The House


Agnès Varda

For n+1, Jeanette Samyn on Agnès Varda's working memory.

George Lucas retiring to make "hobby movies."

Kaneto Shindō dies at 100.

Family Guy asks for the Emmy consideration of "bloated, overprivileged Brentwood Jews."

Ween is possibly no longer.

Matt Zoller Seitz reveals his favorite TV songs of all time.

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TAGS: agnès varda, barack obama, cannes film festival, david hudson, dennis lim, emmy awards, family guy, fox news, george lucas, hurricane, jeanette samyn, john huston, kevin b. lee, let there be light, matt zoller seitz, molly haskell, ms mr, n+1, sight & sound, tim goodman


The Fall of the House of Usher

Jean Epstein is one of the great filmmakers cinephiles discover after deciding there are no more worlds left to conquer—and the effect is blinding and humbling. Like many such revelations, his work throws the map of cinema into disarray, knocking over the mile markers and headstones set up long ago by the official canon: surrealists over here, expressionism over there, social realism way over there. He was a little bit of each—none exclusively—and more. He associated with the surrealists, but the oneiric qualities of The Fall of the House of Usher (adapted by Luis Buñuel, who also served as assistant director on the film), like much of his work, are found in some unquantifiable space between special effects and elementary moods. Work that seemed to foretell the neorealist, social-realist, or magical-realist subdivisions just as often turned into daydreams, or intricate music boxes that deflated the heaviness of their own narrative concerns. A common sight—or sensation—in an Epstein film is the vast, oscillating sea, indifferent, unimpressed, a law unto itself, governing the internal physics of a given work, as well as the hearts of men and women.

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TAGS: anthology film archives, breathless, chuck jones, coeur fidele, edgar allan poe, finnis terrea, gina manes, jacques demy, james sibley watson, jean epstein, jean vigo, jean-luc godard, la tempestaire, la terra trema, latalante, letter never sent, lola, luchino visconti, luis buñuel, masters of cinema, melville webber, michael powell, michelangelo antonioni, robert bresson, roger corman, the edge of the world, the fall of the house of usher, the three-sided mirror, vincent price


Doc Watson

In retrospect, the greatest achievement of Doc Watson, who died yesterday at 89, might have been his endlessly curious middle-aged brand. Discovered in the early '60s, when the Old, Weird America was experiencing a toasty revival in youth-riddled garages across the country, Doc was one of the few bluegrass musicians to gain prominence during that era with a putatively wholesome, down-home demeanor. Incredibly, his and John Hartford's debuts came only a few years apart from one another—but Hartford was in his mid 20s, while Doc was in his mid 40s. The former would conquer Nashville as a songwriter and spiral off into a scorched-earth path of string-band cubism; the latter was cherished as an atavistic relic even while his career was in its infancy. Doc had, in fact, only been making records for about 10 years when he made his "comeback" alongside earlier country giants like Merle Travis and the Carter Family on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will the Circle Be Unbroken. His age, along with the enormous confidence of his playing, allowed him to seamlessly integrate with the crowd whose licks he'd been practicing in perpetuity.


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TAGS: bill monroe, black mountain rag, clarence -the cuckoo- ashley, doc watson, down in the valley to pray, folkways records, intoxicated rat, john hartford, merle travis, nitty gritty dirt band, ralph rinzler, the carter family, will the circle be unbroken


Dawn of the Dead

Colson Whitehead on learning from B movies.

Nicole Brenez on transgression- and revolt-serving Jean Epstein.

The first feviews for Ridley Scott's Promethus are not great.

Forfer Liberian president and once-powerful warlord Charles G. Taylor was sentenced on Wednesday to 50 years in prison over his role in atrocities committed in Sierra Leone in the '90s.

Blind, guitar-picking master Doc Watson passed away yesterday. He was 89.

Junot Diaz dishes about his new story, "Monstro."

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TAGS: b movies, colson whitehead, doc watson, fear of music, fiona apple, jay-z, jean epstein, jonathan lethem, junot diaz, kanye west, monstro, nicole brenez, no church in the wild, north carolina, prometheus, ridley scott, the talking heads, williamsburg


Usagi Yojimbo, Book 1:The RoninStan Sakai is one of the most quietly prolific comics creators in the business. Having trudged down the Way of Self-Reliance with his creation Miyamoto Usagi for 25 years, he trails a devoted fanbase and a considerable reputation in the cultural mainstream. Two thousand eleven was a banner year for Sakai, marking the 200th issue of the long-running series, his being named Cultural Ambassador by the Japanese American National Museum, and their unveiling of "The Year of the Rabbit"—a highly publicized retrospective of his work. In commemoration of these various milestones, Fantagraphics (Sakai's original publisher) has released a new edition of Usagi Yojimbo: The Ronin, a collection of the character's earliest appearances. Boasting their usual high-production values and showcasing the genesis of the indie comics icon, The Ronin is a meticulously curated artifact of comics history.

