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<p>Deon Lotz (left) and Charlie Keegan in South Africa's Oscar entry &quot;Beauty.&quot;</p>

Deon Lotz (left) and Charlie Keegan in South Africa's Oscar entry "Beauty."

Credit: Peccadillo Pictures

London: Foreign Oscar hopefuls 'Beauty' and 'Volcano'

South African and Icelandic entries both artful character studies

The 63-title list of submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar is something of a lucky dip – for every abundantly creamed-over festival hit in the running, there are at least two far less known quantities that have either worked their way along the fringe festival circuit or simply been plucked from a small, little-travelled pool of local offerings by the relevant committee. As nice as it would be to say that hidden gems abound, such films are just as often under the radar for a reason.

The London Film Festival, highlight package of other fests that it is, is a handy opportunity to catch up on one’s homework in this category: thanks to them, I’ve brought my tally of seen titles up to 20. That’s still less than a third of the field, but the season (and the screener influx) is young. Among them is the film I covered in my first review for Variety, India’s entry “Abu, Son of Adam”; sadly, I don’t think it will, or should, make much of a dent in the race.

One hopeful that’s been much on my mind since viewing it at Cannes in May, and further provoked on a recent second viewing, is Oliver Hermanus’s “Beauty" (B+) a quietly candid, formally tight study of a subject hitherto foreign to South African cinema – repressed homosexuality in the conservative white Afrikaner community.

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<p>Casey Wilson and Adam Pally in a scene from tonight's &quot;Happy Endings.&quot;</p>

Casey Wilson and Adam Pally in a scene from tonight's "Happy Endings."

Credit: ABC

Interview: 'Happy Endings' producers David Caspe and Jonathan Groff

How has the ABC comedy evolved from its start last spring?

You may recall that when "Happy Endings" debuted last spring, I dismissed it as the last and least of that season's comedies about interconnected friends in their late 20s or early 30s. But I stuck with it for a while, and it grew on me quite a bit, and now it's part of my regular viewing/blogging schedule, and part of what's turned out to be a very strong comedy night for ABC.(*)

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<p>The Black Keys</p>

The Black Keys

Watch: Black Keys feature a 'Lonely Boy' on first single from new album

This 'El Camino' is driven by a lip-syncing superfan

The Black Keys are no strangers to bizarre music videos, and the latest for single "Lonely Boy" is no exception.

This single-shot video features the hot-stepping and lip-sycning of a man who is decidedly not the Black Keys. He, however, exhibits a familiarity of the tune as though he were.

Interestingly, the clip was shot by Jesse Dylan, an acclaimed media executive and the director of films like "Kicking & Screaming." He is also is the son of Bob Dylan. I'm not sure why the big guns were brought in for a video that looks like it was shot on your iPhone.

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<p>Eddie Murphy sings and dances on Letterman, which he says he WON'T be doing at the Oscars.</p>

Eddie Murphy sings and dances on Letterman, which he says he WON'T be doing at the Oscars.

Credit: CBS

David Letterman talks hosting the Oscars with Eddie Murphy

The former host to the 'Tower Heist' star: 'It ain't all it's cracked up to be.'

Eddie Murphy and Brett Ratner have been making the press rounds lately talking up their latest film, "Tower Heist." Which, by the way, well, let me address that real quick.

I quite enjoyed "Tower Heist." It's a diversion, and Murphy isn't in it to the extent that you might think (he doesn't really figure in until the second act rolls around -- more of him would have been great, actually). But the final action sequence is fun and gripping. Michael Pena should be tapped for comic relief in, like, everything. And it's worth noting that there is a zeitgeisty haves/have-nots article waiting to write itself in both the release of this film and "In Time."

But I digress. Naturally, Ratner and Murphy have been fielding a ton of questions regarding the Oscar telecast they will produce and host respectively in February. It's the usual light and fluffy chatter, nothing to really sink your teeth into. Murphy has been quipping all over the place that he'll be "the worst Oscar host in history," that kind of thing. Winks and nudges and "we don't have anything to say so let's give them something because they won't stop asking."

