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    • Entertainer
      Entertainer published a blog post Larry Cohen: 1941-2019

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      Since the creators of B-movies generally do not have such luxuries as famous actors, familiar properties and large budgets to work with, they have to rely more heavily on an ingredient that is just important but much lower in cost—a great idea. Not just any great idea, of course, but the kind of idea that makes you stop in your track and think “Man, I’ve gotta see that.” The problem is that, in many cases, even if they do manage to beat the odds and come up with that killer idea, they don’t always have the resources or talent to do it justice. 

      One B-filmmaker who never had that problem was Larry Cohen, who passed away this weekend at the age of 77. He may have never had the same level of name recognition as such contemporaries as George Romero or John Carpenter, but his films, in which he took often outrageous premises and built upon them with witty dialogue, incisive social commentary and colorful characters, were among the best genre films of their era and continue to pack a punch today.

      Cohen was born on July 15, 1941 in Manhattan and from a young age, he developed a fascination with movies. In an interview I did with Cohen a couple of years ago, he professed a special fondness for the films produced by Warner Brothers during that era. “It was a great studio—they had really ballsy movies and political movies … They were shot at a fast pace with a lot of action and fast talk, as opposed to MGM movies, which were a lot slower and more luxurious. He began his career as a writer for television, first by writing for such shows as “The Defenders, “The Fugitive” and “Rat Patrol” and then by creating such shows as the 1965-’66 Western “Branded” (sorry fans of “The Big Lebowski”) and the 1967-’68 paranoid sci-fi saga “The Invaders.” Watching the shows that he created today, one can actually see the ideas and conceits that Cohen would embrace throughout his career—especially in the mixing of standard genre tropes with sly commentary about what is going on the real world, including the blacklist and the Red Scare—coming together in distinctive ways that set them apart from a lot of what was going on in television at that time.

      He then began to make the move into writing feature films in 1966 with “Return of the Seven,” a largely forgettable sequel to the hit Western “The Magnificent Seven,” “I Deal in Danger” (1966), a spy film comprised of the first four episodes of another series he co-created, “Blue Light,” and the psycho artist horror film “Scream, Baby, Scream” (1969). Later in 1969, he would come up with what would prove the first great example of his kind of audacious storytelling that would eventually become associated with his name. In “Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting,” on which he cares a co-writing credit with Lorenzo Semple Jr., Cathy (Carol White) arrives from London to live in San Francisco and immediately meets and falls in love with the seemingly nice and clean-cut Kenneth (Scott Hylands). She soon becomes pregnant but then begins to discover that Kenneth is deeply disturbed and elects to not only break up with him but to have an abortion as well. Some time passes and Cathy has now married a rising politician and given birth to their child when Kenneth turns up again with a shocking demand—Cathy must kill her baby to even the scales for having aborted his child. Channeling real-world concerns into a thriller framework, this was a truly startling screenplay (one that almost certainly would not pass muster today) and if the execution did not quite do it justice—although the screenplay required a daring test pilot of a director to do it justice, Mark Robson, fresh off the success of “Valley of the Dolls,” was strictly United material—it certainly promised better things to come in the future.


      Like so many screenwriters, Cohen tired of directors messing with his material and finally moved into the director’s chair in 1972 with the bizarre dark comedy, “Bone.” As the film begins, Beverly Hills couple Bernadette (Joyce Van Patten) and Bill (Andrew Duggan) interrupt their latest round of bickering when they discover a strange man (Yaphet Kotto) on their grounds and invite him in, assuming he is an exterminator. The man, Bone, isn’t and takes the two hostage but soon discovers that his captives are not as rich as they appear to be. Nevertheless, he sends Bill to the bank to get more money and threatens to do great harm to Bernadette if he doesn’t return. While in line, Bill gets distracted by a sexy young woman (Jeannie Berlin) and decides to abandon his wife. While all this is going on, Bernadette gets increasingly drunk, seduces her captor and launches a plan for them to murder Bill and collect his insurance money. Making the most of what were presumably limited resources, Cohen devised an ingenious work that tackled racial, sexual, and class concerns in a manner that pulled no punches and got great performances from his cast to boot. Although closer in tone to something like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff?” than anything else, the film ended up being sold more along the lines of a straightforward exploitation movie—one wonders what the typical grindhouse crowd must have thought when they encountered this instead of the usual junk that they were presumably expecting.

