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2014 Emmy Award Nominations and Favorites

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Here are the 2014 Emmy nominees for the best comedy and drama series, as well as for their writing, directing, and actors. I offer my choices to win (including snubs "Hannibal" and "The Americans"), which are mostly in praise of the work of "Breaking Bad," "Louie," "True Detective" (directing), and "Mad Men" (acting).

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Spring Television: Premieres and Returns

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The Spring is coming, and here are a few of the returning (and one) new shows that I will be watching. I am most excited to welcome back Louie, which has been away for almost two years. There's also Game of Thrones, Mad Men, The Mindy Project, and the possible surprise in Fargo. 

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Film Series to See: Vienna Unveiled

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From classics The Third Man and Letters from an Unknown Woman to the more contemporary 71 Fragments of A Chronology of Chance and Museum Hours, the MOMA will be screening a great selection of films set in Vienna, Austria. The film series Vienna Unveiled: A City in Cinema honors fifty years of the Austrian Film Museum. Here I offer a few recommendations.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman: Too Soon a Legend

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My go-to actor for a guaranteed great performance, even in a mediocre film, Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away this morning. Today, February 2nd, we lost an incredible, mind-blowingly talented actor who brought me my favorite movie of 2012, The Master. I here briefly reflect on my personal experience with his acting. 

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2014 Academy Awards: Nominees and Favorites

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The 2014 Oscar nominees were just announced, and I have here listed the results in the major categories, providing my choices for who should win. Two of my favorite films of 2013 were widely recognized - 12 Years a Slave and Gravity - while some of the year's best acting performances were given their rightful due. These include the actors and actresses of the aforementioned films as well as the highly entertaining American Hustle. Read on for the nominees and my favorites.

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TV in 2014: Winter Television Premieres

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From new series True Detective (HBO) to returning series Justified and The Americans (both on FX), I here list the shows I will likely be watching over the next few months. These are my recommended 2014 Winter TV premieres.

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The Year in Cinema: Best Films of 2013, Part I

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In a strong year for cinema, I have selected six films that I consider to be the best of what I have thus far seen. I have yet to view many of the films that have made other critics' lists, so this is provisional (the first part to which I will hopefully later add a second). Using very loose definitions, these include the two documentaries The Act of Killing and Stories We Tell, the two dramas 12 Years a Slave and La Vie d'Adèle, and the two science-fiction films Gravity and Upstream Color. I also list the films and performances I generally enjoyed and would recommend.

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Year End: Best TV Shows of 2013

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No critic enjoys year-end "best of" lists, but they seem like necessary parts of the job, at least for now. It personally helps me as a record of what I once thought was good... read on for what I loved watching this year, and please let me know if you agree or disagree.

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Recommendation

Mauvais Sang, Now at Film Forum

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The Film Forum is screening a rerelease of Leos Carax's tribute to cinema - 1986's film Mauvais Sang, retitled for English audiences as both The Night is Young and Bad Blood (its literal translation). Carax makes a movie every five to ten years, so it would be a good idea to catch this one if you're a fan.

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Godard Retrospective: Spirit of the Forms

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The New York Film Festival smartly kicked off its strong run of films this year alongside the start of its Jean-Luc Godard retrospective. Spanning his long, ongoing career, the retrospective anticipated Godard's newest film - a venture into 3D filmmaking - while returning to his both classics and less-known films. These weeks at Lincoln Center left me wanting more regular screenings of his films (and more audacity from contemporary filmmakers).

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Film Review: Captain Phillips

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American sweetheart Tom Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abdi give full-bodied, captivating performances in Paul Greengrass's latest suspense drama. Captain Phillips will leave you disturbed and anxious, but in a necessary way.

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Recommendation

In Theaters: 12 Years A Slave

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My most anticipated film of 2013 is finally here, and it is every bit as beautiful and moving as I expected. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives an incredible performance, and Michael Fassbender completely gives himself over to a complex, difficult role. Filmmaker Steve McQueen has been a great recent cinematic force, and he continues to prove he is one of the more important, daring, and skilled directors working today.

