Pop Culture

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“It’s All About Shocking People”: Penelope Spheeris on Her Iconic Film ‘The Decline of Western Civilization’ and Punk in 2015

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“It’s my life’s work, here. I don’t want to fuck it up,” director Penelope Spheeris tells me by phone about Shout Factory’s Decline of Western Civilization Collection, released on June 30. We’re joined by her daughter Anna Fox, who helped produce the deluxe box set, which includes all three Decline documentaries restored in high-definition. But the retouched celluloid can’t destroy the grit and grime that clings to Spheeris’ curious lens as it chronicles some of punk’s most legendary bands in the first film (which screens in New York City on June 19 at BAMcinemaFest with the director in attendance): Black Flag, Fear, X, the Germs, and the Circle Jerks, to name a few. Throughout the trilogy, Spheeris is granted access to ratty clubs and gutter haunts, an outsider looking in. But the filmmaker knows what it’s like on the other side, having spent her formative years in a traveling carnival where her parents worked — strangers in strange lands. We discussed living on the fringe; the filmmaker’s 1983 film about teenage runaways, Suburbia; and the meaning of family.
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Christian Grey Has Been Pegged and Other Tidbits from E.L. James’ New ‘Fifty Shades’ Novel

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It’s a difficult task to describe E.L. James’ alternate-point-of-view Fifty Shades of Grey in a straightforward manner. After all, Grey tells the exact same story as Fifty Shades of Grey, but with Christian as the narrator. So that means Anastasia’s inner goddess is gone, as are all the “holy cow!”s. They have been replaced by an occasional “Hell.” Or “fuck.” Or “good girl.” Which is what Christian’s inner, um, Adonis, I guess, has to say for himself. Yet the major sex scenes are the same, except you know, with the perspectives reversed — and the lengthy email exchanges and contract negotiations are almost exactly the same. It’s a heady concoction of derivative trash, derivative porn, and self-plagiarism (just kidding, I swear!), which demands a review in seven parts, in several genres.
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Watching a Speculative Novel Come to Life in Rachel Dolezal’s Story

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Late last Thursday night, filing out of the Delacorte Theater in Central Park after a performance of The Tempest, I glanced down at my phone and saw that a well-known comedian, a friend of a friend, had tweeted something about my novel. “This #RachelDolezal story feels like the prequel to the book Your Face in Mine,” he wrote.

A version of my novel was leaving the realm of the imaginary and becoming news.
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Russia Gets a Militaristic Amusement Park and the World Gets “Google Sheep View”: Links You Need to See

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Sometimes, during times like these, when people like Donald Trump run for president (and get the approval of other similarly unsavory figures), one may wish to they could retreat to a little Up-like house hidden away atop a Manhattan roof. And if you can’t take refuge in a skyscraper cabin, perhaps your feet will at least be happy hiding in a pair of these Yeezy Boost 350s (whose worldwide release is June 27).
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‘American Gods’ on TV, Johnny Marr’s Favorite Records, and David Foster Wallace’s Adderall Novel: Links You Need to See

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Where, oh where, oh where is Shadow? The answer will soon be: on Starz network. That’s right, Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel American Gods is being made Next year will be the 20th anniversary of Tupac Shakur’s death, and in that time he he’s been deified, demonized and theorized about endlessly. When that anniversary rolls around next year, there’ll… Read More

Darth Vader - Joe. Photo credit: Ken Hermann

Intimate Photo Portraits of Hollywood Boulevard’s Street Characters

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If you’re walking down Hollywood Boulevard and find yourself face to face with Marilyn Monroe or Darth Vader, that’s not just the magic of the movies — or the heat of Los Angeles — getting to you. Plenty of flesh-and-blood people haunt that artery dressed up as legendary stars and iconic characters, posing for photos with tourists and living off their tips. Copenhagen-based photographer Ken Hermann was fascinated by these performers, who, he writes, “are — or once were — pursuing the American dream of becoming someone special and famous. And, it is this struggle mixed with the childish fantasy world I find interesting.” Hermann captures this emotional complexity in Hollywood Street Characters, his beautifully composed series of portraits. Click through for a few highlights, and visit Hermann’s Behance page or website to learn more about his work.
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Darren Aronofsky Almost Made a Batman Movie: Links You Need to See

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Before Christopher Nolan came along and made Batman cool and box-office friendly again, the Dark Knight was at a low point, last seen in the embarrassing Batman & Robin. The Hollywood Reporter has revealed five other projects that vied to be made before Nolan’s Batman Begins. One included a Darren Aronofsky-directed adaptation of Frank Miller’s excellent Year One graphic novel. The script got panned when Warner Bros. realized how violent it was. “I think I heard a shriek of horror,” said Miller of Warner Bros.’ response.
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