Sundance 2015: Tig Notaro’s Charm and Insight Save a Formulaic Documentary

PARK CITY, UT: On August 3, 2012, stand-up comic Tig Notaro stepped onto the stage of Los Angeles’ Largo and gave an instantly legendary performance. It came at the conclusion of a three-month period in which she was diagnosed with a dangerous bacterial infection, lost her mother unexpectedly, and was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer news came about three days before the performance, and it was a breaking point; suddenly the series of tragedies became funny, it was just so over the top. She greeted the audience with a warm, “Good evening. Hello. I have cancer. How are you?” And she proceeded to execute one of the most breathtaking high-wire acts in stand-up comedy history. Suddenly, she was dying — and a star. … Read More

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Meet Brent Amaker, the Country Singer Using Artificial Intelligence to Prepare for Immortality

Four days after performing onstage for the first and only time as Android Amaker, Seattle musician and Oklahoma native Brent Amaker checked into a plastic surgery clinic for a neck lift and a procedure on his eyelids. In a sense, it was just part of the show for Amaker. In another sense, there’s not a lot of distance between the show and his life.

Amaker has fronted highly stylized country and western band Brent Amaker and the Rodeo since 2005, but last year he teamed with a handful of other Seattle musicians on an electronic music project, Android Amaker. Encompassing elements of music, visual art and fashion, Android Amaker imagines a future when the singer has uploaded his consciousness to a mechanical humanoid that roams mining operations and frequents dive bars in the far reaches of the galaxy. But for the singer himself, it’s more than just a sci-fi fantasy. … Read More

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10 Sexy Netflix Streaming Movies to Warm Up Your Snow Day

There’s nothing better than a snow day — except perhaps a snow day with a companion. (Let’s just pretend that Juno was the crazy blizzard we were promised.) Whether alone or together, you can stay warm throughout the aftermath of the storm with this killer collection of the best romantic, steamy, and sensual films currently available on Netflix… Read More

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The Case for Writing Workshops

Girls‘ recent exploration of the writing workshop has provided a rare opportunity to publicly explore the good and bad sides of the building block of creative writing instruction, known as just “workshop” to veterans. For those who don’t know, during workshop, one writer sits silently, offering up a previously-submitted piece of writing to discussion, analysis, and critique. During the allotted time, the teacher classmates will refer to “the writer” and “the writer’s choice” as if the person in the “hot seat” were absent (this is the mandatory silence that Girls‘ Hannah cannot maintain in class). Sometimes the writer gets a five-minute response window at the end, sometimes not. Often the critique begins with a “what works in this piece?” discussion before moving in to constructive criticism. The received wisdom of workshop is that you learn as much from dissecting the “craft” choices of your peers as you do from their dissection of your own work. In other words, everyone is learning from each others’ mistakes. … Read More

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“Stonemilker” Is the Saddest Song Björk Has Ever Written

Few occasions afford us the opportunity to collectively geek out to the extent that we are over Björk’s surprise (and surprisingly devastating!) release, Vulnicura. As critics scrambled to publish reviews, coverage of the album was hurried. Now that we’ve had a week to let it marinate, we can better discern the function of each song in the organism of this painfully thought-out album. “Stonemilker” — the first track, and the one most steeped in traditional Björkdom — begins her documentation of a relationship’s deterioration, and is the most uncertain. Unlike the pre- and post-breakup songs that come after it (each is demarcated by a time-stamp based on its proximity to her separation from Matthew Barney), its melody is decorated with faint glimmers of hope. But because we know the rest of the story, that hope, after a few listens, makes “Stonemilker” Vulnicura’s most tragic track — and perhaps the saddest Björk has ever written. … Read More

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Sundance 2015: ‘Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck’ Is a Harrowing, Intimate Portrait

PARK CITY, UT: Buried deep in the private journals, audio diaries, and home movies that comprise the bulk of Brett Morgen’s remarkable documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck are these instructions: “Look through my things and figure me out.” It’s a simple imperative that Morgen clearly took as his mission statement, crafting a bio-doc that eschews the usual conventions in favor of something a good deal more experimental and impressionistic. “This is not Nirvana: Behind the Music,” director Morgen warned the Sundance Film Festival audience Monday morning. “My films are meant to be experiences.” … Read More

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10 Short Stories to Help You Survive a Blizzard

No matter where you are — New York City, a desert island, China — a blizzard may attack at any moment. So let’s say that your basic needs are met: you have shelter, heat, food, water, etc. What else do you need to help you beat the blizz? Just one thing: gratefulness. From death in the snow to murder-suicide, from heartbreaking revelations to frozen children, these blizzard tales will make you exceedingly thankful that you’re trapped in the comfort of your own home. … Read More

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Sundance Docs ‘Going Clear’ and ‘Prophet’s Prey’ Ask: Religion or Cult?

PARK CITY, UT: Late in Prophet’s Prey, Amy Berg’s provocative
and powerful documentary case against FLDS church head Warren Jeffs, author Jon Krakauer says this about the church’s continued dedication to a man who is clearly a monster: “It speaks to something disturbing about human nature. Once you believe something, it’s very, very difficult to give that up completely.” That simple yet undeniable truth lies at the center of not only Prophet’s Prey but Going Clear, Alex Gibney’s already controversial look at the history and methodology of the Church of Scientology. Both films use extensive documentation, buried tapes, and testimony from departed members to paint portraits of organizations that would call themselves one thing (church), while most sensible people would call them another (cult). … Read More

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‘Sleepy Hollow’ Season 2 Episode 14 Recap: “Kali Yuga”

This week, we get the coolest cold open of Abbie singing “Crazy” at karaoke. It’s great until the episode devolves into a typical topsy-turvy whodunit, only this time it’s all centered around our favorite awful character, Hawley, who proves to be every bit as interesting as his hair would imply. … Read More

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Mustachegate and Other Scandals: Links You Need To See

Let’s talk about scandals. Six documentaries have recently been accused of some form of fraudulence. Just like there’s no actual proof that Megalodon exists — because Discovery Channel told us so in an extremely quick and sneaky message before it aired — it’s nearly impossible to determine the veracity of these documentaries. We can only hope that Catfish the show turns out to be fake and MTV isn’t actually filming the equivalent of emotional vampirism. … Read More

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