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Recent Entertainment articles from Daily Dot

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    Is Nancy Grace a human incarnation of an Internet troll? All evidence points to yes: her reactionary nature, her need to yell over guests, her possibly stoned views on weed. She might as well just scream “First!” at the starte of every show.

    A recent Good Morning America segment discussing Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial offered even more evidence. As ABC’s Dan Abrams brings up Pistorius’s cellphone usage at 1:48 in the morning, after claiming he was asleep the night of Reeva Steenkamp’s murder, Grace interjects with her signature, uh, grace:

    “To look for poooorrrrn, Dan. Porn.”

    That news was revealed a month ago, but it's not gonna get past Nancy! In the short segment, she offers no other insight except for porn:

    “I notice neither of you want to touch it with a 10-foot pole that he was up trawling the Internet for porn just before he kills her, but I’ll save that for another day.”

    To which GMA’s anchor Josh Elliott replies, “Actually, Nancy, we just have to get to the weather.”

    Burn notice!

    Photo by Elaine Moore/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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    The representation of women of color in film has been the subject of many a thinkpiece lately, and rightly so. There needs to be more dialogue about how to subvert the female “sidekick” stereotype. However, Tess Paras recently summed up the whole issue in a two-minute video.

    “Typecast” is essentially a parody of Lorde’s “Royals,” but the lyrics relate to those sidekick stereotypes. Paras and two other actresses, Ayana Hampton and Haneefah Wood, are auditioning for three separate roles, then they break down the possible outcomes via the unspoken rules of Hollywood films: Paras will play the white girl’s nerdy friend, but the white girl can’t have two black friends.

    The alternatives? How about “oversexed Asian” or “urban girls of flavor.” Paras relates that what would be better than being typecast would be getting her own show, with her own “white friend, brown friend, beige friend, yellow friend.” We would watch that show. Hollywood, are you listening? 

    Screengrab via Tess Paras/YouTube


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    Two weeks ago, Funny or Die released another installment of Zach Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns, an interview series in which the comedian eye-rolls his way through awkward celebrity Q&As. Only this video featured President Barack Obama zinging Galifianakis for The Hangover Part III, and urging viewers to sign up for the Affordable Care Act before the March 31 deadline. The video now has more than 19 million views.

    It humanized the president, but it had a bigger effect: It became the top driver of traffic to Healthcare.gov. The afternoon of its release, an administration official claimed they’d received 19,000 direct referrals, and traffic went up 40 percent. For a time, Funny or Die was the number one source of referrals to the site.

    The video had its detractors, but even the criticisms were hilarious. Remember when Bill O’Reilly called Obama “desperate” and said Abraham Lincoln would never have appeared on Between Two Ferns? Even before the Obama video, commenters slammed Funny or Die for "peddling socialist snake oil." 

    So why did a comedy website have one of the most successful attempts at getting people to sign up?

    Funny or Die, founded by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, is known for its pop culture satire and cabal of comedic talent. It’s not necessarily known for social advocacy campaigns. However, last year the site did rally around Shezanne Cassim, a 29-year-old American living in the United Arab Emirates, who’d been imprisoned for a parody video he and his friends released. The #FreeShez campaign raised awareness about his imprisonment, using a handful of well-known comedians and actors. He was released in January.

    Last summer, Funny or Die’s president of production, Mike Farah, joined artists and celebrities at the White House to brainstorm ideas for getting Obamacare out to the youth, and a loose plan was set in motion to produce F.O.D. Obamacare videos. He hoped the videos would be a call to action, something that normalized signing up for healthcare.

    “It was a pretty organic process in terms of us wanting to help out and learning about some of the challenges and obstacles facing the law,” Farah says. “And it fell into what we already do a lot of at Funny or Die, which is make political, topical, hopefully funny videos about what’s going on in the world, and it definitely spoke to our younger audience. That’s who they were trying to reach. [The White House] got to know us and we got to know them, and we had a good foundation and working relationship. And when the president decided to get more actively involved in early February, we started talking about what that could look like.”

    Farah explains Obama knew what Between Two Ferns was about, and got the joke. The president also indulged in a bit of improv.

    “I think the whole Ferns framework of comedy worked very well for the president,” Farah says. “His deadpan and his vibe and his natural sense of humor complimented Zach very well. I think we always wanted the piece to stand on its own and be an episode of Ferns that happened to have the president in it. We didn’t want it to feel like anything different.”

    On Tuesday, they released their latest star-studded Obamacare video, featuring Parks & Recreation’s Adam Scott reprising his role from Step Brothers, and bro-ing down with Mark Cuban, Jeff Probst, and Chris Daughtry. To add to the assholery, Scott wears Google Glass and attempts to tell us how "health insurance equals fear." Over the weekend, they released another anti-Obamacare rant

     

    Funny or Die has certainly tackled social and political issues in past videos, using big celebrity names to get the point across about Syria or gun control, but the Obama video changed the dynamic; this was the first time a sitting president became the face of a viral video for a comedy site. For all the debate it incited, it did call people to action. 

