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In Contention is joining the HitFix family

In Contention is joining the HitFix family

Kris Tapley and Guy Lodge's voices very welcome additions

Hollywood is going into uncharted territory this awards season.  How you might ask?  It's the first time the 5% rule will be implemented to determine how many best picture nominees will battle for Oscar's biggest prize.  Brett Ratner  is officially co-producing the Academy Awards (it's a bad dream right?) with Eddie "don't call it another comeback" Murphy tapped to host for the first time.  And on a lighter note, the HFPA or Dick Clark Productions will attempt to put their legal case aside and survive a one-year agreement to co-produce the Golden Globes once again on NBC.  And that's not even taking into account the drama in the crowded best actress race, yet another Scott Rudin vs. Harvey Weinstein best picture battle, Glenn Close's last stand and Michael Fassbender's out of the blue best actor candidacy.  That's a lot for any awards pundit to cover or analyze and it's just September.  So,  it's with great pride that I announce our film and awards season coverage just received a major boost with the addition of In Contention to the HitFix family.

Many of you hardcore Oscar fans are well aware of Kris Tapley's blog and the fantastic amount of year-round commentary, reviews and film news it provides.  Kris has spend the last six years fashioning In Contention into one of the most respected film blogs on the web.  Along with regular contributors Guy Lodge and Gerard Kennedy, In Contention has provided awards season and film coverage from across the globe standing by HitFix's own efforts at Cannes, Comic-Con, Telluride and more.  

A fellow and longstanding member of MCN's "Gurus of Gold," Tapley is one of the smartest and level-headed awards season pundits on the scene.  He has a keen strategic eye for recognizing what the Academy will go for or not go for.  He also happens to have a great overall taste in movies (and not to mention a wry sense of humor fairly evident in his writing).   London-based Lodge is an impressive film critic and writer who brings a unique perspective from the other side of the pond.  Tapley and Lodge are the sort of engaging and conversation starting voices we've worked hard to recruit at HitFix.

The great thing about this new partnership is that Awards Campaign isn't going away. The combined talents of both blogs will allow a unique and indepth perspective of awards season we believe you just can't get anywhere else. If something is happening during awards season you're going to hear about it on HitFix.  It's that simple.

So, whether you've been a fan of myself or Drew McWeeny on the film side; Dan Fienberg, Alan Sepinwall or Liane Bonin Starr on the TV front or Melinda Newman or Katie Hasty on the music beat, we all hope you'll give Tapley and his team a warm welcome when In Contention officially moves into its HitFix digs next week.

Kris has a tongue-in-cheek saying on In Contention. "No one needs awards season coverage this deep…"  Well ladies and gentlemen, it just got much deeper.

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<p>Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen struggle to find their way through the tangles of marriage in the lovely 'Take This Waltz'</p>

Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen struggle to find their way through the tangles of marriage in the lovely 'Take This Waltz'

Credit: Joe's Daughter/Mongrel Media

Review: Michelle Williams is heartbreaking in sensational 'Take This Waltz'

Seth Rogen also gives one of his best performances in Sarah Polley's new film

Earlier today, I was at the press day for "50/50," shooting video interviews with the cast, and one of the people working at the event was a local.  As we were talking about movies I'd seen at the fest, I mentioned Sarah Polley and "Take This Waltz," and immediately, she got defensive, before I even offered an opinion on the film.  "Sarah Polley is one of our treasures," she said, a good Canadian protecting one of her own.  Thing is, no one need to protect Polley, because she's carving out one hell of a career, and there's nothing to be defensive about.

We have very few women writing and directing personal work on a regular basis these days, and if you look at the percentages of women to men in those jobs, it's truly upsetting.  I love all of my boy movies, certainly, and I know when a filmmaker is playing right to my interests or my worldview.  I don't just go to the movies to have my perspective endlessly reinforced, though.  I want to be challenged.  I want to be knocked out of my comfort zone.  I want to hear a voice I haven't heard before.  I want to understand the world through other people's eyes.

