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Josephine Baker - Kees van Dongen, 1925

Josephine Baker – Kees van Dongen, 1925

I saw her a year before she died. She was greeting people at the Rainbow Sign in Berkeley, California. Ntozake Shange, a poet and playwright, coaxed me into the receiving line because I was shy. And when it came my turn I presented her with a copy of [Mumbo Jumbo,] the novel on whose cover I had used an old photo of her to represent two sides of the Vodoun goddess Erzulie. And she flashed that famous smile and squinted those famous eyes and she said, ‘Do you know the young man who wrote this book?’ I was so awestruck, I said, ‘Yes, ma’am, I knows him,’ forgetting that that young man was me. That was Josephine Baker. Such a divine presence she made you forget yourself.

– Ishmael Reed in the New York Times Book Review, December 12, 1976

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birdman

[mild, vague spoilers]

If Superhero Movies are our new mythology, Birdman makes our new mythology feel like crumbly newsprint and warped videotape. Not that Birdman will or should render Superhero Movies obsolete or anything. I still like, and still expect to enjoy, Superhero Movies. But Birdman reaches certain levels of truth, buried deep in the middle of an inescapable labyrinth, that might make it impossible for me to see our new mythology Superhero Movies the same from now on (at least until a movie comes along that can out-Birdman Birdman).

Things like “universal themes” and “timeless stories” are great, but I know now that I need more blood, more  super-realism.  Larger Than Life with more Life. If Superhero Movies are Led Zeppelin, Birdman is punk rock.

Darren Aronofsky dabbled in this kind of mythology with The Wrestler and Black Swan (before he got all Biblical with Noah). But where those two films hurtle towards death, Alejandro González Iñárritu & his co-writers wallop Aronofsky’s artistic defeatism with an optimism that’s more transcendent than anything I’ve experienced with a Superman story. Icarus need not be a tragic figure. There’s a Birdman in all of us.

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billy-joel-didnt-start-the-fire

Press play & sing along.

Barack ObamaBeyoncé,
Matthew McConaughey,
Lena Dunham, Boko Haram,
Bill deBlasio

Polar Vortex, Richard Sherman,
True Detective, Immigration,
Pete Seeger, Derek Jeter,
Maya Angelou

Neil deGrasse Tyson,
Philip Seymour Hoffman,
Battle in the Ukraine,
and Malaysia’s missing plane

Colorado’s legal weed,
Daft Punk’s got a Grammy,
Malala Yousafzai,
Donald Sterling, goodbye!

 

(more…)

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Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day is about as perfect as a movie can be. If there’s one movie all us humans should base our lives upon, this is it. We must remember not only to learn from our mistakes, we must also remember to learn how to learn from our mistakes. And the universe is ultimately not that impressed by our underhanded shortcuts.

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Dr. Korchek’s glorious love letter from Steven Soderbergh’s Schizopolis. Happy Valentines.

Dear Attractive Woman Number Two,

Only once in my life have I responded to another person the way I’ve responded to you. But I’ve forgotten when it was or, even if it was in fact me that responded.

I may not know much, but I know that the wind sings your name endlessly, although with a slight lisp that makes it difficult to understand if I’m standing near an air conditioner.

I know that your hair sits atop your head as though it could sit nowhere else.

I know that your figure would make a sculptor cast aside his tools, injuring his assistant who was looking out the window instead of paying attention.

I know that your lips are as full as that sexy French model’s that I desperately want to fuck.

I know that if I could, for an instant, have you lie next to me, or, on top of me, or sit on me, or stand over me and shake, then I would be the happiest man in my pants.

I know all of this and yet, you do not know me. Change your life. Accept my love. Or, at least let me pay you to accept it.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jeffrey Korchek

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Philip Seymour Hoffman first caught my attention in 1997, when he performed one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ll ever see: playing the awkwardly sweet boom operator Scotty in Boogie Nights, right after he’s rejected by hot porno superstar Dirk Diggler.

Until this point in the movie I’ve been laughing at Scotty’s flirtations with Dirk, assuming Scotty would never be so delusional as to try and kiss him or something. Then Scotty actually tries to kiss Dirk, and even though it goes a little better than expected (ie, Dirk doesn’t erupt into violent, coked-up gay-panic), it’s still devastating once Scotty starts calling himself Fuckin Idiot. It’s even more devastating because part of me still wants to laugh at Scotty, and laugh much harder than I might be willing to laugh at myself while looking back on my own Fuckin Idiot moments.

This performance is the epitome of the Fuckin Idiot moment.

I also like to remember PSH as a paragon of the Pig FUCK! moment: When an arrogant fraud lashes out at someone who dares to expose the truth. As Lancaster Dodd in The Master:

He says, “We are not helpless,” and he wishes he could believe it more. He adds, “And we are on a journey that risks the dark.” That much he’s sure of.

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Over at FLAPPERHOUSE, I review Stanley Kubrick’s least-famous Lost Film, Stanley Kubrick’s Shit Happens:

IT’S EASY TO FORGET THAT STANLEY KUBRICK, the pensive, punctilious director of 2001 and The Shining, was also the cheeky, impish ringmaster behind wickedly funny films like Dr. Strangelove and Full Metal Jacket.  Read any critique of Kubrick’s work– even a favorable one– and chances are you’ll find words like “clinical” and “icy-balls.”

Perhaps that’s because so few have ever seen (or even heard of) this esteemed filmmaker’s least-famous Lost Film.

Click for the rest

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