    “I want to say it was just last week they announced that 800,000 people signed up between March 1 and March 15,” Farah says. “So I think Ferns had a direct impact on that, but I think people are hearing [about signing up] from a lot of [places]. Deadlines have an ability to motivate people to do things, so I think the timing of the video was perfect.” (An email to the White House asking for specific figures was not returned.)

    After March 31, Farah says they don’t have any explicit plans to explore specific political issues or engage politicians looking for that same virality, but assures Funny or Die will continue to spin satire like they always have.

    “There will always be an effort by Funny or Die to make some comments about what’s going on in the world,” he says. “Politics, social issues, pop culture, whatever it is. I can’t say, now that the deadline’s over, we can start our campaign for X or Y, but it’s ingrained in the culture of the company to keep an eye out for those things.”


    Screengrab via Funny or Die 


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    Ah, that iconic Veronica Mars voiceover. For the many fans who watched the new movie this month, Kristen Bell’s wry noir monologuing was enough to bring them back to the show’s heyday in the mid-2000s. And now we can hear some more of it, courtesy of the new Veronica Mars audiobook.

    Co-written by Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas, “Thousand Dollar Tan Line” takes place after the events of the movie, and follows Veronica’s first case after returning to her home town of Neptune, Calif.

    When a girl goes missing during Spring Break, Veronica winds up embroiled in a typically complicated web of Neptune mysteries. The audiobook was recorded by Kristen Bell, and you can listen to a five-minute sample on YouTube.

    This seems like one of those books that’s better in audiobook than in print format. Weirdly, the story isn’t told from Veronica’s perspective like the TV show, but it in third person, meaning there might be a bit of a disconnect for people who are used to hearing Veronica’s inner monologue. The fact that Kristen Bell herself decided to narrate the audiobook will likely bring things back into familiar territory, and we have to admit that YouTube sample does sound pretty tempting.

    “Thousand Dollar Tan Line” is the first in a series of two books that will apparently count as official Veronica Mars canon, meaning that they may tie into any future movies or TV reboots. We can but hope.

    Photo via Wikimedia


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    Have you heard that one Nine Inch Nails song?

    That’s a joke (one that can be used for many bands), but apparently comedian Freddy Scott thinks Trent Reznor really does have one song that he’s been rehashing for decades now. The band does have a song called "Copy of A," after all. 

    So he broke it down for us, parodying the video for “Closer” and taking shots at Reznor’s indulgent sartorial and compositional offenses in “This Is a Trent Reznor Song.” He's definitely got the voice down. 

    Wonder what Reznor has to say about this.

    Screengrab via Freddy Scott/YouTube 


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    This summer, Miley Cyrus is following in the footsteps of Beyoncé, Kanye, and Jay-Z. No, she’s not going to move her musical style even further towards R&B or rap (or, at least, not that we haven’t heard). Like Queen Bey and the two reigning kings of hip-hop, Cyrus is getting her very own novelty college course.

    Skidmore College is offering a summer school class about Miley Cyrus called “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus: Race, Class, Gender, and Media.” The course description promises to use “Miley as a lens through which to explore sociological thinking about identity, entertainment, media, and fame.”

    It sounds fascinating, but the instructor, Carolyn Chernoff, wants students to know it’s not a bird course.

    “I created it as a creative and rigorous way of looking at what’s relevant about sociology and sociology theory,” Chernoff told Skidmore’s college newspaper, the Daily Gazette. “Miley Cyrus is a surprisingly complicated cultural moment.” Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs last summer announced her arrival as an official pop provocateur, and Chernoff wants to examine Cyrus’ identity shift from a wholesome Disney star to a deliberately racy adult pop act.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like attending Cyrus’ Bangerz tour will get students any extra credit.

    H/T The Daily Gazette | Photo via Flickr/karina3094 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

     


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    A tweet from The Colbert Report account earlier today has people on Twitter embroiled in an argument over satire and racism.

    The Twitter account for the satirically conservative Comedy Central show published a strikingly unsatirical, and some say straight-up racist, tweet Thursday afternoon.

    The tweet, a tie-in to a segment on Wednesday night's show, was intended to be biting commentary about the hypocrisy of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who responded to criticism of his team's name by creating a foundation to help provide more opportunities for "Original Americans."

    Unfortunately, 140 characters leaves little room for that kind of context. Without being paired against the Redskins situation, the tweet alone appears to be in shockingly bad taste.

    To understand the tweet in its proper context, see last night's episode clip. The relevant portion begins around 4:50.


    Though it has since been deleted, the tweet sparked a rare moment of heated backlash for Colbert, with offended Twitter users spawning the hashtag #CancelColbert. An intense divide split parts of Twitter as the hashtag quickly reached trending status.

