The House

Like Crazy

Like Crazy and How to Die in Oregon took the top prizes at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

And The King's Speech and Boardwalk Empire were the big winners at last night's Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The highlight of this weekend's predictably shitty SNL was a meet-uncute between Jesse Eisenberg and Mark Zuckerberg.

Related: David Bordwell on the faces of Facebook.

The Emmy-winning Tony Geiss, a Sesame Street writer for decades and creator of the Honkers, passed away last week at the age of 86.

Oscar-winning John Barry, the composer of 11 James Bond scores, has died at age 77.

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TAGS: academy awards, boardwalk empire, david bordwell, directors guild of america, facebook, farran smith nehme, how to die in oregon, internet, jesse eisenberg, john barry, lawrence high school, like crazy, mark zuckerberg, saturday night live, screen actors guild, sesame street, sundance film festival, the king's speech, the village of the damned, tom hooper, tony geiss

True Grit

[The Conversations is a monthly feature in which Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard discuss a wide range of cinematic subjects: critical analyses of films, filmmaker overviews, and more. Readers should expect to encounter spoilers.]

Ed Howard: The idea of the modern western as an art of deconstruction has become so engrained in today's film culture that it's disconcerting when a new western comes along that doesn't take a revisionist stance on the once-beloved Hollywood genre. Westerns don't get made very much these days, but when they are we expect them to be in the lineage of Peckinpah or Leone rather than the old Hollywood craftsmen who made the genre so ubiquitous in the 1940s and '50s. You see where I'm going with this, I'm sure. Although most film fans would expect a Coen brothers western to be a sardonic, revisionist take on the genre, True Grit, Joel and Ethan Coen's first proper stab at a genre that has often haunted their work in spirit, is a good old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness western in the classical tradition.

This actually shouldn't be surprising. There are markers of western style in many other Coen films, notably O Brother Where Art Thou? and No Country for Old Men: the love of landscapes, the gruffly poetic language, the stark morality, even the fascination with hats that runs through Miller's Crossing, for in what other genre besides the western do hats mean so much? True Grit might be the Coens' first actual western, but it's such a natural fit for them because they've always kind of seemed like western filmmakers in a deeper sense. This is why the Old West milieu, sparsely populated as it is with oddballs and degenerates and criminals, feels like an extension of the Mexican border towns of No Country for Old Men, or the wasted Northwestern wilds of Fargo, or even the backwards suburban absurdity of Raising Arizona.

True Grit is an adaptation of a 1968 novel by Charles Portis, which was already made into a film in 1969 by director Henry Hathaway, starring John Wayne in the role that won him his only Oscar. Though the Coens' film differs from Hathaway's in several important ways and numerous smaller ones—apparently because the Coens follow the novel, which I haven't read, more faithfully than Hathaway did—the two films also share a good amount of common ground. What's ultimately most striking about the Coens' film is how traditional it is, how unshowy and subtle. It balances humor and darkness and action, and it does so within a wholly classical context. First and foremost, it's just a great story and a great western, and its humble artifice is very refreshing.

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TAGS: ethan coen, glen campbell, hailee steinfeld, henry hathaway, jeff bridges, joel coen, john wayne, kim darby, matt damon, the conversations, true grit

Kanye West

If there was ever a year where we needed pop to do its exhilarating best, 2010 was it. Beyond escapism, pop music provided the brainpower, the emotional nuance, and most of all, the vision that the rest of the country, particularly in the political arena, lacked. Though we always count on pop music to give us what we want, the best pop is just as capable of giving us what we need. Listen to all 25 of Slant Magazine's Best Singles of 2010 on our new YouTube Channel! (Due to the fact that many record labels are loathe to actually promote their artists, we are unfortunately unable to embed the entire playlist here.)

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TAGS: best of 2010, big boi, cee-lo green, hot chip, janelle monáe, kanye west, la roux, lady gaga, lcd soundsystem, robyn

B Role #1: Dark Waters

Dark Waters

[Editor's Note: B Role is an ongoing exploration of the films, artists, and genres shaping the dimly lit universe of the B movie.]

