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Recent Entertainment articles from Daily Dot

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    It will go down as one of Reddit’s worst celebrity AMAs (“ask me anything”) in history—and you can thank 4chan.

    The AMA, which launched Wednesday afternoon, featured director Steven Knight and actor Tom Hardy, best known for his role as Bane in the 2012 blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises.

    As has become the case with most Reddit AMAs these days, the goal was self-promotion. Knight's latest film LOCKE, a story “about a man on a journey driven by principle and haunted by consequences of a single mistake," premieres on April 25.

    Hardy had made his own haunting “mistake," at least according to 4chan’s television board /tv/. It happened in the spring of 2011.

    That’s when Hardy was playing the mask wearing marauder Bane in Christopher Nolan’s final Batman installment. The film opens with Bane hijacking an airliner with government agents aboard. It is this odd scene between Bane and a CIA agent played by actor Aidan Gillen that has made Hardy a /tv/ punchline.

    This was the birth of the “You’re a big guy. For you” meme, which pilloried Bane’s voice was the The Dark Knight Rises' editing. (For full size images of the screengrabs below, check out this album here).

    /Tv/ could not resist asking Hardy about this scene. The following are some of the questions he and Knight answered unaware that they were from some 4chan pranksters.

    By the time Reddit moderators discovered the bogus questions, they made quick work of deleting everything, leaving behind a content graveyard.

    /Tv/ was exceptionally pleased.

    One of Reddit’s r/IamA moderators allegedly took to /tv/ to scold the community for ruining the AMA.

    This isn’t the first time 4chan users have raided a celebrity AMA.

    In May 4chan’s random imageboard /b/ bombarded a Reddit-powered contest thrown by actor Samuel L. Jackson with the popular copypasta of  a macho Navy Seal "involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Qaeda."

    Since this incident, Jackson has not returned to Reddit. Chances are, Hardy, who is known for being squeamish about the Internet, will follow suit.

    Photo via comicvine


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    Pharrell’s song “Happy” is everywhere, and its ubiquitousness has made some people decidedly unhappy. However, dancer and actor Anne Marsen has a right to be a little upset about the interactive 24-hour “Happy” video. It looks a lot like hers.

    The 2011 video Girl Walk//All Day, which was funded on Kickstarter and functioned as a companion piece to mashup producer Girl Talk’s album All Day, was critically applauded when it was released. The seven-minute video features Marsen dancing through different settings in New York City (Pharrell’s setting is Los Angeles), and while it’s not interactive like “Happy,” several of her choreographed moves show up in his video.

    Marsen’s video was mentioned by a couple entertainment sites when “Happy” came out in November, but she says she found out about the video through friends’ messages on social media. Last week, Marsen released a side-by-side comparison of the two videos, titled “Pharrell Loves My Work.”

    Is this an homage from someone in Pharrell’s camp, a straight ripoff, or just a coincidence?

    The similarities are pretty damning, especially the last minute of the comparison video. Still, it’s difficult to claim choreographed dance moves, something constantly in flux and evolving, as intellectual property, especially on the Internet, where the concepts of appropriation and “borrowing” have themselves becomes copies of copies. In 2011, Beyoncé was accused of stealing some of the moves in her “Countdown” video from a Belgian choreographer.

    The appropriation of music, well, that’s a whole other chapter. Pharrell was also accused of borrowing from Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" to create "Blurred Lines." Girl Talk borrows even more heavily for his work, but he often creates something completely different with it, and creates a different context. 

    These incidents set up an interesting quandary, though: Do you get mad, or do you try to get more exposure for your work via this possible idea theft?

    Marsen, who has a supporting role on The Good Wifetold Spin that she and All Day’s director, Jacob Krupnick, aren’t necessarily upset at Pharrell, but were at least hoping for some recognition of their work—perhaps a tip of his giant hat—if he was influenced by the video.

    We Are From L.A., the directors of “Happy,” claimed they’ve never seen Girl Walk//All Day. An email to Marsen for comment was not immediately returned.

    H/T Spin Screengrab via Wild Combination/Vimeo


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    Ordinarily, a list of influential favorites that includes the likes of John Green and Benedict Cumberbatch would have the Internet ready to throw a party.

    Instead, the reaction to the Time magazine's annual "100" list of the most important people of the year is closer to a bloodbath.

    The traditional public voting period for the poll has been rigged in the past, but that's not the problem this time around. As usual, the editors announced they would select the winners themselves based on reader input. Naturally, many people were thrilled when transgender icon Laverne Cox and Disney princess-turned-Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o both made the top ten of the public poll results.

