The House


Boyhood

1. "The First Oscar Lock of the Year Is Here (It's Not What You Think It Is)." If only all Oscar punditry was as well written as this.

"So much for why the film isn't necessarily fated to lose. But explaining how it could go all the way connects to more delicate aspects of Hollywood, and Academy, psychology. And here's where Boyhood becomes a special case: More than almost any movie I can think of, the emotional and fascinating story of how it was made is practically part of its plot; it doesn't need to be sold as a campaign talking point because it's manifest in every frame. I imagine that most people who have seen the film can figure out for themselves that its conceiver-writer-director, Richard Linklater, shot it intermittently over 12 years, starting when its star, Ellar Coltrane, was 6 or 7 and reuniting him with Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette for a few days every year in Texas until he was 18. One of the most popular and durable of all Oscar narratives is the Passion Project—the story or screenplay or property I toiled away on (or the career choice I stuck with) for years and years in the face of opposition, underminers, or general indifference to my fervent belief that it/I could be something. (Anytime you hear, in an acceptance speech, 'What a journey this has been!' you're hearing that narrative.) Boyhood has completely commandeered that trope this year; it doesn't matter how long anybody wanted to make Into the Woods (a long time!) or Foxcatcher (a pretty long time!) or Inherent Vice (not that long!), because no other 2014 movie—in fact, no nondocumentary movie in history—has taken 'What a journey this has been!' and so visibly literalized it."

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TAGS: academy awards, ben affleck, boyhood, Caribou, dan snaith, david fear, gone girl, idiocracy, kyle buchanan, mark harris, Mike Judge, nick pinkerton, reverse shot, richard linklater, rolling stone, taken 3, the king of comedy, vulture


Neverending Nightmares

With the success of the free Silent Hills playable teaser (P.T.) and the upcoming The Evil Within, it looks like horror is returning to mainstream gaming in a big way, likely a result of its proliferation and success in the indie scene. Hits like Outlast and the Amnesia series have shown that clever mechanics and atmosphere trump the necessity for a large budget, paving the way for even more minimalistic experimental projects like the currently trending Neverending Nightmares.

The game, which sought backing on Kickstarter, puts one in the head of Thomas, a young man having undergone deep and affecting trauma trapping him in what appears to be childhood memories. Roaming the endless hallways of what was once a happy home, he's confronted by disturbing images of a dead sibling and impossible corridors that twist back in on themselves, evoking The Shining. Neverending Nightmares uses an unusual and unique cross-hatched art style that suggests the union of children's drawings and Edward Gorey's work, illustrated nearly entirely in black and white. Color is used sparingly to highlight interactive items, and to depict disturbing scenes of horror involving self-mutilation and child murder, which are all the more disconcerting courtesy of the juvenile art style and iconography.

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TAGS: amnesia, infinitap games, kickstarter, neverending nightmares, outlast, p.t., silent hills, the shining


Windows 10

1. "Surprise! Microsoft jumps to Windows 10." Forget Windows 9. In an unexpected twist, Microsoft will be going straight to double digits from Windows 8 as it faces a challenging future for its operating system.

"Microsoft just said no to 9. The follow-on to the current Windows 8 operating system will be known as Windows 10. Originally codenamed Windows Threshold, the new operating system essentially does away with the dependency on the tiled 'Metro' user interface that Microsoft had attempted to implement across its entire device line, from desktop PCs to Surface tablets and Windows Phone devices. In its place is a combination of the so-called live tiles, present in areas like the new Start Menu, and a more classic Windows experience that aims to please both touch and keyboard-and-mouse users. Windows 10 is such a substantial leap, according to Microsoft's executive VP of operating systems, Terry Myerson, that the company decided it would be best to skip over Windows 9, the widely expected name for the next version. 'Windows 10 will run on the broadest amount of devices. A tailored experience for each device,' Myerson said at a press event here Tuesday. 'There will be one way to write a universal application, one store, one way for apps to be discovered purchased and updated across all of these devices.'"

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TAGS: Adam Sternbergh, allison slater tate, chris norris, cinema du rock, edward champion, fandor, generation x, laura miller, microsoft, spoilers, the walking dead, the washington post, vulture, windows 10


Sons of Anarchy

Highlighting character-driven sequences that escalate in tension as they progress toward violent conclusions, "Poor Little Lambs" is a reminder of why Sons of Anarchy was so potent in the first place. Directed by Guy Ferland, it's a nasty and sleek episode that plays off the striking tonal juxtaposition between calm and chaos.

