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That the low-rated "Community" is returning to NBC on Thursday night at 8, for a fifth season, with creator Dan Harmon back at the helm a year after he was fired, defies all logic. But then, "Community" has never had much use for logic. The comedy — and the dysfunctional community college that provides its setting — has always operated by its own set of rules, consistently pulling off ideas that have no business working. At its best — and Harmon's first few episodes back get much closer to the show's peak than I was expecting — it is a marvelous contraption fueled equally by a love of pop culture and a commitment to character, that can do kitchen-sink realism one week and a stop-motion animated Christmas adventure the next.
In an age where hype is non-stop and films claim release dates two years away and viral marketing can sometimes eclipse the actual film it is advertising, what does it mean to say that a film is "anticipated"?
In many cases, there haven't even been official stills or images from some of the films that are on this list, and to the best of my knowledge, no one is preparing to camp outside for a month to be at the first show for any of them. We've seen moments in pop culture where the anticipation for something becomes an event all its own, almost always followed up by a moment where people realize the thing they waited for wasn't what they wanted after all, and it can be amazing to see the passions that anticipation stirs up in people.
Sometimes, it's a matter of a track record. If Bennett Miller is making a film, that's interesting to us automatically. There are two films on this list by the same team, Phil Lord and Chris MIller, and while they sound like totally different movies in the end, there are reasons in both cases for us to optimistic.
Sequels are often among the most anticipated films of the year because audiences grow attached to the things they love. People get excited to see Captain America again or the way Godzilla is coming back to the bigscreen because they have affection for earlier incarnations. That's the whole reason studios are in the remake and sequel business right now. They are building brands more than they're making movies more often than ever, so when we made this list, we tried to gauge just how excited people actually are about these films.
When the shortlist of Best Foreign Language Film Oscar contenders was announced before Christmas, the dreams of 67 competing entrants were dashed in one fell swoop -- an unkind cut considering the effort that goes into mounting campaigns for many of them, with no time to spare. In an interesting piece, John Anderson looks at the ins and outs of these low-profile but high-effort campaigns, particularly through those of three films -- from Montenegro, Ecuador and Peru -- that missed the cut. Publicist Kathleen McInnis explains why it's worth the effort, even if you know you have no shot: "It’s also the time of year when Hollywood is paying attention to foreign film. Which means I can get my filmmaker in front of audiences who might otherwise never see his film, get him meetings with agents and managers because he was his country’s official selection. I can get him in front of people, not so much for this film, but to help other films.” [New York Times]
There must be some scifi twist to Savannah. I mean, what else can explain the idea that Porsha and Kenya actually bonded during the girl bonding trip? For starters, no one actually bonds on these adventures, which are really about fueling festering resentments and encouraging the girls to get drunk and pull weaves. Plus, I would sooner think of Kenya stabbing Porsha through the eye or selling the girl's liver to buy a purse. Savannah has to be parked in some supernatural portal, because this was just one of the many, many weird moments in this week's show.
Tomorrow morning, we'll be publishing a piece about the 25 films we are most looking forward to in 2014, and it took quite a bit of back and forth before we decided on the final list. There are titles you'll immediately recognize on there, and a few you might not. Before we get to the main event, we thought we'd explain our thinking on a few high-profile films that you won't see on the list tomorrow.
A Million Ways To Die In The West
In Theaters: May 30, 2014
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Wes Studi
Why we didn't include it: MacFarlane's certainly got his fans, and "Ted" was underestimated by everyone before it came out. There's a huge difference, though, between a film where you have a movie star and MacFarlane voicing a character a la "Family Guy" and a film where MacFarlane is the actual live-action lead. This is brand-new territory for him, and we remain unconvinced that audiences will buy him as the star. Westerns are difficult to do write even when playing them straight, and until we see a trailer for this, we have no idea what sort of tone they're even playing.
HBO just aired the series finale of "Tremé" — you can read my review of the finale here — and as I often do when that show ends a season (or "The Wire" before it), I got on the phone with co-creator David Simon to talk about it.
But though we talked about a few specifics of the final season — for instance, what decisions he and Eric Overmyer had to make about how to work within a reduced budget that allowed them to make 5 episodes rather than the 10 or 11 of previous seasons — the conversation mostly veered into a discussion of where Simon finds himself at this stage of a critically-revered but commercially-unsuccessful career. As he notes at one point, he's now been a TV producer longer than he was a newspaper reporter, but he still isn't sure he quite belongs in the business — "I don't think I have demonstrated that I'm a particularly good fit for television" — and wonders if might leave HBO for another creative "insurgency," or leave the medium altogether.
So lots of that, and about the reactions to the series over the years, all coming up just as soon as I kill the rest of the day making myself pretty...
"Tremé" has come to an end. I had a lengthy interview with co-creator David Simon about the final season — but more, ultimately, about the past, present and future of his career — and I have a review of the series finale coming up just as soon as my shoes feel like science projects...
So remember how Fienberg and I spent much of 2013 talking about the very high-class problem of Too Much Good TV? Remember how each of us wound up having to do top 25 lists (mine & his), and at least one Best of the Rest list, in an attempt to recognize even a decent portion of all that quality?
Well, it looks like 2014 has the potential to be even stronger than this year was.
In a little over a week, the winter Television Critics Association press tour is starting, which means we've been deluged with screeners for many the notable network and cable shows debuting over the next month or two. It's an intimidating pile in terms of both quantity and quality. HBO's "True Detective" already feels like it has a very high position secured for next year's top 10 list, for instance. Had it debuted in the fall as planned, FOX's "Enlisted" would have put nearly all of the other first-year comedies to shame. "Community" is coming back with Dan Harmon at the helm again, and early returns are promising. "Justified" and "Shameless" and "Archer" are coming back in the next couple of months. Sundance is debuting another original series in "The Red Road." Netflix will give us new seasons of "Orange Is the New Black" and "House of Cards." "Sherlock" finally gives us its third season. "Hannibal" is back at the end of February, earlier than expected. The new seasons of "Game of Thrones" and "Mad Men" will presumably be on in their usual spring windows.
So even without "Breaking Bad," "Enlightened," or a few other shows that made one or both of our best-of lists for 2013, 2014 does not appear to be lacking for impressive stuff.
Dan, Liane Bonin Starr and I picked out some of the premieres — for both new and returning shows — we're most excited about, along with other notable premiere dates that we know about. We're not even really getting into shows for summer, or for next fall ("Boardwalk Empire" should be back then, for instance), but just covering the winter and what little we know about early spring. But buckle up and start carving out some time and some DVR space, kiddies. Looks to be a fun ride.
As we inch closer to the end of the year and one capped off by a trumped up "controversy" regarding Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street," maybe we should all take a moment to appreciate the fact that a 71-year-old artist can still rile us so.
As the year ticks to a close, the Central Ohio Film Critics Association has collectively spoken up with its list of nominees, and "12 Years a Slave" led the way with nine mentions. "Her" was a few steps behind with seven. Actors recognized for superlative bodies of work in 2013 include Amy Adams, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jennifer Lawrence. Check out the full list of nominees below and remember to keep track of all the ups and downs of the season via The Circuit.
It’s been the usual up-and-down Fall for “Saturday Night Live,” with as many hits as misses and more than a fair share of controversy swirling the production. But through it all, there have been many highlights. Some were silly. Some were slightly somber. All were compelling.
Here are the ten best segments of the Fall: