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<p>The gang's all smiles with the Best Feature award for &quot;The Artist.&quot;</p>

The gang's all smiles with the Best Feature award for "The Artist."

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

'The Artist' triumphs at 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards

The French silent wins four while 'The Descendants' nabs two

I was really irritated sitting there in the tent on the beach in Santa Monica this year watching the Independent Spirit Awards unfold.

Things started out great, though. Seth Rogen's opening monologue killed, even though a number of the people in there apparently weren't equipped to grasp the humor. I was happy to see Christopher Plummer, however expected, take yet another supporting actor trophy for his performance in "Beginners."

Even though I called it, I was nevertheless stoked for Will Reiser surprising with a win in the Best First Screenplay category for "50/50." And even though I'd have much preferred seeing Jessica Chastain get the good will, it was hard not to be happy for Shailene Woodley, who won Best Supporting Female after she was snubbed by the Academy. Then things took a different turn. "The Artist" just started winning everything. Everyone just bowed down. Couldn't we have this one moment of solace away from that steamroller? Apparently not.

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<p>B&eacute;r&eacute;nice Bejo in &quot;The Artist.&quot;</p>

Bérénice Bejo in "The Artist."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Why it should be 'The Artist'

Ignore the backlash: this season has got it right

Okay, I'll level with you. One fairly major reason I want "The Artist" to win Best Picture at tomorrow's Academy Awards ceremony has nothing whatsoever to do with its lithe charms as a Hollywood fable, its glistening appropriation of a long-dormant screen style, the quicksilver star turn of its leading man or even its eminently adoptable Jack Russell.

It has nothing to do with the film being a silent-cinema gateway for less informed audiences, an all-too-rare foreign crossover, or a witty marker of the distance the medium has traveled in 80-odd years.

It has nothing to do with my relative feelings about its rival nominees, or with the disproportionate critical backlash its success has inspired. Not that these aren't all factors worthy of consideration, but this reason has nothing to do with the movie at all.

It's because I have money on it.

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<p>Tristan Halilaj stars in 'Forgiveness of Blood' as Nik, a young man who finds himself trapped in his house and stir-crazy thanks to Albanian blood feud law</p>

Tristan Halilaj stars in 'Forgiveness of Blood' as Nik, a young man who finds himself trapped in his house and stir-crazy thanks to Albanian blood feud law

Credit: IFC Films

Review: 'Maria Full Of Grace' director returns with sad and angry 'Forgiveness of Blood'

Albanian blood feud drama paints a difficult picture of a country trapped in time

Making a second film can be more difficult than making a first film in many cases, and for reasons that are almost exclusively different in each case.  With a first film, you're trying to prove yourself in general.  You're simply making the case that you can, indeed, finish a film.  You can wrestle something up onto the screen.  Good, bad, whatever it is, you can do it.

If you are able to make that first film, getting it seen is a second fight, something almost totally separate from the making of the thing.  If you are fortunate enough to not only make your film but also get it seen, that's a win no matter what the film is.  And if you get it made, get it seen, and it's actually good?  Well, the world's your oyster at that point, right?

Not necessarily.  Sometimes, you set up expectations, and those expectations become a trap, and sometimes you find yourself either living up to something or living it down, but either way, you're struggling against something that can lead to real frustration, both for you and for the people you're asking to spend money on your films.  With Marston, I'm not sure what happened.  He made his breakthrough feature "Maria Full Of Grace" in 2004, and then worked a few times for TV and made another couple of shorts and did a little more TV, but It's taken until now for him to get a second feature made.  What's apparent from this second film of his is that he has a real voice and a very particular sensibility and we would certainly be better off if he was working more often.

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<p>Maggie Smith does not need to worry</p>
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Maggie Smith does not need to worry

Credit: PBS

What impact will 'Downton Abbey' shifting Emmy categories have?

If 'Downton' is no longer a miniseries, how will its hopes be impacted?
In a move that's almost shocking in its logic and truthfulness, PBS' "Downton Abbey" will reportedly depart the miniseries category for this fall's Emmys and move into the far more appropriate and competitive drama field.
 
The news first broke on GoldDerby.com, which got this somewhat confusing quote from TV Academy awards chief John Leverence.
 
"After starting out as a miniseries, 'Downton Abbey' caught fire and so now it moves over to drama series category as it plans for future TV seasons," Leverence tells Gold Derby. "It follows the trajectory of previous shows like 'The Starter Wife' that started out as a miniseries and then became a regular series."
 
Leverence's quote makes the confusing assertion that it was success that made "Downton Abbey" into a worthy entrant for the series field, rather than "Downton Abbey" simply being a TV series that was miscategorized last year and then moved into the correct category this year. 
 
