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Asghar Farhadi with Berenice Bejo and Tahar Rahim on the set of "The Past."
Asghar Farhadi with Berenice Bejo and Tahar Rahim on the set of "The Past."
Credit: Sony Classics

Asghar Farhadi on why 'The Past' is a brother to 'A Separation'

The foreign-language Oscar hopeful opens in limited release tomorrow

"You can't go home again," wrote Thomas Wolfe, and that much-worn phrase echoes mournfully in the mind as one observes the chilly corridors and gaping personal distances of "The Past," Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi's first feature since winning the Oscar for his crisp, complex and universally acclaimed marital drama "A Separation."

An elegantly turned melodrama, detailing the terse emotional warfare that ensues when an Iranian man travels to Paris to finalize his divorce from his estranged French wife, it might well have been titled "Another Separation": Farhadi's fascination with the politics and shadow structures of marriage and family -- within and without Iranian tradition-- is a binding element of his filmography.

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<p>The &quot;X Factor&quot; Top 3</p>

The "X Factor" Top 3

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' Season 3 Finale - The Winner is...

It's judgement time for Alex & Sierra, Carlito Olivero and Jeff Gutt

We're only two hours away from the conclusion of Season 3 of "The X Factor."

And, sadly, we're down to the last two hours of Demi Lovato's run as "X Factor" mentor/judge. I hope they replay her performance rapping along to "Baby Got Back" as a tribute.

In previous recaps, people have accused me of being biased in favor of Alex & Sierra, as if they're not in some way biased toward whoever they happen to be rooting for. Since there are only two hours remaining in this season, I'll just own it: If Alex & Sierra don't win tonight, I'm burning this whole thing to the ground. [Disclaimer: I'm not sure that Alex & Sierra are going to win and I'm unlikely to burn anything to the ground.]

Click through for my full finale live-blog, as we spend quality time with Pitbull and Lea Michele and wonder if this is the last time we'll see "X Factor" or Simon Cowell on our TVs.

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Liane Bonin Starr's Top 10 Reality TV Shows for 2013

 Liane Bonin Starr's Top 10 Reality TV Shows for 2013

Starr Raving's Reality TV Top 10 for 2013 'Naked and Afraid,' 'Duck Dynasty'

It was a fun year in the great wilderness of basic cable

Okay, before anyone starts commenting, "What about 'The Amazing Race'?" or "This isn't a complete list without 'Survivor'!" or whatever variation you might be contemplating, let me clarify that my top 10 list of reality shows doesn't encapsulate all of the broad and varied spectrum of reality TV. For my own sanity, I've been limiting the parameters of my top 10 to the realm of basic cable (although I am thinking next year I might change the focus simply to the content itself as opposed to where you find it, such as "so bad they're good" shows or competition reality or something like that, just to keep it interesting). There is one notable exception this year, but I'll get to that in a moment. 

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'Hannibal' returns Feb. 28

"Hannibal" returns Feb. 28
Season 2 of the NBC series will air on Fridays in the spring.

Michael Peña joins Fox's "Broadchurch" remake
He'll play the father of the dead child in "Gracepoint."

TLC picks up "My Five Wives"

A special on the polygamous Williams family will become a regular series after attracting 1.9 million viewers in September.

Ellen DeGeneres responds to Marine's death skydiving while on a trip from "Ellen" show

Ellen said in a statement she's been in contact with the wife whose husband died during their trip to Australia.

Preview "Community's" new animated Christmas short
Jeff Winger is alone for the holidays in "Miracle on Jeff's Street."

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Katie Couric's talk show canceled

Katie Couric's talk show canceled
Disney and ABC announced that "Katie" will end in June after two seasons.

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<p>Brie Larson in &quot;Short Term 12&quot;</p>

Brie Larson in "Short Term 12"

Credit: Cinedigm

Black Film Critics Circle awards '12 Years a Slave,' Brie Larson

Five prizes for Steve McQueen's circuit champ

The Black Film Critics Circle has named "12 Years a Slave" the best film of the year. Steve McQueen's drama won five prizes, but the group eschewed the usual bandwagon in the Best Actress field by finding room to recognize "Short Term 12" star Brie Larson. Check out the full list of winners below and remember to stay current with the season's goings-on at The Circuit.

