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<p>Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood were one of the highlights of this year's CMA Awards.</p>

Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood were one of the highlights of this year's CMA Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

The best and worst, worst, worst of the 2011 CMA Awards

We review the highlights and the many lowlights

Is it still 2011? The 45th annual CMA Awards just wrapped and as they showed shots from the opening musical numbers over the closing credits, they seemed so long ago that I’d forgotten they’d taken place.

Before I unleash here, let’s get it straight that I love country music. I grew up in the south, went to college in Nashville and started my career there, so these criticisms aren’t coming from some left coaster who has an elite disdain and instant dismissiveness for the genre so prevalent in people  in Los Angeles and New York. Plus, I have greatly enjoyed the CMA Awards in years past.

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<p>Hugh Laurie talks &quot;Arthur Christmas.&quot;</p>

Hugh Laurie talks "Arthur Christmas."

Hugh Laurie didn't imagine he would be so 'buff' in fantastic 'Arthur Christmas'

'House' star talks about his role in new Aardman animated film

Hugh Laurie is no stranger to voice over work.  Whether it's "Monsters vs. Aliens," "Stuart Little" or numerous other appearances, Laurie's vocal talents has served him well.  Now, just in time for the holidays, the "House" star can be heard in Aardman Animation and Sony Picture Animation's clever and charming new feature "Arthur Christmas."

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<p>Ms.&nbsp;Piggy would like you to think really hard about this.</p>

Ms. Piggy would like you to think really hard about this.

One last 'Muppets' nudge... from Miss Piggy

The @MuppetOscars campaign should at least warrant a mention on the show

Alright, so we all had our fun. With the news that Brian Grazer is coming on board to "save" the Oscars, one gets the feeling that the Academy is ready to just move along, swiftly. So I'm not betting on the most creative Oscarcast. Do your best and get the hell out of this year. That kind of thing.

So, no room to pay for and mobilize The Muppets to have a key role in things, no matter if all you really need is a chair with a hole in it. But earlier today, the @MuppetOscars Twitter account shot up by 6,000 followers (going from 700+ in the morning to over 6,700 as of 9pm PT), with "Muppets" trending at one point. The Facebook page blew up with "likes" and messages; 10,000 followers there. Members of the international audience even chimed in: "I'd actually watch it... at 4am!" Fan art. Etc.

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<p>Whitney of &quot;Survivor: South Pacific&quot;</p>
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Whitney of "Survivor: South Pacific"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: South Pacific' - 'Cut Throat'

Everybody picks on Cochran and two castaways head to Redemption
Pre-credit sequence. We pick right up after Tribal Council on a mighty awkward walk back to Te Tuna, particularly for Cochran, who gets pulled aside by Ozzy. Cochran tries explaining that he just didn't want his fate determined by a stone, which Ozzy doesn't particularly buy. Ozzy seems pretty chill to me, but Saintly Brandon comes over to protect Cochran from the The Bad Man. "We're not gangsters over here, man," Ozzy tells Brandon, before turning to Cochran and reminding him that "I put my ass on the line for you, directly and personally." This isn't exactly true, but Ozzy's pretending to believe it's true. "You just stabbed me in the back so hard," Ozzy concludes, calling Cochran a "wiener." Jim much more blunt, telling Cochran that he is "A poor excuse for a man," advising him to never talk to him again. Whitney's also displeased, telling Cochran and she and Keith saved him three times. "You've got a lot to learn, buddy. You disgust me," Whitney says. Ouch. Cochran's new alliance welcomes him around the fire, but he's unsure of his position. And then we let Jimbo and Whitney swear a bit more about how much they hate Cochran. This is gonna be an obnoxious episode, isn't it?
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<p>The &quot;America's Next Top Model&quot; models go to Greece</p>
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The "America's Next Top Model" models go to Greece

Credit: The CW

Recap: 'America's Next Top Model' - 'Nikos Papadopoulos'

The models head to Greece and an underwear shoot causes controversy

Now that Alexandria has been eliminated, It’s time to get out of the country before she exacts her revenge. So where will we be headed? As we learned last episode, it’s gonna be Greece, but before we can reach for the spanakopita (assuming any of these girls really eat) we have to meet with Andre Leon Talley! He arrives in his straw Chinese boatman hat with two plate-breaking waiters to announce the new overseas trip.

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"Top Chef"

 "Top Chef"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'Top Chef' - 'The Heat Is On'

The 'on the bubble' chefs get their last chance to nab a chef's jacket
This is the final episode dedicated to whittling down the massive number of chefs with whom we started in the "Top Chef" quest to get down to a more reasonable count of 16, so, again, don't get used to anyone. But I will say that, if the looks of the food we're seeing is any indication (and I know, it can look good and taste like a bath towel), the level of cooking this season is pretty extraordinary. I'm not even hungry watching the show and I'm drooling a little. Given that it seems like every other competitor is a James Beard nominee or an executive chef for so-and-so famous guy, all I can think is 1) I wish I could crash one of these dinners and 2) I'm pretty sure Padma (who says she gains about 15 pounds each season) will be investing in even more maxidresses than usual. We're gonna see some really, really good eats. 
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<p>Carey Mulligan in a scene from &quot;Shame&quot;</p>

Carey Mulligan in a scene from "Shame"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Interview: Carey Mulligan redefines the ingénue with ‘Shame’ and ‘Drive’

The actress looks to stretch herself in the wake of 'An Education'

Carey Mulligan found herself propelled onto the world stage after she was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of the sharp, witty and painfully young Jenny Mellor in 2009s “An Education.” Though doors began to open for the actress, she was disappointed to discover that most of them led to rooms of similar shapes and sizes. “A lot of people just wanted me to sort of do what I had already done,” she recalls. “Films that reminded me of that part weren't films that I was interested in.”

