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<p>&nbsp;Quvenzhan&eacute; Wallis in &quot;Beasts of the Southern Wild.&quot;</p>

 Quvenzhané Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild."

Review: 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is a cinematic wonder

Story issues aside director Behn Zeitlin shows true talent

PARK CITY - It's rare that a first-time feature filmmaker delivers something truly memorable with their debut - even at a festival such as Sundance - but Benh Zeitlin has done just that with "Beasts of the Southern Wild" which premiered Friday on the first full day of the festival.

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<p>Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski)&nbsp;gets loose on &quot;Chuck.&quot;</p>

Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) gets loose on "Chuck."

Credit: NBC

'Chuck' - 'Chuck vs. the Bullet Train': Eternal sunshine of the Sarah mind

Sarah suffers Intersect side effects, while Jeffster have to show their heroic sides

A review of tonight's "Chuck" — the last episode before next week's two-hour finale — coming up just as soon as I think better when I'm blowing up avocados...

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<p>John Cooper, Keri Putnam and Robert Redford</p>
<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;">&nbsp;</div>

John Cooper, Keri Putnam and Robert Redford

Credit: Danny Moloshok/AP

Robert Redford and the Sundance braintrust discuss the 2012 Festival

John Cooper and Keri Putnam also share their thoughts on the state of indie film
PARK CITY - The 2012 Sundance Film Festival kicked off on Thursday (January 19) with Robert Redford and his team's traditional opening press conference. 
 
As you may have already heard. Redford kicked things off on a gloomy note, referring to "the hard times we're living in," calling said times "dark and grim." Redford continued, of course, by emphasizing that the Sundance Film Festival isn't going to be dark and grim and that, as Festival Director John Cooper explained, "the independent film community is very healthy."
 
After the press conference, I attended a series of roundtable interviews with Redford, Cooper and Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam to discuss, in more depth, The State of Sundance, 2012.
 
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Mac Miller
Mac Miller

Watch: Cobra Starship and Mac Miller raise their 'Middle Finger' in new video

Tune from 'Night Shades' gets official release

Two weeks ago, we posted about Cobra Starship/Mac Miller’s “Middle Finger” getting an official release.

The song, which appears on Cobra Starship’s “Night Shades” album, had taken on a little life of its own. Now, we have the official video.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>&nbsp;Hello and welcome, won't you step into my world?</p>

 Hello and welcome, won't you step into my world?

Kicking off a new kind of video diary for Sundance 2012

Reviews and interviews are fine, but what's Sundance really like?

Just as we drove into Park City on Wednesday afternoon, the first flakes of snow were starting to fall, and now, as I prepare to get a few hours sleep on a very, very early Friday morning, we've seen that snow and a fair amount of sleet pile up quickly.  And if there's snow, then as far as this Los Angeles resident is concerned, it is time for Sundance.

Now that my year is built around film festivals, I'm starting to really enjoy the way each festival has its own clear identity.  Sundance is not SXSW which is not Cannes which is not Toronto which clearly is not Fantastic Fest.  Those five festivals give me milestones by which to measure my year now, and so for me, Sundance means the film year is starting from a clean slate, and my first impressions of what sort of year in movies lies ahead start here.  This is where I test the wind, read the tea leaves, and dig in for the first real challenge on each new calendar.

I've come to grow quite fond of Sundance overall.  I like their mix of films, I like the way they break things down and the different categories, and I like the taste they show as programmers.  As with most film festivals, what they program is entirely dependent on what's ready, what's available, and how things time out, and what Sundance has going for it is that it's such a major milestone for filmmakers to show something here that people will intentionally set their post-production schedules on movies around the submission dates for Sundance. 

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<p>Spice Girls in 2008</p>

Spice Girls in 2008

Credit: AP Photo

Are the Spice Girls reuniting for the London Olympics?

What's the latest on their new musical?

The London Olympics will not get a Pink Floyd reunion, but could they get The Spice Girls if it’s what they want, really, really want?

The fivesome are rumored to be weighing a reunion for this summer’s Olympics, according to RadarOnline. The hold out  is Posh Spice, aka Victoria Beckham, who has a new baby and is loving life in Los Angeles with hubby David Beckham, who just signed a new two-year deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team.  They last toured four years ago.

Radar also reports that the group is moving ahead with its musical, Viva Forever, written by “Ab Fab’s” Jennifer Saunders.

Though there was also a rampant speculation that Pink Floyd would perform at the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games, David Gilmour has denied the story.

The 2012 summer Olympics run July 27-Aug. 12.

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<p>A scene from&nbsp;&quot;Harry&nbsp;Potter and the&nbsp;Deathly&nbsp;Hallows:&nbsp;Part 2&quot;</p>

A scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Could a bake-off snafu keep 'Harry Potter' from a visual effects nomination?

