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Recent Entertainment articles from Daily Dot

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    Everyone except indignant rappers knows that the Grammys have a rich history of being behind the times. I mean they're still nominating Ludwig van Beethoven. Sunday's 56th annual ceremony will no doubt award the wrong winners, but it will also feature strong performances that blend reunion pomp with breakout circumstances.

    The next Mumford & Sons or the next Ricky Martin could steal the show with a deft combination of competent execution and pretty lights.

    If it sounds like I'm hating, that's only halfway the case. I love the Grammys. My lightbulb realization dates back to the 2001 Grammys, when Album of the Year went to Steely Dan's Two Against Nature (the coke-rock pioneers' 20-years-later comeback album) and not Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP (one of the 10 best American rap releases in Western history). Alright, I thought, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences doesn't know anything, but it's not their responsibility to be hip.

    In reality, I was the tool—taking the time to drop snark on the Grammys in my college newspaper with the self-importance of an English Lit TA.

    The history until Em's snub is considerably more tragic: relegating rap to off-air awards, rewarding Puff Daddy over the Wu-Tang Clan, and Jethro Tull's Best Metal Performance Grammy. The list stretches out further than the red carpet.  Grantland's Steven Hyden spelled this out last year in a fantastic essay:

    Take the first Grammys show, back in 1959. The awards were set up to honor the best music of 1958, which ended up being a pretty unbelievable year: There was Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops” and Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” and Link Wray’s “Rumble.” Seriously, that’s just 10 minutes of what was momentous in ’58. Three months before the inaugural ceremony, an airplane carrying two of music’s brightest young stars — Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, plus novelty singer the Big Bopper, the Macklemore of his day — went down in Iowa, killing everybody onboard. You can only imagine how stirring the Grammy tribute was to those guys, in addition to the performances by all the future legends on the bill. Oh, wait — none of those people was invited. There was no tearful ceremony for Holly and Valens. Instead, Domenico Modugno was honored in the Record and Song of the Year categories for “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare).” The Album of the Year went to Henry Mancini for The Music From Peter Gunn.

    The Academy has made an effort to honor younger artists recently. The last four Album of the Year gramophones have gone to Taylor Swift, Arcade Fire, Adele, and Mumford & Sons. That's Starbucks swag you and I can believe in.

    But enough about who will win that shouldn't (Imagine Dragons, probably). The Grammys are a night out for big music and the performances are interesting if flat and ridiculous. More importantly, it's an opportunity for cold-hearted listeners to scroll through the nominations, find gems, and see what was really good on these pop streets.

    If you spend too much time listening to trendy indie rock like me, Clear Channel doesn't regularly transmit its legion of stations into your sonic sessions. That's great here, because singles from Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Kacy Musgraves, and Sara Bareilles aren't over-cooked nuisances yet. Grammy season allows unfiltered appreciation for music that connects people. It also has a wide lane of roots, mariachi, jazz, gospel, Latin fusion, and R&B that plays out like a rewarding hike. Let’s go up the mountain together.

    Here’s my attempt to find value in genres I generally discard: Christian rock, mainstream country, smooth jazz. It’s a 90-track sampler of the best music this year’s Grammy Awards has to offer.

    Illustration by Jason Reed

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    Real-life celebrity best friends will do a lot for each other. They’ll call each other to prove their epic friendship, partake in selfies together across New York City, and if one of them is doing an AMA on Reddit, the other will hijack it from him.

    Actor Donald Faison hosted a live Q&A session on the social news site Thursday to promote his charity and a contest to win a walk-on role on his current TV show, The Exes. What readers might not have expected was for Scrubs costar Zach Braff to show up, although he’s an active redditor and teased his appearance on Twitter.

    Braff could have easily asked certain points Faison wanted to bring up while all of Reddit’s eyes were on him, but he took the opportunity instead to ask the most embarrassing questions he could think of.


    It was as if J.D. and Turk had never stopped the bromance, and redditors loved every second of it—although as real-life best friends, one could argue that Braff and Faison haven’t stopped it since the cameras stopped rolling on Scrubs. This was no longer an AMA between a celebrity and his fans, but rather a collective witnessing of a friendship bloom even more on our computer screens.

