...]

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