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I’ve been listening to a lot of carriage wheels on cobblestones lately, with three films set in Victorian London. And two of them feature one of my favorite actors, Mark Strong. You may not recognize his name. You may not even recognize his face because he appears different in every film. That’s not make-up; it’s acting. Here he is in the marvelous fantasy, Stardust:

He is truly astonishing in the scene shortly after, when he has to swordfight as a corpse manipulated by a sort of puppetry enchantment (trust me, it’s great). He was a silky Jordanian secret service director in “Body of Lies” (out-acting co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe) and a thug in “RocknRolla.” And now he is plays nemesis to both the teenage Queen Victoria (Sir John Conroy) and Sherlock Holmes (Lord Blackwood). It’s worth seeing both movies just to see how good Strong is when he is bad.

Please take moment in this holiday season to send a free card to a serviceman or woman who is away from home to let them know how grateful we are. Xerox has set up a wonderful let’s say thanks website with great kid-designed cards. It takes just a few seconds and will make someone who might be a little lonely right now feel appreciated. And thanks to my mom for suggesting this!

Han Solo hugs Chewbacca? Fat Albert meets a baby in a sort of urban manger? He-Man learns about Christmas from two annoying little kids?

But bad Christmas specials can inspire good responses. This is a classic from Tom Shales of the Washington Post about a Kathie Lee Gifford special he did not find so special.

What’s the difference between the 24-hour flu and a Kathie Lee Gifford Christmas special? Twenty-three hours. The actual title for this year’s exercise in false piety, faked sentiment and aerobic grinning was “Kathie Lee Gifford: Christmas Every Day,” an appalling prospect any way you look at it. This is the kind of television to be watched not from the couch, as it were, but while peering out from behind it and using it as a shield, as if perhaps an air raid or some other sort of massive bombing were in progress.

“Kathie Lee: Home for Christmas,” Kathie Lee Gifford’s second annual CBS Christmas special, is perhaps even worse than her first — a sickeningly saccharine vanity production that should really have been titled “O Come, Let Us Adore Me.” That ghastly Gifford grin, ear to ear and back again, seems steeped in self-esteem and almost blinding in its show biz phoniness.

Kathie Lee Gifford sings songs like she’s mad at them. What did they ever do to her? Maybe she was frightened by a song as a child. And by Christmas, too, because each year on television she wreaks a bit more revenge.

I am truly honored and blessed to be invited to vote on the Black Reel Awards, and very proud of our nominees:
Best Actor
Quinton Aaron | The Blind Side
Jamie Foxx | The Soloist
Morgan Freeman | Invictus
Souléymane Sy Savané | Goodbye Solo
Denzel Washington | The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
Best Actress
Nicole Beharie | American Violet
Taraji P. Henson | I Can Do Bad All By Myself
Sophie Okonedo | Skin
Maya Rudolph | Away We Go
Gabourey Sidibe | Precious
Best Supporting Actor
Charles Dutton | American Violet
Chiwetel Ejiofor | 2012
Lenny Kravitz | Precious
Derek Luke | Madea Goes to Jail
Anthony Mackie | The Hurt Locker
Best Supporting Actress
Mariah Carey | Precious
Mo’Nique | Precious
Paula Patton | Precious
Zoe Saldana | Avatar
Alfre Woodard | American Violet
Best Director
Lee Daniels | Precious
Bill Duke | Not Easily Broken
Spike Lee | Passing Strange
Scott Sanders | Black Dynamite
George Tillman, Jr. | Notorious
Best Screenplay, Original or Adapted
Brian Bird | Not Easily Broken
Geoffrey Fletcher | Precious
John Lee Hancock | The Blind Side
Scott Sanders, Michael Jai White and Byron Minns | Black Dynamite
George Tillman Jr. | Notorious
Best Film
American Violet | Samuel L. Goldwyn
The Blind Side | Warner Bros.
Invictus | Warner Bros.
Precious | Lionsgate
The Princess and the Frog | Walt Disney
Best Breakthrough Performance
Quinton Aaron | The Blind Side
Nicole Beharie | American Violet
Souléymane Sy Savané | | Goodbye Solo
Gabourey Sidibe | Precious
Jamal Woolard | Notorious
Best Ensemble
American Violet | Samuel Goldwyn
Notorious | Fox Searchlight
Passing Strange | Sundance Selects
Precious | Lionsgate
The Princess and the Frog | Walt Disney
Best Song, Original or Adapted
Almost There | The Princess and Frog (Anika Noni Rose)
Down in New Orleans | The Princess and the Frog (Anika Noni Rose)
I Can Do Bad | I Can Do Bad All By Myself (Mary J. Blige)
Keys (Marianna) | Passing Strange (Stew, de’dre Aziza and Daniel Breaker)
Never Knew I Needed | The Princess and the Frog (Ne-Yo)
Best Documentary
Good Hair | Roadside Attractions
Michael Jackson’s This Is It | Columbia
More Than a Game | Lionsgate
Passing Strange: The Movie | Sundance Selects
Tyson | Sony Pictures Classics
Best Voice Performance
Keith David | Coraline
Keith David | The Princess and the Frog
Delroy Lindo | Up
Anika Noni Rose | The Princess and the Frog
Forest Whitaker | Where the Wild Things Are
Best Independent Feature
Blue | Ryan Miningham
Mississippi Damned | Tina Mabry
Sugar | Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden
The Tenant | Lucky Ejim
This is The Life | Ava Duvernay
Best Independent Mini Feature
Life on Earth | Jeffrey Keith
(Mis)leading Man | Morocco Omari
The Rowe Effect | Kiel Adrian Scott
Best Independent Documentary
Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness | Llewellyn Smith
Without Bias | Kirk Fraser
Still Bill | Alex Vlack & Damani Baker

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