    “Zach Braff is just dominating this AMA,” joec_95123 wrote. “I feel like the rest of us are just watching the two of you hanging out together, and it’s awesome.”

    Braff covered everything from r/gonewild to jokingly accusing Faison of lying about his straightness and when he was going to talk about Rampart. Regardless of whether Faison answered questions, people were getting a kick out of it.

    And even long after the AMA ends, we’ll always have this gem.

    Photo via zachanddonald/YouTube

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    Spike Jonze’s film Her seems to be seeping further and further into our pop culture consciousness, as we’re forced to explore our present humanity and the artificial intelligence of the not-too-distant future. That means it’s time for another parody.

    In comedian Paul Gale’s version, Alison Vingiano takes on the role of Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore Twombly, and “Seth Rogen,” voiced by Frank Garcia Hejl, steps in as Scarlett Johansson’s Samantha. One of the first things we hear is his laugh, and then Rogen proceeds to mashup every movie role he’s ever played into two-and-a-half minutes, proving himself a not-very-helpful operating system. He causes her to miss meetings, is possibly high, eats too many mozzarella sticks, and then THAT LAUGH.

    A Her parody featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Samantha recently made the rounds, but Gale’s version is much funnier. Surprised Rogen and James Franco didn’t parody it already.

    Screengrab via Paul Gale Comedy/YouTube

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    It could have been Charlie Chaplin’s finest role.

    Aspiring filmmaker Stuart Neaverson or England has created a silent film using gameplay from Grand Theft Auto V(GTA V). The 43-second long black and white features onscreen intertitles and is shot at 2x speed to really give it that silent film-era-feeling.

    Titled "Inconvenience Store," it's a tragicomic tale of a routine robbery gone entirely sideways.


    This is the second silent film Neaverson has made in the past six months. The first was called “To Whoever Finds Me” and is “about a man's thwarted attempts to commit suicide.”

    Since GTA V was released on Sept. 17, the game has inspired all sorts of creative projects, investigations, and controversies. This includes a hunt for aliens and rapper Tupac Shakur, uncovering the true identity of the GTA V girl, and banning hundreds of players for acquiring in-game money through cheating.

    H/T Reddit | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III

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    It’s tough to be the bad guy. Ask the Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman, who's been vilified for a pompous post-game rant last week after the Seahawks won a playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. 

    But as one face-meltingly sweet 6-year-old boy in Seattle points out, just because you’re the “bad guy,” doesn’t mean you’re a bad guy. With wisdom straight out of a Disney film, the young fan, named Nikolas, wrote a heartwarming letter to Sherman comparing him to the hero of his favorite movie. 

    “Richard Sherman reminds me of Wreck-It Ralph because people think they are both bad guys, but they are both really good guys,” Nikolas wrote. “They are both nice to kids and really smart.”

    Nikolas goes on to say that Sherman saved the game on Sunday, just like Wreck-It Ralph saved a game called Sugar Rush in the animated feature. While the a oafish video game character messes things up, he does so with a pure heart. 

    Sherman seems to agree with the comparison, tweeting about the letter, “I’m glad this little guy gets me.”

    Photo via Mark Samia/Flickr

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    If you came of age in the 1990s, it’s likely you have an irrational and deep-seeded desire to stand on the bow of a doomed ship while wrapped snuggly in the arms of Leonardo DiCaprio.

    It can’t be helped. Teenagers are impressionable and no matter how many times DiCaprio plays a corrupt banker or hot-tempered plantation owner, we’ll always want to turn to him and say, “Hold me, Jack.”

    That’s perhaps why many hearts came aflutter last night during Jonah Hill’s opening monologue on Saturday Night Live. After Hill downplayed his "Wolf of Wall Street" co-star, DiCaprio himself sauntered out on stage to join the bit.

    “You don’t have to pretend anymore. You’re a real actor now,” DiCaprio told Hill. “You should be humble, you should be gracious.”

    Duly scolded, Hill asked, “Remember when we were on set and I would get really nervous? Could we do the thing we always did every day, the thing that made me feel safe?”

