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Recent Entertainment articles from Daily Dot

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    There are a lot of markers of success, but here's one true sign you've made it: your very own Jeopardy! category. Congratulations Beyoncé Knowles, worldwide superstar—now you've truly hit the pinnacle of fame (since you hadn't before, and all). 

    The category "& Beyoncé” from the syndicated quiz show's annual Tournament of Champions challenged its top-performing competitors to answer questions about the singer's long career, from her role in the movie Cadillac Records to one of her most recent singles with husband Jay Z. 

    See how you stack up against the show's smarty-pants competitors in the video below. 

    Screengrab via Beyoncé/YouTube


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    There’s a lot of alternative ways to release youy music and make a splash nowadays. U2 partnered with Apple to force their new release on everyone with iTunes, for example. Now Usher is rolling out a hyperspecific way to get your hands on his newest single, “Clueless”: buy a box of Honey Nut Cheerios.

    However, you can’t just go to your nearest store for the box. The Usher tie-in only works on boxes sold at Walmart, which means he’s slicing his demographic pretty thin at this point. The new single drops via specially marked packages on Tuesday while anticipation mounts for Usher’s next album, UR.

    Usher’s already partnered with Honey Nut Cheerios in the past, dancing with the cereal’s bee mascot in a video set to his last single, “I Came to Give It to You.” This is also not Honey Nut Cheerios’ first dalliance with pop music to move its product. In 2013, the brand did an entire campaign set to a parody of Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me,” rerecorded to proclaim, “Hey, must be the honey.”

    We assume Usher’s single is not bee-themed.

    H/T Billboard | Screengrab via Cheerios/YouTube


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    If you’ve read an article about the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in the last year, it either concerned their archaic censorship process or their efforts to quash digital piracy—which have, thank god, given us a blanket ban on Google Glass in movie theaters.

    The organization’s latest move in the fight to protect intellectual property is equally appealing: Instead of another big lawsuit against a torrent site, it’s Where to Watch, a tool that allows you to search for a film, TV show, actor, or director across multiple (legitimate) content platforms:

    We created this website to make things easy for you. We have given you a way to access the creative content you love quickly, simply, legally and in an ad-free environment. Using our search tool, you can connect to your favorite films and television shows as they become available across a variety of different channels. Provide information on where you live, and we’ll provide you with theater times and locations for every newly released movie nearby. Using Where to Watch, you can search for movie availability in stores and Kiosks, as well as on digital downloading and streaming sites. You can watch trailers and find out what is happening behind the scenes with fresh, original content produced every day by our online magazine, The Credits. You also have the ability to set alerts powered by GoWatchIt and receive notifications when the content you are interested in becomes available from your favorite providers.

    And it really works! Especially on the price comparison front. Did you know that you could rent The Shining (1980) via Flixster, iTunes, Amazon, Xbox Video, or VUDU for $2.99, but it’s only $1.99 if you rent from Target? Hell, I had never even heard of VUDU. This should really come in handy when Putlocker (and Sockshare, and Vidbull, and Gorillavid, and Promptfile, and all your other favorite illegal streaming services) bite the dust. Happy viewing!    

    Photo by imrabi/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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    It must be awesome being Jerry Seinfeld.

    Not only is he an American treasure, but he has his own Internet show that sees him grabbing coffee with comedians whom he drives around. In the latest installment of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Seinfeld sat down with in-your-face comedienne Amy Schumer.

    For this episode, Seinfeld and Schumer climbed into a Ferrari Daytona GTB/4. It’s not the most reliable car the Italian manufacturer has ever made, although honestly it’s hard to think of any reliable car Ferrari has produced. So yes, this 1971 Ferrari was huffing and puffing, but the sound was still pretty incredible. As an added bonus, it frightened Ms. Schumer quite a bit.

    The former star of Seinfeld is really enjoying his post-sitcom years. As viewers of CICGC can tell, the man is a huge car aficionado. For most people, a passion for hotrod cars can only get you so far if you can’t afford to drive them. For Jerry Seinfeld, this really isn’t an issue. The comedian has blended his passions for cars, comedians, and coffee into a project that entertains millions.

    Seinfeld isn’t the only television star to start his own online car show. There’s also former Tonight Show host Jay Leno’s YouTube channel Jay Leno’s Garage. Here’s a video showing off his brand-spankin’ new McLaren P1.

