Pink Floyd's 'The Wall: Immersion Edition'

Written By Ivan Kolev on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 | 12:49 AM

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Roger Waters performs

Roger Waters performs "The Wall" in Philadelphia in November 2010.Immersion is a good way to characterize the grip and whirl of constructionThe seven-disc Immersion box set includes two CDs of demos The box set also includes a previously released recording of the 1980-81 stage show

(Rolling Stones) -- There was agreement, at first. In the summer of 1978, Roger Waters, Pink Floyd's singer-bassist and primary songwriter, presented the other members with two sets of demos and a choice: Pick one for the next album.

The rest of the Floyd wisely voted for Waters' bleak, enraged observation on emotional exile and totalitarian celebrity, provisionally titled Bricks in the Wall. (The other demos became Waters' 1984 midlife-crisis opera, The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking.) It was also a disastrous decision.

The Floyd fell into eventually fatal throes of conflict and division on the way to the 1979 album's grim, towering splendor. Waters designed, and the band built, The Wall too well.

Immersion is a good way to characterize the grip and whirl of construction recounted on the two CDs of demos in this seven-disc box, which includes a previously released recording of the 1980-81 stage show. (An Experience edition has the original album and a single CD of demos.)

Excerpts of Waters' early sketches are sequenced into a stark vertigo of his contempt ("Mother") and despair ("Goodbye Cruel World") at birth. Later band demos -- "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" as a crisp funeral march instead of disco revolt; "The Doctor," a prototype of "Comfortably Numb" -- and discarded ideas like the plaintive "Teacher, Teacher" and the static blues "Sexual Revolution" prove development came slow if steady.

It is obvious, too, that Waters' authoritarian drive was not enough to get this job done. The crucial difference between Waters' initial notion of "Run Like Hell" -- slow, snarky bullying -- and the perversely gleaming menace of the final version is in David Gilmour's demo of jangling commandant's-strut guitar.

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Copyright © 2011 Rolling Stone.

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Jason Segel not in 'Muppets' sequel

"My goal was to bring the Muppets back and I did that, leaving them in very good hands," Jason Segel said.Jason Segel told Collider he won't be signing up for another round with Kermit and Co"It's true [that I won't be in the sequel]," said SegelSegel said he wants "to pursue more human-related projects"

( -- Though a sequel for "The Muppets" has been greenlit, one star who was integral to bringing the franchise into the new millennium won't be a part of it, reports Collider.

Jason Segel told the site he won't be signing up for another round with Kermit and Co. "It's true [that I won't be in the sequel]," said Segel, "but it's totally amicable. My goal was to bring the Muppets back and I did that, leaving them in very good hands."

Segel said he wants "to pursue more human-related projects," adding, "All I wanted to do was to set the stage for them to do whatever they wanted. I'm sure I'll return in some capacity here and there, but that was half a decade of my life. Five years of hard work. I'm ready for a little puppet break."

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© 2011 Entertainment Weekly and Time Inc. All rights reserved.

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What exactly is 'The Hunger Games'?

"The Hunger Games" gives us a heroine named Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and her longtime pal Gale (Liam Hemsworth).Suzanne Collins is the mastermind behind "The Hunger Games" trilogyThe plot revolves around a dystopian societyOne boy and one girl must fight to the death until only one is left standingEditor's note: Amber James is an editor at

(CNN) -- Forget "Harry Potter" and "Twilight." In a few months, "The Hunger Games" phenomenon will be taking over the pop culture world.

Although it will be feeding off the tween demographic, this franchise will chew up those other guys and spit them out.

But what exactly is this "Hunger Games" wonder that has so many folks talking months before the movie (which just wrapped up filming earlier this month) is even released? Like many of the wildly successful film franchises these days, it began with a book.

Suzanne Collins is the mastermind behind "The Hunger Games" trilogy, which has been gaining momentum over the last few months for both its suspenseful plot and overarching message about society.

The plot revolves around a dystopian society where punishment for a previous rebellion has resulted in a televised event. One boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district (there are 12 total) are selected at random and forced to participate in the Hunger Games, where "tributes" must fight to the death until only one is left standing.

"The Hunger Games" gives us a heroine named Katniss, a strong-willed and unwavering spirit, who volunteers for the games in order to spare her younger sister. Once inside the death match arena, she must get down and dirty to outlive her competitors, but there's one slight problem.

Her hot friend Peeta gets cast into the games, too. In the midst of all the slaying, Katniss finds herself embroiled in a love triangle with her longtime pal Gale, who is watching the games from his home, and Peeta, who confesses his love for her inside the arena. Katniss' emotional turmoil of love or death makes Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" look like child's play.

Apparently, Collins' twisted plot came to her one night while she was channel surfing between a competition reality show and a news program about the Iraq war. She blended the two shows and "The Hunger Games" was born.

