The House


Michelle MacLaren

1. "The Other Wonder Woman." Matt Zoller Seitz on why Michelle MacLaren is the best director on TV.

"Her visual chops are undeniable, but the managerial skills she honed while toiling on the logistical side of showbiz are an equally important part of her success. TV is art made under pressure. Big Hollywood films might shoot for months; TV dramas typically shoot entire episodes in two weeks. A producer is both a diplomat and an enforcer, overseeing the logistical and financial aspects of a shoot while negotiating truces between prickly artists and telling them 'No' without crushing their spirits. MacLaren approaches the job with a stoic unflappability leavened by nonchalant Canadian cheer. While managing a second unit on the 1991 mountain-climbing drama K2 in British Columbia, MacLaren asked her mom to FedEx a box containing Halloween decorations, candy, espresso beans, and a grinder, then staged a Halloween party on Mount Waddington. Even with Wonder Woman looming, she's directed the second episode of Better Call Saul and has signed a two-year deal with HBO to develop and oversee new projects. This producer-director hybrid thing is not without its cognitive dissonance, but for the most part, it works: Who better to blow up trains than a woman who spent decades making sure they ran on time?"

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TAGS: better call saul, billboard, glenn kenny, grammy awards, grantland, kareem abdul-jabbar, living for love, madonna, mark harris, matt zoller seitz, Michelle MacLaren, nypd, rebel heart, richard brody, sony, true story, wonder woman


George Clooney

1. "Hollywood Cowardice." George Clooney Explains Why Sony Stood Alone in North Korean Cyberterror Attack.

"A good portion of the press abdicated its real duty. They played the fiddle while Rome burned. There was a real story going on. With just a little bit of work, you could have found out that it wasn't just probably North Korea; it was North Korea. The Guardians of Peace is a phrase that Nixon used when he visited China. When asked why he was helping South Korea, he said it was because we are the Guardians of Peace. Here, we're talking about an actual country deciding what content we're going to have. This affects not just movies, this affects every part of business that we have. That's the truth. What happens if a newsroom decides to go with a story, and a country or an individual or corporation decides they don't like it? Forget the hacking part of it. You have someone threaten to blow up buildings, and all of a sudden everybody has to bow down. Sony didn't pull the movie because they were scared; they pulled the movie because all the theaters said they were not going to run it. And they said they were not going to run it because they talked to their lawyers and those lawyers said if somebody dies in one of these, then you're going to be responsible."

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TAGS: adam nayman, agnès varda, alfred hitchcock, Ashley Clark, atticus ross, bert williams, bert williams lime kiln club field day, david fincher, David Freeman, fandor, george clooney, gone girl, north korea, sony, the colbert report, the interview, trent reznor


Cuba

1. "U.S. to Restore Full Relations with Cuba." The move would erase a last trace of Cold War hostility between the two nations.

"President Obama on Wednesday ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century as he vowed to 'cut loose the shackles of the past' and sweep aside one of the last vestiges of the Cold War. The surprise announcement came at the end of 18 months of secret talks that produced a prisoner swap negotiated with the help of Pope Francis and concluded by a telephone call between Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro. The historic deal broke an enduring stalemate between two countries divided by just 90 miles of water but oceans of mistrust and hostility dating from the days of Theodore Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill and the nuclear brinkmanship of the Cuban missile crisis."

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TAGS: anton ginzburg, avant-garde film, cuba, fandor, inherent vice, jordan cronk, kim jong-un, north korea, pan, paul thomas anderson, peter strickland, richard brody, scott foundas, seth rogen, sony, the duke of burgundy, the interview, thomas pynchon, united states, variety


Run the Jewels

1. "The 50 Best Albums of 2014." Pitchfork unveils its list of the best albums of the year. Below is Andrew Nosnitsky on Aphex Twin's Syro.

