Latest Blog Posts

<p>Jeff (Joel McHale) showed off his stick-handling skills on &quot;Community.&quot;</p>

Jeff (Joel McHale) showed off his stick-handling skills on "Community."

Credit: NBC

Why I'll miss 'Community': Because Jeff played pool in shorts

Joel McHale strips down to flex his comic muscles

We're getting another "Community" rerun tonight, and another one next week, but then the show leaves NBC's schedule altogether for an indeterminate period of time. So until we find out when new episodes will be airing, it's time for the latest installment in my series on why I'll miss the show when it's gone.

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<p>Elton John</p>

Elton John

Credit: AP Photo

Interview: Elton John and Chris Cornell talk their Golden Globe-nominated tunes

John's duet with Lady Gaga happened 'by accident'

Neither Elton John nor Chris Cornell are newcomers when it comes to writing songs for movies, but the two Golden Globe nominees—and Oscar contenders— tread new ground with their contributions this year. (see the full list of Best Original Song contenders here).

John brought to life two ceramic garden figures in animated feature “Gnomeo & Juliet,” while Cornell took on summarizing the life of the very real Sam Childers, a minister turned crusader in “Machine Gun Preacher.”

I recently spoke to both John and Cornell about their works (for Cornell fans, Kris Tapley’s two-part interview with Cornell earlier this year is a must read).  John and longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin wrote several songs for “Gnomeo & Juliet,” an uplifting retelling of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” complete with a happy ending, but only two tunes ended up fitting into the final production:  Golden Globe nominee “Hello, Hello,” John’s duet with Lady Gaga, and “Love Builds a Garden,” a touching song that plays over a montage about two plastic pink flamingos and their very real love story.

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"The X Factor"

 "The X Factor"

Credit: Fox

The lessons I learned from reality television in 2011

Yes, there are things to be learned from some 'real' housewives, Meatloaf and even the Kardashians

While it can be argued that reality television is a vast, useless cesspool with little, if any, educational value, I have to think that at least some of my time spent in front of the tube has been justifiable. It's certainly not doing anything for my fitness level, after all, unless you count rolling on the floor laughing or extended groaning as cardio. I'm happy to report that there are some helpful tips to be found in this morass of lowbrow entertainment, although some of them have to do with proper uses for a spork. 

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<p>Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt restock their saccharine combustion engine</p>

Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt restock their saccharine combustion engine

Credit: Aaron Light

Cute overload: Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt sing 'New Year's'

Also: Zach Braff and Donald Faison croon to 'Baby, It's Cold Outside'

Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are actors that play music when they're not in front of the lens -- and, sometimes, when they ARE in front of the lens. Their cover of "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" is an example of the latter.

The "500 Days of Summer" co-stars have posted a darling video duet on YouTube of their live-performing the classic tune, with Deschanel on wee ukelele and Gordon-Levitt on a travel guitar. The She half of She & Him dons a tiara. Of course.

"When we did '500 Days of Summer'... we spent every lunch hour dancing to Marvin Gaye in the hair and make up trailer; we had loads of fun," Deschanel mugs on HelloGiggles.com (!!), the site she co-founded. Cute! "I hope to do a thousand more movies with him because he’s simply the best." Cuter!

Once you're done picking the sugar from your teeth, note that he's "Joe" Gordon-Levitt, and don't you forget it. Because it's the cutest. Cue gooey eyes, aw.

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<p>Alexandre Desplat arriving at the Academy&nbsp;Awards last year, where he was nominated for &quot;The&nbsp;King's Speech.&quot;</p>

Alexandre Desplat arriving at the Academy Awards last year, where he was nominated for "The King's Speech."

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Tech Support Interview: The ubiquitous Alexandre Desplat on living his dream

Where does the film composer find the time to keep knocking it out of the park?

When Tech Support first launched at In Contention five years ago, Alexandre Desplat had proven his talents with top-notch scores for “The Girl With a Pearl Earring,” “Birth” and “Syriana.” It was clear to those of us watching (and listening to) the film composing world that this talented Frenchman was going places. His Golden Globe win that year for “The Painted Veil,” and Oscar nomination for “The Queen,” kicked off his success with awards bodies.

His record since then, in terms of quantity and quality of work, as well as awards recognition, has been nothing short of phenomenal. Oscar nominations for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “The King’s Speech” have followed, undoubtedly contributing to his seemingly being the most in-demand composer today. This year, he incredibly managed to score eight titles, including Chris Weitz‘s “A Better Life,” Roman Polanski’s “Carnage,” Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” David Yates’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” and Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life.” He is eligible for Oscar consideration for his collaborations with Clooney, Daldry and Yates.