    Cox, in particular thrilled the Internet by getting almost 92 percent of the vote in favor of her being on the list, and getting the fifth-highest number of votes overall. She trailed only behind Indian politicians Arvind Kejriwal and Narendra Modi and pop stars Katy Perry and Justin Bieber.

     

    So when the final list appeared yesterday, and Cox inexplicably wasn't on it, the Internet went up in flames. A Tumblr post that quickly went viral, racking up 44,00 reblogs and notes, said simply, "And then they didn't put her on the list." Another one angrily asked:

    Photos via ursulatheseabitchh/Tumblr

    On Twitter, the hashtag #whereislavernecox quickly trended, with Twitter users lashing out at Time directly:

    As always when issues of representation arise, those who were angered that Cox and Nyong'o had been left off felt that the issue was one of the contributions of women of color and trans women being de-valued compared to their white male counterparts. Meanwhile in the anti-feminist corners of Reddit, the general feeling was that Tumblr was overreacting.

    "I find it so funny how the tumblrinas are bitching about Benedict Cumberbatch being put on the list for being an actor," wrote redditor Celot.

    "...Who do they think they spent more time post/blogging about: Laverne Cox or Benedict Cumberbatch?"

    Your point is well made, Celot. But that shouldn't erase the necessity of supporting diversity, especially on a list that touts influence and prestige but notably overlooks two of the most influential women of color of the year. 

    In any case, Cox herself didn't seem fazed by the snub. 

    Photo via ..stiina.. / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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    BY RAMON RAMIREZ& REGGIE UGWU

    Spring has been a frigid extension of winter, but the upside is that suddenly a patio-based cookout is imminent. The relative comfort of summer brings the duty to think about what you’re listening to. Specifically, are you streaming a ditty that will compete for the coveted Song of the Summer crown?

    You know the Song of the Summer when you hear it. It pops instantly with hooks and charisma that, even with inevitable ubiquity, you won’t entirely despise the thing by Labor Day. Sonically, it must mirror the season and offer lightness and breeze that can sustain grooves poolside.

    Fundamentally, a Song of the Summer should grip its hooks into the culture at-large and speak to societal mirrors. That means that it requires a narrative. Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” was viral and signaled YouTube’s hit-making ascent. Drake’s “Best I Ever Had” toasted the indomitable power of hip-hop mixtapes. LMFAO’s "Party Rock Anthem" was about globalization, the end of regional music scenes, how the earth is now flat and one giant airport bar.

    To project futures, I reached out to leading thinker and Billboard Indie Music reporter, Reggie Ugwu. We settled on a cresting wave of contenders and then arrived at a sweet 16. While Shakira, Coldplay, and Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez’s World Cup anthem were all considered, these are the real contenders. 

    Draft your brackets.

    1) Mapei, "Don't Wait” 

    Mapei, the Providence, R.I.-born songstress behind this aching, stunning ballad, could be the next Lorde, or at least a more interesting Leona Lewis. “Don’t Wait” has a slower tempo than your typical song of the summer, but its big, unsinkable hook is one of the best in the bunch.

    2) Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX, "Fancy”

    Speaking of youthful, rogue would-be icons from down under, Azalea is a conversation piece (Australian, white, employs a dirty south rap voice, dates a Los Angeles Laker) with a brand new record, and “Fancy” is making chart dents in the U.S. and U.K. Bonus points for the Clueless parody video. 

    3) Tune-Yards, "Water Fountain”

    This is the mid-major conference champ (Gonzaga, Temple, etc.) ready to rub elbows with the Kentuckys and Dukes. Tune-Yards had the 2011 Pazz & Jop critics’ album of the year and has returned from Trader Joe’s with reusable shopping bags full of melodies. 

    4) The Chainsmokers, "#SELFIE”

    This song is optimally marketed and entirely shameless about its end game. A nation of selfies posted alongside the caption “Let me take a selfie” is coming soon.

    5) A Great Big World, "Everyone is Gay”

    The Glee rockers have milked five singles from last year’s Is There Anybody Out There? But the Spotify viral heatseeker is “Everyone is Gay,” a frenetic jumping jack of message-laden positivity. It’s about acceptance, celebrating our differences, and so its pep rally momentum is kind of the point. 

    6) American Authors, "Best Day of My Life”

    This is the musical equivalent of SEO click-bait. It hits all the right pop culture high notes (fun., Mumford & Sons) while having no actual substance. 

    7) Bleachers, "I Wanna Get Better”

    Enormous hook. Recalls the band fun., which is fitting since frontman Jack Antonoff is that band’s guitarist. Self-empowerment. People can make YouTube videos. At its heart it’s about love. Features the lyric, “I didn’t know I was lonely ‘til I saw your face.”

