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Oscar Talk: Ep. 104 -- 'Argo' steamroller

Oscar Talk: Ep. 104 -- 'Argo' steamroller

How much farther can it go?

Welcome to Oscar Talk.

In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.

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<p>&quot;The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey&quot;</p>

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Roundup: How 'The Hobbit' made the VFX shortlist sight unseen

Also: 'Argo' an illegal hit in Iran, and Hackford to relinquish DGA presidency

The shortlisting and ensuing "bakeoff" that results in the Oscar nominees for Best Visual Effects is a notably imperfect process -- all the more so when the Academy compressed its voting calendar by a couple of weeks. David S. Cohen looks into this year's race, and finds that "The Hobbit" made the Academy's 10-film shortlist despite the fact that most of the VFX committee hadn't seen it by November 28, the day they met to draw up the list. Chairman Craig Barron describes the sight-unseen inclusion as a no-brainer, but other members were less happy: "One interest is concerned with having an awards process that is conducted as promptly as possible, and that of course has to vie with the interest that is mainly preoccupied with ensuring the process maintains its integrity," says Jonathan Erland. "It's self-evident that there's a problem." What do you think? [Variety]

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<p>If you're waiting for a phone call that will make you famous, you'll answer the phone anywhere, anytime.</p>

If you're waiting for a phone call that will make you famous, you'll answer the phone anywhere, anytime.

Credit: Oscilloscope Pictures

Check out the classically stylized poster for Matteo Garrone's lacerating satire 'Reality'

A Cannes favorite from 2012 finally arrives in U.S. theaters

If you've never seen Matteo Garrone's film, "Gommorah," you really should.

It's a Mafia movie, but not the way we've come to think of them over the years.  Garrone made a film that captured a very organic, very lived-in ecosystem that is run by thugs and punks.  "Gomorrah" plays like a refutation of every single movie every made that's made the criminals look good.  The closest comparison I can make is "City Of God," the film that opened my eyes to how the favelas work and how society has reconfigured itself, leaving this lawless space to its own devices.  The unobtrusive documentary-styled style he employed only added to the feeling of authenticity.

That was 2008, and since then Garrone's been radio silent.  I saw his new film "Reality" at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and I liked it quite a bit.  I called it the story of Job as told in the age of reality TV.  His star, Aniello Arena, gives a remarkable performance as Luciano, an Italian guy whose dreams of appearing on Italy's "Big Brother" seem to vanishing a little more every day, and it's killing him.  He's the family member who is always clowning around, cracking jokes, making his daughter laugh on her wedding day, He's a good and decent man with a small but respectable fish market, and he supplements that income with tiny scams on the side.  He is a happy man, but all those jokes he cracks hide an ambition that eventually becomes fixated on this stupid TV show.

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<p>Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson and Clark Duke in &quot;The Office.&quot;</p>

Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson and Clark Duke in "The Office."

Credit: NBC

Review: 'The Office' - 'Junior Salesman/Vandalism'

Is it a mistake to make Brian the boom mic operator into a character at this point?

A review of last night's "The Office" double-feature coming up just as soon as I redact my resume...

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<p>Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin all know better.</p>

Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin all know better.

Credit: Lionsgate

Review: Pacino and Walken are helpless against the inertia of 'Stand Up Guys'

When even Alan Arkin can't make the material work, there is a problem

Boy, I'm tired of "Tax Shelter Theater."

I know the landscape has changed in the last decade for independent financing, and I know it continues to change.  It is a scary time to be making movies, if only because so many things seem to be evolving as we speak, and one of the things that feels most like a holdover from the '80s and '90s is this certain kind of low-budget picture that exists as part of a deal with a distributor, a pipeline of garbage that somehow lands big-name actors while rarely, if ever, cranking out anything worth watching.  There are certain producers who show up on movies and as soon as I see their name, I automatically assume I'm about to see an indifferent piece of junk, and certain company names that set off the same warning bells.  What gets me most about these movies is that they don't have to be so bad.  It's financing that exists simply to service a deal, so why couldn't that money be used to attach those same big names to genuinely worthwhile and adventurous fare?  You can't tell me that a movie as generic and paint-by-numbers as "Stand Up Guys" is the best that can be done with these resources.  You just can't.

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<p>Nicholas Hoult is slightly better-looking than your average undead thing in Jonathan Levine's adaptation of 'Warm Bodies,' opening everywhere today.</p>

Nicholas Hoult is slightly better-looking than your average undead thing in Jonathan Levine's adaptation of 'Warm Bodies,' opening everywhere today.

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Review: 'Warm Bodies' makes great use of Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer

Jonathan Levine's done smart work in adapting the young adult novel

Jonathan Levine has managed to build an interesting filmography without repeating himself so far, and by hopping from genre to genre, he's proven himself to be a very limber filmmaker whose greatest strength is building spaces for actors to do strong work.  "Warm Bodies," based on a young adult novel and no doubt greenlt by Summit to help them in a post-"Twilight" world, is a sincere and savvy take on both "Romeo and Juliet" and the zombie genre, and if there's any justice, this should be a strong spring performer as word of mouth spreads.

Isaac Marion's novel posed a challenge to anyone adapting it because so much of what happens in the book is internal, narrated by the inner monologue of a zombie named R.  Levine, who wrote the script as well as directed, went all-in on the narration idea, and much of the film is married to an ongoing narration by Nicholas Hoult.  It's been fascinating watching Hoult come into focus as a performer.  His work in "About A Boy" was so good that I remember walking out of the movie worried about his future.  He was such a painfully awkward kid, and yet a few years later, watching him on "Skins," he seemed to have transformed completely into a fascinating dead-eyed shark.  He grew into himself and seemed to be particularly good at playing the great-looking shit, the kid who took full advantage of the genetic lottery he won.  Either one of those roles could have been enough to trap him into playing variations on the same character over and over, but seeing one kid play both parts suggested a real depth to what Hoult was capable of, and he continues to prove that with each new performance he gives.

