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Make your Best Picture case for "Rango" and win!
Make your Best Picture case for "Rango" and win!
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Contest: Win a 'Rango' DVD

Make your case for the film's Oscar worthiness

Thanks everyone who participated in the "Super 8" contest on Monday. The winners were "ASCHU" and "GRUBI," so if you're reading, drop me a line so I can get you your prizes.

The giveaways keep on truckin' today as we have two DVDs of Gore Verbinski's "Rango" to dish out. I think we'll do something similar to the last contest. With an expanded field of Best Picture nominees, the odds are slightly better for animated films to make it into contention. While Pixar has had the stranglehold on that kind of consideration the last two years, this year, they clearly do not. And some might consider "Rango" the heir apparent to Best Picture potential in the medium.

So, if you agree, give me 100 words or less telling me why you think it deserves a fair shake and should play with the big boys in the Best Picture field.

Deadline is noon on Friday. Now... Go!

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<p>Jon Favreau talks movie making and cow sex.</p>

Jon Favreau talks movie making and cow sex.

Watch: Jon Favreau on the making of 'Cowboys and Aliens'

The genre mash-up hits stores this week on DVD and Blu-ray

"Cowboys and Aliens comes out on disc this week, so I thought I'd dig out a previously unpublished video interview I did with director Jon Favreau.

The movie didn't do as well as he and the rest of the cast would have liked, but still, it was an interesting experiment in genre mixing, and an all out love letter to westerns on Favreau's part.

 

Although I wouldn't consider myself a rabid fan of all his movies, I have come to appreciate the man for the obvious passion and love for his craft. He shows an obvious interest in every part of the filmmaking process, and can get into the nitty gritty of all the little technicalities of a production. Sadly, this is a rare trait among the directors that I've met.

 

I really enjoyed talking to him over the course of the "Cowboys and Aliens" production, and I think you can tell from this interview. 

 

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<p>Sean Bean of &quot;Game of Thrones&quot;</p>
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Sean Bean of "Game of Thrones"

Credit: HBO

'Game of Thrones,' 'Parks & Recreation' crash stale 2012 Producers Guild TV nominations

Finally, an award 'Mad Men' is still eligible for
The Producers Guild of America continues to stick by its antiquated practice of honoring television roughly seven months behind the curve, announcing its stale TV nominations on Wednesday (December 7) morning.
 
What to know why this is posted in my blog, rather than as a news story? Because in a news story, I'd be hesitant to express confusion at the PGA for the seemingly absurd decision to exist in a time warp for the TV awards and only the TV awards. At least in a blog post, I can register confusion.
 
[This year's Producers Guild nominees, plus the official PGA explanation for the eligibility window, after the break...]
 
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<p>Afghan Whigs</p>

Afghan Whigs

Afghan Whigs reform for ATP's 'I'll Be Your Mirror,' Guided By Voices out

Band will headline London and Asbury Park events

The Afghan Whigs will play their first show in 13 years when the Greg Dulli-led band reunites for All Tomorrow’s Parties “I’ll Be Your Mirror” festival  at London’s Alexandra Palace  on May 27.

The revered Cincinnati band  are taking the slot that had been held by Guided By Voices, who cancelled because they broke up and have cancelled all 2012 (and we presume beyond that) bookings.

Other performers during the May 25-27 festival, curated by Mogwai and ATP, include Slayer, Sleep, Mudhoney, Yuck, the Melvins, and a reunited Codeine.  Newly added are The Archers of Loaf and Chavez, who reformed last year.

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<p>This may be one of the few moments in the entire film where Tom Cruise is not onscreen for 'Mission:&nbsp;Impossible - Ghost Protocol,' as Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner plan the IMF team's next move</p>

This may be one of the few moments in the entire film where Tom Cruise is not onscreen for 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol,' as Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner plan the IMF team's next move

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Review: Tom Cruise leads the best team yet in sensational 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol'

Brad Bird nails it in his live-action debut

The "Mission: Impossible" franchise is a strange one.