    8) Route '94 featuring Jess Glynne, "My Love”  

    This song, featuring rising voice Jess Glynne, dethroned Pharrell's “Happy” for the no. 1 spot on the U.K. charts last month, a testament to its intrinsic potency. By the time it hits American shores, it should have enough momentum to make a mark.

    9) Naughty Boy ft. Sam Smith, "Lalala”

    Sam Smith turned out Saturday Night Live this season and has handfuls of adult-contemporary singles ready to roll. “Lalala” is the most danceable, insatiable.

    10) Tove Lo, "Stay Hi (Habits Remix)”

    Released in March, the Swedish indie pop star’s “Stay Hi” has found a foothold in the U.K., charting at No. 12. Spotify’s users adore the wistful, moody selection—streaming the Habits remix over 4,110,000 times. A Swedish hit infiltrating America on the heels of an increasingly addictive Swedish-born streaming service is definitely a Cinderella story. 

    11) Tinashe ft. Schoolboy Q “2 On”

    DJ Mustard deserves his own conference. The guy is enjoying, as Ugwu noted in his winter Mustard feature, a serious moment of clarity, owning rap radio like Pharrell in 2003. The question is which Mustard-produced single is going to run the jewels? “Vato” is new, dope, features YG and Jeezy, and about hanging out with Mexicans. “Paranoid” and “Show Me” are inescapable essentials that have been banging all winter and have the form to keep rolling. He’s got a collaboration on Jason Derulo’s new record, “Kama Sutra,” that has the star power and goods to get major play. The safest bet is the upcoming Justin Bieber job, “Turn Up Single,” that should turn up clubs everywhere. But I’m going to take a flyer on Tinashe’s “2 On.” It’s wonderously catchy, features a brisk Schoolboy Q guest verse, and Tinashe has this Ciara-Mya in ‘98 swagger but is more of an auteur captain as a solo artist.

    12) Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne and French Montana, "Loyal (East Coast Version)”

    Kind of an unfair overload of sluggers, especially considering that this single—like Sports Illustrated print previews—features regional cover stars. The south gets Tyga, but we’re riding with the French Montana snarl (and how he starts his verse by borrowing Jay Z’s lines from “I Just Wanna Luv U (Give It 2 Me)”) and its Nic Nac-produced knock.

    13) Calvin Harris, "Summer”

    The Scottish DJ had nine top 10 hits from 2012’s 18 Months. That’s more than Thriller. Forbes noted that he grossed roughly $46 million last year, making him the world’s highest paid turntablist. “Summer” will be huge, and its too-obvious name only strengthens its chances to dominate a season of simple pleasures.  

    14) Future, "Move That Dope”

    Of the six singles released thus far from Honest, “Move That Dope” connects most briskly. It knocks hard enough to push backyard parties over the edge and features a legitimately head-turning verse from Pharrell, who performs a surprise resurrection of “Skateboard P.”

     

    15) Lana Del Rey, "West Coast"

    Here we are. From controversial and contrived star to an unmissable, accepted icon. The turning point for Lana Del Rey was last summer, when her people paired "Young and Beautiful" with Baz Luhrmann's silver screen Great Gatsby experiment and year-old single “Summertime Sadness” went viral thanks to an unlikely EDM remix. Now Del Rey sets course for Cali and that post-HAIM, live band, soak-up-the-sun money. This song is an anthem-in-waiting from a new master of the form.

    16)Katy Perry, "Birthday”

    This is picking Kentucky to win it all the year it harbored Anthony Davis. 

    Screengrab via YouTube


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    First the Sh*t My Dad Says sitcom, and now a Broadway show based on a satirical Twitter feed about God. It’s this kind of success that we can blame for the zillions of terrible parody accounts that show up for every breaking news story.

    Written by former Daily Show head writer David Javerbaum, @TheTweetOfGod is now going to be turned into a Book of Mormon-style Broadway show, following the success of its accompanying book, “The Last Testament: A Memoir by God.”

    The theatre show will be titled An Act of God, and follows the Twitter account’s satirical theme as a memoir written from the perspective of “God,” with Javerbaum (or presumably an actor playing his role as “scribe”) as his frustrated 21st century prophet. Needless to say, Javerbaum’s book was banned at Walmart, and the upcoming stage show will probably inspire its own round of religious backlash.

    “I am deeply disappointed that Jeffrey Finn has decided to produce this show,” said Javerbaum. “It will force me to continue my unwanted professional association with God, an abstract entity who has given me nothing but discomfort and agita. It is my desperate hope that we close out of town.”

    Photo via waitingfortheword/Flickr


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    "It's become clear to me that I've won television."

    This is just one of the many proclamations of truth delivered by Stephen Colbert during a surprise appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Wednesday night. Colbert, who will be succeeding David Letterman when he retires from the Late Show in 2015, appeared on the satirical news program on which he got his start to gloat about the freedom he will enjoy once The Colbert Report comes to an end.

