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"The Artist" star Bérénice Bejo after winning Best Actress at the César Awards.
"The Artist" star Bérénice Bejo after winning Best Actress at the César Awards.
Credit: AP Photo/Thibault Camus

'The Artist' (what else?) takes top honors at César Awards

A surprise loss for Dujardin, while Polanski triumphs again

Jean Dujardin may be the frontrunner to take the Best Actor Oscar in Hollywood on Sunday, but he had to endure a defeat on his home turf tonight, as the French superstar lost the César Award to the comparatively unheralded Omar Sy, who plays a young man from the projects hired to look after a wealthy quadriplegic in the domestic smash "Untouchable." (The film, incidentally, was crucified by Variety's Jay Weissberg, who describes it as racist claptrap; the Weinsteins have the remake rights.)

I doubt Dujardin is too bothered: clearly, voters for the France's answer to the Academy Awards loved "The Artist" enough that they felt free to throw someone else a bone in one major category. The Oscar frontrunner took six awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius and Best Actress for Bérénice Bejo, questionably nominated in the supporting race across the pond. If I'm keeping score correctly, this is Bejo's first actual trophy of the season -- it's nice for her that it came in the correct category.

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Willem Dafoe at the Los Angeles premiere of "John Carter"
Willem Dafoe at the Los Angeles premiere of "John Carter"
Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

Willem Dafoe and Meryl Streep on the ephemeral nature of movies and ‘Margaret’

The esteemed actors take note of one that just slipped through the cracks

Over the course of a 30-year career that includes work on over 70 films, Willem Dafoe has demonstrated an eclectic range in role selection. A quick glance at his IMDB page illustrates the variance in his cinematic range. The top four “known for” films that the site has pulled out for him are “Spider-Man,” “Finding-Nemo,” “The Boondock Saints” and “The English Patient.”

The upcoming “John Carter” reunited Dafoe with “Finding-Nemo” helmer Andrew Stanton and provided the actor with a fresh opportunity to be “turned on” as an artist: performing in a motion-capture suit on stilts. His character in the film, Tars Tarkas, is a 9-foot-tall alien from Barsoom (Mars). While speaking about his career at the recent Tempe, Arizona press event for the film, Dafoe mused about the somewhat capricious nature of cinema.

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<p>Blink 182 signs autographs for fans on the WARPED&nbsp;tour in the new documentary 'No Room&nbsp;For Rockstars'</p>

Blink 182 signs autographs for fans on the WARPED tour in the new documentary 'No Room For Rockstars'

Credit: Vans Off The Wal

Watch: An exclusive clip from Warped Tour documentary 'No Room For Rockstars'

Blink 182 makes a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance

One thing that's going to be fascinating to watch unfold in the next few years is the ways films are distributed.  We live in an age where the landscape seems to shift daily, and as a result, the people who will be best suited to succeed are the ones who are willing and able to embrace new ways of thinking and who are willing to try new models to deliver movies to people, both theatrically and at home.

On March 1, 2012, next Thursday night, there will be a one-night-only theatrical engagement for the new documentary "No Room For Rockstars," which traces the history of the Vans Warped Tour.  Directed by Parris Patton, the film features many of the bands who were featured on the tour over the years.

In addition to showing the film, the event (you can find out which theaters are participating at the film's official website) will also feature a panel discussion with producer Stacy Peralta, director Patton, and several other people including the band Suicide Silence, conducted live from the Santa Monica Laemmle's Monica 4-plex.  The film played at the 2012 Slamdance Film Festival, and it will also play at next month's SXSW fest in Austin, before arriving on iTunes on April 2 and DVD on May 15.  Festivals, one-night live simulcasts, and then an iTunes release before DVD?  That's certainly not the way I'm used to seeing a film get released, but that's good.  I like that small films can find their own way these days.

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<p>We Are Augustines</p>

We Are Augustines

Credit: HitFix

Interview: We Are Augustines talk new album, late night TV debut tonight

Watch our interview with the Brooklyn band ahead 'Letterman' appearance

Tonight, We Are Augustines are getting a big television introduction. In many ways, the trio has been through a number of those -- introductions and reintroductions, that is.

Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson originally played together in Brooklyn band Pela. One of the group's EPs was released by Brassland, founded by the guys in The National (and, for fans, the similarities between the two bands is quite striking). That business relationship floundered. Then Pela shacked up with Great Society, the shambolic spin-off label of the World's Fair management company founded by Flaming Lips manager Scott Booker. The release of full-length "Anytime Graffiti" was a weirdly soft release, with a leg in 2007 and 2008, and the band ultimately severed ties there, too.

Even having toured and opened for the aforementioned artists, plus those like Sonic Youth and the Decemberists, there was always this feeling that Pela petered on the edge of totally eating it or getting really, really big. Business just never went their way.

Instead, Pela dissolved in 2009, with Sanderson and McCarthy going on to We Are Augustines.

"Over the past 2 years we’ve faced tremendous obstacles. We recorded an album twice, had a falling out/legal battle with our old label, fired 2 managers, had a big record deal fall through," read part of the wrap-up on Pela's site.

