Why Is Stan Lee’s Legacy in Question?

Posted February 24, 2016 By rariccardi

Illustration by Kelsey Dake

It’s the 93-year-old comic-book god’s universe.

People are almost always surprised when I tell them Stan Lee is 93. He doesn’t scan as a young man, exactly, but frozen in time a couple of decades younger than he is, embodying still the larger-than-life image he crafted for himself in the 1970s — silver hair, tinted shades, caterpillar mustache, jubilant grin, bouncing gait, antiquated Noo Yawk brogue. We envision him spreading his arms wide while describing the magic of superhero fiction, or giving a thumbs up while yelling his trademark non sequitur, Excelsior! He’s pop culture’s perpetually energetic 70-something grandpa, popping in for goofy cameos in movies about the Marvel Comics characters he co-created (well, he’s often just said “created,” but we’ll get to that in a minute) in the 1960s. But even then, he was old enough to be his fans’ father — not a teenage boy-genius reimagining the comics world to suit the tastes of his peers but already a middle-aged man, and one who still looked down a bit on the form he was reinventing.
And yet, Lee has no superhuman resistance to the aging process. “My eyesight has gotten terrible and I can’t read comic books anymore,” he recently told Britain’s Radio Times in a rare moment of departure from his usual cheerful, product-promoting talking points. “Not only a comic book, but I can’t read the newspaper or a novel or anything,” he said. “I miss reading 100 percent. It’s my biggest miss in the world. … It’s awful to feel a thousand years old.”

Source: Why Is Stan Lee’s Legacy in Question?

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How often do you watch a movie and wonder how many times the filmmaker’s life was actually in danger while making it? Probably not very often, right? Well, tune in to Netflix and watch director Matt Heineman’sCartel Land, and that’ll be the very first thing you think.

The film about how the drug cartels control the Michoacán region of Mexico, the effort to combat their despotic rule and the impotent Mexican government, while also looking at the efforts of a band of American vigilantes patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border in southern Arizona, is an engrossing, harrowing tale of a modern, real life horror story. It certainly impressed the DGA, which just awarded Heineman the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary documentary this past weekend, as well the documentary branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which gave him his first Oscar nomination for Documentary Feature.

“There’s been a lot of coverage of the drug war in the media, and it’s been glorified in movies and TV shows,” he explains, “and my goal was to put a face to this violence. I didn’t want to talk about this from the outside, I wanted to put myself in the middle of the action and see how this violence affects every day people. The response of every day people rising up to fight back, and the ramifications when citizens take the law into their own hands.”

That violence was something that, as you can see while watching the movie, the director got a chance to experience first hand. He’ll be the first to tell you, being in a gunfight isn’t as much fun as it might appear. The movie makes Sicario, a fictional story about a lot of the same issues, look like a kid’s film.

“It was a genuinely terrifying film to make,” he says thoughtfully. “I’m not a war reporter. I’ve never been in any situation like this before, but the film obviously led me to some dangerous places. Shoot-outs between the cartels and the vigilantes, meth labs in the dark of night, places of torture, and that’s just what happened on camera. There are so many other things that happened off camera that made it even scarier.”
Things like secretive trips to a meth lab in the middle of nowhere, careful negotiations with masked drug dealers and “freedom fighters” who had no interest in being filmed, being surrounded and threatened by men with guns, and the generally spectacular level of paranoia and mistrust of a gringo with a camera.

The primary focus of the Mexican part of the film is on Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician known as “El Doctor” in Michoacán, who leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Templar drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years. Over the course of the film — which was shot from June of 2013 through August of 2014 — the Autodefensas gain more and more ground against the cartel, but not without cost, both physical and moral.

Mireles becomes the mouthpiece of the movement, but even as he tries to do the right thing, he doesn’t always succeed, and to Heineman’s credit, the director never whitewashes anything and refuses to turn the man into some kind of superhero. On the contrary, he shows Mireles for who he is: well-intentioned, but human and deeply flawed.

“So many documentaries go out of their way, and I think many audiences expect it now, to give a very clear answer about a certain issue, or a certain problem or a certain character,” Heineman says, “and for me, that’s not what life is. Especially this world, which is so murky and so complicated and so gray and messy. I really wanted to revel in the complexity of humanity and vigilantism and not put these people, or this movement, into nice, neat little boxes. I really wanted to show both the good and the bad of what’s happening.”

Source: Filmmaker Matt Heineman Dives Deep into Action on ‘Cartel Land’ – “Things That Happened Off Camera Made It Even Scarier” | SSN Insider

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If the success of The Revenant proves anything, it’s that there are some risks, even in Hollywood, that are simply worth taking. It’s easy to say now, of course, after the great reviews and the dozen Oscar nominations and all the guild awards and Golden Globes and everything else, but it’s important to remember that there was a time not so long ago when people were exceedingly worried about the film’s fate.

