Everything You Need to Know About the Spider-man Musical Haters (In Just Four Steps)

The Spider-man musical is about to open after eight years in the making — and we can’t say we’re too thrilled about it! The project, helmed by Julie Taymor and composed by Bono and The Edge, has received an amazing amount of negative press and commentary about its delays, dropouts and grandiose nature, all of which might become forgotten history once the show opens to cries of “Genius!” and “Spectacle!” There’s no denying that the show will be a feat, and perhaps a greatly-enjoyable one. But for now, there’s still a window of time in which to wonder why it can’t seem to find a way out of critical skepticism and cynicism despite its near-guaranteed awesomeness.

The $70 million dollar project was the subject of a conflicted profile in New York magazine this week, and while reading it, we finally understood why it’s so hard to muster enthusiasm about a project that will surely be majestic in scope and innovative in form. The profile contains a few key quotes that tell you all you need in order to understand why the Broadway world isn’t rallying behind this show with optimism, but rather plaguing it with cynicism — sometimes in contradictory ways. … Read More

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Happy Birthday, Unplugged: A Look Back at the Best Performances (Part II)

Twenty one years ago today, Unplugged aired its first-ever show featuring Squeeze. Only two years later, it had upgraded to Paul McCartney and earned brand-name recognition. Tracking the kind of artists that were deemed worthy to appear on Unplugged throughout the years presents an interesting picture of popular music in the 90s and 2000s, with its selection as curated as Saturday Night Live appearances, and maybe only a notch under an exclusive Rolling Stone cover. In 1995, Kiss played without makeup; Nirvana’s 1993 version was the first album released after Kurt Kobain’s death. Many artists actually went on to release albums of their Unplugged appearances and cement their status as the real thing — as SuChin Pak said in a MTV special on Unplugged: “It was the show that gave lip synching the finger.” Earlier today we wondered about its future, and now here are some of our favorite appearances, with the help of former Unplugged director Matt Mills. … Read More

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Rate-a-Trailer: How Many Mexican Stereotypes Can You Count in “From Prada to Nada”?

The trailer for From Prada to Nada has been out for a few weeks, but we hadn’t caught it until it played during our Thanksgiving outing to Burlesque. While Burlesque was exactly the Christina/Cher vehicle we never knew we always wanted, the “Sense and Sensibility”-based From Prada to Nada is the mess we always knew we never wanted. And since your resident guest-editor today (hi!) is a Mexican girl for whom this movie seems to have been made (I think? The intended audience is unclear to the point that I believe there isn’t a single demographic who might be interested in the movie), today we’re going to break down its many crimes. … Read More

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“Unplugged” Turns 21: Yes, It’s Still Alive, But Has A Shaky Future

As Justin Bieber unleashes his first acoustic album onto shoppers today, there’s a slightly more mature and pleasant milestone to celebrate in the world of stripped-down performances: Unplugged, MTV’s experiment in minimal concert performance programming, turns 21 today.

Originally turned down by MTV executives in 1989 who suggested that the concept be taken to PBS, the show has created some of the most epic and beloved music moments of the past two decades. In an age when the “M” in MTV has officially (officially!) lost all meaning, the Unplugged format is shockingly still alive, and actually gives that “M” its last remaining bit of dignity. … Read More

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The Morning’s Top 5 Pop Culture Stories

1. Non-Risky Business decision: Jeremy Renner confirms that he will take over for Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible series if Cruise decides to retire from future installments! [via /film]

2. “In its extreme self-consciousness, the album Fantasy reminds me most of is John Lennon’s cathartic 1970 Plastic Ono Band record.” The Guardian reviews… Read More

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Kevin Fanning on Jennifer Love Hewitt and the Stigma of Self-Publishing

Have you ever felt like maybe there’s something superhuman about Jennifer Love Hewitt? Like behind those bright eyes, shiny hair, and hit TV shows there’s a mystical force driving her along?  In Kevin Fanning‘s beautiful new story collection, Jennifer Love Hewitt Times Infinity, Fanning presents us with many variations on this theme, creating different worlds in which Hewitt is, in fact, magical. The result is a bundle of myths that escape the trappings of fan fiction and reads more like an epic lullaby than a name-dropping pop-punk song.