    Screengrab via Crackle/YouTube


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    Too Many Cooks is such an Internet phenomenon that it’s come time for the Internet police to figure out if it was just a rip-off. Something that perfect can’t be original, can it?

    Spoofing ’80s and ’90s TV openings isn’t unique, but one 2010 USC student film, Door’s Always Open, bears some striking similarities to the Adult Swim phenomenon, although not enough to be classified as pure rip-off. Both videos focus on ’80s and ’90s sitcom tropes and murderous madness, but that’s where the similarities end. Erica Rupp’s film features the repetitiveness of a single opening sequence with tweaks until it dissolves into the psychosis of a single woman, while Too Many Cooks is more a meta exploration of the television themes, with madness sprinkled in for good measure.

    When the similarity was pointed out to Rupp on YouTube, she replied, “Eh idea’s [sic] are in the air man. I’m happy they’re doing awesome stuff. Their video was bomb.”  She later posted to Reddit, drumming up more attention for her film, and deservedly so. It’s great, but definitely not a comedy or a gag like Too Many Cooks.

    Still, give Door’s Always Open a watch if you loved Too Many Cooks. There's no such thing as too many riffs on ’80s and ’90s sitcom credit sequences in our book. Consider MADtv's One for the Road, which went up on YouTube this summer.

    If you want to compare, here’s Too Many Cooks for the millionth time.

    H/T deathandtaxes | Screengrab via Erica Rupp/YouTube


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    Chelsea Handler protested Kim Kardashian's media takeover Wednesday with some nude photos of her own. While she hinted that Kardashian's butt was the work of plastic surgeons in her Instagram post, Handler's protest appeared more institutional. That changed Thursday night when Handler pulled no punches and posted the following.


    Screengrab via Chelsea Handler/Instagram

    Per Handler, Kardashian has no talent and is not a good family role model. The shot is impossible to interpret any other way.

    This is somewhat of a surprise given Wednesday night's events. Handler's first post wasn't so much about Kardashian's highly choreographed moment, but rather its widespread acceptance relative to what Instagram decides to censor (Handler had topless photos censored on the photo-sharing social network). The public has no problem passing around Kardashian's butt because it is presented as a totem of stylized, modern female attraction; for straight men, by straight men. But Handler making a joke in an unconventional manner wasn't an acceptable best practice for IG.

    Photo via WehoCity/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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    Long-beloved cult series Gilmore Girls made a triumphant arrival on Netflix last month, embraced by the loving arms of an Internet eager to give it overdue praise for its complex portrayal of women and family relationships.

    Now, the series costars, Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, are reuniting with creator Amy Sherman-Palladino for a look back at some of the greatest moments of the iconic show's seven-year run.

    The ATX Television Festival, which takes place June 4-7 in Austin, Texas, will host a special panel featuring the trio. In a press release, Sherman-Palladino stated she was elated about the chance to revisit Stars Hollow.

    “So, after years of peace and quiet, these lunatics have chosen to get the chattiest chicks in the world back under one roof? Really? Okay. You asked for it… Gilmore was the highlight of my ridiculous life. I can't wait to sit with these unbelievable broads and relive a time where sleep did not exist, where stress and coffee were mama's little helpers, and where we all dove into the deep end together to make something weird and very very cool.”

    Graham, who plays the middle third of the show's grandmother-mother-daughter titular family, whizzed back into character as Lorelai Gilmore, quipping, "There'll be coffee, right? Can't wait!"

    Additionally, the festival will host a reunion of the Dawson's Creek writers' room, as well as its third annual series pitch competition, which allows up-and-coming and would-be showrunners to pitch their ideas for a scripted series to networks and producers.

    Additional details about the contest are available at the festival's website, which had, at press time, crashed under the weight of an Internet's worth of excited Gilmore Girls fans all trying to buy tickets to Austin.

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY SA 3.0)


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    A video of a young man claiming to have been “delivered” from homosexuality has been circulating YouTube with increasing speed.

    The video—filmed at the Church of God in Christ’s 107th Holy Convocation in St. Louis, Mo.—shows the man, who is reportedly 21 years old, declaring to the congregation that he is no longer gay. “I'm not gay no more. I am delivered! I don't like mens no more. I said I like women,” he yelled into the microphone. “I'm not gay! I would not date a man! I would not carry a purse! I would not put on make-up! I will, I will love a women.” Soon after, several members of the church joined the man to dance and celebrate.