    "Almost nine years ago I promised to change the world and, together...I did it," Colbert said.

    His exchange with Stewart is a reminder that entertaining a late night audience on any network will not be too difficult a task.

    So far, Letterman has not announced an official retirement date. Comedy Central has stated that The Colbert Report—and, with it, Colbert's satirical right-wing persona—will come to an end once the host's contract expires. Though as Deadline reported, Colbert has apparently long been in CBS' crosshairs, and it synced up Letterman's contract to match nicely with Colbert's.

    Screengrab via Comedy Central/YouTube


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    It’s said that the average person spends a third of their life sleeping, and at least two hours of their day mindlessly scrolling through their Netflix queue and viewing suggestions, plagued with indecision.

    Now, thanks to the invent of Netflix Roulette, you’ll never be burdened with the age-old question of “What to watch?” again.

    A frustrated redditor took it upon himself to create a site that allows users to narrow their selection by either TV, film, or both, then by genre from there. Press spin, and you’ll be paired with a single, glorious viewing option that includes a brief synopsis and its’ Netflix rating. The coding and algorithms aren’t based off of your viewing history or user data, like the custom-tailored selection on the Netflix red screen, but this Magic 8-Ball of entertainment at least gives you a viewing option.

    Netflix Roulette is designed to be in constant communication with NFLX Crawler so that all newly added programming is incorporated into the roulette experience. It’s currently available as an Android app for viewers on the go, and the creator is even so generous to create an open API for curious developers out there.

    Press spin, then play, and never waste precious viewing hours again!

    H/T Gizmodo | Photo by formatc1/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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    Mulch. Legume. Stump. Gesticulate. Tupperware. Hamburger. 

    There’s nothing sexy whatsoever about those words. (OK, a case could be made for that last one.) But it’s amazing what some candles, rose petals, and the silky-smooth voice of Jamie Foxx can do. 

    For The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the moonlighting R&B crooner sings “a list of unsexy words in a super sexy way,” as the host put it. 

    It’s a simple concept executed to perfection. Just the thought of lentils after this will get you heated up.  

    In short, this is why Seth Meyers doesn’t stand a chance in the late-night game. Fallon is winning in prime-time and online, with hilarious bits that go over great in real time and even better on YouTube the following morning. He has a better house band, better writers, and far more entertaining recurring features. Fallon’s simply not leaving Meyers any room to work when batting cleanup. 

    Screengrab via The Tonight Show/YouTube


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    Gen. Keith Alexander has certainly upped his comedy game since his retirement from chief of the National Security Agency.

    While it wasn’t quite as punchy as President Barack Obama’s appearance on Zach Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns, Alexander held his own as the guest on Sunday’s premiere episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, a weekly satirical news show hosted by Daily Show-alum John Oliver.

    Throughout the interview, Alexander conspicuously still used the pronoun “we” to refer to the NSA even though he retired from his dual position as Director of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command on March 31.

    Alexander spent much of the last nine months of his eight-year term defending the NSA in the global debate on surveillance that erupted due to an ongoing series of media reports fueled by documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

    The four-star Army general remained stone-faced during the first few minutes of interview, as he recited his well-rehearsed defense of the agency to Oliver. Why should the American people trust the NSA, Oliver asked.

    “Because of what they do to protect this country every day,” Alexander said. “These are good people, trying to do the right thing.”

    Even though he already had plans to retire, Alexander reportedly offered to step down after the Snowden leak, but the White House did not accept his early resignation. Navy Vice Admiral Michael Rogers has since succeeded Alexander.

    Despite his initial serious demeanor during the interview, Alexander did conveniently pause in the middle of a few sentences, allowing Oliver to insert some zingers. But it wasn’t until Oliver suggested that the NSA should rebrand itself as “Mr. Tiggles,” with a logo of a kitten popping its head out of a red boot, that Alexander actually giggled.

    “Yeah ... I don’t think that’s going to work,” Alexander said with a wry smile.

    The two men found common ground on rebranding the NSA as “the only agency in government that really listens.”

    Oliver was a correspondent on The Daily Show from 2006 to 2013, and he hosted the program for a three-month span in 2013 when its usual host, Jon Stewart, was on leave. Oliver also co-hosts a satirical podcast about the news called The Bugle; there have been 266 installments of the podcast since its debut in 2007.

    Aside from the interview with Alexander, another highlight of the Last Week Tonight premier came when Oliver took shots at cable news networks for their already-extensive coverage of the U.S. presidential election, which is more than a year away, over the current election happening in India. About one-sixth of the world’s population lives in India.

