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<p>The Shins' James Mercer</p>

The Shins' James Mercer

Listen: The Shins' new single, 'Simple Song' from album 'Port of Morrow'

Band sets first tour dates for 2012

The Shins’ myriad influences bleed all over their new single, “Simple Song,” the first from new album “Port of Morrow.”

Head Shin James Mercer realigned the band over the last few years and this iteration provides some muscle and a little more heft. Hence, after opening with a very melodic Brian Wilson-esque feel, the tune grabs onto a Who-like guitar and drum rift before adding a sparkly glockenspiel later on. There’s a lot going on musically, but it never gets messy. It’s charming and it’s also about four songs in one.

The song, which streams for free today before going on sale on iTunes tomorrow, is about his girlfriend Mercer revealed when he first unveiled it at a small Shins concert last month.  “I know that things can really get rough when you go it alone, don’t go thinking you gotta be tough and play like a stone,” he sings over a cascading piano.

[More after the jump...]

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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 111: Press tour, 'Alcatraz,' 'Rob,' 'The Finder' & more

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 111: Press tour, 'Alcatraz,' 'Rob,' 'The Finder' & more

Dan and Alan also review 'Are You There, Chelsea?' and 'Napoleon Dynamite'

The

Welcome to the first of what should be two press tour editions of the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, in which an ill Dan and I break down what's happened at TCA so far while offering reviews of several shows debuting over the next week.

The line-up: 

TCA Press Tour (00:00 - 31:15)
"Are You There, Chelsea?" (31:15 - 36:40)
"Rob" (36:45 - 41:50)
"The Finder" (43:10 - 50:20)
"Napoleon Dynamite" (50:20 - 55:40)
"Alcatraz" (55:45 - 01:05:00)
 
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 at sepinwall@hitfix.com and/or dan@hitfix.com if you have questions you want answered on the show. Please put the word "podcast" in your subject line to make it easy to track them down amid the hundreds of random press releases we get every day.
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<p>Vanessa Redgrave in Roland&nbsp;Emmerich's &quot;Anonymous&quot;</p>

Vanessa Redgrave in Roland Emmerich's "Anonymous"

Credit: Columbia Pictures

'Artist,' 'Harry Potter' and 'Hugo' among Academy's makeup finalists

'J. Edgar' and 'Green Lantern' won't be advancing

The Academy has announced seven advancing finalists in the race for Best Makeup, and among the chosen are the Meryl Streep-starrer "The Iron Lady," which transformed the beloved actress into former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Another film that transformed a recognizable actor into a famous political figure, Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar," was snubbed, as was comic book blockbuster "Green Lantern" (which featured impressive, heightened work on actor Peter Sarsgaard but was obviously not well-received by critics or audiences).

The makeup branch tends to go its own way, though, regardless of perceived quality. And the branch can often throw a curve ball, as it did two years ago by advancing and ultimately nominating Paolo Sorrentino's "Il Divo" and again this year by standing up for Joann Sfar's Serge Gainsbourg biopic "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life."

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"The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

 "The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' - 'Unlikely Duos'

NeNe and Marlo connect, but Cynthia and Peter seem destined to fall apart

There's a lot going on in this episode of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," but the truth is, the only really important storyline is the one involving Peter and Cynthia. While everyone else is running around, writing songs, spending money and generally enjoying life, our beleaguered couple seems to be waltzing ever closer to divorce. In most cases I'd say that was a sad state of affairs, but each week I find myself hoping that Cynthia will realize that Peter is an obnoxious, rigid, self-absorbed ass and get the hell out. 

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<p>Sean&nbsp;Penn with Oprah&nbsp;Winfrey on a visit to Port-au-Prince, Haiti last month</p>

Sean Penn with Oprah Winfrey on a visit to Port-au-Prince, Haiti last month

Credit: AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery

Sean Penn to receive Joel Siegel Award at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards

Actor to be honored for his commitment to philanthropic endeavors

George Clooney will present Sean Penn with the Joel Siegel Award at the Broadcast Film Critics Association's 17th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards this coming Thursday. Siegel was the “Good Morning America” film critic for over a quarter of a century as well as a BFCA member. The award is meant to “honor those who understand, as Joel did, that the greatest value of celebrity is as an enhanced platform to do good works for others.”

Among other charitable and political endeavors he is and has been associated with, Penn founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organization in the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. “We are extremely proud to be able to make this presentation to Sean on this night in particular, exactly two years after the devastating earthquake struck Haiti,” BFCA President Joey Berlin said via press release. “While it was heartening to see such an outpouring of support and aid for the Haitian people in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, the long-term commitment made by Sean and his organization is particularly notable. The Joel Siegel Award was created to spotlight such above and beyond efforts by the leading lights of our industry and its spirit is truly personified by Sean Penn.”

