The House


Vic Mensa

Trendspotting is a tricky enterprise. Styles, gimmicks, and pop formulas quickly come and go; it's more about finding patterns. One theme that emerged over and over this year was the music video that offered a behind-the-scenes, sometimes meta, look at image-making. Beyond the clips that made our list, like Cashmere Cat's "Wedding Bells" and Odesza's "Say My Name," which cleverly underlined the function of the single as an album trailer and examined the line between fiction and reality, respectively, runners up Philip Segway's "Coming Up for Air" and Hawk House's "Chill Pill (Experiment 2)" provided literal glimpses into how moving images are shaped, while OK Go's "I Won't Let You Down" and Clipping's "Work Work" made it impossible to ignore the technical agility with which they were created. The practical ins and out of cinema, however, weren't the only topics deconstructed by artists and video directors this year: DJ Snake and Lil Jon's "Turn Down for What" explored the unexplained impetus behind the urge to move, Vic Mensa's "Down on My Luck" dissected the consequences of impulse, and material girl Brooke Candy's "Opulence" spotlighted the obscenity of excess. And while we'd be remiss not to mention 2014's other "big" trend (on proud display in Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda," Mastodon's "The Motherload," Arca's "Thievery," Kylie Minogue's "Sexercise," and of course, Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea's "Booty"), there just wasn't room for all that donk on our list.

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TAGS: brooke candy opulence, cashmere cat, chill pill experiment 2, clipping, coming up for air, dj snake, down on my luck, hawk house, i won't let you down, Lil Jon, odesza, ok go, philip segway, say my name, turn down for what, vic mensa, wedding bells, work work


Black Mirror

Christmastime ghost stories gained popularity in the Victorian period, their appeal often attributed to the rise of the periodical press. Perhaps the most famous of these, Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, was published in 1843, and Charlie Brooker follows in the tradition with his signature black humor and bleak outlook in the U.K. series Black Mirror's Christmas special, "A White Christmas." The episode successfully satirizes not only our technology-driven present, but the whole notion of yuletide storytelling: of subjectivity, of consciousness, of reliable narration.

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TAGS: a christmas carol, a white christmas, black mirror, charles dickens, charlie brooker, jon hamm, oona chaplin, Rafe Spall, rory kinnear, the twilight zone


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


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







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