    “If this story is not worth covering, then nothing is worth covering,” Oliver said of India’s election.

    Watch an extended version of John Oliver's interview with Gen. Alexander below:

    Photos by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr and TechCrunch/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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    Over the weekend, Steven Spielberg announced that he will be directing an adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel The BFG.

    First published in 1982, The BFG was adapted into an animated film in 1989.

    Melissa Mathison will write the script, reports Variety. Mathison previously worked with Spielberg on E.T.

    “The BFG has enchanted families and their children for more than three decades. We are honored that the Roald Dahl estate has entrusted us with this classic story,” said Spielberg in a statement.

    No casting announcements have been made yet, so here, Mr. Spielberg, are some humble suggestions:


    Photo via karenseto/Flickr (CC 2.0)

    The BFG: Liam Neeson. I mean, come on. That’s easy. His face is so craggy and kind, especially when he is not fighting wolves and Albanians. He is also tall as heck. 

    Sophie: Quvenzhané Wallis. BOOM. THINK ABOUT IT.

    The Queen of England: Maggie Smith. They might as well just actually coronate her while they’re at it to be perfectly honest.

    Mary, the queen’s maid: Scarlett Johansson. Controversial, I know, but ScarJo’s been doing a lot of heavy material lately and I think it’d be nice for her to have something a bit more light-hearted to look forward to—although, like all Dahl stories, The BFG is not without its darker bits.

    Head of the Army / Head of the Air Force: Harrison Ford / Tommy Lee Jones. These two parts are more or less interchangeable. Really could just do with any grizzled and wrinkly old white dudes, but these are our two best. I like the anachronism of having them be American, as well.

    All the evil giants (e.g. the Fleshlumpeater; the Bonecruncher; the Manhugger; the Childchewer, etc.): Benedict Cumberbatch. Yeah. All of them. He’ll do the voices. Have you heard his voice? It’s great. Very expressive.


    H/T Variety | Image via hannahsheltonTT/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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    Last night, John Oliver debuted his new half-hour HBO talk show, Last Week Tonight. The show’s being promoted as a we’ll-get-to-it-eventually broadcast, with Oliver’s trademark self-deprecating humor seared into every promo spot. It also take a few shots at our obsession with breaking news.

    For all the jokes about being late to the news, Oliver mostly tackled news stories you aren’t seeing elsewhere, like his extended interview with former NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander, and an explainer of the election that Western media is completely ignoring. He also put the entire state of Oregon on blast for their Obamacare fail.

    With Stephen Colbert’s recent announcement that he’ll be taking over The Late Show in 2015, one must wonder if Oliver was asked to take over The Colbert Report 's slot. Would he have been a better fit there, within the fake real news business model that’s shaped Comedy Central’s late night shows? Oliver’s already proven himself a capable interviewer from his time on The Daily Show. When he filled in for Jon Stewart last summer, many fans of the show were sad to see him go. HBO likely picked up on that scent; possibly they snatched him away before Comedy Central could do anything about it.

    Still, this sort of show might be exactly what HBO needs in its Sunday night lineup, which currently features Silicon Valley, Veep, and Game of Thrones, three fanbases that no doubt also watch The Daily Show and would stick around for Oliver. Last Week could also serve Oliver’s media-dissection technique well, as seen in the segment about India’s elections. Also, HBO lets him swear, and Oliver’s really good at that.

    That still leaves the question of who will fill Colbert’s time slot; it could definitely benefit from a female comedian like Amy Schumer or Samantha Bee. Oliver’s debut was fairly uneven and attempted to tackle a bit too much, but it was saved by his needling of Gen. Alexander. Oliver’s able to shift deftly between cheeky standup delivery and passionate seriousness, but he was always at his best on The Daily Show when he got out from behind the desk and took an interviewee to task with an “Are you fucking serious?” Perhaps after a few more episodes, we’ll see if he’s serious.

    You can watch the whole episode here.

    Screengrab via Last Week Tonight/YouTube 


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    Readers cultivating an electronic library that spans the canon of American prose will soon add a crucial piece to the puzzle: To Kill a Mockingbird is jumping from print to ereader screen, bringing Scout, Jem, Atticus, Tom, and Boo Radley into the 21st century.  

    Managing a literary estate founded upon a single novel constitutes full-time work for Harper Lee, and the 88-year-old author has been fiercely protective of her 1960 classic about coming of age in a racially charged and unjust society. In 2013, she fought to regain copyright from a group including her former literary agent; just this February, she settled a federal lawsuit with a museum in her Alabama hometown over the unlicensed sale of souvenirs related to her work.

    Now, surprisingly, she’s agreed to a deal with HarperCollins Publishers to release both ebook and audiobook editions of Mockingbird—the latter a repackaging of an existing CD version narrated by Sissy Spacek—on July 8.