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<p>Beyonce and Jay-Z</p>

Beyonce and Jay-Z

Credit: AP Photo

Jay-Z posts new song in 'Glory' and honor of his and Beyonce's new baby

Give this newborn child a contract, already

Jay-Z made a song just for you, baby.

He and wife Beyonce welcomed their first child into the world this weekend, in case the story hasn't gotten around to breaking your Internet yet today. And thus, he has deemed his new daughter Blue Ivy Carter "the most beautiful girl in the world" in a rap track posted to his lifestyle website Life And Times.

"Glory" has the veteran rapper all misty-eyed, admitting some of his own failings, and the failings of his father. But between the sentimental beat and the amended text on the post ("Life just got REALLY good."), it's all gushy baby-love.

"Baby I'll paint the sky Blue / my greatest creation was you," he touts, calling it early that Blue Ivy will be "a younger smarter faster me." Hov also injects some unexpected, highly personal info into his rhymes: "Last time the miscarriage was so tragic/We was afraid you'd disappear/But nah baby you magic."

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<p>Rooney Mara in&nbsp;PGA&nbsp;and DGA&nbsp;nominee &quot;The&nbsp;Girl with the Dragon Tattoo&quot;</p>

Rooney Mara in PGA and DGA nominee "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Off the Carpet: Wrench in the works

The guild circuit continues to keep things interesting this season

Well. This has been an interesting couple of weeks to start the new year.

As the 2011-2012 film awards season forges ahead, general assumptions and standby wisdom are beginning to fly out the window. What was beginning to seem somewhat settled is anything but. The bed looked like it was made, now the covers are thrown to the far reaches of the room.

And that, by the way, is a very good thing. As flabbergasted as I am by the fact that David Fincher's least compelling film to date seems to be riding residual respect from his impressive awards season showing last year, I am nevertheless happy that "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and "Bridesmaids," for that matter, are keeping things interesting, keeping the circuit on its toes, drawing everything into a place of exciting unpredictability.

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<p>&nbsp;Jennifer Lawrence walks the red carpet at the 83rd Academy Awards last February.</p>

 Jennifer Lawrence walks the red carpet at the 83rd Academy Awards last February.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Academy Awards get a 'Hunger Games' tie-in as Jennifer Lawrence set to announce nominations

Former nominee will get up early Oscar morning

 The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this morning that former nominee Jennifer Lawrence will announce the nominees for the 84th Academy Awards alongside Academy president Tom Sherak on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Sherak and Lawrence will unveil the nominations in 10 of the 24 categories at a 5:30 a.m. PT news conference at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Nominations information for all categories will be distributed simultaneously to news media in attendance and online. 

Lawrence was nominated last year in the best actress category for her acclaimed performance in "Winter's Bone."  She next stars in the highly anticipated adaptation of "The Hunger Games" and David O. Russell's "The Silver Linings Playbook."  Lawrence recently appeared as a younger Mystique in "X-Men: First Class," Jodie Foster's "The Beaver" and in Drake Doremus' Sundance Grand Prize winning drama "Like Crazy." 

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<p>&nbsp;Rooney Mara in David Fincher's &quot;The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.&quot;</p>

 Rooney Mara in David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

Credit: Sony Pictures

Fincher surprises by joining Allen, Payne, Scorsese and Hazanavicius for 2012 DGA Awards nominations

Spielberg, Refn, Daldry and Malick don't make the cut

In something of a surprise, David Fincher's work for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" made the five director field for the 2012 DGA Awards announced this morning.  Fincher was joined by Woody Allen ("Midnight in Paris"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants"), Michael Hazanavicius ("The Artist") and Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"). 

Notable omissions included Steven Spielberg ("War Horse," "The Adventures of Tintin"), Nicholas Winding Refn ("Drive"), Terrence Malick ("The Tree of Life") and Bennett Miller ("Moneyball").  

Fincher's surprise entry is the second major guild honor for the film after a WGA Awards nom for best adapted screenplay.  It's still unclear whether "Tattoo" will make the cut in those categories or the best picture field.  The reason for the latter is the Academy's new 5% rule which makes it unclear how many films will actually be nominated this year (most are assuming seven to eight).  The former is more complicated.  The best adapted screenplay category will be more competitive with non-WGA member scripts eligible and its hard to believe Fincher's pedestrian work could make the Academy cut.  While the Fincher nomination shows the "Dragon" director has likely reached the revered Scorsese/Eastwood/Spielberg status amongst his peers (i.e, they can do no wrong - until they do) and the assistant directors (who make up the majority of the DGA membership) most would still put their money on Spielberg or Miller to make the Oscar field in his place.

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<p>&quot;The Nine Lives of Chloe King&quot;</p>
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"The Nine Lives of Chloe King"

Credit: ABC Family

Press Tour: 'Nine Lives of Chloe King' TV movie on the verge of development

Also, what's up with the 32 episode 'Switched at Birth' season?
ABC Family President Michael Riley took the Television Critics Association press tour stage on Monday (January 8) morning to talk about a fantastic summer for for his network, a summer that saw the launch of one major dramatic hit ("Switched at Birth") and at least one other dramatic success ("The Lying Game").
 
