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The Magnificent Seven

Rarely have so many charismatic actors been used in a film that feels quite as soulless as Antoine Fuqua’s update of The Magnificent Seven.

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The Age of Shadows

At 140 minutes, Kim sometimes loses the rhythm of his spy thriller, but he's such a confident filmmaker—and his leading man such a magnetic presence—that…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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1.

"How Many White People Does It Take To Ruin a Good Joke?": New Republic's Jazmine Hughes explores the gentrification of racial humor.

Eddie Murphy’s 1984 ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit, ‘White Like Me,’ was a breakthrough—white people made fun of for a mainstream, if not primetime, audience. In a riff on ‘Black Like Me,’ an autobiography of a white man who travels through the South disguised as a black man in order to see racism firsthand, Murphy dons whiteface (and brilliantly stiffens his gait) in order to investigate a world previously unavailable to him, which turns out to be full of cocktail parties and complimentary newspapers. ‘Well, I learned that we still have a very long way to go in this country before all men are truly equal,’ he says at the end, ‘but I’ll tell you something—I’ve got a lot of friends, and we’ve got a lot of makeup.’Comedy about white people can obviously vary in tone. Paul Mooney’s 1993 album, ‘Race,’ was unapologetically scathing. Between jokes built on a by now familiar template—basically, Can you believe white people do this one crazy thing?, over and over—the former ‘In Living Color’ and ‘Sanford and Son’ writer directly aired earnest and profound frustrations with white members of his audience. (One of Mooney’s ‘white people be likes’ went as follows: ‘See, with race, white folks have been racist against everybody, and running shit, and as long as they’re in charge, it’s cool.’)”

2.

"Jimmy Fallon Isn't Funny": Tim McCloskey of Philadelphia Magazine offers his opinion on the hugely popular late night host. 

“Back in the ’90s, I lived in an apartment off Sunset Boulevard, where I had quite the assortment of neighbors, including Ellen ‘Grandma Walton’ Corby, Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead, and a struggling actor named Oscar Nuñez. Oscar was a performer at the Groundlings sketch comedy school, and I’d go see him perform. I remember one show in particular in which each performer got five minutes to do a character of their own creation, and after watching one excruciatingly annoying character named ‘The Masshole,’ I wanted to walk out. But I stayed to support Oscar. The Masshole bit was just five minutes of a guy doing a bad Boston accent. No jokes. Just an accent, like ‘My brudda pahked his cahr in the yahd not fahr from Havaaad Yahd. It’s a wicked Camaraaa…’ I remember thinking at the end of the gig, ‘Don’t quit your day job, kid.’ That kid was Jimmy Fallon. And now, many years later, the unthinkable has happened: Jimmy Fallon is everywhere. Forget his day job, the kid now has the most desirable job in comedy. I know that the world is a cruel, unjust, chaotic place. I just don’t understand how mealy-mouthed Jimmy Fallon became host of ‘The Tonight Show.’ He’s not funny. He’s not a good actor. He’s not a good interviewer. And so far, he has yet to have an original idea.”

3.

"Why are creative women dismissed as 'quirky'?": The Guardian's Eva Wiseman illuminates our sexist perspective on modern artistry.

Miranda July has written books, and feature films, and made records, and her art projects have involved things like shared emails and phone apps that connected strangers. Every time she unpicks tiny humiliations, exploring people’s inner lives, and every time critics say she’s quirky. To be quirky is to be whimsical. To be frivolous, naive, awkward, self-conscious. To have disproportionately large eyes and a faraway gaze. It is to be twee. It defines a character by her eccentricities rather than inviting you to see them as a whole. Quirky suggests a description of appearance, of colourful tights, beads, and people singing where they’re not meant to sing, but it quietly nods at something deeper. It dismisses the thing, the film, book, woman (quirkiness, I think, has become a gendered trait) as frivolous. Quirky is a pat on the head of art. It is the ‘Calm down, dear’ of the ageing critic, the patronising wink. The ‘aaah.’ It pisses me off particularly because I find myself being wary of giving an opinion. Framing my conversation about a film or book with facts about myself. ‘I liked it, but then I wear a lot of eyeliner.’ That sort of thing. It’s awful and I’m embarrassed about it. It’s a protective shield, slightly self-hating, that I say, I think, to acknowledge that I know the work is considered ‘quirky,’ but that in spite of this I still enjoyed it. Because to not acknowledge its quirkiness is to risk having your opinion ignored altogether. But that’s what brought me here, with this book that I might have been nervous to admit I love, because that single word crushes not just the novel itself but its readers, too.”

4.

"Suddenly CinemaScope": Patrick Wang, director of the masterful 2011 drama, "In the Family," analyzes the "newly crowned" widescreen aspect ratio, 2.35:1. 

“I don’t expect many people get excited about conversations on aspect ratio, but I believe that choosing the extremely wide 2.35 anamorphic perspective can have dramatic effects on a film that eclipse the preferred technical topics of camera, capture format, lenses, and sensors. Composition is not technology, and so its lack of novelty may inspire less conversation, but I think the choice of canvas dimensions is paramount. The ability to contextualize and relate subjects geometrically is a powerfully efficient tool for expressing immediate emotion and narrative, as well as broader social, political, and spiritual forces. To focus this conversation, I would like to acknowledge two things. First, there is a lot of current filmmaking concerned with the question of aspect ratio, including a number of films that use rare, experimental, or multiple aspect ratios. Second, there are also many solid reasons to employ the 2.35 aspect ratio, and a long list of triumphant realizations in this category. I would like to set aside these two worthy subjects to instead address this narrower question: for independent film, how did 2.35 go from being an aspect ratio to being the aspect ratio, and what are the consequences for composition?”

5.

"Throwing Shade: An Erotic 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Fan Fiction": A brilliant piece by Charles Bramesco of Movie Mezzanine

“There’s nothing in this world that gets my blood pumping, that makes my breath shallow, that invigorates my inner goddess quite like trash cinema. I live for the garbage, and I’ve been looking forward to one upcoming release that would satisfy me in ways I never imagined possible. And now the day is finally here! After reading the source material, rereading the source material, waiting months of anticipation, and feverishly viewing trailers on-repeat, my body is ready for the new white whale of spectacularly awful filmmaking. The marquee reads ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ Already, my heart is racing. After I buy my ticket, I look down at the title printed on my stub and something deep within me quivers. I can feel the badness seeping out of the auditorium; I can smell blood. I hustle into the auditorium and settle into the squashiest seat, at the very center. Just as soon as I’ve shuffled off my jacket, I turn to place it on the seat next to me. To my surprise, a dark, brooding, mysterious man with a strong jawline has claimed the seat. ‘Oh! Sorry. I didn’t see you there.’”

Image of the Day

RogerEbert.com Editor In Chief Matt Zoller Seitz discusses "The Story Behind 'The Americans'' Excruciating, Beautifully Shot Tooth-Pulling Scene" for Vulture.

Video of the Day

Doug Walker, a.k.a. The Nostalgia Critic of ChannelAwesome.com, investigates whether "Tom and Jerry Kill Themselves" in their allegedly final cartoon.

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