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Tag: Essays (31-40 of 41)

Top 5 Stoner Movies That Don't Feature Any Actual Weed-Smoking: As chosen by the co-author of 'Reefer Movie Madness'

Reefer-Movie-Madness“18 months. 660 movies. 1 definitive book.” So promise Shirley Halperin and Steve Bloom, co-authors of the new tome Reefer Movie Madness: The Ultimate Stoner Film Guide, which in addition to featuring reviews of assorted cinematic “joints” also boasts “Stony Movie Picks” from Jason Mraz, Andy Milionakis, Adrianne Curry, and Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill. Also included? Informative guides to “Far-Out Acid Flicks,” “Foreign Stoner Films,” “Trippy Spaceships,” “Smoking Animals,” “Smart Stoners,” “Will Ferrell Movies To Watch Stoned,” “Stoner Cops,” “Stony Dream Sequences,” “Stony Mockumentaries,” and “Ganja Girls.” Wow, I think I’ve gotten a contact high just writing that list.

But can we really trust anyone who would pen a stoner film guide to count accurately up to 660? Or 18? Or 1? Actually we can, given that Halperin is a former EW staffer. What we can’t do, on the other hand, is promote or condone the smoking of what I believe the kids like to refer to as “the Mary Jane wacky backy.” Which is why we asked Halperin to recommend her Top 5 Stoner Movies That Don’t Feature Any Actual Weed-Smoking.

You can check out her list after the jump.

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Peruvian writer/politician Mario Vargas Llosa wins Nobel Prize in Literature

mario-vargas-llosaImage Credit: Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Swedish Academy wandered outside of its usual European base to select Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa as the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature today, according to the official Nobel website. From the publication of his first novel, 1963’s The Time of the Hero, based on his experiences at a Peruvian military academy, Vargas Llosa was recognized as a leading figure in the Latin American Boom that emerged in the second half of the 20th century. He went on to write essays, nonfiction, and fiction in a wide variety of genres and styles. In its statement, the Swedish Academy said it presented the award to Vargas Llosa “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat.”

The 74-year-old writer is the first South American to win the Nobel since Colombian magic-realist innovator Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1982 (Mexico’s Octavio Paz won the prize in 1990). Like Paz and many other Latin American authors, Vargas Llosa has dabbled in politics over the years. He even ran, unsuccessfully, for the the Peruvian presidency in 1990. Initially a supporter of Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, he later withdrew his support as his political views drifted gradually to the right over the years.

The political and social climate of South America has remained a familiar theme of Vargas Llosa’s fiction. 1965’s The Green House, widely considered among his best works, is a nonchronological account of unrest in Peru centered on the desert brothel of the title. The bitter 1969 novel Conversations in the Cathedral embeds a critique of the dictatorship of Peruvian president Manuel Odria in the story of one man’s search for the truth about his minister father’s role in the murder of a notorious underworld figure. And in the 2000 novel The Feast of the Goat (published in the U.S. in 2002), Vargas Llosa makes a startlingly unsympathetic, Shakespeare-worthy villain of Rafael Trujillo, the real-life military despot who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930-61.

Many Americans may know Vargas Llosa best for his 1977 comic novel, Aunt Julia and the Screenwriter, which was adapted into American director Jon Amiel’s widely praised movie Tune in Tomorrow, starring Peter Falk as a larger-than-life creator of radio soap operas who manipulates the May-December relationship of a young aspiring writer (Keanu Reeves) and his older, twice-divorced aunt by marriage (Barbara Hershey). (EW’s Owen Gleiberman said the film “crackles with romantic heat.”)

What do you think of the Swedish Academy’s selection? What’s your favorite book of Vargas Llosa? And if he’s new to you, do you plan to pick up any of his works now that he’s been Nobel-blessed?