      Cohen was then contacted by Sammy Davis Jr., who wanted to do a film where he was the central character for a change, and the idea of doing a contemporary version of the Warner Brothers gangster films of the Thirties came up. When Davis couldn’t pay for the script for “Black Caesar” (1973) due to tax trouble, Cohen ended up selling it to American-International Pictures and wound up directing the film as well with Fred “The Hammer” Williamson in the lead. Charting the rise and fall of Tommy Gibbs (Williamson), who begins as a kid struggling to survive on the streets of Harlem, becomes the head of the black crime syndicate and wages a war against his enemies that leads to his downfall, the film was fairly conventional in its structure, Cohen added any number of twists that are still startling to observe today—in perhaps the most infamous bit, the adult Tommy gets the drop on the racist cop who beat him as a child when he was doing shoeshines on the street, smears the guy’s face with shoe polish and forces him to sing before beating him to death with a shine box. These wild bits, coupled with Williamson’s undeniable screen charisma and a driving soundtrack by James Brown, helped make the film a hit and AIP clamored for a sequel despite the fact the central character had definitively died. 

      Needless to say, that didn’t stop Cohen and by the end of 1973, he had “Hell Up in Harlem” in theaters with Williamson again in the lead. Like most rushed sequels, this is a relatively undistinguished programmer but it does contain one magnificently inspired sequence in which Tommy chases an attacker through the streets of New York that seems to end when his quarry eludes him and boards a plane taking off for Los Angeles. That doesn’t stop Tommy—he boards the next flight to L.A., spends the next few hours flying out and lands just in time to finish things up at the baggage claim at LAX.

      image"It's Alive"

      Not wanting to be pigeonholed solely as a blaxploitation filmmaker, Cohen made his shift to the horror genre where he would achieve his greatest fame. His first effort there, and one of his most famous films, was “It’s Alive” (1974), in which he took one of the squirmier premises in screen history—a woman gives birth to a monstrously deformed baby that slaughters anyone unlucky enough to cross its path—and embroidered upon it with a narrative that managed to make its so-called monster somehow sympathetic in the manner of Frankenstein’s Monster, presented some extremely pointed commentary regarding the pharmaceutical industry (who devised the pills the mother took that presumably caused the mutation and who need the child killed in order to cover up their culpability) and included moments of jet-black humor as well as well as impressive contributions from makeup maestro Rick Baker and famed composer Bernard Herrmann. Completed in 1974, the film was released by a regime at Warner Brothers that did not get it and thus the film only received a limited release. Three years later, the film was re-released with an inspired new ad campaign (“There is only one thing wrong with the Davis baby. It’s alive.”) and became a box-office hit that would inspired two Cohen-directed sequels, “It Lives Again” (1977) and “It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive” (1987) and a 2009 remake that was so bad that Cohen claimed that the head of the studio that made it actually apologized to him for it.

      From this point, Cohen embarked on a series of wildly ambitious films (especially considering the low budgets that he was working on) that continued to join together familiar genre tropes with increasingly pointed social satire and commentary. In God Told Me To (1976), he tackled religion with a story of a New York cop (Tony Lo Bianco) trying to solve a rash of bizarre violent crimes perpetrated by people who claim that God told them to kill and stumbles upon a cult whose leader (Richard Lynch) inspires some startling revelations about his own past and possible connection to the increasingly bizarre happenings. “Q-The Winged Serpent” (1982) involves a giant flying serpent that is flying around decapitating New Yorkers and a small-time crook (Michael Moriarty) who happens to discover the beast’s hiding place and tries to trade that information to the police in exchange for a big payday. The Stuff (1985) was a broad satire target crass commercialism and corporate indifference in telling the tale of a brand new dessert treat, known as The Stuff, that sweeps the country and turns those who eat it into addicts. An industrial spy (Moriarty) hired by the now-struggling ice cream industry investigates and it turns out that the Stuff is a living parasitic organism that is essentially eating the very same people who are eating it—a minor fact that those selling the substance seem blithely unconcerned with in their quest for profits. In “The Ambulance” (1990), a comic book artist (Eric Roberts) investigates the disappearance of a woman he just met—after collapsing on the street, she was picked up by an ambulance but never made it to any hospital—and uncovers the expected mad and elaborate conspiracy.

