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<p>Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin at last night's London Critics' Circle Awards, where both men won prizes.</p>

Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin at last night's London Critics' Circle Awards, where both men won prizes.

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

A night at the London Critics' Circle Awards

Black-tie bash brought three prizes apiece for 'The Artist' and 'A Separation'

Writing up an awards ceremony I actually voted in is new territory for me, and slightly awkward to boot. Praising the choices of the London Critics' Circle amounts to patting myself on the back, criticizing them to shooting myself in the foot -- choose your poison, really. Happily, for me at least, I can err on the back-patting side: after assembling a superb set of nominees last month, my Circle colleagues did a pretty bang-up job of choosing the winners, too.

Across 15 categories, eight of the winners were ones I'd voted for myself; of the remaining seven, the majority were for films and individuals I'm more than happy to cheer on anyway. Only one, I'll admit, really left me scratching my head -- though if nothing else, Kenneth Branagh's Best Supporting Actor prize for "My Week With Marilyn" was an unexpected deviation from the Christopher Plummer/Albert Brooks pattern the season has doggedly followed thus far, and his acceptance speech was composed of equal parts genuine gratitude and surprise.  

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<p>Denise Richards and Tracy Morgan on &quot;30 Rock.&quot;</p>

Denise Richards and Tracy Morgan on "30 Rock."

Credit: NBC

'30 Rock' - 'Idiots Are People Two!': Mercury rising

Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden and Denise Richards swing by, but Liz and Jack are the show

A quick review of last night's "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as Teri Polo and Ving Rhames call me at home...

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<p>Do ya like planes?&nbsp; Because if not, 'Red Tails' may not be for you.</p>

Do ya like planes?  Because if not, 'Red Tails' may not be for you.

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Review: 'Red Tails' flies high during combat, but can't win the whole war

George Lucas finally finishes a long-time dream project to mixed results

Anyone who watched "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" probably has a pretty good idea of what they can expect from the long-rumored George Lucas production of "Red Tails" now that it's actually opening in theaters.

The story of the Tuskeegee Airmen is a significant one, and worth telling.  HBO took a shot at it a while ago, and Lucas has been trying to get his version made for what feels like decades now.  I admire the intent, because a film like this and a story like this can be inspirational and connect young African-American audiences to a history they may not know about.  If that's the only thing the film accomplishes, then I'm sure Lucas will count it as a success, and I do hope parents take their kids to see it.

I also hope it is the start of a conversation, and not the entire thing.

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"The Vampire Diaries"

 "The Vampire Diaries"

Credit: CW

Recap: 'The Vampire Diaries' - 'The Ties That Bind'

Bonnie searches for a clue to the locked coffin - but at what cost?

Tonight's episode of "The Vampire Diaries" chews through an awful lot of plot -- I think, in addition to B and C storylines, we might have some D and E ones as well. But the ones that resonate the most have to do with rejection and what these continually challenged characters are willing to do for love (both romantic and familial) -- which, as you might expect, is a heck of a lot. 

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<p>&nbsp;Melanie Lynskey and Christopher Abbott in &quot;Hello I Must Be Going.&quot;</p>

 Melanie Lynskey and Christopher Abbott in "Hello I Must Be Going."

Review: Melanie Lynskey can't keep 'Hello I Must Be Going' from indie cliches

Newcomer Christopher Abbott makes a strong impression

PARK CITY - It may be time to seriously take a look at the creative process of the Sundance Institute's Sundance Lab. Originally founded to help foster new screenwriters and directos trying to develop independent features, it has also become a major source for films debuting at the festival over the past 10 years (a not unexpected byproduct).  Sometimes, that allows features such as Dee Rees' "Pariah" to find an audience, but other times it seems to create a homogenized product of recognizable indie film themes and story lines.  One of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival's four debuts tonight, "Hello I Must Be Going," unfortunately falls into the latter category. 

Director Todd Louiso, who is also known for his acting roles in films such as "Jerry Maguire" and " High Fidelity," made his feature film debut at Sundance 10 years ago with the Philip Seymour Hoffman dramedy "Love Liza."  He then had a massive misfire with the Paramount  Vantage title "The Marc Pease Experience" which finally was dumped in 2009.  Now, he returns to Park City with "Going," a dramedy about a thirty something woman, Amy (Melanie Lynskey), who is trying to recover from a painful divorce while staying at her parent's impressive mansion, er, home in Bridgeport, CT.  The picture is the first produced screenplay for Sarah Koskoff, a longtime collaborator of Louiso's, and according to Festival Director John Cooper's opening remarks, it was developed at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab.  
 