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"Project Runway"

 "Project Runway"

Credit: Lifetime

'Project Runway' recap: 'Spin Out'

The designers must make ping pong uniforms for Susan Sarandon

As Cindy says, "The joy of teams is over. The thrill is gone." Was there ever a thrill? What we have are two teams -- one of which works well together and one of which is a total mess -- and the fact that the show is determined to stick with this structure is making this feel a little like watching "Survivor" during a season in which one team is whittled down to nothing while the other takes every challenge and gets food and fire to boot. I don't know about you, but I don't watch "Project Runway" to see muddy groupthink and mediocre design, and I certainly don't watch it to see echoes of other reality TV shows. I want to see pretty dresses and cool pants and funky jackets. Two weeks in, I am starting to feel deprived. 

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<p>Steven Pasquale in &quot;Do No Harm.&quot;</p>

Steven Pasquale in "Do No Harm."

Credit: NBC

Series premiere review: 'Do No Harm' - 'Pilot'

What did everybody think of the new NBC drama?

I didn't have time to write a review of NBC's "Do No Harm," though Dan and I discussed it for a while on this week's podcast. The short version: though I like Steven Pasquale, this is a weird show that can't entirely settle on a tone, covering the same modern Jekyll & Hyde territory(*) that Steven Moffat's "Jekyll" handled so much better a few years back.

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"The Vampire Diaries"

 "The Vampire Diaries"

Credit: The CW

'The Vampire Diaries' recap: 'A View to a Kill'

Klaus turns to Stefan for help, and Elena's plot against Kol continues


I can now definitively say that more happens in "The Vampire Diaries" in seven minutes than in every other show currently on television. Why? Because I had computer glitchiness (stoopid Slingbox) and missed the first seven minutes of the show. That being said, I'll come back to fill in when the show airs on the West Coast. But if I am totally misreading what happened, feel free to let me know, because I will absolutely believe it. I do know one thing for sure, though -- someone we know probably isn't going to be on the spin-off! 

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<p>Jack (Alec Baldwin)&nbsp;enjoys a moment of happiness in the &quot;30 Rock&quot;&nbsp;series finale.</p>

Jack (Alec Baldwin) enjoys a moment of happiness in the "30 Rock" series finale.

Credit: NBC

Series finale review: '30 Rock' - 'Hogcock!/Last Lunch'

Jack chases his happiness, and Liz has to put on one last episode of 'TGS'

Well, "30 Rock" is over. Which is the worst. I paid tribute to the series as a whole last night, and I have a review of the series finale coming up just as soon as I deposit $70 in my bank account...

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<p>Halie Hilburn and Oscar on &quot;American Idol&quot;&nbsp;</p>

Halie Hilburn and Oscar on "American Idol" 

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 12 Live-Blog - Final Auditions

We're off to Hollywood next week on 'Idol'

One of the great things about missing the first two weeks of "American Idol" audition recapping is that I'm not even vaguely burnt out on "Idol" auditions even thought they're reaching their end on Thursday (January 31) night.


I'm not actually sure where tonight's auditions are emanating from, so this is gonna be a big mystery. 

Sit back and enjoy the auditioning action...

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<p>Bruce Springsteen</p>

Bruce Springsteen

Credit: AP Photo

Grammy Awards 2013: Handicapping Best Rock Song

Can Springsteen beat the Black Keys and Jack White for his fifth trophy?

As the Feb. 10 55th annual Grammy Awards edge closer, we’re analyzing a category a day. Today, we look at Best Rock Song.

Best Rock Song Nominees:
Jack White - "Freedom at 21"
Mumford & Sons - "I Will Wait"
The Black Keys - "Lonely Boy"
Muse - "Madness"
Bruce Springsteen - "We Take Care of Our Own"

THE PLAYERS: When I think of songs from Jack White’s “Blunderbuss,” “Freedom at 21” doesn’t immediately come to mind as the first choice for the rock song category, but this is how it works: in an effort to get as many nominations as possible, labels submit different songs for different categories because a song can’t be nominated in different genres. For example, the same song can’t be up for best rock song and best R&B song. The exceptions are record and song of the year in the general category.  Anyway, I’m not sure why the Grammy voters went with “Freedom At 21” instead of “16 Saltines” or “Love Interruption,” as there aren’t other song categories for those.

THE ODDS: Even though he’s never won an album of the year Grammy, Springsteen has dominated the rock categories, including winning best rock song four times since the category was added in 1992. White also won previously for the White Stripes‘  “Seven Nation Army.”  The Black Keys were nominated in 2011 for “Tighten Up,” the same year Mumford & Sons lost for “Little Lion Man.”  M&S was also nominated last year in this category for “The Cave.” Muse was also up in 2011 for “Resistance” (Interestingly, the band won best rock album that year, but lost best rock song). So you have a lot of vets in this category, but the odds are in Springsteen’s favor, given the Grammy’s older votership, the topical nature of the song, and the fact that he opened last year’s show with the song and is this year’s MusiCares Person of the Year recipient.

Bruce Springsteen, “We Take Care of Our Own.”


Best R&B Performance
Best Pop Vocal Performance
Best New Artist

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