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<p>Marie and Liz of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>
<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;">&nbsp;</div>

Marie and Liz of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Liz & Marie talk 'The Amazing Race'

Wonder Twin powers activate for the latest 'Race' exit interview
Often, Non-Elimination Legs can offer a welcome reprieve, allowing teams to race through the inevitably easy Speed Bump penalties, catch up to a straggling rival and remain in the game.
 
That was not the case this week for twins Liz and Marie Canavan. After struggling with wind-blown umbrellas in a Detour only to be spared by host Phil Keoghan and the producers, Liz & Marie struggled through a leg that found them alone for alone for nearly the entire time, often hours behind all of the other teams.
 
In a circumstance that might have led to panic or frustration for more than a few pairings, Liz & Marie had a surprisingly positive leg. The Twins were jubilant when their Speed Bump required them to clean up after Thai elephants. They were optimistic and refused to beg for money when they found themselves in Bangkok without any currency. And they were properly grateful when they caught a few lucky breaks with generous cabbies. Even though they reached the Pit Stop knowing they'd almost certainly been eliminated, they were upbeat when they arrived at the mat.
 
In our exit interview, Liz & Marie discussed keeping the proper attitude, even in the face of defeat, their favorite Race moments and why they don't want people to think they're clones.
 
Click through for the transcript, in which I'm pretty sure I correctly distinguished between Liz and Marie at least 95% of the time...
 
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<p>A&nbsp;scene from &quot;Pina&quot;</p>

A scene from "Pina"

Credit: IFC Films

Wim Wenders brings 'Pina' to three-dimensional life in the trailer for his German Oscar entry

Will the foreign committee spark to modern dance this year?

I saw Wim Wenders's "Pina," an intimately photographed celebration of the work of modern dancer Philippina "Pina" Bausch, at the Telluride Film Festival in September. It has been on the circuit since February and the Berlinale, where 3D came to the art house and Guy was transfixed.

I have enormous respect for the use of 3D in this endeavor, which was chosen as the official German entry in this year's Best Foreign Language Film race, even if modern dance is something I can't quite digest enough to be a true lover of the film. Certainly no one has filmed dance quite like this before, removing the audience from the role of spectator and putting them into the grace and movement of the form with skill and ease. It'll certainly make you forget "Step Up 3D" ever happened, if you haven't already. It was a bold pick by Germany and it could yet find its way into the nominated five in the category.

IFC Films has supplied us with the final trailer for the film, which isn't really that different than what's already out there, save a few bells and whistles and quotes and laurels, etc. Check it out below. The film will open in New York on Dec. 23rd to qualify, and will expand nationwide in January.

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<p>Claire Danes and &quot;Homeland&quot;&nbsp;will be back for a second season.</p>

Claire Danes and "Homeland" will be back for a second season.

Credit: Showtime

Showtime renews 'Homeland' for season 2

Claire Danes/Damian Lewis drama has been fall's best new show

Showtime's "Homeland" has easily been the best new show of the fall season, comedy or drama. The only concern anybody seems to have with it is whether it can sustain its quality and keep its story - which to this point is a cat-and-mouse game between damaged CIA agent Claire Danes and potential terrorist Damian Lewis - going in an interesting, plausible manner for multiple seasons.

"Homeland" producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa insist they have a long-term plan for the series, and we're going to get a chance to see some of it, now that Showtime has renewed "Homeland" for a second season.

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<p>Michael Fassbender in &quot;Shame&quot;</p>

Michael Fassbender in "Shame"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Oscarweb Round-up: 'Shame' lands the expected NC-17

Also: Peter Jackson confirmed for a go at 'Tintin' and Alex Baldwin's new podcast

So. We all knew this was coming, right? "Shame," Steve McQueen's raunchy, penetrative (no pun intended), sexually charged, psychologically intense character study staring Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan and their naughty bits has received an NC-17 rating. As we've already noted, Fox Searchlight has made the smart choice by getting out ahead of this and embracing it as a badge of honor. Take the MPAA to task if you must. Make the argument that we, as a society, are way too sensitive to images of sex while we are incredibly desensitized to images of violence. The fact of the matter is, the film won't play in a great many theaters as a result of the ruling. But it is no less a masterful piece of cinema from one of the most promising filmmakers of our age. [Box OFfice Mojo]

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<p>Butt-Head and Beavis return to MTV&nbsp;tomorrow night.</p>

Butt-Head and Beavis return to MTV tomorrow night.