It was over budget. By a lot. It was a brutal shoot that led to complaints by the crew, many of whom quit the production. It ran past its planned production schedule and, because it had to go where the snow was, finished its principal photography in a different hemisphere than where it started. It was a disaster waiting to happen, and more than a few folks were waggling their fingers and drooling at the prospect of such a failure, much like they did almost two decades ago, with Titanic.

And we know how that worked out.

The film that was ultimately budgeted at $135 million is closing in on $160 million at the domestic box office and has a solid shot at $400 million worldwide, with several large markets still to conquer.

One can talk about how the attention to detail in its production and costume design, the portrayal of Native Americans, the communing with nature, the different use of tried and true story tropes, the beautiful photography and stunning sound work, even the balanced portrayal of the film’s villain have all contributed to the film’s success. You could even go so far as to talk about how co-writer-producer-director Alejandro G. Iñárritu made that rare movie which actually makes the audience feel like they’re a part of the action. His star certainly thinks so.

Source: The Revenant: Can a Hit Prestige Film Change the Tentpole-Centric Mindset of the Major Studios? | SSN Insider

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How Does ‘Vinyl’ Stack Up Against the Real Deal?

Posted February 15, 2016 By rariccardi

Jimmy Page at Led Zeppelin’s legendary Madison Square Garden gig in 1973. The concert is recreated briefly in the pilot for HBO’s rock drama ‘Vinyl.’ David Redfern/Getty

Author of NYC-music book ‘Love Goes to Buildings on Fire’ offers an annotated guide to HBO show’s real-life events

Much like Mad Men, half the fun of Vinyl is in the trainspotting. The art direction is remarkable: historic venues are recreated with awesome attention to detail, real-life-rock-star doppelgangers swagger through scenes,  and all manner of Seventies fashion disasters are reanimated. And the soundtrack, similarly true to the time, is a brilliant mix of the inspirational and the insipid. Here’s a cheat sheet on some of the facts behind the fictions.

Led Zeppelin Plays Madison Square Garden, 1973
TV Version: In the show’s pilot, set in 1973, Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) visits Robert Plant at the Garden to talk him into signing with his label. Later, we see cameras filming as the band blasts through “Somethin’ Else.”

 Real Story: Zep played three sold-out shows at the Garden in July 1973, shot for the concert doc The Song Remains the Same.

The Man Known as “Maury Gold”
TV Version:
Finestra’s first boss, seen in flashbacks, is a label owner with ties to thugs with Italian surnames.

Real Story: The character is likely based on Morris Levy, the notorious boss of Roulette Records. Levy had links to the Genovese crime family and allegedly terrified and swindled Tommy James.

Source: How Does ‘Vinyl’ Stack Up Against the Real Deal?

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Source: 25 Things About Life I Wish I Had Known 10 Years Ago — Life Learning — Medium

Socrates, considered as one of the founders of Western philosophy, was once named the wisest man on earth by the Oracle of Delphi. When Socrates heard that the oracle had made such a comment, he believed that the statement was wrong.

Socrates said: “I know one thing: that I know nothing.”

How can the smartest man on earth know nothing? I heard this paradoxical wisdom for the first time from my school teacher when I was 14 or 15. It made such an impact on me that I used Socrates’s quote as my learning strategy.

I know nothing” to me, means that you might be an educated person, but still, you know nothing. You can learn from everything and everyone.

One thing that I like better than learning from my mistakes is to learn from other people’s mistakes. Over the years, I’ve been blessed to have great mentors, teachers, family, friends, that taught me about life.

What you will find below is a list of the most important things I learned from other people and books. Some of the lessons took me a long time to learn—but if I had to learn these things all by myself, it would take me a lot longer.

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Super Bowl Halftime Shows Ranked: From Worst to Best

Posted February 5, 2016 By rariccardi

Pop spectacles, Janet’s nipple, Springsteen’s marathon, Left Shark and loads of soul revues – we’ve seen ’em all

There is no gig in music like the Super Bowl halftime show. You have 12 minutes to justify your legend. You have 150 million people watching, most of whom are distracted by the nachos platter, how much beer is left in the fridge or how much of the rent they bet on the Panthers. Chances are it’s the biggest worldwide audience of your life, and getting it right means rising to the hugeness of the moment. Getting it wrong can crush a career. Good luck, Coldplay.

