The House


Big Eyes

Pressure mounts on all sides to declare Tim Burton's sweet and understated Big Eyes either a return to form or a turned corner, but for screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander it's just an exemplary marriage of maker and material. The film is a dramatization of the struggle of 1960s artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), whose paintings of crying children were as ubiquitous, for a time, as their decidedly less gothic successors in the Precious Moments franchise are today. But Keane's husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz), took credit for her explosive success, and despite toying with a few loftier notions (alcoholism, gimcrack curios versus capital-A art), Big Eyes is an essentially spare, straightforward celebration of Margaret's successful campaign to reclaim credit for the paintings. The film is as over-the-moon for postwar modernism as it is a painstaking character study, and, like the pair's last collaboration with Burton, Ed Wood, strikes a lovely balance between laughing at and with its eccentric protagonist. On the day of the film's New York premiere, I met with the duo over coffee to try extracting their secret recipe for the modern anti-biopic.

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TAGS: amy adams, big eyes, christoph waltz, Larry Karaszewski, margaret keane, Scott Alexander, tim burton, walter keane


Doctor Who

For Doctor Who's 10th consecutive Christmas special, showrunner Steven Moffat presents the intersection between Doctor Who and Christmas in the most direct possible way. Almost as if cheekily daring the audience to revolt and switch off, the five-minute pre-titles sequence plays with a straight face what seems like an utterly ludicrous situation. Clara (Jenna Coleman), who parted from the Doctor at the end of the previous episode, encounters none other than Santa Claus himself (Nick Frost), and a couple of snarky elves (one of whom is played by Dan Starkey, normally buried under heavy prosthetics as the Sontaran Strax), when he crashes on her roof—in a sleigh drawn by flying reindeer. But when the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) arrives and urges her to rejoin him aboard the TARDIS, things rapidly turn serious, leading to a constantly twisting story where the question of what is real and what is a dream becomes of crucial importance.

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TAGS: alien, doctor who, faye marsay, jenna coleman, last christmas, michael troughton, miracle on 34th street, nick frost, patrick througton, peter capaldi, ridley scott, Samuel Anderson, steven moffat, the thing from another world


Joe Cocker

1. "Joe Cocker, Iconic Rock Singer, Dead at 70." "With a Little Help from My Friends" singer passes away following battle with lung cancer.

"Singer-songwriter Joe Cocker, known for his distinct, bluesy voice and his heartfelt renditions of Beatles classics, died in his Colorado home on Monday following a battle with lung cancer. One of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Singers, Cocker was 70. The British singer's agent, Barrie Marshall, confirmed the death to the BBC, adding that Cocker was 'simply unique' and 'it will be impossible to fill the space he leaves in our hearts.' 'John Robert Cocker, known to family, friends, his community and fans around the world as Joe Cocker, passed away on December 22nd, 2014 after a hard fought battle with small cell lung cancer,' Sony Music wrote in a statement, via iTV. 'Joe Cocker was born 5/20/1944 in Sheffield, England where he lived until his early 20s. In 2007 he was awarded the OBE by the Queen of England. His international success as a blues/rock singer began in 1964 and continues till this day. Joe created nearly 40 albums and toured extensively around the globe.'"

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TAGS: 13 lakes, adam nayman, angelina jolie, better call saul, ferris bueller's day off, into the woods, joanna robinson, joe cocker, nickelodeon, r.i.p., reverse shot, ruggles of red gap, saving private ryan, stephen sondheim, the big lebowski, the legend of korra, unbroken, vanity fair


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







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