      Among genre movie fans, the films that I have just cited, with the possible exception of “The Ambulance,” are justly famous, not only for the films themselves (which expertly blend the comedy and horror genres with style and ease) but for the stories regarding their productions. In “God Told Me To,” there is a scene in which someone dressed as a policeman begins to shoot up New York’s St. Patricks’s Day parade. Considering the number of elements that would be occurring, there was no way that he could possibly get the required permits to film during the actual parade and recreating it would cost far too much money. Instead, he just took his actor—a then-unknown Andy Kaufman, just to add to the weirdness—and stuck him into the parade and filmed without any permits. As for “Q,” that film came about when Cohen was fired from another movie that he was directing, a big-budget adaptation of the pulp classic “I, the Jury” and decided to conceive another movie to do instead—not only did “Q” beat “I, the Jury” into theaters, it cost only a fraction of that film’s budget and wound up being a bigger hit to boot.

      image"Full Moon High"

      Although these horror/satire hybrids would be the films that he would become most associated with, Cohen would occasionally change things up with unexpected forays into different types of filmmaking. “The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover” (1977) was an ambitious biopic that centered on the 40-year career of the former FBI director (Broderick Crawford) but which also served as a corrosive look American history during that time. Although the budget limitations are a little more obvious this time around, the film hit more than it missed. “Full Moon High” (1981) was a sweet-natured comedy in which Adam Arkin plays a teenager in 1959 who is bitten by a werewolf while on a trip to Romania—rendered ageless by this attack in addition to the usual side effects, he returns to his old high school 20 years later to reenroll, this time posing as his son. Although it had the misfortune to come out in the midst of a mini-glut of werewolf movies (that included “The Howling,” “An American Werewolf in London” and “Wolfen”) and disappear from view, it remains a charming work that suggests what the later “Teen Wolf” might have been like if it was actually good. 

      Cohen then returned to his early thriller roots with two 1984 films that he shot back-to-back. In “Special Effects,” Eric Bogosian plays a filmmaker driven mad by a massive flop who accidentally films himself murdering a one-night stand (Zoe Lund). After discovering a lookalike (also Lund), he elects to make a movie about the dead woman utilizing that footage but when it gets destroyed, he becomes convinced that he needs to recreate it. In Perfect Strangers,” a Mob hitman (Brad Rijin) discovers that a young, pre-verbal boy has seen him committing a murder and is ordered to kill the kid but before he can, he finds himself getting into a relationship with the boy’s mother (Anne Carlisle). “Wicked Stepmother” (1989) was another overt comedy but one perhaps better known for its own oddball behind-the-scenes story—after filming for a couple of weeks in the title role, star Bette Davis suddenly left the production  and rather than shut everything down, Cohen rewrote things so that her character would suddenly change her appearance so that the rest of the part could now be played by Barbara Carrera.

      Although it would become harder over time for Cohen the director to get work—especially since the studios were now specializing in expensive versions of the B-movies that he specialized in—he still found work as a screenwriter and his name turned up on the screenplays for such films as “Best Seller” (1987). “Maniac Cop” (1988), “Body Snatchers” (1993,” “Guilty as Sin” (1993), and “Cellular” (2004). Of his work as a pure screenwriter during that time, his best-known project is probably the 2003 hit “Phone Booth,” a thriller in which a fast-talking publicist (Colin Farrell) with a messy personal and professional life impulsively answers a call at the last phone booth in New York and finds himself targeted by an unseen sniper who threatens to kill him if he attempts to leave. Cohen originally pitched the basic idea for the film to no less than Alfred Hitchcock but it was abandoned when they could not conceive of why the guy would have to remain in the phone booth. 

