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1.

"We're in Disarray: An Interview with Spike Lee": Sam Fragoso interviews the iconic filmmaker for The Atlantic.

“Fragoso: ‘In the past you've discussed the ‘feast-to-famine’ trend when it comes to African-American artists in Hollywood. Do you have any hope things will reduce that gap, that disparity?’ Lee: ‘My hope will be fueled when African-American members have green-light votes in the studio system. I'm talking about the Hollywood studio system, and it will start when people really start doing what they say. They say they believe in diversity, but the numbers say otherwise.’ Fragoso: ‘You mentioned your daughter is a film student at NYU, a school you've been teaching at for 15 years now. In your time there has your advice to burgeoning filmmakers changed?’ Lee: ‘Yeah, 15 years now. I just received tenure this summer. I'm also the artistic director of the Tisch School of Arts. But no, it has never changed. I always talk about how you gotta work hard, don't expect this thing to happen over night, and you gotta bust your ass to make this happen. To make it happen.’ Fragoso: ‘But the industry has changed.’ Lee: ‘You're right the industry has changed, but what I said hasn’t changed. That's still the formula. There's no magic bullet. But if you work hard that's never going to hurt what you're trying to achieve. I'm just trying to let them know the way it is, because they're still in school and I'm still out here dealing.’”

2.

"Why are Christian movies so painfully bad?": Vox's Brandon Ambrosino pens an excellent piece on evangelical Christian films such as the "Fifty Shades of Grey" counter-programming, "Old Fashioned."

“If what you really want out of a film is to see a particular message conveyed, then it's possible to excuse poor filmmaking quality as, to use Siedell's image, simply less decorative wrapping paper. A scene in ‘Old Fashioned’ illustrates this nicely. During one of their heart to hearts, Clay tells Amber how he came to run an antique store. He says that once ‘Jesus found him’ in his senior year of college, he had a change of heart, which ended up drastically altering his life's goals. So, asks Amber, ‘What do you want out of life?’ ‘To be decent,’ he answers. ‘That's it. A good person.’ Granted, he adds, his goals aren't heroic, nor are they ambitious. ‘I guess I just wasn't destined for greatness,’ he says. ‘I think the world has enough greatness,’ Amber reassures him. ‘Not enough goodness.’ The brief exchange stands almost as an apology for both this movie and the entire Christian film industry. Where Hollywood (in this analogy, at least) strives for artistic greatness; Christians try to be good. Hollywood wants to make masterpieces; Christians want to communicate good (i.e. explicitly Christian) messages. But why does ‘Old Fashioned’ place greatness and goodness in opposition the way it does? As any child who's ever prayed the familiar Christian mealtime prayer will tell you, God is both great and good at once. And in the Bible, God often seems interested in form and content. For example, according to the creation myth in Genesis, the trees God made are both ‘good for fruit and pleasing to the eye.’” 

3.

"'SNL 40th Anniversary' is a milestone, and not much else": Chicago Tribune's Steve Johnson writes a terrific review of last night's disappointing anniversary special. 

“Certainly Sunday’s 3½-hour live festival of celebrity cameos and Studio 8H self-indulgence did an awful lot of recalling past glories: One quick-snippet clip reel after another proved that punchlines need a setup and that medleys always are the sad part of an aging singer’s concert. Eddie Murphy, in a much hailed return to the ‘SNL’ stage, reminded us, sadly, that Eddie Murphy has probably had the movie career he deserved. The show provided a fair number of laughs, to be sure, amid not nearly enough new material. This is ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and those of us who have decried the show in one season or another tend to forget that, from the outset, its signature characteristic has been unevenness. ‘SNL’ has ensconced itself as America’s favorite hate watch — or its most despised love watch. The balance changes from season to season, from host to host, from sketch to sketch. But it’s never just one emotion. So Bill Murray’s lounge-singer rendition of the theme from ‘Jaws’ — a sequel to his early-days theme from ‘Star Wars’ — was the highlight of the evening; he’s terrific as an actor playing all the variations of morose, of course, but he’s also a pretty great, fully committed sketch comic. Steve Martin, in the opening monologue, reminded us why he became Steve Martin: So crisp, so sharp, so dry — and even willing to play along by reprising his 1970s pop hit ‘King Tut.’ Take note, Eddie Murphy.”

4.

"Why cinephiles need to care about PBS before it's too late": An essential reminder from The Dissolve's Andrew Lapin.

“What if there was a place for movies where nothing was impossible? A place where veteran auteurs shared the spotlight with first-time directors? Where diversity of voices was of the highest importance, rather than the lowest? Where budget size didn’t matter, and every topic, big or small, was covered with the same attention to detail? Where films could actually change the world?This place already exists, and it has for decades. It isn’t Tomorrowland. It’s the PBS documentary showcase made up of the nonfiction anthology series ‘POV’ and ‘Independent Lens.’ And it’s slowly dying.These shows are fixtures of the documentary scene, though like most of what PBS airs, they’ve typically existed apart from mainstream pop culture. ‘POV,’ which generally runs in the summer and fall, has been on for 27 seasons; ‘Independent Lens,’ which airs in fall, winter, and spring, is midway through its 16th season, which launched in January with the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner ‘Rich Hill.’ Together, these programs have given homes to more than 500 films, including some of the most memorable documentaries of the past few years: the formally daring experiments (‘The Act of Kiling,’ ‘Nostalgia For The Light’), headline-grabbing rabble-rousers (‘Bully,’ ‘The Invisible War’), and latest works by the genre’s established auteurs (Michael Apted, D.A. Pennebaker). The movies are made by a strikingly diverse lineup of filmmakers—the proportions of women directors and filmmakers of color represented in these shows are far higher than industry norms. And they all reached more potential viewers through PBS than they ever did in limited theatrical release.”

5.

"NPR host Diane Rehm emerges as key force in the right-to-die debate": As reported by Michael S. Rosenwald at The Washington Post.

“More than 20 years after Jack Kevorkian jolted America with his assisted-suicide machine, Rehm is becoming one of the country’s most prominent figures in the right-to-die debate. And she’s doing so just as proponents are trying to position the issue as the country’s next big social fight, comparing it to abortion and gay marriage. The move puts Rehm in an ethically tricky but influential spot with her 2.6 million devoted and politically active listeners. Now 78 and pondering how to manage her own death, Rehm is working with Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life organization run by Barbara Coombs Lee, a key figure in Oregon’s passage of an assisted-suicide law and a previous guest on the show. Rehm will appear on the cover of the group’s magazine this month, and she is telling John’s story at a series of small fundraising dinners with wealthy donors financing the right-to-die campaign. If asked, she said she would testify before Congress. Rehm’s effort comes less than a year after Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman suffering from terminal brain cancer, moved to Oregon to legally end her life, giving the issue a new spin. That she was young and beautiful helped proponents broaden their argument, making the case that it is a civil right, not just an issue for graying Baby Boomers.”

Image of the Day

Film critic Lisa Nesselson consults with her trusty bondage bear in her hilarious review of "Fifty Shades of Grey" for France 24.

Video of the Day

Mike Leigh's acceptance speech upon receiving the BAFTA Fellowship award builds to a wonderful punchline. 

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