The House


Avril Lavigne

The last vestige of Avril Lavigne's "punk" bona fides, however thinly veiled and market-tested they were in the first place, evaporated the day she released the bubble-gum cheerleader anthem "Girlfriend" back in 2007. So the singer's de-evolution into total parody on the techno-punk nightmare "Hello Kitty," the latest single from her album Avril Lavigne, isn't necessarily worth lamenting on its own, dubstep-marred (de)merits. It's a Miley Cyrus world, after all; the rest of us are just living in it.

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TAGS: avril lavigne, Backstreet Boys, girlfriend, gwen stefani, hello kitty, madonna, miley cyrus, music video


Game of Thrones

1. "Rape of Thrones." Why are the Game of Thrones showrunners rewriting the books into misogyny?

"It seems more likely that Game of Thrones is falling into the same trap that so much television does—exploitation for shock value. And, in particular, the exploitation of women's bodies. This is a show that inspired the term 'sexposition,' and a show that may have created a character who is a prostitute so as to set as many scenes as possible in brothels. And though it has done both those things with surprising grace, it's still making a play for male viewers who want skin. Because unlike Ginia Bellafante, in her infamous pre-air review of the series in The New York Times, I don’t think the sex is there to 'patronizingly' draw in female viewers—I think it's there to reel in the all-important male demographic."

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TAGS: brian williams, game of thrones, george r. r. martin, gin and juice, j. hoberman, julia roberts, lindsay, lindsay lohan, ms. 45, rich juzwiak, sonia saraiya, the king of comedy


Mad Men

The day in question in "A Day's Work" is Valentine's Day, and showrunner Matthew Weiner and company crafted an episode riddled with allusions to business as a love affair. When Don (Jon Hamm) is caught taking a meeting with a big shot by a headhunter for a rival agency, he quips that he's just "looking for love." And back at SC&P, Don's relationship to the company is compared to that of an ex-wife of Jim (Harry Hamlin), who's still having trouble finding footing in his relationship with Roger (John Slattery). And when Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) is in the midst of undressing peppy realtor Bonnie (Jessy Schram), the dirty talk takes the form of something like contract arbitration.

This feeling of emotional disputes being handled like salary negotiations is most potently felt when Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) allows the flowers on Shirley's (Sola Bamis) desk to become the inanimate agitator for her still-raw feelings for Ted (Kevin Rahm). The episode continues to return to Peggy to see how long her unfortunate presumption reverberates in her, and she shows deeper shades of confusion, insolence, uncertainty, and shame as the day goes on. It's one of the most assured, self-contained storylines the series has conjured thus far, made complete by its aftershocks felt in a secretary shuffle managed by Joan (Christina Hendricks), who also, in a quick bit, has the intentions behind her flowers mistaken.

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TAGS: a day's work, christina hendricks, elisabeth moss, Harry Hamlin, Jessy Schram, john slattery, jon hamm, kiernan shipka, mad men, matthew weiner, recap, sola bamis, teyonah parris, vincent kartheiser


Snatch

1. "Building a Bigger Action Hero" A mere six-pack doesn't cut it in Hollywood anymore. Today's male stars need 5 percent body fat, massive pecs, and the much-coveted inguinal crease—regardless of what it takes to get there.

"The last-minute pump comes right before the cameras roll. Philip Winchester, the hero of Cinemax's action series Strike Back, recalls seeing the technique for the first time on the set of Snatch: 'Hundreds of extras were standing around,' he recalls, 'and Brad Pitt would drop down and do 25 push-ups before each scene. I thought, "Why is he showing off?"' Then Winchester figured it out. 'I realized he was just jacking himself up: getting blood flowing to the muscles. I'd always wondered, "How do actors look so jacked all the time?" Well, they don't. Now we ask: Is it a push-up scene? When I shot that Strike Back poster, I was doing push-ups like a madman, saying, "Take the picture now! Take it now!"'"