      Cohen’s final film as a director was “Original Gangstas,” an entertaining blaxploitation revival that brought back some of the genre’s greatest icons—including Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, Ron O’Neal, Richard Roundtree and Pam Grier—to kick some young punk ass. However, while he wasn’t doing anything new, his legacy continued to flourish. A member of an informal club of genre filmmakers known as the Masters of Horror, he would go on to direct an episode of the horror anthology series by the same name in 2006. He had reportedly been working with JJ Abrams on a project anthology series for cable television. 

      image"Q: The Winged Serpent"

      His oeuvre returned to the spotlight in 2017 with the release of “King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen,” a wildly entertaining documentary in which Cohen looks back on his crazy career and which features additional testimonials from friends and coworkers as well as a slew of mouth-clips that will make you want to see the full features immediately. Among students of the genre, Cohen’s influence as a storyteller cannot be denied.

      Of course, any discussion of the works of Larry Cohen at this site cannot conclude without mentioning an anecdote that Roger and others would often cite. In 1982, “Q” screened at that year’s Cannes Film Festival under the original title “The Winged Serpent.” As those who have seen the film know, the movie is largely dominated by a brilliantly out-of-left-field performance by Michael Moriarty, the kind that might have earned awards had it not been included in a film where giant creatures tear the heads off of topless sunbathers. Anyway, after the screening, there was a luncheon and the following conversation was said to have taken place between Samuel Z. Arkoff, the B-movie legend who produced “Q,” and film critic Rex “Myra Breckenridge” Reed.

      REED: Sam! I just saw “The Winged Serpent!” What a surprise! All that dreck—and right in the middle of it, a great Method performance by Michael Moriarty!

      ARKOFF: The dreck was my idea.

      A great story, of course, but the genius of Cohen—and I do mean “genius”—was that he took concepts that others could have easily reduced to dreck and transformed them into witty, provocative works that pushed all the right buttons. As a filmmaker, Larry Cohen was a true master—not necessarily of horror alone. For film fans who have long sparked to his offbeat output, his passing will prove to be a great loss.   

      By: Peter Sobczynski
      Posted: March 25, 2019, 1:00 am

      • Entertainer

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        There’s a moment near the end of “Annie,” the first episode of “Shrill,” in which our heroine is subjected to yet another microaggression, the latest in what seems like an unending string. The first—the first we see, anyway—comes from the same woman, Tanya, a trainer who tells Annie, unprompted, about the skinny person inside her just dying to get out. But by episode’s end, Annie’s done some soul-searching. She is, as she winningly tells her roommate, quite possibly feeling herself. She puts on a new dress that’s insanely flattering, ditches a guy who treats her badly, stands up to her boss, and seems to have reached a new phase in her life. She’s happy! She’s confident! She’s being kinder to herself! And then Toned Tanya strikes again. As Annie walks away, she’s still got that feeling-herself smile on her face, but it’s different. It’s not forced or fake, but there’s an effort required to keep it there. She’s still feeling herself, but it’s a feeling that requires sheer force of will to maintain. Annie’s life is about a hell of a lot more than her body. The world often has other ideas.

        The same can be said of “Shrill,” Hulu’s new series loosely based on Lindy West’s Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman. It’s about Annie’s life, what she wants and who she loves and how she feels about herself. It’s also about her body—her fat body—and how the vessel that carries her around the world affects the way she’s treated by the people she encounters. It’s possible that, like me, you’ll leave “Shrill” wishing more time had been spent on stories in which Annie’s body doesn’t take center stage. It can be frustrating, but it’s perhaps unavoidable. Most of the world can’t wait to make it all—health, love, writing, sex, buying coffee, being late, walking down the street and minding her own business—about her body. That’s part of her life, too. How could “Shrill” not do the same?

        Luckily, “Shrill”—created by West, Bryant, and showrunner Ali Rushfield—has a not particularly secret weapon. It knows that its protagonist contains delightful multitudes, and that the actress playing her does, too.