The Augustinian transition was even marked with tragedy: McCarthy's brother, who was mentally ill, committed suicide after having spent years in solitary confinement in a California prison. The emotional impact of that, plus the exhausting traditional label system having had its way with the band previously, made for a very new and different band.

In 2011, We Are Augustines released their first album "Rise Ye Sunken Ships," a set that consisted partly of songs McCarthy had written for Pela's second full-length outing. Taking on drummer Rob Allen, the group then released the album themselves through their own Oxcart label, backed by devotees like KEXP's John Richards. "Sunken Ships" was amped by single "Chapel Song," which has just the right amount of poison and sugar, with an impactful music video to match (below).

Last year, the band also toured in the U.K. five or six times, with the help from band fans like the Boxer Rebellion. Like The National did prior to "Boxer," We Are Augustines are enjoying even greater success overseas than they are here in the U.S. For now.

Because it appears that the trio are about ready for another reintroduction.

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<p>Kevin Kline, Joan Allen and Christina Ricci in &quot;The Ice Storm.&quot;</p>

Kevin Kline, Joan Allen and Christina Ricci in "The Ice Storm."

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Oscar's big miss: 'The Ice Storm'

A look at one of the Academy's most glaring snubs

He may actually have a gold statuette on his mantelpiece, and therefore less to complain about than wholly unawarded contemporaries like Todd Haynes and Mike Leigh, but Ang Lee's Oscar history is a curiously spotty and compromised one -- repeatedly following a pattern of apparent goodwill on the industry's part, followed by the Academy unceremoniously pulling the rug from under his feet.

Following two consecutive losses in the Best Foreign Language Film race in the mid-1990s -- one of which, for the popular family-and-food drama "Eat Drink Man Woman," qualified as a semi-surprise -- the Taiwanese native returned the very next year with his English-language debut, "Sense and Sensibility." It was a sufficient critical hit to emerge as a considerable Oscar favorite, landing Lee Best Director wins from the New York Critics' Circle and the National Board of Review, plus his first DGA nod, only for its hopes to be swiftly and surprisingly dashed when the Academy nominated the Jane Austen adaptation for seven Oscars -- none of them for Lee. 

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<p>In &quot;Awake,&quot;&nbsp;Jason Isaacs partners with Wilmer Valderama in one reality and Steve Harris in the other, but occasionally paths cross.</p>

In "Awake," Jason Isaacs partners with Wilmer Valderama in one reality and Steve Harris in the other, but occasionally paths cross.

Credit: NBC

Interview: 'Awake' producers Kyle Killen & Howard Gordon

Can they make the NBC drama about a cop living in two realities work long-term?
We're less than a week away from Thursday night's premiere(*) of NBC's "Awake," which was far and away the best broadcast TV pilot I watched for this season. It conveniently brings together creator Kyle Killen, who was responsible for the best broadcast TV pilot I saw last season in FOX's "Lone Star" (which was canceled after two abysmally-rated episodes), and producer Howard Gordon, who co-created the best new cable show I watched this season in Showtime's "Homeland."
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<p>Andre 3000</p>

Andre 3000

Outkast and At The Drive-In: No new albums in the works

Andrew 3000 and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez are surprisingly candid

I don't want to read another story about how and if an "Arrested Development" movie is going to be made. I'll purposely avoid reports on another, "rumored" Smiths reunion. Some news just needs to be put to bed, and only brought back up if there's something solid to go on.

This is why I appreciate Andre 3000 and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez' recent candor about "new projects" from their respective bands, OutKast and At The Drive-In.

The former told GQ that, contrary to "talk on the Internet," there isn't another record from him and 'mate Big Boi.

"I have to say that as of now, there are no plans for another OutKast album," he said, adding that he is plotting another solo album and has been concentrating on collaborations (like those with Beyonce on "Party" and with Damon Albarn and James Murphy on "DoYaThing).

"There's a lot of music on the horizon. I've been living off the excitement of new artists. I've been privileged to have these new artists kind of reach out and grab back and say, 'Hey, Andre, we want you on this song'," he said. "So these new artists have kind of been keeping me alive. I've just really been feeding off of that and this year I think I'm planning to do a solo project. I don't know when it will come out, but hopefully it'll come out this year .As far as OutKast, I really don't know if or when that will happen.

Rodriguez-Lopez is busy promoting The Mars Volta's next album "Nocturniquet," but also the reformation of ATDI for the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and for Spain's Benicassim Festival. He told Karrang! magazine* that getting back together with ATDI was strictly for nostalgia ($$$), and that the group wasn't going to pursue making new material.

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<p>Best Actor rivals Jean Dujardin and George Clooney at the Oscar nominees' luncheon earlier this month.</p>

Best Actor rivals Jean Dujardin and George Clooney at the Oscar nominees' luncheon earlier this month.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Punching out: Final Oscar predictions

The top races may be a done deal, but plenty of question marks remain

Not to get all Donald Rumsfeld about it, but considering how many pundits are approaching Sunday's ceremony with an air of blasé resignation, there are still an awful lot of known unknowns in this year's Academy Awards race -- more, I'd venture, than there usually are at this eleventh-hour stage in the game. A presumed weight of predictability has held down the nomination list for several weeks now, dulling speculation and analysis... yet when you actually sit down to cast final predictions in all 24 categories for whatever pool you're playing in, you find yourself pausing, or even stalling, for thought far more often than you thought you might.