    Amid the turmoil, it seemed the vast majority of those using the hashtag were actually defending Colbert and railing against those who declared #CancelColbert in earnest:

    The conflict behind the tweet seems to be a basic question of context and intent. Those defending Colbert say he's a comedian poking fun at racism. But if offense is caused, does it matter if the intent was to provoke commentary or be satirical? Those objecting to the tweet seem to feel that intent is irrelevant, and that Colbert's brand of satire does more harm than good. It's too close to "hipster -ism", a kind of inside joke that actually perpetuates the thing it's superficially trying to mock.

    This isn't the first time Colbert has come under fire. Most notably, he's been taken to task for numerous statements on the Colbert Report that some viewers felt were transphobic. The angry side of Twitter hadn't forgotten those as it rehashed criticisms Thursday night.

    As the debate raged, the official Colbert Report Twitter issued a new Redskins-related tweet that made the satire more clear. But offended viewers will undoubtedly be expecting an apology, either on Twitter or on Monday's live showing, if not both.

    Update: The Colbert Report Twitter account clarified Thursday night that it's a Comedy Central account operated without oversight by Stephen Colbert or the show's creative team: 

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-2.0


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    Last night, Joan Rivers returned to The Tonight Show 26 years after being banned, and she did not hold back.

    Rivers, a frequent guest host on The Tonight Show during Johnny Carson’s tenure, began appearing on the show in the ‘60s, and was featured as a writer and opening monologist. In 1983, she was named his permanent guest host. In 1986, she was offered her own late-night talk show on Fox; Carson allegedly never spoke to her after that, and banned her from any show on NBC.

    Rivers made a brief appearance on The Tonight Show last month, during new host Jimmy Fallon’s first show, but last night marked her first legit guest spot in nearly 30 years. She talked about getting older, returning to the show after her falling out with Carson, her new sex tape, and made jokes about her vagina that made Questlove cover his eyes. 

    Screengrab via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon/YouTube


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    When Marion Stokes passed away in 2012, she left behind a family and personal legacy. She also left 40,000 VHS and Betamax tapes in her Philadelphia home, filled with local and national news shows she’d dutifully recorded for three decades.

    Last fall, her son, Michael Metelits, reached out to the Internet Archive, a San Francisco–based nonprofit focused on cataloging archived websites and digitizing cultural artifacts like TV shows, books, video, and live concerts.

    Between 1976 and 2012, Stokes taped shows she thought might be important one day. Metelits says there were two triggers for her to start: The Iran hostage crisis of 1979, and CNN launching as a 24-hour news source. She wanted to catch news as it evolved. 

    The Internet Archive took on her massive collection, and earlier this week, the first digitizations from the project were uploaded to the site for free download. It’s a talk show called Input, which Stokes coproduced with her husband, John Stokes Jr. The program aired Sunday mornings in Philadelphia between 1968 and 1971.

    Metelits has been in San Francisco this past week, visiting the Archive and sitting in on the process. He says that many of clips he was shown he remembers from childhood. Stokes would often appear on Input as well, and seeing his mother as she was then was an emotional experience.

    “In one of the clips, she kind of walked on with a microphone to insert something she thought was being missed,” he says. “She was a big personality, very charismatic, very forceful, very sure of her own capacity to contribute intellectually to any conversation. She was alarmingly intelligent. She had an eye for detail and an eye for the big picture.”

    Trevor von Stein, one of the Internet Archive’s many volunteers, started at the non-profit at the beginning of February, and two weeks later, was given a stack of tapes to digitize. He says it took about four to six weeks, part time, to finish the initial project, which involved Input.

                                              Image via Trevor von Stein 

    “I was not initially listening to the episodes, or carefully following the discussion or who appeared,” von Stein says. “But Roger Macdonald, the director of the televisions programs at Internet Archive, suggested I examine who some of these people were. We were all curious. I started checking, and the more I did, the more I thought it was worth thorough examination. The research was also partially a matter of verifying that I had transcribed the name correctly as well, to ensure accurate reference data. I wanted this material not only to survive, but to be findable on the Web.”

    And the content of Input is astounding. Stokes was an activist, and the show functioned as a roundtable to discuss political and social issues of the day. Beyond making this content Internet-ready, von Stein says he got a bit of a history lesson. He describes some of the highlights:

    “I found some unseen footage of people who were deeply involved in history. From John E. Fryer, who later went on to be Dr. Anonymous at the APA convention, or William C. Davidon, who only this year was revealed posthumously to be the ringleader of the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI. Peter Countryman organized the Northern Students Movement. Maggie Kuhn was the founder of the Gray Panthers. Ron Dorfman just passed last month; he and his partner were the first gay couple married in Illinois in December. Almanina Barbour was the fourth female attorney in Pennsylvania and is still practicing law. James L. Brown, Jr. redeveloped and helped restore the Parkside neighborhood in Philadelphia. Marjorie and Tom Melville were members of the Catonsville Nine, who stormed a draft office and burnt draft cards with homemade napalm, awaiting arrest, as a peace protest.

