Our Netflix Queue Conspiracy Theories

On Sunday, the New York Times techno-wizards rolled out the latest in their series of enormously cool (and endlessly distracting) interactive features — the Netflix maps. Using data compiled from zip codes and Netflix user queues*, these maps visualize rental patterns in twelve major American cities, adjusting for popularity and critical reception, and providing a nifty way for film snobs to confirm their worst suspicions about neighbors’ movie… Read More

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Brooklyn Book Festival Recap: From Robert Silvers to Lupe Fiasco

In many respects, the Brooklyn Book Festival is the literary equivalent of the nearby Fulton Street Mall. Think zine vendors instead of sneaker stores, assume a comparably sized weekend crowd (albeit in larger numbers of ironic glasses), and you begin to get an idea of the mob that descends on the borough’s annual lit fair. Now in its fourth year, the event continued its sprawl through Borough Hall this weekend, packing the plaza with its respective wares (Kabbalah literature, anyone?) and extending into the surrounding government buildings. This year, the Festival really outdid itself, scheduling 97 events and 220 authors into a seven-hour Sunday… Read More

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Required Viewing: A Grown-Up Version of Eric Rohmer in Autumn Tale

In his introduction to Éric Rohmer’s Autumn Tale, which screened last night as part of BAM’s Late Film Series, YOU or The Invention of Memory author Jonathan Baumbach began his introduction by referencing one of the more notorious allusions to Rohmer in popular culture: “I saw a Rohmer film once. It was like watching paint dry.” … Read More

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Capturing the Spirit of French Cinema: The Prix Louis Delluc Film Series

Tradition has it that every December since 1937, the gatekeepers of French haute cinema assemble at Le Fouquet’s on the Champs-Élysée — a café once frequented by the likes of Charlie Chaplin, François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard — to select the winner of the Prix Louis-Delluc, France’s most prestigious cinematic award. Named after director and critic Louis Delluc (a man forever known for coining the term “cinéaste”) the prize recognizes the most promising French film of the year, with winners joining the ranks of Criterion-ites Robert Bresson, Jacques Tati, and Alain Robbe-Grillet. … Read More

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Pandemic Panic: A Poorly Understood Illness Rattles the World

If you’ve so much as glanced at a newspaper or website over the past week, you’re at least marginally aware of swine flu, the maybe-pandemic that has quickly dethroned Somali pirates as the best reason to follow the news.

Over the past week, cases of the disease have been disclosed the world over, from Scotland to Peru to California. Mexico, where the illness was reported to have killed 152 people — though some say the number is as low as seven — is the flu’s undisputed epicenter. Wired reports that its spread may have begun in the town of La Gloria, not far from a “large and notoriously unsanitary hog farm” run by Granjas Carroll, a division of American conglomerate Smithfield Foods. … Read More

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Mexican Media Blitz: Just How Bad Is the Country’s Drug War?

Less than a week ago, USA Today published an article about the proliferation of Mexican drug-cartel videos on YouTube, claiming that, like Jihadis and insurgents before them, narcocorridos now use the popular website to promote their cause. (Cartel leaders openly ran an ad campaign last year to recruit military deserters, so it’s not as if they’re shy about showing off.) … Read More

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Will Obama Declare War on the War on Drugs?

When Barack Obama picked Joe Biden to be his running mate last September, drug-policy reform activists were displeased. Prospects for revamping the Bush administration’s zero-tolerance approach, critics felt, were undermined by the veteran lawmaker from Delaware — a man who played a major role in crafting some of the country’s harshest drug legislation. Such fears have been allayed in recent weeks, though, with Obama stating his intent to shift from a punitive stance to one that focuses on minimizing health risks. In practical terms, this entails supporting needle-exchange programs, ending raids on medical-marijuana facilities, and, many hope, transforming drugs from a criminal issue into a health one. … Read More

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Pure Madness: MoMA’s Martin Kippenberger Retrospective

The text panel prefacing The Problem Perspective, the first major U.S. retrospective of German artist Martin Kippenberger, opens with a quote from Aristotle: “everything in moderation.” It then continues with the following statement: “Martin Kippenberger never got this message.”

Curatorial assistance or not, it doesn’t take long to pick up on the Dionysian overtones of Kippenberger’s work. At the entrance to The Problem Perspective an oat-covered Ford Capri peeks out into the foyer (a nudge to Anselm Kiefer) and continuing through the exhibit, the viewer passes by drunken street lamps (which unlike sober ones weave in and out of walls) deprecating self-portraits, and a junkie’s forest populated by disco balls, wooden pills, and ominously headless birch trees. … Read More

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A House Divided: EU Braves Tough Times

As the recession spreads through European markets, EU leaders are scrambling to overcome the fault lines that threaten prospects for a unified recovery. Last week, a collective of Eastern European nations approaching EU leaders for a $240 billion bailout — only to be promptly shot down by an opposition charge from German chancellor Angela Merkel. Since then, currencies have fallen across the board, with the Hungarian florint and Polish zloty dropping 3 percent against the euro, and the euro itself continuing to fall against the dollar. Striking a balance between national interests and continent-wide initiatives has never come easily for Europe; underlying the difficulties are concerns about protecting jobs, recapitalizing banks, and preserving what remains of a fragile lending system. … Read More

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Forget the Oscar Snub: Don’t Miss Getting Schooled by The Class

For a year in which the Academy was more than willing to throw Oscar after Oscar at any movie claiming the mantle of multiculturalism, it seems ironic that The Class, a film that genuinely examined the issue’s complexities while sidestepping easy clichés, was snubbed.

Perhaps it should have ended with a Bollywood dance number.

In The Class (a flat translation of the original title, Entre les Murs) Laurent Cantet offers a compelling portrait of a year spent between the walls of a Parisian ninth grade classroom — a hothouse of racial and ethnic tensions, loosely moderated chaos, and from time to time, the odd flash of brilliance. … Read More

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