Of course, the blind spots in this year's race aren't where most observers would like them to be. Yes, Best Picture for "The Artist" is a done deal, and honestly, has been so for the better part of the season -- to such a degree that even picking an alternative for my final predictions list proved as difficult as it is surely futile. When the runners-up in a marathon aren't even visible from the winners' position, it can be hard to distinguish between them.

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<p>&nbsp;Sacha Baron Cohen as 'The Dictator'</p>

 Sacha Baron Cohen as 'The Dictator'

Sacha Baron Cohen responds to Oscar ban as 'The Dictator'

Says Hilary Swank won't give a refund as his date

Please rise. The not-so-honorable Admiral General Aladeen has a message for the Oscars.

Controversy-magnet Sacha Baron Cohen couldn't ask for a better chance to promote his new film "The Dictator," in which he plays the Middle Eastern tyrant Aladeen, dictator of the fictional Republic of Wadiya. When the Academy Awards so rudely revoked Cohen's ticket to the Oscars, the British comedian took to the interwebs to issue this statement, in-character.



As he did with Ali G, Borat, and Bruno, Cohen is taking the method approach to his Aladeen character, and the dictator's controversial political views, which may have scared off the Academy in the first place, are in full view in the funny clip above. 

In the video, Aladeen refers to the Acad as the "Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Zionists," complains about the organization's failure to recognize such Wadiya-submitted films as "When Harry Kidnapped Sally" and "Planet of the Rapes," and hilariously reveals that he's friendly with director Brett Ratner (another Hollywood player shut out of this year's Oscars for using his big mouth). Aladeen also makes reference to Hilary Swank's recent political gaffe in attending the 2011 birthday party for Chechen president Razman Kadryov (accused of multiple human rights violations). Cohen's dictator claims he paid the Oscar-winning actress $2 million to be his date at Sunday's ceremony, and now she won't refund his money.

Oscar Host Billy Crystal also gets a shout out, and it will be interesting to see how he responds in his monologue. 

"The Dictator," also starring Kevin Corrigan, J.B. Smoove, Megan Fox, Ben Kingsley, Anna Faris and John C. Reilly, opens May 11.

The Oscars air live on ABC this Sunday at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT.

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<p>Could John&nbsp;Williams be an Oscar spoiler on&nbsp;Sunday?</p>

Could John Williams be an Oscar spoiler on Sunday?

Credit: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

John Williams wins five awards from International Film Music critics

'The Rum Diary,' 'Super 8' and 'Drive' also honored

The International Film Music Critics Association has offered up the final precursor awards announcement of the season as we head into the weekend, which will bring the Independent Spirit Awards and, finally, the Oscars.

John Williams had a great day, it turns out. The famed composer netted seven nominations two weeks ago and won in five of those categories, proving, in case you didn't know, that film music critics really like John WIlliams.

His work on Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" earned awards for Film Score of the Year, Best Original Score for a Drama Film and Film Music Composition of the Year for the track "The Homecoming," while "The Adventures of Tintin" won in the animated field. And just for good measure, Williams grabbed the Film Composer of the Year honor, too.

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"Doomsday Preppers"

 "Doomsday Preppers"

Credit: NatGeo

Watch: 'Doomsday Preppers' bring on the cray-cray with tomahawks

There's nothing wrong with being prepared, but is this too far?

I get it. The world is going to hell in a hand basket, and it's not beyond the scope of reason to be prepared for hungry marauders to come banging on your door, demanding what you've got. If you've seen the traffic on the 405, that day may be coming soon, like next weekend. But it's still a little unsettling to watch "Doomsday Preppers" (premiering Tues. Feb. 28 at 9 p.m. on Nat Geo) as some people prepare for the worst by, say, teaching their kids how to toss a tomahawk into someone's skull. Buying some canned goods, fine, but this seems a bit much, really. Still, I wouldn't mind picking up a few tips from prepper Michael Patrick Douglas, as a bird call-based alarm system seems very eco-friendly and almost peaceful, except for the running to get your tomahawks part. Watch Douglas in action below. 

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<p>&nbsp;Carrie Underwood</p>

 Carrie Underwood

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Carrie Underwood has a few words of warning on 'Good Girl'

Former 'American Idol' champ belts it out on new single

The sassy Carrie Underwood is back. We last heard her lamenting faded love with Brad Paisley on their duet, “Remind Me,” but here she is taking no prisoners.

On “Good Girl,” the first single from her forthcoming untitled fourth studio album out May 1, hand claps and a rock guitar usher in Underwood’s warning to a girl that the man she thinks is a catch is a cad. It’s a fun, uptempo song that’s full of shimmies and shudders: “Better back away honey, you don’t know where he’s been,” she cautions. Heartbreak looms, even if the pretty young thing can’t see it.

[More after the jump...]

 

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