Much of the episode's success can be attributed to the sharp script co-written by Kem Nunn and series creator Kurt Sutter. The dialogue stings with subtext. In the opening scene, Jax (Charlie Hunnam) sits down with Arian Brotherhood boss Tully (Marilyn Manson) inside a penitentiary holding cell, and they arrange a drug deal by speaking in code, as if they were trying to impersonate the protagonists of a Michael Mann procedural. Seconds later, their cryptic language is revealed to be unnecessary: Tully had already paid off a guard to unplug the video cameras. When Jax asks the creepy white supremacist why they would go through all the hassle, Tully smiles and infers that he misses the adrenaline rush. This strange exchange reveals an important motif that extends to Jax's recent vengeance parade as well. Eventually, the enjoyment of inflicting pain and causing havoc overwhelms whatever rationale drove one to do so in the first place.

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TAGS: Annabeth Gish, Billy Brown, charlie hunnam, evan londo, Guy Ferland, Katey Sagal, kenneth choi, Kim Coates, Maggie Siff, Marilyn Manson, poor little lambs, recap, Sons of Anarchy, theo rossi


Jimi: All Is By My Side

1. "What All Is By My Side Gets Wrong About Hendrix." Glenn Kenny on what the film asks us to take in faith.

"Am I doing some musicological nit-picking here? I sure am. But that's because without that, one is likely to come up with an unappealing caricature of Hendrix, and that's what Jimi: All Is By My Side finally amounts to. The movie, which does not credit [Charles] Cross's biography as a source, uses (and changes, or arguably distorts) many of the anecdotes therein, including one in which an enraged Hendrix physically attacks Etchingham with a telephone receiver. In Cross's book, the event is depicted as highly uncharacteristic. While an accomplished traveler in psychedelics, Hendrix simply couldn't handle liquor. 'Any aggression he displayed was usually linked to excessive drinking...his quick temper...seemed in such contrast to his normally polite manner.' Hendrix's traumatic childhood (into which Cross' biography digs deep), combined with the permissive mien of his time and environment, not to mention his vocation, led to not-unpredictable problems with intimacy and personal commitment. But as depicted in Jimi: All Is By My Side, all of these considerations are compressed so as to create a bald and distasteful picture of a Violent Black Man With Woman Problems. In another scene, Etchingham whinges about wanting to go out and have fun while Hendrix, the windows of his apartment papered over to enhance his desired isolation, stares vegetatively at a television. This is supposed to be someone whose command of his instrument extended forwards, backwards, upside-down and sideways over every millimeter of the fretboard and beyond, who is always depicted by friends and colleagues as never not having a guitar within arm's reach."

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TAGS: amy wilentz, camille paglia, charles cross, david cronenberg, glenn kenny, ian mcewan, inherent vice, Jeff Reichert, jimi hendrix, jimi: all is by my side, John Ridley, los angeles review of books, maps to the stars, matt zoller seitz, paul thomas anderson, reverse shot, steven soderbergh, the children act, the knick


Doctor Who

"The Caretaker" is another mostly light-hearted script from Gareth Roberts. But this time, the sitcom trappings are attached to important developments in the ongoing plot threads running through the eighth season of Doctor Who (hence another co-writer credit on this episode for showrunner Steven Moffat). Although the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) has an alien menace to confront, the heart of the story is the clash with Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) that we've been anticipating ever since the character first appeared, with Clara (Jenna Coleman) caught between them.

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TAGS: doctor who, gareth roberts, jenna coleman, peter capaldi, recap, Samuel Anderson, steven moffat, the caretaker


Fergie

Fergie has taken her sweet time following up 2006's The Dutchess, squandering the pop capital she earned from her multi-platinum solo debut on two new albums with the Black Eyed Peas and a couple of soundtrack cuts that barely made a blip—though last year's "A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)" played a vital part in one of the most exhilarating moments from Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. "L.A. Love (La La)," then, is the official reintroduction of Stacy Ann Ferguson Duhamel, and it's not unlike her previous solo coronation, "London Bridge," what with its heavy hip-hop beat and braggadocious rapped verses (her faux-Southern patois, it should be noted, sounds a hell of lot like Iggy Azalea's). This time Fergie swaps London for, despite the song's title, "every city, every state, every country you know," and at one point even crams three terrible accents—British, Jamaican, and French—into one bar. While the DJ Mustard-produced track is a definite earworm, hopefully the singer, ever the crossover-pop diplomat, has some more multi-format tricks up her sleeve.