    “Pete Seeger appeared on a program, titled 'We, the Jailers,' with recently released ex-cons on parole and the last warden of Eastern State Penitentiary, a psychiatrist who was very influential in the reform of prisons. Seeger plays a song, the performance hadn’t been seen in 43 years. Tony Avirgan was a social activist, now a journalist; he survived a bombing by the CIA reporting from South America during the Sandinista/Contra war. Janis Ian is on the show several years before her Grammy award-winning album. Civil Rights-era priests that desegregated their congregation, or hosted the ordination of the first female priests in the Episcopalian church, well before that was allowed.”

    That Input was so groundbreaking, and that no one has really heard of it, speaks to what the Internet Archive is trying to achieve as compilers of useful, historical info. Coincidentally, Metelits says his mother never used the Internet, and was very conscious of surveillance online.

    “She eventually adopted the mobile phone, but she never sent an email.”

    Stokes’s eye for detail, and for the bigger picture, may sound like an obsessive hobby to some. But she did have a vision for her archive, and Metelits hopes it can impart some wisdom to the Internet generation.

    “One of the really important things about the way the Internet Archive is cataloging this is it’s going to enable people who maybe have a narrow view of events to get a sense of the historical sweep,” he says. “This isn’t the first time Afghanistan's been a problem, this isn’t the first time a particular politician has been in the news. This is going to provide a sense of the rhythm of news stories, for people searching for a particular politician. My hope is that it deepens public perception of not only how news was made, but the actual politics underlying the news, to help people have a more informed, intelligent engagement with politics.

    “That was my mother’s dream for it.”

    Screengrab via the Internet Archive 


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    If you were a kid in the early 1990s, chances are that you remember the movie My Girl. Macaulay Culkin, who was a box office sensation thanks to the wild success of Home Alone, played Thomas J. Sennett, a dorky kid who is best friends with Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky). After the two friends enjoy a carefree summer—and even a first kiss—the movie takes a morbid turn as Thomas J., who is allergic to everything on the planet, is killed by a swarm of bees.

    Innocent summer activities, cute romance, and DEATH BY BEES. That's how they made movies for adolescents back then. These days, you get sanitized dreck like Frozen and The Avengers.

    Anyway, some nostalgia buff out there decided that My Girl would work as—why not?—a video game. Thus, the sadistic folks at Snowrunner Games put together a crude version of the movie's traumatic climax, including everything from a MIDI version of the song "My Girl" to heavily-pixelated movie stills.

    InMy Girl the game, you get to play as the unfortunate Thomas J. You use the arrow keys to run (and jump) aimlessly around a field until the killer bees inevitably strike and seal your fate. A mood ring (which was a focal point in the movie) indicates how much time you have left.

    In other words, it's basically a side-scrolling version of Pac-Man, minus the bouncing fruit (which Thomas J. is probably allergic to anyway).

    I played the game and managed to avoid the bees for a full one minute and 45 seconds before it became evident that I wasn't going to be in My Girl 2. Audio from the traumatic scene in the movie plays once the bees conquer you.

    If you find yourself wondering why My Girl was ever optioned into a video game, let this old fart remind you that, back in Nintendo's glory days, they made video games out of everything, including Wayne's World, The Three Stooges, and even The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    Perhaps we can persuade Snowrunner Games to create video games from other traumatic childhood movies, including Return to Oz and Killer Klowns from Outer Space.


    H/T A.V. Club/All images via My Girl the game


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    Last night, the Juno Awards took place in Winnipeg, and honored the achievements of Canadian musicians in the last year. The Juno Fan Choice Award is perhaps the most importantit’s from the fans, after all!but when it was announced that Justin Bieber beat out Drake, Avril Lavigne, and Arcade Fire, among others, the industry-heavy audience was not happy.

    In this clip, you can hear the crowd’s applause shift to audible boos. Bieber was not even in attendance at the awards, and Canada’s Olympic women’s curling team picked up the award for him. This isn’t the first time Bieber’s been booed at an awards show, but this might be the first time that just his name has elicited such a response, in the country in which he was born.


    Singer Serena Ryder stuck up for Biebs when she accepted her award for Songwriter of the Year, saying, “I really think that Justin Bieber is an amazing musician and he deserved every bit of that award because he's been working his ass off his entire life and we need to support how awesome he is.”

    Twitter, of course, had mixed feelings on the issue:

    Bieber responded with positive affirmation on Instagram this morning.

    H/T The Wrap Photo via MissCasanova/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)


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    Did you know that most Breaking Bad fans out there have devoted over two full days, without food or sleep, to watching their beloved program?

