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Thumbnails 6/23/14


"'Star Wars' Director Rian Johnson May Bring Balance to the Force": The Daily Beast's Rich Goldstein expresses optimism over the choice of "Looper" director Johnson to direct two upcoming "Star Wars" installments. Related: At Movie Mezzanine, Adam W. Hofbauer argues why the sci-fi franchise needs a Chinese director. See also: Roger Ebert's three-star review of Johnson's breakout film, "Brick," in which he writes, "This movie leaves me looking forward to the director's next film; we can say of Rian Johnson, as somebody once said about a dame named Brigid O'Shaughnessy, 'You're good. You're very good.'"

"Every protagonist in previous Johnson films have been orphans, or their parents were nonexistent, a recurrent theme in 'Star Wars.' Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s characters in 'Brick' and 'Looper' both come from essentially parentless households and the brothers in 'The Brothers Bloom' were perennial orphans, bouncing from house to house as their various misdeeds got them kicked out of a never-ending string of foster homes. Not to mention, the brothers spend most of the movie pretending to kill each other as they perpetrate various cons, including one dramatic scene when, in a struggle for control of a gun, Adrian Brody shoots Mark Ruffalo in the heart, and then cradles him in his arms as he slowly bleeds to death (although to be fair, that time it was just for show). Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that, as the middle part of the upcoming trilogy, Johnson’s episode will feature intense family betrayal possibly by way of execution style killing. You know, for kids."


Feminist-Minded Critical Memes Like ‘The Bechdel Test’ and ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girls’ Are Losing Their Power”: Elisabeth Donnelly of Flavorwire deconstructs how the aforementioned critical terms rapidly went from empowering to diminishing. See also: Critic Kartina Richardson's brand-new site, Mata Wata, featuring photos, videos and articles galore.

“There are diminishing, and arguably shallow, returns to saying, hey, does this work of art have x and y? If it does, then OK, fine, it works. That’s not to say that stuff that passes might not indeed be worth looking at — only that that this shouldn’t be the only metric of excellence or interest. Any mention of ‘the Bechdel test’ will invariably number the movies and TV that don’t pass. But then, what about last year’s Sandy-in-Space movie 'Gravity,' an exception, or the roundly reviled piece of sexist crap, ‘The Other Woman,’ a film with a core of three actresses and Kate Upton, which probably would pass. Do I need the Bechdel test to tell me that summer tentpole films feature female characters who are one-dimensional and mostly screaming wives? I know this. Articles still need to be written about what’s wrong with ‘strong female characters,’ particularly in kids’ movies like ‘The Lego Movie.’ We need more of an explanation than just ‘the Bechdel test.’”


"Oliver Stone Presents": Jim Tobler of Montecristo Magazine reports on the Oscar-winning director's visit to Moody Middle School.

“The students were rapt with attention, asking gradually tougher questions, more direct questions, such as ‘How would you define a terrorist?’ Stone’s answer, not short and sweet, but protracted and still concise: ‘You can’t answer that easily, since you have to ask why a terrorist would take that path in the first place. Politics, economic disadvantage, lack of education, protest against another country’s influence in your own country or region, these are all factors. In the end, what happened at 9/11 was not an isolated, random act, but a calculated response to, in this case, America’s dealings in the Middle East. And remember, France, Germany, England, they’ve all dealt with terrorism over the past few decades. Terrorism, which is basically a violent response to a perceived wrong, has been with us for a long time.’”


"Feeling More Antsy and Irritable Lately? Blame Your Smartphone": Michael Mechanic of Mother Jones reprints and comments on the words of author Nicholas Carr and his take on "The Patience Deficit."

“Given what we know about the variability of our time sense, it seems clear that information and communication technologies would have a particularly strong effect on personal time perception. After all, they often determine the pace of the events we experience, the speed with which we're presented with new information and stimuli, and even the rhythm of our social interactions. That's long been true, but the influence must be particularly strong now that we carry powerful and extraordinarily fast computers around with us. Our gadgets train us to expect near instantaneous responses to our actions, and we quickly get frustrated and annoyed at even brief delays. I know that my own perception of time has been changed by technology. If I go from using a fast computer or Web connection to using even a slightly slower one, processes that take just a second or two longer—waking the machine from sleep, launching an application, opening a Web page—seem almost intolerably slow. Never before have I been so aware of, and annoyed by, the passage of mere seconds.”


"They Came. They Sawed.": John Bloom of Texas Monthly pens a spawning, hugely insightful piece on the 1973 production of Tobe Hooper's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Related: Two recent articles on the horror classic, Matt Zoller Seitz's "The 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' Editing Table Massacre" and Simon Abrams's "You Like This Face: Jumping Into the Void with the 40th Anniversary of 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.'

“All these years later, almost everyone involved feels permanently changed or, in some cases, permanently scarred by the film. At least one actor—Ed Neal, who played the ‘hitchhiker’—can’t speak about it without becoming enraged. Robert Kuhn, a trial lawyer who invested in the film, would waste years fighting for the profits that should have poured into Austin but were instead siphoned off by a distribution company. Marilyn Burns, the strikingly beautiful actress who became the prototype for the ‘final girl’ in horror films, never realized her great promise, partly because the film was a ‘résumé-killer.’ Gunnar Hansen, the three-hundred-pound Icelandic American who played Leatherface—the chain-saw-wielding maniac who inspired Jason and Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger—has spent the rest of his life trying to stake out another identity. ‘I’m happy I did it,’ he says, ‘but they’ll probably put ‘Gunnar Hansen. He was Leatherface’ on my gravestone.’”

Image of the Day

The evolution of the Superman logo, from 1938 to the present, posted on Twitter by ClassicPics (@History_Pics).

Video of the Day

The trailer for "Fateful Findings," a spectacularly awful film directed by Las Vegas architect Neil Breen, who is the topic of an article in The Dissolve by Alan Jones that targets "bad movie lovers."

Matt Fagerholm

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

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