Harvey Pekar, a great writer, comics innovator: His splendid American life is over

Harvey Pekar was one of the most important, idiosyncratic, and eccentric writers that the comics medium has ever produced. He ushered in a new age of autobiographical realism to comic books and graphic novels, writing scripts that were illustrated by artists such as R. Crumb, Gary Dumm, Dean Haspiel, Drew Friedman, and Rick Geary. He enjoyed a brief period of TV stardom as an occasional guest on David Letterman’s NBC talk show, and his READ FULL STORY

Tom Bissell's 'Extra Lives': What should videogame criticism look like?

At the beginning of Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, Tom Bissell lists a few reasons why videogames have mostly eluded critical analysis. Games take forever to finish (if they even have a finish). They skew young, male, and stupid. The pace of innovation instantly fossilizes everything. “Game magazines publish game review after game review,” Bissell writes, “but they tend to focus on providing consumers with a sense of whether their money will be well spent.” Are videogames even an art worthy of careful consideration, or are they just a commercial product? Is reviewing a videogame like reviewing a toaster, or a car? And if so, who wants to read my semiotic analysis of the Ford Focus?

Putting aside the Great Art/Not Art debate, let’s assume that videogames are just “things” that are worth analyzing. After all, no one involved with the making, distributing, or viewing of Jonah Hex would call it Art, but it still merits a review, just like every other bad movie, TV show, book, and shameless junk-pop album. That brings us to the more intriguing question: What should videogame criticism look like? Bissell’s book offers plenty of tantalizing possibilities.

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'The Office' star Mindy Kaling gets a book deal

mindy-kalingImage Credit: Todd Williamson/WireImage.comThe Office fans have further reason to smile today. In addition to being a few hours away from the new episode “Secretary’s Day,” Random House’s Crown imprint has announced plans to release a book  by Mindy Kaling in fall 2011. Kaling plays the boy crazy yet lovable Kelly Kapoor, who often steals scenes with her ridiculously inappropriate office behavior (lying about being pregnant, performing as a member of the diva duo “Subtle Sexuality”). She is also co-executive producer of The Office and has written 18 episodes of the show over the course of its six seasons.

Titled The Contents of My Purse, Kaling’s collection of comic essays will detail moments from a woman’s life, including everything from relationships to fashion. Crown describes Kaling’s collection as a mix between Kaling’s own blog Things I Bought That I Love and Nora Ephron’s popular Broadway play Love,  Loss, and What I Wore. (Kaling appears to be a fan of Ephron’s, signing her blog posts “Mindy Ephron” and listing the writer-director’s You’ve Got Mail as her favorite film). Kaling took to her Twitter account earlier today to describe the book in her own words: “My book will be essays and personal anecdotes, pictures, fashion, and general opinionated bossiness about how women should live” and “My book will be about being over 30 and settling. ‘Find the Right in Mr. Wrong.'”

With a deal to write and star in a new NBC comedy, as well as being in the process of writing her first feature-length film, The Low Self-Esteem of Lizzie Gillespie, Kaling is poised to become a new version of Ephron for the ’10s. Her rabid fan base (which includes over 1 million Twitter followers) revels in her quirky thoughts and silly comments, as well as smart criticism on the portrayal of women in film and television (“NO MORE TYPE A PERSONALITY WOMEN IN ROMANTIC COMEDIES WHO HAVE TO LEARN TO PUT THEIR CAREER ASIDE TO FIND TRUE LOVE”).

The success of female comedic authors like Chelsea Handler, and the popularity of The Office and Kaling herself, leads me to believe that The Contents of My Purse will be a surefire hit, or at the very least an enjoyable read. I’m already planning on pre-ordering. What do you think, Shelf Lifers? Interested in reading Kaling’s book? Or are you holding out for Dwight Schrute’s Memoirs from a Beet Farm?

