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<p>Tom&nbsp;McCarthy (far left), Paul Giamatti and Alex Shaffer on the set of &quot;Win&nbsp;Win&quot;</p>

Tom McCarthy (far left), Paul Giamatti and Alex Shaffer on the set of "Win Win"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

From 'Win Win' to 'Bridesmaids,' surprises in the precursor landscape

In the midst of the predictable critics make some unusual performance selections

Amidst the recent slew of regional critics awards lists there have been the predictable pre-Oscar nominations and wins peppered with a few unconventional and often well-deserved selections. One or two of the honors felt particularly surprising, though.

The nomination that struck me as the most unusual was Houston submitting Alex Shaffer in the Supporting Actor category for his work in “Win Win” vs. one or a few of the other actors in the film. I am an admirer of Tom McCarthy’s understated (for lack of a better word) dramedy and applaud Houston for including the film in its Best Picture contenders. McCarthy is also rightly in the race for a Best Original Screenplay nomination at the Oscars.

I spoke the writer/director last week and will be releasing a full interview with him this week. For now I will say that I was in absolute agreement with McCarthy when he said that the performances in this film are easy to overlook because they are “very subtle” and take place in “un-extraordinary settings.” I also grant that in a year with several strong candidates in the Best Actor field, the Indiana critics made a bold and legitimate selection with Paul Giamatti for his role in the film. “I might not know everything,” McCarthy said during our interview, “but I know acting and those performances are authentic and so deeply felt. There are very few people who could pull that couple off as genuinely as they (Giamatti and Amy Ryan) did.” It would be lovely to see Ryan receive her own share of critical recognition for her work in the film as well, work that was nuanced, layered and a joy to watch.

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<p>Rooney&nbsp;Mara in &quot;The&nbsp;Girl with the Dragon&nbsp;Tattoo&quot;</p>

Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Oscarweb Round-up: The year's best performances

Also: Paul Feig talks 'Bridesmaids' and the top five badass female roles

Tomorrow we'll be continuing with the year in review as I post up "The Longlists," a slate of spotlights in key areas that I've extended beyond the Oscar-centric five to 10 in each field. One of the joys in doing it that way was the opportunity to widen the net and recognize many of the year's great performances rather than a specific slice. With that in mind, Sasha Stone has written up the year's best performances. But what about you? Are there any performances that stuck out for you this year outside of the generally agreed-upon stuff? Anything on the fringe that hasn't gotten its due, or perhaps something right in front of our faces that keeps getting leap-frogged in favor of others? I'm curious what you think. [Awards Daily]

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<p>Laura Dern in &quot;Enlightened.&quot;</p>

Laura Dern in "Enlightened."

Credit: HBO

'Enlightened' - 'Burn It Down': Hack attack

Checking back on the Laura Dern/Mike White series as it wraps its first season

When "Enlightened" debuted back in October, I called it an awkward comedy that I had very little interest in watching any more. Since then, a number of critics I respect (including James Poniewozik, Tim Goodman and Dan Fienberg) have kept making passionate arguments for the show, and it made me curious to check back in to see if perhaps I had missed something the first time around. I caught up through last night's season finale, and I have a few thoughts coming up just as soon as I'm not a yoga instructor...

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<p>&quot;Hugo&quot;&nbsp;shared the lead with 11 nominations.</p>

"Hugo" shared the lead with 11 nominations.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

'The Artist' and 'Hugo' lead the BFCA's Critics' Choice nominees

'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' snubbed completely, Andy Serkis nominated for 'Apes'

The Broadcast Film Critics Association has announced its nominees for the 17th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards, and there aren't really any surprises. Across the board, it's the roll call of Oscar contenders the announcement has turned into, more and more.

I went to the mat for "Margaret" throughout my ballot. Naturally, though, it doesn't show up. Leading the way was "The Artist" and "Hugo" with 11 nominations each. Not far behind were "Drive" and "The Help" with eight apiece. The biggest surprise, I suppose, is "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" being snubbed completely. Nothing. Not even a notice for Gary Oldman in a Best Actor category of six.

Other things worth noting: Glenn Close didn't show up in the Best Actress category despite there being six nominees. Her film, "Albert Nobbs," only received a makeup nomination. "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" received nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Young Actor/Actress, but nothing for Max von Sydow or Sandra Bullock. And Nick Nolte rallied to a supporting actor notice for his work in "Warrior."

