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<p>A&nbsp;scene from Fernando Meirelles' &quot;City of God&quot;</p>

A scene from Fernando Meirelles' "City of God"

Credit: Miramax Films

Aiming for head of the cinematic class

It's early yet, but how is a new decade in cinema shaping up?

We are right in the midst of a cinephile’s favorite time of year. Though there is no hard and fast rule, many of our darlings make their way to theaters just in time for an Oscar run from September to December. But whether it is an Academy Awards contender or not, whether it is released in November or (as rare as this may be) January, each year brings us a favorite film.

Every so often, however, a selection leaps beyond the limited scope of “best of the year” into the realm of “that against which all other films will now be measured.” It becomes the golden child to which the competing star pupils are compared.

We typically frame cinema “classes,” as it were, by decade. For me, the straight-A student that ruined the curve for all the others this past decade was Fernando Meirelles’ “City of God.” Though other films carved a space in my heart and mind, “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” among them, I have yet to find a film that was released in that same 10-year span (2000-2009) that hits every single note quite the way that “City of God” does.

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<p>George Clooney at the Los Angeles premiere of &quot;The Descendants.&quot;</p>

George Clooney at the Los Angeles premiere of "The Descendants."

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Oscarweb Round-up: Clooney cheers on the competition

Also: breaking down the screenplay race and Cooper wins the meat market

Ask most awards analysts who the current frontrunners for the Best Actor Oscar are, and you'll probably get some combination of the names George Clooney, Jean Dujardin and Brad Pitt. Clooney probably knows that, which is why it's both magnanimous and, who knows, perhaps slyly strategic for him to name Dujardin and Pitt's performances, in "The Artist" and "Moneyball" respectively, as being among his favorites of the year: I don't for a minute doubt his ingenuousness (or his judgment) when he describes Dujardin's work as "spectacular," but by singling out these performances, he indirectly puts himself in their company. The man's smoothness knows no bounds. [Los Angeles Times]

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<p>Sometimes, &quot;Parenthood&quot;&nbsp;can drive Julia (Erika Christensen)&nbsp;to drink.</p>

Sometimes, "Parenthood" can drive Julia (Erika Christensen) to drink.

Credit: NBC

'Parenthood' - 'Sore Loser': You're the one that I want

The show goes 3 out of 4 with its stories, but the 4th is a doozy

A review of last night's "Parenthood" coming up just as soon as I hate all puns...

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<p>Zooey Deschanel and Justin Long on &quot;New Girl.&quot;</p>

Zooey Deschanel and Justin Long on "New Girl."

Credit: FOX

'New Girl' - 'Thanksgiving': New guy

Justin Long checks in as Jess' spiritually compatible new boyfriend

A review of last night's "New Girl" coming up just as soon as I put the turkey on permanent press…

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<p>Alexander Payne, Shailene Woodley and George Clooney at the Los Angeles premiere of &quot;The Descendants&quot;&nbsp;at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences theater Tuesday night in Beverly Hills.</p>

Alexander Payne, Shailene Woodley and George Clooney at the Los Angeles premiere of "The Descendants" at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences theater Tuesday night in Beverly Hills.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris PIzzello

'The Descendants' finally makes its Academy debut as the raves come in

Is that the creator of 'Mad Men' in the house?

Three months after dazzling audiences at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals, Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" is finally hitting theaters in New York and Los Angeles today. And that opening timed perfectly to the film's Los Angeles premiere Tuesday night at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

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Michael Silvers (left) and Randy Thom accept Oscars for Best Sound Editing for "The Incredibles" in 2005.
Michael Silvers (left) and Randy Thom accept Oscars for Best Sound Editing for "The Incredibles" in 2005.
Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Potato, potahto, craft, tech, let's call the whole thing off

Setting the record straight on Tech Support

I think our record at In Contention of highlighting the craft categories via the weekly Tech Support column for the last six years speaks for itself. In the wake of our centralized focus throughout said fields, outlets like Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and the Los Angeles Times have stepped up their game, featuring contenders and eventual nominees from those categories with more consistency, while other outlets like Movie City News have actually expanded their coverage to include these areas when they didn't cover them before.