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<p>PJ Harvey</p>

PJ Harvey

Immaculate Noise's Top 25 Albums of the Year

PJ Harvey, Mastodon, Tom Waits, Battles, The Weeknd, Bon Iver, Colin Stetson...

I didn't listen to as many albums as I wanted to this year. I say this every year.

Part of it is the singles artform itself, but I didn't hear many hip-hop albums that felt complete and completely likeable as I wanted. That's not to say they're not there. Same goes for dance albums and R&B.

What astounded me was the devotion to song-craft by lighter artists, some of which have been around for years. These past few months, I noticed a lot of think-pieces on "soft rock," floating around on the blogs, sometimes in revolt of NPR-rock, dad-rock, whatever you want to call it. Among those offenders, I have several on my year-end list -- like Bon Iver, Feist and Laura Marling. But even among the growing indie establishment, I found records from St. Vincent, Panda Bear and The Weeknd to give off much the same result, that is, soothing, smart, song-centered mini-theater, start to end.

Check out the excellent first-time efforts from Washed Out, Shabazz Palaces, the Head and the Heart (yes, yes, TWO Sub Pop albums), Korallreven, tUnE-yArDs and Sallie Ford. Josh T. Pearson, let's you and me have a drink with Tom Waits, it'll make you feel better. It would be an honor for Fucked Up to f*ck up my apartment. And in news from the self-awareness camp, half of the artists on my Top 40 Songs of the Year were from artists of color; on this list, just over 10%. In 2012, I'll spend more time considering diversity: is there remedy, and is it remedy?

Beyond that, here's the hodge-podge. Listen to tracks from all of these albums (with exception to Danny Brown and The Weeknd) via my Spotify playlist.

  1. PJ Harvey, "Let England Shake"
  2. Mastodon, "The Hunter"
  3. Tom Waits, "Bad As Me"
  4. Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside, "Dirty Radio"
  5. Feist, "Metals"
  6. Washed Out, "Within & Without"
  7. Danny Brown, "XXX"
  8. Laura Marling, "A Creature I Don't Know"
  9. Cut Copy, "Zonoscope"
  10. Liturgy, "Aesthethica"
  11. Fucked Up, "David Comes to Life"
  12. St. Vincent, "Strange Mercy"
  13. Peggy Sue, "Acrobats"
  14. Korallreven, "An Album By Korallreven"
  15. Bon Iver, "Bon Iver"
  16. Colin Stetson, "New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges"
  17. tUnE-yArDs, "w h o k i l l"
  18. Shabazz Palaces, "Black Up"
  19. Battles, "Gloss Drop"
  20. Anna Calvi, "Anna Calvi"
  21. SBTRKT, "SBTRKT"
  22. The Head and the Heart, "The Head and the Heart"
  23. The Weeknd, "House of Balloons"
  24. Josh T. Pearson, "Last Of The Country Gentlemen"
  25. Panda Bear, "Tomboy"
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<p>Was Spielberg being &quot;stubborn&quot; in shooting &quot;War Horse&quot; on film?</p>

Was Spielberg being "stubborn" in shooting "War Horse" on film?

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Round-up: Did cinematography turn a corner in 2011?

Also: A potential Oscar double for 'Pina,' and Hollywood's sequel binge

There's a provocative piece on IndieWire by filmmaker Jamie Stuart that is likely to provoke strong opinions on either side of the film-or-digital cinematographer divide. Looking back on a number of major 2011 releases, Stuart wonders if 2011 was the year things conclusively shifted in favor of digital, and takes filmmakers like Steven Spielberg to task for his "stubbornness" in shooting "War Horse" on film when it doesn't, in his opinion, adapt well to digital projection. (Conveniently for his argument, he doesn't mention "The Adventures of Tintin" at all.) I'd have more time for Stuart's argument if he admitted to seeing more than two films in theaters in 2011, but aside from that, who's to tell an artist what medium they may or may not paint in? [IndieWire]

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<p>&quot;Giant,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;The Sound of Music,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Driving Miss Daisy,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Forest Gump,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Gladiator,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Casablanca&quot;&nbsp;and &quot;The Godfather&quot; are showcased in the official poster for the 84th Academy Awards.</p>

"Giant," "The Sound of Music," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Forest Gump," "Gladiator," "Casablanca" and "The Godfather" are showcased in the official poster for the 84th Academy Awards.

Credit: AMPAS

The Official Poster for the 84th Academy Awards showcases former winners or does it?