    Later in the video, Bishop Brandon Porter rewarded the young man with $100, telling him “God said he's going to bless you because of your commitment. Just to prove it, He just told me to give you $100. He says money is coming your way because of your newfound commitment.”

    Prayer has long been promoted as one of the so-called “cures” for homosexuality and “pray the gay away” ministries, religious camps, and therapists have thrived on this belief.

    The original video, which was presumably uploaded by a member of the church, contained the description, “A young man received deliverance from the spirit of homosexuality during the Saturday night altar call after Supt. Earl Carter preached the fire down from heaven.” It had been viewed more than 300,000 times by Tuesday before being removed from YouTube, however several users have uploaded copies of the video and those too have garnered hundreds of thousands of views.

    Reactions to the video have varied between praise, ridicule, and sadness. Charing Ball of Madame Noire is of the latter, commenting, “If this was some sort of parody video of what we know happens in church, then by all means, let’s have ourselves some hearty chuckles. But this is real life, and this really happened. And worse, it also means that there are children not only being indoctrinated with this level of unnecessary hate, but certain grown folks with long roots within the church being oppressed by this as well. Quite frankly, that scares the crap out of me. And it is also very weird.”

    Since its posting, remixes of the original video have popped up all over Vine and YouTube, including this funky musical reimagining.

    Screengrab via Aye Aye Ron/YouTube


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    Career chill bros Seth Rogen and James Franco have a movie to promote, and so they will soon be naked on television.

    Their film The Interview is set for a holiday release—you may remember that North Korea called the project an "act of terrorism”—and in the meantime the pair decided to take their talents to Discovery’s Naked and Afraid.

    The duo actually gets naked and has to rely on itself to navigate out of the wilderness. “Do you know anything about surviving out here?” a satchel-and-nothing-draped Rogen asks Franco. Watch the trailer for it below at the 1:20-mark.

    The episode airs Dec. 7. Their film opens nationwide Christmas Day.

    Screengrab via WTF Videos/YouTube


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    British radio station BBC Radio 1 released an amazing YouTube video on Wednesday featuring Taylor Swift and her wildly popular new single, “Blank Space.” One lucky DJ, Greg James, was given the honor of starring in an exclusive lip-sync and dance in a car with Swift to promote the track.

    The car involved was luckily attached to a filming truck, meaning that the well-choreographed moves didn’t put James or Swift in any danger. 

    It also isn’t the first time that the DJ has made a successful video based on the pop star’s music. Last year to coincide with the release of 22 he released a tribute video called “I hate being 22.”

    In response to the “Blank Space” video, members of the fan community are already shipping the two as “Greylor.”



    Pro tip: Don't challenge Greylor to a lip-syncing battle anytime soon.

    Screengrab and GIFs via BBC/YouTube


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    The trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey touched down on American soil Thursday like a halftime parachuter landing at midfield who then gives America the bird and slips on his aviators. 

    Not two... not three... not four... not five... not six... not seven... 50 shades, motherfuckers. Watch the trailer below.

    Oh the main dude's last name is Grey? This just got real.

    Screengrab via Fifty Shades of Grey/YouTube


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    Benedict Cumberbatch has taken on an unusual new acting role—imitating 11 of his celebrity friends.

    In an MTV interview promoting his new film The Imitation Game, the Sherlock star performed his best imitations of almost a dozen high-profile entertainment figures, ranging from actors Alan Rickman and Tom Hiddleston to Dark Knight Rises villain Bane and singer Taylor Swift

    Cumberbatch's Christopher Walken may leave a lot to be desired, but the rest are pretty dead-on. Listen to one second of the Owen Wilson impression and you’d swear you were on the verge of being inducted into the Society of the Crossed Keys.

    H/T TIME | Photo via Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) | Remix by Rob Price


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    Emoji made headlines last week after the Unicode Consortium, which manages the most popular text standard, made the long, long, long, long overdue decision to enhance them with racial diversity. At last, non-Caucasian people too lazy to type out actual words would have techno-hieroglyphs that properly represented them. Thanks to Nick Offerman, however, this emoji advance is already old news. 

    The Parks and Recreation star went on Conan O'Brien's show on Thursday night to reveal the next logical step in the evolution of emoji: hand-made, painstakingly crafted solid-oak emoticons.

    Wooden emoji: It’s the American way 🇺🇸.