The first film of the franchise is slated for release on March 23, 2012, while the second film is already booked for November 2013. Fans can only hope director Gary Ross doesn't soften the book, because the twists and turns will make for an edge-of-your-seat thriller. At this rate, the film is set to have more passion than "Twilight" and more action than "Harry Potter."

The film has already faced some controversy.

When Lionsgate announced that Jennifer Lawrence had been cast to play Katniss, both fans and critics questioned the choice, believing she was too old, too blond and too pretty to play a ruthless warrior. However, if her success in "Winter's Bone" and "X-Men: First Class" is any indication of her range, Lawrence has the potential to nail this role and pave the way for kick-butt female heroines.

The movie's lead male stars will likely rise to instant fame, just as Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner did with "Twilight." The relatively unknown actors Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) and Liam Hemsworth (Gale) will provide plenty of eye candy for the film. Other stars on the bill include Woody Harrelson (Haymitch), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman) and Lenny Kravitz (Cinna).

The film was originally meant to be low budget, however the hype has pushed the movie to a nearly $100-million production, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The cast and crew wrapped filming earlier this month after an 84-day shoot, and a recently released teaser trailer has given fans a taste of what's to come. The hype may have escalated the budget, but the film may still exceed all expectations -- and be one lucrative franchise that reaches audiences of all ages.

Now, with only a few months until the first film's release, you still have plenty of time to pick up the book if you haven't read it. But be warned, once you finish the addictive read, you'll probably hunger for more.

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Guest list grows for Lionel Richie TV concert

A whole bunch of Lionel Richie hits from his upcoming country duets album

A whole bunch of Lionel Richie hits from his upcoming country duets album "Tuskegee," will be addressed throughout the night."ACM Presents: Lionel Richie and Friends in Concert" will have many country starsLuke Bryan, Sara Evans, Tim McGraw, and Jennifer Nettles are the night's newest additionsThe concert will feature a variety of offerings, from solo performances to duets

( -- Lionel Richie's got once, twice, three times the friends you do.

As previously reported, CBS will be airing "ACM Presents: Lionel Richie and Friends in Concert" after the Academy of Country Music Awards telecast April 13.

And while the special event already boasted an impressive roster of country stars -- including Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Kenny Rogers, Rascal Flatts, The Band Perry, and Martina McBride -- it turns out there are even more guests waiting in the wings.

Luke Bryan, Sara Evans, Tim McGraw, and Jennifer Nettles are the night's newest additions, the ACM and Dick Clark Productions announced today.

The concert will feature a variety of offerings, from solo performances to duets with the man of the hour. Naturally, a whole bunch of Richie hits from the man's upcoming country duets album "Tuskegee," due March 27, will be addressed throughout the night; here's a peek at the itinerary:

Jason Aldean, "Say You Say Me"

The Band Perry, "Penny Lover"

Luke Bryan, "Running with the Night"

Lady Antebellum, "Truly"

Martina McBride, "Still"

Jennifer Nettles, "Hello"

Rascal Flatts, "Dancing on the Ceiling"

Kenny Chesney with Richie, "My Love"

Tim McGraw with Richie, "Sail On"

Kenny Rogers with Richie, "Lady"

The concert will tape April 2 at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena, a day after the Awards ceremony.

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© 2011 Entertainment Weekly and Time Inc. All rights reserved.

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Mean girls: Fighting on reality TV

Sammi Giancola and Jenni Farley fight during the third season of

Sammi Giancola and Jenni Farley fight during the third season of "Jersey Shore."Sammi Giancola engaged in a bar fight on Thursday's episode of "Jersey Shore"Catfights have become standard for many cable and network reality series"The Bachelor," "Mob Wives" and "Love & Hip Hop" feature such aggressive behavior

(CNN) -- Table flipping. Hair pulling. Name calling. Glass chucking. Fist throwing.

Who needs scripted dialogue when women are willing to physically and emotionally exchange blows for the camera?

MTV's "Jersey Shore," the mega-hit known for both male and female brawls, featured yet another bar fight on Thursday night's episode. Despite hyping the altercation between cast member Sammi Giancola and a female club-goer in a promo for the show, the scene was treated like any other segment.

Catfights have become practically de rigueur for many cable and network reality series. Shows like "The Bachelor," "Mob Wives," "The Real Housewives" and "Love & Hip Hop" all seemingly rely on female cast members' aggressive behavior for ratings.

The genre has become more about shock TV than reality TV, said Steve Carbone, who runs the spoiler site That said, "If you're shocked by what you see (on reality TV), you shouldn't be," he said.

For almost a decade, viewers have watched 25 to 30 women vie for the attention of one man each season on ABC's "The Bachelor." And if the majority of catfights on reality TV have taught us anything, it's that viewers love watching women fight over a man.

So what's shocking about the current season's villain, Courtney, who said she'd like to "verbally assault" and "rip another girl's head off"? Carbone rhetorically asked. "People, two years ago, were saying the exact same thing about Vienna."