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Film Review: James Franco and As I Lay Dying

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I review James Franco's screen adaptation of the great William Faulkner novel As I Lay Dying. While not a great movie, it makes a strong case for the merits of adapting difficult literary works. This feature questions the notion of the "unfilmable" and defends ambitious filmmakers, of which Franco is an example.

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Film Review: Enough Said

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I review Nicole Holofcener's latest feature Enough Said, which stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini. It is a wonderful exhibition of these actors' talents and a fine time at the movies. While not highly recommended, it will work to satisfy many tastes.

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TV Premiere: The Walking Dead

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Make that 30 days 0 days, as a supplies run sets the scene for a wonderfully gross encounter with a slew of walkers. The season four premiere of The Walking Dead reminded me of what the show does best - and also what it ought to leave to better shows like the dearly departed Breaking Bad. Here are some brief reactions.

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New York Film Festival final weekend

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Here are some of the films to watch this weekend at the New York Film Festival. It is also a reminder of the festival's Jean-Luc Godard retrospective, which will continue through the end of the month. 

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Recommendation

In (3D) Theaters: Gravity

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If you are going to see any movie in 3D this year, let it be Gravity. It is not just a film; it is an experience, and its full enjoyment depends on its 3D technology. Gravity is a science fiction disaster film set in space, but it also much more than that, which I explore in my review.

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Film Review: The Canyons

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Paul Schrader's new film, The Canyons, smartly casts Lindsay Lohan and James Deen as its central trashy rich couple suffocating in a posh, Hollywood setting. It is a bad movie with a few redeeming qualities that might be worth a viewing for some though highly skippable for most. 

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Three Takes on Riddick

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I give three reviews of the recent number one movie in the country: Riddick. No matter how you look at it, Vin Diesel is a movie star, but that doesn't always mean something good. I here offer three takes, so you can decide for yourself which you believe and whether or not Riddick is for you.

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TV Review: Breaking Bad's Felina

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There is so much to be said of Breaking Bad, the great drama that was brought to a close Sunday night. For now, I have these words to say about the finale, but I expect to be writing much, much more. I cannot let the best show on TV go that easily.

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TV Review: Breaking Bad's Granite State

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Granite State inches us closer to the impending showdown that will conclude the most beloved drama series since The Sopranos. Creator Vince Gilligan has said that next week's Breaking Bad finale will not leave any pieces dangling, adequately wrapping up five seasons of violence, deceit, menace, and gut-wrenching tension. I take a look at the ebbs and flows of this episode and what looks to be a conclusive, redeeming, but characteristically conflictive ending.

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2013 Emmy Award Winners

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Congrats to Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad, Tony Hale, among others. WTF to most. And a special thanks to Kevin Spacey for rising above it all. Here I list the major winners with brief reactions.

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Preview: New York Film Festival

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Here is my preview for the 51st New York Film Festival, to take place at the Walter Reade theater from September 27-October 13. If you live in New York and love movies, this is the place to be. The festival will be showing the newest films from the outstanding directors Steve McQueen, Coen brothers, Claire Denis, and Hayao Miyazaki, among many others. 

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TV Review: Breaking Bad's "Ozymandias"

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Breaking Bad's latest episode is entitled "Ozymandias," after a Shelley poem about a man recalling his fallen empire. Here we see Walt lose all of what he has built: family, 80 million, a home, a drug business of the purest blue meth. The most devastating episode to date, this one had me shaken. I still managed to here write a few of my most immediate thoughts. 

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TV Review: Breaking Bad, Ending Where it All Began

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It looks like this is going to be a perfect eight-episode run of Breaking Bad. The narrative precision of "To'hajiilee" was astounding, as all the pieces simultaneously came together and fell apart. Handcuffs and Miranda rights don't amount to much when the Aryan brotherhood shows up to put things in perspective. Jesse and Walt finally part ways in the first place that had truly cemented their partnership. And more....

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TV Review: Breaking Bad, Strictly Personal

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"Rabid Dog" is another great installment in the second half of Breaking Bad's conclusive fifth season. Thrilling, inventively shot, wonderfully narrated, it heightened the tension between its characters while putting to rest old hopes for peace. The end is nigh, and it won't come silently.