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TAGS: dj mustard, fergie, l.a. love la la, smile now cry later, the black eyed peas, the dutchess, the great gatsby


The Simpsons Guy

1. "The Simpsons/Family Guy crossover is one of the most fascinatingly weird things to ever happen to television." Whether it was actually good or not is a different matter.

"Was The Simpsons Guy just a craven marketing thing? One of the weirdest things about the episode was how all the rampant self-deprecation felt unnecessary. Make no mistake, this was Family Guy worshipping The Simpsons: a feast of fan service, even if it was mostly fan service for people whose major Simpsons touchstones happened almost 20 years ago. The best stuff in the episode focuses on Stewie and Bart, two characters who don't really have anything to do with each other. Like all his family members, Bart was a recognizable human being in the first 10 years of The Simpsons, a funny and stupid and lovably vain child. Stewie was never an actual child, just like how Brian was never a real dog. (This may explain why, IMHO, the best episodes of Family Guy are the Brian-Stewie episodes.) Which means Stewie can do the kind of things Bart never does—like strike back against eternal bully Nelson Muntz. The one part of the whole crossover that felt next-level genius came during that torture session, when Stewie threw out the first great Simpsons catchphrase in a whole new, freaky context. For once, someone actually meant 'Eat my shorts!' literally."

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TAGS: alessandra stanley, all that jazz, aphex twin, consumed, david cronenberg, david simon, family guy, jonathan lethem, matt zoller seitz, mo ryan, neil genzlinger, the criterion collection, the new york times, the simpsons, the wire


Renaissance

The 39th Gdynia Film Festival, one of most prestigious film events in Poland and the only one dedicated exclusively to Polish film, may have lacked in its main competition a jewel as polished as last year's Ida, but it still shone in the sideline programs. Among those, a retrospective of restored animations by Walerian Borowczyk, a Kinoteatr program of screened theater productions, and a brand-new section, Artists at Cinema, engaged Poland's contemporary visual artists.

At the Borowczyk retrospective, Daniel Bird, who produced the restorations released on DVD and Blu-Ray by Arrow Films and also directed a biopic documentary, argued for not viewing Borowczyk as a late-life soft pornographer (Borowczyk's perhaps most infamous feature was 1985's Emmanuelle 5). Instead, the animated shorts attest to the range of Borowczyk's themes and not just to his libidinal panache: Renaissance (1963) is a haunting, nearly post-apocalyptic tableau in constant reconstruction and brilliantly shows how sound can override the physical marker we see on the screen, creating new, strange dissonances; The Astronauts (1959), co-scripted with Chris Marker, is a dreamlike ode to solitude in outer space; Holy Smoke (1963), takes on the class struggle via a narrative of tobacco users; while Joachim's Dictionary (1965) plays with body language and A Private Collection (1973) is a joyful romp through a collector's cabinet of sexual toys and other erotica.

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TAGS: a private collection, agnieszka polska, anna molska, chris marker, diptych, dorota masłowska, gdynia film festival, grzegorz jarzyna, holy smoke, home shopping, joachim's dictionary, katarzyna kozyra, ligia branice, no matter how hard we tried, oskar dawicki, renaissance, rosalie, the astronauts, the rite of spring, walerian borowczyk, zbigniew libera


The Knick

Steven Soderbergh's naturalism has worked both for and against certain strains in The Knick's first season, and "Get the Rope" may mark the first time his dazzling, inventive shooting style just can't support the dramaturgy. On one hand, it's ballsy that the episode barely covers 24 hours: The show's acute gift for slowing down and speeding up time has made its exploration of individual characters consistently intriguing, and paid off abundantly in the anti-resolution of "Start Calling Me Dad." But instead of lingering, the tensions that erupted when Thackery (Clive Owen) happened upon Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland)'s makeshift clinic for black New Yorkers have been impossibly smoothed-out overnight. Formerly the show's walking embodiment of educated white racism, Thackery now champions Algernon to an almost magical degree, with the hospital staff firmly aligned in his sympathy. It's altruistic, and if you like the characters, the resettling of loyalties makes for reassuring viewing. For this reason alone, "Get the Rope" grips undeniably, but it also goes down feeling like the most disingenuous episode yet. It's soapy, morally charged, and Grand Guignol all at once.

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TAGS: andre holland, Cara Seymour, chris sullivan, clive owen, colin meath, Eve Hewson, get the rope, Juliet Rylance, Mary Birdsong, Matt Frewer, recap, the knick






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