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"How a Nickelodeon Cartoon Became One of the Most Powerful, Subversive Shows of 2014": Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson praises the fourth and final season of "The Legend of Korra," the follow-up to the network's excellent fantasy series, "Avatar: The Last Airbender." 

“Before they took major risks with their teenage characters on ‘The Legend of Korra,’ Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino created a modern animated classic in ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender.’ (Not to be confused with the M. Night Shyamalan film ‘The Last Airbender,’ which, everyone agrees, did a fairly clumsy job of capturing the magic of the original series.) The show, which aired from 2005-2008 on Nickelodeon, was a bona fide hit pulling in huge ratings for the network. The spiritual aspect of the show (mixed in with the adventure of its young characters and borrowing directly from Eastern influences) made it tremendously influential with its young (and old) audience. Not only that, but the success of the first series bought creators Konietzko and DiMartino a lot of leeway when it came to their spin-off, which premiered in 2010. It turns out they would need every ounce of it. […] It’s always tempting to watch something you’re not supposed to, but this week in particular, with its Sony hacks and cinematic censorship, the notion of watching something forbidden feels like an especially political move. ‘The Legend of Korra’ was never quite forbidden, never completely canceled, perhaps due to that lingering ‘Avatar’ goodwill. However, during the show’s first season, it aired in a coveted Saturday-morning slot. After killing off a character on-screen in the Season 1 finale, ‘Korra’ was considered too risqué and adult for the Saturday-morning crowd and was moved to Friday nights. But ‘Korra’ continued to air dark material. That, coupled with less-than-stellar ratings, an ill-timed leak of episodes, and any number of mysterious behind-the-scenes factors, resulted in the surprising move to online-only ‘Korra.’ In its final seasons, ‘Korra’ became too dangerous, too risky for Nick to air. But that outsider status made it downright irresistible to certain viewers. Especially teens.”


"50 Underground Filmmakers Everyone Should Know": An invaluable list from Flavorwire's Alison Nastasi, featuring filmmakers such as Stan Brakhage. 

“Robin Blaetz’s Avant-Garde Cinema of the Seventies essay is a nice primer on the time period for the uninitiated, with emphasis on the titan of experimental cinema, Stan Brakhage: ‘Stan Brakhage, who started making films in the 1950s and is the best known and most prolific filmmaker of the American avant-garde, continued his influential work throughout the 1970s. His signature first-person use of the camera, in which the movement of the apparatus defines consciousness itself, was expanded from documenting immediate perception to recording the filmmaker’s encounter with memory and the world at large. Brakhage himself best described his lifelong project in the opening lines of his often-reprinted manifesto of 1963, entitled ‘Metaphors on Vision’: ‘Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception…. Imagine a world before the ‘beginning was the word.’’ This union of body and camera that records the very process of experiencing the world regardless of all established codes of visual language is inherently documentary. Brakhage’s work as an editor was to join and layer what he had discovered in the world, to suggest in a single work of art the endless correspondences in and the richness of perceptual experience. Since Brakhage’s films, which range in length from minutes to many hours, manifest neither thematic unity nor recognizable technique, they are virtually indescribable. However, they reflect the concerns of the seventies to the degree that they use the world as raw material, yet eliminate all recognizable imagery through abstraction.’”


"How Headlines Change the Way We Think": A provocative piece from Maria Konnikova of The New Yorker.

“Psychologists have long known that first impressions really do matter—what we see, hear, feel, or experience in our first encounter with something colors how we process the rest of it. Articles are no exception. And just as people can manage the impression that they make through their choice of attire, so, too, can the crafting of the headline subtly shift the perception of the text that follows. By drawing attention to certain details or facts, a headline can affect what existing knowledge is activated in your head. By its choice of phrasing, a headline can influence your mindset as you read so that you later recall details that coincide with what you were expecting. For instance, the headline of this article I wrote—‘A Gene That Makes You Need Less Sleep?’—is not inaccurate in any way. But it does likely prompt a focus on one specific part of the piece. If I had instead called it ‘Why We Need Eight Hours of Sleep,’ people would remember it differently. As a result of these shifts in perception, problems arise when a headline is ever so slightly misleading. ‘Air pollution now leading cause of lung cancer,’ ran a headline last year in the U.K. paper Daily Express. The article, however, said no such thing, or, rather, not exactly. Instead, it reported that pollution was a leading ‘environmental’ cause; other causes, like smoking, are still the main culprits. It is easy to understand a decision to run that sort of opening. Caveats don’t fit in single columns, and, once people are intrigued enough to read the story, they’ll get to the nuances just the same. But, as it turns out, reading the piece may not be enough to correct the headline’s misdirection.”