For one thing, I think people often misuse the word "franchise."  Just because they make a few sequels to a movie, that doesn't automatically qualify that thing as a franchise.  I think of that more as a description of a film property (or book property or game property… whatever sort of IP you want to substitute) that features a basic idea or premise that can be endlessly refigured to fit new casts, new creative teams, and new storytelling styles, with little real regard for continuity.  "Mission: Impossible," from the moment it first aired as a television show, has offered up a near-perfect franchise engine, a premise so simple, so feather-light, that you can do anything with it, and as long as you strike those same few notes, it's recognizably "Mission: Impossible."

Over the weekend, I rewatched the first three "Mission: Impossible" films on Blu-ray.  I've always been fond of the first one, and looking at it now, it's one of those early CGI-era movies that reaches for some groundbreaking stuff in how action is staged and shot that doesn't totally work on a technical level, but that deserves respect for pushing the envelope as much as it did.  More than that, though, it's a fun piece of pop culture subversion that was designed to acknowledge the old school, then annihilate the old school, then introduce Tom Cruise as the new school.  Brian De Palma made each set piece feel like he was having fun, and it was big and complex and sleek and absolutely proved that it would work on the big screen.

The second film is so bad that it feels like someone who was very angry at John Woo decided to make a MAD-magazine-style parody of John Woo films and then release it with his name attached as director.  Awful.

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<p>Could Madonna have a big year with both an Oscar nod and the Super Bowl halftime show?</p>

Could Madonna have a big year with both an Oscar nod and the Super Bowl halftime show?

Credit: AP Photo/Srdjan Ilic

Listen to Madonna's Best Original Song contender, 'Masterpiece,' from 'W.E.'

The Material Girl plants a flag in the race

I'll finally get around to running down the Best Original Song category in tomorrow's Tech Support column, but how about one last contender spotlight?

Madonna's "W.E." has took a critical thrashing when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September. Having finally caught the film last night, I'm sorry to report that the pans were on point. What a delirious mess of a film. A Vogue photo shoot brought to life. Which, it should be noted, the film is indeed gorgeous. The costume design, production design and cinematography would all find room on my ballot, I bet.

I had heard there was an original song for the film from the Material Girl herself, but didn't really think about it until I noted the FYC section of the screener packaging. Indeed, "Masterpiece" -- which leaked recently and is expected to also be on Madonna's next album -- is being pitched for awards.

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<p>Jean Dujardin and B&eacute;r&eacute;nice Bejo in &quot;The Artist&quot;</p>

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo in "The Artist"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo to receive Santa Barbara fest's Vanguard Award

The wealth spreads to the stars of 'The Artist' at the 27th annual

The tribute announcements keep coming for the upcoming Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Today the fest announced the recipient of this year's Cinema Vanguard Award, given in tandem for the first time this year, to "The Artist" stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo.

The honor is given annually "in recognition of an actor who has forged his/her own path, taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film." I guess that sums up what Dujardin and Bejo did with the film, but it's unique amid the flurry of recent recipients: Nicole Kidman, Christoph Waltz, Vera Farmiga, Stanley Tucci, Peter Sarsgaard, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ryan Gosling.

Anyway, festival director Roger Durling made his case in the press release: "In an age of sight and sound spectacle, there is great risk in a silent film. Jean and Bérénice's acting is an amazing pas des deux both physically and emotionally - recalling classic Hollywood pairings like Hepburn and Tracy, and of course indelibly Ginger and Fred."

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<p>The late Harry Morgan, left, as &quot;M*A*S*H&quot;&nbsp;head honcho Sherman T. Potter.</p>

The late Harry Morgan, left, as "M*A*S*H" head honcho Sherman T. Potter.