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<p>Rooney Mara certainly went all out with the physical transformation into 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'</p>

Rooney Mara certainly went all out with the physical transformation into 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'

Credit: Sony Pictures

Review: Fincher's take on 'Dragon Tattoo' is visually striking and dramatically dormant

Rooney Mara does nice work, but to what avail?

There are few filmmakers whose work speaks more directly to me on an aesthetic level than David Fincher.

Even so, my first exposure to his work as a feature film director left me convinced that he was not worth paying attention to at all.  Considering how little he has to say about "Alien 3" at this point, it seems he agrees that it was not the best foot forward, and all accounts of the experience make it sound like it was a nightmare for all involved.

As a result, when I walked into his next film, I had no expectations at all, and I think I even had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the movie.  A few hours later, I sat there, totally flattened by "Se7en," amazed at what the film accomplished and just how rough it played.  It seemed like a film made by someone who had decided to never compromise again, and there was something genuinely dangerous about it.  Immediately, my opinion of Fincher shifted, and in the years since, he's proven himself to be an immaculate visual artist, capable of creating some of the most arresting, electrifying images of the last fifteen years.

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<p>Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane in &quot;Citizen Kane.&quot;</p>

Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane in "Citizen Kane."

Credit: RKO Pictures

Orson Welles's Oscar on your mantle

The cinema icon’s singular Academy Award is up for auction

Here’s one for wealthy and eccentric cinephiles: The Wrap reports that Orson Welles’ solitary Oscar is up for auction.

Let's take a moment to pause and reflect on the fact that what is now considered one of the most significant films of all time, “Citizen Kane,” only took home the Oscar for Best Screenplay (though it was nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor). If I were forced to select just one category for a “Citizen Kane” win, it would be Best Director. The innovative techniques Welles employed to get the shots he wanted to tell his story were as effective as they were influential. Alas, as Aaron Sorkin writes in the "Moneyball" script, “the first one through the wall always gets bloodied.”

The history of Welles's golden statue is storied and apropos. The writer/actor/director originally gave his Oscar to cinematographer Gary Graver (so much for sentiment). His daughter, Beatrice, then sued Graver for ownership. She went on to give the Award to a Los Angeles-based charity called Dax Foundation. (Looks like material detachment may be in the bloodlines – they took the lessons of “Kane” to heart it would seem).

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<p>Amani and Marcus of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>
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Amani and Marcus of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Marcus & Amani talk 'The Amazing Race'

Sports metaphors, flight simulators and life lessons from the third place team
In his 13-year NFL career, Marcus Pollard had 40 touchdown receptions and made the postseason with the Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons. 
Pollard never made it to the Super Bowl, though, a fact he mentioned this season on "The Amazing Race," as he and wife Amani made it all the way to Sunday (December 11) night's finale.
Marcus & Amani came up short on "The Amazing Race," finishing third after a  series of flight simulator miscues left them unable to make up enough time in Atlanta. Even in defeat, Marcus & Amani were one of this season's most popular pairs, earning a reputation as the Comeback Kids, surviving a Non-Elimination Leg and several other close calls to make it all the way to the last Pit Stop.
Marcus' irrepressible enthusiasm and love for sports metaphors, and Amani's boundless patience with Marcus' enthusiasm and sports metaphors made then fan favorites in a Race they often said they were running to set a positive and enriching example for their four children.
Click through for my "Amazing Race" exit interview with Marcus & Amani (and check back over the next couple days for the season's last two exit interviews)...
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<p>Guy Ritchie works with Jared Harris and Robert Downey Jr. on the climax of 'Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows'</p>

Guy Ritchie works with Jared Harris and Robert Downey Jr. on the climax of 'Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Listen: Guy Ritchie talks about building a better Moriarty

Plus call-in games and a conversation about the death of 35MM film

I know this is confusing, but this podcast was recorded between the Bret McKenzie and the Edgar Wright one.  I just wanted to get the Edgar one up before tonight's programming began at the New Beverly.

The first time I met Guy Ritchie, Harry and I were trying to get him to bring "Snatch" to Butt-Numb-A-Thon.  We had lunch with him and with Matthew Vaughn, who was still Guy's producer at the time, and by the end of the lunch, we had the film, and I'd really come to like the two of them just as film fans and guys.

