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Penguins of Madagascar

The pacing is so zany, the jokes are so rapid-fire and the sight gags are so inspired that it’s impossible not to get caught up…

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Horrible Bosses 2

The law of diminishing returns, which has afflicted so many comedy sequels over the years, strikes again in “Horrible Bosses 2,” further proving that just…

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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 9/4/14

1.

"How 'Empire Records' Became The Unlikely Film of a Generation": BuzzFeed's Anne Helen Petersen takes a look back at Allan Moyle's 1995 cult classic.

“The ‘Empire Records’ plot is fairly straightforward: An employee of an independent record store, tasked with closing up the store for the night, discovers plans for a corporate takeover—a fate, as anyone familiar with ‘90s cultural politics knows, akin to capitalist colonialism. The employee thus takes the day’s earnings to Atlantic City, hoping to win enough to save the store. He fails, and the rest of the movie is ostensibly spent figuring out how to protect the store from encroaching Music Town overlords. That’s just the scaffolding, though, on which the real charm of ‘Empire Records’ is hung: For those who loved the movie, its indie versus corporate plot was always secondary. It was the movie’s depiction of misfit teens—and the interactions between them, all of which seemed so pregnant with exceptional meaning—that resonated. These characters—a good girl, a slutty girl, a gothy girl, an artist boy, an adorable weirdo, a beatnik, a too-cool rocker, a hippy stoner, a wannabe—with whom nearly any high schooler could identify or toward whom they could direct their desire. It was, as one crew member pointed out, ‘Breakfast Club’ at the record store—but even weirder.”

2.

"Meet BuzzFeed's Secret Weapon": Inc.com's Christine Lagorio-Chafkin interviews Dao Nguyen, the data genius who quintupled BuzzFeed's traffic over two years.

“This c'est la vie, let's move on attitude works well at Nguyen's current employer, BuzzFeed, where she first arrived in the summer of 2012. So does her zest for experimentation. In fact, it works really, really well. BuzzFeed is famous not just for its quizzes and listicles, but also for pioneering a data-driven approach to Web content, and the more well-known BuzzFeeders are quick to point out exactly how crucial a role Nguyen plays there as its vice-president of growth and data. ‘She brings this incredibly high-powered, abstract way of thinking to editorial. We have a lot of data; she is really good at seeing what it means,’ says BuzzFeed's editor-in-chief Ben Smith. ‘She just has a lot of intellectual wattage.’ Although Nguyen, 40, technically manages a team of just 10 people, she's become an in-office celebrity and is hailed as one of the key people—if not the key person—responsible for the company's outstandingly rapid growth in traffic over the past year.”

3.

"A Thousand Years of the Persian Book": At Iranian.com, Kevin Schwartz reports on an exhibition celebrating "a millennium of Persian textual production in Washington, D.C."

“‘A Thousand Years of the Persian Book’ focuses on a millennium of Persian textual production, not just from Iran, but also from other corners of the Persian-speaking world. Today, the region includes countries such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, parts of Uzbekistan (e.g. Samarkand and Bukhara), and even remote corners of Western China, but at one period, it also extended to the Indian subcontinent (where Persian enjoyed the status of the language of the court and the literati under the Mughals) and present-day Turkey. In his monumental work, The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization, Marshall Hodgson defined the lands where ‘cultural traditions in Persian or reflecting Persian inspiration’ were prevalent as ‘Persianate’. Persianate traditions are not restricted to peoples of Persian descent or ethnicity, but rather embraced by those exposed to its influence. The expansive cultural topography, and more specifically, literary geography, are the focus of the exhibition at the Library, featuring texts produced by Iranians, Indians, Tajiks, Afghans, and Parsis (among others), all united by their attachment to a particular linguistic and aesthetic medium.”

4.

"Sugar, Spice and Guts": A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis of The New York Times argue that "the representation of female characters in movies is improving."

“In the past, some actresses had a measure of power or at least staying power in Hollywood, but too many more were typecast as bratty sisters, dutiful daughters or sexpots, and then cast aside. And some of their most memorable characters were, like their adult counterparts, defined by hypersexuality or asexuality. Such was the case in 1962, when Dolores Haze, better known as Lolita, was the barely pubescent object of her stepfather’s lust in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the notorious Nabokov novel. That same year, Scout Finch was the object of her father’s moral instruction in the movie version of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ A year later, Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique’ rocked the country, becoming a best-selling portent of second-wave feminism. What has changed in the years since? Quite a lot off screen, if not nearly enough on: Nymphets and tomboys still show up, as do brainy, funny, scary and tough girls. The picture of girlhood at the movies has become an increasingly diverse, sometimes contradictory array of identities, including bold revisions of age-old archetypes and brave new heroines.”

5.

"Persona Non Grata: The Persona of 3 Women on Mulholland Dr.": At Indie Outlook, I explore the shared themes in three deliriously provocative abstract masterpieces by iconic filmmakers Ingmar Bergman, Robert Altman and David Lynch.

“The cinematic styles of Bergman, Altman, and Lynch are wildly different, but they each utilize some of the same filmmaking techniques to tell this singular story. Each film includes an atonal music score that reverberates under every image, creating a brooding sense of unease. Although only Bergman actually melded together the two women’s faces, there are numerous shots in each film that depict a merging of the two women’s souls. In Diane’s dream, when Camilla sleeps in bed next to Betty, mumbling ‘silencio,’ the camera shoots at an angle where half of Betty’s face looks over Camilla’s profile, and their features line up, creating an image similar to Bergman’s. During the ‘3 Women’ dream sequence, Mille and Pinky sit motionless next to a pool, in the exact same pose as the twin girls who work with them. Not only does the use of twins by Altman in his subverting of the horror genre foreshadow Duvall’s involvement with more sinister twins in ‘The Shining’ (1980), it also emphasizes the growing parallels between the two women. There are also shots, notably an angle where Pinky dresses in a mirror while Millie gabs through a doorway, that force the separated women to look as if they’re facing and blurring into one another. All three filmmakers use slow pacing and jarring visuals (such as brilliant flashes of white light) to give the film the rhythm and texture of a brooding, and even mournful, nightmare.”

Image of the Day

This unforgettable image is included at the top of "Death to the Gamer," an article by Jacobin's Ian Williams that tackles the moral decay of gamer culture.

Video of the Day

The Treehouse from Sam Shapson on Vimeo.

Sam Shapson and A.J. Sheeran's acclaimed, award-winning short film, "The Treehouse," is an ingeniously crafted wonder filled with haunting imagery, boding well for the future of both filmmakers.


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