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In this special edition of Music Power Rankings, we look back at 2011 and highlight our top 10 stories and events. What strikes us as we ponder our choices in the Top 10 is that any way you look at it, this was a watershed year for the music industry in that the old, traditional way of business continues to morph into something new and those who can’t shift with the times or continue to cling to the old way of doing things will fall by the wayside. There’s understandable ongoing concern about how to monetize many of the new ways that music is consumed, but it felt like a little of the joy came back this year after a long, bleak period.
This is the last issue of MPR for a few weeks. We’ll be back in January. Happy Holidays!
1) Adele: She is the biggest success story of the year...of the last several years, actually. Her sophomore album, “21,” has never fallen out of the Billboard 200’s Top 10 and has sold more than 5 million copies in the U.S. She is on virtually every critics’ best-of-2012 list, and more importantly, she is not some producer’s puppet. She is proof that immense talent can appeal to the masses and the tastemakers alike. When she says she hurts from love’s scars, you believe her 100% and ache along with her.
2) Album sales rebound: Or at least they don’t drop. For the first time since 2004, album sales have increased over the previous year. There’s no way they’re ever going back to the pre-2000 high and the industry still feels like it’s in free-fall, but for the first time, it feels like maybe we’ve hit the bottom and, through various new business models and strategies, can go forward. (Final figures aren’t in, but through Sept. 31, sales were up 3.3% over 2010, according to Nielsen SoundScan.)
[More after the jump...]
Reality TV Roundup: 'Amazing Race' gets a winner, 'Survivor' goes with God and some 'Real Housewives' prepare to fight
Welcome to Reality TV Roundup -- a quick look at some of the reality TV-centric stories that have recently popped up across the fine, old Interwebs. Click away, my couch potato friends. But before you do...
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! One more time: SPOILER ALERT. If you watch "The X Factor," "Survivor," "Top Chef," "Project Accessory" or "America's Next Top Model," the latest elimination for each show is revealed in the text below. The hope is that, if you missed this week's program and would rather clear out your DVR than watch the episode, you can get a quick hit here. But don't come crying to me if you find out something you didn't want to know. You've been warned. Also note: lots of non-competition reality info lurks below, too.
The reality is that barring a massive LSD dose in the greater Los Angeles water supply, "The Smurfs” was unlikely to become one of the five animated films nominated for an Academy Award this year. However, the film’s disqualification does point to an interesting question: What does qualify as an animated film in today’s cinematic landscape?
Three of the qualifying submissions -- "The Adventures of Tintin," "Mars Needs Moms" and "Happy Feet Two" -- employed performance capture technology. The method is interesting to think about when one considers that “Avatar” was submitted and nominated as a live-action film. The industry at large seems, as yet, unsure of performance-capture’s place in the grander scheme. The AMPAS rule on it feels almost deliberately vague. It states that, “motion capture by itself is not an animation technique.” That doesn't clarify when or why it is. According to the Academy, “an animated feature film is defined as a motion picture with a running time of more than 40 minutes, in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique.”
It's not often that I double-dip with interviews for one movie, but that's exactly what happened this past week with Guy Ritchie for his new film, "Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows."
Earlier in the week, I ran our podcast interview, which was about twenty solid minutes with the director talking about a number of different aspects of making the film, including working with Robert Downey Jr., a demanding collaborator by all accounts, and how they handled Moriarty. But one of the things we didn't have a chance to talk about it is actually one of the things that interests me most in the film.
I think it's safe to say I've been preoccupied with London most of my life. I fell in love with English pop culture young, and one of the great pleasures of my professional life has been the way I've been able to repeatedly visit London and tour various corners of it, including some of the soundstages and studios where many of my favorite films were made.
Brad Bird's "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" was the last 2011 film I screened, and it was a nice, fun excursion amid the usual Oscar season glut. See it in IMAX if you can, particularly for the Burj Khalifa, which played havoc on my vertigo. There's also a nice addendum in the form of a prologue for "The Dark Knight Rises," which I'll be checking out when I go see the film again closer to the holidays. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the film, so when/if you see it, head on back here and let us know.
Michael Buble must have been very nice this year as Santa continues filling his stocking with presents. Next week, it may be with as many as 460,000 of them. That’s the number of copies of Buble’s holiday album, “Christmas,” he is expected to sell. That number could propel the title over the 2 million mark in two months.
As Christmas approaches, superstar titles surge and move back up the chart: there are no debuts in the Top 10: it looks like Anthony Hamilton’s superb “Back To Love” will be the highest new entry at No. 14, according to Hits Daily Double.
A review of tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as the CIA brings me wine...
Jason Reitman's "Young Adult" goes into wide release today, and I'm interested to know what our readers make of it -- it's a piece that takes some bold tonal risks in asking its audience to accompany a tragically deluded, cripplingly spiteful character, and some will be more willing to take the journey than others. Certainly, awards voters have been regarding it warily: it failed to show up in yesterday's Globe nominees for Best Comedy or Musical, while top-form star Charlize Theron was blanked by SAG the day before. No matter. I appreciated the film's prickly eccentricities, and certainly think it's one of the most daring major studio releases of 2011; Kris was even more impressed. But what about you? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Given how crowded and wide-ranging the field of reality television is, picking a top ten that makes any sense at all is no easy task. In a category that technically includes everything from educational programming to "The Amazing Race" to "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," it's not just comparing apples to oranges -- it's comparing apples to mangos to, say, potato chips.
It seemed to me we all know about the big guns in this category -- "TAR" is reliably entertaining, "Survivor" has a surprising amount of juice for an aging series and, if you like talent competitions, "American Idol" managed to reboot fairly well post-Simon Cowell. But these shows make up a narrow, high profile segment of the market.
Equally high profile, but more problematic, are the so-bad-they're-good entries in the field. Like a great, greasy hamburger or a particularly gooey dessert, shows like "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" or "Jersey Shore" can be highly addictive, entertaining and guilt inducing. I've included one on my list, but only one (they aren't Pringles, after all). These shows may be great fun, but I couldn't bring myself to include too many on my list. That doesn't mean I'm not watching them, but even I have limits.
What has always interested me more are the hidden gems lurking in the depths of basic cable. There's nothing I love more than stumbling across a great, weird, little-known show and adding it to my DVR (at least until it's canceled). So consider this my Top Ten Shows You Haven't Been Watching or Top Ten Shows You Haven't Heard of. Maybe a favorite of yours will be on here, but I'm hoping not.
The answer, as most of us would agree, is "both." Earlier today we reported that Christopher Plummer, a well-established and much-beloved actor, is for the first time in his long and expansive career primed to take home Oscar gold. Gary Oldman, though, who is also considered one of the greatest actors of his generation, has had a similar (befuddling) lack of recognition so far in the precursor season.
As we all know, Oldman has never received recognition from the industry in the form of an Oscar nomination. His work this year was cited by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle but has otherwise been largely left out of the awards conversation. With organizations like the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Screen Actors Guild and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association leaving him out of the their nominations, things are looking worse and worse for his Oscar chances this year.