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Thumbnails 9/5/14


"The Rise and Fall of Joan Rivers": A compulsively readable remembrance by Slate's Phillip Maciak of the iconic comedian who passed away yesterday, Thursday, September 4th, at age 81. Related: Other fine obits penned by CNN's Todd Leopold and's Sheila O'Malley. See also: Roger Ebert's three-and-a-half star review of Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's 2010 documentary, "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work."

“But if show business was cruel to Joan Rivers—and it was—Joan Rivers was cruel right back. In 1994, just two years after Leno took over for Carson, Rivers founded the institution with which she will likely always be associated. The format of ‘Fashion Police’ has evolved, it’s jumped around to various networks, and the fawning foils surrounding her have been cast and recast, but the basic idea has remained the same: Joan Rivers has a TV show where she mercilessly, gleefully denigrates what other celebrities look like. For 20 years the show has proven to be the perfect platform for Rivers’ one-liner-at-a-time battle with show business. Like Rivers herself, the show has a weird insider-outsider perspective. Is it the party organ of Hollywood’s systematic war on women? Or is it a suicide attack from within Hollywood itself? It’s a spectacle, regardless—whether a playful roast or a knives-out free-for-all—and one that’s influenced everything from ‘Project Runway’ to Go Fug Yourself. At its best, ‘Fashion Police’ was a fun, backhanded celebration of all the forms beauty can take in Hollywood from America’s premier insult comic. At its worst, the show was mean-spirited fluff. (Or, in the words of the comedian’s most prominent inheritor, Chelsea Handler, ‘What the f—k do I care about Joan Rivers?’)”


"How the Market for YA Adaptations Killed 'The Giver'": Lindsay Ellis, aka The Nostalgia Chick of, writes an excellent article on the reasons for why Philip Noyce's adaptation of Lois Lowry's beloved book was such a disaster.

“Up until ‘Divergent,’ the industry was peppered with flaccid attempts to ape the success of ‘Twilight’ and ‘The Hunger Games,’ the intent for almost all of them to create a successful franchise. 2013 alone gave us such non-starters as ‘The Host,’ ‘Beautiful Creatures,’ ‘Ender’s Game,’ and ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.’ But none of these potential franchises were quite so overt as ‘The Giver’ in trying to fit into the very specific trend of YA dystopia. And in trying to ape the success of franchises like ‘The Hunger Games,’ the film misses what made the source material appealing in the first place, thereby creating a final product appealing to no one. ‘Divergent’ didn’t need to change much from its source material in order to appeal to fans of ‘The Hunger Games.’ ‘The Giver,’ unfortunately, did. It wasn’t the worst of this stolid group of underperformers, but it might be the worst case of ‘taking something and morphing it into what it’s not.’ A side effect of the YA adaptation boom is the near-extinction of live action movies with child protagonists. ‘The Giver’ was a quiet, contemplative book for adolescents that in a perfect world would have translated into a quiet, contemplative movie starring adolescents. The story of ‘The Giver’ was tailored for younger characters, creating a strange and awkward story when the characters are aged up to a demographic with a wider market appeal. This entire cast is way too old for this story. Particularly Brenton Thwaites, the actor who plays Jonas. He’s got age lines. He’s getting mail from AARP. He is old.”


"Mara Wilson: The Coolest Girl To Ever Dump Hollywood": The former film actress-turned-theatre star and superb blogger chats with Vanessa Golembewski of Refinery 29.

“If you can laugh about your fear, you can own and understand it. I wanted to get people to talk about their fears, because once you talk about your fears, it takes the power away from them. We fear what we don’t understand. So, [in my show] I talk about somebody’s fears — usually mine — and then we interview an expert on that subject. Sometimes they actually come up on stage and do it, but I’ve noticed that that makes them nervous, and the whole point of my show is I don’t want people to be nervous. So, a lot of times I’ll end up doing interviews, and it becomes this kind of one-woman show where I’ll read it, and sometimes I’ll put on an exaggerated version of their accent. Most of my friends are anxious, too, because this is New York. So, it’s nice to know everybody was a little afraid of this, and a little afraid of that. A lot of times, people will say afterward, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you had that fear, too. I totally was afraid of that.’ It’s funny, every time I ask someone if they want to perform, they’ll say something like, ‘Oh, you know what I’m afraid of? I’m so afraid of bees. Like, I have nightmares about bees.’ Or, ‘I’m so scared of moths.’ ‘Easy listening music scares me.’ ‘Mall Santas scare me.’ And, they all have a story about why. I feel like I’m collecting fears now.”


"The 25 Best Films Directed by Female Film Directors": The Raindance Film Festival compiles 25 magnificent titles including Jane Campion's "An Angel at My Table."

“In this New Zealand-Australian-British production, directed by the first female filmmaker to historically receive the Palme d’Or, the audience discovers a dramatized adaptation of author Janet Frame’s three autobiographies. The film begins with Frame (Alexia Keogh and Karen Fergusson) as a child, living in a poor New Zealand home, being endlessly mocked at school for her huge, curly red hair and quirky behavior. When Frame (Kerry Fox) is an adult, the death of close family members, as well as large number of embarrassments and other misfortunes, lead her to a madhouse where she’s misdiagnosed as a schizophrenic. Frame is subjected to more than 200 electroshock treatments, albeit nothing is really wrong with her (besides being terribly shy and sad). Engrossing from beginning to end, the film looks and sounds like fiction when so many awful things happens to such a person. Campion effortlessly presents storytelling in its simplest form, which is genuine and fluid throughout the three sections.”


"The Movie Press' Oscar Obsession Is Ruining Fall Film Festivals For Everyone": A timely rant from Flavorwire's Jason Bailey.

“Today marks the kick-off of the Toronto International Film Festival, a massive ten-day orgy of movies big and small from all over the world. It follows last weekend’s Telluride Film Festival, a cozier but no lower-profile Colorado gathering of film lovers, film critics, and filmmakers. Your film editor, sadly, was/is at neither (Kickstarter for next year forthcoming). But I’ve been reading about them for decades, most often (and earliest) from the pen of Roger Ebert, who called Telluride ‘one of the best experiences a film lover can have,’ and dubbed Toronto ‘the world’s top festival for — well, for moviegoers.’ He wrote those words in 1999 and 1998, respectively, and I get the feeling the focus of these festivals has changed quite a bit in the years since. Maybe they’re still prized destinations for film lovers, but just about all I’m reading out of them are dispatches on what each new premiere does to next year’s Oscar race. At risk of putting too fine a point on it, who gives a s—t?”

Image of the Day

Joan Rivers posted this poignant photo on August 12th. 

Video of the Day

Press Play VIDEO ESSAY: In Memory of Richard Attenborough (1923-2014) from Nelson Carvajal on Vimeo.

If you only know Richard Attenborough as the old man from "Jurassic Park," then you must see this essential video essay from Nelson Carvajal, accompanied by a fine written essay by Max Winter at IndieWire.

Matt Fagerholm

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

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