    You’re a lucky man, Jonah Hill.

    H/T The Hollywood Reporter | Screengrab via Hulu 

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    There are some important nuptials happening on television tonight, and no, we’re not talking about the Bachelor wedding.

    Thirty-four couples—of varying race, age, and sexual orientation—will be married on stage during the Grammy Awards. The group ceremony will take place during a performance of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s hit song “Same Love,” which has become something of an anthem for those who support marriage equality.

    While the moment is expected to be a star-studded and moving tribute to love (Queen Latifah will officiate), not everyone is happy.

    That’s because some see the last-minute move to include Madonna as a featured performer as upstaging Mary Lambert. She’s a Seattle musician and LGBT activist who cowrote the song and provides vocals on the original version. (It seems she’ll still be performing, though.)

    Also adding to the controversy, of course, are the people who are flat-out against same-sex marriage.

    “I expect that people with all kinds of opinions might voice them, and that’s healthy,” Neil Portnow, the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, told the New York Times.

    In any case, Madonna has already expressed her thoughts about her role in the imminent love-in.

    H/T New York Times | Photo by Mattz27/Flickr

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    1) Lorde used mystic hands to hypnotize the crowd.  


    2) Beyonce rocked the wet look.  


    3) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis accepted the award for Best New Artist.


    4) Taylor Swift went metal.


    5) Best Pop Duo winners Pharrell Williams (and his hat) and Daft Punk bowed to each other’s greatness.


    6) Sir Paul McCartney was surprised by his win for Best Rock Song with Dave Grohl.


    7) The crowd got into the most energetic performance of the night from Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons.


    8) Ringo and Paul, together again.


    9) Bruno Mars did a little dance on his way to a Grammys win.


    10) “I was a highwayman. Along the coach roads I did ride.” —Willie Nelson


    11) Stevie Wonder and Daft Punk teamed up for a rare performance together. 


    12) "Royals" took home the title for Song of the Year.


    13) Daft Punk won Album of the Year. (And Record of the Year.)


    14) Macklemore went to church to preach "Same Love."


    15) And 33 couples tied the knot in a touching live ceremony. 


    GIFs and illustration by Jason Reed and Fernando Alfonso III

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    Pharrell Williams is a man of many hats. Sure, he’s a rapper, a producer, a fashion designer, a singer-songwriter, etc. But he also owns a surprising number of actual hats.

    The one he wore to the Grammy Awards on Sunday night was wacky enough to start a meme of its own. The Canadian Mountie-styled cap inspired comparisons to Smokey the Bear and the Arby’s restaurant logo.

    Here’s just a sampling:

    Pharrell may have taken home a Grammy for Best Pop Group with Daft Punk, but two noveltyaccounts and countless headlines later, it seems that his hat had a bigger night.

    Screengrab via GrammyAwards2014/YouTube 

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    The closing number of last night’s 2014 Grammy Awards was quite a spectacle, if you had the stamina to stay tuned in after three-plus hours. Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Lindsey Buckingham, and Dave Grohl performed a medley of songs, including NIN’s “Copy of A,” a fitting song for an evening of much cultural appropriation and song-swapping.

    And then their performance was promptly cut off by the program’s closing advertisements.

    Any viewer wishing to see the performance had to deal with the scrolling ads of Delta and the Hilton, which seemed odd, considering the show takes breaks for sponsors what seems like every minutes. Trent Reznor in particular voiced his opinion on Twitter:

    Was this the Grammys trolling the bands? Or was it, as Recording Academy Neil Portnow explained, simply that they thought of the closing number as a “jam” (shudder)?

    In a 2011 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Reznor voiced other opinions about the Grammys, including that they’re “rigged.” But is that really a surprise?

    Photo via monophonic.grrrl/Flickr

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    Thanks to Frozen, we might be warming up to the Batman movie we just wanted to forget.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze from Batman & Robin is just the latest misunderstood, cold-bodied soul to embrace his inner-Elsa and hop on the “Let It Go” cover ski lift. And from the first note, we’re wondering how this didn’t happen sooner.

