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What’s on TV Monday: ‘An Elephant Sitting Still’ on Criterion and a PBS Documentary

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AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL (2019) Stream on The Criterion Channel. Hu Bo’s first and only feature film follows four characters over the course of a single day in a grimly industrial city in Northern China. For almost four hours their lonely, depressing lives are slowly woven together against the backdrop of a stifling society and an indifferent world and. After one character, Wei Bu (Peng Yuchang), a student at a mediocre school, sees his attempt to stand up to a bully backfire, he flees the bully’s brother, Yu Cheng (Zhang Yu). He is joined by Huang Ling (Wang Yuwen), a classmate embroiled in an affair with a school official, and Wang Jin (Liu Congxi), a man estranged from his family. “Unsparing as Hu’s anatomy of moral drift may be, there is something graceful in his sympathetic attention to lives defined almost entirely by disappointment and diminished hope,” A.O. Scott wrote in his review for The Times.

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The More (and More) the Merrier

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Never mind that old Coco Chanel chestnut about taking one thing off before walking out the door. Today, you may want to add more to the mix.

One of the current preoccupations of fine jewelry collectors is an assemblage of necklaces that is layered, personal and playfully disheveled (or artfully edited, as the case may be). It is an ideal display for items à la mode — initial necklaces, chains, coin pendants — and whatever else finds its way into the jumble.

(The look even has an Instagram nickname: the #neckmess. Coined in 2016 by the Rhode Island-based designer Jessica Kagan Cushman, the term has made it into jewelry vernacular.)

According to Lauren Kulchinsky Levison, the vice president of the East Hampton boutique Mayfair Rocks, the practice of stacking and staggering necklaces is an approach favored by clients who “want to wear jewelry in a more magical way,” rather than the blunt force of big statement pieces. “Any jewelry designer who isn’t making necklaces that can be added into someone’s daily look and combine with all the other designers out there is missing out.”

One of those women, Lucy Wallace Eustice, co-founder of the handbag brand MZ Wallace, met her match in two jewelry labels that have been around for less than a decade: Marla Aaron and Foundrae. Both instill elements of storytelling in their outputs.

The foundation of the Aaron collection is a range of chains and locks, hardware-inspired elements (often bejeweled or engraved) that function as pendants or charm holders, or that can be joined together to create bracelets, necklaces or other adornments. Foundrae primarily creates jewelry and medallions embellished with symbols representing themes like resilience and trust.

Ms. Wallace Eustice’s daily changing lineup of necklaces draws heavily from both lines. She also incorporates finds she has amassed over the years, like a Cartier strand of petite gold balls and a crimson bead from a Left Bank vintage boutique in Paris that she adds to other pieces. The flexibility to mix and remix different elements of a necklace — pendants and charms, chains and beads — fits neatly into current thinking about conscious consumption: buying less and buying thoughtfully.

Part of the fun of the layered necklace look is “restyling it,” Ms. Wallace Eustice said. “You get a variety of looks out of fewer things that you mix up in different ways. It’s not prescriptive.”

Building a better #neckmess may not be prescriptive, but sometimes it might be curative. “We’re all at a point of searching for answers because things are so out of control,” the actress Busy Philipps said. At a moment when she was looking for what she described as “a daily reminder to stay grounded and let go,” she began collecting crystal necklaces, jewels that for millenniums have figured in mystical lore. And she said she discovered makers of “crystal and intention-based jewelry,” like Rock & Raw Jewellery, — who create pieces that are markedly more fashionable than the versions of yore.

New arrivals have joined her crystal talismans. First came a strand of opal beads (then another) from her close friend, the Los Angeles-based jeweler Irene Neuwirth. Those were followed by a zodiac pendant representing Ms. Philipps’s birth sign, Cancer, and a rainbow-colored tennis necklace from The Last Line.



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‘A Million Little Pieces’ Review: Cracking Up

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Adapting James Frey’s infamously fictionalized memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” the director Sam Taylor-Johnson niftily elides the book’s truthiness problem with an introductory quotation from Mark Twain.

“I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened,” it reads, before we see a physically wrecked James (vividly played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the director’s husband and screenwriting partner) slouched on a plane and headed to a Minnesota clinic. A substance abuser since childhood (crack and alcohol are his favorites), James is now 23 and one drink away from almost certain death.

So begins yet another ruin-and-rehab tale, one that initially tantalizes then flatly disappoints. In an intensely physical performance, Taylor-Johnson leaps and writhes and trembles through treatment as James endures a root canal, a broken-nose reset and a clarinet-playing roommate — all without anesthesia. Yet there’s no hint of what drove him to destroy himself and not a single reason for the audience to invest in his recovery.

Looking elsewhere for entertainment, we find an affable Billy Bob Thornton as a laid-back rehab regular, and a very touching Odessa Young as Lilly, James’s fragile love interest. Jeff Cronenweth’s cinematography is often eloquent and more creative than the script, especially in the film’s euphoric opening as James dances wildly, naked and out of his mind. Later, as he and Lilly slowly circle each other in an intimate, forbidden conversation, the camera hovers so protectively we wonder if it knows something that we don’t.

Moments like these brighten a movie that’s otherwise dull and sadly unmemorable. Mostly, it just reminded me how much I enjoy Billy Bob Thornton.

A Million Little Pieces

Rated R for unmediated dentistry and unruly penises. Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes.

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Taylor Swift’s Song ”Christmas Tree Farm” Is a Magical Masterpiece

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Getty Images for Entercom

She’s done it again! 

The reigning queen of modern pop is back with new music, but this time, it’s a Christmas song!

Taylor Swift unveiled her soon-to-be hit song Christmas Tree Farm.” The singer announced the news on Thursday via Twitter to adoring fans. “When in doubt, ask the itty bitty pretty kitty committee,” she tweeted out alongside a video talking to her cat Meredith. “When they shun you with silence, ambivalence, and judgmental brush offs…just put the song out anyway. NEW XMAS SONG AND VIDEO (made from home videos.) OUT TONIGHT.” 

Thank goodness Meredith agreed to release the song, because fans were treated to what is sure to be a classic Christmas staple for years to come. For those not up to speed with Taylor’s life story, she spent a lot of her childhood on her families Christmas tree farm, which makes this single extra special. 

From all of the personal home footage from the video and the intimate lyrics, this song paints a picture of a beautiful and idealistic time of year for the musician. Undoubtedly one of her most personal pieces yet. 

“I actually did grow up on a Christmas tree farm,” she also tweeted. “In a gingerbread house, deep within the yummy gummy gumdrop forest. Where, funnily enough, this song is their national anthem.”

The song and video is set to debut on Friday morning on Good Morning America as well. This isn’t Taylor’s first foray into holiday music either. 

She released Taylor Swift Holiday Collection EP in October 2007. That album, however, featured covers of George Michael’s “Last Christmas,” “White Christmas,” “Silent Night,” “Santa Baby” and her original songs “Christmases When You Were Mine” and “Christmas Must Be Something More.”

Hopefully Taylor and Meredith have more holiday music up their sleeve! 

E! News returns Monday, Jan. 6 at 7 a.m.!



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