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<p>A scene from &quot;Hell and Back Again&quot;</p>

A scene from "Hell and Back Again"

Credit: New Video

Oscar Guide 2011: Best Documentary Feature

'Hell and Back Again,' 'If a Tree Falls,' 'Paradise Lost 3,' 'Pina' and 'Undefeated' square off

(The Oscar Guide will be 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 26, with the Best Picture finale on Saturday, February 25.)

I have no idea what's going to win the Best Documentary Feature category. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I might as well get that out of the way right at the top. And I've even seen each film twice. It's a rare year that sees such solid arguments in favor of each and every nominee of the bunch. That's not to say that, personally speaking, each nominee is award-worthy, but I could just see the Academy's doc voters falling for any of them.

It was a typical year where the narrow-down process was concerned. Controversy indeed met the list of finalists that dropped in November, which snubbed critics' favorites "Senna" and "The Interrupters" (the latest smack in the face of filmmaker Steve James), while yet another Werner Herzog entry was ignored completely. Nevertheless, there is a wide cross-section of issues represented here, and that's never a bad thing.

The nominees are…

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<p>A stunning shot from &quot;Undefeated&quot;</p>

A stunning shot from "Undefeated"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'Undefeated' demands a recount on the shots

Oscar-nominated football doc features one of the year's most arresting images

Well. This is a first.

Every year when I wrap up the annual shots column, there are inevitably a few images that linger into my mind and make me wish I had considered them a little more, or make me wish they hadn't hidden from my memory until it was too late. But never has such a shot hit me so hard that I could legitimately say it might have been my top choice.

Yesterday I sat down to watch the documentary "Undefeated" again in preparation for today's Oscar Guide on the doc feature category. I've actually revisited each nominee because, it's such a close race, I felt I needed to dig through each one a second time. In any case, an image in the film's final moments stood up and shouted out to me, demanding retribution.

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<p>New &quot;CSI&quot;&nbsp;cast member Elisabeth Shue.</p>

New "CSI" cast member Elisabeth Shue.

Credit: CBS

The Morning Round-Up (Cop Show Edition): 'CSI' & 'Southland'

Elisabeth Shue joins 'CSI,' while Officer Cooper celebrates a milestone

Morning Round-Up, part 2, with brief thoughts on last night's "CSI" and Tuesday night's "Southland" (which I just watched), coming up just as soon as you squeeze my hand...

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<p>A shirtless James Wolk and Eliza Coupe in &quot;Happy Endings.&quot;</p>

A shirtless James Wolk and Eliza Coupe in "Happy Endings."

Credit: ABC

The Morning Round-Up (Sitcom Edition): 'Suburgatory' & 'Happy Endings'

Both ABC comedies show off their weaker sides

Just to try something slightly different, I'm splitting the morning round-up into a couple of posts today by genre: a couple of cop dramas in a bit, and quick reviews of "Suburgatory" and "Happy Endings" coming up just as soon as I call for an across-the-board chillaxing while wearing an indoor scarf...

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<p>A scene from &quot;Rango,&quot; the all-but-assured winner of this year's Best Animated Feature Oscar.</p>

A scene from "Rango," the all-but-assured winner of this year's Best Animated Feature Oscar.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Round-up: Time to erase the animation Oscar?

Also: Brett Ratner's act of apology, and Streep's 2013 Oscar bid

Most agree that this year's Best Animated Feature category is a little lacking: ahead of two bland if technically strong DreamWorks kidpics and two interesting but sketchy Euro-curios, "Rango" will and should cruise to victory. But it's not just this that leads Mark Harris to believe Oscar's youngest category (only a decade old) should be scrapped: for him, now that the expanded Best Picture category has proven itself animation-friendly, a specialized award is now superfluous. (Admittedly, we have yet to see if the adjusted 5-to-10 field can hatch an animated nominee.) I tend to agree with him, not least because even in its better years, the animation award just isn't competitive enough: there hasn't been an actual race for the win since 2006, making it far the Academy's dullest category. Just a nod for the top prize seems more meaningful. [Grantland]

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"Top Chef"

 "Top Chef"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'Top Chef' - 'Culinary Games'

The final four face the silliest challenges of the season

So, our final four intrepid chefs must face off in British Columbia, which seems a little random given that the show is called "Top Chef Texas," but I guess Texas was closed that week. Seriously, though, did the show's producers feel they'd exhausted the possibilities of an entire state? Anyway, Sarah is thrilled to be in British Columbia, plus she's a new, nicer Sarah! At least until Bev show up. Sarah, Lindsay and Paul have a bond. Bev, well, Little Weirdo is on her own unless Paul throws her some conversation. Yes, Sarah can tell us she's new and improved, but let's face it -- you can take the mean girl out of Texas, but she's still a petty, backstabbing viper under the parka. Sarah interrupts Bev when Paul asks Bev about Last Chance Kitchen. Sarah rolls her eyes behind Bev's back. Yes, New Sarah is JUST as awful as the old Sarah!

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<p>Colton of &quot;Survivor: One World&quot;</p>
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Colton of "Survivor: One World"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: One World' Premiere - 'Two Tribes, One Camp, No Rules'

Twists involving gender and their camp shake things up for the castaways
Pre-credit sequence. A helicopter soar down upon Samoa, but it's only holding Jeff Probst. The 18 castaways are on a rickety bus, shuttling through the jungle and making broad pronouncements. Colton is quick to observe that girls love him and guys don't see him as a threat. It's possible that he may be gay. Alicia vows to play any dude who dares to crush on her. Jonas boasts about his unusual sushi chef skills. Jay wants to make a female alliance. Michael is ready for a twist. But he doesn't know the twist: The two tribes will live together on the same beach. Crazy, right?
 