Credit: CBS

Farewell, Colonel Potter: Harry Morgan dies at 96

Reliable, dignified "M*A*S*H" veteran also was Joe Friday's partner on "Dragnet"
Harry Morgan had one heck of a run in this world. He lived to 96. He acted alongside many of the giants of 40s, 50s and 60s movie acting, including Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, Spencer Tracy and Jimmy Stewart. He co-starred on two of the most iconic TV shows of all time, as Joe Friday's partner Bill Gannon in the '60s revival of "Dragnet," then as Col. Sherman T. Potter for the final eight seasons of "M*A*S*H," winning an Emmy along the way for the latter role. 
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<p>Damien Jurado</p>

Damien Jurado

Credit: Secretly Canadian

EXCLUSIVE Song Of The Day: Damien Jurado covers 'Christmas Time Is Here'

Check out an advance track from his Richard Swift collaboration, 'Maraqopa'

Spend a yultide by the fireside with Damien Jurado, who's pumped out a piano- and horn-laden version of "Christmas Time Is Here." The Vince Guaraldi original -- popularized via "A Charlie Brown Christmas" -- has a melancholy slowness that Jurado's falsetto capitalizes upon, warms up with the Aki Kurose Middle School Academy Glee Club and prepares your brain waves for a long winter's nap.

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<p>Gary Oldman as George Smiley in Tomas Alfredson's &quot;Tinker,&nbsp;Tailor, Soldier, Spy&quot;</p>

Gary Oldman as George Smiley in Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"

Credit: Focus Features

Interview: Gary Oldman on easing into his solo in 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'

The actor, known for being a part of ensembles, finally fronts one

It's hot as hell in here. No, really, Gary Oldman has set the thermostat so high that it feels less like a room at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons than a fire-heated Transylvanian castle on a snow-blown mountainside.

"The first thing I do when I get into a hotel room is crank it up to about 80," he says jokingly through that recognizable twangy British accent to a publicist as she makes her way out of the room. Or is it recognizable? Oldman is a classic character actor, a "that guy" for film-goers the world over. So maybe it is. But his career never took hold in a leading man capacity, so he lingers on the pages of recent film history. Maybe it was the dust-up behind the scenes over the perspective of Rod Lurie's "The Contender" in 2000 that held him back at a time when his career was set to take off. Maybe that's an overstatement.

He looks remarkably young. At 53, he's taken on roles as of late that have played up older, wiser traits, but they've clearly shielded some vitality. His latest, Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," is a prime example, Oldman saddling up to the role that Alec Guiness first fleshed out on the screen via British television mini-series. Now he's being asked by young press types who aren't likely aware of Guiness outside of "Star Wars" whether he was familiar with that project before taking the role.

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<p>Asa Butterfield hovers over a projector-like collection of clock gears in Martin&nbsp;Scorsese's &quot;Hugo.&quot;</p>

Asa Butterfield hovers over a projector-like collection of clock gears in Martin Scorsese's "Hugo."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Oscarweb Round-up: A season of faux-nostalgia?

Also: Madonna's best on-screen moments and Jolie sued over 'Blood and Honey'

It's been interesting finding myself caught in the middle on a great many films this year that have sparked passion on both sides of the scale. Watching the pendulum swing between love and hate on "J. Edgar," "The Help" and now, "Hugo," has been strange, because I can't passionately argue one case over the other, but I sympathize with both. We first mentioned the idea of 2011 as a season of films about nostalgia a few weeks back, and that narrative has continued to take hold. Mark Harris recently spotlighted it, but went a step further into accusing films like "The Artist" and "Hugo" of "faux-nostalgia, pegging the latter for being "not a valentine to the dawn of movies [but] a valentine to the people who send those valentines." Flattery, he seems to surmise, will get you everywhere with the Academy. [Grantland]

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<p>Dominic West and Romola Garai in &quot;The Hour.&quot;</p>

Dominic West and Romola Garai in "The Hour."

Credit: BBC

'The Hour' season 2 will be coming to BBC America

New series will add Peter Capaldi as Bel's new boss

When the first season of "The Hour" wrapped up on BBC America back in September, I noted that the BBC had already commissioned a sequel from writer Abi Morgan, but that there was no guarantee the new series would air in America. Now there is, as BBC America has stepped up as co-producer of "The Hour" season 2, to debut sometime next year.

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