David Foster Wallace's private papers acquired

David Foster Wallace’s private papers, which include drafts of his books, notes for his magnum opus Infinite Jest, letters, research, and annotated copies of novels by other famous authors, including Don DeLillo and Cormac McCarthy, have been purchased, the New York Times reports. Among the late author’s effects acquired by the University of Texas, Austin, is Wallace’s dictionary, which any fan of the avowed logophile and member of the SNOOT school will tell you is a pretty fascinating find.

Wallace committed suicide in 2008, but his literary presence is still felt. The author’s third and unfinished novel, The Pale King, will be released next year, and David Lipsky has written a book about his brief time with Wallace that’s due out in April. Are there any fans out there eager to see the inner workings of this brilliant writer’s mind? Does a Wallace-inspired road trip down to Austin sound like a supposedly fun thing that you’d do again and again, or does this news give you the howling fantods?

Mary Karr, Edmund White among National Book Critics Circle finalists

Mary Karr’s Lit and Edmund White’s City Boy were among the finalists named on Saturday for the National Book Critics Circle‘s 2009 awards. The two will compete against Diana Athill’s Somewhere Towards the End, Debra Gwartney’s Live Through This: A Mother’s Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love, and Kati Marton’s Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America in the autobiography category.

In fiction, the finalists are Bonnie Jo Campbell’s National Book Award finalist American Salvage, Marlon James’ The Book of Night Women, Michelle Huneven’s Blame, Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize winner Wolf Hall, and Jayne Ann Phillips’ Lark and Termite.

The biography category is dominated by books about writers: The finalists are Blake Bailey’s Cheever: A Life, Brad Gooch’s Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, Benjamin Moser’s Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector, Stanislao G. Pugliese’s Bitter Spring: A lIfe of Ignazio Silone, and Martha A. Sandweiss’ Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line.

Nonfiction finalists are Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History, Greg Grandin’s Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City, Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains, and William T. Vollman’s 1,300-plus-page Imperial.

In criticism, the short list includes Eula Biss’ Notes From No Man’s Land; Stephen Burt’s Close Calls With Nonsense: Reading New Poetry; Morris Dickstein’s Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression; former EW staffer David Hajdu’s Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture; and Greg Milner’s Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music.

And file under better late than never: 93-year-old poet Eleanor Ross Taylor’s Captive Voices is among the poetry finalists, joined by Rae Armantrout’s NBA finalist Versed, Louise Glück’s A Village Life, D.A. Powell’s Chronic, and Rachel Zucker’s Museum of Accidents.

The uber-prolific Joyce Carol Oates will receive a lifetime achievement award at the NBCC’s annual awards ceremony, which will take place in March. In addition, veteran New Yorker writer Joan Accocela will pick up the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

Attention, Sarah Palin bashers: Lookalike book 'Going Rouge' is coming!

Sarah-Palin-books_lWe know that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin can hunt, and even field-dress a moose, but how will she take to poachers on her book sales? Start-up publisher OR Books has announced plans to publish Going Rouge: Sarah Palin An American Nightmare, a collection of essays about the maverick Republican with a title — and cover design — remarkably similar to Palin’s upcoming memoir. What’s more, OR’s paperback tome will be released on Nov. 17, the same day that Palin’s own Going Rogue: An American Life hits shelves — and one day after Palin’s just-announced, first-ever appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s show. (A shout-out to Ron Hogan at GalleyCat for the tip.)

Going Rouge is compiled by Richard Kim and Betsy Reed, two top editors of the left-leaning weekly The Nation, and includes essays by Nation regulars like Katrina vanden Heuvel, Naomi Klein, and Katha Pollitt. It’s the first release from OR Books, a fledgling outfit founded earlier this year by publishing veterans John Oakes and Colin Robinson that “embraces progressive change in politics, culture and the way we do business,” according to its website.