    Screengrab via Team Coco


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    Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are no strangers to sketch comedy. Paul’s State Farm commercials have been well received, as have Griffin’s Kia ads. Blake’s sketch at the ESPY Awards was the highlight of the show. Now, the two Los Angeles Clippers superstars are teaming up for BGCP3TV In HD, a two-part sketch comedy campaign that originally aired on Adult Swim.

    Jordan Brand enlisted Neal Brennan, the co-creator of The Chappelle Show, to co-create and co-write the show.

    Skeptics may question whether Paul and Griffin have the acting chops to consistently pull off Chappelle’s kind of comedy, but Brennan had nothing but praise for the two. “There are a lot of funny athletes out there, but it’s rare that you see a guy like Blake—I can honestly say he’s an actor who just happens to be an amazing basketball player,” said Brennan. “But don’t sleep on CP, either. Watching him, you see right away that he’s got plenty of talent and the situational awareness needed to pull off the jokes.”

    In one of the sketches, Paul and Griffin attempt to play a game of H.O.R.S.E. while Paul babysits farm animals. In another, a parody of the Scared Straight specials, the duo attempts to set a gang of kids straight while also making jokes at the expense of Milwaukee Bucks rookie Jabari Parker. In all of these sketches, Paul and Griffin nail their jokes flawlessly.

    The on-the-court chemistry between the two future basketball Hall of Famers is undeniable. Thanks in no small part to them, the Clippers are currently running Los Angeles. This special could be the start of Blake and CP3’s takeover of the rest of Hollywood.

    Screengrab via Jordan/YouTube

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    Comedian Chelsea Peretti’s Netflix special, One of the Greats, is filled with plenty of one-off surprises for viewers. From an audience that’s been bored to sleep by her comedy to dogs inexplicably filling the seats of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, there are truly some bizarre yet hilarious things going on here.

    While the random childhood photos of the comedian that antagonize her throughout the performance are strange, the most surprising thing is the absence of Kanye West as Peretti takes the stage for her hourlong special. As a self-proclaimed “direct vessel of God” and a lover of hip-hop, Yeezy’s “I Am A God” seems like it would have been a natural fit for the occasion. Perhaps even for One of the Greats, West’s licensing fees were too steep.

    But don’t mistake her ironic hubris for sincerity, for to do so would undermine the true message of her standup, which focuses on matters of the ego and self-esteem. Only minutes into her set, Peretti begins dismantling the overconfidence society can instill in a person as she imagines how gratifying it would be to wake up a man. “My fantasy of what it’s like to be a guy is you just wake up in the morning and your eyes open and you’re like, ‘I’m awesome!’” she belts onstage in her best baritone.

    But her jokes aren’t without meaning. In an interview with Splitsider.com in September, she gave some insight behind the thought that went into naming her Netflix release.

    I feel like women are frequently seen as guests in the comedy world—you know, a kid sister of the "real comedians." I like the idea of positioning myself as legendary rather than trying to fit in. Now do I see myself like that every day? No, but I think it’s a funny attitude and maybe on some weird spiritual level maybe it’s a good attitude.

    But Peretti doesn’t single out gender in her masterful takedown of confidence, choosing instead to malign all those whom society has deemed as special with her sardonic wit. In a particularly memorable bit, she lampoons the bravery of hot girls who post barefaced photos on social media with the hashtag #nomakeup. “Then the whole Internet is like, ‘Oh good lady, your bravery is unparalleled! We thank you Cassandra!’” Peretti proclaims in her best British accent as she traipses about onstage.

    For diehard fans of the comic, the special certainly won’t disappoint. Her trademark “silly billy” antics that harken back to the physical comedy of Variety SHAC videos are on display in spades. Quickly she falls into the various voices and personalities she’s workshopped on Vine and her podcast, Call Chelsea Peretti, shedding each one like an old skin as she moves on to the next punchline. Hopefully, that kind of versatility will convert those only familiar with her because of The Kroll Show or Brooklyn Nine-Nine into allegiant fans.

    To label One of the Greats as merely another standup special seems like an injustice, given the amount of original material and thought that went into the performance. While the scripted audience interruptions and prerecorded clips certainly tip their hat to predecessors like Sarah Silverman’sJesus Is Magic, the voice is singularly Peretti’s. Though she had her own half-hour in 2011 thanks to Comedy Central Presents, Netflix appears to have offered Chelsea the creative freedom needed to craft the purest expression of her comedy. A clever viewer might even take the opening credits as a slight to networks who have stifled her prior work.