Mary McClelland, who contributes to the reality TV site Reality Tea, said viewers are still shocked by cattiness and girl-on-girl violence despite no longer being appalled by it.

"Viewers almost revel in it ... in an excited way," she said, adding that stories about catfights on reality shows elicit the most comments on Reality Tea.

Judging by the comments, people seem to be annoyed by the constant cattiness on such shows, McClelland said, adding, "Maybe people like the cringe factor."

And so producers routinely cast women who will be controversial.

As Shaunie O'Neal, the executive producer and star of VH1's "Basketball Wives," wrote in a commentary for in July, "I'm not a big supporter of the bickering, drink throwing and fighting, but when you put a group of strong, independent and vocal women who are going through or just came out of a bad relationship together, there's bound to be a little drama."

"More and more people are starting to realize how scripted some of this stuff is," Carbone said. "Not in terms of words, but in unscripted drama. They're not telling people what to say, but they're giving them a situation where they know what's going to arise."

That's exactly what happened when VH1's other reality hit "Love & Hip Hop" found Chrissy Lampkin and Kimbella Vanderhee in the same room. What began as a verbal disagreement ended with flying fists and exposed lady parts.

"Viewers like to find a character to dislike," McClelland said. "People like to have sides. Like with 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' -- Caroline (Manzo) vs. Teresa (Giudice). Fans are into that."

Who could forget Giudice's infamous "last supper," in which she flipped a table over.

"There's over 100 (reality shows) with all of the cable programs," Carbone said. "You almost have to outdo the others to get noticed."

The aggression appears to have amped up recently. A study out of Brigham Young University published in 2010 stated that "reality-television programs contained high levels of verbal and relational aggression, but almost no physical violence. Such 'meanness' is so frequent, that it is almost expected in reality programs."

And shows like Oxygen's "Bad Girls Club" are built around mean girls and fights.

These shows clearly have an audience. However, Carbone said, that doesn't mean viewers are desensitized to girl-on-girl violence. If they were, he said, producers would move on to a new attention-grabbing storyline.

Which raises a frightening question: What does a show have to do for us to say, "Oh, we've never seen this on reality TV before"?

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'Hunger Games' inspires everyday style

"How-to-dress like Katniss" web pages, blog posts and articles are being bookmarked and pinned up by girls of all ages.Katniss Everdeen of "Hunger Games" has made a huge style splash on the webAn InStyle editor says that the popularity of Katniss' style stems from its adaptabilityThe movie costume designer says one of the key aspects to Katniss' look is the practicality

(CNN) -- A single braid down the back, a light hunting jacket, a pair of sturdy leather shoes and a small golden pin; not exactly a culmination of things you would call fashionable.

But these are the key accessories to one of the hottest new characters to hit the big screen: Katniss Everdeen.

Katniss, the arrow-slinging, tribute-hunting teenager from the upcoming movie "The Hunger Games," based on Suzanne Collins' bestselling book, has made a huge style splash on the Web. Dozens of "how-to-dress like Katniss" web pages, blog posts and articles are being bookmarked and pinned up by girls of all ages. But when did hunting gear and cotton dresses become so fashionable?

For the same reason the little black dress from Audrey Hepburn's "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is still a staple today: It's not just the look that audiences are responding to, but what that character represents, explains Teen Vogue's News Fashion Editor, Jane Keltner de Valle.

In the case of Katniss, "Hunger Games" costume designer Judianna Makovsky kept in mind that the character's style had to tell the story of a distinctively strong young woman who doesn't yet know her own strength.

After all, Makovsky says, Katniss is a character who's "just trying to survive."

So when she created those costumes, she looked to the past for inspiration, creating items for Katniss' home of District Twelve by incorporating themes from the Great Depression.

As a result, "Katniss has practical clothes -- it has to make sense where she got them," Makovsky says. "District 12 is American work wear, and that is what she would wear while she hunted."

Katniss isn't the only recent movie character to rev up the fashion scene.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's" Lisbeth Salander enthralled viewers with her distinctive punk style, and even "Twilight's" Bella Swan gained fashion popularity with her simple wedding dress seen in "Breaking Dawn" and Northern Pacific coast fashion.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's" dark urban look was recreated for consumers by Swedish retailer H&M, which released a limited edition Lisbeth Salander-inspired line, featuring key leather pieces, torn and worn shirts and hoodies, all tied together with an industrial color scheme.

One Los Angeles store sold out of the line in 10 minutes after the line went on sale, according to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's" costume designer, Trish Summerville, who worked in conjunction with H&M to create the line.

Teen Vogue's Keltner de Valle also notes how that theme resonated on the runway during the fall fashion season in 2011. "For so long, designers were collaborating with mass retailers, [but] a new trend could be costume designers collaborating with mass retailers to create [a] character-inspired wardrobe. It almost seems like a no-brainer."

And yet, while Summerville created a character-inspired line with Lisbeth Salander, Makovsky said that's currently not her intention.