We've kind of prided ourselves, both Gerard Kennedy (who has written the column since its inception) and myself, on including below-the-line efforts in the same breath as higher profile elements like directing and acting because we believe they are vital and should share the attention. And speaking for myself, as someone who attended film school and knows very well what each and every one of these elements entails, it's been kind of a passion.

So with that in mind, I think I'll just give a certain sound mixer the benefit of the doubt regarding a few statements he made in the comments section of a recent edition of Tech Support.

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<p>Jessie Wiseman and Evan Glodell share a rare happy moment in 'Bellflower,' the blistering study of love gone wrong that arrives on DVD and Blu-ray this week.</p>

Jessie Wiseman and Evan Glodell share a rare happy moment in 'Bellflower,' the blistering study of love gone wrong that arrives on DVD and Blu-ray this week.

Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Exclusive: The ladies of 'Bellflower' pick their favorite post-apocalypse films

What do Larry Clark, Scientology, and Kevin Costner have in common?

Let's talk about the ladies of "Bellflower."

I am fascinated by the accusations I've read that "Bellflower" is in some way a misogynistic film, and I heartily disagree.  I think the movie is meant to be enormously personal, and I don't buy for a second that Woodrow, the main character played by writer/director Evan Glodell, is a woman-hater.  Far from it.  He's a guy who is easily crushed because of how much he lets himself fall when he meets Milly, played by Jessie Wiseman, and the dynamic between her and her best friend Courtney, played by Rebekah Brandes, may be poisonous, but that's because of who they are, not what gender they are.

Yesterday, we ran a list of Glodell's five favorite post-apocalyptic films, and today, I thought we'd hear from both Wiseman and Brandes.  I fully expect there will come a point very soon where we hear that Wiseman has been cast in a Hollywood film or a TV show as the younger sister of Christina Applegate.  It's inevitable.  She's an interesting mix of tough and tender, and I always think it's interesting in a case like this to see what someone picks when talking about a specific genre.

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<p>Jax (Charlie Hunnam)&nbsp;and Kozik (Kenny Johnson)&nbsp;plan an attack on &quot;Sons of Anarchy.&quot;&nbsp;</p>

Jax (Charlie Hunnam) and Kozik (Kenny Johnson) plan an attack on "Sons of Anarchy." 

Credit: FX

'Sons of Anarchy' - 'Call of Duty': Blown up real good

Explosions, revelations and a face from the past highlight a 90-minute episode

A review of tonight's "Sons of Anarchy" coming up just as soon as I have a French bulldog named Ramon...

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<p>George Clooney in &quot;Syriana&quot; and the role that brought him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor</p>
<br />

George Clooney in "Syriana" and the role that brought him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Lists: Top 10 George Clooney performances

'The Ides of March' and 'The Descendants' give us an excuse to dissect the actor's best work

George Clooney has had yet another busy year. His circuit kicked off back in August at the Venice Film Festival where his fourth directorial effort, "The Ides of March," saw its world premiere on opening night. Then it was off to the Telluride Film Festival later that week for a tribute and another world premiere, this time of Alexander Payne's "The Descendants," which features Clooney in a leading role that many think will bring him an Oscar for Best Actor.

It's not unlike the path he carved in 2005, which saw his critically acclaimed "Good Night, and Good Luck." and Stephen Gaghan's "Syriana" find room in the awards conversation (the latter ultimately bringing him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor).

But while Clooney's million-dollar smile splashes across magazine covers in moments like these and his magnetic charm wins over whatever group of people the studio might put in front of him, it's worth taking note of the considerable talent that has brought him to a place where this kind of ubiquity is more refreshing than annoying.

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<p>Naya Rivera takes center stage on Wednesday night's &quot;Glee&quot;</p>
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Naya Rivera takes center stage on Wednesday night's "Glee"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Glee' - 'Mash Off'