        Annie ("Saturday Night Live'"s Aidy Bryant, incalculably valuable) has a lot on her plate. There’s her job, working as an assistant calendar editor at “The Thorn,” a Portland-based publication that’s a bit like your local alt-weekly, “The Daily Beast,” and “Time Out” had a baby. There’s her love interest (Luka Jones), for lack of a better term, who won’t buy a second pillow for his bed (“I’m your pillow”) and makes her leaves through the back door. She’s got a roommate and best friend (Lolly Adefope) who’s supportive, and who (most fortunately) unblushingly says the hard things. There’s her boss (John Cameron Mitchell), a renowned journalist and something of a queer icon whose recognition of Annie’s talents doesn’t prevent him from treating her like garbage. There are her parents (Julia Sweeney and Daniel Stern), two kind people who love her but who have very different methods of showing that love, one more pleasing than the other.

        Most importantly, there’s Annie’s own mind. It works feverishly. Mostly, it’s on her side, but the world puts a lot of really bad data out there for her analysis. In Bryant’s hands, that mind is on quiet but unceasing display. The impression created is one of a person accustomed to not pressing her pain, anger, and joy on anyone else; it’s always tucked away. Yet Bryant lets the audience in on those moments. Of “Shrill’s” many successes—and there are many—it’s this that’s the most striking. The series takes full advantage of Bryant’s comedy chops, and Annie’s jokes always emerge directly from whatever big emotions or ideas she’s processing at the moment; it allows her plenty of dramatic work too, but even the weightiest scenes don’t abandon Annie’s wry, casual sense of humor. She’s a fascinating character, played by a fascinating performer, and Bryant makes “Shrill” worth watching all by herself.


        But she’s far from the only reason to give this series your time. The cast is uniformly excellent—Mitchell and Adefope are standouts, but Jones does yeoman’s work in making a pretty terrible guy almost likeable—and the world in which the characters move is every bit as engaging. “Pool,” the series’ fourth episode, is particularly striking in this regard. Credited to writer Samantha Irby and directed by Shaka King, it sees Annie the much more comfortable and confident Fran visit a “Fat Babe Pool Party,” an idyllic scene populated by fat women in gorgeous bikinis, flowing sheer caftans and some seriously fabulous sunglasses and headwraps, drinking frozen margaritas and dancing without anything resembling self-consciousness. King captures the event in beautiful candy colors, lending the episode—or that piece of it—a feeling of tranquility and Oz-like wonder echoed in the face of a woman who floats blissfully past the camera on a bright pink inner tube without an obvious care in the world.

        Of course, cares intrude, as they always do. “Shrill” admirably bypasses a lot of what you might call “Talking About Bodies 101”—there’s no discussion of whether or not it’s acceptable to use the word fat, no teary monologue about when food became a crutch, none of that. Annie’s own hangups get explored, but so do the wrongheaded notions of others. That tension reaches its height in the relationship between Gabe, Mitchell’s character, and Annie. Gabe, a gay man, knows what it’s like to be treated as an other, judged, dismissed, and often hated for who you are. Yet it doesn’t stop him from saying things like “healthy bodies, healthy minds” to his employee when she arrives late for a “forced fun” biking event, implying that her tardiness is linked to her fatness, and that her fatness is an indication of inherent inferiority of mind and person.

        And then “Shrill,” ever smart, always pushing past the first question to the next, allows him to be both wrong and right about the way Annie conducts herself at work. It’s more interesting, and more like life, to allow people to be awful and right, wonderful and wrong, abusive and tender, loving and selfish. To see “Shrill” as a body positivity show and nothing more is like seeing Annie as nothing but a fat body with a fat woman’s struggles. To write damaging people as mustache-twisting villains who are always wrong, or protagonists as valiant heroes whose goodness never falters, is to ignore the lovely or insidious ways such people can affect others. It’s easy to brush past that stuff, but it’s a hell of a lot less interesting. A smile can be even more compelling when you know the work required to keep it alive.