    Like Queen Elsa of Arendelle, Mr. Freeze hasn’t had the easy life. They’ve both been imprisoned, and now that they’re free, what other way to celebrate it than with an in-your-face ballad?

    Schwarzenegger has nothing on Idina Menzel’s voice, but he can still get the point across. These frozen souls have to stick together.

    And next thing you know, we could see a rendition from the Snow Miser.

    Photo via 2chinTV/YouTube

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    In last night’s episode of Girls, Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah Horvath, has a short but telling conversation with her boyfriend, Adam. She’s reading a Gawker post about [WARNING: SPOILERS] the death of her editor. Reeling from a previous scene in which she’s accused of being self-absorbed, Hannah proceeds to defend the site to Adam:

    “You’re getting your news from Gawker?”

    “They report on media news, and I’m a media-ist, so it’s where I’ve got to get my news.”

    After reading a tone-deaf “eulogy” for her editor, Adam comments that they’re “a bunch of jealous people who make a living appealing to our basest desire to see each other kicked while we’re down.” Hannah then references Gawker’s sister site, Jezebel, as a place where “feminists can go to support one another, which we need in this modern world full of slut-shaming.” The comments board is important to Hannah, and it’s why she’s made so many “e-friends.”

    The timing is too good to be true, of course The episode follows just a couple weeks after Jezebel’s controversial bounty on Dunham’s unretouched Vogue photos. Jezebel’s follow-up post, in which it displayed the relatively unshocking before-and-after shots, prompted accusations of bullying. Critics accused Jezebel of literally betting that a woman’s body would look bad.

    Gawker, meanwhile, is currently saddling up for a lawsuit brought on by Quentin Tarantino, who’s miffed at Gawker blog Defamer for publishing his leaked script for The Hateful Eight. “Gawker Media has made a business of predatory journalism, violating people’s rights to make a buck,” claims his lawsuit.

    Dunham remarked earlier this month that the Jezebel comment in the episode was sarcasm, but a subtweet speaks a thousand words. If this plot point is a narrative device to extend a middle finger to Gawker Media’s ransom journalism, she couldn’t have a better mouthpiece than the idealistic, clueless, self-absorbed Hannah, who claims herself to be an actual Jezebel commenter. (This is a nice throwback to 30 Rock’s “Joan of Snark” Jezebel parody on their “TGS Hates Women” episode.)

    But the bigger point here seemed to be the predatory state of online media in an age when interviews about the NSA are interrupted by “breaking news” of Justin Bieber’s arrest. This desire to hunt, rip apart, and digest celebrity culture and instantly produce unpolished, snark-filled, bite-size, Twitter-ready bloglets is great for pageviews. But is it making us think, not just consume? Do readers even care anymore?

    I struggled with Girls in its first two seasons, but season 3 has developed more muscle. Hannah continues to be maddeningly clueless; by the end of the episode, she’d lost me. But as a means of using media to critique media, Dunham threw some sharp elbows last night.

    Screengrab via HBO

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    Remember that depressing animated Chipotle commercial a few months ago, scored by Fiona Apple? It now has more than 11 million views, and was allegedly a promo for their new app, but it felt like the company was prepping for something bigger. Today, that something bigger was announced: Chipotle is launching a Hulu series.

    On Feb. 17, the restaurant chain debuts the first of four episodes of Farmed and Dangerous, an original comedy series about the industrial agriculture business. Doesn’t seem like that’d be too funny, right? According to Chipotle’s Mark Crumpacker, the show will address “issues that we think are important — albeit in a satirical way — without being explicitly about Chipotle. This approach allows us to produce content that communicates our values and entertains people at the same time.“

    It stars Ray Wise (Twin Peaks’s maniacal Leland Palmer) as an employee of the Industrial Food Image Bureau, investigating a shadowy company called Animoil, and the mysterious case of an exploding cow, the secret video of which has been leaked onto the Internet.

    Hulu’s Bryan Thoensen told the New York Times that this synergy between entertainment and advertising is a new frontier of “brands as studios,” and the creators are attempting to make a brand relatable through 30 minutes of narrative and emotion. By plotting the investigation of these inhumane practices as satire, Chipotle is hoping to start a dialogue about these issues.