How five great minutes signal everything wrong with the show
Twitter went and had a collective aneurism during the final five minutes of tonight’s “Glee.” No one could seemingly process what they just witnessed. Here’s my insta-theory as to why that was the case: the last five minutes were solidly crafted, emotionally crippling minutes of television that pulled every layer of crap off the show and demonstrated its powerful, beating heart. It would be like going to see The Wiggles perform in concert, only to have them end the show with a crushing version of “Tears in Heaven.” I mean, how could a normal brain process such a shock to the system?
“Glee” really isn’t interested in the types of musical combinations on display in tonight’s episode. “Mash Off” may have been the title, but “Smash Up” would be a more accurate one to describe what the show attempts on a weekly basis. Over on FX, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are simply taking this approach to its logical extreme with “American Horror Story.” But honestly, swap out Rory for Gimp Suit Guy and see if anything makes less sense than half of what goes on in a typical hour of this show…
…and yet, Lord, those final five minutes were perfect. When the show deals with the complicated issue of teenage sexuality, it should be at its weakest. And yet, it finds discipline in the thorniest of issues, ostensibly because everything else is window dressing to this central issue. This wouldn’t be a problem, if “Glee” were just about Kurt and Santana with the other breeders along for the ride. I’d watch the hell out of that show, because at least then I’d be watching a program that had emotional investments in its character’s arcs. Contrast the Adele mash up with the Hall & Oates mash up, and you have everything right and wrong with the show in a nutshell. The latter was played for out-of-context laughs. The former went for the jugular and slit your damn throat…
…and yet, Lord, those first fifty-five minutes were BRUTAL. It ping-ponged between the Puck/Shelby/Quinn debacle, the Congressional race, the student council contest, the chasm between Rachel/Kurt, and the link between dodgeball and stoning. While I admire those final five minutes, which featured the backlash of Sue’s dirty campaign on Santana’s innocent head, no time spent on this plotline has made a lick of sense. Sue can operate in her own world of weird within the walls of McKinley High and largely get away with it: she’s a big fish in a small pond. But extrapolating that to a state-wide election that views her antics as thought-provoking stretches things too far. It doesn’t help things that Will is apparently Burt’s campaign manager now. What? Does Will map out Burt’s strategy each week by writing “PATRIOTISM” on a white board? I have such a headache…
…and yet, I didn’t need aspirin watching Santana connect deeply with “Someone Like You.” Adele is so ubiquitous a presence on the radio right now that it’s hard to feel there’s anything intimate about her music. Last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” poked fun about the way in which her music seemingly makes everyone cry, but it’s almost as if we’ve collectively decided Adele is the pathway towards crocodile tears. Thus, emotional response to her music is almost Pavlovian at this point, rather than truly earned. Still, what Nya Rivera did in her half of the mash up was revelatory, combining with the show’s arrangement of the song to truly make the song feel fresh again. Until now, Season 1’s “Somebody to Love” might have been my favorite performance in the show’s history. But this made a strong case to dethrone the champ, even if it involved Troubletones that seemingly multiply like Gremlins between each scene…
….and yet, there I go again, dwelling on the simple things that “Glee” refuses to do in order to produce an episode that at least pretends to fit together as a cohesive whole. Were I to give the show any type of benefit of the doubt, I’d throw together a defense of the show as a modern-day example of Bertolt Brecht’s epic theatre. Brecht said of this style that it should primarily avoid a staple of most theatre, “the engendering of illusion." Brecht came up with this approach as a revolt against naturalism in theatre, which he felt produced complacency in the audience. Epic theatre was confrontational, alienating, and called attention to its artifice in order to wake the audience up from its stupor in order to convey the importance of what was being presented. Brecht went so far as to tell a director of one of his plays that, “Each scene, and each section within a scene, must be perfected and played as rigorously and with as much discipline as if it were a short play, complete in itself.” That’s freakin’ “Glee” in a nutshell, people, with its rigorous resistance to any form of connective tissue between one scene and the next, constantly calling attention to its existence as a pre-produced product being beamed through your television…
…and yet, the most powerful moments in the show push past that and work their way into our hearts all the same. Quinn calling Shelby a “cash whore” was the show at its worst, but Puck’s horny yet earnest pleas to be part of Beth’s life worked. While Quinn’s actions seemed intended to shock, Puck’s actions seemed like those of a clumsy man- child tiptoeing towards maturity. Santana’s riff on Finn’s weight smacked both of body dysmorphic disorder and grand larceny (since she lifted the monologue wholesale from Sue, seemingly), but it all stems from a defense mechanism surrounding her sexuality. Finn’s retort seems like an attack to her, but it functions from his perspective like a wake-up call. “Glee” gets really focused when it feels like doing so, and manages to produce complex emotions from unlikely sources as a result…
…and yet, it’s clear that the show only does so when it’s interested in the character in question. The show has handled Rachel reasonably well this season, making her naked ambition something it admonishes as much as adores. But her dropping out of the student council race marks the second time already this season she’s stepped aside in order to make way for someone who may or may not have earned the slot she vacated. In the case of “West Side Story,” the issue is admittedly more complicated. While in real life the competition between Lea Michele and Amber Riley would be a landslide, in “Glee” world they represent equally strong yet wildly different performing styles. But her decision to cede the student council race to Kurt bespeaks not friendship but straight up condescension. Now, Lord knows “Glee” would show us as much of the student council race as it would the rehearsals for the school musical, but still, “Mash Off” packed in pretty much the entire race into one episode. It introduced some jock into the mix, told us Brittany hates tornadoes (but loves Topless Tuesdays), and that Kurt ran the only honest campaign. Had the Hummels’ attempts at running a clean campaign been the focus of the hour, with both led into temptation to appeal to their darker sides, maybe this would have been a worthy plot. But it was thrown in because the show couldn’t wait to unburden itself from another long-running storyline. And rather than have Kurt madder than ever at Rachel for another selfish move that insulted him, the two are once again besties on the potential way to NYC in the Fall…
…and yet, should I care? Other than briefly worrying about Kurt’s health when he first appeared wearing a hat that wouldn’t have been out of place on Campbell Scott’s head in “Dying Young,” I didn’t feel anything for Kurt this episode. Last week’s episode ended on what should have been a monumental moment for him with Blaine. And yet neither that pair nor Rachel/Finn seemed to acknowledge it happened. Maybe that’s a bold statement meant to convey that life after sex simply moves on, but I’m chalking this up to what I’ll subsequently call Epic (Fail) Theatre henceforth. I didn’t need the four spooning all episode to make the point, but all Blaine did this hour was get passed over by Finn for a solo after using a mic stand as a phallic symbol in “Hot for Teacher.” The only character I currently care about is Santana, because that’s the only character the show currently cares about. Everyone else is an iTunes delivery system, and little else…
…and yet, I’ll keep watching, because what happened in those five minutes happen enough in the course of “Glee” that even if this weren’t my gig to cover each week here at HitFix, I keep hoping those that produce the show actually watch their own episodes occasionally and see how freakin’ good this show could be if they stopped trying to be epic and started trying to be intimate. I want them to see Mike Chang dancing alone. I want them to see Santana’s naked emotion in tonight’s finale. I want them to fulfill the promise inherent in this show’s premise. And until this show goes off the air, I’ll be waiting for them to fufill it.
What did you think of “Mash Off”? Did those final five minutes floor you or bore you? Is the show burning through story too quickly or is story something that doesn’t concern you? Will Sue’s contrition last or will the congressional storyline continue? Sound off below!
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Caterina Scorsone on "Private Practice"

