THE WEEKEND STARTS HERE:
...with THE GREATEST DUETS OF ALL TIME, according to Retrocrush! Selections from the Top 25 include "Hunger Strike" (Eddie Vedder & Chris Cornell); "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" (Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty); "Baby It's Cold Outside" (Ray Charles & Betty Carter); "Candy" (Iggy Pop & Kate Pierson); and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" (Elton John & Kiki Dee). But the link to "You're The One That I Want" (John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John) is broken there, so use the one I just provided.
THE NATIONAL frontman Matt Berninger talks to the Gothamist about favorite lyricists and concerts, the upcoming tour with REM and more...
ALL SONGS CONSIDERED: Selections from Dengue Fever, the Cowboy Junkies, Black Mountain, the Mountain Goats, Beach House; and Otis Taylor are featured on this edition of the long-running NPR series.
BON IVER: Justin Vernon talks to The A.V. Club about making his most buzzed-about album while thinking he might be done with his music career. He also discusses the unusual method of songwriting he used.
JOE STRUMMER & THE MESCALEROS: Heather Browne is streaming a 1999 set with plenty of Clash classics.
KRISTIN HERSH will make you a personalized Mix CD, recording your chosen Throwing Muses of Hersh songs, live solo, including an introduction.
ART BRUT frontman Eddie Argos is just a wee bit miffed that EMI released "Pump Up the Volume" as download single without informing either the band or Argos to coordinate the promotion. The video is pretty fab, though.
WILCO: The Chicago Tribune covers the fourth night of the band's career-spanning residency at Riviera, a 2 ½-hour show broadcast on local radio station WXRT and the web.
SXSW: The official schedule is posted. Many of the bands have submitted MP3s to download or stream for your listening pleasure.
NICK CAVE: The Irish Independent looks at what his Grinderman project and his upcoming Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! album say about the reformed punk at 50.
CUTOUT BIN: From Bob Dylan to the Ohio Express, from Wille Nelson to the Who, from Alex Chilton to Duffy, this Friday's fortuitous finds can be jukeboxed or streamed individually on the Pate page at the ol' HM.
BRADGELINA have officially adopted little Pax Thien, now that it has been approved in both Vietnam and Los Angeles. Pitt and Jolie were also spotted on a double-date with Clint Eastwood and his wife Dina Ruiz. US magazine has the dish on what they discussed.
BRITNEY SPEARS' BFF Sam Lutfi has finally been served with a restraining order from her parents -- but it might not be valid.
JESSICA SIMPSON is the David Hasselhoff of Ukraine.
COLIN FARRELL is both honored and traumatised to be helping finish off the film Heath Ledger began before he died unexpectedly last month.
SCARLETT JOHANSSON: Her upcoming album of Tom Waits covers -- with a cameo from David Bowie -- is reviewed by London's Telegraph: "Think Nico, backed by the Flaming Lips. On acid. Johansson has made a seriously weird record."
NOW SHOWING: This weekend's wide releases include the thriller Vantage Point, which is currently scoring 25 percent on the ol' Tomatometer (which bums me out); Witless Protection, an action comedy not screened for critics; and teen comedy Charlie Bartlett, currently scoring 59 percent. Opening near-wide is Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind, which is also scoring 59 percent.
CHARLIE BARTLETT: If that 59 percent rating puts you on the fence, you can watch the first five minutes on Yahoo! Movies as a tie-breaker.
MICHEL GONDRY, director of "Be Kind Rewind," talks to The A.V. Club about some of the comedy's underlying themes, from the connection people have to movies to people becoming "stockholders of their own happiness" by making their own movies.
THE OSCARS: The Envelope has your scorecard for this Sunday's big show, along with its final Buzzmeter poll of 32 critics and a running blog of buzz and rumors. America's best-known critic, Roger Ebert, offers his predictions and dark horses. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has 80 years of Oscar facts. The Orlando Sentinel chats with first-time nominees Ellen Page, Ruby Dee and Marjane Satrapi.
GEORGE CLOONEY decides to have TIME magazine's Joel Stein cook him dinner and give an interview. Embedded video at the link.
PETRA NEMCOVA shows off the latest undies from La Senza. Egotastic has the pics, while I throw in the video for Gratutitous Friday.
PAKISTAN: Two former US officials believe Pakistan's election results would greatly strengthen efforts to fight terrorism in the country. Former US ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin (2001-02) said counterterrorism efforts would now be supported by the entire population. Former assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs Karl Inderfurth (1997-2001) said a campaign of suicide bombings in recent months and the deaths of 800 people in violent incidents had created a genuine demand for democracy in the country.
IRAQ: Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has decided whether to extend his Mahdi Army's cease-fire, and sent the message in sealed envelopes to be opened at the beginning of Friday's sermons, one of his officials said. Earlier in the week, a Sadr spokesman had said that if the cleric failed to issue a statement then the cease-fire would automatically be lifted, which tends to support the Reuters story that al-Sadr is expected to extend the ceasefire, sourced to two senior officials in his movement. Hundreds of Mahdi Army members have been executed, jailed or excommunicated by the militia in a purge since the freeze was ordered by Sadr in late August. Interviews with more than a dozen leaders of the Sadrist movement suggest that whether or not it is continued, the freeze has already transformed the militia and its place in Iraqi society.
A BLACK-FOOTED FERRET steals a microphone screen from CNN.
GODZILLA UPDATE: Still on the loose in Findlay, Ohio.
PET HOARDING: A Frederick, MD woman has been ordered to serve 10 days in jail for violating her probation on pet hoarding charges, after she was discovered with another dogs and seven cats.
AND THERE WERE CHICKENS all over the highway... in Brooklyn, NY, no less. Pics at the link.
YARR, MATEY: George the Parrot has a peg leg. He's getting a prosthetic claw attached to his perch.