"The millennial job paradox: America's next great generation loves the city—but can't work there": Salon's Henry Grabar discusses how quality jobs aren't following young people downtown.

“Elizabeth Kneebone at the Brookings Institution, who tracks job distribution in metro areas, has some dispiriting statistics on this front. Even during America’s recent urban renaissance — streetcars, apartment buildings and farmers markets, oh my! — the centrifugal force in job growth has not reversed. In all but nine of the largest 100 U.S. metro areas, the share of employment located downtown declined during the first decade of the millennium. The spilling of homes, work and infrastructure out of the American city was a deeply interconnected process. If it can be reversed, the return of residents, jobs and urban transport must naturally happen in concert. While two of those three have indeed returned to varying degrees, it looks increasingly like employment is lagging behind. If you’re looking for evidence of a shift toward urban life, the data in housing is probably the strongest. The country is building mores apartment buildings than at any time in decades, which is believed to portend a long-term structural shift. Most large U.S. cities have gained residents since the 1990s, reversing decades of population loss. According to Pew findings from this summer, the nation is virtually deadlocked between preferring a community where ‘the houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away,’ and one where ‘the houses are smaller and closer to each other, but schools, stores and restaurants are within walking distance.’ Nielsen reports that millennials are in favor of the latter option at a rate of nearly two to one.”


"The Other Wonder Woman: Michelle MacLaren Is the Best Director on TV": Editor In Chief Matt Zoller Seitz profiles the director of such acclaimed shows as "Breaking Bad," "Game of Thrones" and "The Walking Dead" for Vulture.

“Michelle Maxwell MacLaren has a vivid imagination. During a lunch last month at the Soho House in West Hollywood, I ask the director for details about the DC Comics epic Wonder Woman, which she was picked to direct after a lengthy, widely publicized search. She stirs her tea. Then she warns that at the moment there is no script, no release date. There’s not even an official green light from the film’s releasing studio, Warner Bros. — and even if there were, nondisclosure agreements and her paranoia about jinxing things would keep her mum. ‘I really, ­really, really can’t talk about this,’ she says, then gestures toward the restaurant’s picture windows, with their action-film-worthy Hollywood panoramas. ‘I just picture a drone coming in over the hills and crashing through the glass and flying over here and putting duct tape over my mouth, you know?’ The scenario is all Michelle MacLaren — a Michael Bay showstopper (glassed-in restaurant, drone attack!) with a Looney Tunes twist at the end (duct tape, what?). You see that same inventive mind at play in the work that got the Vancouver native her first superhero blockbuster: namely, her direction of sex-and-death-and-mayhem-packed episodes of cable dramas, including ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘Breaking Bad,’ and the upcoming ‘Breaking Bad ‘spinoff ‘Better Call Saul.’ In these TV-MA showcases, MacLaren’s fertile imagination fuses with the practical skills that she acquired during her two decades working behind the scenes, first as a crew-person and then a producer on feature films, TV movies, and series.”

Image of the Day

In The Dissolve, Calum Marsh dissects the year's most extraordinary shot from Jean-Luc Godard's "Goodbye to Language."

Video of the Day

Its-a-Wonderful-Life-Lost-End by y10566

A Saturday Night Live holiday classic: the hilariously dark alternate ending to Frank Capra's 1946 masterpiece "It's a Wonderful Life."

Matt Fagerholm

Matt Fagerholm is the former Literary Editor at and is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. 

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