And with Super Bowl 50 set for this Sunday, what better time to rank the Big Game’s halftime shows from worst to best. Here’s a subjective, personal, irresponsible and indefensible breakdown of the winners and losers. The Bonos and Beyoncés and Bruces and Britneys. The Janets and Justins. The Michaels and Maccas and Madonnas. Plus the year they trapped poor Gloria Estefan in a Minnesota “Winter Magic” pageant with a bunch of figure skaters and inflatable snowmen. Believe it or not, all these Super Bowl halftime shows really happened. Some were transcendent. Some sucked. Pass those bacon fritters and enjoy the show.

Source: Super Bowl Halftime Shows Ranked: From Worst to Best


7 Ways You Can Become a Better Writer

Posted January 29, 2016 By rariccardi

Your writing skills aren’t going to improve by magic. There is no supernatural power or mystical incantation that will make you a better writer. If there’s no quick and easy wizardry available, how can you develop your writing skills? Here is a list of things you can add to your creative routine. With no eye of newt needed, you will create not a magic potion, but instead a solid recipe for improvement.

One Course Per Year

You should take writing classes regularly to brush up on general writing skills or to learn more about a particular writing technique. No matter how long you have been an author, associating with others who share your passion can inspire you. Hearing comments about your work will boost your confidence in your strong points and alert you to opportunities to strengthen your creative voice. When you critique others, you develop a sense of how certain flaws weaken writing, and how certain literary devices enhance it. If you can’t afford to take a course, search the Internet for a free online course or check to see what is available at your local community college. You might even offer to teach a class. According to the Roman philosopher Seneca, “While we teach, we learn.”

Source: 7 Ways You Can Become a Better Writer

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In this age of “peak TV,” when hundreds of intricate and high-quality shows must fight for survival, the success of a milquetoast show like “House Hunters” barely makes sense: The proudly formulaic HGTV series follows random homebuyers as they pat down laminate countertops and calmly discuss closet space.

But to the astonishment of rival networks, “House Hunters” remains one of the most unlikely and unstoppable juggernauts on TV. The show last year aired a staggering 447 new episodes — far more than the typical 12-to-22-episode cable season — and helped HGTV become one of the most-watched cable networks in America.

“House Hunters” serves as a fascinating counter-example to some of the TV business’ biggest anxieties, including the growing costs and competition of scripted dramas and the rise of “cord-cutters” moving their viewing online. “House Hunters” producers spend next to nothing on stars or storylines, do little to groom an Internet audience — and still consistently attract 25 million viewers every month.

“It’s happy television. It’s so safe. It’s like an old sweater,” said Terri Murray, the executive producer of “House Hunters” and its vast array of specials and spin-offs. “You can walk away from it because the storyline is so simple, the structure is so repetitive, that you can come back and already knows what’s missing.”

Source: How “House Hunters” became the most unstoppable juggernaut on TV – The Washington Post

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Saving Detroit, One Video at a Time

Posted January 16, 2016 By rariccardi
Jonathan Pommerville by Doug Coombe

Jonathan Pommerville by Doug Coombe

How one man’s fight for his Detroit neighborhood went viral

This is how you are meant to use your video camera. This is no bullshit assignment from a teacher who doesn’t get it. This is how you get results using the simple tools at you disposal.

Saving Detroit, one video at a time.

It’s late afternoon on a chilly November night and Jonathan Pommerville is prowling the streets of Brightmoor as a one-man neighborhood patrol, something he’s spent about 100 hours doing over the last year.

He’s lived in Brightmoor most of his life, and seems every bit the freewheeling working-class guy, down to his neck tattoos, his foot-long goatee, and the husky edge to his laugh. At 38, he’s married and owns his own business, but hasn’t lost his adventurous streak: He still enjoys getting away to the U.P. to ride dirt bikes.

That thrill-seeking spirit suits him, because he spends a couple hours a week in his battered truck, armed only with a video camera, playing cat-and-mouse with the drug buyers, hookers, johns, dumpers, and scrappers who plague his neighborhood.

“There aren’t too many people who live in the neighborhood,” he points out, “so either they’re passing through, going to the drug house, coming from the drug house, dumping off junk in the neighborhood, or picking up hookers. So it’s not hard for me to identify these folks, who they are.”

For a year, he’s posted videos of his confrontations with them to his YouTube channel — user name: fochnut — to shame those he says who treat his neighborhood as a playground or a dump site.


Detroit Metro Times

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Tony Zhou’s latest begins with a few stern words from Samuel L. Jackson about his intense dislike for having to repeat his performance over and over for multiple angles of coverage. Given that The Hateful Eight is nothing if not an exercise in ensemble staging, it’s timely that that’s the intro for Zhou’s examination of how this technique works in Bong Joon-ho’s masterful Memories of Murder. Much to chew on here, as ever.


Source: “Too Much Coverage is Exhausting, Especially for the Actors”: Tony Zhou on Ensemble Staging | Filmmaker Magazine

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