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TAGS: film comment, hateful eight, hbo, j. hoberman, kim morgan, lindsay, lindsay lohan, manakamana, nick pinkerton, quentin tarantino, true blood


Game of Thrones

Joffrey's death last week on Game of Thrones stood out from the show's many past fatalities in that it marked the first time a major character's demise prompted celebration rather than simply shock. So rapturously received was Joffrey's demise that some even took to finger-wagging over the glee, casting aspersions on those who would revel in the death of a minor, even a fictional one who made a number of Russian tsars look well-balanced in comparison. But as "Breaker of Chains" demonstrates within its first 10 minutes, even Joffrey's own family cannot muster much bereavement for the departed king. Standing over the boy's posed corpse in a private chamber, Tywin (Charles Dance) tells the next in line for the throne, Joffrey's younger brother, Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), that Joffrey was not a wise or good king, and that his unfitness for rule contributed to his present state. For his part, Tommen appears far more nervous at being quizzed by his grandfather than he does standing over his brother's prepared body.

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TAGS: aidan gillen, breaker of chains, charles dance, daniel portman, dean-charles chapman, emilia clarke, game of thrones, hbo, lena deadey, maisie williams, Michiel Huisman, Natalie Dormer, nikolaj coster-waldau, recap, rory mccann, sophie turner, tony way


Orphan Black

Near the end of Orphan Black's season-two premiere, "Nature Under Constraint and Vexed," resourceful hustler and human clone Sarah Manning confronts her icy doppelganger, Rachel Duncan, in the offices of the Dyad Institute. As the ethically challenged scientific research center holds a lavish corporate gala, Sarah levies a gunpoint demand that she be reunited with her daughter, who disappeared in last season's cliffhanger finale. "There are other forces vying for our fate, Sarah," Rachel replies. "We'll get Kira back, together."

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TAGS: dylan bruce, Evelyne Brochu, francis bacon, inga cadranel, jordan gavaris, kevin hanchard, Matt Frewer, nature under constraint and vexed, orphan black, plan of the work, recap, Tatiana Maslany


Nathan SilverNathan Silver is predominantly preoccupied with chaos. In the middle of shooting his third feature, Soft in the Head, he decided to steer the improvised film's narrative arc in a new direction, retreating to the roof of the apartment building where he was shooting to scrawl out story beats on a napkin alongside his producer and Cody Stokes, his director of photography and frequent collaborator. The film, which opens this weekend at Cinema Village in New York, is inspired by Dostoyevsky's The Idiot and features an eclectic cast of trained actors working alongside non-professionals.

To most, this grab-bag scenario would sound daunting, but Silver revels in it. He explains that the actors and non-actors push each other, as the non-actors have a self-consciously fastidious attention to detail, and the actors are all worried that they haven't been given enough context (Silver doesn't show them his story treatments) and don't know where their characters are going. "They might completely disagree with [my method], which is funny," he admits. Whatever his approach to handling the madness, it's certainly successful. Our own Ela Bittencourt has praised this brashly funny entertainment for "Silver's psychological depth, where realism nearly implodes the more immediate exigencies of plot."

Among the newcomers in the cast is Sheila Etxeberría, who stars as Natalia, a reckless New Yorker and perennial outsider who's continually banished from the lives of those close to her until she ends up in a makeshift homeless shelter run by a naïve, daffy, and confrontationally friendly man named Maury (Ed Kane), who shepherds his ungodly flock as if they were his children.

The premise of an ostracized woman finding refuge in an unlikely new family will sound familiar to anyone who saw Silver's Exit Elena, about a live-in nurse whose charge is hospitalized, leaving her stranded and ineffectual in the home of a tumultuous suburban family. The setup also extends to his two upcoming films, the recently completed Uncertain Terms, about a home for pregnant teenagers, and Stinking Heaven, about a commune of recovering drug addicts in the early '90s. The latter features more familiar names than Soft in the Head, including Somebody Up There Likes Me's Keith Poulson and I Used to Be Darker's Deragh Campbell and Hannah Gross, but promises the same amount of madcap anarchy as his previous work.

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TAGS: cody stokes, ed kane, exit elena, fyodor dostoyevsky, nathan silver, sheila etxeberría, soft in the head, the idiot, uncertain terms


