‘Birdman,’ ‘Maps to the Stars,’ and Hollywood’s Current Vogue for Self-Obsession

“Pray that those that eat, those that are eaten, and the act of eating be universally devoid of self,” celebrity therapist Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) says smugly in Maps to the Stars, director David Cronenberg’s big, wet defecation on the deadening influence of Hollywood. He’s quoting the Dalai Lama, he says, but long before his cushy life goes up in flames, it’s clear that Weiss’ Buddhist wisdom is all smoke and mirrors, a vain stab at profundity from an exceedingly shallow man. Indeed, here, as in other recent depictions of Tinseltown’s insider baseball, such noble sentiments ring false, or are otherwise crushed by an industry no longer much interested in altruism. That four films from four directors, each with its own distinct style and tone, should tread such similar thematic ground in this short span of time suggests a certain discomfort with the changing rules of the game, a fear that the dog-eat-dog business of filmmaking threatens to annihilate a particular brand of film art. Call it the unexpected anxiety of obsolescence. … Read More

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Knoptimism vs. Liz Lemonism: How ‘Parks and Recreation’ Took a Different Feminist Route

Parks and Recreation ends its seven-season run Tuesday night on NBC. To celebrate the show’s unforgettable characters, Flavorwire is publishing a series of tributes to our favorite Pawnee residents. Click here to follow our coverage.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are colleagues, co-hosts, and friends — and Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock, their respective sitcom vehicles, both find the comedians playing successful professional women. Each lovingly spoofs a neurotic, limited-worldview mold of feminism. But as other writers have already noted, the two show’s approaches to their protagonists’ feminism are a study in feminist contrasts. … Read More

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The 6 Best Movies to Buy or Stream This Week: ‘Whiplash,’ ‘Big Hero 6’

We usually use this space to recommend the week’s five best new releases streaming and on disc, but some weeks that’s just not enough — and this is one of those weeks. Making their debuts are two of last year’s most entertaining flicks, fresh off of big wins on Oscar night; one of 2014’s best documentaries (and a surprising exclusion from that category); and three terrific catalog titles with spiffy new Blu-ray upgrades. … Read More

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‘Better Call Saul’ Season 1 Episode 4 Recap: “Hero”

How long did it take you to realize that “Saul Goodman” was a play on “It’s all good, man”? I’m ashamed to admit that I breezed through four seasons of Breaking Bad and three episodes of Better Call Saul without it ever occurring to me — until last night’s cold open. (And judging by my Twitter timeline, I’m not the only one.) The flashback not only explains the joke behind the alias, but also reveals that its use dates back to the Slippin’ Jimmy era. … Read More

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‘Sleepy Hollow’ Season 2 Finale Recap: “Tempus Fugit”

If this is the end of Sleepy Hollow, then it will have gone out on a high note. In fact, it’s probably best that it does go out like this, because an episode like the second season finale — one that has time travel, deep historical revisionism, and lasting consequences — isn’t something the show can do on a weekly basis. … Read More

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Frank Underwood Seizes Sesame Street: Links You Need to See

You know it’s been an aberrantly chilling season when even dogs tire of the snow, to the extent that they begin shoveling it. Of course, some of us carry out our frustration in less productive ways — some perturbedly Tweet at the snow itself, which, while ultimately unhelpful, at least makes for enjoyable, mild late night humor.   … Read More

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20 Female Harlem Renaissance Writers You Should Know

I’ll keep this brief: we know too little about the women of the Harlem Renaissance. The more I look into these poets, writers, dramatists, essayists, critics, social critics, young adult writers, and editors, the more astounded I am at their range and literary output. These women writers run the gamut of political perspectives, editorial and aesthetic approaches, and backgrounds and nationalities. Yet they all converged to create one of the richest periods in American literary history. Here’s to learning more, and please, if I’ve made any mistakes or omissions, include your notes in the comments. … Read More

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‘Parks and Recreation’s’ Jerry/Terry/Larry/Garry Gergich Is My Anti-Careerist Idol

Parks and Recreation ends its seven-season run Tuesday night on NBC. To celebrate the show’s unforgettable characters, Flavorwire is publishing a series of tributes to our favorite Pawnee residents. Click here to follow our coverage.

Garry Gergich is not a loser. Even if Garry lets his co-workers address him incorrectly for 30 years — first as Jerry, then Terry, then Larry — without correcting them, he is not a loser. Even if he spills his soup on himself, falls into a creek while chasing after a burrito, kills DJ Roomba, gets his words mixed up and rips his pants, babbles after talking for more than 20 seconds, or farts (a lot) while having a heart attack, Garry Gergich is not a loser. He is an anti-careerist, and he is my idol. … Read More

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‘Restricted Areas': Photos of Forgotten Futures Fading Into the Snow

Russian photographer Danila Tkachenko’s series Restricted Areas, which we spotted via Faith is Torment, is a catalog of what the artist calls “secret cities that cannot be found on maps, forgotten scientific triumphs, abandoned buildings of almost inhuman complexity… the perfect technocratic future that never came.” The fact that because this is Russia, all Tkachenko’s locations are whited out by apparently endless snow, only makes the photos more starkly beautiful. You can see more of the photographer’s work at his website. … Read More

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The Low-Key Radicalism of Leslie Knope’s Nonexistent Motherhood Storyline

Parks and Recreation ends its seven-season run Tuesday night on NBC. To celebrate the show’s unforgettable characters, Flavorwire is publishing a series of tributes to our favorite Pawnee residents. Click here to follow our coverage.

I’ve always wanted Leslie Knope to be happy. She is a better person than I am — a better person, perhaps, than it is possible for anyone who lives outside the unlikely utopia of fictional Pawnee, Indiana to be. But by the time Leslie’s Season 5 marriage to Ben Wyatt and particularly last year’s revelation that she was pregnant came around, I (like A.V. Club’s Libby Hill) was too sick of seeing pop culture’s powerful women forced to “have it all” to be thrilled for her. Instead, I thought, somewhat unfairly, “Another one bites the dust.” What Parks and Recreation has done with the character since the end of last season, though, has made me reconsider. … Read More

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