Credit: MTV

Review: 'Mike Judge's Beavis & Butt-Head' returns, 14 years later

The boys haven't changed, but the pop culture world has

When "Beavis & Butt-Head" hit it big on MTV in the early '90s, it became the latest televisual thing that was going to bring about the end of Western civilization as we knew it. But we're still here, and if you want to argue that we're worse off as a people than we were back in the day, I can give you a whole bunch of more likely culprits. Hint: several of them air on MTV, and are being mocked by the two guys as the series returns tomorrow night at 10, 14 years after the last season aired, now titled "Mike Judge's Beavis & Butt-Head."

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<p>Puss (Antonio Banderas) and Kitty Softpaws (Selma Hayek)&nbsp;in Chris Miller's &quot;Puss in Boots.&quot;</p>

Puss (Antonio Banderas) and Kitty Softpaws (Selma Hayek) in Chris Miller's "Puss in Boots."

Credit: Dreamworks Animation

Chris Miller directs a cat lover's dream in 'Puss in Boots'

Secrets behind DreamWorks Animation's latest tentpole

I have a confession to make.  I genuinely think "Puss in Boots" is entertaining, funny and a significantly more original movie (even surreal) than what you'd expect for a "Shrek" spin-off.  However, my judgement may be a tad clouded.  As my friends have consistently remarked, I'm a male 'cat lady' in the making with two kittens under my wing (Phoenix and Sookie).  Granted, you can only blame my parents for raising me amongst them.  In fact, there is photographic evidence of our two cats (Charkey and Nutmeg) literally sleeping my crib when I was a newborn "protecting me" and no doubt cementing this lifelong feline bond (note to young parents: this is a big no, no).  But, I digress…

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"Dancing with the Stars"

 "Dancing with the Stars"

Credit: ABC

Recap: 'Dancing with the Stars' boots a pair of Broadway babies

Corbin Bleu and Kristin Chenoweth perform

So, who will be going home tonight? The Ewok (Chaz Bono), the bore (Rob Kardashian), the ice queen (Nancy Grace) or someone we'd never expect? I'd hate to guess, as this season has been nothing if not unpredictable. But I am expecting to hear some more fighting words from Maks (or at least not an apology). Maks is not one to back down from a fight. I just hope he doesn't smack Len, because the poor guy might crumble into dust. 

Speaking of Len, he tells us last night was a mix of frights, fights and delights. Cute. He wants to see J.R. and Karina perform their quick step again. I always wonder if this dance is reward or punishment. Sure, it's praise from the judges (they thought it was so nice they want to see it twice!), but I have to think these guys are exhausted and, if they're doing any dancing on a Tuesday, they'd prefer to be working on their next routine. Plus, this performance comes to us after voting has closed, so there's no advantage from that perspective. Still, J.R. and Karina are spot on and charming once again, so from that perspective, it's just plain nice to see. 

Our first couple on the block is J.R. and Karina. I have to say, I'm rooting for J.R. to take the mirror ball. If it's between him and whiney, hypercompetitive Ricki, he's simply more personable, an equally strong dancer, and that war hero thing doesn't hurt, either.  
 
J.R. and Karina… are safe. Good!
 
The other stars huddle with Brooke. Nancy tells Brooke she doesn't feel like a contender. She's just happy to be there. And she had to go straight home last night, because Lucy threw up. That's lovely. 
 
Next, we have a performance from Kristin Chenoweth. Perfectly nice little country song. 
 
Ricki and Derek join Nancy and Tristan on the block. We'll learn their fate... after the break.
 
Ricki and Derek are, of course, safe. Nancy and Tristan are... also safe. Huh. Go figure. I really thought Nancy would have gone home by now -- or at least she'd go home before Chynna. But again, it's an unpredictable season.
 
Oh, goody. A clip segment of the stars talking about the challenges of being on the show set to dramatic music. They all have to step it up. David Arquette is okay with getting shot with cortizone. Nancy just wants to say she did it. Blah, blah, blah. I'm sure all of this is perfectly sincere, but maybe a bunch of stressed out stars isn't what people need to see when unemployment is sky high and "food insecurity" has reached record numbers. Just a thought.
 
