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Nightcrawler

A perfect engine of corrosive satire, this drama follows the adventures of an amoral cameraman to its logical and unsettling end.

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Horns

There are some clever ideas in the script from Keith Bunin, based on the novel by Joe Hill, but they get mixed up in some…

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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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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Thumbnails 5/29/2014

1.

"Renowned Poet and Author Maya Angelou dies at 86": Rehema Ellis and Elizabeth Chuck of NBC News spotlight priceless footage of the legendary icon, who died yesterday. Related: Margalit Fox's detailed obit, "Maya Angelou, Lyrical Witness of the Jim Crow South," in The New York Times. See also: Roger Ebert's three-and-a-half star review of Angelou's 1998 directorial effort, "Down in the Delta." 

"Angelou was also a trailblazer in film. She wrote the screenplay and composed the score for the 1972 film ‘Georgia,’ and the script, the first-ever by an African-American woman to be filmed, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. In more recent years, it was her interactions with presidents that made headlines. In 1993, she wowed the world when her reading of her poem ‘On the Pulse of the Morning’ was broadcast live globally from former President Bill Clinton's first inauguration. She stayed so close with the Clintons that in 2008, she supported Hillary Clinton's candidacy over Barack Obama's. She also counted Nelson Mandela and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., as friends, and served as a mentor to Oprah Winfrey when Winfrey was starting out as a local TV reporter. When she was in her 20s, Angelou met Billie Holiday, who told her: ‘You're going to be famous. But it won't be for singing.’”

2.

"Facebook gives up on automatically posting everything you do online": The Verge's Ellis Hamburger illustrates how Mark Zuckerberg's dream is doomed to be unrealized, at least for the time being.

“Last week, Facebook made a small but very important change to Instagram. When I like a photo in the updated Instagram app, ‘Ellis liked a photo on Instagram’ will no longer be automatically shared back to Facebook. The same goes for photos posted to Instagram, which won't be automatically shared on Facebook unless you deliberately tap the Facebook button in the app's sharing screen. The update effectively removes Instagram's ability to automatically share anything back to Facebook, and today, Facebook is announcing its plans to take the idea much further. Automatically posted stories from apps like Pinterest, Farmville, Spotify, and RunKeeper are going to show up less and less in the News Feed, and Facebook will discourage developers from adding auto-posting to their apps at all.”

3.

"'2001: A Space Odyssey' Is Way Funnier With Jon Benjamin as the Voice of HAL": At Splitsider, Bradford Evans posted an appropriately side-splitting video featuring the voice of the "Bob's Burgers" star spliced into Stanley Kubrick's 1968 masterpiece. 

“The video comes from Late Night Basement, a live Brooklyn comedy show hosted by Chris Rose at which Benjamin was a guest. Hopefully at some point, Jon Benjamin is able to record the entire HAL audio track so that it can be edited into ‘2001’ and that will just be the version everyone watches from now on.”

4.

"The Fear of the New": New Yorker critic Richard Brody pens a magnificent piece on the future of cinema and the independent trailblazers who insist on pushing the form in new directions. 

“Criticism is a matter not only of acknowledging the qualities of films and filmmakers but of fighting for them, and against works that are deadeners of imagination and falsifiers of feeling. The early days of ‘Cahiers’ were marked by polemical thrust as well as deep discernment. When Eric Rohmer was removed as editor, in 1963, and replaced by Jacques Rivette, it was with the purpose of renewing the magazine’s status as an ‘instrument of combat’ in favor of the new cinema, which included the New Wave. And the magazine remains an instrument of combat to this day. Issue No. 700 of ‘Cahiers’ came out last week. It features a hundred and forty responses by movie people and other artists to a query from the editor-in-chief, Stéphane Delorme, about ‘an emotion that overtook you and the moment in a movie, whether a gesture, dramatic situation, or sequence of images, that sparked this emotion.’ (I admit to the honor of being among the contributors to this issue.) The very list of participants suggests the magazine’s emphases, as does the list of movies that can be culled from the submissions.”

5.

"Of Literary Television, and the Damage Done": Max Winter, an occasional contributor to RogerEbert.com, writes a provocative article for Indiewire on the ways in which modern television builds a troubling "toughness" in viewers.  

“Any artistic work, be it a sonata or a blockbuster, makes requirements of its viewers. On one level, of course, there’s suspension of disbelief—the idea that anything that seems improbable or unlikely within a story can be forgiven because the work in question is fictional, not reportage—and that’s just the way storytellers do things. In the case of these shows, though, something extra is required: a sense that one is, somehow, above the story being watched, that the viewer is obviously not capable of the depths to which the characters sink, nor would ever condone the illegal activities and trespasses depicted. This breeds, with time, a sense of viewer toughness: Of course we can watch a human body being dissolved in acid and then falling, in a bloody, gelatinous mess, through several layers of wood, cement and sheetrock. It’s for the purpose of a larger story. Or: of course, we can watch advertising executives drink themselves into a stupor at their desks. That all took place long ago, and we would never, ever do such a thing today. Who could? And we certainly wouldn’t cheat on our wives, either. The sense is that the viewer, being ‘above’ the actions portrayed on screen, can digest an episode or two and then move on, unhindered, unaffected. This toughness, though, is not necessarily foolproof.”  

Image of the Day

One of the best recent articles on the late cinematographer Gordon Willis (of "The Godfather" and "Manhattan" fame) can be found on the blog Catcher in the Reel: "Some Thoughts on the Passing of Gordon Willis and the Demise of the Auteur," written by Aaron Hunter.

Video of the Day

Editor Tony Zhou's latest video essay, "Edgar Wright - How to Do Visual Comedy," argues that more filmmakers should embrace the visual possibilities of cinematic humor.

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