    And, of course, having the Ray Wise star in a comedy about exploding cows doesn’t hurt.

    Screengrab via farmedanddangerous/YouTube


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    Artist Vivian Loh has created an alphabet comprised of drawings of Beyoncé and it is a great thing. The 20-year-old illustrator, a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), created “The ABC’s of Beyoncé,” a hand-lettered ode to Queen Bey, posting her creation online last November. Somehow it escaped our attention until now.

    The collection takes some of Beyoncé’s most famous poses and dance moves, from her iconic “Single Ladies” outfit to several of her looks from the “Countdown” video. The only thing I’m sad about is the glaring omission of Bey’s “Bootylicious” fedora, but we can move past that.

    Loh was inspired to create her alphabetic ode to Beyoncé by a class project. “The project began when my college professor asked us to brainstorm how we students could each individually illustrate the entire alphabet,” she told the Daily Dot. “Personally, my work has always been figure-driven, and I enjoyed the challenge of adjusting the human body into readable letter forms. It was also very important to me that these letters not be back-breaking contortionist poses, but realistic and life-like.”


    Here are a few of our favorites in more detail — can you tell which letter each Beyoncé  represents?

    Loh says that the “Z” letter was the most difficult to illustrate. “ I knew that I wanted it to be meaningful symbolically because it was also the last letter in the alphabet. What better way than to play up Beyoncé's unofficial (but really official) title 'the Queen' with her dressed in a queen's outfit? I was very inspired by her 'Bow Down' video,” she told Daily Dot.

    For the complete collection, check out Loh’s website, which also features her other work.

    And if you can’t get enough of Beyoncé-related hand-made items, I highly recommend creeping Etsy for wearables.

    H/T Buzzfeed | Illustrations via Vivian Loh




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    Folk singer and activist Pete Seeger passed away yesterday at New York Presbyterian Hospital at the age of 94, apparently of natural causes. He leaves behind 70 years of musical history. With that legacy, he not only made music that influenced generations to come, but essentially helped build the foundation for modern folk music and political activism.

    Seeger is perhaps best known for “If I Had a Hammer,” or his cover of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight Irene” with the Weavers, but his roots went even deeper than folk music. He was a true activist, traveling the world to sing for migrant workers and union meetings. He was a member of the Communist Party, something he speaks about in this excellent Colbert Report interview from 2012. When called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee about his Communist Party involvement in the ’50s, he told the committee:

    “I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody.”

    He also joined up with the Occupy Wall Street movement in Oct. 2011, with fellow folk legend Arlo Guthrie. This video is notable not just because everyone has their cellphones out to capture Pete Seeger, but because it bridges several political movements he was involved in. He transcended any one era of protest. 

    He truly was a man of the people and for the people. You don’t see that many musicians who remain true to their vision for that long. He just wanted everyone to sing along.

    With that in mind, here’s a Spotify playlist collecting some of his best songs.

    Photo via jcapaldi/Flickr

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    A White House petition asking President Obama to “Deport Justin Bieber and revoke his green card” has collected 65,000 signatures, and the hashtag #DeportBieber is trending on Twitter. 

    The 19-year-old Canadian pop star has left a swath of destruction across North and South America, breaking eggs and hearts from California to Brazil. Bieber’s been charged with some gnarly stuff—including aggravated assault—but nothing has stuck, and it’s unlikely that wishes for his deportation will be granted.

    Meanwhile, a single father in Maryland faces deportation to Mexico for a missing license-plate screw. There are 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in this country waiting for legislation that will provide relief in situations like these.

    But unlike that single father, Bieber is in the U.S. on a visa: specifically, an O-1 visa— granted to those with “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.” 

    “Extraordinary ability” in the arts, indeed. Have you seenhis graffiti

    H/T KITV | Image via Charles & Hudson/Flickr

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    Disney’s Special Agent Oso, an interactive animated series for kids, has been around for years now. It’s only in the wake of more recent NSA revelations and increased drone use, though, that the show’s premise—and a particular side character—have come to seem propagandistic.

