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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


American Horror Story: Freak Show

"Test of Strength" is a work of bookkeeping, an episode intended to remind audiences who Freak Show's denizens precisely are before a break for the Thanksgiving holiday. Everyone's accounted for this week, and the narrative, busy and lacking in urgency, serves as a representative reminder of why Freak Show has grown so interminable: The characters' actions exist in respective vacuums, appearing to affect nothing. A flamboyant murder can be quickly swept away, leading to the next episode, which starts at a moment of relative peace, builds toward another murder or betrayal, only to reset yet again. Characters are constantly plotting against one another, but this often scans as weirdly harmless, because a "surprise" atrocity will reliably render the prospective conspiracies moot. American Horror Story grows tedious every season, excluding the high-water mark that's Asylum, but no prior installment has flat-lined as quickly as Freak Show. It's an impressive costume and set pageant, and little more.

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TAGS: american horror story, american horror story: freak show, denis o'hare, erika ervin, evan peters, finn wittrock, Frances Conroy, grace gummer, jessica lange, kathy bates, Lee Tergesen, Michael Chiklis, recap, sarah paulson, test of strength


Side Show

The historical link between vaudeville and the American musical—the only difference, really, is that the latter tells a single story—has been exploited in more than a few musicals, perhaps most successfully in Chicago and Gypsy. But nowhere is that connection more uncomfortably deployed than in Side Show, the story of conjoined twins, Daisy and Violet Hilton, which premiered on Broadway in 1997 with music by Henry Krieger and book/lyrics by Bill Russell. Revived now under the direction of Bill Condon with a reworked book, the show is even darker than its original production, and though full of some remarkably tender moments and peerless performances from its leading ladies, it's still more well-intentioned than compelling.

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TAGS: Bill Condon, bill russell, david rockwell, david st. louis, emily padgett, erin davie, henry krieger, jules fisher, matthew hydzik, peggy eisenhauer, ryan silverman, side show, st. james theatre


Charles Champlin

1. "Charles Champlin R.I.P." The former Los Angeles Times arts editor and critic dies at 88.

"Charles Champlin, the former Los Angeles Times arts editor, film critic and columnist whose insightful, elegantly written reviews and columns informed and entertained readers for decades, died Sunday at his Los Angeles home. He was 88. The cause was complications of Alzheimer's disease, said his son, Charles Champlin Jr. The Harvard-educated Champlin had worked 17 years at Life and Time magazines before joining The Times as entertainment editor and three-times-a-week columnist in 1965. During his 26 years at The Times, Champlin served as the paper's principal film critic from 1967 through 1980. He then shifted to book reviewing and, with his 'Critic at Large' column, offered a more general overview of the arts. He retired in 1991 but continued to contribute to The Times' daily and Sunday Calendar sections and wrote two books despite becoming legally blind from age-related macular degeneration in 1999. In honor of his film coverage and criticism, Champlin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007."

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TAGS: charles champlin, cinderella, imogen sara smith, inherent vice, jean grémillon, jesse baaron, kenneth branagh, la weekly, los angeles times, men's central jail, reverse shot, roxane gay, the new inquiry, virginia quarterly review






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