Miyamoto Usagi was born—quite accidentally—in 1984. While working on character designs for a series based on historic samurai Miyamoto Musashi, Sakai doodled a rabbit with his ears tied back like a samurai topknot. The rabbit outlasted the more traditional conceptual drawings, forming the latest addition to the odd tradition of violent, anthropomorphic animals (one of Usagi's early cameos was with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) in the indie comics of the '80s. After starring in a couple of Fantagraphics anthologies, he had his own title by 1987—Usagi Yojimbo—following the rabbit ronin in his adventures around a 17th-century Japan populated with anthropomorphized animals. Unlike his contemporaries in the decade's comic-book bestiary, Usagi emerged astonishingly well formed from the get-go—a supremely confident merging of various cultural influences, ranging from spaghetti westerns and samurai films (the series title is cribbed from Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo) to Japanese mythology and Kabuki plays.

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TAGS: akira kurosawa, clint eastwood, fantagraphics books, mark ruffalo, miyamoto musashi, robert downey jr., stan sakai, teenage mutant ninja turtles, toshirô mifune, usagi yojimbo book 1 the ronin, yojimbo


Stagnant Pools

Stagnant Pools, "Dead Sailor." Like Lightning Bolt, No Age, and Japandroids before them, Indiana's Stagnant Pools is a tenacious noise-rock band that spawns a sound much more massive than you'd expect to come from a twosome. Taking cues from sonic innovators of former eras (Joy Division's attractive acerbity, the Jesus and Mary Chain's sensory screeching) and more recent ones (Bryan Enas's voice comes off eerily similar to Julian Casablancas's circa Is This It), Stagnant Pools have crafted a cacophonous, vigorous sing-along by way of an intentionally rough-edged, concentrated structuring that's almost difficult to believe came from a pair of young, fresh-faced twins from Bloomington. Mike LeChevallier


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TAGS: airick woodhead, bryan enas, cadence weapon, conditioning, dead sailor, deep in the night, doldrums, hope in dirt city, house playlist, l.o.v.e., onra, stagnant pools


Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah performs for "her people" at gay pride event.

$8.5 billion deal for calling service presents a puzzle.

Pitchfork's 20 essential festivals of summer 2012.

Imogen Smith on the Erich von Stroheim retro now playing at Film Forum.

Police may search landfill for Etan Patz's remains.

Aaron Hillis buys a video store.

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TAGS: aaron hillis, abbas kiarostami, alexei german, born this way, carlos reygadas, erich von stroheim, etan patz, express yourself, imogen smith, lady gaga, madonna, michael atkinson, microsoft, nna tatarska, philip larkin, pitchfork, queen latifah, skype, w. h. auden, xan brooks


Mud

"You can call me Mud," says Matthew McConaughey early on in Mud, the disappointingly mainstream follow-up to filmmaker Jeff Nichols's impressive debut, Shotgun Stories, and equally solid second feature, Take Shelter. If you thought Mud's title signified something evocative, something riverine and elemental, clearly you thought wrong. That's just Mateo in Sling Blade mode, as the loveable outlaw on the lam, hiding out on an island while waiting for his one true love, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), to blow into the nearby burg. The story isn't his though; it belongs to two young'uns, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and the charmingly named Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), who run across ol' Mud one day when they're making a pilgrimage to visit a houseboat stranded up a tree (that's Nichols taking a bark-pulp page from Werner Herzog's Aguirre). Guess who's squatting in the cabin? One tousle-haired, chip-toothed, vaguely avuncular outlaw…goes by the name of Mud.

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TAGS: cannes film festival, jacob lofland, jeff nichols, matthew mcconaughey, michael shannon, mud, reese witherspoon, sam shepard, shotgun stories, take shelter, tye sheridan, werner herzog, white men can't jump


Cosmopolis

David Cronenberg's adaptation of Don DeLillo's postmodern, Ulysses-like novel Cosmopolis plays like a profoundly perverse, darkly comic successor to Videodrome. Taking on another "unfilmable" novel, Cronenberg again accomplishes something remarkable: hewing closely to the source material in letter and spirit, yet still stamping it as a distinctly Cronenbergian endeavor, albeit one lacking much in the way of his trademark body horror (with one notable, bloody exception). Diamond-hard and dazzlingly brilliant, Cosmopolis alternates between mannered repression and cold frenzy, one of the ways in which it most closely resembles Cronenberg's prior A Dangerous Method.

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TAGS: a dangerous method, a history of violence, cannes film festival, cosmopolis, david cronenberg, don delillo, emily hampshire, holy motors, paul giamatti, robert pattinson, ulysses, videodrome


Michael Haneke

Michael Haneke's Amour is the winner of this year's Palm d'Or.

Click here for a full list of the winners.

Straight from the jury president's mouth.

Daniel Kasman ranks the films he saw.

And Guy Lodge rounds up the festivals top 10 all-time losers.

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TAGS: amour, ampas, cannes film festival, daniel kasman, django unchained, guy lodge, michael haneke, moonrise kingdom, nanni moretti, quentin tarantino






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