    It’s one thing that our hero, the special agent bear of the title, helps children carry out household missions in accordance with orders from an intelligence entity known as the United Network for the Investigation of Quite Unusual Events, or U.N.I.Q.U.E. Altogether more disturbing is a robotic, spycam-fitted ladybug known as Shutterbug, who sends everything she sees “right up to the satellite,” which bounces it back to an agency base hidden somewhere in a misty forest.

    What’s more, Shutterbug appears to be but one in a team of such aerial recording devices, presumably dispatched all around the globe. She’s nominally charged with the task of reporting a child’s distress, or perhaps sulkiness, but something about the way her POV frames subjects in a big, red, target-like circle makes her presence feel a bit more threatening. If you were looking for a way to make a new generation accept the inevitability of 24/7 surveillance, you could do a heck of a lot worse.

    But check out this introductory music video and judge for yourself:     

    At the very least, it’s enough to make you think that domestically deployed U.S. drones would be less controversial if they had cuter paintjobs. Or their own theme song! We're sure they'll work out the kinks eventually.

    Photo by TheOldWorldOrder Page/YouTube

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    News of legendary folk singer Pete Seeger’s death at the ripe old age of 94 just broke, and you know what that means: Twitter mourning the wrong person entirely.

    Spreading like a nasty flu is the misconception that Pete Seeger is the same person as Bob Seger, a rock musician known in part for a song titled “Night Moves.” These were all retweeted by sharp-eyed critic Craig Jenkins, who writes for Pitchfork and SPIN, among others: 

    Other users took the mix-up further, not even getting the deceased's name correct; here it became hard to tell just who was in on the joke. (Seger's own official Twitter account has been silent for nearly two weeks, which probably isn't helping matters.)

    Then there were the people who clearly sought to exploit and enhance the mounting confusion. (We’re generously assuming that no one thinks “Fly Like an Eagle” or “The Gambler,” tunes by the Steve Miller Band and Kenny Rogers, respectively, were part of Bob Seger’s oeuvre.)

    In all the noise, however, one noble, helpful voice rang out.

    Good enough for us.

    Photo by reneerwest/Flickr

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    Fast & Furious star Vin Diesel took to Facebook early this morning to address his fans and let them know that his 2013 sci-fi action film Riddick is currently the number one best-selling DVD in its first week of release. But he offered fans something else. 

    The Facebook post just says, “You know I love music,” and Diesel more than proves that as he dances first to Katy Perry’s pop-trap hit “Dark Horse,” then Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love.” The video is heavily edited, but it’s hard to notice when Diesel’s attempting to lick the camera.

    During “Drunk in Love,” he pulls back a bit, and we see his whole form undulating, lit by an early morning light. When he gets to the “surfboart” part, he mimics riding a surfboard or … something close. Sort of disappointed he doesn't actually grind on that wood. Was hoping for a "Grind With Me" redux. 


    While his performances don’t quite mirror Perry and Beyoncé’s dark magic from the Grammys, it is a reminder that somewhere, Vin Diesel dances like no one’s watching, and then uploads it to Facebook, just like the rest of us.

    Screengrab via Facebook 


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    It’s hard to get a handle on Mitt, the gentle Netflix documentary that follows presidential hopeful Mitt Romney from the 2008 Republican primaries to the general election in 2012.

    Despite a svelte 92-minute running time, the material comes across as sprawling and unfocused, a patchwork of rarely revealing home movies that use his immediate family as a softening lens. In fact, you have to wonder if the term "documentary" even applies—it's more of a boring anecdote, endlessly looped. With interludes for group prayer.


    Filmmaker (and fellow Mormon) Greg Whiteley’s unfettered access to Romney and his vast brood is touted as Mitt’s raison d’être, yet there are no shocks, no late-night hotel room confessions that would serve to alter our perception of Romney. Are we meant to be touched that Romney loves his family or thinks highly of his late father? These are qualities that telegraphed just as well on the campaign trail, and they still don’t make someone a good president. The actual mechanics and challenges of running for office, meanwhile, are conspicuously absent. All we see are informal debriefings. 