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<p>Mario Lopez of &quot;H8r&quot;</p>

Mario Lopez of "H8r"

Credit: The CW

TV Review: The CW's 'H8r'

Mario Lopez plays Anti-Robin Hood taking dignity from the weak and restoring it to the strong
Dramatically satisfying humiliation rolls only one way and that's uphill.
 
CBS can get a hit reality show out of sending CEOs into the workforce and letting blue collar workers laugh at their inability to pick up trash or handle an assembly line.
 
CBS could not get a hit reality show out of sending a high school dropout, hand-to-mouth single father of four, into a corporate boardroom unprepared, let the guy make a couple dumb suggestions and then watch the suits mock his ignorance before sending him home empty-handed. [Ignore, for a second, how frequently that's exactly what happens on "The Apprentice."]
 
There are exceptions in the case of a show like "Same Name," in which an Ordinary Joe had to live the life of a Famous Joe and invariably learned that being famous isn't nearly as easy as he might have imagined. But in the case of "Same Name," not only was there an equal level of humiliation, with the Famous Joe recognizing that he probably wouldn't do so well living the life of an Ordinary Joe, but beyond simple reciprocity, "Same Name" episodes ended with the Famous Joe doing just a little bit to improve the life of the Ordinary Joe, through a well-considered gift. The need for the episode-ending present was a tacit acknowledgement that even if you conclude with a less powerful person recognizing the difficulties of a more powerful person's life and *even* vice versa, equality isn't sufficient for dramatic satisfaction. The viewer realizes that whatever lesson the powerful person learned isn't sufficient payback, because they're still returning to their position of power (usually with a welcome dose of humility), while the normal person learns a lesson and returns to their second mortgage, their failing business and their more relatable struggles. On an intellectual level, viewers know that nothing the famous person could possibly do would even that playing field (and it's all a bit condescending), but viewers appreciate the token, at least on an emotional level.
 
When the weak mock the powerful it's counter-hegemonic, it's iconoclastic, it's revolutionary.
 
When the powerful mock the weak, it's bullying.
 
Even if we weren't in a period of economic unrest, it would require a profound disconnect to think it a good idea to do a humiliation-based reality series in which the humiliation rolls downhill, a show in which the powerful make the essentially disenfranchised look like fools and then lecture them on their failings.
 
Enter Mario Lopez and The CW.
 
The "Saved by the Bell" star and the "TBL: The Beautiful Life" network have joined forces on "H8r," an astoundingly stupid and offensive reality series in which Mario Lopez's D-list friends confront people who dislike them and make it clear that it's unacceptable for anybody to have an opinion or express it on the Internet, or at least a negative opinion. 
 
So when The CW encourages you to tweet or Facebook during its programming, I have some advice: BE CAREFUL. Feel free to praise Blake Lively's fashion sense or celebrate the "Supernatural" stars and their cheekbones. But don't think that it's OK to suggest that a budding thespian on "One Tree Hill" is an inadequate actor or that one of the "90210" kids is much too old to be playing a high school student. Because if you do... Mario Lopez is coming for you, and when it comes to people who aren't tolerant of his friends, Mario Lopez is not a very tolerant guy. And Mario Lopez doesn't care how little money you make or what you do or even if anybody out there on the Internet cares about whatever mean thing you might say, because he's got a point to make, one that he believes in strongly: Even the lowest-level celebrity -- ESPECIALLY the lowest-level celebrity -- should be exempt from criticism. But feel free to love them and write about that.
 
It's pretty insecure stuff, but I guess if Mario Lopez wants to be the Anti-Robin Hood, stealing dignity from the less fortunate and restoring it to Snooki from "Jersey Shore" and The CW wants to enable him, that's their mutual prerogative. 
 
More after the break. I'm hoping that if I type for long enough, Mario Lopez will come bursting through my door, because I'm sure that if there's anything less acceptable than h8ing on Kim Kardashian, it's h8ing on "H8r."
 