"Perhaps no figure in electronic music casts a heavier shadow than Richard D. James. He spent the '90s reinventing himself perpetually, trampling through aliases and existing subgenres—acid house, ambient, drum'n'bass, whatever—and emerging with strange and brilliant derivatives on a near yearly basis. So it came as a surprise (and maybe a slight disappointment) when Syro, his first official album after 13 years of relative reclusiveness, proved to be anything but a surprise. In fact, if you had imagined a new Aphex Twin album in 2004, it probably would've sounded a lot like the one he ended up releasing in 2014. But here's the thing: Despite the incessant projections of his audience, Aphex Twin was never principally about innovation. His discography is merely a running series of genre studies, warped instinctively by a perfectionist with a bizarre creative voice. Syro feels like the logical culmination of these efforts, as the genre he's bending and perfecting this time is the amorphous one that he instinctively spent his career creating: a bubble-and-spazz hybrid of acid squelches, spongecake melodies, and scattershot rhythms."

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TAGS: actress, adrian curry, aphex twin, borgman, calum marsh, fandor, frank, mike leigh, pitchfork, stephen colbert, syro, the criterion collection, the dissolve, under the skin, whiplash


The Birdcage

1. "The Birdcage." Mark Harris on how Hollywood's toxic (and worsening) addiction to franchises changed movies forever in 2014.

"Today we have a different model: The modern studio chief loves business, success, replication, and reliability, and nobody expects him to offer even the most cursory nod to anything that smacks of ideals that relate to content; that's not what he's there for. [Kevin] Tsujihara has an MBA from Stanford. He started out managing Time Warner's interest in Six Flags theme parks, then moved to home entertainment, and early last year took over the whole business. He has never produced a movie; in fact, he is the first studio head to rise in the ranks purely through brand extension and ancillary divisions, and brand extension is what he's all about. Besides the DC announcement, his big accomplishments have been to nail down those three additional Rowling movies to add to the studio's portfolio of eight, and to turn one Lego movie into four—a ninja Lego movie, a Batman Lego movie, and (for purists, I suppose) The Lego Movie 2. This is what successful purveyors of goods do; they make more of what sells, they cull what doesn't from the lineup, and they seek to create products in which quality-of-execution variability is never going to be too much of a wild card. MGM's old, gloriously lofty motto was 'Ars Gratia Artis'; today, the only thing written in invisible ink on every studio gate is 'More of What Works,' a credo that would be right at home at the entrance to any manufacturing plant."

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TAGS: ava duvernay, dc comics, fandor, grantland, hollywood, jerry saltz, kevin tsujihara, knight of cups, kyle turner, manohla dargis, mark harris, michael sicinski, mommy, selma, terrence malick, vulture, warner bros., xavier dolan


Inherent Vice

1. "IV Drip." Wesley Morris on Paul Thomas Anderson's Postlapsarian Comedy Inherent Vice.

"Anderson's strategy for capturing Pynchon is to roll him up and smoke him, until the smoke passes on to you and some confusion and conflation set it, until it's all just Paul Thomas Pynchon. In the opening scene, the singer Joanna Newsom appears as Doc's artsy pal. She stands in a low-angled shot and narrates the setting, using lines from the novel. By the time Inherent Vice is over, she has gone from talking over the movie — sketching background details and conjuring states of mind — to talking to it. The densely polished joshing of the book becomes a hazy, bleary movie farce. Being stoned here is a joke. But so is lucidity. Anderson doesn't overdo the high. This is as much a druggy wild goose chase as The Big Lebowski, but he opts not to make being stoned an extravagantly surrealist experience. To that end, people vanish and materialize like smoke, the frame speeds up toward the end of coked-up scenes. But it's never over the top. It doesn't have to be. Whether it's sex or love or pot, everybody's on something. Drugs aren't special. They actually are a food group. In one of the movie's few moments of casual surrealism, Bjornsen gobbles a tray of marijuana like a cartoon bear."

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TAGS: california split, Elliott Gould, frank sinatra, George Segal, inherent vice, j. michael lennon, james dean, Joseph Walsh, kim morgan, marilyn monroe, norman mailer, paul thomas anderson, phil stern, pitchfork, r.i.p., richard brody, robert altman, selected letters of norman mailer, the gunman, wesley morris


Beverly Johnson

1. "Bill Cosby Drugged Me. This Is My Story." Beverly Johnson, in her own words, on how Cosby took her power and how she's now taken it back.

