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<p>Melissa McCarthy in &quot;Bridesmaids&quot;</p>

Melissa McCarthy in "Bridesmaids"

Credit: Universal Pictures

Las Vegas critics spring for 'The Artist,' Melissa McCarthy

Meanwhile, Nicolas Winding Refn gets his first critics award of the year

The Las Vegas Film Critics Society dished out their kudos today, and they fell right in line. "We'll take 'The Artist,' please."

More interesting is their choice for Best Director: Nicolas Winding Refn for "Drive." As noted in today's Off the Carpet column, it's intriguing how much staying power the film has this season. Maybe it can parlay some of these notices into more serious Academy consideration, but it'll take some more campaign wind in the sails.

Elsewhere, Melissa McCarthy nabbed yet another Best Supporting Actress prize for "Bridesmaids," and I just don't get it. But congratulations to her. It's a real coming out this year and maybe -- given how rocky the category is -- she can manage an Oscar nomination when all is said and done. I'm sure Zach Galifianakis is wondering if he was chopped liver two years ago.

Check out the full list of winners from Vegas below. (And always bet on black.)

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<p>Jeremy and Sandy of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>
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Jeremy and Sandy of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Jeremy & Sandy talk 'The Amazing Race'

The season's second place team isn't down in The Dump
Who would have guessed that Atlanta would have two landmarks known as "The Dump"?
The first version of The Dump is the former residence of Margaret Mitchell, where she wrote "Gone with the Wind."
The second version of The Dump is a really big furniture warehouse.
Geographically, the two Dumps are separated by only a few miles, but for Jeremy Cline and Sandy Draghi, the distance can be measured monetarily as the difference between the million dollar "Amazing Race" first prize and whatever the show awards for second. 
It wasn't Jeremy & Sandy's fault, per se. The dating couple had a solid lead on the last leg of "The Amazing Race" and they simply asked a couple Atlanta natives to help them find The Dump. The helpful strangers sounded certain and their directions were helpful in getting the Racers to the furniture store. Unfortunately, that wasn't the right Dump. 
That marked a disappointing end for a team that started the Race prone to bickering, but grew stronger and more consistent as the Race progressed.
In their "Amazing Race" exit interview, Jeremy & Sandy discuss Dumps, Snowboarders and inadvertently helping the other two Finalists in Panama City.
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Credit: AP Photo

Garbage sets first dates of 2012 world tour, finishes first album in since 2005

When will the Shirley Manson-led band land in the U.S.?

Garbage’s reunion is definitely a reality. The Shirley Manson-led band has announced the first two dates of their 2012 world tour. The quartet, whose last release was 2005’s “Bleed Like Me,” will start their global jaunt in Russia in St. Petersburg on May 11, followed by Moscow on May. 12.

In a note on their Facebook page, the band members wrote in a post entitled “Buckle up and away we go: All aboard”:

"We are beyond thrilled to revisit Russia where we have played to incredible and memorable crowds over the years, where we have seen so many wonderous things and met so many lovely fans.
These are the first dates to be confirmed on our world tour of 2012 but we rush to assure Garbage fans all over the world that there are many more dates yet to be announced. Stay tuned. We will announce them here as soon as they are confirmed.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support. It is the outpouring of such incredible enthusiasm that propelled us to make this new record and to get back out on the road to play for you all again.”

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<p>Cover of &quot;We Need to Talk About Kevin&quot;&nbsp;by Lionel&nbsp;Shriver</p>

Cover of "We Need to Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver

Credit: Harper Perennial

Contest: Win the source novels of 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' and 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close'

Make your case for a child actor this season and win

Alright, I'm pushing through these this week, so we're calling it on yesterday's limerick contest. Congratulations to JOHN G who wins our screenplay giveaway. John, if you're reading, please drop me a line with your address so we can get you your prizes. (And SHARKMAN, you were one of the "Rango" winners, so do the same so I can mail yours out, too.)

Moving right along, I have a pair of books -- source material for two of the season's contenders: Lionel Shriver's "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and Jonathan Foer's "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close." On the surface, these two stories have absolutely nothing in common. But both film adaptations feature strong young actor performances (from Ezra Miller and Thomas Horn, respectively), so I'll use that as a spring board.

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<p>&nbsp;Seth Rogen</p>

 Seth Rogen

Credit: AP Photo

Seth Rogen to host Independent Spirit Awards

Producer-star's '50/50' also nominated for best feature

Funnyman Seth Rogen will host the 27th annual Independent Spirits Awards next year, lending his brand of smart-stoner sass to the proceedings.

He'll also have an interest in the show's results; Rogen co-produced and starred in this year's "50/50," with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which is up for multiple Spirit Awards including Best Feature. Also nominated in that category are the films "Drive," "The Descendants," "Take Shelter," "Beginners" and "The Artist."

He also recently co-starred in the Toronto Fest hit "Take This Waltz," with Michelle Williams.

Rogen, whose first break was on TV's "Freaks and Geeks," has been everywhere in the last few years, and may be best known for his handful of films with "Freaks" producer Judd Apatow, including "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Superbad," "Knocked Up" and "Funny People." 

