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<p>Damien Echols, one of the subjects of the excellent new documentary 'West Of Memphis,' had a moment on the red carpet that you have to see to believe</p>

Damien Echols, one of the subjects of the excellent new documentary 'West Of Memphis,' had a moment on the red carpet that you have to see to believe

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Want to see the best photo from Sundance 2012?

The 'West Of Memphis' premiere results in a truly amazing moment caught on film

The other day, as I was working at the Yarrow Hotel, I ran into Chris Pizzello.  Chris is an AP photographer, and we feature his work here on HitFix on a regular basis.  I've been seeing his name go by for years now when I'm editing stories, but this was the first time I ended up actually running into any of the AP guys, and it was great to put face to name finally.

He was busy uploading some photos to the AP site, and as we started talking about the festival, he showed me a photo which seemed to have him almost giddy.

I can see why.

If you've been following the story of the West Memphis Three since the first "Paradise Lost" was released in 1996, then the photo that Pizzello took would have been unthinkable for most of the past fifteen years.  Impossible.  Absolutely absurd to even mention.

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<p>Michael Shannon in &quot;Take Shelter.&quot;</p>

Michael Shannon in "Take Shelter."

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Still in the dark: final Oscar nominee predictions

Two days from the announcement, many question marks remain

There are three reasons I've chosen the photo to your left to illustrate this post: 1) Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay nominations for "Take Shelter" are two of the fragile limbs I've climbed out on in compiling my final predictions for Tuesday's Oscar nominations announcement (with Kris and Gerard's to follow tomorrow); 2) Michael Shannon's face, staring impassively but uncertainly into the ill-lit darkness, roughly represents where I am with said predictions; and 3) if you look closely, Jessica Chastain's in the background, and since she's in the background of approximately half the films I expect to be nominated by the Academy, it seemed appropriate.

This feels like a tenuous year for predictions, and not just because -- for the first time in Oscar history -- we have the added variable of not knowing how many films will be nominated for Best Picture. In most years, at least a couple of categories feel more or less locked in place ahead of this announcement: this time, we have several major categories where a pair or trio of frontrunners are so far ahead of the pack (Clooney-Dujardin-Pitt in Actor, Davis-Streep-Williams in Actress, Hazanavicius-Allen in Original Screenplay), that the remaining slots, having already acquired the status of mere formality, are vulnerable to surprises.

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<p>&nbsp;Richard Gere and Brit Marling in &quot;Arbitrage&quot;</p>

 Richard Gere and Brit Marling in "Arbitrage"

Review: 'Arbitrage' an odd mix of Richard Gere, 'Law & Order' and indie sheen

Gere and Brit Marling can't save the thriller from a convoluted script

PARK CITY - Over the past few years, there have been an increasing number of pictures that were questionable inclusions to Sundance's premieres slate.  A few them were actually good films ("The Company Men," "Smart People," "Cedar Rapids," ), but many were star-filled pseudo indies seemingly intended to satisfy sponsor attendees and the affluent contributors looking for a little bit of Hollywood during their Park City festival vacation ("The Great Buck Howard," "Brooklyn's Finest," "Motherhood," "The Butterfly Effect," "My Idiot Brother" and "The Son of No One" come to mind).  A good deal of these films would have been more appropriate at the more commercial Toronto Film Festival (and it's worth noting the opposite is true with pictures such as "My Sister's Sister" debuting at Toronto this past year).  Saturday night featured two of these broad, star-filled premieres: "Arbitrage" and "Lay the Favorite."  The former was clearly the better of the two, but it still another disappointment for an edition of the festival where that's become the operative word.

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Adele will top the Billboard 200 once again in otherwise dismal week
Credit: Columbia Records

Adele will top the Billboard 200 once again in otherwise dismal week

How low can you go and still be in the top 10? Very

The good news is Adele’s “21” will likely surpass the 100,000 weekly tally once more  on the Billboard 200 next week. The bad news is the staggering low amount it takes for a title to land in the top 10.