"I didn't want the fashion to take over, [because] that is not what the movie is about," she said. "The movie is about a girl's journey. That is what a costume designer does, we tell the character's story."

Whether the clothing ends up being crafted specifically for fans or not, it's always that story told through a character's costume that the consumers cling to. To dress like Katniss, in some regard, is to adopt her trademark characteristics, and the popularity of her clothing points to a characterization that's hit home.

"There was a time when being powerful and being pretty were mutually exclusive, and these strong female archetypes are becoming really popular and girls are really responding to that," says Keltner de Valle. entertainment editor Bronwyn Barnes agrees, positing out that the look and feel of characters like Katniss and Lisbeth are so appealing to audiences because these characters are in charge of their own destinies.

"I think these characters struck the right time in pop culture," Barnes said. "People are looking for the modern day heroine."

And to dress like one, too.

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How ABC's 'Revenge' snuck up on us

Emily VanCamp and Gabriel Mann star in ABC's

Emily VanCamp and Gabriel Mann star in ABC's "Revenge."Modern day "Count of Monte Cristo" reels audiences in with love/hate characters Amanda Clarke, disguised as Emily Thorne, returns to the Hamptons to take revenge ABC was lucky to find a new female-driven drama that resonates with viewers

(CNN) -- Most of us haven't partied with the bunnies at "The Playboy Club," or fought crime like "Charlie's Angels." And with the NBC and ABC programs canceled after just a few episodes, we'll never have the chance.

But in the time it took for one alphabet network drama to get the axe, another garnered 8 million viewers and a full season pickup.

After all, "Revenge" is a language we all understand.

The modern day "Count of Monte Cristo" reels audiences in with characters viewers seem to love -- and love to hate. Not to mention plot twists to die for. Still, the primetime soap doesn't venture into campy territory. Not even while playing with traded identities and crimes of passion.

The concept is simple: Amanda Clarke, disguised as Emily Thorne, returns to the Hamptons to take revenge on the people who destroyed her family when she was a little girl.

And "Revenge" couldn't have come at a better time as far as its network is concerned.

With "Desperate Housewives'" eighth and final season underway, ABC was fortunate to find a new female-driven drama that so far appears to resonate with viewers. "Revenge" even has its own insightful narrator. (Thank you, Mary Alice Young. You can go now.)

"For the truly wronged, real satisfaction can only be found in one of two places: Absolute forgiveness or mortal vindication," narrator and protagonist Emily Thorne, played by former "Brothers and Sisters'" cast member Emily VanCamp, coos at the beginning of the pilot. Before even making the acquaintance of her victims, she's got the audience on her side.

That's not to say everyone is a fan of her narration.

With "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" in mind, one HitFix reviewer wrote, "ABC has an in-house style that says that having your female lead narrate nothingness at the start of every episode is a worthy strategy."

But whether you're a fan of Thorne's philosophical musings or not, the numbers don't lie. About 7.3 million viewers tuned in to "Revenge" on Thanksgiving Eve -- better known as the biggest bar night of the year.

Now nine episodes in, the series began in a predictable fashion -- with Emily targeting and conquering one victim every week. Each episode even ended with Emily marking a red X over the victim of the hour in a posed photograph of the Hamptons royalty.

"Revenge" has since taken a more complex turn, with the introduction of new characters, telling flashbacks and plans gone awry -- a change welcomed by some critics.

"The show has wisely realized that it needs to mix it up when it comes to 'revenging,' and it's also fruitful to have plans backfire and have unexpected complications emerge," AOL TV critic Maureen Ryan wrote in her column, "Stay Tuned."

One complication being antagonist Victoria Grayson, played brilliantly by Madeleine Stowe.

Let's just say Emily isn't the only character seeking revenge.

The perfect present day villain, Victoria is out to get her son's new love interest, her daughter's inept boy toy, her unfaithful husband and the frenemy who led him astray.

"I can believe that this person would be doing these things," Stowe told the Sioux City Journal. "It's easy for me to slide into her."

As if Stowe and VanCamp weren't enough of a sell, the show's portrayal of the Hamptons royalty might be.

"We are dealing at a particular time right now in American history where I think the average American is going to want to see the takedown of the rich," Stowe said.

Nothing like a show about rich people who hate their lives to keep one entertained during a recession.

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'Hunger Games': From the shelf to big screen

Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen in

Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games," Gary Ross' film version of the popular Suzanne Collins novel."The Hunger Games" is on track to rake in more than $80 million opening weekend, reports sayDirector: "I'm a fan first. ... I didn't have any desire to rework (the story) in any major way"Casting the right actors is imperative when adapting a novel for the screen, critic says

(CNN) -- Adapting a beloved novel for the big screen often guarantees a solid showing at the box office. "The Hunger Games" looks to be no exception.

Based on Suzanne Collins' young adult novel, the movie is on track to rake in more than $80 million its opening weekend, reports say.

