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Chaos Theory: An Unofficial History of the Modern Superhero Film

The sad fact is that almost nobody making superhero movies has any idea what they're doing. There's no proven formula for success in the genre, so any given successful superhero film is only proof of what works in the present, not what will work again.
  • By Simon Abrams
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  • December 30, 2013 1:15 PM
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  • 4 Comments

VIDEO ESSAY: The Coen Canon

Fear is at the root of much of what we consider humorous in films. The fear that something, whether it’s a job, a relationship, or some larger dramatic situation, might go wrong is always present in cinematic humor. This connection between fear and comedy gives the Coen brothers' films their power.
  • By Nelson Carvajal and Max Winter
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  • December 27, 2013 4:48 AM
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  • 1 Comment

ARIELLE BERNSTEIN: Swaddled in Bravado: Our Heroes and Us

Cultural critics often lament the lack of strong female characters, but rarely turn their gaze to ask whether male heroes are actually as empowered as we think they are. For all their bravado and bluster, most classic male heroes are not allowed much emotional latitude.
  • By Arielle Bernstein
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  • December 23, 2013 1:54 PM
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  • 0 Comments

Screenwriter Bob Nelson Talks About What’s Personal and What’s Payne in NEBRASKA

Any screenwriter starting out should watch "The Apartment" for structure.
  • By Meredith Alloway
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  • December 20, 2013 2:54 PM
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  • 0 Comments

On the Shoulders of Giants: Why Movies Are Shifting from the Undead to Big Monsters

The most pivotal psychological difference between big monsters and the undead is the turn from the individual to the group. One person can singlehandedly dispatch zombies or vampires. Giants, though, are enemies so massive that only a group can vanquish them.
  • By Jesse Damiani
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  • December 18, 2013 2:43 PM
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  • 2 Comments

Complicit in THE ARMSTRONG LIE

In no other place are we so desperate to crown monarchs, to live vicariously through victory and wealth, than in the realm of celebrity. We are smitten by the success of others. In Lance Armstrong, we were given a character for the ages.
  • By Mike Spry
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  • December 17, 2013 9:00 AM
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  • 1 Comment

VIDEO ESSAY: Dragons in Movies

In confronting dragons, humans confront an ancient, alien Nature. Unlike the other popular fantasy figures these days—vampires and zombies—dragons are not transmuted humans, but rather something beyond us, other than us. Often, they are represented as deeply greedy, and this is their fatal flaw (e.g. Smaug in "The Hobbit").
  • By Leigh SInger and Matthew Cheney
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  • December 13, 2013 12:36 PM
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  • 0 Comments

How WHITE REINDEER Defies Cliches of Grief

"White Reindeer" is all about a woman’s grieving process—is steeped in it, in fact—and its great strength lies in its determination to work against filmic clichés of that process. Its outstanding set of actors, fantastically chosen soundtrack, and moving, sensitive cinematography make this film so genuine you can almost taste it.
  • By Max Winter
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  • December 6, 2013 2:04 PM
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  • 0 Comments

Kathleen Hanna Up Front: On THE PUNK SINGER

This is what a feminist looks like: a young woman in a white t-shirt at the center of someone's crowded house party in Olympia, Washington, 1991, her dark hair tied back in a sloppy ponytail, all eyes on her; she holds the room's attention with the magnetism of a movie star as she chants a poem in railroad-train rhythm.
  • By Violet LeVoit
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  • December 4, 2013 12:41 PM
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  • 0 Comments

Some Things Are Best Done the Old-Fashioned Way, Pixar Studios: The Beauty of IS THE MAN WHO IS TALL HAPPY?

Gondry tells two stories at once with "Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?": one is a plain-spoken, relaxedly paced conversation with Noam Chomsky about his life and thought; the other is the story of a filmmaker's attempt to understand Chomsky's words, expressed through highly personalized and gloriously imperfect drawings.
  • By Max Winter
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  • December 3, 2013 4:33 PM
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  • 0 Comments

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