Which movie didn't win the best picture Oscar?

The Academy released the official poster for the 84th Academy Awards today and boy is it a snoozer.

Featuring bubbles of former Academy winners including "The Sound of Music," "The Godfather," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Forest Gump," "Gladiator," "Casablanca" and "Gone With the WInd."  It also strangely includes "Giant" which was nominated, but didn't win (which makes it a tad out of place).  The poster is also instantly forgettable and looks like a home video cover for the best of an Oscar ceremony compilation.  What the tagline "Life. Camera. Action." has to do with the images is unclear.  Are these movies supposed to be representative of life?  Hmmm. O.K.  We're hoping the show will be better or at least watchable under Billy Crystal, er, producer Brian Grazer.

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My top nine concerts of 2011: Adele, Death Cab for Cutie and... Tom Jones?
Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

My top nine concerts of 2011: Adele, Death Cab for Cutie and... Tom Jones?

Did your favorite act make the list?

When I looked back at the shows I attended over the past 12 months,  I went to plenty of concerts from newer artists, but as I compiled the list of the 2011 performances that stuck with me and impressed me the most, the veterans rose to the top. I don’t know if that’s because their experience trumps what often passes for showmanship these days or because it was simply a banner year for older acts to hit the road, but I was surprised how many of these acts who have been criss-crossing the world with their music for decades now made the list.

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<p>Jessica Chastain at the Morocco Film Festival.</p>

Jessica Chastain at the Morocco Film Festival.

Credit: AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar

Jessica Chastain and Howard Shore to be honored at Palm Springs

The festival has announced its final awards recipients

The Palm Springs International Film Festival has announced its final honorees for this year’s Awards Gala. Jessica Chastain will receive the Spotlight Award for her work in “The Help,” “The Tree of Life,” “Take Shelter,” “The Debt” and “Coriolanus,” while composer Howard Shore will be feted with the Frederick Loewe Music Award for “Hugo.”

Shore also received the honor in 2004 for his “The Aviator" score. “Howard Shore is a master composer who has consistently delighted audiences with the more than 80 films that he has scored,” said festival chairman Harold Matzner. “He has received universal acclaim for 'Hugo,' with his compositions as dramatic and innovative as the 3D in which 'Hugo' was filmed.”

I’m not sure in which ways the 3D in “Hugo” was especially “dramatic” or “innovative.” Making good use of a format doesn’t necessarily equate to innovation, but, there you have it. Perhaps the festival chairman is referring to broadening the range in which 3D is put to use.

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<p>LMFAO</p>

LMFAO

Credit: AP Photo

Who knocks Rihanna's 'We Found Love' out of No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100?

Is Katy Perry any closer to setting the record with 'The One That Got Away?'

LMFAO’s patience is rewarded as the duo’s “Sexy and I Know It” finally rises to the summit after waiting at No. 2 for seven weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. Its ascent means that Rihanna’s “We Found Love” finds its way out of the top spot, slipping to No. 2.

“Sexy” is LMFAO’s second No. 1, following “Party Rock Anthem” featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock, which ruled for six weeks. For those who love chart minutiae, and who doesn’t, LMFAO is only the second duo, following OutKast, to have successive singles on the Hot 100 since Roxette in 1990-1991, according to Billboard. There’s more good news for LMFAO’s RedFoo and Sky Blu as “Anthem” returns to the top 10, jumping 15-9.

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<p>Meryl Streep at the New York premiere of &quot;The Iron Lady.&quot;</p>

Meryl Streep at the New York premiere of "The Iron Lady."

Credit: AP Photo/Marion Curtis

Watch Meryl Streep get the Kennedy Center treatment

Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline and Anne Hathaway among those paying tribute

Whether Meryl Streep wins her third Oscar in two months' time or not is still highly uncertain -- Michelle Williams has so far been winning the battle of the biopics in the critics' awards, while Viola Davis must wait until January's more populist ceremonies to potentially make her mark in the race -- but she's already received a neat maybe-consolation prize in the form of her Kennedy Center Honors presentation, which aired on US television last night.

Certainly, no Academy Award presentation can match this one for either generosity of spirit or simple star wattage: in order, Tracey Ullman, Robert De Niro, Mike Nichols, Kevin Kline, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci and Anne Hathaway all turned up to pay their respects in an elaborately staged tribute that, while unrelated, seemed to karmically repay Streep for her own lovely testimony at the Academy's Vanessa Redgrave tribute evening last month. The actress seems more comfortable at the giving than the receiving end of lavish praise, but good sport that she is, she grins through the whole thing.

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