But existing story lines, settings and dynamic characters are often accompanied by moviegoers' idealistic expectations, leaving screenwriters to ponder: How do you honor the novel and please readers without compromising the film?

Luckily for fans, "Hunger Games" screenwriter and director Gary Ross said he found a way.

"I still want to go to that movie the same way everybody else does. I want to see aspects of the novel preserved," Ross told CNN. "I'm a fan first. ... I loved the book so much. I didn't have any desire to rework (it) in any major way."

However, Ross said certain aspects of "The Hunger Games" just don't translate cinematically.

Those who have read the books, told from 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen's perspective, already know why.

"The Hunger Games" takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, in the fictional nation of Panem. Every year, one boy and one girl "tribute" are randomly selected from the nation's 12 districts to compete in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death.

Wealthy Capitol citizens called Gamemakers manipulate the Hunger Games. Though they only briefly appear in the novel, their presence is felt by Katniss, a District 12 tribute, throughout the Games.

"I can't shoot inside Katniss' head," Ross said. "In the book, she speculates about what the Gamemakers are doing. Well, we created a whole (visual) world that the (Gamemakers) are in."

There may be departures in the adaptation process, Ross added, but in the grand scheme of things, the movie is faithful to the novel.

Dayo Okeniyi, who plays Thresh, a tribute from District 11, also stressed the importance of honoring Collins' novel at a recent movie premiere.

"If we deviate much, there are fans out there who will stalk me and kill me," Okeniyi joked. "(The fans) don't ask for much. At the same time they watch everything ... 'Oh, she's supposed to be looking at the right, not the left' -- little details."

While sticking to the novel might keep fans of the book series happy, telling the story scene by scene would yield a long, drawn-out cinematic experience, said Thelma Adams, a contributing editor at Yahoo! Movies.

"You've got to be willing to cut," she said. "Find out which characters are central and which aren't. Which relationships are central and which aren't."

Adams said "Hunger Games" screenwriters Ross, Collins and Billy Ray were smart to streamline a few characters, while pushing others into larger roles, such as head Gamemaker Seneca Crane.

Casting the right actors is imperative when adapting a novel for the big screen, she said, adding that Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson are "pitch perfect" for their roles as Katniss, Gale Hawthorne and Peeta Mellark, respectively.

"You can't say that about every (role)," she said. "You can't say that 'Twilight's' Peter Facinelli -- he's the only one who could have played (Carlisle Cullen.) He's not."

Let's not forget how angry "Twilight" fans were when brunette Nikki Reed was first cast as Rosalie Cullen.

It's no secret fans want popular characters to look a certain way, specifically how they envisioned them while they were reading the book.

"Reading is a really intimate, internal experience, where you play your own movie in your head," screenwriter Will Fetters said.

Fetters, who adapted Nicholas Sparks' "The Lucky One," which hits theaters in April, said, it helps when a book already reads like it was constructed for film. "The Hunger Games" is one of those books.

Despite the intense, made-for-the-big-screen action sequences in "Games," Ross said there was plenty to be concerned about when adapting it for the screen.

"A lot of the action stuff, you know that's hard work, and you know you're going to get it," Ross said. "But it's really the delicate stuff. ... It's those intangible things you really have to capture: Katniss' character, her relationship with Rue, her relationship with her sister. ... It's that kind of stuff that's very difficult."

Collins, who had a hand in the screenwriting process, took to her Facebook page to share her thoughts on the adaptation of her novel: "I feel like the book and the film are individual yet complementary pieces that enhance one another."

Which is how it should be, Fetters said.

"When going to an adaptation, you're going understanding that it's not going to be the exact images you saw," he added. "We're all working under constraints to interpret what we saw in our heads and hope that it's the same thing readers saw."

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Confessions of an Oscars geek

The Oscars may have lost some luster, but they still offer a starting point for talking about the year's best movies.

The Oscars may have lost some luster, but they still offer a starting point for talking about the year's best movies.I've seen all nine of this year's best picture nominees, which makes me sort of a freakThere's a disconnect this year between Oscar media hype and the public's movie interestMost nominees have long since disappeared from theaters; audiences have moved onRight or wrong, the Oscars still offer a starting point for talking about the year's best moviesEditor's note: Brandon Griggs is the senior producer for CNN Digital's Tech section, a former entertainment critic and an avid movie fan...clearly.

(CNN) -- One night earlier this month, I found myself alone at a remote suburban movie theater, miles from my home, seeing "War Horse." I admire Steven Spielberg's movies, and I'd heard raves about the play, but that's not really why I went.

I went because it was the only place left in Atlanta where "War Horse" was playing. And "War Horse" was the last of the nine Best Picture Oscar nominees I hadn't seen.

It's kind of a tradition for me. I saw all 10 nominated films last year, and all 10 the year before that. I keep lists of such things -- geek alert! -- and I've figured out that of the 139 movies nominated for best picture over the past 25 years, I've seen all but two -- not in some Netflix retrospective binge years later, but when they first hit theaters.

