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Through the Years: Madonna’s "Like a Prayer" at 25

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Through the Years: Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” at 25
Through the Years: Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” at 25

“Like a Virgin” may be Madonna’s most iconic hit, but “Like a Prayer,” which turns 25 today, is by all accounts her most broadly beloved contribution to the pop-music canon, landing at #7 on our list of the Best Singles of the 1980s. Even the singer’s most ardent critics can’t help but bow at the altar of the song, a gospel-infused conflation of spiritual and sexual ecstasy that helped transform Madge from ’80s pop tart to bona fide icon. To celebrate this sacred anniversary, we’re taking a look back at the song’s evolution over the last quarter century.

10 Ridiculous GIFs of Lady Gaga Performing Live

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10 Ridiculous GIFs of Lady Gaga Performing Live
10 Ridiculous GIFs of Lady Gaga Performing Live

Earlier this week, MTV posted an oddly optimistic take on the underwhelming performance of Lady Gaga’s new album, Artpop, which, though it debuted at #1 with a respectable 258,000 copies, not only scanned 75% less than 2011’s Born This Way did in its first week, but posted smaller opening numbers than both Katy Perry’s Prism and Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz. Writing for MTV, which has little business reporting on music these days to begin with, Gil Kaufman rightly suggests that touring is where the real money is in 2013, but claims that Gaga is “a born performer with a killer stage show” and is “capable of selling out arenas across the globe.” It remains to be seen whether Gaga is the global touring juggernaut Kaufman and others claim: The Born This Way Ball did well in most markets, but tickets sold for half price in South America, and the then-26-year-old was forced to cash in her insurance policy in February and cancel the remaining 21 shows of the tour reportedly due to a hip injury.

15 Greatest MTV Video Music Awards Performances

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15 Greatest MTV Video Music Awards Performances
15 Greatest MTV Video Music Awards Performances

This Sunday marks the 30th annual MTV Video Music Awards. But this isn’t your father’s VMAs. After excising the words “Music Television” from its logo a few years back, and allowing viewers to vote for winners at its annual awards show, MTV has given its famous moonman award a temporary makeover (see above) to commemorate the ceremony’s move to Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center. But one thing that hasn’t changed about the VMAs is the opportunity for show-stopping and iconic performances. From Britney’s snake to Madonna dressed as Marie Antoinette, we took a look back and picked 15 of our favorites.

Sinful Cinema Girls Just Want to Have Fun

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Sinful Cinema: Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Sinful Cinema: Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Full disclosure: I am absolutely biased when it comes to Girls Just Want to Have Fun, the sweatband-and-synthesizer chick flick that pulls its name from Cyndi Lauper’s breakout hit. This is the movie I used to rent incessantly and watch on elementary-school sick days, back when, ya know, no one suspected a thing about this sports-snubbing color coordinator. So excuse me if I have a certain fondness for Janey Glenn (Sarah Jessica Parker), whose enthusiasm is almost as huge as her barely-straightened hair, and Lynne Stone (Helen Hunt), who made the Catholic School uniform naughty way before Britney Spears. But even from an objective viewpoint, Girls Just Want to Have Fun isn’t really a bad film, at least not in the ways in which we tend to define bad films. The acting is more than competent, there’s not much glaringly bad dialogue, the humor is inventive, and the song-and-dance is engaging. The direction (by Back to School helmer Alan Metter) is smooth enough, and there’s essentially nothing morally reprehensible to sneer at. It’s consummately tacky, for sure, but as a high school fantasy about a young girl chasing a dream, it’s got a leg up on a whole lot of like-minded films. The reason it’s such an easy target for ridicule is it may be one of history’s most instantly dated movies. Consider what Lynne says when she first meets Janey on the bus, and turns her schoolgirl skirt inside-out to reveal a leather interior: “Velcro! Next to the Walkman and Tab it’s the greatest invention of the 20th century.”

Body of Work Rosario Dawson

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Body of Work: Rosario Dawson

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Body of Work: Rosario Dawson

The story of Rosario Dawson’s discovery speaks to her enduringly cool credibility as an actress. A New York native who grew up in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Dawson had only a Sesame Street appearance under her belt when she was spotted, on her stoop, by budding director Larry Clark, who, at the urging of then-fledgling screenwriter Harmony Korine, went on to cast her in Kids. She was 15. Just as it did for fellow hip starlet Chloë Sevigny, Kids proved a major launchpad for Dawson, rather literally moving her from her doorstep and shuffling her into the public consciousness. She began attracting other directors in search of gals for urban dramas, and starred in Spike Lee’s He Got Game and Craig Bolotin’s Light It Up, a 1999 flick that took cues from Kids and Dangerous Minds.

But Dawson didn’t wait long to buck her impending typecasting. However unsavory the results, she pulled a 180 and took a part in Josie and the Pussycats, a—ahem—wannabe Spice Girls comedy for the MTV generation. The movie hardly soared, but it was an early indication of Dawson’s deft, enthusiastic knack for diversity, not to mention a taste of the fine musicality that’s periodically weaved its way into her work. Dawson has her limits. One of her virtues is also something of a hindrance: She’s a thoroughly modern actress, and give or take Roxana, her Persian princess in Alexander, she’s not quite cut our for period fare—corsets and all of that. But that hasn’t stopped her from building a terrifically varied filmography, or kept her from emitting a regal fire on screen.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012: Spring Breakers

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Toronto International Film Festival 2012: <em>Spring Breakers</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2012: <em>Spring Breakers</em>

Here is a film, to borrow a phrase from Don Delillo, about “the neon epic of Saturday night,” a DayGlo beach-borne fantasy of bright lights smeared and shining; it exists in this strange and beautiful place upon which Malick, Mann, and MTV incongruously converge. This is art-house maximalism with a tenor like poetry, an incisive and critical drama unafraid to relish and indulge in the subject it intends to deconstruct. You could call it “high-trash” cinema; it collects the cast-aside bric-a-brac of an ostensibly bankrupt culture—Harmony Korine operates here like some rigorously anthropological Katamari, rolling up anything and everything in his path—and transforms it into something earnestly, maybe even transcendently, gorgeous.

Spring Breakers manages in one beer-steeped swoop to both criticize and ultimately redeem the most vacuous detritus it can find: dubstep, coke, video games, beer bongs, keg stands, dreadlocks, cheap 40s, Gucci Mane’s face tattoo, the state of Florida, and the titular spring break as not only a vacation but as a very real-seeming state of being. I don’t want to oversell its intellectual or aesthetic aspirations, but in many ways the film is like Weekend reimagined as a daring iteration of Girls Gone Wild. Or, hell, maybe Jean-Luc Godard’s Step Up Revolution: It’s a radical take on a sexy summer drama by a man with serious artistic ambitions. It’s also quite obviously the best film currently touring the festival circuit.