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<p>The Fray</p>

The Fray

Credit: AP Photo

Hitfix Interview: The Fray's Isaac Slade on what he learned from U2's Bono

Why new album, 'Scars & Stories,' almost never was

As The Fray came together to work on what would become its third Epic album, “Scars & Stories,” the quartet had a collective dark night of the soul; one that could have spelled the end for the multi-platinum piano rock act best known for radio smashes such as “How To Save A Life” and “Over My Head (Cable Car).”

They were in the studio working up songs for “S&S,” out today, and “all four of us were coming of age,” says co-founder/lead singer Isaac Slade. “I was turning 30. We were trying to figure out who we are, what we want to do, how long we want to be in a band. We were partly excited that we get another chance, but partly afraid we were going to be irrelevant. It was a bad, bad week.”

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Lars Ulrich during Metallica's LiveStream</p>

Lars Ulrich during Metallica's LiveStream

Metallica launching their own weekend-long Orion Music + More festival

Veteran metal trouple playing the Black Album in its entirety; Avenged Sevenfold, Modest Mouse on the bill

For years, Metallica has brought their music directly to the fans with endless tours. Now, with the launch of the metal act's own festival Orion Music + More, the fans can come to them.

Today, the quartet took to LiveStream to announce their weekend-long event, to take place in Atlantic City, N.J., on June 23-24. The band will close out both nights, and have tapped other bands like Arctic Monkeys, Avenged Sevenfold and Modest Mouse to play throughout. The band has also promised to play "Ride the Lightning" and the eponymous "Black album" in their entirety -- that marks the first time they've done the latter on U.S. soil.

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<p>A nice distillation of the micro/macro theme running through &quot;The Tree of Life&quot;</p>

A nice distillation of the micro/macro theme running through "The Tree of Life"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Why it should be 'Tree of Life'

For the first time in ages, a true landmark is in the running for Best Picture

When the nominations for this year's Academy Awards were announced two weeks ago, there was one Best Picture nominee that yielded a great sigh of relief from me. It was less that I felt it was deserving (it unquestionably is, but to quote "Unforgiven," deserve's got nothing to do with it when it comes to the Oscars) than the fact that I was actually going to have something to passionately champion.

The line-up that was settling into place until that time, I have to say, was lackluster. I mean, I think "Midnight in Paris" is delightful. I'm incredibly happy for Martin Scorsese and his personal ode in "Hugo." "The Help" really did affect me emotionally when I saw it in August. "The Artist" is charming. But none of it is really enough for me. Elsewhere, "War Horse," well, I don't really have any strong feelings on it. And "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" fit like a square peg in a round hole for me. "Moneyball" was really the closest I could have come to having a rally cry, but it still wasn't on the proper echelon for me.

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<p>Jason Segel and Jim Parsons performing &quot;Man or Muppet&quot; with The Muppets.</p>

Jason Segel and Jim Parsons performing "Man or Muppet" with The Muppets.

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Best Original Song performances scrapped again from Oscar telecast

No room for production numbers from 'The Muppets' and 'Rio'

At this point, one has to say to Oscar: if you're that embarrassed by the Best Original Song category, just get rid of it. Yes, it's recognized some great movie moments -- and given us some great Oscarcast moments -- over the last 77 years, involving everyone from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Springsteen to Sondheim to Eminem. But it's clear the Academy feels the award has had its day, as evinced this year by the embarrassing all-time low of a two-nominee field, and now, the decision to drop performances of the nominated songs from the ceremony -- for the second time in three years.   

I wrote just yesterday that The Muppets had already been somewhat edged out of the show: with almost everyone predicting two song nominations for their latest screen outing, with the infectious group number "Life's a Happy Song" favored to win, the Academy's music branch wound up nominating only the lower-key ballad "Man or Muppet," a showcase for new Muppet recruit Walter and his non-felt screen partner Jason Segel.

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<p>John&nbsp;Williams received his 46th and 47th Oscar nominations this year, one of them for &quot;The Adventures of Tintin.&quot;</p>

John Williams received his 46th and 47th Oscar nominations this year, one of them for "The Adventures of Tintin."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Oscar Guide 2011: Best Music (Original Score)

'Tintin,' 'The Artist,' 'Hugo,' 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' and 'War Horse' square off

(The Oscar Guide will be your chaperone through the Academy's 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 26, with the Best Picture finale on Saturday, February 25.)

While the music branch’s choices (or lack thereof) in Best Original Song could be considered shocking, the opposite was true about their final five in Best Original Score. Three of the titles are Best Picture nominees, the branch’s favorite composer of all time is double-nominated yet again and all but one of the finalists have been nominated previously. Moreover, that newcomer worked on the Best Picture frontrunner. These are hardly surprising statistics.

The only film that could reasonably be considered “snubbed” was “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” as last year’s winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross were unable to return despite BFCA, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. Even so, they produce the sort of music the branch normally does not go for, so even that is not shocking. Ten of the last 11 winners in this category, meanwhile, have been Best Picture nominees, including the last eight. I fully expect that trend to continue this year and I am reasonably confident in which of the three will triumph, though the other two cannot be completely discounted.

The nominees are…

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<p>Paul McCartney's &quot;Kisses on the Bottom&quot;</p>

Paul McCartney's "Kisses on the Bottom"

Album Review: Paul McCartney's 'Kisses On The Bottom'

Does his standards album rise to the top?

With the impeccable pedigree of Diana Krall and Tommy LiPuma behind the boards as producers (and with Krall’s band backing Sir Paul), there’s no question that Paul McCartney’s new album, “Kisses On The Bottom,” is going to sound tasteful and smooth. And it does. At times, so much it hurts. It’s as if you can hear every bristle on the brushes as they hit the drums and every plucked upright bass string. There is not a note out of place.