        By: Allison Shoemaker
        Posted: March 25, 2019, 12:36 pm

      • Thumb the twilight zone mirror image

        After his Oscar-winning success with “Get Out,” Jordan Peele could have done virtually anything. Not only did he produce another Oscar winner in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” and prep his brilliant sophomore feature in “Us,” he resurrected one of the best TV shows of all time in Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone,” which premieres in April on CBS All Access. With stars like Kumail Nanjiani, Steven Yeun, Adam Scott, and Sanaa Lathan, and collaborators like Ana Lily Amirpour and Glen Morgan, Peele steps comfortably into Serling’s shoes, updating “The Twilight Zone” for a new generation. And yet one does not need to wait until April to jump into Peele’s vision of “a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity” as “Us” shares DNA with Serling’s creation too. In many ways, “Us” feels like the thematic connective tissue between “Get Out” and Peele's "Twilight Zone" reboot. You can create your own path from “Us” to “The Twilight Zone” with five classic episodes of the series.


        “Us” hinges on a terrifying proposition that would have made Serling smile. The Wilson family, led by Lupita Nyong’o’s Adelaide and Winston Duke’s Gabe, encounters their doppelgängers, shadow versions of themselves. Treading lightly in the world of spoilers, “Us” becomes a commentary on how we are our own worst enemy (I almost prefer to spell it “US,” as in “United States”).

        Man’s capacity to destroy itself and unwillingness to reckon with its own flaws is a consistent theme of Serling’s vision. Peele adds a racial element to this construct, whether it’s the literal ownership of black bodies in “Get Out” or an episode of the new season of “The Twilight Zone” about a racist cop. He's said that “Us” isn’t directly about race, but with its story of an uncovered past that has remained hidden until it's dangerous, it is certainly about the issues that we are unwilling to reckon with as Americans until it's too late to do so.

        Consider the path from Peele's dark comedy work in “Keanu” to the hybrid of “Get Out” to the horrific “Us” to his upcoming take on “The Twilight Zone,” and it looks like a brilliant series of determined, considered steps by Peele, leading to a stunning career. Rod Serling held up a mirror to society, asking us to look at stories of the impossible and see the relatable. Almost six decades later, Jordan Peele has picked up that reflective surface, and through his film and upcoming TV show, asked us to see ourselves in a new way. Watch these five episodes to really see how they reflect each other.

        1. “Mirror Image”

        Peele has admitted to a direct inspiration from Serling’s vision, telling Rolling Stone that “Us” was inspired this episode specifically, one that the new director loved as a child. In the episode, written by Serling, Vera Miles (of “Psycho” fame) plays Millicent Barnes, a 25-year-old woman at an isolated New York bus station. She asks the attendant when the late bus to take her to a new job will arrive and he tells her that she’s asked three times already. She's confused. The bathroom cleaning lady tells her she’s been in there twice. She knows she hasn’t. And then, through the open door, she sees herself sitting on a bench in the station. The connection between “Mirror Image” and “Us” is obvious, and Peele tells RS, “It’s terrifying, beautiful, really elegant storytelling, and it opens up a world. It opens up your imagination.”


        2. “In Praise of Pip”

        The house of mirrors that young Adelaide wanders into in the terrifying opening of "Us" recalls the climax of “In Praise of Pip,” in which Jack Klugman’s father searches for his son amidst a maze of reflective glass. It also has echoes of the way Peele plays with alternate realities. Pip is the name of Klugman’s son, one who is serving in the war and is about to die. Klugman imagines seeing him at a carnival and runs after the boy that he knows will never return.


        3. “The Parallel”

        An episode that also feels like it inspires Peele’s upcoming episodes in the reboot entitled “The Comedian,” this season four chapter features an astronaut returning home only to find that things have changed ever so slightly. The picket fence that lines his house wasn’t there when he left. He’s now a Colonel when he left a Major. And then he learns that no one has heard of JFK. Of course, “Us” takes place very much in our own plane of reality but the bulk of its horror comes from something like an alternate one suddenly overtaking reality. Serling loved alternate universes, and “Us” contains a little of that DNA.

        4. “Person or Persons Unknown”

        Alternate realities arise again in this episode about a man who wakes up to find that no one recognize him at home or at work. It’s almost like the inverse of a doppelganger as the man goes not from one to two but from one to zero.