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<p>&quot;Gravity&quot;&nbsp;star Sandra Bullock won two prizes:&nbsp;the &quot;Kick Ass Award For Best Female Action Star&quot; and &quot;Actress Defying Age and Ageism.&quot;</p>

"Gravity" star Sandra Bullock won two prizes: the "Kick Ass Award For Best Female Action Star" and "Actress Defying Age and Ageism."

Credit: Warner Bros.

'12 Years a Slave' named best film of the year by Alliance of Women Film Journalists

And boy do they hate 'The Counselor'

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists has crowned "12 Years a Slave" the years Best Film and given Ridley Scott's "The Counselor" a shellacking. The latter film "won" three awards: the AWFJ Hall Of Shame Award, the Actress Most in Need Of A New Agent award (Cameron Diaz) and the Movie You Wanted To Love But Just Couldn’t Award. Well, then. Check out the nominees here and the full list of winners below. As always, keep track of it all via The Circuit.

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<p>Jason Schwartzman as Richard Sherman in&nbsp;&quot;Saving Mr. Banks&quot;</p>

Jason Schwartzman as Richard Sherman in "Saving Mr. Banks"

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Interview: Composer Richard Sherman on 'Saving Mr. Banks'

What did he really think about P.L. Travers and Walt Disney?

Richard Sherman and his late brother Robert wrote some of the most beloved songs in movie musicals, including “Trust in Me” from “The Jungle Book,”  “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” from the musical of the same name, the theme to “Winnie The Pooh,” and “Bedknobs & Broomsticks’” “The Age of Not Believing.”  But it is for their work on “Mary Poppins” that they are most remembered through such songs as the Oscar-winning “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Feed The Birds.”

“Saving Mr. Banks,” which opens wide Friday (20), tells the true story of how Walt Disney spent 20 years trying to woo “Mary Poppins” book author P.L. Travers into signing over the rights to create a movie about the beloved nanny. More specifically, the film deals with a two-week period in 1961 during which The Sherman Brothers (played by Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak), writer Don DeGradi, and British author Travers struggled to come up with a story line for the film that would meet her approval.

“Those two weeks I would hate to go through again,” Sherman, 85, says. Even though he loved “Mary Poppins,”  working with Travers was even worse than it appears in “Saving Mr. Banks,” he says. “Mrs. Travers was very, very difficult.”

He adds that neither he nor his brother knew anything of her backstory that the movie lays out: that she was raised in Australia as Helen Gough and that she spent much of her young life dealing with her charming, yet alcoholic, father.

In addition to handling the taciturn, stubborn Travers, the Shermans, Disney, and DeGradi had to deal with the fact that her book didn’t have much of a plot. “When we first read the books, we thought ‘There’s no story here. We have to tell the story,” he says. “There’s a reason Mary Poppins comes. It’s because it’s an unsettled household. The father’s paying no attention and the mother is off with the suffragette movement. This is stuff we trumped up.”

Disney loved the plot twists that the Shermans help devise, as well as their songs for “Mary Poppins,” but he was often spare with his compliments to their faces. “He never said anything was great,” Sherman says. “Behind our back, he’d say he loved our songs, but [to us], he’d say, ‘That’ll work.’ That was his praise. That’s what he said to everybody.”

Sherman, who worked as a consultant on “Saving Mr. Banks,”  told screenwriter Kelly Marcel such nuances, which found their way into the script and then into Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Disney. Of the fact that his brother, Travers, DaGradi, and Disney have all passed, leaving him the only one with first-hand knowledge of the story, Sherman ruefully says, “I’m the last one standing.”

For Sherman and his brother, Disney “was like a second father. We both loved him.” In fact, he quickly rises to Disney’s defense when reminded that Disney’s legacy has been tarnished by accusations of racism and anti-semitism. “Let me tell you something, a lot of people talk about Walt in negative ways. There was nothing negative about Walt Disney,” he says. “He was dedicated to doing great things. He reached for the stars all the time. He was a wonderful, wonderful boss.”