    And that's all Breaking Bad fans, not just those who binge-watched it on Netflix in that amount of time.

    A new site out there calculates exactly how much time you have spent watching your favorite TV shows. Not only that, but it crunches the numbers cumulatively, as most of us enjoy more than just one TV program.

    For example, say that you are a huge Star Trek fan. From the original series in the 1960s all the way to the last episode of Enterprise, you were glued to the adventures of the latest crew who were boldly going where no one had ever gone before.

    According to the calculator, you spent 27 straight DAYS drinking in all of that entertainment.


    Long-running TV shows conjure up frightening statistics all by themselves. For example, if you watched Saturday Night Live every single week since its debut in October 1975, you have devoted 48 DAYS—almost two full MONTHS—to the late night staple. And, chances are, roughly 15 minutes of it was actually funny.

    Don't even try it with soap operas or Doctor Who. Your heart will sink.

    Since I am not as avid of a TV watcher these days as I was as a youth, I decided to compile some data on the cartoons I enjoyed back in the 1980s and 1990s.


    Over a week of my life was spent watching formulaic cartoons whose primary function was to sell toys. Four days alone were devoted to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

    And that doesn't include commercials.

    Or the fact that I have seen most episodes of these cartoons at least three times apiece.

    If Alex Cican, who created the calculator, ever designed one for Internet usage, we would all be in serious trouble.

    As a final note, if you are tuning into the series finale of How I Met Your Mother tonight, know that, according to the calculator, it took Dad over four straight days to tell the story.

    All images via tiii.me | Main Image via Mark Vitazko/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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    Last month, Amazon debuted five new original pilots that were up for green lights. They asked viewers to vote on the shows and leave feedback, to quantify and qualify which of the lot deserved to be seen by a larger audience, and end up on Amazon Prime Instant.

    Today, Amazon Studios officially confirmed they’ve picked up four of the five pilots: Jill Soloway’s Transparent, The X-Files creator Chris Carter’s alien invasion series The After, the cop drama Bosch, and Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman’s classical-music dramedy Mozart in the Jungle. Sports comedy The Rebels has been put on hold for the moment. Amazon also renewed Garry Trudeau’s political comedy Alpha House for a second season, and picked up two kids’ shows. This second round of pilots were allegedly watched by twice as many customers as last year’s.

    We reviewed all the pilot epsiodes last month, and favored Soloway’s Transparent above the rest. In an interview with Indiewire, Soloway, who worked on The United States of Tara and Six Feet Under, explained how Amazon’s pilot process is revolutionary, in that it minimizes the Hollywood hierarchy traditionally needed to approve a pilot, and lets the viewer voice their opinion as well. You can still watch all the pilots as part of a free 30-day trial.


    This announcement comes days after a rumor that Amazon is planning to debut a free streaming service. The company quickly denied that rumor, but announced a Wednesday press conference about an “update” to its video service, which might be for their new Internet streaming device. No word yet as to whether the device might be delivered via drone.

    Screengrab via amazonstudios/YouTube


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    It’s that time again: Netflix yanks the awesome titles you didn’t know it was streaming, then replaces them with mediocre content you thought was already on Netflix in the first place.

    Although Netflix released a list of new streaming titles a week ago, the list of new content for the next month (see below) is much longer. Braveheart? Mean Girls? You’re guaranteed to have seen three-quarters of these new titles on TBS like seven times already. And on April 1, you’ll watch them again.

    • Amistad
    • Barton Fink
    • Braveheart
    • Chinatown
    • Click
    • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
    • Coneheads
    • Death Wish
    • Death Wish 2
    • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
    • Dragonslayer
    • The English Patient
    • The Fifth Element
    • Gattaca
    • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
    • Inventing the Abbotts
    • Jumanji
    • A League of Their Own
    • Look Who’s Talking Now
    • The Man With One Red Shoe
    • Mean Girls
    • The Muppets Take Manhattan
    • Night of the Comet
    • Rocky
    • The Running Man
    • Scary Movie 3′
    • See No Evil, Hear No Evil
    • Sense and Sensibility
    • Survival of the Dead
    • The Terminator
    • Wild Things 2
    • The Yards

    In addition to the new movie titles, Netflix is also addingDexter’s Laboratory, season 2 of The Boondocks, season 2 of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, season 3 of Bob’s Burgers, seasons 1 through 4 of Royal Pains, seasons 3 and 4 of Ed, Edd, and Eddy, and season 6 of Mad Men (in time for the new season’s premiere April 13).

