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Top Ten of 2011: A year of Los Angeles films and superb style

Top Ten of 2011: A year of Los Angeles films and superb style

Which franchise surprisingly made the list?

Aren't you glad that's over?  Yes, 2011 was clearly one of the more mediocre and likely unmemorable years in cinema in quite awhile.  Sure, there were some amazing films released over the last 12 months, but it was much easier picking the top five pictures on my year end list than the second five.  It was just one of those years.

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No Oscar Talk this week

Happy Holidays

Anne and I are taking the first (much-needed) week off of the season from the podcast today. So we'll be back 12/30 to close out the year with our 75th (if you can believe it) episode. So enjoy the holidays, whatever you're doing, and enjoy a week off from our rambling nonsense.

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<p>Lana Del Rey</p>

Lana Del Rey

Watch: Lana Del Rey premieres 'Off to the Races' and heads to 'SNL'

Then three songs became four songs

Lana Del Rey has a full-length album due in a month, granted, but it seemed a little absurd when, this week, it was announced she'd be joining "Saturday Night Live" (Jan. 14) as a musical guest, two weeks before "Born to Die" drops on Jan. 31. She's released only three songs.

OK, well, make that four, if one were to include pop parody. Because that's what "Off to the Races" is, or sounds like.

Taking a nod to from Rihanna, the singer adds a little dub cadence to her vocals for the verse, before taking on karaoke campiness and ending the refrain with a squeak toy. This is a wordy word track, some narrative and some nonsense tumbling out into found footage of girls-and-guns. And, again with the blood, the religious imagery and guys with tattoos making kissy. I see some themes, but not much substance here.

So just add me to the hater pile-on. The late-'90s power dark-dance groove doesn't do much for me, not compared to the impeccable produced "Video Games." Vocally, Del Rey is still carving out her character.

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<p>Rihanna</p>

Rihanna

Watch: Rihanna gets touchy in 'You Da One' music video

How many looks does the pop star rock?

In her latest music video, pop star Rihanna has her way... with herself.

In an ode to her lover, the Def Jam singer made clear her erm positions on several key cultural uh touchstones. She also sports her newly minted bottom-teeth grill and gives an instructional guide on smoking sexily in four different looks, which I will call: "Clockwork Orange," full-body fishnet, glamor-puss and "nothing at all."

It's easy to see why "You Da One" was chosen as the second single from Ri-Ri's latest "Talk That Talk": while "We Found Love" takes listeners to Ibiza, it's safe to drag them back to the beginning -- the beginning of the album -- in Dr. Luke style with a shock of Caribbean flavor. The video matches the sounds simply. There's some lyrics, there's some sex and some Rihanna self-referentials. Pretty. Standard.

What do you think of the video?

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<p>At least one HFPA voter's favorite film of the year is &quot;The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.&quot;&nbsp;</p>

At least one HFPA voter's favorite film of the year is "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." 

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Round-up: When is a simple omission a snub?

Also: championing Pitt for 'Tree of Life' and the year in LGBT characters

When last week's Globe and SAG nominations were announced, the blogosphere was thick with talk of who had been "snubbed." It's a word we're all guilty of misusing, implying as it does calculated group-think impossible with large voting bodies. (Film writer Nick Davis summed up the misconception with this tweet: "Whenever I order off a restaurant menu, I look at everything I didn't order, even the dish I almost chose, and I think, 'I'm snubbing them!'") Screen International editor (and HFPA voter) Mike Goodridge reminds us that voters can only vote for contenders, not against them; in a crowded field, omissions are inevitable, but who's to say they were pointedly ignored? Proving that a group like the HFPA is a hive of conflicting opinions, not the collective Globes mentality we often refer to, his own favorite film of the year is "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." [Screen Daily

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<p>It's been an uneven year overall for &quot;The Office,&quot;&nbsp;but Michael's proposal to Holly was a big high point.</p>

It's been an uneven year overall for "The Office," but Michael's proposal to Holly was a big high point.

Credit: NBC

Best of the Rest: 10 Great TV episodes from 2011

Even shows that weren't brilliant overall could offer momentary brilliance every now and then

Having already presented my lists of the best overall shows of the year, the best returning shows and the best new shows, it's time for my final superlatives list: 10 great episodes of shows that missed the cut on any of the other lists.

Some come from shows I like a lot, but not as much as some others that actually made a top 10. Some come from shows I once loved universally and now stick with for the occasional reminder of the good old days. And one comes from a show I came to hate pretty thoroughly, as a reminder that even bad shows are capable of greatness for an hour or two.

In no particular order...

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<p>Isabelle Huppert in Brillante Mendoza's &quot;Captured,&quot; set to premiere in Competition at the Berlinale in February.</p>

Isabelle Huppert in Brillante Mendoza's "Captured," set to premiere in Competition at the Berlinale in February.

Berlinale jury includes Gyllenhaal and Farhadi, first Competition titles announced

'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' and 'Flowers of War' to play out of competition

With over two months left of Oscar talk that isn't even half as oppressive now as it will feel in a few weeks, I find myself eagerly looking forward to the mini-wave of winter festivals that will bring some fresh films to our attention -- in particular, the Berlin Film Festival, which I'll be attending once more in February. It's at Berlin where I've previously got a hefty head start on such films as "A Separation," "Coriolanus" and "The Illusionist," and I'm antsy to see what the most civilized of the major European fests is serving up next year.