    “[Lee] is giving readers around the world the gift of being able to read or listen to this extraordinary story in all formats,” said Michael Morrison, president and publisher of HarperCollins U.S. General Books Group and Canada, the Associated Press reported. An “enhanced” ebook with unspecified additional material is also on the horizon.

    “I'm still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries,” said Lee, whose birthday coincided with the announcement. “I am amazed and humbled that Mockingbird has survived this long. This is Mockingbird for a new generation.”

    Being more interested in traditional publishing, however, Lee may be unaware of some of the darker political implications of digitized text, from censorship (not always well-executed) and piracy to the corporate seizure or deletion of books purchased.

    Even with Lee’s concession to the dubious future of reading, a comprehensive Kindle collection of mid-century masterpieces is all but impossible: you still can’t download The Autobiography of Malcolm X, One Hundred Years of Solitude, or The Catcher in the Rye, each title famously well-guarded by various heirs, executors, and lawyers. Still, these are the dwindling exceptions—the last books valuable enough on their own to resist the Amazon money machine.

    H/T AP | Photo by Andrea Wright/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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    Think classical concertos are fusty and irrelevant? You couldn’t be more wrong, and the ladies of Hamburg chamber music quartet Salut Salon aren’t going to stand for it. 

    Below, watch the fiery foursome outperform one another in a piece that resembles a freestyle rap battle crossed with West Side Story—yet features nothing more than a piano, a cello, two violins, and three well-rosined bows. Plus a whole lot of attitude, of course.

    If only all artistic beefs could be resolved so harmonically.

    Photo by Matt Trudeau/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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    If you are a Chinese resident hoping to catch the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory, you are pretty much out of luck.

    According to Hitfix, the Chinese government is cracking down on the broadcasting of several American television programs by popular Chinese streaming sites. One such site, Youku, was ordered to halt the streaming of not only The Big Bang Theory, but also The Good Wife, NCIS, and even the long-cancelled courtroom drama The Practice. Of the programs, only The Good Wife was carried by Youku.

     

    The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television did not publicly comment on why it ordered the programs be taken down. The violation of acceptable content and copyright law could possibly be behind the removal; it is normal for the government to censor programming for this very reason.

     

    But Hitfix goes on to say that another issue could be the fact that streaming sites exercise a greater degree of programming freedom than the national broadcaster. Naturally, The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television operates under standards and practices set into motion by the government.

     

    Whatever the reason, the very specific censorship has resulted in a degree of public outcry. According to the Huffington Post, a movement to "Give me back Sheldon" appeared on Chinese social media websites.

     

    No other programs were named in the ban.


    H/T Hitfix / Image via MelodyJSandoval/Flickr (CC-BY-2.0; remix by Mike Fenn)


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    “Emma, you’re new here, so I’ll go first.” Jimmy Fallon gave Emma Stone a chance to watch and learn as the two faced off in the most recent Lip Sync Battle, a recurring Tonight Show segment.

    He didn’t need to go easy on her.

    By the end of the segment, Fallon praised Stone’s performance as the best lip-synch he’d ever seen.

    Stone proved herself a formidable match, countering Fallon’s rendition of Iggy Azaelea’s “Fancy” with an oddball lip sync to Blues Travelers’ “Hook.” Fallon came back swinging with an energetic performance of Styx’s karaoke mainstay “Mr. Roboto,” but Stone kept the energy high with a bombastic performance of DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win.”

    Lip-synching performances generally give me flashbacks to interminable grade school talent show assemblies, but Fallon's recurring segment is turning into one of the more consistently delightful things on TV. 

    H/T Uproxx | Screenshot via YouTube

     


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    It’s been a couple weeks since Greendale closed its doors for the year (and perhaps for the last time), but Community fans, the cast, and the show’s creators are rallying for a sixth season. It’s not just a hope to be renewed, but they would be one step away from being able to complete the cry made by one of its characters that the show has adopted into its mantra: six seasons and a movie.

    And now, NBC has another incentive for renewing the show. Creator Dan Harmon left a lot of unanswered questions at the end of the fifth season, and nowadays, TV shows are either praised or scrutinized for how they tie up loose ends.

    It’s a comedy that largely takes place in a community college, even though there’s not much learning going on. What on earth could still be unanswered?

    It’s already got the Harmon stamp of approval. Now it’s NBC’s move.

    Photo via Catherine Boyd/YouTube


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    It’s not exactly identical in both scope and approach to its origin, but Pixels, the action-comedy set to star Adam Sandler and Kevin James, does admit inspiration from a YouTube short. 