    The fact that Peretti has rebuked the traditional channels of release for her standup special seems all the more appropriate, given that her comedy has come to be so intertwined with technology. From her meta jokes about Instagram filters to her reinvention of tourism ads on Vine, Peretti has now found a new outlet for her comedy online.

    Photo via Netflix 


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    If you’re listening to Serial, the wildly popular new podcast from This American Life producers Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder, you may have noticed that the days between the release of new weekly episodes take on a strange and painful oblong shape. Thursday is too far away from Thursday, and your week bloats outward with more questions than answers. Face it: This podcast is making you crazy.

    How to quell the madness?

    You could revisit the podcast and follow Koenig once more as she meanders through the looming questions surrounding the conviction of Adnan Syed in the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Or you could turn to your dear friend the Internet, which is just brimming with resources for delving deeper into your new favorite obsession.

    Depending on your beliefs about Syed’s guilt or innocence, some resources may please you more than others. Here’s a “pick your poison” guide to getting your Serial fix while you wait for the next installment.

    Team #FreeAdnan

    You don’t just think Syed is innocent; you know it, deep down in your bones. You cannot bear to hear another flimsy theory on why and how he killed Hae. He’s a truly kind human being, and you’re dying for his exoneration to come.

    Read Rabia Chaudry’s blog Split the Moon. Chaudry, the sister of Syed’s best friend Saad, was the one who brought the story to Koenig’s attention. Her blog offers weekly commentary and context for each new episode. Chaudry’s writing is smart, full of heart, and often quite funny. Her insights will bolster your spirit, and her relentless optimism that Adnan will soon be exonerated will soothe your soul.

    Team #HeDidIt

    “Come on,” you scoff every time someone gives you the “truly nice guy” defense. Let’s get real: People are capable of terrible things! You are confident that Syed was definitely involved, if not the murderer himself. 

    Read the controversial “Adnan is a Psychopath” thread on Reddit. Sachabacha, a redditor claiming to be a former friend of Syed’s, details all the unsavory behaviors he observed prior to his conviction. You may also want to read the Psychopathy Checklist and go ahead and diagnose Syed yourself. After all, you’re the expert.

    Team #OnTheFenceAndLosingSleepOverIt

    Perhaps the most delightful and most agonizing place to be as you listen to this podcast is right smack dab in the middle. You just don’t know! Yes, it certainly seems there was reasonable doubt, and no, you don’t necessarily think Syed should have been convicted. The only thing you’re sure of these days is your insatiable thirst for truth. 

    A good place to start your quest for answers is in the Baltimore Sun archives. Read each and every pertinent article, and comb them for fresh evidence of Syed’s guilt or innocence. If you poke around, you can find all the reporting that occurred prior to, during, and after the trial. The Baltimore Sun also recently released an article depicting the plight of Adnan’s younger brother Yusuf, who was just 9 years old when Adnan was sentenced to life in prison.

    Feel like getting weird? Take the video tour of Woodlawn. Starting in the Best Buy parking lot and ending in Leakin Park, the tour offers first-person views of many of the key sites mentioned in the podcast. There’s even a second part, replete with deep cuts like the Crab Crib and an inexplicably groovy soundtrack (Frank Zappa’s “Watermelon in Easter Hay”). 

    Another good way to pass the days that aren’t Thursday is to sift through the gilded comments for the Serial subreddit. This page is a veritable goldmine of keen observations and pressing questions, not only about the case, but about the podcast itself and our relationship to it as viewers. This is a great place to go if you want to dip your toes in the Reddit pool without drowning.

    If you like to get meta, listen to Slate’s Serial Spoiler Specials podcast. Every week, Slate releases its podcast about a podcast discussing the merits of Koenig’s storytelling, the implications of the way Serial plays with form, and, of course, the nitty-gritty details of the case itself.

    And if you’re exhausted after all that obsessing, the best way to top off your knowledge-binge might be with a hearty laugh. Listen to Paul Laudiero, Will Stephen, and Zach Cherry’s fantastic spoof. Laudiero mimics Koenig’s tone with perfect-pitch comedic timing. He even reproduced the MailChimp medley of voices that you just can’t get out of your head and interviewed a modern-day Best Buy employee for details about details. There are five mock episodes in his series, and they’re sure to have you chuckling at your obsession long enough to see you through to next Thursday.