The next time I saw him was on the set of "Sherlock Holmes," and he'd covered quite a bit of ground as a person and as a filmmaker in the years between those encounters.  What struck me about that encounter was that he seemed to have made a choice about what he wanted, and that choice involved giant-budget tentpole movies.  I certainly don't think that big-budget films are "better" than independent movies, or vice-versa, but I do think that the best way to get some creative freedom is by making a studio some serious money.  Ritchie was coming off a series of misfires like "Swept Away" and "Revolver," and it seemed fitting that he had Robert Downey Jr. starring in his film, as Downey had also made that jump into franchise filmmaking with a real passion.

Now, as Ritchie prepares to release his first sequel, we sat down to talk about how he approached his interpretation of Professor Moriarty, the most famous villain ever faced by Sherlock Holmes, and how he felt about stepping back into the world.  It's a pretty loose conversation, one of two I had with Ritchie last week.  You'll see the other one as a video interview sometime this week.

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"The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"

 "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' - 'A Book, a Bachelorette and a Breakdown'

It's time for more hysterical crying - and not from Taylor

I hope everyone has recovered from last week's wholly uncomfortable Taylor trainwreck last week. I was thinking we might kick off this week with a limo drive through the gates of a mental institution or maybe a shelter for battered women, but no such luck. Instead, we will start the way all deep emotional healing in Beverly Hills begins -- at lunch.

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<p>Allison Miller of &quot;Terra Nova&quot;</p>
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Allison Miller of "Terra Nova"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Terra Nova' - 'Within'

A familiar friend helps us break down why this show was such a missed opportunity
To call tonight’s penultimate episode of “Terra Nova” an exercise in stalling would imply that the rest of the season has been chock full o’ narrative momentum. That clearly isn’t the case, as it’s pretty obvious by now that this series has, at best, a 4-hour mini-series worth of story. Why else would the second to last episode of the season (and maybe series) devote 10 minutes on Maddy trying to find a battery for her prehistoric iPad? Sure, education’s important, but I’d wager there are slightly bigger concerns at this moment in the colony’s history. “Within” set up the fireworks for next week, but it will more than likely be sound and fury, signifying nothing.
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<p>Rooney Mara in &quot;The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo&quot;</p>

Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

Watch: 'Dragon Tattoo' combines Trent Reznor Karen O for 'Immigrant Song' film opener

Opening credit sequence to David Fincher's new adaptation is pretty-fluid

It's no new news that Trent Reznor had Karen O's help in re-creating Led Zeppelin's classic "Immigrant Song" for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." What's fresh is the way David Fincher introduces it in the opening credit sequence to his adaptation.

Check out the very liquid, very dark animated video clip to the much-anticipated film.

I already have some feelings about the Nine Inch Nails' frontman's contributions overall, and those are to come. But the lo-rez version of this opening clip has nothing on the reality on the big-screen version. It's visually abstract and then sensually sick as it rolls on, much like the movie itself. See it in the theater if you can.

The approach to "Immigrant Song" is especially poignant, a woman singing Robert Plant's part, the lyrics literally about over-lording and imperialism. It's a very masculine song, from it's infamous riff and it's rallying cry. Vikings, too, are also ironically associated with that good old-fashioned rote "raping and pillaging."

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Win the screenplay of "The Ides of March," among others.
Win the screenplay of "The Ides of March," among others.
Credit: Columbia Pictures

Contest: Screenplay giveaway

Win copies of 'The Descendants,' 'Win Win,' 'The Help' and more

Thanks to everyone who entered the "Rango" contest last week. The winners were ETHAN G. and SHARKMAN. So if you guys are reading, drop me a line so we can get you your prizes. (Additionally, I'm still waiting on you, GRUBI, to do the same following the "Super 8" contest. You were a winner!)

Today we have a set of screenplays to give away. Included are Tom McCarthy's "Win Win," Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan's "Shame," Sean Durkin's "Martha Marcy May Marlene," George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon's "The Ides of March," Tate Taylor's "The Help" and Alexander Payne's "The Descendants."

For this, I think we're going to dust off the ole' limerick contest. If you feel up to the challenge, rifle off a limerick inspired by one of the above-mentioned films. The best one wins.

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