Black Swan (#110 of 38)

Review: Daniel Herbert’s Videoland: Movie Culture at the American Video Store

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Review: Daniel Herbert’s Videoland: Movie Culture at the American Video Store
Review: Daniel Herbert’s Videoland: Movie Culture at the American Video Store

Part media studies, part cultural history, part ethnography, Daniel Herbert's Videoland: Movie Culture at the American Video Store is an unusual and often unusually compelling study of the emergence and disappearance of American movie-rental stores. Unusual, because Herbert's work is primarily derived from empirical research conducted at video stores across the country, as he observed locations and interviewed employees and customers for a deeper, almost phenomenological sense of the video store as lived experience, from both sides of the video counter.

Herbert's writing also comes from personal experience, as he worked at Alphaville Video in Albuquerque from 1999 to 2002—information which he openly shares in the book's introduction. His admission speaks directly to a nostalgia for a culture which has largely disappeared, almost as a means of legitimating himself within cinephilic culture. Working at a video store, for Herbert and several of those interviewed, constitutes something of a right of passage into a specific kind of cinematic education, perhaps one of saturation and immersion. Specifically, Herbert discusses how the employees at Scarecrow Video in Seattle, WA view their jobs as “like playing a game of trivia all day,” since they're surrounded by like-minded cinephiles.

Video Review: Lady Gaga, "Applause"

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Video Review: Lady Gaga, “Applause”
Video Review: Lady Gaga, “Applause”

It's been a big month for the Gagasphere. Following a months-long, self-imposed Twitter exile, Lady Gaga bared all in a video for Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović; she issued a “pop music emergency” after a hacker allegedly leaked her new song, “Applause,” a week early; she implored viewers not to buy the single in a bizarre attempt at reverse psychology in a promo by Haus of Gaga; she dropped a lyric video, the latest marketing trend to bide the time between a song's premiere and its official music video's debut, featuring stars of RuPaul's Drag Race; and, finally, unveiled said music video on jumbo screens in Times Square this morning.

Oscar Prospects: Moonrise Kingdom

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Oscar Prospects: Moonrise Kingdom
Oscar Prospects: Moonrise Kingdom

The Academy hasn't exactly warmed to Wes Anderson, and it's conceivable that they never truly will. It's rare for such a popular, critically lauded, and artistically accomplished auteur to never cross over Oscar's Picture/Director borderline, but Anderson may just spend his career being the anomaly, his whimsy always relegating him to the quirk-filled realm of Original Screenplay. His first nomination, in 2002, was in that very category, which pitted his now-classic script for The Royal Tenenbaums against the likes of Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) and Christopher Nolan (Memento). His latest, Moonrise Kingdom, is the first work since to give him a real chance of returning to the race, as it's his most technically accomplished, touching, and accessible follow-up. Telling a tale of childhood love that's amenable to his Peter-Pan sensibilities, Moonrise Kingdom is a fine transition piece to follow Fantastic Mr. Fox, which cracked the animation field in 2009, yielding Anderson's only other Oscar nod. The afterglow of that stop-motion gem's citation can only work in the writer/director's favor, ditto his new film's massive praise and solid theatrical showing. A screenplay nom seems inevitable, but will the love end there?

15 Famous Women in Black

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15 Famous Women in Black
15 Famous Women in Black

This weekend, Daniel Radcliffe celebrates his first post-Potter effort with the release of The Woman in Black, a horror thriller about an axe-grinding female ghost who need only be seen to claim a child's life. The veiled phantom surely has the edge when it comes to offing the little ones, but she hails from a long line of ladies who've gone all Hot Topic for the camera. Witches, wives, and even Whoopi made this list of women who sport only the darkest uniforms, making them scary, sexy, cool, sophisticated, and in some cases, all of the above.

Poster Lab: The Best Movie Posters of 2011

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Poster Lab: The Best Movie Posters of 2011
Poster Lab: The Best Movie Posters of 2011

Honorable Mention

The Devil's Double: Boasting the year's best monochromatic design is this glossy, tacky beaut for The Devil's Double, the star-making Dominic Cooper vehicle about Uday Hussein (Cooper) and his Iraqi-soldier doppelgänger (also Cooper). Littered with machine gun shells and coated entirely in gold, the poster evokes both the glorious, violent excess of Scarface and the opulence of the Middle East's corrupt power elite, all the while looking like a gaudy bauble you'd snag at a novelty shop. The poster knows its movie's milieu, its genre, and its character's superficial appetite for, well, everything. [Poster]

The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence: Yes, this creepy-crawly, nether-regions one-sheet for The Human Centipede 2 is as “sick” as its tagline suggests, and it's anyone's guess what an actual centipede serving as a woman's landing strip has to do with a psycho's victims being forcibly, gastronomically linked. But it is, like it or not, one of the more inspired poster designs to be unleashed this year, and for all its intentional tastelessness, it displays a cleverness and certain aesthetic restraint that transcends its content, and that can't be found in any celeb-slathered collage. Besides, provocation is the chief goal of this after-midnight franchise, and here, that's not just owned, but laid bare. [Poster]

The Mechanic: A poster that doesn't look like much, but catches your eye and holds it, this clean and simple image for the Jason Statham actioner The Mechanic makes a fun puzzle of bad boy cinema's ever-enduring necessity, and forces you to look closer to examine its parts. The amount of negative black space is as strong a visual choice as the inter-locking orange arsenal, which ultimately acts as a kind of starkly graphic photomosaic. [Poster]

Oscar 2011 Composite Winner Predictions

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Oscar 2011 Composite Winner Predictions
Oscar 2011 Composite Winner Predictions

Below is a complete list of our predicted winners at the 2011 Academy Awards.

Picture: The King's Speech
Directing: Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Actor in a Supporting Role: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Actress in a Supporting Role: Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Original Screenplay: The King's Speech
Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network
Foreign Language Film: Incendies
Documentary Feature: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 3
Documentary Short: Poster Girl
Animated Short: The Gruffalo
Live Action Short: Wish 143
Film Editing: The Social Network
Art Direction: The King's Speech
Cinematography: True Grit
Costume Design: The King's Speech
Makeup: The Wolfman
Score: The King's Speech
Song: “I See the Light,” Tangled
Sound Editing: Inception
Sound Mixing: Inception
Visual Effects: Inception

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Picture

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Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Picture

The ascendance of the stuttering king and Oscar's perceived instantaneous regression into the mottled pastures of White Elephant Cinema (how quickly we forget The Reader) has rendered some of our most reliable barometers speechless. Suddenly, the movie no one wanted to pay attention to became the movie all your friends and relatives who see two movies a year have seen and just know is the best picture of the year. What can one say in the face of that? Even dependable crank Armond White, who had been working himself up a pretty good head of anti-Social Network steam leading up to an Ingracious Basterd-worthy final snit as MC of the New York Film Critics Circle awards, has been more or less reticent in the wake of The King's Speech's dozen proofs in support of the theory that dusty linens, not bloody tourniquets and certainly not hackers' grease-stained pizza boxes, are the fabric that holds Oscar together. And why shouldn't he remain mum? There's no one this year to disabuse of the notion that Oscars actually matter.