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Underrated / Overrated

February 22, 2009

UNDERRATED

Opening title sequences: Think of the most acclaimed TV series -- what do many of them have in common? Whether classics such as "Hill Street Blues" and "Mission: Impossible" or recent favorites such as "Six Feet Under" and "Mad Men," the shows that broke ground with eye-catching visuals or music were usually doing the same thing with their storytelling. So often the best shows have us at "hello."

Bobby Hutcherson's 'Head On': We slept on this Blue Note reissue when it dropped last year, but don't make the same mistake. The legendary vibraphone player is in top form on this 1971 album, stretching out for some "Bitches Brew"-esque jazz-funk, and the package gets only better with head-bobbing bonus tracks such as the nearly 20-minute workout "Hey Harold." Good vibes all around.

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OVERRATED

This year's best picture class: As much as it depresses us to say, we're not terribly enthused about any of the choices at the top of our Oscar score card. "Slumdog" is a slick fairy tale but pretty thin by Oscar standards; we've already kvetched about "Milk" and "Benjamin Button"; and "The Reader" came close to making us feel like Nazi sympathizers. Is it "Frost/Nixon" by default? Wake us for 2010.

Robert Downey Jr.'s Oscar chances: Though we enjoyed "Tropic Thunder," we're still dumbfounded with the ironic reality of Downey's supporting actor nod (he played an actor obsessed with academy recognition). Regardless, Oscar speculators know that comedy equals death in this game, and frankly we're OK with that. Downey's been much better in roles that didn't require face paint.

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