The House


Homeland

Tonight's season finale of Homeland was a homecoming of sorts, a return from the wilderness, a clearing of the slate. At this time last year, the series seemed destined to spiral into irrelevance, so sunk by the doomed romance between Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Damian Lewis's Nicholas Brody that even his death promised no relief. As resilient as its troubled heroine, however, Showtime's stalwart drama reemerged as a force to be reckoned with; the optimism of its love affair with counterterrorism gave way, finally, to the bitter aftertaste of defeat. And so the potent, elegiac hour with which the series concluded its brilliant fourth season is a "Long Time Coming" indeed. Homeland is as imperfect as ever, but it's once again worth loving, as Carrie says, "like crazy."

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TAGS: amy hargreaves, claire danes, homeland, long time coming, Mandy Patinkin, numan acar, recap, Rupert Friend


Madonna

Sometimes all you need is a little push. After weeks of leaked demos (including 11 new ones that started circulating earlier this week) and months of Instagram teases about her upcoming album, the Kingdom of Madonna has finally given official word on Rebel Heart, the singer's 13th studio album, due March 10th. The Queen of Pop has unexpectedly dropped six new songs, including the lead single, "Living for Love," which she originally planned to release on Valentine's Day. The tracks are available when you pre-order the album on iTunes.

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TAGS: alicia keys, avicii, bitch i'm madonna, devil pray, diplo, ghosttown, illuminati, kiesza, lady gaga, like a prayer, living for love, madonna, nicki minaj, rebel heart, unapologetic bitch


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


Every Brilliant Thing

Like many shows that rely heavily on audience participation, one is likely to encounter a bit of hesitation at the start of Every Brilliant Thing. In the intimate black box of the Barrow Street Theatre, bereft of set and decoration, audiences are quick to laughter, like nervous strangers on a blind date, as they navigate the rules of a space where there's no fourth wall to provide the warm comfort of anonymity. Will this be corny, one worries, or embarrassing?

Those questions inevitably arise as Jonny Donahoe, the chubby and likable—in that uniquely British way that's hard to express or deny—solo performer in the show he co-wrote with Duncan Macmillan and premiered in England, begins a monologue about growing up with a suicidal mother. But they don't linger long. Donahoe, a stand-up comedian in the U.K., has the peculiar ability of those successful in his profession, much like preachers and motivational speakers, of almost instantly endearing himself to an entire room full of people. There's nothing natural about this, and yet Donahoe makes it seem inevitable that we'll all like and listen to him.

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TAGS: barrow street theatre, duncan macmillan, every brilliant thing, jonny donahoe


Under the Skin

It's not very hard to determine what makes a great cinematic moment. A more than efficient barometer for judging such things is simply if an audible gasp, a bewildered stare, or even a small laugh was unconsciously produced. These moments can be wholly visceral in nature or challenge what we're seeing and have seen (sometimes even a little bit of both), ranging from technically extravagant escapism to minor gestures that induce an overwhelming emotion or past memory—occasionally with the capacity to be seen on its own, regardless of context. (Then again, where's the fun in not experiencing the entire film?) From Stray Dogs's penultimate marathon take to Force Majeure's avalanche sequence, 2014 saw no shortage of aesthetic pleasures. Here are 10 essential moments that kept our eyes open and thoughts racing more than any other.  Wes Greene

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TAGS: force majeure, godzilla, only lovers left alive, snowpiercer, the grand budapest hotel, the guest, the immigrant, the rover, the tale of the princess kaguya, under the skin


Citizen"For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing," wrote the 19th-century critic Walter Pater, "but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake." Credited as a major influence of Oscar Wilde, and heralded as the prominent figure of aestheticism, the so-called "art for art's sake" movement, Pater was a controversial figure in his own time—lambasted for his alleged hedonism—and his writings would seem to have little in common with those of Claudia Rankine, the Jamaican-born author known for her projects on contemporary America. A professor at Pomona College and a frequent collaborator with her filmmaker husband, John Lucas, Rankine frequently blends images and poetry and essayistic meditations, and her fifth book, Citizen, is no different. Here, she brings together historic quotes, one from Zora Neale Hurston ("I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background"), with paintings, video stills, and other visuals from the past and present: J.M.W. Turner's The Slave Ship, Henry Youngman's ART THOUGHTZ, David Hammon's In the Hood. Broadly speaking, the result is an apt piece of hybrid art, a record of the current state of race in the United States.

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TAGS: amy pascal, citizen, claudia rankine, Daniel Handler, david hammon, don't let me be lonely, graywolf press, henry youngman, j.m.w. turner, james craig anderson, john lucas, mark duggan, scott rudin, trayvon martin, walter pater, zora neale hurston


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


American Horror Story: Freak Show

"Orphans" finds American Horror Story: Freak Show taking a surprisingly earnest detour from its usual preachy, ultra-violently "relevant" shenanigans. The episode is mostly concerned with pinhead Pepper (Naomi Grossman) in the wake of her husband Salty's (Christopher Neiman) sudden death in his sleep, which is to say that, for the first time in eons, the series is centered on an actual narrative idea that serves to unify most of its tangents. Acting out, thrashing about the freak show, Pepper is inconsolable. Her depression, coupled with the fact that the freaks are finally appearing to notice that they're dying left and right since the arrival of Stanley (Denis O'Hare) and Esmerelda (Emma Roberts), spurs Elsa (Jessica Lange) to talk strategy with Desiree (Angela Bassett), which leads to a conversation about the formation of the freak show as the two knock back schnapps.

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TAGS: american horror story, american horror story: freak show, angela bassett, denis o'hare, emma roberts, evan peters, jessica lange, jyoti amge, naomi grossman, orphans


The Talos Principle

The Talos Principle has an answer to the age-old question of "Why do we play games?" The answer, simple enough to understand, is that "They make us human." The trick is that The Talos Principle then sets out to prove that point, crafting a first-person puzzler that's Biblical both in terms of its epic story and 20-plus-hour playtime. The content isn't religious or preachy (it's far more passively philosophical), but it does begin with your unnamed robotic protagonist awakening in a garden at the foot of a forbidden Babel-like tower, choosing between the booming instructions of the omnipresent Elohim and the serpentine suggestions of the Milton Library Assistant. Solving puzzles may demonstrate that you have "predictive capability" and "spatial awareness," but the scattered text and audio logs question whether such feats demonstrate consciousness—and if not, if anything can. The Talos Principle, then, is a Turing test in reverse, with you (a human playing the part of a robot) attempting to convince the game (a robot playing the part of a human) that you are in fact more than a machine.

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TAGS: antichamber, croteam, Portal 2, quantum conundrum, the stanley parable, the talos principle


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







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