        5. “Shatterday”

        The ‘80s reboot doesn’t have as many classic episodes as Serling’s original but this series premiere stands out. In the Wes Craven-helmed chapter, Bruce Willis plays a man who calls home and hears his own voice pick up the other end.

        To read Jessica Ritchey's list of the most unforgettable "Twilight Zone" episodes, click here

        By: Brian Tallerico
        Posted: March 25, 2019, 12:37 pm

      • சென்னை நந்தனம் கல்லூரியில் தமிழ்த்துறைப் பேராசிரியராகப் பணியாற்றும் முனைவர் கை. சங்கர், கணியம் அறக்கட்டளை நிறுவனர்கள் கலீல் ஜாகீர் (தமிழ் ஆன்டிராய்டு செயலி உருவாக்குநர்), சீனிவாசன் ஆகியோர் இணைந்து, பல்கலைக்கழக மானியக் குழு நிதியுதவியுடன் சங்க இலக்கியத்திற்கான குறுஞ்செயலி ஒன்றை உருவாக்கியுள்ளனர். இது தமிழ் ஆய்வாளர்களுக்குப் பெரிதும் பயன்படும் செயலி ஆகும்.

        ”இது தமிழ் ஆய்வாளர்களுக்கு மிகுந்த பயனுடையதாக இருக்கும். இந்தக் குறுஞ்செயலியின் மூலம் எட்டுத்தொகை, பத்துப்பாட்டு, பதினெண்கீழ்க்கணக்கு, தொல்காப்பியம், சிலப்பதிகாரம், மணிமேகலை ஆகிய செவ்விலக்கியங்களுக்கான பதிப்புகளை மிக எளிதாகத் தரவிறக்கம் செய்து படிக்கலாம் (1812 முதல் 1950 வரை வெளிவந்த பதிப்புகள் மட்டும்). ஆறுமுக நாவலர், சி.வை.தாமோதரம்பிள்ளை, உ.வே.சாமிநாதையர் போன்ற மிகச் சிறந்த ஆளுமைகளின் பதிப்புகளை எளிதாகக் கொண்டுசெல்லும் முயற்சிகளில் ஒன்றாக இப்பணி அமைந்திருக்கிறது. உதாரணத்திற்கு உ.வே.சா பதிப்பித்த புறநானூறு வேண்டுமென்றால் இக்குறுஞ்செயலியின் மூலம் பதிவிறக்கம் செய்து படிக்க முடியும்.

        மேலும், இக்குறுஞ்செயலி குறித்துத் திட்டப்பணி முதன்மை ஆய்வாளர் முனைவர் கை. சங்கர் கூறியதாவது: “தமிழ் ஆய்வுப்புலம் வளரவேண்டும் என்றால் அதற்கான ஆய்வுமூலங்கள் பரலாக்கப்படவேண்டும். ஒருசில நூலகங்களில் பாதுகாக்கப்படும் நூல்கள் ஒருசில ஆய்வாளர்கள் ஆய்வு செய்வதற்கு மட்டுமே வசதிவாய்ப்புகளை உருவாக்கித் தருகின்றன. தமிழ் ஆய்வுப்பணியை மேற்கொள்வோர் பலர் ஏழை எளிய பின்னணியிலிருந்து வருகிறார்கள். அவர்கள் நூல்களுக்காகச் சென்னை, புதுக்கோட்டை, கும்பகோணம் என அலைந்து திரிவது இனிக் குறையும். இணையத்தின் மூலம் அனைத்தும் பரவலாகி வருவது வரவேற்புக்குரியதாகும். சங்க இலக்கியக் குறுஞ்செயலி உலகெங்கும் இருக்கும் தமிழ் ஆர்வலர்களுக்குப் பேருதவியாக இருக்கும். இங்கு பதிவேற்றாதுவிட்ட அரிய சங்க இலக்கியப் பதிப்புகளை வைத்திருப்போர் என்ற மின்னஞ்சலுக்கு அனுப்பலாம். அவை உடனுக்குடன் பதிவேற்றப்படும்” என்றார்.

