Popular Posts

10 Groundbreaking Documentary Exposés of Closed, Secret Worlds

Sunday night, HBO will present the television debut of Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney’s excellent (and controversial) documentary exposé of the history and practices of the Church of Scientology. The film is a barn-burner — not just because it’s compelling and well done (though it is), but because it gives such prominent exposure to an organization whose inner workings have largely remained behind closed, locked doors. This is one of the most valuable services nonfiction film can provide; some movies share history, some solve crimes, and some tell secrets. Here are some of the best docs in the latter category. … Read More

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Beyond Mansplaining: A New Lexicon of Misogynist Trolling Behaviors

Mansplaining (verb, gerund) describes the phenomenon of someone (usually a man, but not always) behaving as though he has superior knowledge to someone else (often a woman) who actually knows more about the topic in question than he does. … Read More

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10 Sad Songs That Will Make You Surprisingly Happy

The UN, which apparently doesn’t have anything better to do, has released what it’s calling a list of the world’s happiest songs, in support of something called the International Day of Happiness. If you’re of a certain persuasion, though, you probably regard “happy” songs with the sort of creeping dread you otherwise reserve for “bubbly” shop assistants and “uplifting” motivational homilies. And you’re not the only one — there’s been plenty of research into why sad songs can leave us feeling happy (and, conversely, hearing Pharrell’s “Happy” one more time can leave one with the urge to kill). Scientific evidence aside, there are certain songs that, while undoubtedly sad, are somehow also uplifting — happy/sad songs, for want of a better term. Here are ten of our favorites. … Read More

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Did Thomas Pynchon Predict Parallel Universes, Mini Black Holes, and the Death of the Big Bang Theory?

“It’s effectively a new machine,” said CERN physicist David Charlton of the Large Hadron Collider. After two years of upgrades, the planet’s most expensive physics experiment is set to relaunch at twice the energy of its initial run. And in a new paper, a team of astrophysicists suggests that the miniature black holes that may be discovered by the LHC could detect parallel universes, validating their existence under a theory called Gravity’s Rainbow. You may recognize the name of this theory as the selfsame title of Thomas Pynchon’s 1973 novel about the V-2 rocket in WWII. The novel, which is famously difficult, was awarded the 1974 National Book Award for Fiction. It also features (apparently correct) complex equations and longueurs on quantum… Read More

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How ‘Bloodline’ Breaks the Netflix Original Series Mold

Bloodline is slow. It’s purposely and purposefully slow, excruciatingly sluggish as it teases viewers throughout the first few episodes but never reveals enough. An early voiceover explains, “We’re not bad people, but we’ve done a bad thing,” which should be enough to hold our interest, but the Netflix original constantly tests our commitment to slog through the swamps of Florida, waiting impatiently for something — anything — of note to be revealed. There are surely reasons to stick around, most notably the cast (Kyle Chandler, Linda Cardellini, Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepard, Chloe Sevigny) and the setting, which makes ample use of the sticky, humid, and rainy Florida Keys. But it’s hard to find the energy to hit “next episode” or the urgency to binge-watch, which is surely what Netflix would prefer viewers do. Bloodline is good, but not everyone who starts the first episode will stay with it for long enough to realize it. … Read More

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25 Years Later: Imagining the Dark, Depressing ‘Pretty Woman’ That Could Have Been

Twenty-five years ago this week, a small movie starring a has-been and an unknown crept into theaters and unexpectedly took America by storm. The Cinderella story of a Hollywood prostitute and the tycoon who becomes her knight in shining armor, it made Julia Roberts a star, made Richard Gere a star again, and made $463 million worldwide, contributing to the glut of romantic comedies that would populate 1990s cinema. The movie was originally called $3,000, but you might know it by its second, Disney-imposed title, Pretty Woman. And that moniker wasn’t the only thing that changed between the page and the screen; Pretty Woman has become a legendary example of how a movie can come out of the studio, writing-by-committee system bearing very little resemblance to the script it once… Read More

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Why Music Fans Need to See Colin Hanks’ Tower Records Doc ‘All Things Must Pass’

AUSTIN, TX: “Everybody in a record store is your friend for 20 minutes or so,” Bruce Springsteen announces in All Things Must Pass, Colin Hanks’ nerdy, nostalgic documentary about Tower Records, which premiered last week at SXSW after seven years in the making. As ex-Tower clerk Dave Grohl points out later, this is not necessarily true of most record store employees, who have a snobbish reputation. But Tower was different. … Read More

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Intimate Portraits of ’90s New York City Squatters

During her time as an art student in 1992, Ash Thayer was kicked out of her Brooklyn apartment and found herself living in the See Skwat on New York City’s Lower East Side. Thayer photographed her fellow squatters as they lived and worked to make the community more habitable, learning about demo, electrical work, and more in order to build a home. The images are now part of the fascinating book Kill City: Lower East Side Squatters 1992-2000, the “true untold story of New York’s legendary LES… Read More

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50 Excellent Fabulist Books Everyone Should Read

Fabulism, it seems, is having a moment — although whether it’s truly a trend is up for debate. Some might say it’s been right there, purring along, all this time, while others might blink and wonder what you’re talking about. Such is always the case with magic. But whether you’re a newbie or an old hat, there are always new corners of the fantastic to discover. So, here you’ll find 50 excellent novels and short story collections by fabulists, fantasists, and fairy-tale-tellers, literary books that incorporate the irreal, the surreal, and the… Read More

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The Disturbing Origins of 10 Famous Fairy Tales

If you know anything about us, you should know this: we’re suckers for a good story. Luckily, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version, edited by fabulist extraordinaire Philip Pullman and on shelves today, is packed with them, complete with smart commentary and playful prose. While reading, we were struck by how many of our most pervasive stories can be found in the Grimm tales, or even earlier, and also by how much some of the stories have changed along the way — all the blindings and sexual misconduct and death have been mostly scrubbed away. Then again, none of the stories with people getting nailed into barrels and thrown down hills or into ponds have really made it into the mainstream. Take a look at a few terrifying, gruesome, often bizarre early versions of ubiquitous fairy tales after the jump, and maybe you’ll think twice before reading “Little Red Riding Hood” before you go to bed. … Read More

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