 Caterina Scorsone on "Private Practice"

Credit: ABC

HitFix Interview: Caterina Scorsone talks about Amelia's 'Private Practice' meltdown

She talks about her character's long, slow spiral into addiction

Caterina Scorsone, 30, plays neurosurgeon Amelia Shepherd on "Private Practice," but her character isn't worrying about neuroblastomas and brain tumors too much these days. Amelia (the kid sister of "Grey's Anatomy" Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd) has had her struggles with addiction in the past, but she officially fell off the wagon in recent episodes. She quit her job, wrote prescriptions for herself and threw herself into a drug-fueled affair with a handsome stranger named Ryan. On Thurs. Nov. 17, "Practice" will air a two-hour special episode focused on an intervention for Amelia. I spoke to Scorsone about her character's dramatic arc, what we can expect to come and why Amelia finally snapped.

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"Dancing with the Stars"

 "Dancing with the Stars"

Credit: ABC

Recap: 'Dancing with the Stars' cuts the last couple before the finals

One couple says farewell while the Muppets and Cobra Starship perform

 It's time to narrow the field to the final three. I think these episodes are really more about selling brand names and iTunes downloads than eliminating a couple (which takes all of about thirty seconds), but hey, who said commercials have to stay in the commercials? In a world of DVRs, you have to get creative. Bring on that AT&T Spotlight Performance!

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