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We spent last week's Firewall & Iceberg Podcast counting down our favorite shows of 2011. Now it's time for the reverse, as Dan and I discuss some of our least favorite shows of the year. Think Dan might have a few more words to say on the subject of Mario Lopez? At the end, we also review HBO's new Chris Lilley mockumentary series "Angry Boys," and even if you're not a Lilley fan, I would suggest listening to the end for some good end of the year wisdom from Dan.
[The only real spoilers are for "Dexter" between 48:00 and 52:50.]
For the fifth time in his career, director Steven Spielberg has offered up a drama ("War Horse") and an entertainment ("The Adventures of Tintin") in the same year. But for the first time ever, he has two films in theaters at the same time.
On top of all of that, 2011 has very much been "The Year of The Beard." In addition to his own work, he has lended his check book and his talent as a producer to films like "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," "Super 8" and "Cowboys & Aliens," while having a presence on television via programs like "Falling Skies" and "Terra Nova."
So with the man so much a force in entertainment this year, it seems like now is as good a time as any to take stock of his portfolio and offer up a list ranking the best he's had to offer over the last four decades.
The year is officially over: the 2011 United State of Pop (World Go Boom) mash-up has arrived! Produced by Jordan Roseman, aka DJ Earworm, this year’s edition features snippets of Billboard's top 25 songs on the year including Maroon5’s “Moves Like Jagger,” Katy Perry’s “E.T.,” Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass,” and, of course, Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” and LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.” This year's bed is built around (and takes its name from) Perry's "Firework."
We can only imagine how many hours it takes to assemble this montage of seemingly disparate songs and images into a collage that doesn’t hurt to listen to. If you’re interested in more, DJ Earworm has written a book on “mash-up construction,” according to his website.
[More after the jump...]
Last week Taylor Swift surprised fans with her collaboration with the Civil Wars on “ Safe and Sound,” from the soundtrack to “The Hunger Games.” It turns out she’ll be joined by Arcade Fire, the Decemberists on what’s being called a “companion album” to the movie, which opens March 23.
As you’ll recall from past usages of the term, a companion album usually means that many of the songs were “inspired by” the film, but don’t necessarily appear in it. In this case, Grammy winning producer T Bone Burnett is overseeing the companion album: he co-wrote “Safe and Sound” with Swift and the Civil Wars, which already hit No. 1 on iTunes. The Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Regine Chassagne wrote “Horn of Plenty” with Burnett, while the Decemberists penned a track called “One Engine.”
No word on the actual release date of the album other than that it will come out on Universal Republic Records in March before the Lionsgate film, which stars Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, hits theaters.
Welcome to the last working week of 2011, where we realize at least a few stars were working for the holiday. Frank Ocean, Lady Gaga and Cat Power were all on the move.
First, as the Odd Future singer explained: "I don't cry at all... but when the sun sets just right, I might shed a tear." Ocean, who is readying his Def Jam album for 2012, posted a little track to his tumblr called "4 Tears." In it, he eplains how he spends his quota, doing a little algebra (a la Beyonce).
"[I] just listened to this a few times for myself. [F]igured maybe some else needed to hear it," he posted.
It's not lyrical calculus, but quick and pretty.
Meanwhile, Chan Marshall is a little more confrontational on "King Rides By," her charity single. The song -- originally much shorter on her 1996 album "What Would the Community Think" -- is fully fleshed out courtesy Manny Pacquiao, past the 7-minute mark.
The ever-investigative Steve Pond has unearthed an interesting nugget here: a four-page short story written by Woody Allen in 1971 that bears more than a passing resemblance to "Midnight in Paris." In "A Twenties Memory," contained in the collection "Getting Even," the narrator hangs out with F. Scott and Zela Fitzgerald, Gertude Stein, Ernest Hemingway and other Jazz Age luminaries that resurface in the film Allen made 40 years later, making similarly droll, casual observations about their work. Narratively, the film obviously represents a significant elaboration on the premise, so it'd be a stretch to call the screenplay an adaptation -- though the Academy has made similarly sketchy rulings in the past. [Reuters]
If you happened to head to the local multiplex on Sunday there's a good chance the movie you ended up seeing was "War Horse." Before the holiday, Steven Spielberg's 2 hour and 26 minute epic was projected to have a good, but not great debut. Instead, "War Horse" burst onto the scene with $7.5 million in just 2,600 theaters, almost double what pre-release polling indicated. And, its per-screen average was barely behind that of "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" which played in over 1,000 more theaters and had the added benefit of higher IMAX ticket prices. DreamWorks and Disney kept Monday's estimate much more conservative than its competitors, but a $15 million plus cume over two days is a stellar launch for the Oscar player.
To insert a slightly clunky line into a Frank Sinatra classic: when I was 28, it was a very good year. At least, I think so. So often, when I tell a friend or colleague that this has felt like the richest 12 months for cinema-gathering of my admittedly brief career as a film journalist, I'm met with hard Paddington stares or outright opposition. It's been a weak year, I'm told, and I'm handed the slate of current Oscar frontrunners (peppered with unremarkable titles as "The Help" and "War Horse," with only one cracking the list below) as evidence.
Which, well, yes. If a year in a film is measured by its head-prefect awards contenders and multiplex behemoths alone, then 2011 hasn't been the strongest of vintages (even if it doesn't strike me as markedly worse, by those standards, than 2009 or 2010). But like most artforms splintered by the array of options and platforms in the 21st century, cinema now requires a little bit of legwork to find the goods, and dedicated cineastes didn't even have to wade too far into the fringes to find the good stuff: a banner year for British film, a strong showing for American indies and a healthy crop of challenging, festival-grown foreign hits. Seek and ye shall find (and keep).
The sleigh bells have been silenced, the decorations are ready to be stored another year and the online Christmas spirit is giving way once again to the power of snark.
As we enter the lull between holidays, I glance at the box office and see good news for Disney. Steven Spielberg's "War Horse," after weeks of heartland screenings, an aggressive TV campaign (I keep talking to friends all over the country who feel like they're inundated with commercials) and plenty of awards buzz, the film is estimated to bring in $15 million in two days. Had it not opened on a Sunday (Christmas Day), it would obviously have had a stellar weekend.
"True Grit" opened on December 22 last year (a Wednesday) and still made $24 million on the weekend (dropping a scant 1% the next week, which ignited it as a box office story). It's left to be seen what kind of legs Spielberg's film will have, but with little demographic competition standing in its way, I'm thinking next weekend will be solid and the legs could be significant.
One holiday down, one to go. And in the lull, we can probably expect more precursor awards announcements, no doubt.
Today, the Online Film Critics Society has declared nominations (or maybe I missed them pre-Christmas, I don't know). And I guess it's only fitting that, given the group, it's the slate most in-line with my own views of the film year so far.
"The Tree of Life" led the way with seven nominations, but "Drive" wasn't far behind with six. "We Need to Talk About Kevin," meanwhile, had a decent showing, grabbing mentions for Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. And both of Werner Herzog's documentaries made it into that field (where "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" has for some reason been the dominant one of the two -- probably because that's the one most people have seen).