1. “The 10 Best TV Shows of 2014.” This week, Vulture will be publishing its critics’ top-ten lists. Today, Matt Zoller Seitz’s favorite TV shows of the year.
“Bryan Fuller’s TV adaptation of Thomas Harris’s fiction is a total vision—mournfully expressionist, shockingly violent, and strangely tender. Virtually alone among television dramas, network or cable, it demands that viewers make an imaginative leap and see its nightmarish action as both figurative and emotionally real. It’s also one of the scariest shows in TV history, delivering images every week so potent that they lodge in the viewer’s memory like rusty barbs. And yet for all of its ugliness and horror, it is an intensely pleasurable experience, appallingly sensual, laying out food, furniture, clothes, windows, doors, and landscapes with painterly exactness. The ensemble cast is one of the best on television, and one of the most heroic, considering the ludicrousness they are expected to put across: Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishburne, Caroline Dhavernas, and Gillian Anderson, and a regular stream of superb guest-actors counteract the extremity of Fuller’s images with understated, wryly funny performances. Two seasons in, it’s already a pantheon series.”
2. “The Police in America Are Becoming Illegitimate.” Matt Taibbi on the crooked math that’s going to crash American law enforcement if policies aren’t changed.
“This policy of constantly badgering people for trifles generates bloodcurdling anger in ’hot spot’ neighborhoods with industrial efficiency. And then something like the Garner case happens and it all comes into relief. Six armed police officers tackling and killing a man for selling a 75-cent cigarette. That was economic regulation turned lethal, a situation made all the more ridiculous by the fact that we no longer prosecute the countless serious economic crimes committed in this same city. A ferry ride away from Staten Island, on Wall Street, the pure unmolested freedom to fleece whoever you want is considered the sacred birthright of every rake with a briefcase.”
3. “Theories of Everything.” Matt Patches on why Interstellar, The Imitation Game, and the year’s other science-driven movies can’t stop explaining themselves.
“The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, the cardigan-clad indie rock stars of the science movie boom, contend with the same fear. Their solutions are passivity. Explaining how a Turing machine works or what big bang theory could even begin to describe is a can of worms best left sealed. With Turing and Hawking’s well-documented legacies engraved in history books, both films resist scientific characterizations. The choice is understandable: Exposition-heavy biopics—or ’VH1 original movies,’ as they’re often called—offer the emotional depth of a Wikipedia page. The only problem is that, like Malcolm, the duo’s occupational and emotional lives are intertwined. Divorcing science from the scientists leaves them vacant, a sacrifice that feels as reactionary to what audiences might think as Nolan’s excessive explanations.”
4. “Bombast: George Armitage.” Nick Pinkerton on the undervalued writer-director.
“It’s a great movie [Miami Blues] for mouths, those telltale indicators of class: [Jennifer Jason] Leigh’s uncorrected lisp and overbit frown, Ward’s denture routines, [Alec] Baldwin’s put-’er-there come-on smile, a rehearsed-from-infomercials cover barely concealing impatient ex-con wariness. (Junior is only sincere when first seen, gaping out the window on what’s presumably his first airplane ride.) While never acquiring the social graces to correspond to his ambition, Junior drags Susie into his white-trash fantasy of upward mobility financed by banditry. (In fact, Miami Blues parallels another superb Reagan/Bush I–era snapshot, Raising Arizona.) The film contains a marvelous scene where Junior and Susie, play-acting at being yuppies, meet for a terrace brunch overlooking a water ballet. Junior shows up in a pastel Coogi sweater and lemon-colored slacks, asks for separate checks, enthuses over the Spencer’s Gifts T-shirt she’s bought him (’Shit Happens When You Party Naked’), then spits up the yogurt on his salad (’This ice-cream dressing is sour as shit’). The ’Party Naked’ bit, I should add, is Armitage’s invention.”
5. ”Mister Babadook: An oral history of 2014’s most terrifying movie prop.” The creative team behind the book at the center of the year’s best horror movie pull back the curtain on Mister Babadook.
“I’m a real purist, and I hate the idea of Babadook Happy Meals or whatever. I didn’t want to capitalize on the film that way, because it’s not that kind of film. But the book is a work of art…It was always in the back of our minds: we could produce that. We made sure, in the contract before we started filming, that we were in charge of [the book rights]. And it’s worked out really well because now we can do what we want with them. We don’t own the film, so we can’t go and do what we want with the film.”
Video of the Day: The highly anticipated It Follows gets a French trailer: