The House

Big QuestionsIn the tradition of Art Spiegelman's Maus, Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan, and Charles Burns's Black Hole, Anders Nilsen's underground graphic novel Big Questions was serialized over a decade or so, and has now been compiled into a thick, single volume that's being touted as a magnum opus. The deluxe hardcover edition of Big Questions, which is signed by Nilsen and has supplemental extras, is very beautiful, expensive, and hefty (over 600 pages long). The designers at Drawn and Quarterly in Montreal deserve real credit for being able to make a book look so dignified and serious.

Unfortunately, Big Questions, despite its page count, its august packaging, and its toiling-cartoonist origin myth, is no grand thing. It's a very quiet series of events—it doesn't even feel right to call it a story—that take place on a desolate plain and involve disaffected birds wondering about a plane and the pilot that has crash-landed in their territory. There's also an ambivalently helpful snake, devious crows, an insect-grubbing man-child, and a quiet old lady who's killed by the plane crash.

The birds, which are drawn so simply as to be pretty much indistinguishable, talk to each other as if they're exhausted, suggesting androgynous hipsters lounging around all day at a café. Some of them ask basic philosophical questions such as, "Well, like, to what extent are we responsible for the fulfillment of our destinies?" Others get very paranoid about the plane crash and come up with strange hypotheses for what it means. Some of the birds get involved in curious little scenarios, which at times become threatening and dangerous. As for the pilot, he pops a tent, has some bizarre dreams, is annoyed by the birds, and then freaks out and goes on a rampage. In general, not very much happens.

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TAGS: and the pursuit of happiness, anders nilsen, big questions, black hole, charles burns, chris ware, ernest hemingway, maira kalman, maus, reif larsen, samuel beckett, spike jonze, the selected works of t.s. spivet, where the wild things are

The Ides of March

Reviews of George Clooney's The Ides of March are beginning to trickle in.

Some U.S. firms paid more to CEOs than taxes.

David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method tops odds to win Golden Lion.

In Haiti, sexual violence, healthcare neglet plague women, girls.

Matt Zoller Seitz explains why we should give remakes a chance.

Maybe this explains why I still don't have web service on my new Sidekick 4G: The Obama administration on Wednesday filed to block AT&T's proposed $39 billion acquisition of wireless rival T-Mobile USA because of anti-competitive concerns.

GLAAD denounces Tyler, the Creator.

Peter Bogdanovich reviews John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath.

For Variety, Jay Weissberg reviews Frederick Wiseman's crazy Horse. (Related: Craig Keller reviews Wiseman's masterpiece, Titicut Follies.)

Cineaste has a new issue.

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: a dangerous method, atandt, cineaste, craig keller, crazy horse, david cronenberg, frederick wiseman, george clooney, glaad, golden lion, haiti, jay weissberg, john ford, matt zoller seitz, peter bogdanovich, sidekick 4g, t-mobile, the grapes of wrath, the ides of march, titicut follies, tyler the creator, variety, venice film festival

Purity Ring

Purity Ring, "Belispeak." There's an undeniably sinister undertone to Purity Ring's new single, "Belispeak" (half of a split 7" with Braids), but it's curiously, ingeniously even, juxtaposed with the group's signature minced-and-looped vocal samples, which immediately bring to mind the Cover Girls and various other Latin freestyle acts from the '80s. Still, the track is notably darker than Purity Ring's debut single, "Ungirthed"—its synths chillier (even creepily morphing into the sound of bug legs clicking together) and its lyrics more unsettling: "Drill little holes into my eyelids/That I might see you when I sleep." That's love, folks. Sal Cinquemani

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TAGS: atlas sound, belispeak, bradford cox, david j. rosen, house playlist, i just want my pants back, i wanna meet dave grohl, life sux, nathan williams, parallax, purity ring, terra incognita, wavves

Night of the CreepsMy '80s adolescence was filled with movies about zombies, aliens, exploding heads and axe murderers. And that's just in Night of the Creeps, an amusing exercise in excess that flopped during its summer of '86 release. Director Fred Dekker's kitchen sink approach to comic horror is one of my favorite movies of the '80s and no, it's not because I love movies that begin with "Night of The" (Hunter, Living Dead, Comet, Lepus—OK maybe not Lepus). Night of the Creeps is the "I Love the '80s" of moviemaking. It has every element and cliché ever put into a film made in the greatest decade of my lifetime. Its enthusiastic, go-for-broke gusto is like a guy having a one night stand with the hottest woman he's ever met. Fred Dekker is that guy, and his screenplay is that smokin' hot babe. Because Creeps throws in every move the director knows, as if he may never get the chance to do this again. Let's tick off the veritable cornucopia of '80s movie characteristics.

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TAGS: barry devorzon, david paymer, fred dekker, jason lively, jill whitlow, john hughes, night of the creeps, steve marshall, summer of 86, tom atkins

Roberto Arango

Puero Rico Sen. Roberto Arango, who spread his ass on gay hooke-up site Grindr, resigns.

In Dick Cheney's new book, the former vice president disses his boss—and boasts of power.

S.T. Vanairsdale has a chat with Jessica Chastain about her breakthrough year.

For Filmmaker, Lauren Wissot reports from the Montreal World Film Festival.

What are Steve Jobs's worst deign decisions?

Angelina Jolie quashes rumors of a secret wedding and admits to fears about writing and directing her first feature film.

Michael Joshua Rowin says goodbye.

Porn filmmaking shut down after performer tests HIV positive.

After months of turmoil that kept Egyptian cinemas empty, can the Middle East's oldest film industry fend off the Hollywood threat to enjoy a creative renaissance?

A.O. Scott on Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place:

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: a.o. scott, angelina jolie, dick cheney, egypt, filmmaker, grindr, in a lonely place, jessica chastain, lauren wissot, michael joshua rowin, montreal world film festival, nicholas ray, roberto arango, s.t. vanairsdale, steve jobs

Let's Kill Hitler

After leaving the audience hanging for several months after the revelations at the end of "A Good Man Goes to War", Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat is back with a bang, kicking off the second half of the season with an episode packed with his trademark witty dialogue, dazzling perspective shifts, and a surprising number of answers about the mysterious River Song. The deliberately provocative title might suggest a light-hearted romp, in the tradition of most of the show's previous season openers—and the episode does start out that way, but ends up leading to a critical turning point in the lives of the Doctor and his friends.

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TAGS: albert welling, alex kingston, arthur darvill, caitlin blackwood, doctor who, karen gillan, let's kill hitler, matt smith, nina toussaint-white, recap, richard senior, steven moffat

Katy Perry

At yesterday's MTV Video Music Awards, there were lows, perhaps none lower than Katy Perry's look-at-me, possibly Super Mario Bros.-inspired couture, but there were more highs than expected, among them a sterling performance by Adele. Also, Eric was right: Beyoncé was definitely ovulating when she recorded 4.

Irene left a path of damage, but largely spared the city.

Related: Matt Zoller Seitz feels TV news is addicted to weather porn.

Also: Michele Bachman says Irene, and earthquake, were messages from God.

Laura Miller reviews Errol Morris's Believing Is Seeing.

Richard Neer reviews Terrence Malick's The New World.

There was a time when crap like this wouldn't even be nominated for a Moon Man:

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: adele, believing is seeing, beyoncé, errol morris, firework, hurricane irene, katy perry, laura miller, matt zoller seitz, michele bachmann, mtv video music awards, richard neer, super mario bros., terrence malick, the new world

Coming Up In This Column: The Help, The Whistleblower, Red-Headed Woman, Hold Your Man, Fury, They Won't Forget, but first…

Fan Mail: Rob Humanick is thanking me for making sure I got the period at the end of the title of Crazy, Stupid, Love. I would love to accept kudos, but I only put in the commas. It was Keith Uhlich, our eagle-eyed editor, who picked up on the period business. This is not the first time, nor the last, that Keith has saved me from looking like a total idiot in print. Or rather in pixels.

I am afraid I am way too straight to see what David E. calls the "gay envy" in straight films. In the case of Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love. (see, I got the period right this time) Gosling's character seems to me to be a living embodiment of a guy obsessed with Hugh Hefner's 1950s Playboy ideal. As Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a straight guy is just a straight guy.

The Help (2011. Screenplay by Tate Taylor, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett. 146 minutes)

The Help

Yipee, it's August, take one: That means there is finally a film in the multiplexes without stuff we have been inundated with all summer:

There are no comic book heroes.

There are no comic book characters from other Marvel comics that are only in this film to help promote future comic book movies.

There are no explosions, other than dramatic ones.

It is not, in any theater, in 3-D.

Nor is it in any Imax theaters.

There are no aliens.

It is not a tentpole for a future film series.

It is not the next, nor the last, tentpole from a previously established series.

There is not a single teenager in the film.

No actors change bodies in the course of this film.

There are no couples that are trying to have sex without emotional complications.

Except in reference to a certain pie, there is no use of bad language.

There are no fart, dick, or homophobic jokes.

There are no pirates, talking animals or talking cars in this film.

The African-American characters are not just in the film to be killed off so the white hero can get revenge.

However, just to let you know this is indeed a film from the summer of 2011, Emma Stone does appear in the film, but in a serious role.

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TAGS: fury, hold your man, red-headed woman, the help, the whistleblower, they won’t forget, understanding screenwriting

J. Cole

[Editor's Note: "The Blender" is a new series dedicated to highlighting notable new releases in the mixtape world.]

Next month, perennial rap-rookie-of-the-year contender J. Cole will finally drop his major label debut, Cole World: The Sideline Story. Cole has some big names in his corner, Jay-Z among them, many of them claiming that the upstart MC from "Fayettenam," North Carolina is nothing less than the future of rap—unless, of course, the future of rap turns out to be Drake (probable), Curren$y (less so), or Wale (exceedingly unlikely). All the same, kid's gone through hell trying to get his album finished and released, though as many times as Watch the Throne and Tha Carter IV got pushed back, you might conclude that a rapper hasn't made it big until his album's been delayed three or four times. The early singles from Cole World haven't exactly been fire, though that's not the only reason the album's release will be anticlimactic. Label backing or no, Cole's provided a generous stream of free music to his fans over the past couple of years, and production values aside, his album will mostly be distinguished from his mixtapes by the extent to which it hues to the rap-radio playbook (the perfunctory cameos from Drake and Trey Songz have already been confirmed).

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TAGS: #thecrates, any given sunday #2, boy in detention, chris brown, cole world the sideline story, curreny, j. cole, mixtape, the blender, the weeknd, thursday, verde terrace, willie the kid

ManhunterPenetrate the dream, and you'll understand the nightmare. Early in Michael Mann's Manhunter, retired FBI profiler Will Graham (William Petersen) suggests as much during a tense visit to the maximum-security prison cell of infamous flesh-eater, Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox). The two men share a traumatic cat-and-mouse history, and Graham enters this antiseptic lion's den to regain a "scent" for Lecktor's special brand of madness so he can catch a ruthless killer. But Lecktor's mind games cut too deep, gutting Graham's still-healing psyche one carefully modulated word at a time. Even the pressing timeline of a terrifying serial murder case isn't enough to keep Graham from sprinting out of the fortified mental hospital into the fresh open air, his heavy breathing amplified by classic Mann-style synthesizer tones. Insanity like this is infectious, and Graham knows it.

Released theatrically on August 15, 1986, Manhunter signifies two important beginnings: the cinematic introduction of America's favorite cannibal, some five years before Jonathan Demme's Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs, and the flowering of director Michael Mann's ice-cold specialist auteurism, a stylistic approach he initiated with 1981's Thief and has perfected in the decades since. Because Manhunter examines Lecktor's mania within the closed off boundaries of Mann's tight professional universe, the character's impact lies in the subtle tweaks of Brian Cox's marvelously evil performance, a smoldering combination of thinly veiled smiles and slicked back charm that is wonderfully opposed to Anthony Hopkins's lip-smacking showboat turn. In Cox's hands, Lecktor treats serial killing as a calling, respecting the nuance and detail of his work just as Will and his FBI colleagues do with their own investigation. A few brief but crucial scenes show how Lecktor manipulates the entire narrative of Manhunter by subverting Will's trust in institutional procedure. Rules and regulations can't contain Lecktor's flair for the evilly dramatic, controlling each character's fate like a demented cat pawing at its helpless prey. Only Mann's blue-moon color schemes and sporadically dynamic slow-motion shots evoke a world apart from Lecktor's maniacal omniscience.

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TAGS: anthony hopkins, brian cox, joan allen, jonathan demme, manhunter, michael mann, summer of 86, the silence of the lambs, tom noonan, william petersen

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