While the top 4 titles will sell above 20,000, Hits Daily Double is projecting that positions 5-10 sell as low as between  17,000-19,000 each. It’s enough to make a grown man cry. This week marked the first time that a title selling 20,000 or less breached the top 10 as three titles met the low-water mark. One week later, as many as six could.

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<p>Tilda Swinton in &quot;We Need to Talk About Kevin.&quot;&nbsp;</p>

Tilda Swinton in "We Need to Talk About Kevin." 

Credit: Oscilloscope Pictures

My dream Oscar ballot: part two

Who deserves to be nominated in the major categories on Tuesday?

Yesterday, I began my annual far-fetched wishlist of films and individual achievements that, in a perfect world, I'd like to see mentioned in Tuesday's Academy Award nominations, beginning with the craft categories. Today, I move on to the major races, again picking freely from all films released Stateside in 2011 regardless of their presence on the AMPAS eligibility list, and ignoring the rigid qualifying rules in the documentary and foreign-language fields that keep so many of the year's best films out of running. Once more, the results set me up for a world of resigned disappointment next week.

When I left you yesterday, "Drive" and "Jane Eyre" were leading the field, while my two favorite films of the year "Weekend" and "Margaret," had yet to get on the scoreboard. How much will this change? What peaked only in the technicals? And is there time for a late surge from "W.E.?" Check out my picks after the jump, and weigh in with your own thoughts (and favorites) in the comments. 

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<p>Is it just me, or does everyone always look cooler in snow gear?&nbsp; It's definitely true of Joel Edgerton and Teresa Palmer, here to support their film 'Wish You Were Here'</p>

Is it just me, or does everyone always look cooler in snow gear?  It's definitely true of Joel Edgerton and Teresa Palmer, here to support their film 'Wish You Were Here'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Joel Edgerton and Teresa Palmer discuss 'Wish You Were Here'

A relaxed chat with two of the stars from this year's Sundance opening night movie

While we've got Team HitFix here, we're trying to do as many interviews as we can.  We've got our awesome video team of Alex Dorn and Michiel Thomas with us on-site, and we've kept them running.  On Saturday morning, we all met at the Bing Bar on Main Street, and I sat down with the filmmakers behind the film "Wish You Were Here."

This was the opening night movie that I reviewed, and I wanted to discuss the movie with the cast.  I've interviewed Joel Edgerton before, most recently for "Warrior," so there was a slight comfort level there, and Teresa Palmer joined him for our chat, which is never a bad thing.

I like that Palmer gets to play Australian in the film, and it is that national identity for the film itself that I thought was most interesting and worth discussion.  Australian cinema has had a number of different ebbs and flows over the years, and it feels to me like Blue-Tongue Films, a production collective that includes Edgerton, his brother Nash, and director Kieran Darcy-Smith, is one of the companies that is part of this new moment that's happening. 

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<p>Drake at Bing Bar</p>

Drake at Bing Bar

Credit: Bing

Drake previews Club Paradise tour at snowy Sundance late-night concert

8 things I learned about Drizzy live: a hater's guide

PARK CITY -- Aziz Ansari had a public service announcement: "The RAPPER is LATE."

The comedian and "Parks & Recreation" star was already bleeding sarcasm as he took the stage at Bing Bar last night (Jan 21), the opening act to rapper/singer Drake who was -- in fact -- an hour-and-a-half late for his set. On a Saturday night, at an open bar for one of the most in-demand MCs during one of the peak nights for Sundance crashers at a private party, Ansari's stand-up was met with a smilingly agitated crowd.

Ansari dotted his bits about childhood and childbearing with "this sucks" and "at least I'm getting paid lots and lots of money." It was Cuba Gooding, Jr. who crashed Ansari's party, but only to unsuccessfully persuade the crowd to shut the hell up and respect the pre-Drizzy entertainment.