The strong contender hit a snag in last night's visual effects presentation

For a while now, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" has looked like a very solid bet for a Best Visual Effects nomination. Though the only nomination for the franchise in the field prior to last year's for part one of the finale came for 2004's "The Prisoner of Azkaban," the effects have steadily become more refined and the expansion to five nominees last year made the door a little wider.

But an unfortunate snafu at last night's visual effects bake-off -- a lengthy branch-specific event that features reel screenings of effects work on the seven visual effects finalists and presentations from the supervisors involved -- could keep the wizard and his denouement out of the equation.

If you don't follow Variety's David Cohen on Twitter, you should, because he's dug in when it comes to the world of visual effects and reports comprehensively from the bake-off every year. His coverage last night was fascinating to read for the various insights into the process of this and that effects job, but it became particularly interesting when the effects reel for "The Deathly Hallows: Part 2" turned out to not be the effects reel at all: it was the makeup reel.

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<p>Carrie Underwood at the 2012 CMAs.</p>

Carrie Underwood at the 2012 CMAs.

Credit: AP Photo

'American Idols' Carrie Underwood and Steven Tyler come together for 'Crossroads'

A special edition airs the night before the Super Bowl

American Idol” comes to the Super Bowl this year as Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood and current judge Steven Tyler will team for a special Super Bowl edition of CMT’s “Crossroads.”

The concert will be part of the Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam that takes place  on Feb. 4, the eve of the big game,  in Indianapolis.

While we can’t quite see Tyler singing “Jesus Take the Wheel,” the twosome will trade stories and songs in the performance, which will premiere at 11 p.m. Feb. 4 on CMT.  The show will be taped live earlier that day.

Underwood and Tyler performed together at last year’s Academy of Country Music Awards on a mash-up of “Undo It” and “Walk This Way.” Aerosmith also has a history with the Super Bowl, having played the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXV.

Past  “Crossroads” pairings include Taylor Swift and Def Leppard, John Mayer and Keith Urban, and Sting and Vince Gill.


 

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<p>Adepero Oduye in &quot;Pariah.&quot;</p>

Adepero Oduye in "Pariah."

Credit: Focus Features

'The Help,' 'Pariah' lead NAACP Image Award nominees

Five actresses from 'The Help' nominated, but where's Jessica Chastain?

With all due respect, I've never really known what to make of the NAACP Image Awards. On the one hand, the concept of an awards ceremony ostensibly devoted to black (or black-themed) cinema seems dated and self-demeaning. On the other, they succeed in drawing attention to the industry's neglect of non-white stories and artists -- just not in ways they necessarily realize.

Let us imagine, then, that Brett Ratner's synthetically enjoyable but arguably racist "Tower Heist" -- a film that makes a plot point of the notion that black people are more expert in criminal activity than white people -- is actually nominated for Best Picture as a kind of ironic protest, an indication of just what limited choices Hollywood has to offer the black community. Admittedly, it'd be more effective as a this-is-all-we-have gesture if it weren't nominated at the expense of, say, Steve James's "The Interrupters" (mysteriously absent from even the documentary category), a film that revolves around positive, richly rounded black individuals, even if they aren't played by actors.

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<p>From &quot;Shut Up and Play the Hits&quot;</p>

From "Shut Up and Play the Hits"

Sundance Soundtracks preview: LCD Soundsystem, 'The Art of Rap,' Paul Simon

The Civil Wars, Mike Shinoda, Will Oldham, 'Filly Brown'... and little-known Rodriguez

Park City, Utah -- For the third year in a row, I'll be here at the Sundance Film Festival covering some of the biggest music-oriented films, and some of the soundtracks and scores to come from others featuring standout artists.

There are plenty of musicians touring through, as well, with help from returning sponsors, for after-parties and launch events. For instance, it'd be hard not to make "Party Rock Anthem" the prom-like theme to this year's 2012 Sundance Film Festival. LMFAO will be making 2,549 appearances this week, plus are launching a fashion line. I want you to be looking forward to my interview with Redfoo this week, and look damn hard.

But, no, the strength of some of the Sundance film selections will make for an ultimate, complete soundtrack and score to the week.

Lucky for me, some flicks focus in on some of my favorite artists, eras and albums...

"Under African Skies" has Joe Berlinger behind the lens; his 2004 documentary on Metallica, "Some Kind of Monster," had my face on the heels of my hands, riveted with the storytelling on a band whose lives outside of their albums lost my interest many moons before.

Berlinger's new subject matter -- the 25th anniversary of Paul Simon's "Graceland" -- won't be as much of an uphill battle for me. I consider that 1986 album to be in my top five of all time, if not No. 1 for each revisit; its coming-together in South Africa came during a tumultuous time in apartheid history, particularly coming from such an influential artist who was firmly embracing native musics from black Africans.