    The film, which will begin shooting soon and is set to premiere May 15, 2015, finds a group of aliens convinced that the video feeds of classic arcade games are being used against them as a declaration of war. They attack Earth as a result, using the games themselves as vehicles for their assault.

    The people in charge of saving Earth from this disaster are Kevin James, the hefty comedian, and Adam Sandler, who’s made a career out of speaking in gibberished yiddish. James plays the US president; Sandler plays his one-time video game champ turned home theater installer friend. Together, they need to save the world from imminent peril. 

    The film’s also set to star Michelle Monaghan and Peter Dinklage, with direction from Chris Columbus.

    The entire plot is based on the two-and-a-half minute long Patrick Jean short film “Pixels" from 2010. The short, which won the Annecy Crystal for Best Short Film at the 2011 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, follows a series of video pixels as they escape from a thrown-out television, eventually taking over most of Manhattan. A number of video games show up along the way: Pac-Man, aliens from Space Invaders, a few blocks from Tetris. 

    A giant bomb shows up on a city street the end of Jean’s version and blows everything to smithereens, so I guess we’re hoping Adam Sandler and Kevin James can combine to stop that from happening. 

    Good luck to all of us. 

    Photo via Daniel Schwen (CC BY-SA 3.0) | remix by Jason Reed


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    Recommended Reading, a weekly online fiction magazine published by Electric Literature, celebrated its 100th issue last night. But the narrative that Pulitzer-winner Jennifer Egan selected to fill those pages was a far cry from your conventional short story.


     

    In fact, James Hannaham’s “Card Tricks” takes the form of a series of deadpan placards—the sort you’d find on the wall at an art show. For this occasion, these chunks of text had actually been installed at the James Cohan Gallery in Chelsea, amid a whole lot of empty white space. Attendees wandered into a vast room, realizing only after a few moments that something cheeky was going on. Then they began reading—and laughing.


     

    “I’ve noticed, in galleries, that literary people look at the art, and artists look right to the placard,” Hannaham told Egan in a live interview at the event. “They want context.”

    In that sense, “Card Tricks” is all context and no substance, a way of “dematerializing” art, as Hannaham had it. He mocks the pretension of the gallery world by claiming the planet Earth as a “found object,” prints a paragraph called “Squinting Person” in miniscule type, oversells his background as a Bronx-born gay black man to score identity politics points (or limit his message), and creates a dizzyingly meta piece using just his name.


     

    It occurred to me, when squatting down and waddling along the baseboards to read the long strip of text mounted about ten inches off the ground called “Grovel,” that Hannaham’s jokes about “involuntary audience performance” were all the funnier for being completely serious. “I want to fuck shit up,” he said when asked about his ambitions as a writer and artist. And yet “Card Tricks” is more about the absurd exhaustion of certain techniques than forging new ones. “It doesn’t work in an exhibit with other artist’s work,” he remarked, “because people think whatever is to the left of the placard is the art described.”


     

    “I thought this stuff would disappear a bit more [in a solo show],” Hannaham said, looking around the gallery. “When we tried this in a much smaller room in Minnesota, though, a guy came up, looked inside, said ‘Are you the artist? I don’t see anything.’ Then he left,” Hannaham added with a chuckle. “I guess it worked there.” Egan, herself an experimentalist, having penned Twitter and PowerPoint fiction, pushed him on whether he felt he had anywhere else to go with this trollish concept. “I hope so,” he answered.

    For an indication of where he might be headed, you couldn’t do better than the party’s dessert:

    Photo by Phil Roeder/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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    Noël Wells stands onstage at the Velveeta Room in Austin, Texas, with a bag in her hand. She slowly takes out items of clothing, commenting on their aesthetic, like a modern-day Goldilocks: This one’s too retro; this one’s too modern; this one’s too ugly. If you’ve ever been broke and sold your clothes at Buffalo Exchange, her impersonation of a dead-eyed employee is dead on.

    Wells was part of the four-day Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival, which gathered an impressive lineup of comedians across 10 Austin stages. Wells performed four times during the festival and told me that it was her first time doing standup. That first night, she looked a bit nervous.

    Impressions are Wells’s strong point, however. Her popular YouTube channel is heavy on impersonations of Michele BachmannZooey Deschanel, and Dana from Homeland. She also created other personas like Manic Pixie Nightmare Girl.

    Last year, the 27-year-old joined the cast of Saturday Night Live. During the show’s opening monologue earlier this month, Wells did her “Beth Rogen” impression, which consisted of mimicking host Seth Rogen’s stoner laugh. To hear Wells explain it, she’d been offering that impression to the world for a while.

    “I’d written a digital video with me and Seth Rogen, where I was his little sister and he was introducing me, and I was really cute but then I had that laugh,” she says. “And me and him got really bro-y. It did really well at the table but they didn’t pick it, so they just wrote me into the monologue.