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Breaking Bad's "Confessions"

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There were many confessions to be found in last night's brilliant Breaking Bad episode. Starting with Todd and ending with Saul, Breaking Bad's past came back to haunt the characters and send events spiraling. Here is my review of what happened in the most meta episode of the series. 

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Recommendation

In Theaters: Fruitvale Station and The Spectacular Now

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2013 gave us two strong films that focused on the growing pains of young men. Fruitvale is clearly a more socially urgent film, as it is based on real life events, but The Spectacular Now also offers a sincere portrait of coming of age and the struggles of budding adulthood. Both are wonderfully acted and should, at least, be commended for their powerful lead performances.

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Fall Television Preview

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Here are the shows I will be watching in the Fall television season. They include comedies on Fox and NBC, as well as the great dramas Homeland and Boardwalk Empire. There will also be some zombies. Meanwhile, I have the best of the best, Breaking Bad.

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Breaking Bad Returns with Blood Money

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Breaking Bad returned this past Sunday with its first of eight final episodes. "Blood Money" was a perfect installment in every single way. The best show on television is back, and I couldn't be happier. Here is my recap.

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Must-Watch Single Season Series

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It is very sad when a show you like is cancelled. It is hard to know that the characters and stories you love to follow so much will be no more. However, it is even more painful when the series is only permitted one (just one!) season. Here are five of my favorite single-season series, including both comedies and dramas.

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2013 Emmy Awards Nominations

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The 2013 nominees were announced, and I here list them as well as my choices to win and reasons why. Among my favorites for great TV with wonderful acting are Homeland, Breaking Bad, and Top of the Lake. Meanwhile, the standout comedies include Louie, Girls, and Enlightened.

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Mad Men Ends: The Ballad of Sally and Don

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The sixth season of the acclaimed drama Mad Men just premiered, and I here reflect on how it shed light on Don's relationship to his job as an ad writer and his relationship to his daughter. I focus on Don, Sally, and all the products that have stood in for the real relationships he missed.

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Remembering James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano

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In light of the very sad loss of actor James Gandolfini, I here briefly remember his great character Tony Soprano. Although I recall him well from his film roles, my strongest connection to Gandolfini is through his work on the Sopranos, which will be the focus of this ode.

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The Mystery of Bob Benson

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Is Bob Benson’s big secret that he’s gay? I hope not. Here I offer some thoughts on the highly cryptic Mad Men character and the role he might have yet to play in season six.

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Ten Great Summer Movies

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Summer officially begins June 21st, but it's never too early to start preparing for the possible adventures to come during the summer months. For those on vacation and those stuck at home/school alike, these are some summer movies that will help you get your summer started.

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Game of Thrones and the Power of Television

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Rains of Castamere (or The Red Wedding) of season three of Game of Thrones was a powerful episode that epitomized the show's perspective on the family bond and its relationship to political success and happiness - both often at opposite ends of the spectrum. I believe the episode is a testament to the series' general portrayal of humanitarian values as the cause of both tremendous grief and the strength for survival.

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In Theaters: The Kings of Summer

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My review of The Kings of Summer, a sweet coming-of-age story set in the suburban woods. The highlight is Nick Offerman as a sarcastic and bitter - but well-meaning - father to the sensitive but charming young protagonist.

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Recommendation

Classic Romance: Romeo+Juliet

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In light of the impending release of the much anticipated Baz Luhrmann film The Great Gatsby, I return to my childhood to give a recommendation of 1996's Romeo+Juliet, also starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead male role. For my generation, it feels like a classic. Perhaps The Great Gatsby will have the same influence over the nine year-olds of today.

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Best of Television: Spring and Summer 2013

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I give a list of the shows I will be watching starting now through the summer. Mad Men and Game of Thrones have already premiered, so I've been watching those. But there's still more to anticipate, especially Breaking Bad's final eight episodes. 

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Ten Actors Ready For Their First Best Actor Academy Award

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What do Leonardo DiCaprio, Joaquin Phoenix, and Idris Elba all have in common? Along with seven other beautiful, talented men? They've never won an Academy Award for Best Actor. I would not be surprised if any of these ten actors were either nominated or awarded an Oscar within the next several years. Hopefully, I won't have given up on the silly award show by the time they make it.

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