It takes quite awhile for the audience to find out what Amy's life was like before her New York husband divorced her which is something of a problem because she mostly seems like a dysfunctional ghost.  Lynskey has been fantastic recently in "Win Win," "The Informant" and "Up in the Air," but "Going" spends so much time initially having fun with Amy's obsessive and meddling mother Ruth (a going for it Blythe Danner) and her overly concerned family members including a  dad who constantly comes to sit on her bed with sage advice (John Rubinstein) that she's the one seemingly dragging the story down.  Additionally, the more you learn about Amy's life the harder it is to believe Lynskey as the character.  It's only when newcomer Christopher Abbott (the upcoming HBO series "Girls") comes on screen as 19-year-old love interest Jeremy that the film even starts to get interesting.
 
While the cougar-esque storyline is doomed to fail, Abbot makes you believe Jeremy's affections for Amy are genuine and his youthful charisma's is a nice counterpoint to the more established actors onscreen. And for a good 20 minutes or so, Amy's romantic blossoming and some hilarious scenes with Jeremy's mom (a fantastic Julie White) allows the film to find an entertaining rhythm.  Unfortunately, Louiso and Kaskoff feel the need to wrap up every one of the film's story lines with a bow and "Going" just putters awkwardly to the finish line. The movie's characters would have been much better served by leaving some of the story's secondary conflicts open to the audience's imagination.
 
Three films in, its also hard to determine Louiso's voice as a filmmaker.  At times "Going" feels like it could have been directed by Rodrigo Garcia,  Nicole Holofcener or Miguel Arteta or someone trying to emulate their styles.  Other times it "Going" seems as though it could have been directed by a random indie director and no, that's not a compliment.
 
Cinematographer Julie Kirkwood shows some talent giving the picture a grittier look than the material necessarily required.  On the other hand, the film suffers from a seemingly never ending rotation of indie music song cliches. You can't recognize them and they are no doubt original, but boy they sure sound familiar.
 
As for acquisition potential, "Gone" isn't commercially friendly enough for a mini-major and likely in the IFC Films or Magnolia Films category. 
 
For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.

 

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<p>Joel Edgerton stars in the dramatic thriller 'Wish You Were Here,' the opening night film of the Sundance Film Festival</p>

Joel Edgerton stars in the dramatic thriller 'Wish You Were Here,' the opening night film of the Sundance Film Festival

Credit: Blue-Tongue Films

Review: 'Wish You Were Here' sends Joel Edgerton on a nightmare vacation

Australian drama offers some solid performances but uneven narrative

At heart, "Wish You Were Here" is an effective piece about the way secrets can serve as a cancer in a marriage.  It's well-performed across the board, it's incredibly well-shot, and I think much of it works in terms of tone and mood.  There are some major plot issues that you have to forgive, though, and it might be enough to derail the experience for some viewers.

Directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith, "Wish You Were Here" fractures time to tell the story of a group of Australians who take a trip to Cambodia.  During the trip, one of them vanishes, and the rest of them return home to deal with the emotional fallout.  Not everyone is working with the same information, though, and little by little, the truth comes out, with some devastating fallout.  Dave Flannery (Joel Edgerton) and his wife Alice (Felicity Price, who also co-wrote the film) are parents, and they step back into this life they've built, with their four-year-old and their five-year-old and another one on the way.  Alice's sister Steph (Teresa Palmer) was the one who was dating Jeremy (Antony Starr), the guy who disappeared, and she's the one who seems to be most directly affected at first.  Gradually, though, Dave and Alice are forced to deal with something unspoken, something that threatens their family, and that's the real driving force in the film.

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<p>&quot;The Queen of Versailles&quot;</p>
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"The Queen of Versailles"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: 'The Queen of Versailles'

Opening Night doc is the most extreme 'Real Housewives' episode ever
Economic downturn be damned, every week, millions of viewers tune in to Bravo to revel in the despicable conspicuous consumption of an assortment of surgically manipulated, humanity deficient housewives from an assortment of major American cities. 
 
Audiences flock to Bravo's "Real Housewives" franchise for many of the same reasons that they celebrated "The O.C." or "Dallas" or "Dynasty" or even "Revenge": Soap operas about the wealthy feed appetites that are simultaneously wish fulfillment and outsider hostility. On one hand, they're the living embodiments of the American Dream, no matter the source of their money. On the other hand, they're awful people and if we can't slap them or throw them in swimming pools or topple their houses of cards, it's a pleasure to watch somebody else do it. 
 
Rich people suck, but damned if we wouldn't all want to spend a while in their shoes.
 
Or would we? 
 
Lauren Greenfield's "The Queen of Versailles," the Opening Night US Documentary competition entry at the Sundance Film Festival, starts off as a somewhat campy, candy-colored look at the outlandish life of the least real Real Housewife imaginable. But over 100 minutes, it turns the "Real Housewives" formula upside down and it becomes possibly the least tragic epic tragedy ever constructed. What begins as an easy, uncluttered source for envy and derision becomes something confusing and possibly challenging. 
 
