What Aaron Sorkin Doesn’t Understand About Badly Written Roles for Women

I really thought I was done being mad at Aaron Sorkin. This week marks the screenwriter’s promised retirement from his bully pulpit of choice, television, and with it his opportunity to journalismansplain the evils of clickbait and confessional blogging. But where there’s a will to give condescending sermons, there’s a way, and the past few days have seen both an op-ed begging journalists not to report on the Sony hacks (he’s a qualified judge of journalistic ethics because he wrote a show about journalists, you see) and a particularly infuriating revelation from said Sony hacks. Hopefully, the irony/general karmic vibe of the incident isn’t lost on him. … Read More

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Mark Whitaker Still Doesn’t Get How He Screwed Up His Cosby Biography

When the powers-that-be at the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the Graduate Center of City University of New York put together last night’s discussion of “The Biography of African-American Comedy,” it seemed a relatively uncontroversial event. With two biographies of noted African-American comedians slated for fall release, they’d put together a panel of authors and experts, share some insights, and have a few laughs. “Oh joy, what fun this will be,” Levy Center director Gary Giddins recalled thinking in his intro to the event, which prompted knowing chuckles in the audience, as one of those biographies became quite controversial indeed: Mark Whitaker’s Cosby, which came under harsh criticism for failing to even mention the rape accusations that have dominated headlines over the past few weeks (and reemerged partially due to their exclusion from Whitaker’s book). To his credit, Whitaker kept the commitment and appeared on the panel, seemed legitimately contrite and regretful, and still clearly has no idea what he actually did wrong. … Read More

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D’Angelo’s ‘Black Messiah': An Instant Classic That Mixes Politics, Love, and Artistic Triumph

Black Messiah, D’Angelo’s first new album in almost 15 years, doesn’t feel like the tortured manuscript of a man struggling with doubt and questioning his self-worth. Instead, it sounds like the result of a world-weary artist’s maturation. It’s warm, inviting, smooth — and at times, exceedingly real about the world we live in now. D’Angelo records sound like every soul and jazz record you’ve ever heard filtered through the experience of the black man in America at the turn of the century. Black Messiah is no exception. … Read More

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50 Books to Cure Heartbreak

Heartbroken? Left alone? Depressed? And right before the holidays? Never fear, because this is no end-of-year list — it’s a list to cure that broken heart of yours. Now, there are as many ways to mend a broken heart as there are to break one, but hopefully this list will contain something for everyone, whether you prefer to muffle pain with laughter, or might take some hope in a happy ending, or just need to wallow. After all, as James Baldwin said, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” So here you go, gang: 50 cures for love, all $25 or less. … Read More

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‘The Battle of Five Armies': Finally, a Hobbit Film That Offers Fan Service and Thrilling Action

Given that I can recite almost all of the three Lord of the Rings films by heart, including much of the Elvish dialogue (Aragorn, nad no ennas! Don’t judge me), it’s a terrible sign that I’ve been unable to recall most details in either of its prequels, the first two Hobbit films. In fact, the book which was read aloud to me by my father when I was about seven has left more of an indelible print on my imagination than the hours and hours of films thus far. … Read More

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You Don’t Have to Embrace Lumbersexuality to Love the 12 Beards of Christmas

“Lumbersexual” is the worst kind of buzzword — not only is it pegged to a dubious trend, but it’s an egregious perversion of language. (Like “metrosexual” before it, the word describes an aesthetic, not a sexual orientation.) And yet, there’s still delight to be taken in the spectacular beards of its so-called adherents, particularly during this coziest time of the year. For a new photo series aimed at both spreading seasonal cheer and (according to her Bored Panda post about project) raising awareness for men’s health and prostate cancer, Stephanie Jarstad decorated some truly impressive facial hair to resemble Christmas trees, reindeer, and even stockings hung by the chimney with care. If you’re taken with these portraits (spotted via Design Taxi), you might consider buying them in poster or holiday-card form for the beardo in your life. … Read More

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10 Great, Underrated Movies From 2014

In many ways, you can tell just as much about what kind of year it’s been by the movies that aren’t on the many year-end Top 10s and critics’ awards lists. If the regulars in those lists represented all there was to see, well, that’d be one thing (and in the case of this year’s movies, a fine thing); but 2014 was such an embarrassment of riches that even a rundown of the performances and films that aren’t generating “buzz” is pretty impressive. So, in advance of our own roundup of the year’s best movies later this week, we offer you a few less-discussed titles still worthy of your consideration. … Read More

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“Vape” Until You Feel “Cultured”: Links You Need to See

Oxford Dictionaries called dibs on “vape” a while back (yet my computer still vehemently wants to autocorrect it to “cape”), so it was obviously a challenge for Merriam-Webster to find their own word of the year within the sea of useless verbiage that encompasses every word in this shit language of ours— with the exception, of course, of the elegant, inimitable “vape.” But finally, today, Merriam-Webster picked their word: it’s “culture.” You might be assuming we culture writers are all rejoicing: but what, really, is a word of the year, especially when said word is so distinctly indistinct? For, similarly, what is “culture?” Though everyone’s answer might be different (some answers might be about yogurt, other might be about Bertolucci), I find this a perfect place, as it is, after all, a links roundup, to regurgitate some “cultural” stories from the day, and hope, that in the puddle of bilious chunks, the word of the year will somehow become more defined. … Read More

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What Amazon’s Bestsellers Say About American Culture in 2014

Amazon’s list of its best-selling books in 2014 reveals an American culture gritting its teeth, biding its time, immersing itself in serial narratives. If Amazon’s 2013 list aired out the dying gasp of a “can-do” spirit — with books like (#1) Tom Rath’s Strength Finder, (#2) Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, and (#17) Gary D. Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts  — the 2014 list bails on that ethos entirely. Many of the basic social, cultural, and economic pieties that have guided Americans into and through the 21st century are missing from the best-selling books of 2014. … Read More

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Nicki Minaj’s ‘The Pinkprint’ Is Her Very Own ‘808s & Heartbreak’

The final song on the deluxe — but not the deluxe iTunes or Target — version of The Pinkprint, Nicki Minaj’s third album, tells you everything you need to know about the Queens-bred rapper’s mental state at this point in time. Onika steps up to the plate and swings like she has nothing to prove but everything on the line: “You bitches can’t get my spot ’til I’m raising some children.” “Not that I don’t have good vision, but I don’t see competition/ They want me to come and help them, but I am not a magician.” “Don’t make me expose you, bitch, I’m busy.” With a title like “Win Again,” it would be easy to mistake this for your standard Nicki brag track, not unlike “I Am Your Leader” or “Grindin.” But by the end of the song, she’s out for blood with far less of it running through her flow. “I won,” Minaj coos in her most defeated-by-love pop-singer voice, “Kill-kill everything in my way.” Her brain is well trained, but her heart sounds tired. Yours would be too after writing an album like The Pinkprint. … Read More

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