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<p>Joe Jonas and friend in &quot;Just In Love&quot;</p>

Joe Jonas and friend in "Just In Love"

Watch: Joe Jonas brings sexy back in 'Just In Love' video

This JoBro is all grown up

Joe Jonas is feeling the love in the City Of Lights in his sultry video for “Just In Love,”  the second single from his forthcoming album, “Fast Life,” out Oct. 11.

He and his girlfriend, portrayed by French model Angele (whom, we’re sure, will be his real girlfriend soon enough... isn’t that how these things work?), bounce around the world’s most romantic city doing romantic things.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>George Clooney finds himself looking for understanding and forgiveness when his family is struck by a tragedy in Alexander Payne's new film 'The Descendants'</p>

George Clooney finds himself looking for understanding and forgiveness when his family is struck by a tragedy in Alexander Payne's new film 'The Descendants'

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Review: George Clooney anchors great ensemble in emotional 'The Descendants'

Alexander Paynes scores again with another story of a man in crisis

Alexander Payne had one of the most promising starts of any of the filmmakers in the Class of '99, as I like to call them, and "Election" is one of those films that I find always rewarding to revisit.  "Sideways" and "About Schmidt" are both strong, mature pieces of work, and they both demonstrate a clear sense of voice as well as a very strong sense of place.  Locations play a major part in his work, helping to define who these people are and giving them a proper landscape in which to play out their issues.

And, yes, like his earlier films, "The Descendents" captures a character in crisis, someone facing a major life-changing event and having to redefine themselves as a result.  And while it does not carry the same satiric sting that some of his work is noted for, I think it's warm and human and beautifully made, and it is one more triumph in a long list of recent triumphs for George Clooney as a movie star and an actor both.

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<p>Sheriff Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar)&nbsp;pays the &quot;Sons of Anarchy&quot;&nbsp;a visit.</p>

Sheriff Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) pays the "Sons of Anarchy" a visit.

Credit: FX

'Sons of Anarchy' - 'Booster': Little green bag

The clubhouse and the club both suffer some damage

A review of tonight's "Sons of Anarchy" coming up just as soon as I tell you to be the badge...

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<p>Adam (Peter Krause), Sarah (Lauren Graham)&nbsp;and Amber (Mae Whitman)&nbsp;in &quot;Parenthood.&quot;</p>

Adam (Peter Krause), Sarah (Lauren Graham) and Amber (Mae Whitman) in "Parenthood."

Credit: NBC

'Parenthood' - 'I Don't Want To Do This Without You': Pump it up

What did everybody think of the season 3 premiere?

I offered some early thoughts on the "Parenthoodseason 3 premiere in yesterday's column. Now it's your turn. What did everybody think of the show's return, where the various storylines stand, what Adam should do, the state of Crosby/Jasmine, how quickly the coffee girl can file a restraining order, etc., etc.? And should Max have been able to discuss "Friday Night Lights" while being in a car with Alex?

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<p>Ioan Gruffudd and Sarah Michelle Gellar in the &quot;Ringer&quot;&nbsp;pilot.</p>

Ioan Gruffudd and Sarah Michelle Gellar in the "Ringer" pilot.

Credit: CW

'Ringer' - 'Pilot': Mirror, mirror, on the wall (and floor, and ceiling...)

What did everybody think of Sarah Michelle Gellar's CW comeback?

I offered my review of Sarah Michelle Gellar and "Ringeryesterday. Now it's your turn. Were you just so happy to have Buffy back on the small screen that the rest didn't matter? Did you actually enjoy it? And how did the green screen work (particularly in the scene on the boat) look in the finished version, given that the screener the CW sent out months ago looked even more ridiculous than those scenes on "Justified" where Raylan is driving? 

Though I'm usually a believer in giving shows at least a second episode before passing final judgment, there was almost nothing here that would inspire me to come back next week, other than professional courtesy. What say you? 