“Mary Poppins” blew the Sherman Brothers’ careers wide open. They became staff writers as Disney and worked on dozens of projects for both the Mouse and other studios over the decades. Sherman continues to write, often feeling his brother’s spirit with him. But he often thinks back to “Mary Poppins.” “It meant so much to us,” he says. “We knew this would be the doorway to our success as songwriters because we had been writing songs and had a couple of hits, but nothing huge. This was a huge thing for us.” 

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<p>Hugh Dancy and the rest of the &quot;Hannibal&quot;&nbsp;gang will be back in February.</p>

Hugh Dancy and the rest of the "Hannibal" gang will be back in February.

Credit: NBC

NBC's 'Hannibal' to return in February

Season 2 of Bryan Fuller's Hannibal Lecter reboot will air on Fridays

Bryan Fuller and David Slade's "Hannibal" was one of my very favorite series of 2013, an imaginative and visually stunning reboot of Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham that managed to shake off all the dust that had accumulated around the characters over several decades, film adaptations and imitators. But it was also a very low-rated show that was renewed by NBC largely because it's an international co-production that costs less than their other dramas.

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<p>We've seen Ted Mosby propose to the Mother, but we probably won't see their first meeting til the end of March.</p>

We've seen Ted Mosby propose to the Mother, but we probably won't see their first meeting til the end of March.

Credit: CBS

'How I Met Your Mother' series finale to air in March

Earlier finale means fewer repeats before the end, and a chance for CBS to settle next year's schedule

After asking "How I Met Your Mother" fans to wait nine seasons for the moment where Ted Mosby comes face-to-face with the woman of his dreams, CBS won't try to stretch that ninth season all the way until May, instead airing the one-hour series finale on March 31.

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'How I Met Your Mother's' final episode airs March 31

"How I Met Your Mother's" final episode airs March 31
The long-running CBS comedy is bowing out early with a one-hour finale, followed by the series premiere of "Friends with Better Lives." On April 14, "2 Broke Girls" will assume the 8 o'clock Monday timeslot.

Hawaii to host a 10-year anniversary "Lost" event in 2014

Details are sketchy, but "Lost 2014: The 10-Year Fan Gathering" is scheduled for Sept. 20-22 in Oahu. "Lost" premiered on Sept. 22, 2004.

Hoda & Kathie Lee will host a New Year's Eve special on NBC

"A Toast to 2013" is set for 8 pm on Dec. 31.

Adam Scott promises a "live birth" for the "Parks and Rec" season finale
"It's going to be a lot like 'The Sound of Music' with some sort of mammal or reptile giving birth and/or hatching from a reptile or amphibian or insect egg—we haven't worked out all the details," he says.

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Barbara Walters wins the night with her final 'Most Fascinating People' special

Barbara Walters wins the night with her final "Most Fascinating People" special
The special -- which named Hillary Clinton No. 1 "most fascinating" person of 2013 -- also featured the "Duck Dynasty" clan, excluding Phil Robertson, who instead went duck hunting.

Matt Smith will be naked in "Doctor Who" Christmas special
The BBC has released two pics of The Doctor in the buff.

Watch the trailer for "Salem"
WGN America's first scripted series, set in 17th century Massachusetts, is from Brannon Braga and stars Shane West, Ashley Madekewe, Seth Gabel and Xander Berkeley.

Fox renews "MasterChef Junior"
The kids' competition will be back for Season 2.

See Sacha Baron Cohen revive his Ali G character for FXX
Cohen yesterday filmed NSFW intros for FXX's "Ali G: Rezurection" with bikini babes in a hot tub.

"Suburgatory" returns with animated opening credits
Watch the Jan. 15 opening inspired by Etsy paper dolls.

Amber Portwood tells Dr. Phil: I was high the entire time on "Teen Mom"
"This is actually my first time on stage sober, so I'm really nervous," she says. "Every time you see me on that show, I am high."

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