So for almost as long as I can remember, I've sat down to watch the Academy Awards having seen all the year's top contenders. And this makes me kind of a freak.

That's because most people just don't care that much about the Oscars anymore. Sure, they might watch the show to make catty comments about the stars' dresses or catch wacko unscripted moments like Jack Palance doing one-armed pushups. But they're not all that invested in the movies themselves, many of which tend to be somber and struggle to find audiences. "Winter's Bone," anybody?

This year, there's an even bigger disconnect between the usual media hype over the Oscars and the public's interest in the top movies. Of the nine best picture nominees, only one, "The Help," has reached the $100-million mark at the box office. Compare that to 2009 and 2010, which each produced five $100-million earners among the Best Picture contenders, including such blockbusters as "Avatar," "Inception" and "Toy Story 3."

iReporters share their views on the Oscars

This year's favorite for best picture, "The Artist," has earned just $28 million and is on track to be the second-least-popular best picture winner, behind only "The Hurt Locker." Days before the Oscars, most of the nominees have long since disappeared from theaters, and audiences have moved on to "Safe House" and "The Vow."

I can't blame them. You have to be in the right mood to travel to a theater and sit through a silent, black-and-white movie about a fading film star or an emotionally taxing epic about a horse drafted into World War I or a quiet, meditative and largely plotless look at the origins and meaning of life on Earth. (At least, I think that's what "The Tree of Life" was about.)

And I'm not sure anyone is ever in the mood for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," about a heartbroken boy after the death of his father on 9/11. It was even tough for me, Mr. Oscar Obsessive, to drag myself to that one.

The Oscars still reign supreme as the grand dame of awards shows. But their relevance is fading. Years ago, people followed Oscar nods as endorsements for which movies to see. Now, thanks to the Internet, everyone's a critic. Who cares that "Hugo" is nominated for 11 Oscars -- your friends on Facebook say it's boring!

January and February are so saturated with movie awards now that by the time the Oscars finally roll around they feel like an afterthought. No wonder ratings for the show are down. By late February we feel like we've seen it already, and thanks to the glut of Oscar prognosticators we pretty much know who's going to win. Hmm, I wonder what George Clooney will say in his "Descendants" acceptance speech this time?

Plus many times the Oscars just plain get it wrong. The Academy has a long, notorious history of honoring safe or "serious" movies over comedies, edgier films and mass-appeal entertainments: "My Fair Lady" over "Dr. Strangelove," "Forrest Gump" over "Pulp Fiction" or "The Reader" (nominated, didn't win) over "The Dark Knight" (not nominated) just for starters. There may not have been a better time at the movies in 2011 than "Bridesmaids," but food-poisoning jokes aren't Best Picture material, apparently.

So yes, I know the Oscars aren't perfect. I know the stodgy ol' Academy would rather honor Morgan Freeman for driving Miss Daisy than Spike Lee for throwing a trash can through his white boss's storefront window. I know the Oscars telecast is usually a bloated mess.

Yet there I was the other night at "War Horse," checking the last box on my Oscar list. The Oscars may have lost a little luster -- witness the Academy's desperate tinkering with the show to boost interest -- but they still provide a valuable service. Right or wrong, they offer a starting point for talking about the year's best movies. And they still inspire people in timid, profit-obsessed Hollywood to make artful, important films.

So on Sunday night I'll be planted in front of our TV, duking it out with my wife in our annual Oscar pool and actually caring (a little) who wins best art direction. The Oscar show, bless its narcissistic heart, is like an annual family reunion with charming, photogenic and long-winded relatives. You know it'll go on too long, you know you'll get bored and you know somebody will cry. But you look forward to it anyway.

At least I do.

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Brandy on her new album and outlook

"I'm reinventing myself and I feel fearless," Brandy told Rolling Stone.Brandy is hard at work on her sixth albumShe recently wrapped the video for her first single, a duet with MonicaSinger-songwriter Frank Ocean is also contributing to her new project

(Rolling Stone) -- It's been four years since Brandy released her last album "Human" and many things have changed, including her.

"I'm reinventing myself and I feel fearless," Brandy told Rolling Stone. "I haven't done R&B in a very long time. This album is rooted in R&B. The sound is different, it's about love. It's mature, it's gritty, it's edgy."

The former teen star and mother of one is hard at work on her sixth album and recently wrapped the video for her first single, a duet with Monica called "It All Belongs To Me." This is first time the two have recorded together since their 1998 Grammy Award winning hit, "The Boy Is Mine."

"Monica and I have a bond as women and as mothers, working with her doesn't feel like work," Brandy says. "Chris Robinson directed the video and we're both in dysfunctional relationships. We're helping each other through both situations, it's sort of like a 'Thelma & Louise,' girl empowerment video."

Recruiting producers like Rico Love, who wrote and produced "It All Belongs To Me," Jim Jonsin, Danja, Timbaland, Chris Brown and longtime collaborator Rodney Jerkins, Brandy's also seeing what two Canadians have to offer.