    And here’s the stuff that’s leaving Netflix by the end of March, for those who want to spend their April Fool’s Eve snuggling up to Anthony Michael Hall in The Dead Zone:

    • 24
    • Voltran: Lion Force
    • The Dead Zone
    • 21 Grams
    • Oldboy
    • Escape From Alcatraz
    • The Hunt for Red October
    • The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
    • The Truman Show
    • Sunset Boulevard
    • The Thing Called Love
    • The Amittyville Horror
    • Pi
    • Nell
    • Everything or Nothing
    • The Haunting in Connecticut
    • My Tutor
    • Who’s Minding the Store
    • Farewell to the King
    • Baby Boom
    • American Gigolo
    • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    • Catch 22
    • Dark Blue
    • Play It Again, Sam
    • Mommie Dearest
    • Pet Sematary
    • April Fool’s Day
    • Staying Alive
    • Resident Evil Apocalypse

    H/T Hypable, Webpro News | Screengrab via movieclips/YouTube


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    Epic Records announced Monday that nearly five years after his death, Michael Jackson would be releasing new music. The King of Pop’s first posthumous LP, XSCAPE, will arrive May 13, featuring eight new songs with production from Timbaland and a promise from L.A. Reid to “contemporize” Jackson.

    Initial response has been largely positive.

    Fair enough: It seems like a good thing on paper.

    I love Michael. I cried when he died and spent that night dancing to his music until after last call. But the idea that hearing this music is a net positive for humanity is misguided and naive.

    This project is a pointless, exploitative cash grab that will be remembered less fondly than Michael Jordan’s tenure with the Wizards. In fact, this should not be a controversial position, given a number of critical x-factors at play.

    1) If MJ wanted us to hear these unreleased sketches, we would have.

    Michael Jackson, creatively, was a notorious control freak. Remember his touching and beautiful Simpsons cameo? Of course you do. He originally insisted on the episode being about he and Bart staying up late to write a song. He asked that a joke about Prince become a joke about Elvis. He wrote “Happy Birthday Lisa” but insisted that soundalike Kipp Lennon sing the thing in order to play a joke on his brothers. The rest of his non-singing voice work was then credited under “John Jay Smith,” surely less than ideal from a marketing angle. I have battled the ethics of stealing music forever, but the notion that unearthed and private material be sold under the Michael Jackson banner is inherently deplorable.

    2) MJ wasn’t a caged bird.

    How can you make a Michael album without Michael there to trim its edges and insist that a single be written about orphans? He was the world’s finest song and dance man, but Michael’s water-walk moves and pyrotechnics-infused live spectacles mask his songwriting instincts. Look at what the dude wrote. And just look at what a perfectionist he was in the studio. From a ‘90s-era TV Guide interview:

    TV Guide: You also said [Thriller] was a sad time.

    Michael Jackson: Yeah. If I don't get exactly what I'm looking for, I get very depressed.

    TVG: You mean the album still didn't live up to what you had envisioned?

    MJ: Not completely.

    TVG: Which songs disappointed you?

    MJ: "Wanna Be Startin' Something." Songwriting is a very frustrating art form. You have to get on tape exactly what's playing inside your head. When I hear it up here [points to his head], it's wonderful. I have to transcribe that onto tape. "The Girl Is Mine" [his duet with Paul McCartney] wasn't completely what I wanted, but it's very nice. But "Billie Jean" is there. I worked so hard on that. I worked for three weeks on the bass lick alone.

    3) Timbaland’s recent batting average.

    Timbaland is one of music’s all-time production gurus. During his early pro years, the man’s work showed boundless flair: Usher, Jodeci, Ginuwine, Aaliyah products were the time capsule efforts. But under Babyface, he also helped craft underrated, perfect singles like “This Is for the Lover in You.”

    Check out this video of when Timbaland first played the “Dirt Off Your Shoulders” beat for Jay Z.

    Recently, his form just hasn’t been particularly challenging. After the Justin Timberlake cornerstones from FutureSex/LoveSounds, he’s displayed an increasingly redundant reliance on a short rotation of distinct sound effects and bounce patterns. His drum kit is an open-sourced goodie bag for countless imitators.

    His last five years have been marked with failed attempts to relive the Timberlake magic, and industry favors with the Jonas Brothers, Shakira, Chris Cornell, Chris Brown, Jamie Foxx, Ricky Martin, Robin Thicke, Cher, and Dido. I bet Timbo has been watching Pharrell’s resurgence and career highs, stewing with competitive angst. But another celeb plastic surgery job is not the answer.

    4) Timbaland’s 180 on the whole “remixing dead people” thing.

    Two years ago, Timbaland and Missy Elliott opted out of the Drake-helmed, posthumous Aaliyah remix project for, presumably, personal reasons. This is what his manager Mona Scott-Young released:

    “Although Missy and Timbaland always strive to keep the memory of their close friend alive, we have not been contacted about the project nor are there any plans at this time to participate … We’ve seen the reports surfacing that they have been confirmed to participate but that is not the case. Both Missy and Timbaland are very sensitive to the loss still being felt by the family so we wanted to clear up any misinformation being circulated.”

    It wasn’t a good idea then, and still isn’t because ...

    5) When have posthumous releases been good?