I realize that this anti-Palin book is a paperback and probably won’t be stocked anywhere near Palin’s hardcover memoir in bookstores, but do these jackets look too similar to be, well, fully kosher? At the very least, might some hockey-mom-loving conservatives be confused enough to pick up the wrong book? You betcha!

cover-promoUPDATE: It seems that OR Books isn’t unique in its attempt to capitalize on Sarah Palin’s upcoming memoir, Going Rogue — nor in rearranging the letters of the title for its own effort. Cartoonist Julie Sigwart and political satirist Micheal Stinson are self-publishing Going Rouge: The Sarah Palin Rogue Coloring & Activity Book, a 48-page paperback that will be released Nov. 17 (the same day as the G.O.P. firebrand’s autobiography as well as OR Books’ anti-Palin essay collection, also titled Going Rouge). The sample pages on the book’s promotional website fall clearly into the realm of political satire, including a coloring page with lipsticks and pigs (naturally) and a caricature of Palin in fishing overalls and possible “fishing gear”: a gun, a saw, an ax, and a bomb.

Manny Farber's collected movie reviews: 'Farber on Film' is a two-fisted treasure

Manny-Farber_lMother lode, treasure trove – the usual clichés of value plenitude don’t do justice to the just-published Farber On Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber (The Library Of America), edited by the critic and poet Robert Polito. Movie critics and fans of movie criticism know what an event this is, which, given the neglected, beat-down state of professional film criticism these days, will only sell about 39 copies of this 824-page $40 mother lode/treasure trove of prose pleasure.

So I’m writing this for anyone who’s never worn out a copy of the only previous collection of Farber’s reviews, Negative Space, to try and convince you of the immense pleasures that await you here. Manny Farber (1917-2008), critic and painter, wrote movie reviews for publications ranging from the starchy New Republic to the raunchy girlie mag Cavalier. This is your first bit of proof that Farber had an itch to get his opinions in print anywhere he could (one measure of a critic who wants to communicate, not just simmer in theory-juice). He never READ FULL STORY

'Heroes and Villains': Pop culture from Elmer Fudd (yay!) to Josh Groban (boo!)

Heroes-and-Villains-Essays_l

David Hajdu’s new collection Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture (Da Capo) is packed with shrewd, original observations about subjects ranging from Elvis Presley to Elmer Fudd, from Kanye West to (well, whattaya know) Taylor Swift. Over the past decade, Hajdu – a former EW editor — has established himself as an ambitious, wide-ranging critic and biographer. (His previous books include the Bill Strayhorn biography Lush Life and a history of comic-book repression, The Ten-Cent Plague.)

The essays in Heroes and Villains are most often critical assessments mixed with biographical sketches, a rare form in this time of the short review and the widespread assumption that readers will be confused upon encountering an actual opinion in the midst of a profile. Hajdu is the rare first-rate critic who’s also a first-rate interviewer – he’s rarely interested in putting his own opinions ahead of the stated intentions of the artist under discussion. If the critical appraisal is at odds with the good quote, he lets both stand, and a fresh tension is the result.

In writing about Joni Mitchell, for example, Hajdu reports that the singer-songwriter insisted to him that she’d always been a jazz artist, never a folk singer, a notion Hajdu takes quiet but firm issue with in proceeding to give a brief but thorough overview of her career, tracing her (yes) folk period, her jazz period, and her subsequent electronic experiments and, most recently, her re-recordings of some of her best-known songs. It takes a hardy critic to plow through much of Mitchell’s latterday work, and Hajdu listens to this music with a typical clear ear canal.

In his introduction, David Yaffe compares Hajdu to Otis Ferguson and Edmund Wilson, and I would add that he’s also working in the tradition of Gilbert Seldes or Robert Warshow, cultural critics who took the long view without standing aloof from pop culture. Hajdu’s writing is always generous. Even when he’s listening dubiously to Josh Groban (“a wondrously strange living amalgam of imposed ideas about pop artistry, most of them fearsomely cynical”), he can find time to describe his voice as “an airy, robust baritone… an impressive instrument well employed to impress.”

Now that’s a good critic.

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