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<p>Kenny Powers has a baby. &nbsp;Does that seem like a good idea to anybody?&nbsp; It terrifies me, and that's only one of the many reasons this final season of 'Eastbound and Down' may be the best of the show's entire run.</p>

Kenny Powers has a baby.  Does that seem like a good idea to anybody?  It terrifies me, and that's only one of the many reasons this final season of 'Eastbound and Down' may be the best of the show's entire run.

Credit: HBO

Review: 'Eastbound & Down' kicks off its new season with three deranged episodes

Kenny Powers has actually gotten crazier, and the results are something special

Kenny Powers is perhaps the single most perfect distillation of what it is that Danny McBride does best as a comic performer, and when "Eastbound and Down" finishes the eight-episode season that it is about to start airing on HBO, I have a feeling we're going to be looking at one long uniquely American comedy epic that stands alone as a singular accomplishment in television.

That's not to say that I think this is the single funniest show ever made, or that I think it innovates in a way no other show does.  It's just that I can't think of any other character who is as morally and intellectually repellant as Kenny Powers who I can't keep my eyes off of.  The first season of "Eastbound and Down" suggested a certain sort of sitcom shape in telling the story of a washed-up major league pitcher who is forced to return to his home town to become a gym teacher.  If this were a standard sitcom, even a very good one, the show would have established that world, a stock set of characters, and then started wringing comedy out of slight variations in storytelling every week.

"Eastbound" is about something larger, though, the overall spiritual journey of a man who shows no outward signs of self-awareness or soul.  Kenny Powers is every terrible part of the American identity turned up and turned loose, and for that reason, his struggle towards self-definition is compelling.  He is a fairly terrible person in the way he treats others and in his sense of entitlement, but he's recognizable.  Kenny is all bluster, a facade he puts on to try to cover for the yawning existential fear that is part of his daily life.  He is what we are most afraid of being, someone who is finished before they even really begin, a waste of the talent he's been given.  He is the curdled American dream, and he knows it deep down inside, which is why he spends every waking second overcompensating like mad.

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<p>Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover)</p>

Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover)

Today in New Music Videos: will.i.am., The Rapture, Childish Gambino, Laura Marling

'One Tree Hill's' Jana Kramer cries on a bicycle, Burial is overground, EMA's charity

Go on a bike ride, crawl in a kaleidescope, play with dolls, make-out in a backset and more in today's music video roundup: Childish Gambino, EMA, The Rapture, will.i.am, Laura Marling and Burial.

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<p>I think this happens on tonight's &quot;American Idol.&quot; If not, I'll change the image a bit later.</p>
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I think this happens on tonight's "American Idol." If not, I'll change the image a bit later.

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' - Hollywood Week, Part 3 - Live-Blog

The survivors of last week's 'Idol' plague sing for their lives

Last Thursday's "American Idol" was a bit like "Torchwood: Miracle Day."

The plot of the series was "What happens in one day, people just stop dying?" Death is, after all, the inevitable destination in all human lives, so what happens if the entire species is detoured from our logical destination? How do we live if we aren't going to die?

"Death" usually isn't the destination on "American Idol," at least not the episode-by-episode destination. Instead, the destination is towards singing. But last Thursday's "American Idol" was song-free. For perhaps the first time in "Idol" history, an entire hour passed without a single performance, without a single ruling by the judges. It was a full hour of coughing, sneaking and rehearsing.

It was very weird.

Rumor has it, though, that people are actually going to sing on Wednesday's episode. 

Let's find out...

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"The Real Housewives of Orange County"

 "The Real Housewives of Orange County"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'The Real Housewives of Orange County' - 'Southern Hospitality'

Peggy and Alexis are feuding, but what's up with Heather and Gretchen?

So, "The Real Housewives of Orange County" may have been the first in the housewives franchise, but increasingly it's starting to look like a tired, middle-aged trophy wife who's trying too hard. Yet again we get another week of petty spats that go nowhere, bimbo logic and a few dramatic moments that, bluntly, defy logic. Maybe the housewives are just getting tired. Maybe the scripting is falling flat. Or maybe (shocker!) the ladies are just learning to deal with their problems in their own weird, dysfunctional way. 

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<p>Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon, and Chris Pine star in the new action/comedy 'This Means War'</p>

Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon, and Chris Pine star in the new action/comedy 'This Means War'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Chris Pine and Tom Hardy make the most of the slight 'This Means War'

Does McG automatically equal evil as many critics claim?

I wonder what would happen if they showed this movie to critics without McG's name on it.

Certain directors become punching bags over the course of their careers, and it's not always just because of their filmmaking.  In the case of McG, his name does not help him at all, no matter how many times he explains it was a childhood nickname.  It also doesn't help that he's incredibly earnest when he talks about his work, and that there's a hard-earned defensiveness as well.  He came to make a presentation at BNAT the year before his "Terminator: Salvation" came out, and by the end of his appearance, he'd turned a fair percentage of the audience against him.  As he left, someone in my row commented, "McG was going to stay longer to talk to us, but he had to get back to The Learning Annex to teach his 'How To Be A Douchebag' class."  He talked an entire room full of people out of being excited about his movie through sheer force of personality.

The thing is, nothing he's made really deserves that level of animosity.  He's not technically incompetent.  He has a music video pop sensibility that isn't especially deep, but he knows how to stage action and he's got a big broad sense of humor.  When I hear people refer to someone like McG as the worst of modern filmmaking, it makes me think that they don't see many films, or that they've got him prejudged to such a degree that they don't really see his films when they watch them.

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