    It’s a short list. Big L’s The Big Picture was more of a collection of underground successes, and its purposes was to announce to the world, “Hey this really awesome rapper is dead you should check out his rapping.” That’s a stocked category, sure. But with iconic titans? I mean, John Lennon wasn’t interesting with Paul, George, and Ringo rearranging the tapes. Sean Combs has dedicated almost 20 years to spotlighting Biggie’s verses, and this has been memorable for one song (“Dead Wrong”) on a bad album (Born Again). The unearthed Tupac stuff is worthwhile, if unevenly presented. J Dilla’s The Shining is a beautiful batch of beats. Bob Marley’s Confrontation was OK. Otis Redding put out four albums between his death in ‘67 and 1969. The best of them, 69’s Love Man, worked because they were touched up by longtime studio collaborator Steve Cropper.

    6) 2001's Invincible and what that late career album taught us about Jackson's pop instincts.

    In the ‘90s, MJ wrote bombastic and outraged songs about class plights, routinely stepping over the line with lavish productions, absurd royal imagery, and Jewish slurs. While his auteurism geared toward causes and themes, his music remained mostly excellent. But for his 10th and last album, Invincible, MJ deferred to defanged adult contemporary R&B. He’d gather inspiration from water balloon fights. The project took forever, as producer Rodney Jerkins told Vibe:

    It was a lot of starting and stopping. Like, we would stop for three months and then Michael would be like, "I got to go to Germany for a couple months," then he'd go to LA, it was that kind of situation. And I remember one time, he was like, "Let's start from scratch...I think we can beat everything we did." That was his perfectionist side. I was like "Man, we been working for a year, we gone scrap everything?!" But it showed how hard he goes.

    It was music for defrosting a Bertolli dinner.

    7) Michael Jackson's budding friendship with Akon.

    Akon and MJ hung out in shopping malls and recorded music together. It wasn’t good.

    More importantly, Akon had remained steadfast in his resolve to let his unfinished MJ collaborations rest in peace, telling MTV News in 2010 not to expect much because, "They're just ideas, concepts, and harmonies that the world will probably never see... We've done plenty of records outside of this, but they were just incomplete... I might just burn [them] after this interview."

    His tune has changed.

    “I’m definitely committed to putting out an album before the end of the year,” Akon told Idolator this month. “It’s goin’ out. I’ll be able to give you the exact dates very soon, but I have a huge plan on how I’m going to release it.”

    I can’t blame Akon or Timbaland for cashing checks. The music industry can’t sell records outside of a short list of blue bloods. The Beatles still outsold the world this past decade. Listen to the Michael stuff if you’re curious, but remember that the Tupac hologram has more soul than these recordings.

    Photo by manfrys/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)


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    Hacktivism is on course to get the Hollywood treatment, and from a team fresh off a stunning sociopolitical success. Producers Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, and Jeremy Kleiner, whose Plan B Entertainment gave us recent Best Picture-winner 12 Years a Slave, will next tackle the true story of teen rape and digital exposure that unfolded in Steubenville, Ohio.

    Plan B secured the rights to “Anonymous vs. Steubenville,” a Rolling Stone article by David Kushner that follows the fight and plight of Deric Lostutter, an online vigilante with the hacker collective Anonymous. Lostutter was instrumental in exposing a town-wide coverup of a 16-year-old’s rape by two high school football players, but in the end, he would face up to 10 years in prison for his actions, while the rapists were sentenced to just one.

    With Lostutter as a protagonist, the film (to be co-produced by New Regency) will no doubt focus on the ethos of Anonymous, as well as the strange legal standards that have landed so many hackers behind bars while violent sex criminals walk free time and again. Best case scenario, such a work could highlight systemic injustice and force a change—if not in the spirit of the law, then perhaps for Lostutter himself. The Thin Blue Line, an Errol Morris documentary, famously helped to secure release for a man wrongly convicted of murder.

    There can be little debate, fact-wise, about the so-called invasions of privacy of which Lostutter stands accused—he obtained evidence of the assault in the form of tweets and Instagram photos, eventually leaking a damning video produced by the teen rapists—but the movie should provide a sorely needed analysis of an evolving moral spectrum and the extrajudicial possibilities presented by the Internet. Ultimately, it may come down to which culture we fear more: that of illegal spycraft, or sexual abuse and enforced silence.

    Update: For anyone worried about an especially odd April Fools’ prank, Deric Lostutter has now confirmed the film. “All I can say until further notice from my agent and lawyer is it's real, it's been in the works for a while now, and no further comment,” he said.

    H/T The Tracking Board | Photo Pirátská strana/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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    Greg Benson’s typically the one pulling the pranks. He specializes in ragging on people in the highest degree, whether it’s pranking you about a secret admirer on Valentine’s Day or executing a Cell Phone Crashing, which seems like an awful trick to play. 