Naturally, I started the Q&A portion of the panel by asking about the summer's lone clear failure, "The Nine Lives of Chloe King."
 
I found "Chloe King" to be a properly frothy piece of summer counter-programming and many viewers agreed, but compared to "Switched at Birth" and "The Lying Game," the ratings weren't there and after only 10 episodes, "Chloe King" was cancelled. The pill was especially difficult to swallow, because the 10th episode of "Chloe King," what ended up being the series finale, contained at least a half-dozen cliffhangers and concluded with a daunting percentage of the main cast either seemingly dead, possibly dead or in some form of indeterminate limbo.
 
Regarding the cancelation, Riley said, "We never talk about canceling shows at ABC Family. We always make sure we air all of our productions, because for us, it's very much a long-term view. Obviously, we love all of our shows and 'Chloe King' is such a great example of just an amazing show. We loved the cast. We loved the writing in that show. For us, it was about making some decisions and we had to choose between what we thought was resonating stronger with the audience."
 
But wait! There's hope!
 
Riley added, "One of the things about 'Chloe King' is we loved and are on the verge of putting a movie into development, so us, we always look at the intellectual property that we're capitalizing on and making sure there's opportunities for even more storytelling."
 
Would that possible TV movie pick up immediately after the infuriatingly open-ended finale?
 
Riley said, "We are just looking at it in development now, so the hope is that it will obviously, we're just putting it into development, so the idea is very much to capitalize on the storytelling that's already been in place."
 
So that's "on the verge of in-development," y'all. That's not the same as "in development" and it's also not the same as the formal ordering of a telefilm, so don't necessarily get too, too excited. But at least it's cause for guarded optimism.
 
Meanwhile, on an unrelated side note, a reader asked me last week why "Switched at Birth" received an unweildy back-22 order, bringing its first season to 32 episodes spread into three segments. What was the reason for the larger-than-normal order?
 
Riley explained, "For us, as we greenlight shows, traditionally we'll open up the first season with 10 episodes and from there, in the event it's a success, we'll look to continue to increase those episodes. For us, e absolutely loved 'Switched at Birth' and wanted to get as many episodes as possible on air as quickly as possible, so really it's much more about loving a show and getting as much content as we can before everybody goes on hiatus."
 
So there you go.
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<p>Woody Allen (right)&nbsp;directs Marion&nbsp;Cotillard and Owen&nbsp;Wilson on the set of &quot;Midnight in&nbsp;Paris.&quot;</p>

Woody Allen (right) directs Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson on the set of "Midnight in Paris."

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

David Fincher, Woody Allen make the cut for DGA

Steven Spielberg, Tate Taylor and Terrence Malick snubbed

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) has announced this year's slate of nominees for excellence in directing, and chalk another guild citation up for David Fincher, who somehow got in for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Also nominated was Woody Allen for "Midnight in Paris," while Steven Spielberg and Tate Taylor were snubbed for Best Picture contenders "War Horse" and "The Help," respectively (both of which I had expected to get in). So was respected auteur Terrence Malick for "The Tree of Life."

This announcement is largely considered the most important harbinger of Oscar, as the 14,000-member organization often taps directors of films that go on to receive Best Picture nominations from the Academy. With the expanded Best Picture field, first to 10 and this year to anywhere between five and 10, the odds get even better, of course, but this is a good way of whittling the field down to the pulpy center of industry favorites.

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<p>It runs in the family:&nbsp;Michael&nbsp;Mann at the 2011 Venice International Film&nbsp;Festival with his daughter, &quot;Texas Killing Fields&quot;&nbsp;director Ami Canaan Mann.</p>

It runs in the family: Michael Mann at the 2011 Venice International Film Festival with his daughter, "Texas Killing Fields" director Ami Canaan Mann.

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Michael Mann talks finding a place for camaraderie with his fellow directors

F.X. Feeney has a lengthy chat with the director of 'Heat,' 'The Insider' and HBO's 'Luck' pilot

The DGA announces theatrical nominees today (in under an hour). It will be a big announcement, but as I perused the Guild's website this morning killing a little time, I delighted in F.X. Feeney's lengthy chat with director Michael Mann currently being featured there.

Mann is my favorite working director and I can't wait to dive into the new series he's been working on with David Milch (another personal god), HBO's "Luck." So I leap at any chance to read someone picking his brain. And Feeney has a nice history with the director, having edited that handsome Taschen book on the films of Mann and offered up some quality interviews over the years.

A lot of ground is covered, from Mann's "I-want-to-make-movies" moment (seeing Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove" in college) to his new task managing directors on "Luck." I was having trouble deciding which bit I wanted to quote. It's all good stuff. Ultimately, though, a passage on Mann's view of camaraderie with his fellow directors seemed particularly applicable today.

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