"I heard the song that Drake did and I loved it," Brandy says of working with the Cash Money MC and his primary producer Noah "40" Shebib. "I haven't recorded it yet but I'm looking forward to it because it's such a great melody and the beat is nice. It's a vibe that I haven't dipped into and I think the fans would get a kick out of hearing my voice over a record like that. I'm not sure if Drake's going to be on it but I'm a huge fan of his. His melodies are beautiful, I like the way I sound in the shower singing his songs."

Singer-songwriter Frank Ocean is also contributing to her new project, and according to Brandy, their relationship is more than just professional.

"He's like a little brother to me," Brandy says. "He wrote a song called 'Scared of Beautiful' about women who are afraid to be beautiful in their full potential as women. I've been there before so I know a lot of women can relate."

Despite moving from her initial record label home Atlantic to Epic and now RCA, Brandy says she finally feels supported.

"RCA reminds me of how Atlantic used to be, they really believed in my vision as an artist when they signed me at 14," she shares. "RCA welcomed me and Breyon Prescott and Peter Edge showed such passion for what I wanted to do."

See the full article at Rolling Stone.

Copyright © 2011 Rolling Stone.

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Seven seconds cut from U.K. 'Games'

"The Hunger Games," starring Jennifer Lawrence, will be released on March 23.Seven seconds were cut from "The Hunger Games" at the request of Lionsgate U.K.Source: "A number of cuts were made in one scene to reduce an emphasis on blood"With the cuts, Lionsgate U.K. was able to release the film as 12A (the British equivalent of PG-13)

( -- The British Board of Film Classification has mandated that seven seconds of cuts be made for the U.K. distribution of "The Hunger Games" in order for the film to receive a 12A rating (the British equivalent of the MPAA's PG-13).

According to the BBFC's official listing for the movie, seven seconds were cut at the request of distributor Lionsgate U.K. to remove "an emphasis on blood and injury" in order to lower the rating and attract younger audiences to the film.

Details of the cuts requested by the distributor were as follows:

"A number of cuts were made in one scene to reduce an emphasis on blood and injury. These cuts, which were implemented by digitally removing sight of blood splashes and sight of blood on wounds and weapons, were made in accordance with BBFC Guidelines and policy. An uncut '15' classification was available."

With the cuts, Lionsgate U.K. was able to release the film as 12A, as opposed to 15, with the consumer warning: "Contains intense threat, moderate violence and occasional gory moments."

The film, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, will be released on March 23.

© 2011 Entertainment Weekly and Time Inc. All rights reserved.

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Before she was Gaga: The unseen photos

"She's still the same person to me," Malgorzata Saniewska said about Stefani Germanotta, better known today as Lady Gaga.Malgorzata Saniewska worked at the same restaurant where Stefani Germanotta worked"I offered her the photo shoot, and she said yes right away," Saniewska saidSaniewska kept those early photos to herself "out of respect," she saidSaniewska hopes that those viewing the photos will get to see another side of Gaga

(CNN) -- We've come to know her as Lady Gaga, but before the world tours, "The Fame" or even the dress made of meat, photographer Malgorzata Saniewska knew her simply as her restaurant co-worker, Stefani Germanotta.

In the summer of 2005, Saniewska, who goes by Maggie, happened to be tending bar at the same West Village restaurant where the 19-year-old soon-to-be star worked as a waitress.

Just 24 at the time, Saniewska had moved from her native Poland to the United States two years prior with dreams of becoming a photographer.

But to support herself, "I started working as a bartender," she recalled. "It was definitely a money thing. I did want to go to school, but I didn't do research on photography, my focus was to make better money."

Keeping an eye on her bank account is what drove Saniewska to study accounting, leaving photography to become an amateur pursuit for a while.

She went from taking landscape photos of New York City to setting up her own shoots, with Gaga being among some of her first ones.

"We were colleagues, we didn't hang out really heavily, but she's the nicest girl ever. ... She's down-to-earth," Saniewska said. "At that time, she gave me a CD of her first single, and I listened to it and I was really impressed. And she's a beautiful girl. Based on her looks and her personality I thought (a photo shoot) would be great fun."

CNN Photos: See Malgorzata Saniewska's exclusive and unseen photos of Lady Gaga

Back then, Gaga "played piano and sang. This 19-year-old girl, she was really talented. She didn't talk about it a lot, (but) she did say that she studied music. ... I cannot even explain to you what she sounds like with just a piano, then or now," Saniewska said. "I offered her the photo shoot, and she said yes right away."

Gaga had the perfect location in mind: Her parents' place on the Upper East Side. (CNN has reached out to Lady Gaga's rep for comment.)

The two young women hopped on a train and headed over there, and set to work creating what Saniewska says became Lady Gaga's first photo shoot, although Saniewska didn't know that at the time.