Film discovery isn't business; it's personal. It defines every chapter of a cinephile's life, mapping a unique process of spectatorship that grows and develops differently depending on the individual. This lifelong journey creates an expanding universe of preference and taste with constantly shifting borders, instilling salient reminders of nostalgia collected along the way. A small moment, an inspiring recommendation, a stellar review, or a mention in a textbook, becomes something equivalent to a first itch we spend a lifetime scratching. When the floodgates do open, the possibilities and processes swirling around in the sublime whirlpool of cinema threaten to overwhelm us. Whole subjects and genres are ripe for conquering, yet discovery is not about completion but evolution, developing an appreciation for nuances that ground films within a specific historical and social context. The only way to breath underneath so much material is by slowly, calmly addressing one film at a time, always with the understanding you won't see them all. So, like Mother said, choose wisely.

My own obsession started in familiarly bright corners, with rampant forays into the films of Spielberg, Kubrick, and Tarantino, paving the way for Sayles, Jarmusch, Lee, Rafelson, Penn, and Altman. After exhausting myself on American cinema, I pushed outward to the national cinemas of Iran, Italy, France, and beyond. As horizon's expanded, my viewing mimicked an inverted historiography class, constantly looking backward to see what historical elements influenced those I had just studied. Eventually, as it happens with most students of film, the muffled, haunting echoes of Hollywood's underbelly known as the "B movie" began calling my name, screaming out of the past with a pitch so edgy and piercing I couldn't resist. The writings of Sarris, Rosenbaum, and Hoberman provided names and faces for these daring filmmakers working on the fringes of mainstream Hollywood, men and women creating textured and scathing entertainment from whatever monetary breadcrumbs had fallen down the assembly line. It didn't take long for Fuller, Ray, Sirk, Lapino, Mann, Boetticher, and Lang to construct a special church of subversion, a place where substance and style took dead aim at those in power and pulled the trigger. These were the ciphers of American film history, and I was hooked on their mystery and danger.

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TAGS: andre de toth, dark waters, elisha cook jr., fay bainter, franchot tone, john qualen, merle oberon, thomas mitchell

[Editor's Note: House Playlist is a series dedicated to highlighting our favorite new singles, leaked songs, and album tracks. Found something we should hear? Let us know!]

Girls' Generation, "Hoot." This one may be a few months old in its native South Korea, but that doesn't keep "Hoot" from being one of the best discoveries of 2011 on this side of the Pacific. The best K-Pop singles take a truly fearless approach to appropriating different genres for fun and profit, and "Hoot" starts off as a bit of jagged guitar pop as forceful and catchy as any of Max Martin's productions for Kelly Clarkson. But the song shifts its focus to the dance floor once the multi-tracked percussion loops kick in. The layered rhythm arrangement works with the song's overall conceit, which finds the girls giving an overdue brushoff to an acid-tongued boyfriend. His poison-tipped arrows are the "trouble, trouble, trouble" of the simple-is-better hook, and the group's cheerleading-squad-as-girl-group structure gives their off-you-go message its own built-in support group. The choice of violent imagery belies the apparent sweetness of the group's nine members and the single's simply massive hooks, but it's a perfect fit with the James Bond guitar figure that runs throughout. As far as 007 motifs doubling as pop songs go, "Hoot" fully holds its own alongside Britney Spears's "Toxic." Jonathan Keefe

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TAGS: boys and diamonds, bruce conner, girls generation, hoot, house playlist, megan james, purity ring, rainbow arabia, ungirthed, without you

Jason Statham

On the occasion of today's opening of The Mechanic, Bilge Ebiri offers a list of the 16 worst ways to be killed by Jason Statham.

Related: How Statham became the world's biggest B-movie star.

Young stars speak out on The Social Network.

A very personal piece by Peter Knegt on the importance of HIV/AIDS on film.

Manohla Dargis files a dispatch from Sundance.

Slamdance has announced its 2011 winners.