“We’re incredibly excited to have Seth as the host for the 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards and join us in celebrating this year’s exquisite films and talented filmmaking artists. Seth’s charm, intelligence and quick wit are sure to light up the room and will make for a truly entertaining afternoon,” said Film Independent's Sean Mc Manus in a release.

The 27th annual awards ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, February 25, and will air that evening at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on IFC. 

Rogen's pal and frequent co-star James Franco did a less-than-stellar job of co-hosting the Oscars last year with Anne Hathaway, but we can assume that The Spirits and Rogen are a better match. 

Last year's Spirit Awards show was hosted by "Community: star Joel McHale. Previous hosts have included Eddie Izzard, Steve Coogan, Rainn Wilson, Samuel L. Jackson, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Tilly, Sarah Silverman and frequent host John Waters.

Do you think Rogen's a good choice to host?

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<p>Louis CK in &quot;Louie.&quot;</p>

Louis CK in "Louie."

Credit: FX

TV Top 10 of 2011: The best 10 (or 11) overall shows

A strong year for veteran series like 'Breaking Bad,' 'Louie' and 'Parks and Recreation'

It's that time of year, everybody, where critics of every stripe have to break down the best things they covered over the last 12 months into a list of 10 (or thereabouts). Eventually, all the members of Team HitFix will be rolling out his or her top 10 list, but I get to be first up at bat this year. (Katie Hasty should be up next with some thoughts on the year in music.)

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<p>Nicolas Winding&nbsp;Refn's &quot;Drive&quot; is showing remarkable staying power throughout the precursor circuit.</p>

Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive" is showing remarkable staying power throughout the precursor circuit.

Credit: FilmDistrict

Off the Carpet: Against the grain of dystopic claims

'Drive,' 'The Tree of Life' and Tilda Swinton stand out amid predictable precursors

It's an odd time of year. There is a film, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," that has very little hope of securing Oscar consideration and that I can now talk about. But I have nothing to say other than to offer that, in my opinion, it is director David Fincher's least compelling, most superficial film to date, practice, a craftsman staying in shape with material utterly beneath him and his boredom with it (or was it mine?) showing like the slip of a dress.

Meanwhile, there is another movie, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," that has plenty of potential in the Oscar race and that I cannot talk about.

So what do we talk about? The critics? There's nothing really left to say. The last film I screened in 2011, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol?" It's fun and has great sound design (and good GAWD, Paula Patton is God's gift). This morning's BFCA announcement? It was one of the most vanilla, Oscar-forecasting collectives the group has ever managed to cough up.

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<p>Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein in &quot;A Dangerous Method.&quot;</p>

Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein in "A Dangerous Method."

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Interview: Keira Knightley on pushing herself (and pulling it back) in 'A Dangerous Method'

The British actress tells us why she's drawn to characters she doesn't understand

In the last year or so, I’ve seen Keira Knightley withering away on a hospital bed as her inorganic organs are removed and farmed out, moodily chain-smoking in an icy Manhattan loft as she contemplates her husband’s infidelity, stridently slamming doors on a West End stage as her life is undone by malicious rumors about her sexuality, and most recently, getting the life spanked out of her by Carl Jung as he attempts to cure her of crippling hysteria.

It has, in short, been a rather intense time for Knightley in the fictional realm, so it’s a relief, not to mention an irrational surprise, when the young Londoner answers the phone with the perkiest of hellos. It swiftly becomes difficult to reconcile the fast-talking, warmly enthusiastic person on the line – the word “incredible” pops up with endearing frequency throughout our chat – with the prickly, often unhappy women she’s lately brought to life on screen (and, in a superb London revival of Lillian Hellman’s “The Children’s Hour” last spring, on stage too).

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<p>The Magnetic Fields' &quot;Love at the Bottom of the Sea&quot;</p>

The Magnetic Fields' "Love at the Bottom of the Sea"

Credit: Merge

Magnetic Fields announce new 'Love' album for Merge, plus tour dates

Stephin Merritt is back with songs that don't play for longer than three minutes

Just as we surmised when it was announced Stephin Merritt and Co. were playing South By Southwest: Magnetic Fields has prepared the way for a new album, "Love at the Bottom of the Sea," due on March 6.

It will be their first album for Merge records in 13 years, their last for the indie label having been another "Love" set: they issued three-parter "69 Love Songs" in 1999, and then put their last three albums out via Nonesuch (former home to Wilco).

"Love at the Bottom of the Sea" -- a title that sounds  equal parts desperate, slow-moving, fatalistic and romantic -- is Magnetic Fields' 10th album, it utilizes a stable of Merritt's usual collaborators, including Claudia Gonson, Sam Davol, John Woo, Shirley Simms, Johny Blood and Daniel Handle. Merritt sticks to his signature brevity, too, on the 15 tracks, with no song exceeding three minutes in length.

Pre-orders are up now with extra goodies for the first 100 folks who sign up, and early vinyl purchasers will have dibs on eggshell colored records. Lovely.

Magnetic Fields will be supporting the release with its SXSW showcase, plus a slew of tour dates, below.

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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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