The promise here is a "Graceland" reunion concert. I'll be singing along, and hoping for any, um, insight into the dispute over the origins of "All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints."

The "Graceland" legacy bled over into the documentary "Searching for Sugar Man," which premiered last night, with one of its subjects quoting a line from "Boy in the Bubble": "These truly are the days of miracle and wonder."

"Wonder" is an apt emotional response to the film, which kicked off the fest last night. In this internet age, it's difficult to imagine a musical mystery so pure and strange as Detroit-bred singer-songwriter Rodriguez' unknown past. It, too, takes us to the shores of South Africa (and is one of several movies at Sundance that pulls at the seams of Detroit).

I'll be writing more on the music of Rodriguez and the never-ending tale of royalty mismanagement and music industry chest-puffery later this weekend, but for now it's best for fest-goers to mark down 4:40 p.m. MST on Monday (Jan. 23) to go to the ASCAP Cafe to hear the myth and the man Rodriguez perform live.

While Rodriguez' obscurity has yet to afford him recognition in his home country, the story of LCD Soundsystem's dissolution last year was a disappearance by choice. James Murphy co-produces the film on his own band in "Shut Up and Play the Hits," which chronicles LCD's last days (and day after). Everybody always talks about the merits of quitting while you're ahead -- Murphy actually did it.

Check out the trailer to "Shut Up and Play the Hits" here. Count on many minutes of the Madison Square Garden finale, but certainly not all three-plus hours.

Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Caz, Nas, Mos Def, Eminem, Chuck D, KRS-One, Run-DMC, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg are all on the guest list of doc "Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap," with Ice-T leading the way. I imagine it will be a difficult narrative jaunt, to cover the launch of the American art form through so many generations and iterations.

However, it does seem to be a continuation of Sundance's love affair with hip-hop, a trend best seen through last year's lineup (with standout A Tribe Called Quest doc from Mike Rappaport). A new feature this year, "Filly Brown," is a fictionalized story, but one retelling "sleazy record producer" story of crawling toward hip-hop stardom. I'm seeing another trend.

Composer Reza Safinia is back at Sundance again this year with "Filly Brown," and you can check his stuff here. I'm also eager to hear what fest veterans Fall on Your Sword ("Another Earth") have done on "Nobody Walks." The dauntingly titled "I Am Not a Hipster" has the potential of yielding acclaim for songwriter Joel P. West, whose tracks will lie at the center of Dominic Bogart's "tortured artist" character Brook.

The film has already bowed at Cannes, but I'm still intrigued to see Sean Penn take on the persona of a middle-aged rock star whose aesthetic tips its hat to Robert Smith in "This Must Be the Place." I'm even more excited to hear the soundtrack and score from Will Oldham (aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy), may he live for a thousand years.

Besides those, I'm looking forward to music and scores from Mike Shinoda (in "The Raid"), Yo La Tengo ("Smashed"), Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips ("Price Check"), the Red Hot Organization's Stuart Bogie and Luke O'Malley taking on Arthur Russell ("How to Survive a Plague") and T Bone Burnett combining with the Civil Wars ("Finding North").

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<p>&quot;Fast Five,&quot;&nbsp;nominated by the MPSE, could be a surprise nominee for Best Sound Editing.</p>

"Fast Five," nominated by the MPSE, could be a surprise nominee for Best Sound Editing.

Credit: Universal Pictures

'Super 8' leads the way with Motion Picture Sound Editors nominees

Other favorites include 'Drive,' 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' and 'War Horse'

The Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) used to announce its list of nominees after the Oscars did, meaning the Best Sound Editing category was the one field without much in the way of precursor clues for predicting. That changed recently and now we can get an idea of where the sound branch might lean in the field.

The nominees, announced today, feature four of the five films I'm currently predicting in the category: "The Adventures of Tintin," "Hugo," "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "Super 8." "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" was not mentioned anywhere after picking up a Cinema Audio Society nomination yesterday, so maybe I'll need to rethink that one.

"Super 8" is clearly a favorite, nailing down the only three nods it could have received. "Drive," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and "War Horse," meanwhile, each got two.

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Oscar Talk: Ep. 78 -- Golden Globes, BAFTA nominees, more guild announcements and Sundance 2012

Oscar Talk: Ep. 78 -- Golden Globes, BAFTA nominees, more guild announcements and Sundance 2012

Also: Debating 'The Descendants' and the laurels upon which it rests

Welcome to Oscar Talk.

In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.

Today I'm in snowy Park City, Utah for the 28th annual Sundance Film Festival and Anne is back home in Los Angeles (though on her way to the fest herself). But while next year's crop of potential awards contenders takes a bow here, the week saw plenty of news relating to the current awards season. So let's see what's on the docket today…

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