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TAGS: academy awards, aids, bilge ebiri, challenger, jason statham, lady gaga, manohla dargis, peter knegt, rahm emanuel, slamdance film festival, sundance film festival, the mechanic, the social network

Gabrielle Giffords

"Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Wednesday left intensive care for the first time since she was shot in the head in Arizona more than two weeks ago, the latest big step in the long road to recovery." Read the full story at The Huffington Post here.

The New York Review of Books on the truth about The King's Speech. Related: In Contention's Guy Lodge, one of the very few smart awards pundits out there, doesn't think Academy members are thinking too hard about this.

Patti Smith, the next Agatha Christie?

Azazel Jacobs's Terri is emerging as one of the richer Sundance entries.

FX's Archer hits its stride in its second season according to Matt Zoller Seitz.

Ridley Scott's Prometheus just got sexier.

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TAGS: alejandro jodorowsky, archer, as i lay dying, azazel jacobs, brian de palma, claude chabrol, fx, gabrielle giffords, guy lodge, immediate impressions, in contention, james franco, keith uhlich, kim morgan, matt zoller seitz, michael atkinson, noel murray, passion, paste, patti smith, sundance film festival, terri, the a.v. club, the king's speech, the new york review of books

State of the Union

The reviews of Barack Obama's State of the Union Address are mixed.

Kristen Thompson wonders if 3D has already failed (parts one and two), and Walter Murch is certain that it will never work.

Anything for a buck for Harvey Weinstein.

According to Matt Zoller Seitz, FX's Lights Out throws a knockout punch.

Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to and to converse in the comments section.

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TAGS: 3d, barack obama, fx, harvey weinstein, kristen thompson, lights out, matt zoller seitz, shelley duvall, state of the union, the king's speech, walter murch


[Editor's Note: Take Two is an occasional series about remakes, reboots, relaunches, ripoffs, and do-overs in every cinematic genre.]

This past summer should have belonged to Joe Dante. Matinee, his 1993 masterpiece and his most seemingly personal film, finally made its way to DVD in the spring. Piranha, his shoestring 1978 debut, was then released on DVD on August 3, mere weeks before Miramax released a $20 million nominal remake, Piranha 3D, that did surprisingly good business. And all the while, Dante was sitting on a finished 3D feature of his own, The Hole, which had been positively received at the Venice Film Festival.

But anyone who's followed Dante's career could have seen the inevitable disappointments coming. Universal released the Matinee DVD almost silently, with not even a commentary track among its spare special features; Piranha 3D gave no credit to the earlier film's director, despite his clear creative imprint; and as of this writing, The Hole still languishes without an American distributor. The sole unblemished success of the bunch was the Piranha DVD, which came out as part of Shout! Factory's lovingly packaged "Corman Classics" series.

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TAGS: e.t. the extra-terrestrial, explorers, gremlins, gremlins 2 the new batch, hellzapoppin, innerspace, jaws, joe dante, john sayles, looney tunes: back in action, matinee, piranha, piranha 3d, small soldiers, steven spielberg, the 'burbs, the hole, the howling, the second civil war


[Editor's Note: Tuesday Video Alert is a weekly column announcing "notable" titles fresh to DVD and/or Blu-ray, sometimes as reissues, and in every region under the sun.]


Dogtooth [Kino International, DVD, Region 1]: "Though Yorgos Lanthimos has said that Dogtooth originally was created as a sci-fi story of sorts about how far a family will go to preserve its usefulness as a social unit, I maintain that the film's main thrust is about the process of assimilating information about the world and subsequently forming one's own identity." Simon Abrams

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Blu-ray, Region 1]: "Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is less meta than Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. but more reality-bending than your average Philip K. Dick sci-fi procedural." Jeremiah Kipp

Santa Sangre [Severin Films, DVD/Blu-ray, Region 1].

The Color Purple [Warner Home Video, Blu-ray, Region 1].

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TAGS: basil deardens london underground, broadcast news, client 9 the rise and fall of eliot spitzer, dogtooth, enter the void, eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, freakonomics, inspector bellamy, nowhere boy, quiet days in clichy, red hill, santa sangre, sex and drugs and rock and roll, the color purple

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