We already have a couple of titles locked in place, and one of them is a major one: Brillante Mendoza's "Captured," starring arthouse queen Isabelle Huppert. I'd previously thought the film sounded a likelier contender for Cannes, but I'm told Berlin was always the target: anyway, after competing twice at Cannes and once at Venice, he now completes the hat-trick.

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Listen: Taylor Swift and Civil Wars' 'Safe & Sound' from 'The Hunger Games'
Credit: Lionsgate Music

Listen: Taylor Swift and Civil Wars' 'Safe & Sound' from 'The Hunger Games'

Can you imagine Katniss singing this?

Wow, that Taylor Swift can keep a secret. She surprised her fans very late Thursday night with the perfect Christmas present: a new song, “Safe & Sound,” which will be on “The Hunger Games” soundtrack. Better yet, the lovely, acoustic song features The Civil Wars.

We don’t know much about how the whole thing came about, but Swift started dropping hints via Twitter earlier in the evening that she had a surprise, and then, wham. The song, written by Swift and Civil Wars,  is a lullaby of sorts, as she and The Civil Wars’ Joy Williams gently sing “Just close your eyes, the sun is going down/you’ll be alright, no one can hurt you now/Come morning light, you and I will be safe and sound” as a guitar and drum insistently and powerfully build, but never overwhelm the delicacy of the track. It's one of the prettiest songs we've heard Swift do.

[More after the jump...]

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"Project Accessory"

 "Project Accessory"

Credit: Lifetime Television

Recap: 'Project Accessory' - 'Finale'

The final three must create individual collections - with some questionable help

It's the big finale of "Project Accessory," and though I think I might be one of ten people actually watching the show thus far, I'm sure they're excited about it. Hey, they have a shot at $100,000, which is considerably less after taxes, but it's still a nice car or two or maybe a reason to quit a crappy job. After watching "The X Factor" and its $5 million recording contract, it doesn't seem like much, but hey, these people made accessories out of garbage and stuff they found in an abandoned building, so they're probably very good at stretching. 

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<p>&quot;Survivor: South Pacific&quot; winner Sophie Clarke</p>

"Survivor: South Pacific" winner Sophie Clarke

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Sophie Clarke talks 'Survivor: South Pacific'

This season's winner talks about the difficulties of staying the course
Sophie Clarke didn't win the most challenges on "Survivor: South Pacific."
 
She wasn't hailed by the CBS promotional team with making the game's Biggest Move.
 
She didn't give herself a bombastic nickname.
 
She didn't cause drama at camp with her religious beliefs, nor did she start a showmance that set tabloid tongues wagging.
 
All Sophie did was follow Rudyard Kipling's edict about keeping your head when all about you are losing theirs. She became the centerpiece of an alliance on Day One and while Albert skittered about contemplating switching things up and Coach prayed on how to make every choice, Sophie stayed the course and steered the course of the game.
 
It didn't hurt that she won three Individual Immunities, including the all-important final Immunity challenge, knocking off the previously unbeatable Ozzy.
 
For her efforts, Sophie was rewarded with a decisive Jury vote and the million dollar prize as this season's "Survivor" champion. 
 
Click through for my full exit interview with Sophie, which came on the heels of a night of CBS fun and a long morning of promotional duties for the 22-year-old medical school student.
 
 
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Steven Price and Basement Jaxx provided, to my mind, the year's best score on "Attack the Block." No Oscar for you!
Steven Price and Basement Jaxx provided, to my mind, the year's best score on "Attack the Block." No Oscar for you!
Credit: Screen Gems

'Drive,' 'A Better Life' and 'Attack the Block' among scores not eligible for Oscar this year

97 submissions compete for five spots

The Academy has announced a list of 97 film scores eligible for consideration in the Best Original Score category this year. Typically, it's this announcement that brings the bad news of this or that score either not being submitted or being ruled ineligible for whatever reason.

The notable exclusions this year are work from Cliff Martinez ("Drive"), Howard Shore ("A Dangerous Method"), Christophe Beck ("The Muppets") and Alexandre Desplat ("A Better Life"). Each, however, is in the race elsewhere, but it's unfortunate in the case of the latter as it is one of Desplat's two best stabs in an accomplished and prolific year.

Also not on the list, to my great dismay, is Steven Price and Basement Jaxx's outstanding work on "Attack the Block." Humbug to that, I say. And Hans Zimmer, you'll recall, opted out of the race this year. So his work on a number of films, including "Rango" and "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" does not appear on the list.

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"The X Factor"

 "The X Factor"

Credit: Fox

Recap: 'The X Factor' - 'Season Finale Part 2'

The winner of a $5,000,000 recording contract is announced

As Dan is taking a few days off, I'll be stepping in to live blog part two of "The X Factor" finale, and I hope you'll all bear with me. I'm usually busy on Thursday nights recapping "Project Accessory" or "Project Runway" or something else "Project" related, so I'm coming to the party a little (okay, a lot) late. That's probably why I'm torn about which singer I'd like to see take home the (supposed) $5 million recording contract.

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