The House


Chris Rock

Something intriguing seems to be happening to Saturday Night Live. There's no denying that the departures of Fred Armisen, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and Seth Meyers have overall drastically muted the show's comedic palette, throwing it into a transitional funk. You'd think that booking names like Jim Carrey, Woody Harrelson, and Cameron Diaz to do some of the heavy lifting would help ease new cast members and writers into viewers' minds. Instead, these recent episodes have felt mostly constrained by a soberness that's prevented the 40th season of the program from finding its rhythm. But then it was announced that former cast member Chris Rock would return for the first time since leaving SNL to host the November 1st episode, with Prince as musical guest, what unfolded was one the show's most engrossing episodes in a very long time, turning this transitional phase into a spectacle of its own.

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TAGS: cameron diaz, chris rock, jim carrey, lorne michaels, nbc, prince, saturday night live, snl, woody harrelson


Birdman

1. "Birdman Takes an Early Lead in the 2014 Awards Season." Other films with big showings include Boydhood and Selma.

"The main stories we can divine from this year’s nominations are about Boyhood and Birdman. Richard Linklater’s three-hour, 12-year opus got nominated all over the place, proving that it has awards legs despite being released nearly six months ago. Meanwhile, Birdman shores up support as it heads into a crowded race filled with bigger, noisier films. That Emma Stone nomination could be a harbinger of things to come, while the nod for Boyhood’s Patricia Arquette confirms a sure thing. Believe it or not, Arquette is currently the presumptive front-runner to win the whole dang thing come Oscar time, and this nomination is the first definitive milestone on the road to victory."

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TAGS: 30 for 30, angela davis, assata shakur, birdman, boyhood, ferguson, independent spirit awards, jarvis cocker, life death and supermarkets, michael brown, noel murray, patricia arquette, pitch perfect, pulp, room 237, selma


Ferguson

1. "Streets of Ferguson smolder after grand jury decides not to indict officer." When a grand jury decided Monday not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, chaos filled the streets.

"This is what Ferguson looked like Tuesday morning. Shattered glass from looted stores covered the asphalt. Shell casings from unknown shooters littered the ground. And more than a dozen buildings, including stores owned by local residents, had been set ablaze. As protesters hurled bottles, batteries and rocks at police, officers in riot gear responded by shooting bean bags and tear gas. 'This ain't Iraq. This is the United States,' Demetric Whitlock yelled to a line of police officers on South Florissant Road, in front of the Ferguson Police Department. When a grand jury decided Monday not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the news triggered fresh confrontations between protesters and police in the tense Missouri city. While most of the demonstrators peacefully protested on the streets, some smashed the windows of a police cruiser and set another on fire."

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TAGS: 711, albert serra, beyoncé, bill cosby, bomb magazine, darren wilson, ferguson, foxcatcher, grantland, j. bryan lowder, les blank, michael brown, phillip maciak, rembert browne, slate, spend it all, steve macfarlane, story of my death, werner herzog, wesley morris


Lypsinka

You don't easily forget Lypsinka—those eyes, the hands, and the rubbery lips that give new life and meaning to the mashed-together snatches of songs, dialogue, or just screams, previously voiced by other larger-than-life divas. The man behind this fabulous creature is John Epperson. "I've been called so many things over the years, none of them that I really like," he says. "Drag queen is offensive to me, and performance artist is kind of '1980s nonprofit'—and I need to make living at this! So I call myself a 'surrealist,' which is, I think, the same word that people use to describe Barry Humphries, who plays Dame Edna." Over lunch at his favorite Italian bistro in New York's Chelsea neighborhood, the tall, diffident, Mississippi-born performer spoke about the genesis of his mute but oh-so-expressive alter ego, and about Lypsinka! The Trilogy, currently playing in repertory through January 3 at East Village's Connelly Theater.

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TAGS: christina crawford, club 57, connelly theater, dolores gray, it's always fair weather, joan crawford, john epperson, john epperson: show trash, Lypsinka, lypsinka the boxed set, lypsinka the trilogy, mommie dearest, pyramid club, the passion of the crawford


Gwen Stefani

After "Baby Don't Lie," the first single from Gwen Stefani's long-awaited third solo album, flamed out, the No Doubt frontwoman is falling back on old tricks, teaming up with longtime collaborator Pharrell Williams for the follow-up, "Spark the Fire." Not to put too fine a point on it, she half-raps, "OMG, OMG, I'm back again...Finally remembering what is me/That is what happens when I get with P[harrell]," and sings about "losing focus" during the bridge. Williams has been experiencing a bit of a renaissance the last couple of years, racking up accolades for Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," and his own ubiquitous, Oscar-nominated "Happy." And he was, of course, responsible for Stefani's biggest single, 2004's "Hollaback Girl," among others. Unfortunately, "Spark the Fire," which includes a nod to the Rolling Stones' "Get Off of My Cloud," seems more like an attempt to repeat those past hits than update the singer's sound for "2015." The track eschews Williams's recent neo-disco shtick for the paint-can bongo beats, triangle, schoolyard chants that marked much of his earlier work. Still, "Spark the Fire," not to be confused with No Doubt's "Start the Fire," has a better shot at reigniting Stefani's solo career than its rather bland predecessor did. Now let's just hope the music video is a step up too.