    “That laugh is something I’ve done for a while. My old boss in L.A. told me I’d been doing Beth Rogen for a while, and I didn’t even remember. It’s something I’ve been working on but I didn’t even know.”

    There was an assumption that SNL producers were scouting YouTube for this year’s cast, and though Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney were involved with Good Neighbor, and Sasheer Zamata and Mike O’Brien have a heavy YouTube presence, Wells says the cast wasn’t entirely picked up there.

    “I think that was kind of a misconception,” she says. “Just as performers, I think you’d be an idiot not to utilize YouTube. I think now if you want to go into comedy, you might as well try to work things out via YouTube. But I think the process of SNL is still pretty formal. You make an audition tape, your agent sends it in, they watch people’s tapes, and then they invite people to perform at a comedy club in Los Angeles or New York. But I don’t know how much actual scouting they do online.”

    Even if cast members weren’t necessarily scouted online, they’re still creating SNL-approved content there. Lorne Michaels’ Above Average Network YouTube channel was launched in the summer of 2012 as a place for alternative digital shorts, like this fantastic clip from Sasheer Zamata:

    Across the four nights of Moontower, there was plenty of room for comedians to try out new material, as Wells did. There were also a handful of veteran acts working the crowd in an era where bits can be instantly discussed and dissected on social media, and where the comedian-fan relationship can take many different shapes.

    On Saturday night, as contemporary comedians were hosting a set based around submissions from the anonymous app Whisper, ‘90s sketch comedy icons the Kids in the Hall performed a reunion show, and while they kept well-known scenes intact for die-hard fans, they also took selfies and referenced Twitter, Lululemon, and cyberbullying. It was a bit jarring, but I did wonder: If Kids in the Hall were a YouTube sketch group starting out today, would they be as successful, or were they a distinctly ‘90s entity? During his headlining Thursday gig, Bobcat Goldthwait took shots at Jimmy Fallon for being a bad interviewer. “Johnny Carson used to interview authors,” he said, lamenting that now if Meryl Streep is on the show, she’s reduced to breaking eggs over her head for a viral clip.

    This season of Saturday Night Live has similarly focused more on meta-pop-culture references, no doubt a result of having a younger, more savvy cast. It’s also competing with a wealth of sketch comedy on YouTube, Funny or Die, and College Humor. Wells explained the writing happens pretty fast, something former SNL cast member Fred Armisen echoed in his Saturday night Moontower set.

    “On Monday you have a pitch meeting in Lorne’s office, where all the actors and writers pile in, and the host is sitting in a chair, and half of us are sitting on the ground looking up at him,” she says. “You pitch one to two ideas that are really short, and hopefully they get a laugh. If they get a big enough laugh, you might want to write it. Tuesday night’s spent writing one to three pieces, then you do the table read, and by the end of Wednesday night they pick the show. It’s a very fast process.”

    When I caught up with Wells a few nights after her initial performance, at an all-ladies set called She-Bang, she was more relaxed on stage. She did the Buffalo Exchange bit but also brought out Lena Dunham and Holly Hunter impressions. It’ll be interesting to see what else she has in her bag.

    Photo by Stevie Nelson


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    That sustained squealing you might have heard over the last day is the sound of teenage girls across America celebrating the news that Nash Grier and Cameron Dallas are getting their own movie.

    Grier and Dallas, two Vine stars with a combined following of more than 11 million, will be partnering with AwesomenessTV for the upcoming film. AwesomenessTV, a channel focused on teen-created content, was acquired by DreamWorks last May, which opened it up to a whole new audience outside of YouTube. In a statement, Awesomeness CEO and executive producer Brian Robbins said a film is “a natural next step for them. They already have a dedicated fan base.”

    Appropriately, he announced the partnership at an event for Seventeen magazine, which paired up with Awesomeness last fall.  

    This is a ripe time for YouTube and Vine stars making movies and development deals: Earlier this month, Collective Digital Studio announced it would produce a movie based on (shudder) YouTube pranksters. Digital platform Endemol Beyond USA recently signed Vine star Brittany Furlan and 11-year-old YouTube sensation Matty B for content deals. YouTube teen beauty expert Bethany Mota now has her own clothing line. In 2010, Robbins produced the feature Fred: The Movie, based off the channel of Lucas Cruikshank.

    There’s no word yet on what the film will actually be about—hopefully Grier and Dallas have been coached out of concepts like their ill-advised attractiveness tutorial—but it will be interesting to see if six-second clips can somehow be be sewn into a feature-length film. Teens are the new capitalists. 

    Photo via Cameron Dallas/Twitter


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