There was no stopping them. The Bing-sponsored performance was one of the extremely rare dates leading up to Drake's proper tour behind "Take Care" live dates -- dubbed the Club Paradise Tour. Last night was a preview of what to expect for this highly anticipated stint, featuring openers and Hip-Hop New Class members A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar.

Drake took the stage, finally, at 1 a.m. on the dot.

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<p>A scene from &quot;The Adventures of Tintin,&quot;, which beat "Rango" to the PGA's animation award.</p>

A scene from "The Adventures of Tintin,", which beat "Rango" to the PGA's animation award.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

PGA voters ignore box office, reward 'The Artist' and 'Tintin'

'Beats, Rhymes and Life' upsets in documentary race

Let's just say that if you were expecting any film besides "The Artist" to triumph at the Producers' Guild of America Awards, you clearly haven't been paying attention. After dominating the critics' awards and taking three Golden Globes, the French phenomenon had its first taste of Guild glory last night -- solidly confirming its status as the film to beat (if indeed it can be beaten) for the Oscar.

As with "The Hurt Locker" two years ago, the PGA rewarded by far the lowest-grossing of the 10 films nominated: many pundits speak of them as a commercially-minded voting group, but their choices don't really bear this idea out. Consensus has simply landed on Harvey Weinstein's black-and-white pony as the most loveable in the race, and if it has the money men in its corner, it's good to go.  

We'll know next weekend just how comfortable the film is in the race as the Directors' and Screen Actors' Guilds announce their winners -- a DGA win for Michel Hazanavicius (which is probable) would just about lock things in place, but if it manages to beat "The Help" to the SAG ensemble award (which is more of a question mark), Oscar pundits may as well take up another hobby until February 27.

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<p>Tony Hawk of &quot;Bones Brigade&quot;</p>
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Tony Hawk of "Bones Brigade"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: Stacy Peralta's 'Bones Brigade: An Autobiography'

'Dogtown and Z-Boys' follow-up chronicles Tony Hawk and other '80s stars
It's been over a decade since skateboarding pioneer Stacy Peralta brought his partially autobiographic documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys" to the Sundance Film Festival and walked away with an Audience Award and a prize for his direction.
 
Since then, Peralta has successfully chronicled big wave surfers in "Riding Giants" and street gangs in "Crips and Bloods: Made in America," proving himself to be more than just a one-trick pony as a documentarian, but rather an astute chronicler of men who live extreme lives on the fringes of the mainstream.
 
Peralta returned to Sundance on Saturday (January 21) night for the world premiere of "Bones Brigade: An Autobiography," which isn't exactly a sequel to "Dogtown and Z-Boys," but still follows the next chapter in the filmmaker's life, as well as the next chapter in the history of skateboarding as an athletic pursuit and an art form.
 
As he did on "Dogtown and Z-Boys," Peralta is making a film about himself and about the people who were closest to him, but as was the case with the earlier film, proximity yields refreshing honesty and candidness rather than a self-aggrandizing puff piece. The skaters featured in "Bones Brigade," several so legendary that even I've heard of them, see no purpose in being coy or precious with their memories and reputations. 
 
For purposes of honesty, it helps that the story being told in "Bones Brigade" is almost unnervingly functional. Nobody really has all that much to cover up or be ashamed of and the subjects of the documentary are practically competing to distribute the highest compliments.
 
As you might imagine, all of that admiration and respect isn't always so great for drama and "Bones Brigade" lacks even the traditional spiral of egos that pushed "Dogtown and Z-Boys" to its conclusion. In the place of stakes and tension, Peralta gives us a cast of at least a dozen colorful and often hilarious characters, plus a seemingly bottomless treasure trove of period footage. That was more than enough for this viewer whose interest in the skateboarding milieu is minimal at best.
 
More after the break...
 
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<p>&nbsp;Jean Dujardin in the PGA award-winning &quot;The Artist.&quot;</p>

 Jean Dujardin in the PGA award-winning "The Artist."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'The Artist' wins the 2012 PGA Awards film honor - Is Oscar next?

