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December 20, 2013 | By Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times Art Critic
This was the year that George W. Bush, five years after his calamitous presidency, came in from the wilderness and went on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" to say, "I think I'm a painter. " He presented his host with a grinning portrait, and the audience clapped. The statement was not uttered with the surety of "I'm the decider, and I decide what's best," the much-mocked 2006 message delivered to reporters as a vote of confidence for Donald Rumsfeld, embattled secretary of Defense.
December 20, 2013 | By Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times Theater Critic
Much that was old was new again in 2013, which turned out to be a very good year for the classics. It wasn't a bad year for new work either, even if too many of today's most provocative playwrights are getting short shrift from this town's nonprofit heavyweights. I was especially glad to see Samuel D. Hunter's "The Whale" at South Coast Repertory, but to catch "The Flick," the latest from Annie Baker (for my money, the most exciting American dramatist working today), I had to hop a flight to New York, where Playwrights Horizons was presenting the world premiere.
December 20, 2013 | By Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
Had Steve Jobs commissioned a song, it would have felt like Daft Punk's "Get Lucky. " Modern but ageless. Sleek, streamlined, memorable and futuristic. "We're up all night to get some, we're up all night for good fun," Pharrell optimistically declares, imagining joy on the horizon. Released in April, the single went on to soundtrack the year's wedding receptions, bar mitzvahs, drives along the Pacific Coast Highway and hairbrush-as-microphone bedroom singalongs, no small feat for two helmeted Frenchmen.
December 20, 2013 | By Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic
The revolution is no longer a fragile or tentative one. When I arrived in Los Angeles nine years ago, the city had just begun to turn away from a largely private urbanism and toward a new embrace of the public realm. The first phase of the Gold Line light-rail route, from downtown to Pasadena, had recently opened; construction on the Expo Line had yet to begin. James Hahn was nearing the end of a largely uneventful single term as mayor. Measure R, the transit tax that would help remake the city, was four years away.
December 19, 2013 | By Jon Healey
With Republicans hoping to make next year's election another referendum on the 2010 healthcare law (better known as Obamacare), the White House issued a report Thursday aimed at those calling for the law to be overturned. "Repeal Would Raise Costs, Strip Protections from Families Across America," the report declares. As usual, though, the administration left out one no-trivial part of the equation: how much those benefits are costing the public. The Times' editorial board has steadfastly supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, warts and all, because it makes a credible effort to make a more sustainable healthcare system.
December 19, 2013 | By Kate Mather
Students at Moorpark High School were dismissed early Thursday after a threatening note prompted a school lockdown and at least two campus searches by authorities. School officials notified the Ventura County Sheriff's Department about 8:20 a.m. after the note, written by a student, was found on campus, said sheriff's Capt. Don Aguilar. Details of the note's contents were not known, but Aguilar said it included some type of "threat to harm. " The person who found the note notified school officials "immediately," Aguilar said, and deputies were on scene within minutes as the campus was locked down.
December 19, 2013 | By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
As a film critic, I spend many hours thinking and writing about performances each year. Yet when the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. announced that it would not consider Scarlett Johansson's work in "Her" for a Golden Globes award, it stopped me. Their reasoning: She did not have a physical presence on screen. That we can agree on. But she did have a very real presence nonetheless. "Her" would not be the same film without her. The decision has an arbitrary, old-fashioned feel to it in this new techno-centric age. It seems particularly ironic given the topic writer-director Spike Jonze is toying with in the film.
December 19, 2013 | By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
It's been many years since I interviewed the late producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier, then the president of Unifrance, the key promoter of French films overseas, but I always remember a comment he made. Toscan, as everyone called him, was talking about the fate of his country's films in the world marketplace as well as in the U.S., but what he said could be applied to foreign-language cinema in general. "If you are on a street full of hamburger shops, you finally want to eat something else.
December 19, 2013 | By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
You may have heard or read or woke up suddenly thinking that we are living in a New Golden Age of Television. Some call it the platinum age, which sounds a little too Rodeo Drive to me. But let them have their fun. Most of this new golden/platinum age talk centers on drama, and mostly cable drama, which connotes seriousness and ambition (and sex and death); we are still living in the age of "The Sopranos. " When, on Dec. 10, the American Film Institute named its Top 10 shows of 2013, only one sitcom - HBO's political farce "Veep" - was among them.
December 19, 2013 | By Steven Zeitchik
The Internet was intrigued/tickled/bemused/generally in a state of Nolan-esque arousal this week after the debut of the first “Interstellar” teaser. In it, we experienced the sound of Matthew McConaughey's voice pondering the human condition, saw archival footage of space exploration and spotted a desolate farm house, all fueling various rumors, including one that the movie was about a crop shortage as much as space wormholes. (That sentence made more sense when we began writing it.)
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