This is your grandfather’s McCartney: forget about imagining any cute head shaking, that he still, improbably, pulls off at 69. Focused primarily on songs from the ‘20s-‘50s, McCartney is paying homage to the music his father loved and that he grew up listening to. Plus, he penned two originals.  That means we hear  McCartney crooning, which, quite frankly, he doesn’t seem particularly comfortable doing at times, such as on  “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” "Kisses," which takes its cheeky title from a line in the opening track, Fats Domino's “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter," is out today.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Best Actor hopefuls Jean Dujardin, Brad Pitt and George Clooney at yesterday's Oscar nominees luncheon.</p>

Best Actor hopefuls Jean Dujardin, Brad Pitt and George Clooney at yesterday's Oscar nominees luncheon.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Round-up: The Oscar nominees do lunch

Also: 'Hugo' producer woes, and Dujardin slays 'em on Leno

I have to say, if I ran the Academy, I'd bar press from the Oscar Nominees Luncheon. Established as a relaxed event to foster a spirit of mutual appreciation and camaraderie among the nominees, away from the tedium of the campaign trail, the lunch has grown into just another PR pit-stop: the nominees remain switched on, while journalists monitor applause levels like hawks to gauge which contenders are more popular than others. The latter seems both a distasteful and unreliable practice: some pundits are getting excited that Best Supporting Actor dark horse Max von Sydow was the only nominee to receive a standing ovation, but then, frontrunner Christopher Plummer wasn't even in attendance. Anyway, Steve Pond, whose approach is to proceedings is more healthily sceptical than most, paints the clearest picture of the event. [The Odds]   

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<p>Martin Short and Josh Radnor got into it last night on &quot;How I&nbsp;Met Your Mother.&quot;</p>

Martin Short and Josh Radnor got into it last night on "How I Met Your Mother."

Credit: CBS

'How I Met Your Mother' - 'The Burning Beekeeper': The internet is for cheese

Marshall and Lily's housewarming party goes awry in a well-structured but unfunny episode

A review of last night's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as my breath reeks of shredded carrots and deceit...

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Watch: New trailer for 'The Amazing Spider-Man' shows The Lizard and more story
Credit: Sony Pictures

Watch: New trailer for 'The Amazing Spider-Man' shows The Lizard and more story

Sony rolls out their new preview for one of the summer's biggest gambles

Early Monday morning, audiences got a chance to see the new trailer for "The Amazing Spider-Man" at a special Sony event that was held in 13 cities around the world, and I was there.  I shared my impressions from that event with you in an earlier piece.

Now it's your turn to get a look at Sony's latest attempt to explain the difference between this new version of "Spider-Man" and what we grew used to in the Sam Raimi films.

There's quite a bit to look for in the trailer.  You'll see Peter Parker, wiseass.  You'll get a glimpse of The Lizard in all his greenness.  You'll see some of the scale that they're going for this time, as well as the sense of humor that seems like such a fresh addition to the series.

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"The Bachelor"

 "The Bachelor"

Credit: ABC

Recap: 'The Bachelor' heads to Panama City and gets a two-on-one

One girl is in love with an ex - and Ben isn't amused

Things are getting serious on "The Bachelor." But they couldn't be too serious, because Courtney is still here, sucking on her overbite, ripping off her clothes and generally not being the kind of classy dame Ben claims to consider marriage material. But then again, I'm not sure Ben's using his head at all (at least not the one on his shoulders) as he seems to devolve into a stuttering 13-year-old dork whenever Courtney comes around. Actually, Ben seems pretty dorky in a general sense, but given that all these women are willing to overlook that glaring character flaw, it does make good television. And I'm sure at least one of them will get a cask of questionably good booze if she plays her cards right. 

Anyway, they're off to Panama City, Panama! Oh, look, a little map with an animated plane graphic so we can see where they've been! Courtney sucks on her overbite and thinks about skinny dipping again! Yay!

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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' - 'Reunion Pt. 2'

The girls get nasty about curse words, sluttiness and suicide

It's part two of our reunion show, and things are finally getting REALLY nasty, as Brandi's joined the gang and, well, if anyone's going to get into some verbal fisticuffs, it's going to be the chick that slit Eddie Cibrian's tires and texted that Kyle was a C-U-Next Tuesday to a friend of hers (and accidentally sent said text to Kyle herself). But more on that in a moment. But seriously, I wish I'd realized how much fun Brandi is a lot earlier in the season! 

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<p>On &quot;Smash,&quot;&nbsp;Karen (Katharine McPhee)&nbsp;performs an after-hours audition for Derek (Jack Davenport).</p>

On "Smash," Karen (Katharine McPhee) performs an after-hours audition for Derek (Jack Davenport).

Credit: NBC

'Smash' - 'Pilot': Let me be your star

What did everybody think of NBC's new musical drama?

I posted my review of NBC's "Smash" on Friday, and a number of you weighed in on the show, having already watched it online. But I imagine some of you didn't get to see it until tonight's official premiere, and I'm curious what you guys thought of it. Did you like the songs, whether original or covers? (And once the songs shift into fantasy mode, would you prefer they stayed that way until the end, rather than toggling back and forth?) Do you have a favorite between Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty? Did you find the "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" number sexy or disturbing? (Several women I know who watched it initially thought something very bad was going to happen to Karen in that apartment.) And, most importantly, do you intend to keep watching? 

Though I didn't love the show, I find it interesting enough that I'm going to attempt some kind of weekly coverage. Some reviews may be longer than others, but there will at least be a venue for discussion of each episode. (No idea if NBC will be sending more out in advance past the first four; if not, don't expect posts until Tuesday morning sometime.) 

In the meantime, have at it.

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