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Guardians of the Galaxy

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Finding Fela

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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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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 8/22/2013

1.

"Disney is Trying to Win Over Gamers." By Sarah Kessler for Salon. Historically, Disney has treated games like accessories but the introduction of their title Disney Infinities indicates a serious shift in company strategy.

"Infinity’s budget, the largest the company has ever allotted a game, is on par with a motion picture, and its development timeline––which includes a line of physical toy characters and accompanying mobile games––extended three years. Disney has realized something important: The more time kids spend with digital screens, the more Disney competes not just with television and movie studios, but also technology companies such as Zynga and Facebook. And to do so effectively, Disney needs games."

2.

"The Fog of Chemical War." By Noah Schactman and Colum Lynch for Foreign Policy. Related: "US Spies, Experts: Chemical Weapons Likely in Syria Attack." By Noah Schactman and John Hudson for Foreign Policy. Eight months after allegations first surfaced that chemical weapons were used in Syria's civil war, we still have very few definitive answers--and the arrival of U.S. weapons inspectors in Damascus is unlikely to shed any new light.

"There was a time when such determinations appeared to hold geopolitical significance. The Obama administration repeatedly called the use of chemical weapons a 'red line.' But that line has now been crossed repeatedly, with little consequence. And that's led U.S. intelligence officials to confront another question: How massive would the chemical strike have to be in order to prompt America and its allies to intervene in Syria in a major way?"

3.

"GLAAD introduces a Bechdel Test for LGBT characters." By Matt Singer for The Dissolve. Inspired by the Bechdel Test, which rates a movie’s gender representation based on how many female characters have a conversation about something other than a man, the "Russo Test" asks the same questions regarding LGBT representation.

"It’s hard to instantly evaluate these kinds of broad tests, but at first blush this one does seem useful. Meanwhile, the rest of GLAAD’s Studio Responsibility Index report offered more analysis of Hollywood’s LGBT representation, including the fact that out of 101 major studio releases in 2012, just 14 featured characters identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (none included an example of a transgender character). Only six of those 14 films passed the Russo Test."

4.

"What if HBO picked up Winnie Holzman's show instead of The Sopranos?" By Alan Sepinwall for Hitflix. HBO executives almost picked up a series by the "My So-Called Life" creator about a female executive rather than the New Jersey mob drama. Imagine the alternative reality we'd be occupying today.

"Did history work out for the best? Yes. 'My So-Called Life' is perhaps the best series of its type ever made, and Holzman's recent ABC Family show 'Huge' had a lot to recommend it as well, but it's hard to imagine one of her shows becoming a popular success like 'The Sopranos'--which attracted both highbrow viewers who were there for the psychology and others who were just there to see people get whacked--and therefore hard to imagine a similar but estrogen-driven revolution happening as a result. The rest of the industry didn't just imitate 'The Sopranos' because it was great, but because it was a big damn hit. And though those imitations eventually led to too many derivative bastard sons of Tony Soprano like 'Ray Donovan' and 'Low Winter Sun,' I wouldn't want to live in a timeline without the many great shows that directly followed."

5.

"A Jersey crime novelist reflects on his hero Elmore Leonard." By Wallace Stroby for The Star-Ledger.

"When Leonard also started focusing on strong female characters, especially in 1977's 'Unknown Man No. 89' and 1983's 'La Brava,' [his] formula really began to click. He also developed a conversational, colloquial tone that made the pages fly, a shift he freely credited to the influence of George V. Higgins' groundbreaking 1971 crime novel 'The Friends of Eddie Coyle.' And when it came to writing dialogue, Leonard was the undisputed master. He reset the rules of how crime fiction characters spoke. In Leonard's books, they digressed, they wandered into anecdotes, they didn't finish sentences. In other words, they sounded like real people, not constructs on a page."

IMAGE OF THE DAY

From "Dallas Tower Dithers as Glass Roasts Museum Masterpiece." A new Texas gallery's glass roof boasts such high-tech engineering that the displayed art is warping. Hot.

VIDEO OF THE DAY

From MTV's "After Hours with Josh Horowitz." Simon Pegg on why "The Phantom Menace" is not a worthy "Star Wars" film. Best line: "Don't reduce the Force to some sort of viral condition." 

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