Maureen O'Hara and Robert Osborne

I emerged out of the train station and onto the roiling snake pit of Hollywood Boulevard this past Thursday afternoon with a singularity of purpose that has served well those who have learned to safely navigate this peril-ridden stretch of tourism and other desperate forms of humanity. Among the mass of logy sidewalk gawkers, shaggily costumed superheroes, and barkers hawking coupons for bus tours and free drinks at comedy clubs, the guy in the Creamsicle-colored tuxedo and matching top hat didn't even cause me to balk as he moved toward me on the sidewalk. He certainly didn't seem out of place, even as his lanky, six-and-a-half-foot frame towered above the stumpier heights of most everyone else bobbling down the Walk of Fame. But as we passed each other, this orangey giant suddenly offered up a loud, impassioned plea to the crowd, for no readily apparent reason, which put me at attention: "Remember Bob Hope!" Wondering if a declaration of fond tribute for, say, Mickey Rooney would have been timelier, I moved right along. No matter. There could be no doubt, if there ever was any, that the 2014 edition of the TCM Classic Film Festival, headquartered as always in the very heart of the mythological realm of Hollywood, was now officially under way, a gathering of film buffs vacationing from the real world among the icons and memories of movie-studio glory, where there would be no lack of warm remembrance for Hope or Rooney or any of a hundred other stars whose images and talents would be ceaselessly evoked and reminisced upon over the next four days.

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TAGS: a matter of life and death, blazing saddles, bob hope, Clive Brook, double indemnity, emeric pressburger, godzilla, how green was my valley, ishirô honda, john ford, johnny guitar, leo mccarey, make way for tomorrow, maureen o'hara, mel brooks, michael powell, Mickey Rooney, on approval, richard dreyfuss, robert osborne, tcm classic film festival, thelma schoonmaker, tokyo story, turner classic movies, yasujirô ozu


Streets of Fire

The Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Film seems to channel the sheer variety of the Internet, where it seems all movies from all eras are available. During 10 days, all sorts of films are made available at several venues within the Argentine capital, from horror flicks to forgotten commercial failures, classic studio productions, modern art-house fare, and experimental cinema. BAFICI seems to pride itself on its eclectic selection, and its broad pickings allow audience members to trace surprising connections between movies that might appear to have nothing else in common outside their shared inclusion in a festival. A sort of creative viewership is encouraged, as one comes to realize that an American rock fable, a miserablist Taiwanese drama, a visual poem with vampires, and an epic about social and political traumas in the Philippines have plenty in common.

Walter Hill's unsung Streets of Fire and Tsai Ming-liang's Stray Dogs have probably never been mentioned in the same sentence. Seen back to back, they reveal strikingly similar qualities, as both might or might not be science-fiction films. Streets of Fire is set in a fantasy land, which mixes costumes and vehicles from the 1950s with the urban squalor of the 1980s. When a motorcycle gang, led by fresh-faced Willem Dafoe, kidnaps a local pop singer (Diane Lane), it's up to the gruff masculine hero played by Michael Paré to save the day. There are references to an unnamed war and the city appears to be in a state of crisis (its police force is sorely understaffed and justice is meted out by civilians). The characters are so conventional that they recede into the background as they follow archetypal signposts, and because their exploits are so predictable, the environment absorbs our attention instead. Diners and theaters from the American Graffiti years have decayed underneath rubble and trash. In an abandoned factory, the motorcycle gang has established a decadent bar where naked dancers strike aggressive poses, using their sexuality as a weapon. Having been recently and luminously restored, Streets of Fire plays differently today than it did back in 1984. What was originally a blend between the present and the past is now the combination of two different pasts, which together suggest a kind of future.

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TAGS: american graffiti, amy heckerling, bafici, crime and punishment, diane lane, do androids dream of electric sheep, fyodor dostoyevsky, jim jarmusch, lav diaz, michael paré, norte the end of history, only lovers left alive, philip k. dick, stray dogs, streets of fire, tilda swinton, tom hiddleston, tsai ming-liang, vamps, walter hill, willem dafoe, wings of desire


Gabriel García Márquez

1. "Gabriel García Márquez R.I.P." The conjurer of literary magic, and Nobel laureate, dies at 87.

"Gabriel García Márquez, the Colombian novelist whose One Hundred Years of Solitude established him as a giant of 20th-century literature, died on Thursday at his home in Mexico City. He was 87. Cristóbal Pera, his former editor at Random House, confirmed the death. Mr. García Márquez learned he had lymphatic cancer in 1999, and a brother said in 2012 that he had developed senile dementia. Mr. García Márquez, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, wrote fiction rooted in a mythical Latin American landscape of his own creation, but his appeal was universal. His books were translated into dozens of languages. He was among a select roster of canonical writers—Dickens, Tolstoy and Hemingway among them—who were embraced both by critics and by a mass audience."

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TAGS: beards, bob's burgers, gabriel garcía márquez, ira sachs, james gray, jonathan demme, love is strange, rich juzwiak, roger corman, the immigrant






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