    Photo via Scott Schiller/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed


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    Anywhere else in America this time of year, the talk of seasons conjures up imagery of leaves changing colors, donuts with cider, and fuzzy sweaters. But in Hollywood, all talk about layering is instead replaced by talk about the only season that matters: awards season. With Academy Awards voting around the corner, studios are releasing their buzziest pictures through the fall and hoping for the goodwill to last. But what could those filmmakers do without? All those people on Twitter, talking about their movie.

    The L.A. Times ran a story today about how “fickle social media” is dashing Oscar chances for many movies, because, wah wah those damn millennials and their damn Twitter feeds. While the Academy—the shadowy board of almost 6,000 unnamed members—is the one to vote on who goes home with a golden statue in February, filmmakers and studios are more than worried that social media, Twitter especially, can negatively influence the voters. But instead of listening to their well-paid public relations teams and offering measured responses about the difficulties as well as the boons of social media in promoting films, the crack team of execs the Times interviewed instead chose to shit all over the people paying all that money to watch their films.

    Terry Press, president of CBS Films, offered this take: “It's like an echo chamber of a kind of blather. It's comments pinging off each other. You can declare, 'This is a masterpiece,' and then somebody two minutes later, just to get traffic, will tear you down and say, 'This is by no means a masterpiece.' It feeds off itself." Meanwhile, Oscar consultant Tony Angellotti, who is running the campaign for Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, whined, “Everything and anything goes into the echo chamber, and you can't really do that much with it because social media has dictated that course for you. The noise is profound—and profoundly stupid in some cases."

    Well then. Given that the Academy is known for being comprised of old Hollywood stalwarts with little diversity (at last count in 2012, the voting members were 94 percent white and 77 percent male), it stands to reason that they’re not incredibly involved in social media. And even if they are influenced by buzz, so what? Somewhere along the way, movie studios chasing prestigious prizes seem to have forgotten that movies wouldn’t get made if there weren’t people watching them.

    Don’t want people to complain about your film on social media, lest it affect your statue-hunting chances? Make better films. Or better yet, adopt a thicker skin. But complaining about the changing times, just because it makes it that much harder to rack up meaningless accolades? Likely not the best route.

    H/T L.A. Times | Photo via Nomadic Lass/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)


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    Lorde recently performed her version of rapper Jeremih’s summer single “Don’t Tell ‘Em” for BBC Radio 1, and she made it her own.

    The original is made for the club, but Lorde slows it down and reverses the gender roles. In an interview, she explained “[i]t’s quite a saucy song or something, and I think it would be interesting to flip the dynamic and make that power mine."

    Lorde’s having an excellent 18th birthday month. She debuted the video for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 single “Yellow Flicker Beat,” which has already been “reworked” by Kanye West, and gave Diplo the gas face.

    Some good supplemental reading: Molly Beauchemin’s piece on Lorde, FKA Twigs, and the feminist dance movement.

    Screengrab via BBC Radio 1/YouTube


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    By the time Mara Wilson was 10 years old, she’d played beloved characters in Matilda, Miracle on 34th Street, and Mrs. Doubtfire. What do you do after reaching that level of success in film at such a young age? Drop everything and become a writer and storyteller. Wilson, 27, hosts a live show in Brooklyn called What Are You Afraid Of?. She’s got a book of essays, (K) for Kid, coming out in 2016. She manages two cats and a Twitter account, @marawritesstuff. We caught up with Wilson about her latest projects and how they’re going. (If you are upset we didn’t ask the “right” questions, you might find your answers on her FAQ.)

    Tell me about your show, What Are You Afraid Of? How did you come up with the idea?

    I’ve always been an extremely anxious person. I have panic attacks, I have OCD, I’ve always been nervous. I’ve always had a lot of really strange fears, most of which I’m embarrassed to admit. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of comedy in New York and lot of storytelling in New York that is about fear. Fear is an essential part of New York life. Neurotic people, that’s what we are, that’s why I live here. Although sometimes it becomes too much for me and I’m like, that’s it, I’ve got to move somewhere less neurotic. 

    So I was thinking to myself one day, obsessing about one thing, and I was like, “I’m so afraid of everything. I could do a whole show about everything I’m afraid of.” Then I thought, “Actually…”

    I’d been doing storytelling for about a year and half then. I decided I wanted to make it happen and I started to pitch it around to my friends. I told them I wanted to call it What Are You Afraid Of? or The Chickenshit Show, although one of them is more marketing-friendly. 