Plus: All the TV winners

One major guild win down for "The Artist," two more to go?

The Producer's Guild of America announced the winners of their 2012 PGA Awards Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills and the big winner was "The Artist." The critically acclaimed Weinstein Company favorite beat out competitors such as "The Descendants," "Hugo," "The Help" and "War Horse." It was the first PGA win for Thomas Langmann who received sole credit for the honor. Langmann has worked exclusively in his native France for the past decade.  
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<p>&quot;The Other Dream Team&quot;</p>
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"The Other Dream Team"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: 'The Other Dream Team'

Documentary about the 1992 Lithuanian hoops team could use a bit more focus
In reviewing Kirby Dick's "The Invisible War" yesterday, I mentioned my approval for Sundance documentaries that stoke my sense of righteous indignation. But that doesn't mean that I can't be just as appreciative (or more) of something as seemingly frivolous as a good sports documentary.
 
At my first Sundance in 2009, one of the best films I saw was "Thriller in Manila." The following year, I was able to put aside my general antipathy for the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks to love "Winning Time." And last year, no documentary I saw at Sundance packed the visceral and emotional punch of "Senna."
 
It shouldn't surprise regular readers, then, that one of my most anticipated titles at this year's Festival was "The Other Dream Team," Marius Markevicius' film about the 1992 Lithuanian National Basketball team.
 
I didn't have one of the tie-dyed Lithuania hoops t-shirts, but I sure wanted one. I'm never one to turn down the chance to watch Arvydas Sabonis highlights. And if we're doing amateur genealogy, half of my family considers Lithuania to be "The Old Country." 
 
"The Other Dream Team," playing in the US Documentary competition, may just have been too much in my wheelhouse, in the sense that I had the version of the film that I wanted to see in my head and I was disappointed by the actual film's pacing and focus. 
 
I don't think I've ever done this before, but I'm inclined to quote Roger Ebert's Tweet from last night: "Never ask a person who knows anything about the subject what they think of a documentary." I don't know if I'd say "never ask," but "take with a grain of salt" isn't a bad idea. "The Other Dream Team" wasn't the 1992 Lithuanian Basketball movie that I necessarily wanted, but it could absolutely be the 1992 Lithuanian Basketball movie that you want, assuming you want such a thing.
 
Full review after the break.
 
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<p>Bingham Ray outside his United Artists offices in 2002.&nbsp;He was brought in by MGM&nbsp;at the time to re-invent the company as a prestigious independent film company.</p>

Bingham Ray outside his United Artists offices in 2002. He was brought in by MGM at the time to re-invent the company as a prestigious independent film company.

Credit: AP Photo/Nick Ut

Sundance: Wishing a speedy recovery to Bingham Ray (UPDATED)

The indie mainstay suffered a stroke this week in Park City

PARK CITY - UPDATE (1/23): Reports today say that Ray did indeed pass away. We wish his family the best and deepest condolences on the loss of an indie mainstay. It will be a sad day in Park City.

From the Sundance Institute:

It is with great sadness that the Sundance Institute acknowledges the passing of Bingham Ray, cherished independent film executive and most recently Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society.  On behalf of the independent film community here  in Park City for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and elsewhere, we offer our support and condolences to his family.  Bingham’s many contributions to this community and business are indelible, and his legacy will not be soon forgotten.

EARLIER: One more note of business. The Tweets started circulating this afternoon about the news that Bingham Ray, a former studio head with deep and inspiring ties to the indie film scene, had suffered a stroke here in Park City earlier this week. He's currently in a Provo hospital recovering.

The Sundance Institute released the following:

Sundance Institute has learned that Bingham Ray, beloved friend of independent film, and Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society, has been hospitalized while in Utah for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.  We have reached out to Bingham and his family and San Francisco Film Society to offer our support and are pleased to hear that he is being well cared for.  On behalf of the community of independent film fans in Park City and elsewhere, we send Bingham our best wishes for a speedy recovery.

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