Jennifer Love Hewitt Times Infinity, despite its charm and highly-marketable title, can’t be found in bookstores, nor will you encounter an advertisement of it engineered by anyone but Fanning himself or his many online fans. That’s because Fanning, a recruiter by day and writer by nights and weekends, publishes it and markets it himself through an internet-fueled one-man operation he’s been building since 1999. “I think in our culture we have this warped view of artistic success as not being real unless it’s how you earn your living,” Fanning told us, “But I find this mind-boggling. I think it holds a lot of people back from creating cool things.” … Read More

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John Mayer and His ‘I Love You, But Fuck You’ Tour

John Mayer is the most unfortunate type of romantic: he’s the self-destructive type, the kind of guy who lectures everyone on the virtues of true love and then, after a breakup, goes on a bender during which he’ll keep yelling about how his only allegiance is to the girls on his bookmarked porn. Rinse, repeat. The fascinating thing about a John Mayer show is that in the course of one night, one might see that cycle repeat itself various times as he works through his parallel desires to both find love and convince himself he’ll be fine without it. He always starts out as a romantic, though, which is why girls (and their mothers) pay Madison Square Garden prices in order to hear him lament his loneliness — as I once eagerly watched him do at fourteen, and fifteen and once again this past Friday night. … Read More

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Chuck Klosterman: Pre-Blog or Anti-Blog? Either Way, It’s a Relief

If anyone other than Chuck Klosterman had attempted to get Eating the Dinosaur published, they would have failed. This inevitable rejection would not be the fault of the writer, but of two distinct realities that solidify Klosterman’s place in the cultural canon: the continued existence of Chuck Klosterman himself, and of the multitude of people a) who blog for free about whatever they want and b) who blog for money about whatever their editors want. It is because Klosterman doesn’t blog, and because everyone else does, that he got this book published. He established his persona pre-blog and remains that way, possibly making him the only living young writer who maintains that kind of… Read More

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A "Dear Jon Letter" We Never Wanted to Write

Dear “Dr. Drew Baird,”

When we saw the paparazzi shots of you and Tina Fey filming a scene for 30 Rock, we hadn’t been that excited for the premiere of the real thing since the Sex and the City movie photos leaked (Syke! Those were annoying). Then when we watched the promo for your first appearance on the show, we died — actually — when you delivered the line “Sorry I smell like frosting. I just love to bake.” And when, finally, you came on to lure Liz Lemon with your ice cream maker and hot-doctor eyes, (Mad Men be damned) we hoped you’d stay forever. … Read More

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Sin Nombre: Sundance Favorite Hits Limited Release

A few nights ago, Jon Stewart made fun of Lou Dobbs for a recent tirade against illegal immigrants, exclaiming: “Illegal immigrants? Wake up, Rip Van Winkle! D’you fall asleep in June 2008? Nobody gives a shit about them anymore!”

We agree with him in the political sense — there are so many real scapegoats on which to blame our economic problems now! — but their stories might come back into full focus in the cultural sense, as this year’s first international critical darling, Sin Nombre, gains momentum. Centered around a runaway Mexican gang youth and his Honduran girl companion as they seek to cross the border into the US, Sin Nombre — Sundance Lab alumnus Cary Joji Fukunaga’s directorial debut — has already won Best Director and Best Cinematography at Sundance [Read our original Sundance coverage of it here].

We’ve read mostly rave reviews (spoiler-free excerpts linked after the jump), and we’re excited for its limited release this weekend — produced by Mexican superstar-sweethearts Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, directed by a first-time feature-filmmaker, and promising to be a watchable un-glossy “immigration” tale (of which there aren’t many), it sounds like it could be a new favorite. … Read More

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