    I open the show speaking about somebody’s fears, usually mine. Then we do an interview with an expert on the subject. The last show we did was about Ebola and I talked about reading The Hot Zonein high school and how terrified I was of it. Then we had a virologist come up and talk about how unlikely we were to get Ebola.

    What is the format like for the rest of the show?

    It always opens with me. Then we move on and have other comedians and storytellers come up. Though I prefer storytelling. Storytelling and comedy are a little bit different. Stories to me need to involve an arc; there needs to be a change. It can be a change in you, it can be a change in other people. If you’re just saying, “This happened,” that’s great, but that’s an anecdote, not a story.

    Some of the bravest comedians I know won’t tell a personal story about themselves, just anecdotes. I think a lot of that is fear. 

    I completely understand that. Comedy in a lot of ways is a mask. I’ve spent a lot of my life being this sarcastic, funny girl—that’s another reason why I like this show. There is something beautiful and painful about being so vulnerable. I was a very cynical teenager. I hate cynicism the way an addict hates a drug that ruined their life: it made me miserable and it made everyone around me miserable, and it accomplished nothing. It wasn’t even constructive or anti-anything, it was just completely unsustainable and unhelpful. Now that I’m actually taking chances, taking risks and admitting to my faults, I can move on and be a better person. I feel a lot better. 

    There are a lot of people who think to be funny is to be edgy. I think that’s incredibly lazy. Those types of people wouldn’t do well on my show, because that’s not what it’s about. It’s about revealing yourself. It’s about letting your guard down. That’s why I like doing it.

    I think a lot of people need to think about the audience. A lot of people, I think, don’t. They play everything out to an audience, because of social media, because of everything. There’s not a filter; everyone’s just putting it out there. They don’t actually consider what is actually interesting to an audience, or what the audience is getting out of it. 

    Which is why you get teenagers tweeting stupid, dangerous things. They’re just not thinking about it. 

    Twitter is such an interesting creature that we have! It’s a medium to create  something. There are a lot of Twitter accounts that I love—I love your Twitter—but Twitter itself makes me a little anxious. 

    I can completely understand that. [What you put online is] something that they really need to start talking to children about in schools. My dad used to work for a radio station back in the ’70s, and they always told him, “WGAS: Who Gives a Shit.” That’s actually a really good motto. There’s a line between what’s raw and what’s real and what’s actually interesting to people. I think good work needs to be filtered. That’s a line I try to walk a lot. 

    Do you feel you’ve achieved that with your show?

    People will see the show and realize that they’re not alone, that they’re not the only person afraid of these things, that they can overcome it. One of the worst things about being afraid is it’s the loneliest you can feel. We feel like it’s just us against this thing and that we can’t explain it to anyone else. It’s a wholly individualistic experience. 

    To me, one of the coolest things about comedy is its relatability. Your show is doing that. It’s a wonderful space to create for people.

    Yeah, I was really shocked that this didn’t exist in this form already. 

    A lot of times, anxiety treatments can be so cheesy. You have to sit through an exercise about being under a magical waterfall, but it’s not just water anymore, it’s joy! It’s hard, because I want the help, but I can’t take it seriously. Something in my body stops me. 

    While I do those exercises, I have to stop fighting it and just embrace the cheesiness of it. I feel like, if I want it to work, I have to believe in it. Fighting it can prevent you from getting help. At the same time though I also want to laugh and I want it to be funny. I lead the audience in breathing exercises, and one of the problems with breathing incorrectly is people breathe up, they don’t breathe out. I always ask someone in the crowd to breathe for me and I tell them they’re doing it wrong. It gets a laugh every time.

    When a live show is going really well it’s like you’re flirting with the audience. You’re teasing them a little bit, but you both really want to be there. I know a lot of people who really want to piss off their audiences, who want to provoke them. I think there is a time and a place for it, but that’s not what I’m about. I want to treat my audiences like they are in a safe space. I want it to be like you're coming into my home and I’m telling you a story. 

    Do you see a lot of the same fears over and over again?

    It usually comes back to a few different things. Every time I tell someone I have a show called What Are You Afraid Of?, they go, “Oh, you know, I’m really afraid of scorpions,” or “I have a serious fear of clowns.” Which I guess is what I get for naming my show a rhetorical question. 