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TAGS: baby don't lie, blurred lines, daft punk, get lucky, get off of my cloud, gwen stefani, happy, Hollaback Girl, no doubt, pharrell williams, Robin Thicke, single review, spark the fire, the rolling stones


Chuck Hagel

1. "Hagel Said to Be Stepping Down As Defense Chief Under Pressure." Obama Dissatisfied, Officials Say, Amid Global Crises.

"The president, who is expected to announce Mr. Hagel's resignation in a Rose Garden appearance on Monday, made the decision to ask his defense secretary — the sole Republican on his national security team — to step down last Friday after a series of meetings over the past two weeks, senior administration officials said. The officials described Mr. Obama's decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ. A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration."

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TAGS: benghazi, bill cosby, chuck hagel, iggy azalea, jennifer lopez, marion barry, the hunger games


The Walking Dead

In a sense, "Crossed" spends most of its running time keeping a few narrative plates spinning in anticipation of the inevitable clash between Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) group and the Grady Memorial staff. Only the initial thrust and parry of that conflict have been dealt by the end of the episode, with Rick deciding to heed Tyreese's (Chad Coleman) advice to not kill anyone and do a straight trade to get Beth (Emily Kinney) and Carol (Melissa McBride) back. That doesn't work out for Rick's group ultimately, but the entire episode hinges on how one is to approach kindness and care in the world of the living dead.

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TAGS: andrew lincoln, chad coleman, chandler riggs, crossed, emily kinney, lauren cohan, melissa mcbride, Michael Cudlitz, recap, seth gilliam, the walking dead


Homeland

What the fucking fuck?

So exclaims CIA director Andrew Lockhart (Tracy Letts) as the shit hits the fan in the riveting "There's Something Else Going On," an hour of looming catastrophe that counts among Homeland's finest. Sanding down the narrative detritus accumulated over the course of four seasons until all that remains is the lonely image of Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) stranded on an airfield's tarmac, the episode returns the series to the relationship with which it began, between the old hand and his brilliant protégé. In this sense, Lockhart's words express not only the shock of seeing Haissam Haqqani's (Numan Acar) conspiracy come to fruition, but also the understanding to which Homeland has been building all season. On the ground and at the U.S. embassy, in offices, interrogation rooms, operations centers, and prison cells, "There's Something Else Going On" confronts the terror of fighting a war with no victor.

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TAGS: claire danes, homeland, laila robins, Mandy Patinkin, nimrat kaur, Raza Jaffrey, recap, Sarita Choudhury, there's something else going on, tracy letts


Lost

1. "The Lost Interviews." Todd VanDerWerff interviews Damon Lindelof about 10 episodes from the show's first season.

"A decade after its debut, Lost seems ever more like a weird, collective dream we all had. A complicated, character-driven sci-fi/fantasy hybrid with heavy elements of horror? And we all watched it? And it was on broadcast network television? When looking at the modern TV landscape, it's hard to find anything quite so ambitious, especially on the broadcast networks, which increasingly manage toward the margins in a dying business model. 'Even if you fail, people will appreciate you having attempted the harder trick and crashed than just kind of doing the easy stuff,' said co-creator Damon Lindelof during a 90-minute interview about the show's first season. He said this wisdom was instilled in him by his fellow co-creator, J.J. Abrams. Abrams would leave the show seven episodes in, but leave an indelible mark upon it: the mark of going for broke, of trying anything, of never settling for the routine."

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TAGS: alan turing, albert serra, benedict cumberbatch, blue velvet, cutprintfilm, damon lindelof, david lynch, dna, fbi, jake pitre, lost, mike mccabe, Morten Tyldum, movie mezzanine, nick pinkerton, patti smith, pussy riot, story of my death, the imitation game, todd vanderwerff, twin peaks


Mike Nichols

1. "Mike Nichols R.I.P." The acclaimed director of The Graduate dies at 83.

"Mike Nichols, one of America's most celebrated directors, whose long, protean résumé of critic- and crowd-pleasing work earned him adulation both on Broadway and in Hollywood, died on Wednesday. He was 83. His death was announced in a statement by the president of ABC News, James Goldston. Dryly urbane, Mr. Nichols had a gift for communicating with actors and a keen comic timing, which he honed early in his career as half of the popular sketch-comedy team Nichols and May. He accomplished what Orson Welles and Elia Kazan, but few if any other directors have: He achieved popular and artistic success in both theater and film. He was among the most decorated people in the history of show business, one of only a handful to have won an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy."

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TAGS: assassin's creed, bennett miller, foxcatcher, global strike command, glynnis macnicol, justin clark, medium, mike nichols, paste, princess leia, reid cherlin, richard brody, star wars, the graduate






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