By the end of "The Queen of Versailles," I wasn't viewing the characters the way they viewed themselves and I'm not sure if I was viewing them the way Greenfield was viewing them. I was viewing them through a prism tilted by contemporary economic events, but also countless hours of reality TV.
 
I found the result to be an fascinating muddle of reactions that couldn't be more contemporary and couldn't be more American, which I guess I hope was Greenfield's ultimate intent.
 
More after the break...
 
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"Project Runway"

 "Project Runway"

Credit: Lifetime Television

Recap: 'Project Runway' - 'Patterning for Piggy'

The designers must design for a swine - but will they Muppet it up?

I would call tonight's episode a hare-brained idea, as I'm not sure I have an appropriate porcine equivalent (all porked up?), but I think I'll just get to the point. As Angela awkwardly informs our judges (and by the way, I'm still trying to give her some wiggle room to get her footing as a hostess, but I'm beginning to lose hope), tonight's challenge will be dressing international celebrity Miss Piggy. The designers all seem to be falling over with excitement about this, which is endearing but also makes me think they're horribly sleep deprived and a little punchy. I can't imagine most designers stay up at night, praying that some day they'll be able to dress a foam puppet, but maybe the All Stars are just that wacky. 

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<p>Judy Greer in Alexander Payne's &quot;The Descendants.&quot;</p>

Judy Greer in Alexander Payne's "The Descendants."

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Interview: Judy Greer on ‘The Descendants' and Payne's 'intimately hands-off' approach

She muses on her small but powerful role in one of the season's hottest films

Wins for both Best Picture and Best Actor at the Golden Globes Sunday, coupled with George Clooney’s victory at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards last week have solidified Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” as an Oscar frontrunner (if consistent critical approval hadn't already). Clooney stars in the film as Matt King, a man who must confront his wife’s infidelity as well as (to the best of his somewhat limited ability) his own inadequacies as a husband and father as she lay dying in a coma.

In addition to the precursor attention the film, director and lead actor have received, 19-year-old Shailene Woodley (who plays Clooney’s hybrid wild-child/precocious teen daughter) has been an intermittent presence in the supporting actress field (as well as a consistent one in the young or up-and-coming star arena). But for many cinema-goers, there is a third performance in the film that resonates long after the lights have come up. Judy Greer’s short-lived but palpable turn as Julie Speer, a woman who has the misfortune to discover that her husband Brian was having an affair with Clooney’s wife Elizabeth, is both grounded and evocative.

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"American Idol"

 "American Idol"

Credit: Fox

Recap: 'American Idol' hits Pittsburgh

It's time for more golden tickets - and more crying

It's time for another dose of "American Idol," which you may or may not be looking forward to if last night's ratings are any indication (although, let's face it, 21.26 million viewers is nothing to sneeze at). Dan is freezing his butt off at Sundance, so I'll be handling his "Idol" duties until next Wednesday. Allow me to freely admit that I didn't watch much of the show last season, as it overlaps with my other Thursday night recapping duties and Steven Tyler's hat collection scares me a little, so I hope you'll bear with me. 

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<p>The kids of &quot;Unsupervised.&quot;</p>

The kids of "Unsupervised."

Credit: FX

'Unsupervised' - 'Pilot: Risky business

What did everybody think of the new FX animated comedy?

I posted my review of FX's "Unsupervised" this morning. Now it's your turn. What did everybody think on this kinder, somewhat gentler spin on "Beavis & Butt-Head" from the "Always Sunny" guys? Did you like Gary and Joel? Did you find it funnier than I did? Do you prefer Kristen Bell's voiceover work here or on "Gossip Girl"? And given all the "Archer" love around here, are you going to stick around just because one airs after the other? 

Have at it.

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<p>Archer gets to know guest star Burt Reynolds in the season premiere.</p>

Archer gets to know guest star Burt Reynolds in the season premiere.

Credit: FX

'Archer' - 'The Man from Jupiter': Burt Reynolds is the bomb

The '70s icon goes driving with Sterling in the third season premiere

Earlier today, I posted an interview with "Archer" co-star Judy Greer. The season premiere just finished, and I loved how it made use of Burt Reynolds. There are times when it can feel awkward when a show spends an episode sucking up to a very special guest star, but it worked here because so much of Archer's personality - and so much of the show's approach to action - feels inspired by all those movies Reynolds did in the '70s and early '80s when he was the biggest movie star in the world.

As always, my coverage of the series is going to be intermittent (I tend to watch it in chunks, often well after individual episodes have aired), but fire away with your thoughts on the premiere.

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