It would be too much, presumably, for Leverence to say, "Yeah, British TV shows confuse us." After all, does the shift of "Downton Abbey" to the correct category mean that the TV Academy will also stop calling "Luther" a miniseries? And will this enforce a ripple effect that will cause the Golden Globes and the various guilds to also stop calling "Downton Abbey" (and "Luther" and "The Hour") a movie/miniseries or will it exist only in isolation?
 
The big question, and the reason I'm writing this as blog post rather than as a news story, is what impact moving "Downton Abbey" into the drama field will have on various category races that are already the most heated on Emmy night.
 
[More after the break...]
 
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<p>Gene Kelly in &quot;Singin' in the Rain&quot;</p>

Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain"

Credit: MGM

Oscar's big miss: 'Singin' in the Rain'

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

It seemed an easy task when I told Guy and Gerard to follow Roth's lead and help me turn the idea of "Oscar's big miss" into a quick mini-series at the end of the season. Roth's pick was undeniable. Gerard's was inspired. Guy's was well-spotted. What would I spring for?

Look, the truth is there are a lot of movies the Academy hasn't properly recognized over the last 84 years, and they go all the way to near the beginning. "Metropolis," "The Passion of Joan of Arc," "City Lights," "King Kong," "Modern Times," "Sullivan's Travels," "Paths of Glory," "The Last Temptation of Christ," "The Fountain," "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," "Another Year" and if not genre filmmaking in general, the entirety of the western genre surely all made for compelling picks. But what equates to a "big miss" anyway? What does it mean?

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<p>Hunter McCracken (left)&nbsp;and Brad Pitt in&nbsp;&quot;The&nbsp;Tree of Life&quot;</p>

Hunter McCracken (left) and Brad Pitt in "The Tree of Life"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Oscar Guide 2011: Best Picture

A big slate of nine films square off

(The Oscar Guide has been your chaperone through the Academy's 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 26, with today's Best Picture finale being the cherry on top.)

And here we are. The 2011 Oscar Guide has finally reached its destination: the nine-film Best Picture category, which saw its biggest surprise in the very fact that it stretched to that many nominees. It became somewhat obvious down the stretch that five films were assured a spot, with another highly likely. The extraneous possibilities seemed to number no more than three or four, but two of them got in.

The question, though, is did the alteration in the Best Picture voting process really do all that much? Did it really breed the suspense it so clearly aimed for? Would it have mattered all that much if a full slate of 10 had remained in place? Well, to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" or "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," perhaps. At the end of the day, though, the constant tinkering with the process has done little more than keep people considering it and talking about it. Maybe that was the goal and the joke's on us.

The nominees are…

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<p>Former host John&nbsp;Waters presents at last year's 2011 Independent Spirit Awards.</p>

Former host John Waters presents at last year's 2011 Independent Spirit Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris PIzzello

Film Independent's co-chairmen Sean McManus and Josh Welsh on their first year behind the Spirit Awards

Plus: Can we convince them to change the nominating process?

In less than 24 hours, the 27th Independent Spirit Awards will be handed out at the beach in Santa Monica, CA and the independent film world will celebrate yet another year of artistic achievement.  What many also don't know is that the Spirit Awards are the biggest yearly fundraiser for Film Independent, a non-profit organization which runs the Spirits, numerous educational and industry events across the country as well as the annual LA Film Festival.

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

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Nina Acosta talks 'Survivor: One World'

The latest 'Survivor' castoff explains, again, why the Women blew it
Because Kourtney Moon's elimination in Week 1 was an injury-based decision, on Wednesday (Feb. 22) night, the women of "Survivor: One World" were required to vote somebody out for the first time.
 
The dysfunctional women of Salani, seemingly incapable of winning any kind of challenge, faced a choice: Either vote out giggling, farting, sheltered Kat, who almost single-handedly cost them the episode's Immunity Challenge,  or Nina, 51-year-old former police officer whose exact skills within the game had yet to be tested.
 
In the end, it apparently wasn't a hard decision. Kat had been part of a majority alliance of younger women established on the hike to camp, while Nina was on the outside trying to desperately to get anybody to listen to her plea that the tribe would be weaker with Kat remaining. Alliance trumped logic and Nina was sent packing.
 
In this week's "Survivor" exit interview, Nina Acosta talks more about Kat's liabilities, explains why Men vs. Women was her biggest nightmare and breaks down why only luck will prevent her former tribe from getting routed.
 
Click through for the full interview...
 
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<p>Adele</p>
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Adele

Credit: Jonathan Short/AP

Adele and Whitney Houston continue to surge on Billboard 200

Tyga looks promising, although recall clouds figures

If projections are right, Adele will sell 1 million copies of “21” in two weeks.

As we previously reported, Adele sold 730,000 copies this week, following her Grammy sweep in “21’s” one-year anniversary on the Billboard 200.  Now it looks like she’ll sell up to another 300,000 copies by the time the chart closes on Sunday.