"As I wrestled with the idea of telling my story of the day Bill Cosby drugged me with the intention of doing God knows what, the faces of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other brown and black men took residence in my mind. As if I needed to be reminded. The current plight of the black male was behind my silence when Barbara Bowman came out to tell the horrific details of being drugged and raped by Cosby to the Washington Post in November. And I watched in horror as my longtime friend and fellow model Janice Dickinson was raked over the coals for telling her account of rape at Cosby's hands. Over the years I've met other women who also claim to have been violated by Cosby. Many are still afraid to speak up. I couldn't sit back and watch the other women be vilified and shamed for something I knew was true."

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TAGS: Beverly Johnson, bill cosby, bret easton ellis, glenn kenny, inherent vice, j.r.r. tolkien, Noam Chomsky, paul thomas anderson, peter jackson, richard brody, robbie collin, The Hobbit, the new yorker, thomas pynchon, wondering sound


Boogie Nights

1. "Livin' Thing." An Oral History of Boogie Nights.

"Nearly 20 years later, Boogie Nights endures. For its beautiful portrait of nontraditional families; for Reynolds and Wahlberg, the surrogate father and son, who were never better; for Philip Seymour Hoffman, squeezing into character and breaking hearts; for its prodigy director sticking to his guns and nailing it; for John C. Reilly’s hot-tub poetry; for Roller Girl. Is everybody ready? This is the making and near unmaking of Boogie Nights."

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TAGS: boogie nights, david lynch, david lynch: the unified field, eric garner, fuck tha police, inherent vice, j. hoberman, Jeff Reichert, mad max: fury road, paul thomas anderson, pennsylvania academy, reverse shot, torture, zero dark thirty


Lena Dunham

1. "Lena Dunham: Why I Chose To Speak Out." The ways I've been attacked for sharing my story show how far we have to go when discussing sexual assault.

"I have a certain empathy for the journalists who asked me questions like whether I regret how much I drank that night or what my attacker would say if he was asked about me. These ignorant lines of inquiry serve to further flawed narratives about rape, but these people are reacting to the same set of social signals that we all are — signals telling us that preventing assault is a woman’s job, that rape is only rape when a stranger drags you into a dark alley with a knife at your throat, that our stories are never true, and that lying about rape is a way for women to enact revenge on innocent men. These misconceptions about rape are rampant, destructive and precisely the thing that prevents survivors from seeking the support that they need and deserve."

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TAGS: chris hughes, dana milbank, inherent vice, lena dunham, lolita, margaret talbot, rolling stone, sally horner, sean eldridge, the new republic, the new yorker, the washington post, vladimir nabokov


Boogie Nights

1. "The Valley Plays Itself." For Grantland, Molly Lambert on Paul Thomas Anderson's Los Angeles.

"Three of Paul Thomas Anderson's first four movies take place in the San Fernando Valley, where he and I both grew up. This alone probably made me a mark for PTA fandom, as no other director has ever portrayed the Valley as Anderson does: lovingly. The Valley's reputation in Los Angeles is a bit like New Jersey's in New York. People in Los Angeles proper are known to hate on the Valley for being 10 degrees hotter, for its supposed lack of culture, for being far away (mostly psychologically). But if you've grown up there, you find that those hang-ups are irrelevant. The Valley is its own creature, part of Los Angeles but also a world of its own. Suburban sprawl means lots of space for riding bikes, green city parks, big backyards with avocado trees and swimming pools. It includes a diverse cross-section of industrial zones, rich neighborhoods littered with tacky McMansions, and ranch land right out of the Old West."

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TAGS: boogie nights, chuck bowen, douglas trumbull, fandor, girls, j. edward keyes, los angeles, magnolia, matt patches, paul thomas anderson, pitchfork, punch-drunk love, there will be blood, vulture, wondering sound







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