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<p>Richard Linklater's singular American indie effort &quot;Slacker&quot;&nbsp;is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year</p>

Richard Linklater's singular American indie effort "Slacker" is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year

Credit: Orion Classics

Oscarweb Round-up: Longing for indies of old

Also: Cliff Martinez talks scoring 'Drive' and Liam Neeson could shake up the Best Actor category

Linked in today's round-up is a story from The Guardian newspaper in London in which Ryan Gibey bemoans the loss of microbudget American independent cinema. Of course, there isn't really a loss there, as shoe-string budgets are alive and well, namely in movements like Mumblecore (dirty word, I know) cinema, where filmmakers like Joe Swanberg and Aaron Katz have made a name for themselves. But I feel his pain. I often think back to the independent burst of the early-1990s and how that fury just hasn't been matched. In particular Gibey singles out Richard Linklater's "Slacker," which I confess I never saw until recently, and I was rather blown away by it. The film, which pre-dated indie titan filmmaking from the likes of Quentin Tarantino and David O. Russell (who are well-covered in Sharon Waxman's book "Rebels on the Backlot"), is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year if you can believe it. It was recently remade by a troupe of filmmakers for the occasion and premiered at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, where the film is set (and where Fantastic Fest rages on currently). Now, let's see what's going on in the Oscarweb today...

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<p>Stephanie Sigman in Gerardo Naranjo's thriller &quot;Miss Bala,&quot; which will compete as Mexico's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.</p>

Stephanie Sigman in Gerardo Naranjo's thriller "Miss Bala," which will compete as Mexico's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Mexico's terrific 'Miss Bala' leads latest crop of foreign Oscar entries

Israel opts for Cannes prizewinner 'Footnote,' while U.S. director Joshua Marston represents Albania

I had barely finished typing up yesterday's foreign-language Oscar submissions update when news landed of a further three high-profile candidates: with the deadline a mere eight days away, the list is virtually growing by the hour. I could have added the newcomers as a postscript, but given that I've seen all three -- and that one of them is among my favorite films of the year -- I thought I'd wait until the morning.

I've seen only 11 of the 39 films submitted so far, and while I'm delighted thus far with the presence of entries like "A Separation," "Pina," "The Turin Horse" and "Attenberg," no announcement has pleased me quite as much as the news that Mexico has opted for Gerardo Naranjo's "Miss Bala," a blinding drug-trade thriller that was one of the clear hits of this year's Un Certain Regard crop at Cannes.

The selection is hardly a surprise: aside from the film's festival sensation status, the studio backing of 20th Century Fox always ensured a high US profile for Naranjo's film, which hits theaters next month after a final festival stopover in New York. It's on that basis that I've been predicting a nomination for it since June, even if its tough, socially-conscious genre trappings hardly represent a soft lob to general voters in this Academy branch.

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<p>Laurence R. Harvey is the star of the truly loathsome 'Human Centipede 2,' which just had its premiere at Fantastic Fest</p>

Laurence R. Harvey is the star of the truly loathsome 'Human Centipede 2,' which just had its premiere at Fantastic Fest

Credit: IFC Midnight

Review: 'Human Centipede II' piles on the gross with very little wit

Tom Six tries to top himself with this sequel that defines excess

Here's the thing about the "Human Centipede" movies:  when you hear the premise of the films, that moment of "oh, gross, really?" is about as strong an impact as the films will ever have.

The first film is really all about the art of the misdirect.  You hear the set-up and you dread the experience of actually seeing what it's about, and then when you do see it, it's fairly tame.  Things are suggested.  It's terrifying in concept more than execution.  I didn't care for the first film, but I respect the way it's put together and the general filmmaking skills.  Tom Six had a good sense of how to make you feel like you were going to see the end of the world, and the whole thing is so blatantly gleeful about being childish and ridiculous that it's hard to be upset by it.  I would never call the first film a good film, but it's a well-made film that I don't think is interesting.  It's not worthless.  It's not trash.  It's just provocation with no weight behind it, and it left me cold.

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<p>Thatcher and Parliament are one in the striking art work for the film.</p>
<br />

Thatcher and Parliament are one in the striking art work for the film.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Meryl Streep won't compromise in this poster for 'The Iron Lady'

The 16-time Oscar nominee stars as Margaret Thatcher

Part of The Weinstein Company's stable of awards contenders this year is Phyllida Lloyd's "The Iron Lady." Meryl Streep stars in the biopic about former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and conventional wisdom says she's on track for her 17th Oscar nomination. Some even wonder if she'll be in a position to win her third statue (as the usual argument is it has been too long since her last win, which came for 1982's "Sophie's Choice"). But it's interesting that the two sight-unseen frontrunners for the lead acting Oscars are such conservative figures of political history (the other being Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover in "J. Edgar"). And indeed that conservative spirit is embossed by the tagline for the film -- "Never Compromise" -- positioned at the top of the first (handsome) official poster for the film. Check out the full image after the jump.

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"The Vampire Diaries"

 "The Vampire Diaries"

Credit: CW

Recap: 'Vampire Diaries' - 'The Hybrid'

Klaus wants to create his army -- but it won't be as easy as he thinks

A lot of people confront obstacles in their relationships, but most pale in comparison to what Elena is facing with Stefan. Instead of the usual "my parents don't approve" or "his ex-girlfriend keeps hanging around," Elena has to get past the fact that her boyfriend has run off with a hybrid werewolf/vampire on a killing spree that involves ripping people into bits and pieces. I guess this is what they call true love -- accepting someone else's flaws, even when they're felonies. 

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<p>Liam Neeson in Joe Carnahan's new dramatic thriller &quot;The Grey.&quot;</p>

Liam Neeson in Joe Carnahan's new dramatic thriller "The Grey."