Corbin Bleu and our Macy's Stars of Dance do a tribute to Broadway choreographed by Kenny Ortega. Wow, Bleu looks COMPLETELY different without the big hair. On the one hand, he looks more mature. On the other, he looks pretty anonymous. As you might expect, he does a fine job of singing and dancing to Ortega's choreography, which is also as strong as you'd expect. We get the usual suspects, though -- "West Side Story," for example -- except for the segment from "In the Heights," which is a nice surprise. Judging from "DWTS," you'd think Broadway effectively stopped producing anything new around 1980. 
 
Martina McBride performs "I'm Gonna Love You Through It." It's a happy, upbeat cancer song. Just kidding. It's a sad, moving cancer song. They don't shy away from this stuff in country music.
 
Next we have David and Kym facing off against Chaz and Lacey. Oh, my. Chaz does not want to be called an Ewok again. He feels like Bruno is calling him a fat troll every week. Well, he's not wrong to feel insulted, although I have to say -- being called a cute little penguin is not quite as insulting as being called a fat troll. But I guess it doesn't feel very manly, either.
 
The next couple coming back next week is... David and Kym. Chaz and Lacey are in danger. How could they not be? Sorry, but Chaz is really struggling on the dance floor. As much as I hope he gets into shape, I think he needed to be in better shape just to do the show. 
 
Mark, Lacey and some fantastic dancing kids give us a preview of what we can expect from the Halloween episode. Apparently small children will try to strangle the judges. I'll tune in for that!
 
Next, we get to Maks and Hope vs. Rob and Cheryl. And we get to relive Maks' comments. Maks does apologize to Brooke for one thing -- saying "DWTS" is "his" show. All the dancers and stars are important! But no, he isn't taking back anything else he said, even if Carrie Ann looked like she wanted to throttle him for suggesting that Len retire. 
 
The next couple back is Rob and Cheryl. Hope and Maks are... in danger. Why oh why oh WHY is Rob still on this show? It's like watching a ream of paper or a baked potato shuffle around the floor. 
 
Hope and Maks and Chaz and Lacey are our bottom two. Who's going home? I couldn't call it, really. But I suspect Chaz. 
 
The couple leaving right now is... Chaz and Lacey. Well, we won't have this Ewok to push around anymore. He's proud of his journey. He has no regrets. He wanted to show America a different kind of man, because if he'd seen someone like himself while he was growing up, it would have changed his whole life. I just hope his next challenge is something like "Celebrity Fit Club" or maybe a stocky man workout video or just something. It would suck to have gone through all the trouble of becoming a man to drop dead of a very manly heart attack.
 
Did you think it was Chaz's time to go? Are you surprised Rob and Nancy are still in it? Were you surprised by Maks' comments last night?
 
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<p>Jeff Goldblum may be the most valuable player in the human cast, but there's no doubt that the T-rex is the star of 'Jurassic Park,' even all these years later.</p>

Jeff Goldblum may be the most valuable player in the human cast, but there's no doubt that the T-rex is the star of 'Jurassic Park,' even all these years later.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Film Nerd 2.0: We scare the crap out of the kids with 'Jurassic Park' on Blu-ray

How does one of Spielberg's biggest hits stack up for 21st century kids?

As films show up at the house, the boys like to open all the packages, something I've had to decide against thanks to some of the more extreme movies that have been sent to me over the years.  I'll glance inside before deciding if they can open something.

There are times when the boys are excited not because they know anything about a movie, but simply because they recognize that they heard someone talking about  the title.  It's sweet, and I'm sure they take their cues from me.  No matter how hard I try to make sure that what they watch is about laying out choices and letting them make those choices, they get excited if I'm excited at all.  They're just trying to learn about the world that way.  "Hey, mom likes this so I'm going to like this!"  "Dad said this movie's title ten times, and so we want to see it!"  

Marketing is pervasive, and as Toshi's been learning to read, one of the big joys for him is reading the titles of movie posters as we drive around.  Living in LA, there is a constant barrage of roadside imagery selling movies.  And they ask about EVERYTHING we go by.  There are times when they become excited about something for bizarre reasons, and one of my recent favorites was when they became fixated on the release date of "Crazy Stupid Love."

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