    He’s an “extremely famous person” whose videos regularly cash in around 500,000 views. Leave it up to a chief prankster, then, to go and do something nice for some people around April Fools’ Day. 

    On Monday, Benson posted a video that found him orchestrating the conversion of a California homeless shelter called Ascencia into a five-star restaurant complete with filet mignon, dessert, and some waters with some limes in ’em. 

    He brought out Jesse Brune, a big-time chef.


     

    And an interior designer who knows a thing or two about greenery.


     

    And he gave 50 homeless people an excellent meal. Then he gave the shelter $5,000. 

    All around good day for Mediocre Films’ Greg Benson. He’ll have that to think about next time he’s cruising around making fodder from strangers. 

    Photo via MediocreFilms/YouTube


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    Earlier this year, we took you inside the wild world of Weird Soundcloud, where artists are reshaping and redefining music, one mp3 at a time. One artist we mentioned was D.J. Detweiler, a Berlin-based producer, originally from Spain. He’s known for his “flute drop” versions of songs like Pitbull’s “Don’t Stop the Party,” Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street,” and this take on “Wrecking Ball”:

    He’s now flute-dropped a next-level take on Vangelis’s “Chariots of Fire,” the song that’s accompanied many slow-motion running montages in films. And he’s dropping it exclusively on you, the Daily Dot reader. Detweiler explains he was looking for the perfect song to remix, and chose this one in particular because “it has a melody that works perfectly with my flute.”

    Being in a flute state of mind is important.

    “The production process is quite complicated, because I need to be in that state of mind that I can give 300 percent of myself blowing my flutes,” he says. “I need to be in the FLUTE DROP mood; sometimes it takes me a week to record four seconds of a song, sometimes I can do five songs in a couple hours. I need that magic moment, though, and I’m not going to stress myself doing lot of bangers every day just because I have lot of fans and I need to provide them with flute drop food. I like to wait until the creativity works itself.”

    Detweiler claims to be the original flute drop artist, but notes that “we are just the first wave of flute drop, the origins. Let's see how this develops and where we go.” While this new track definitely fits in with his past work, he says it evolved beyond the anticipation of the flute drop.

    “I decided to do this song because it is a banger, I love Vangelis, but well, I would say this one is something more like post-flute drop. If you listen properly there is not a normal drop like in my other tunes. Nobody notices it because the high quality of the song, and people get impressed about my production instead of saying, ‘Where is the flute drop?’ Well, there is no drop; I feel like this is an organic evolution of my previous work, something that came from inside me. I will still be doing flute drops, but I had to do this one. I hope my fans don't hate me after this one. I love you, fans.”

    Photo by Jeremy Collins/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)


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    It’s not an April Fools’ prank: Homestar Runner and Strong Bad have returned. Creators Matt and Mike Chapman couldn't have chosen a more appropriate day. 

    Homestar fans on Reddit often joke that the site will update on April 1.


     

    Lo and behold, it actually came true this year.

    At the site's welcome screen, Homestar Runner reveals that people have been badgering him about the lack of updates on the site's most popular feature. Believing this to be the "Hairstyle Runner Gallery," which hasn't been updated since 2000, he takes us on a tour of some hysterical—to him--submissions.


     

    Don't worry. Strong Bad himself eventually shows up and even reboots good old COMPY386, which he refits with the latest operating system: Windows 98.


     

    Prior to today, homestarrunner.com last saw an update on December 22, 2010. The lack of updates, while certainly frustrating, is understandable. The brothers have been busy writing and directing the Nickelodeon series Yo Gabba Gabba.


     

    So when can we expect another update? Fortunately, Strong Bad and Homestar Runner discuss this very topic.

    STRONG BAD: We should do this again soon.

    HOMESTAR: Like three years soon?

    STRONG BAD: Eh, three… five… 10 years soon. Whatever it takes.

    Guys, please bring Trogdor next time.

    Image via Charles Taber/Flickr


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    It’s the most wonderful day of the year, and brands have been scrambling to make the Internet click against their better judgement, which is really no different than any other day.

    For their part, YouTube decided to highlight some of the hottest viral videos trends to look out for in 2014, and poke a bit of fun at themselves. In a new “highlight reel,” they list off some of their past wins: “Gangnam Style,” trampoline fails, Rebecca Black. With that holy trinity in place, it’s on to the next joke trends that could totally become real trends!

    Like “clocking,” which asks: Is time our servant or our master?

     

    And “kissing dad,” which is attempting to strengthen family bonds through weird memes, and sounds a bit like a Tim and Eric sketch:

     

    And there has to be a hot new dance trend. Telling moment: When the exec asks if any part of the video confused them. Here’s their attempt to combine the “Harlem Shake” and “Gangnam Style”:

     

    You can also submit real trend ideas to YouTube, and they might make them a viral reality at the YouTube Space LA.

    Screengrab via YouTube Spotlight 


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