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<p>David Cook</p>

David Cook

Gavin Degraw and 'American Idol's' David Cook hit the road together

Is the fall theater tour coming to a town near you?

It’s a marriage made in soft-rock heaven: Gavin DeGraw and “American Idol” season 7 champion David Cook will hit the road together in a co-headlining tour starting Oct. 9 at Penn State University, in State College, Pa.

The theater tour concludes Nov. 10 at Athen, Ga.’s Classic Center.  Carolina Liar will open many of the dates.

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<p>Reeve Carney</p>

Reeve Carney

Exclusive: Watch Reeve Carney talk U2's Bono, The Edge and 'Spider-Man'

Go behind the scenes in the 'Rise Above' music video

In this look behind the scenes of the "Rise Above" music video -- in which Bono, the Edge and Broadway star Reeve Carney come together -- there's a lot of hot topic.

U2 has been in the headlines over the last few days not only for their documentary "From the Sky Down," but for the frontman's announcement that a star-studded take on the band's 1991 album "Achtung Baby" is on the way. That set is getting a full boxed collection makeover this fall.

Then, Reeve Carney was formally announced as the lead in the as-yet-untitled Jeff Buckley biopic, which has the backing of Buckley's family and estate.

And, after overcoming months of mixed press and technical troubles, Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" is in full, erm, swing, and perhaps facing an uptick as the premiere date for the next cinematic take on Spidey's story, "The Amazing Spider-Man." The Andrew Garfield-starring version arrives in July 2012.

Check out the clip: Carney's featured speaking on how he got picked up for the role in "Turn Off the Dark," his standing over Manhattan's skyline in the musical's single "Rise Above" and working with the music born from Bono and guitarist The Edge's collaboration on the project.

While you're at it, check out the music video in whole here, and read up on "rising" star Carney.

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Simon Cowell

 Simon Cowell

Credit: Fox

Interview: 'X Factor' judge Simon Cowell talks 'wacky' Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger craziness

'American Idol''s original crank talks about his 'childish meltdown'

He's baaaack! Having ditched "American Idol" to spearhead the U.S. version of "X Factor" on Fox (series debut Sept. 21 at 8 p.m.), Simon Cowell (as usual) pulled no punches in a conference call with reporters. In comparing his "American Idol" partner in crime Paula Abdul to new judge Nicole Scherzinger, Cowell was merrily blunt, saying, "What was interesting was that Paula can be a bit wacky at times, but Nicole wasn't far behind in a fantastically self-centered way, which she wasn't aware of."

How wacky and self-centered? "Every city we went to, she changed her accent," Cowell continued. "In New York she had a Brooklyn thing, in Dallas she became a Southern belle. With Paula, within five minutes she has no awareness the camera is still on and she'll fight with you." Not that he minds. "That's what I like about her. It was like getting an old dog back from the rescue pound, grateful to see you and you're glad to have them back."

As to his other judge-mate, of L.A. Reid he said, "[He's] been a revelation. He's one of the most competitive people I've ever met." And while he "misses" Randy Jackson, he doesn't see a time when he'll lure him away from "American Idol." "He really is a good friend," Cowell said, noting that he hangs out with Jackson "all the time." "Maybe we'll get him a few front row seats and he can do his dog barking thing every week. But he's happy on 'Idol.'" 

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<p>Amy Lee in Evanescence's &quot;What You Want&quot;</p>

Amy Lee in Evanescence's "What You Want"

Watch: Amy Lee, Evanescence prowl the city streets in 'What You Want'

Gorgeously shot video spans the history of the band

“Hello Hello, it’s only me, infecting everything you love.” If that’s not a great ominous line, we don’t know is... (or maybe it should have been the theme song to the movie "Contagion." 

Evanescence’s Amy Lee delivers it with perfection in the new video for  the hard-charging “What You Want,”  the first single from the hard rock group’s first album in five years. The self-titled "Evanescence," the band's third studio set, comes out Oct. 11.

[More after the jump...]

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