If there is such a thing as a safe and secure course in the development of an ingénue’s career anymore, then Mulligan has chosen not to follow that trajectory. The actress took one leading, and several supporting roles (the most high-profile of which was in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”) after “An Education” and then stopped working for a year.

When she returned it was in pursuit of projects that would move her beyond the limited scope of the classical leading lady and/or give her the opportunity to work with filmmakers that she found compelling. She began with director Nicolas Winding Refn’s urban fable/meditation on violence, “Drive.”

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Watch: Bruno Mars' new video for 'It Will Rain'
Credit: Elektra Records

Watch: Bruno Mars' new video for 'It Will Rain'

Do 'Twilight's' Bella and Edward make an appearance?

We know Bruno Mars is smooth and all, but we do not remotely see him as the kind of guy who would screen one of the “Twilight” movies while making seksi time with his lady, but film placements make us all do crazy things as we see in the video for “It Will Rain,” which premiered on MTV today.

Mars is the big pop name on “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1” soundtrack (read our review here). “It Will Rain” has the dated feel of a song from the ‘80s, perhaps because of the drum track. It sounds more appropriate for “Against All Odds,” although we’re pretty sure Phil Collins is not about to let his song be stripped out of that monster. (The song also has a few chord changes that remind of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses,” but maybe that’s just me).

[More after the jump...]

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Brian Grazer (left) with Brett Ratner at the Los Angeles premiere of "J. Edgar."
Brian Grazer (left) with Brett Ratner at the Los Angeles premiere of "J. Edgar."
Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Brian Grazer to the rescue

Academy Award-winning producer takes reins from Brett Ratner

Well, that was quick. Though when you're starting from scratch to mount a major television event in a little over three months, with host and star producer both off the project, taking your time isn't really an option.

So it is that hedgehog-haired mega-producer Brian Grazer -- an Academy Award winner himself for "A Beautiful Mind" a decade ago -- is joining Don Mischer to steer the 2011 Oscar show, taking over from the disgraced Brett Ratner.

It's always hard to predict what sensibility film folk will bring to live events like this, but Grazer seems a safe, if not particularly inventive, pair of hands for the job: probably a more sensible choice than Ratner ever was, though not someone you necessarily expect to give the show the radical overhaul it needs after two disastrous years.

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<p>Burrito Josh of &quot;The X Factor&quot;</p>
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Burrito Josh of "The X Factor"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' - Top 11 Movies Night Live-Blog

The Guys, Girls, Groups and Over-30s sing songs from the movies

It's Movie Night on "The X Factor."

And no, that doesn't mean that the winner gets a free screening of "Jack & Jill."

Click through for a full recap of Wednesday's Top 11 performances...

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<p>Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer in &quot;The Help.&quot;</p>

Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer in "The Help."

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

The Long Shot: Big enough for the both of us

When deserving acting contenders face formidable foes in their own co-stars

Last week, approximately one eon behind every other film writer on the beat, I finally saw “The Help.” As I’m sure many of you will agree, it’s not always easy seeing a film months after its supposed plus and minus points have long since been concretized by the critical majority, but I was pleased to find myself agreeing with everything that’s been said, even by the film’s detractors, about Viola Davis’s performance: graceful, intuitive, material-elevating, all that. If she has the Best Actress Oscar wrapped up (and even with the Streep Express still unseen, I’d wager that she has), I take no issue with that.

But over in the film’s Best Supporting Actress camp, things start coming a little unstuck. Octavia Spencer is a set-in-stone nominee—and in some pundits’ minds, the notional frontrunner—for her grandly sassy turn as the mouthy maid who redefines the term ‘just desserts.’ And to apply a favourite South Africanism: jawellnofine. Spencer’s a good time in the film, but she’s working several rungs below the astonishing Jessica Chastain, who may even outdo Davis in terms of enlivening and complicating a waxily written character: her guilelessly empathetic bubblehead is the film’s most interesting characterization, and the sharpest of Chastain’s 47-odd performances this year. She may well find her way to a nomination, particularly given the category’s predilection for dual nominees from a single film, but Spencer remains the sure thing – and there you have one of my first beefs of the awards season.

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<p>Brian Grazer with Brett Ratner at the premiere of &quot;J. Edgar&quot;&nbsp;last week in Hollywood.&nbsp; How times change.</p>

Brian Grazer with Brett Ratner at the premiere of "J. Edgar" last week in Hollywood.  How times change.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

It's official: Brian Grazer steps in to replace Brett Ratner as Oscar producer

From one 'Tower Heist' man to another

Quickly moving on after the Brett Ratner debacle, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this afternoon that Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer would step in to co-produce the 84th Academy Awards alongside previously announced Don Mischer.

In a statement, AMPAS president Tom Sherak noted, "Brian Grazer is a renowned filmmaker who over the past 25 years has produced a diverse and extraordinary body of work. He will certainly bring his tremendous talent, creativity and relationships to the Oscars®."

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