Credit: Open Road Films

Watch: Liam Neeson battles the wild in 'The Grey'

Could the former nominee crash the best actor race?

The prevailing wisdom of this year's best actor race is that it's "The Descendants'" George Clooney and/or "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy's" Gary Oldman's to lose.  And while that may be true, there are a number of potential late candidates ready to crash the party.  Oldman is one of the most glaring of an acclaimed actor who hasn't even received a nomination, but Liam Neeson is an example one of the most acclaimed actors of our time who hasn't won.  If Open Road Pictures sticks to its rumored plan, Neeson may get a chance at Oscar once more.

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"Project Runway"

 "Project Runway"

Credit: Lifetime Television

Recap: 'Project Runway' - Image Is Everything

It's a rock 'n' roll challenge, but one designer can't loosen up

Well, after tonight we'll have just seven designers -- but I have to admit, I'm still seeing plenty of taste-challenged designers left in the game. I'm hoping that "PR" will cut back on the goofy challenges and really allow us to see what these guys are capable of doing. While yes, I readily admit there is something to be said for someone who's creative enough to design a dress based on a boyfriend or husband's description of what their significant other likes (as they did last week), the results seem to be more about luck than about true talent. But, judging from what I've seen of this week's episode, we've got another oddball challenge before us that will do nothing more than exhaust the contestants and give the judges ample opportunity to come up with witty insults. But let's get to it, shall we? 

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<p>Jane Timoney (Maria Bello)&nbsp;surrounded by her male colleagues in the &quot;Prime Suspect&quot;&nbsp;pilot.</p>

Jane Timoney (Maria Bello) surrounded by her male colleagues in the "Prime Suspect" pilot.

Credit: NBC

'Prime Suspect' - 'Pilot': Hat in hand

What did everybody think of the new NBC cop drama?

I posted my review of NBC's "Prime Suspectthis morning. Now it's your turn. Whether you're familiar with the Helen Mirren original or not, how did you think Maria Bello did as Jane Timoney? Are you pro- or anti-hat? Will you be glad to see them tone down the blatant sexism, or do you think the show needed it? Most importantly, will you be watching another episode? 

Have at it.

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<p>Fat Mac (Rob McElhenny) goes shirtless on &quot;It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.&quot;</p>

Fat Mac (Rob McElhenny) goes shirtless on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

Credit: FX

'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' - 'The Gang Goes to the Jersey Shore': Rum Ham!!!!

No Snooki or The Situation, but lots of silly and/or dark fun

A quick review of tonight's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" coming up just as soon as I get my scalp sewn back on...

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Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Finch (Michael Emerson) follow a DA (Natalie Zea) who may be in trouble on "Person of Interest."
Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Finch (Michael Emerson) follow a DA (Natalie Zea) who may be in trouble on "Person of Interest."
Credit: CBS

'Person of Interest' - 'Pilot': Rage against the machine

What did everybody think of Jesus and Ben Linus teaming up to fight crime?

I posted my review of CBS' "Person of Interestyesterday. Now it's your turn. What did you think of the vigilante drama? Were you okay with Jim Caviezel's energy level? Would you prefer Michael Emerson to stretch himself beyond Ben Linus-type roles? Do you want more Taraji P. Henson or less? And what on earth was William Sadler doing there for 30 seconds? 

Have at it.

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<p>&quot;Whitney&quot;&nbsp;(Whitney Cummings)&nbsp;and her friends go shopping in the series premiere.</p>

"Whitney" (Whitney Cummings) and her friends go shopping in the series premiere.

Credit: NBC

'Whitney' - 'Pilot': Helloooo, nurse!

What did everybody think of the new NBC sitcom?

I posted my review of "Whitneyearlier this week. Now it's your turn. It seems the Internet passed its terrible judgment on this show months ago, and while I certainly didn't like it, I did enjoy a couple of moments here and there. (For the record, the two things I laughed at were Chris D'Elia's delivery of the blackface line, and his reaction to the mountain of paperwork.) But now that everyone's had an opportunity to see the whole thing, was it as bad as you were expecting? More? Less? Do you see any glimmers of hope for the future? Which of the two Whitney Cummings-written sitcom pilots did you prefer? Have at it.

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<p>&nbsp;Nadia Mikhalkov in Russia's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, &quot;Burnt by the Sun: Citadel.&quot;&nbsp;</p>

 Nadia Mikhalkov in Russia's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, "Burnt by the Sun: Citadel." 

More countries enter foreign-language Oscar race as deadline looms

Russia stirs controversy with critically reviled selection, while France goes lower-profile

Having been on holiday in Greece for the past week, I’ve rather lost track of the submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar – and as you’d expect with the entry deadline a little over a week away, there’s been a lot of activity since I last updated you, including a submission from the most-nominated country in the category’s history, and the first to prompt critical outrage over the selection process.

The former, of course, is France, a near-perennial player with 36 nominations under its belt – though the country hasn’t managed a win since 1992’s “Indochine.” In recent year, their submissions have had an air of inevitability to them: for four years running, they’ve simply picked the biggest homegrown winner from the Cannes competition, a strategy that paid off with nominations for “The Class” and “A Prophet,” but came undone last year when “Of Gods and Men” didn’t even make the pre-nomination shortlist.

If French selectors weren’t already thinking about a switch in tack, this year’s Cannes crop kind of forced their hand. It wasn’t short of Gallic-flavored hits, but Aki Kaurismaki's “Le Havre” is a Finnish co-production that was rightly submitted by the director’s homeland, while Michel Hazanavicius’s “The Artist” is in English. Short of submitting Maïwenn’s divisive Jury Prize winner “Polisse,” perhaps too procedural-based for many voters, they’d have to look elsewhere.

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