    What I’ve found is a lot of fears are about loss of control. Embarrassment is loss of control, getting sick is loss of control, and death is the ultimate loss of control. I’ve always been a little bit morbid. I don’t shy away from the more morbid fears. We had a wonderful storyteller, Peter Aguero, recently tell a beautiful story about fearing he’d lose his temper. Peter is, like, six-five. He’s a big guy, and I’m a five-foot-zero woman, but I knew exactly what he was talking about: that fear of losing control, like you’re going to go punch a wall or something like that. It’s universal. 

    Is your book going to have anything to do with the topic of fear and anxiety? 

    It’s mostly about my childhood and adolescence. The title is (K) for Kid, because they used to put a (K) by my name on a call sheet. I think they really only did that on sets where I was the only child actor, like on Melrose Place. That way they could differentiate me. The book will be about my childhood, but not just the acting. That was a big part of my life.

    There is definitely going to be talk about anxiety, because I was a very anxious kid. I had OCD really badly; I dealt with that for a very long time. I really think it’s important to talk about it. If you’ve come out the other side, if you’ve dealt with it, you can say, “Hey, I want through this. It sucks, but I’m dealing with it.” 

    I’ll be talking about other things too: getting my heart broken, bombing on stage, and Mean Girls stuff I encountered in high school. There will be tons of things like that. I’ll also be talking about filming Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire, traveling to Europe to promote the movie, and feeling out of place. That’s what a lot of stories are: feeling a little out of place, feeling like you shouldn’t be there. 

    There’s a balance I’m trying to strike. A lot of people who are quasi-famous are like, “I’m just like you!” And they’re not. But in some ways I think I am. I’ve never considered myself a famous person, I still really don’t. Everytime I think, “Oh, yeah, I guess I did make a difference to someone. Maybe I was famous!,” something happens and it knocks me off the pedestal. It’s really hard for me to gauge. I have hardcore imposter syndrome. My stories are things I think are interesting, and I have a whole group of friends who will tell me if they’re not. Like I said, I think there are a lot of things out there that are really raw and unfiltered, and I think there’s something really interesting to that. But it’s hard to make raw and unfiltered art when so much of what the world is giving away right now on social media is already raw and unfiltered. It takes a little bit of restraint and a little bit of control. It’s all about striking a balance. I know that’s a platitude, but it’s true.

    Is there anything else that you want to put out into the universe?

    The book won’t be out until 2016, because I still need to finish writing it. What Are You Afraid Of? happens the third Sunday of every month at Union Hall [in Brooklyn, N.Y.]. I’ve also done the show at colleges; that’s something I would like to do more in the future. I think it would resonate with a lot of young people. 

     

    Claire Linic is a Chicago-based comedian, crier, and friend. Her book, The Awkward Phase, will be coming out through Skyhorse in fall 2015. You can submit your triumphant stories of awkward youth to myawkwardphaze@gmail.com. Claire can be found either at @clairermeyer or @wefoughtabout. 

    Photo of Wilson by Ari Scott


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    The Chinese government in Beijing has embarked on a massive moral crackdown in recent weeks, and near the top of its list of targets are the major streaming entertainment services. The Global Timesreports that a sweeping new edict from China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) requires streaming services “to cut content related to one-night stands, sexual abuse and extramarital affairs” from their programming.

    Also forbidden are all forms of pornography, “rape, fornication, necrophilia, prostitution or masturbation,” plus “violent murder, suicides, kidnapping, drug abuse, gambling or supernatural occurrences.” Anything bearing the words “beauties,” “hot dancing,” or “originals” will also be considered suspect.

    If you’re wondering what would be left on TV without all these sordid elements, you’re not alone. Tan Tian, a professor at Jinan University, said that the state was threatening to strangle creativity. According to the Nanfang, a user on China's popular Weibo social network complained that only state-produced shows would make the cut. “Redness will cover all of China,” they argued. Another sarcastically quipped, “if you’ve got balls, why not delete all of the Party official adulterers we’ve been reading about?”

    Tan noted that the new fiat echoes one drafted by SAPPRFT's predecessor organization SARFT back in 2009, suggesting that the original decree was ineffective. Indeed, without a clearer definition of the rehashed policy's terms and better guidance for implementing it, this new attempt to censor entertainment will either fizzle again or wipe out a vast majority of content both domestic and international. China already bannedThe Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife, NCIS, and The Practice in April, potentially driving fans back to piracy. And books, maybe, if those still exist?

    Photo by Josephy Kranak/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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