    So too are Mitt’s less attractive characteristics on display: his sad, Nixonian desire to be liked, his painful inability to make small talk.

    “I love the leaves in the sunlight,” he tells one voter in a fast-food restaurant. “When I was a kid, we would burn the leaves, but we don’t do that anymore.”

    Indeed, much of the dialogue here will have you wondering just what these people are talking about, and why it should matter to us. In one lengthy scene, after a tough debate with President Obama, Romney and one of his sons argue at length about whether there’s a food court at the Delta terminal in New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Riveting stuff, I’m sure, just not when you consider the context—or the fact that the film jumps directly from 2008 to Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe in 2012, skipping months of bloody competition with Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann, and Santorum.


    The film’s flattening effect, a result of the effort to counterbalance Romney’s image as a corporate vulture, actually brings a handful of otherwise insignificant oddities to our attention. We see Romney drinking caffeinated soda, which the Church of Latter-Day Saints did not officially permit until September 2012. We learn that Mitt’s wife Ann rides horses in part because it helps keeps symptoms of her multiple sclerosis at bay—but she’s then shown pulling and holding onto a horse’s tongue, which equine dentists will tell you is a no-no. A Romney son whose nerves are frayed as polling places close asks to be slapped in the face, hard, by someone else in the room, and when he gets what he wants, he demands a slap on the opposite cheek.

    The sequence Whiteley singles out for special attention is, of course, the night that Romney loses to Obama: It's what we walk in on before the film backtracks to 2006 and brings us full circle. Apparently it’s crucial that we hear Romney utter the question “What do you think you say in a concession speech?” twice. The remark is especially curious given that six years before, the entire Romney family seems on the verge of tears just discussing the possibility of a presidential run and always appear girded for humiliating defeat even when their patriarch is doing well.

    “You’re branded a loser for life,” Romney says of party nominees who fall short, keenly aware and desperately afraid that he is going to disappoint his kids, his wife, and his staff.


    But for all the bleary-eyed pessimism about his chances and depiction as “the flippin’ Mormon,” Romney still manages to act the shocked victim, expressing disbelief at unfair debate moderators and hateful remarks from the managers of rival campaigns. He is at once familiar with the savagery of political theater and easily wounded, certain that the country needs him and yet totally lacking in moral conviction. He strangely identifies with Pappy O’Daniel from the Coen brothers film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a complacent, do-nothing southern incumbent governor up against a Democratic rival with ties to the Ku Klux Klan. He grasps at straws when it comes to viable examples: “I was talking to Papa John’s—you know, from Papa John’s Pizza,” he reports at one point. “He said he wouldn’t have started his business in this economy.”

    Sure, Mitt’s “not a bad guy,” as his family loves to insist, and since we completely gloss over his positions and ideas about governance, that’s about all we’re left with. But Romney was only ever a punching bag in the context of his aspiration to become CEO of the United States.

    Seeing him try to iron his tuxedo’s cuff while wearing it, or hug his grandchildren, or express a preference for his favorite old duct-taped gloves, or just snack on nuts and tidy up in a hotel suite while waiting for bad news: These moments are humanizing, and wholly irrelevant. Whiteley’s talent is for a digressive kind of hagiography, in which only the mundane details count. What he ends up with is a portrait of a friendly, awkward, devout businessman who cannot read the national mood, which is exactly what we already understood Romney to be.


    The greatest indictment of Mitt, however, is that it pretends to pull back the curtain on the noble core of its subject while in fact exposing him as an ideological vacuum. Not long after Romney criticizes “the 47 percent” for being reliant on government assistance, he tells the story of a voter who asked, “Can you help us?” and emphatically says, in an unconscious echo of Obama, “Yes, we can.” So which is it? The lack of defining motivation becomes an intrinsic feature of his campaign. “If I don’t do it, who the heck will?” he asks of the job of commander-in-chief, as though he’s running for student council. Trouble was, the country wanted more than a buttoned-down figurehead who happened to be next in line.    

    Photo by Tim Scott/Flickr

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