The Ten Best TV Shows of 2014

Categories: Film and TV

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"My Dream Breakup" on Inside Amy Schumer.
TV continued to unmoor from its origins and transform into something else this year. No longer tethered to a specific appliance, a particular kind of storytelling, or even commercial concerns, "television" now feels like an increasingly obsolete word.

But that's a discussion for another time, for we've come to celebrate TV, not mourn it. Among the bajillions of hours of programming that's constantly available, here are the 10 shows, miniseries, and films that really stood out:

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What Exactly Makes a Good Ugly Sweater? [Video]

Categories: Video

What Makes a Good Ugly Sweater? from Voice Media Group on Vimeo.

'Tis the season for the mess of yarn, bells, tinsel, and pom poms that we call ugly sweaters. Once the embarrassing mainstay present of creative, speed-knitting grandmothers, the ugly sweater is now the go-to ironic choice of holiday partiers everywhere.

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The Hothouse Is a Sharp and Funny Shock to the System

Categories: Theater
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Heidi Bohnenkamp
Sara Marsh, Mark Benninghofen
Harold Pinter's The Hothouse is a dark, brutal, and often very funny exercise in faceless oppression. Think Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy crossed with The Office.

The action takes place on Christmas Day in a nameless British institution, circa the 1960s, where the objective is vague. Is it a mental institution, or a place where the government can extract secrets?

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Seth Rogen Proves Butthole Jokes Can Sometimes Be Mightier Than Bombs

Categories: Film and TV

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Photos by Ryan Orange

Update: Sony has officially canceled the theatrical release of The Interview following terrorist threats against theaters -- and the announcement that several major theater chains had opted not to exhibit the film. Read Sony's official statement at the end of this post.

Sony assumed North Korea would hate the movie. The question was: What would it do? Pyongyang had just tested its atom bomb and threatened "preemptive nuclear attack." And the Supreme Leader with his finger on the trigger was barely over 30, with less than two years of experience.

But Kim Jong-un didn't care about Olympus Has Fallen, even though the violently anti–North Korean 2013 film showed his people strangling women, murdering unarmed men, kidnapping the U.S. president, and even executing their fellow citizens. That wasn't worth a fight.

A year later, North Korea had a bigger enemy: Seth Rogen.

See also:
He Brought Down the Wrong Empire: Seth Rogen's
The Interview Won't Show in Theaters [Movie Review]


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The Best Films of 2014

Categories: Film and TV

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Here are movie moments from 2014 I'll never forget: Gugu Mbatha-Raw's sad pop tart smacking her ass in Beyond the Lights, the sickroom choked with flowers in Michel Gondry's Mood Indigo, Oscar Isaac and Kirsten Dunst's Greek island all-nighter in The Two Faces of January, and the entire soundtrack of Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo's Begin Again, which I've hummed every week since. But hard choices must be made. The movies that made it through to my annual top 10 represent a full range of what the cinema can offer — and as such, I'm presenting them as awards.

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Marion Cotillard Wins -- Twice -- in Our 2014 Film Critics' Poll

Categories: Film and TV

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Marion Cotillard was voted best actress in this year's film critic's poll.
Sundance Selects
What kind of circle is time again? A year after blowing the doors off our annual critics’ poll, golden boy Matthew McConaughey won just a single vote for his turn in the loudest movie of the year, Christopher Nolan’s tears-in-space effort Interstellar, which has tied with the unprescient Transcendence as 2014’s worst film. (Transcendence dreamed that Johnny Depp’s character would take over every screen in the world — that didn’t happen.) But his margin of victory lives on, this year in the form of Marion Cotillard, who wins best actress twice: first for the Dardenne brothers’ vote-gathering drama Two Days, One Night, then besting second-place Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin) with her turn in James Gray’s glorious melodrama The Immigrant, available now on Netflix streaming because Harvey Weinstein doesn’t believe Oscar voters will bite.

Our voters bit, bless them, ranking The Immigrant as this year’s seventh best film, just beneath Cotillard’s other winner. Meanwhile, Under the Skin, Jonathan Glazer’s cryptic alien creep-out, landed at number two, a capital showing for a movie that chucks out plot and story beats. Glazer’s film was edged out only by the inevitable: Boyhood, from Richard Linklater, also our best-director winner. Linklater had wanted to call this long- gestating experiment 12 Years, but Steve McQueen’s 2013 slave drama stomped that out. Boyhood is a more reductive title, but certainly a truer one: What else are most movies about, these days, than boyhood? And isn’t it grand that most of the top films toasted by our critics are actually about something else? That’s encouraging — and almost enough to make you feel better about the fact that even if combined, both Cotillards and Johansson’s Under the Skin won’t rake in a fraction of what Interstellar managed in a weekend.


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Artist Andrew Moore: "You have to stay focused on real issues. You can't run away from the fact that all this stems from racism."

Categories: Art
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Photo by Steven Lang
Work by Andrew Moore
Andrew Moore believes that art is his calling. "It's a blessing from God," he says. The former Black Panthers member, who has also been a professional boxer, is probably best known for the political art he displayed outside his home on Bloomington Avenue in south Minneapolis. He lost his home of 20 years in August 2013, after the city had it condemned.

Moore's work is now featured in a new pop-up gallery presented by Hennepin Theatre Trust's Made Here project. He'll be speaking about his work tomorrow night at a film series program featuring a screening of Visions of Paradise.  


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The Longest Night Embraces the Darkness, Finds the Light

Categories: Theater

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Photo courtesy of Open Eye Figure Theatre
Bradley Greenwald and Sonja Thompson.
Considering the weather has been more like London (minus the rampaging mobs of Keep Left signs) than the Twin Cities over the last few days, a pick-me-up was in order.

Bradley Greenwald's celebration of the solstice was just the ticket.

See also:
Bradley Greenwald Prepares to Explore
The Longest Night


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2014 Year in Review: Top Literary Moments

Categories: Books
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[Editor's note: The year is coming to an end fast. To celebrate 2014, we'll be revisiting the memorable things that happened with a different topic each week. Stayed tuned for more.]

It's been another year of literary goodness in the Twin Cities. In a town known for its nonprofit publishers, indie bookstores, edgy publications, and welcoming community, coming up with a list of the best literary events isn't hard work (except for the fact that there are so many to choose from).

Let's take a look at some of the most-gabbed-about literary events of 2014. More »

Ceramic Artist Steven Showalter Knows a Thing or Two About Pottery

Categories: Art
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Courtesy Steven Showalter
With distinctive mugs in a wintry blue glaze, a teapot with a rosy peach hue waiting to be fired, and dozens of unglazed bowls sitting like blank canvases on the shelf, Steven Showalter's home studio is a sight to behold.

Showalter, who teaches pottery at Prior Lake High School and moonlights as a full-fledged ceramic artist, is gaining attention on the Twin Cities arts scene. Though he's exhibited pottery on the art-fair circuit for only four years, he's taken home top honors, including Best of Show at the Fall into the Arts Fair in Edina.

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