"The house was empty, it was just the two of us," Saniewska said. "I knew she was a singer, so our focus was her and her very first piano. We just hung out in her parents' living room, and the piano was right by the window."

"She's a good model, obviously," Saniewska added with a laugh.

Armed with just her first point-and-shoot camera, Saniewska let the intimate shoot unfold organically.

"We had no plan."

"We basically walked into her house, she did hair and makeup, picked out the clothes and we started," she recalled. The lighting was natural: "No strobe lights, nothing special, no tripods," she said. "It was hand-held."

Saniewska, who's never been formally trained, said she shot around 200 photos that day. After culling through the resulting images, choosing the photos with the best natural lighting, she presented Gaga with a CD of the pictures. The burgeoning singer was happy with them, and used some of the art for her own promotional materials.

Of course, there's no way Saniewska could have known that the young woman she photographed on a summer day in 2005 would become the international superstar she is today. As a matter of fact, Saniewska says that at first, when she saw her as Lady Gaga, she didn't recognize her, having been accustomed to her as a long-haired brunette waitress.

Even as Gaga's fame continued to grow, Saniewska kept those early photos to herself "out of respect," she said, particularly because she wasn't in touch with her.

And then, she just so happened to bump into her old colleague in 2010.

"I actually ran into her in the East Village, and she came up to me. She was already Lady Gaga, and we spoke a little, and she leaned on me, and she said in my ear, 'Did you know that this was my first photo shoot?' I had no idea," Saniewska said. "She was really excited. From that moment on I figured I could do something about it. And she's OK with it."

Saniewska hopes that those viewing the photos will get to see another side of Gaga, a peek at who the star was before the world knew her name.

But even with all the fame, to Saniewska, she's "still the same girl. The fact that we ran into each other and she came up to me - she didn't say 'Hi' and run off. She stood there for 15 minutes, just chatting. She remembered my name, she remembered who I was, and she had so much to say. She's still the same person to me."

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Bruce Springsteen's 'Wrecking Ball'

Bruce Springsteen's

Bruce Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" album sounds like a cross section of America, drawing from folk, gospel, and hip-hop. Bruce Springsteen says "Wrecking Ball" was inspired by Occupy Wall StreetDie-hard fans will hear a fierce rallying cry on behalf of the 99 percent on "Wrecking Ball"The working-man paean ''We Take Care of Our Own'' recalls ''Born in the U.S.A.''

( -- The recession has been rough on everyone -- except maybe Bruce Springsteen, who's emerged with some good material for his new album.

He says "Wrecking Ball" was inspired by Occupy Wall Street, and even though some of these songs were written before anyone pointed a bullhorn at the banks, he's smart to make that declaration. Whenever America's falling on hard times, his music simply sounds better, his lyrics taking on near-biblical significance.

Take 2000's ''My City of Ruins,'' which was originally written to help promote the revitalization of Asbury Park, New Jersey, but took on an entirely new meaning after September 11, when he began introducing it as ''a prayer for our fallen brothers and sisters.'' Or there's 2005's ''Devils & Dust,'' penned before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which became a de facto anti-Iraq-war song after he added a coda for the troops: ''Bring 'em home!'' Whenever there's a movement in need of an anthem, it turns out Springsteen has already written one.

There's no doubt that die-hard fans will hear a fierce rallying cry on behalf of the 99 percent on "Wrecking Ball." With an awesomely rootsy production style that recalls 2006's "The Seeger Sessions," the album even sounds like a cross section of America, drawing from folk, gospel, and hip-hop.

And on "Ball's" best moments, Springsteen is fired up enough to borrow a socket wrench and knock out Lehman Brothers' teeth. The working-man paean ''We Take Care of Our Own'' recalls ''Born in the U.S.A.'' both in its upbeat E Street boogie and in its ironic message, which practically dares some Republican to misinterpret it as a campaign song. Elsewhere, the moving title track (one of the last to feature the late, great Clarence Clemons) stands among his best blue-collar anthems, with a chorus that's the perfect prayer for anyone who's been laid off: ''Hold tight to your anger/And don't fall to your fears.''

Of course, that message could just as easily apply to football fans. (He actually wrote ''Wrecking Ball'' about the demolition of Giants Stadium.) That's the problem here: The images are so broad -- every song's got a rising flood or a train of sinners or a dead man's moon -- you'll be dying for a detail that's anchored in the real world, circa 2012.

True, Springsteen's ballads have always been made of archetypes like rivers and fast cars. But he's rarely written anything as excruciatingly vague as ''You've Got It,'' which plays like Twenty Questions clues: ''Ain't no one can break it/Ain't no one can steal it.... You just know it/When you feel it.'' Though there are heartfelt tributes to the downtrodden, the only overt reference to the financial collapse comes in ''Easy Money,'' when he scoffs at ''all them fat cats.''

The money may be easy -- but the target is too. B

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© 2011 Entertainment Weekly and Time Inc. All rights reserved.

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