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<p>Joshua Jackson in a scene from Friday's &quot;Fringe&quot;</p>
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Joshua Jackson in a scene from Friday's "Fringe"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Fringe' - 'The End of All Things'

The show doubles down on its season-long arc heading into its winter hiatus
I’ve been watching TV all of my life. Growing up, we had a TV in every single room of the house that wasn’t a bathroom. Poor parenting? More like preparation for a life in TV criticism, I say! In terms of writing about the medium, that started about six years ago. In that time, I’ve tried to not only get better at what I do, but also constantly try to reevaluate the medium itself and what about it appeals to me. I look back at articles written three or four years ago in horror, but also fascination. Horror because Lordy, some of those essays were atrocious. Fascination because it often sounds like someone that no longer shares the same tastes as I do now.
 
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<p>Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine are stone-cold awesome in the highly underrated and largely unseen '60s gem 'Gambit'</p>

Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine are stone-cold awesome in the highly underrated and largely unseen '60s gem 'Gambit'

Credit: Universal Home Video

One Thing I Love Today: Why you really need to see 'Gambit' tonight

A forgotten gem gets a second life thanks to streaming Netflix

I am a "Gambit" pimp.

For those of you unfamiliar with the film, you can go ahead and start writing me the "thank you" note you'll eventually send to me right now, because "Gambit" is one of those movies that people get passionate about after they've seen it.  I was the same way.  I'd never heard of it until QT Quattro, the fourth of Quentin Tarantino's film festivals in Austin where he would take over the Alamo Drafthouse for a week or more and just show prints that he owned.  It was February of 2000 when I attended the festival where he showed "Gambit," and here's what I wrote about it afterwards:

I’ve never seen GAMBIT before. In fact, I’ve never heard of it. No matter. I’ve seen it now, and I’m totally taken with it. It’s one of the most consistently clever heist films I’ve seen, and there’s a wonderful balance between the plan the way it should work and the way it finally does work. Herbert Lom and Michael Caine are both excellent in the film, delivering wry comic work, fully engaged by the whole cat and mouse of being thief and target. I have to reserve special praise for McLaine, though. When I was a kid, she was already starring in TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, so that’s the image of her I had first. It’s hard to reconcile the wicked funny f**k bunny of THE APARTMENT and this film with her New Age grandmotherly self, but there’s no denying her appeal in this film. She’s such a confident comedian, so knowing, so in command of herself physically, that she energizes the first 20 minutes of the film without saying a single word.

It’s funny what can distract you from a picture. For me, the one thing that jarred me (pun fully intended) in GAMBIT was the score, written by the wonderful Maurice Jarre. The main theme of the film is quoted directly from his own LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. It’s a major quote, and it would pull me out of the movie for a moment each and every time it happened. That’s a minor quibble, though, not even a real complaint. The day I complain about watching a great film while listening to Maurice Jarre music, you should remind me to quit doing this. This film is a long con from the moment it starts, and not just for the characters. Sargent and Neames work with confidence and poise to hoodwink the audience, and when we all realized exactly how we were being played, the audience went nuts, cheering wildly at the sheer skill. From that moment on, the film had a blank check of goodwill from me. Thankfully, it’s much more than just one clever moment. It keeps working overtime to the very last frame, which should leave you smiling from ear to ear if you have any affection at all for the genre.

Now, twelve years later, I've seen the film five or six times, and I've grown to love it even more.  I have spent those twelve years doing everything I can to motivate other people to see it, which was complicated by the fact that it wasn't on video for the longest time.  Right now, it's available for purchase exclusively from Amazon, as part of their Universal Vault Series, but it's also available streaming through Netflix Instant.

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<p>&nbsp;Bruce Springsteen</p>

 Bruce Springsteen

It's Bruce Springsteen week on 'Late Night with Jimmy Fallon'

The Boss, Kenny Chesney and Elvis Costello herald 'Wrecking Ball's' arrival

“Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” will celebrate the release of Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” with a week-long musical salute starting Feb. 27.

Springsteen and E Street Band will open the festivities with two performances on Feb. 27 and then return on March 2, “Late Night’s” third anniversary.

In between, other artists will pay tribute to The Boss. On Feb. 28, Springsteen fan Kenny Chesney will perform “I’m On Fire.”  On March 1, Springsteen’s buddy Elvis Costello will play “Brilliant Disguise” with The Roots.

Jimmy Fallon previously gave a week-long salute to  Pink Floyd in September that featured Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and Nick Mason, as well as performances by The Shins, Foo Fighters, MGMT, Dierks Bentley and Pearl Jam.

Springsteen previously appeared on “Fallon” in 2010 when the two did a parody of Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair.”

"Wrecking Ball" comes out March 6.

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