        கணியம் அறக்கட்டளை நிறுவனர் கலீல் ஜாகீர் இது குறித்து கூறியதாவது “சங்க இலக்கியம் செயலியை ஆன்டிராய்டு கைபேசிகளில் பிளே ஸ்டோரில் சென்று பதிவிறக்கிக்கொண்டு உடனடியாகப் பயன்படுத்தலாம். பல்கலைக்கழக நிதியுதவியுடன் செய்வதால் விளம்பரத் தொந்தரவு இருக்காது. பாதுகாப்பானது. ஒருமுறை தரவிறக்கம் செய்துவிட்டால் போதும். பிறகு தரவிறக்கம் செய்யப்பட்ட நூல்களை எல்லாம் வேண்டிய நேரத்தில் எடுத்துப் படிக்கும் வசதி குறுஞ்செயலியில் இருக்கிறது” என்று அவர் கூறினார்.

        மொபைல் கருவிகளில் படிப்படதற்கேற்ப PDF கோப்புகள், அளவில் குறுக்கப்பட்டுள்ளன. மேலும், PDF கோப்புகளின் அளவு 10 MB முதல் 200 MB வரை கூட இருக்கும். எனவே, அதற்கேற்ற இணைய இணைப்புடன் செயலியைப் பயன்படுத்துங்கள்.

        செயலியைப் பதிவிறக்கம் செய்வதற்கான இணைப்பு
        செயலியின் மூல நிரல் இங்கே –


        ஸ்கிரீன்ஷாட் படம்  ஸ்கிரீன்ஷாட் படம்ஸ்கிரீன்ஷாட் படம்


        23.03.2019 தமிழ் இந்து நாளிதழில் இந்த செய்தி வெளியாகி உள்ளது.


        By: admin
        Posted: March 25, 2019, 5:18 am

        சங்க இலக்கியம் – ஆன்டிராய்டு குறுஞ்செயலி வெளியீடு
      • In this article on WP Newsify, we talk about the Backup WordPress Site by WPvivid WordPress plugin. It is a great plugin that will help you backup your website and make sure you never lose your data no matter what complications your website faces.

        Backup WordPress Site by WPvivid Backup your WordPress Website

        In this post we reviewing the Backup WordPress Site by WPvivid. A WordPress plugin that help you backup your website and make sure you never lose your data.

      • Thumb preckwinkle lightfoot

        In an historic twist, Chicago will elect its first African-American woman Mayor, 100 years after a series of violent race riots tore the city apart.

        When the recent Chicago mayoral race began to heat up, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the primary election would culminate with two African-American women as the final contenders out of a field of about a dozen, destined for an April 2nd runoff. Either Toni Preckwinkle or Lori Lightfoot will become the first black female mayor in the history of my hometown. Chicago's first female mayor, Jane Byrne, was elected in 1979, and served until April of 1983. Chicago's first African-American mayor, Harold Washington, was elected in 1983 and died of a heart attack while in office in 1987. Both before and after their terms, Chicago was ruled by mayors named Richard Daley, one was the father, and the other was the son. In the last 64 years, there have been only two other elected (not counted the acting) mayors besides them: Mayor Michael Bilandic, who lost the office to Mayor Byrne after a fierce snowstorm when it seemed that he couldn't get the streets plowed fast enough. And the current Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who shocked everyone with his decision not to run for another term. 

        Their election is coming exactly one hundred years after one of the most racially brutal chapters in Chicago history: the race riots of 1919. The riots occurred from July 27th through August 3rd, killing 38 people—23 black, 15 white—while injuring over 500. Though roughly 25 riots reportedly occurred during the period known as “Red Summer” that year was reportedly the worst on record. I was born and raised in Chicago and I still live here and care deeply about its future. When I first began traveling internationally back in the 1970's, I was surprised to learn that the gangster Al Capone was one of the first persons associated with Chicago's image. This was not good.  

        So you can imagine how pleased I was when Michael Jordan and the Bulls were winning six championship rings, or when Oprah Winfrey was broadcasting from here, and even when my very own Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were bringing news of movies from their balcony on "At The Movies."  Carl Sandburg's city of of the big shoulders started gaining a rehabilitated image. But in the last few years I have heard more about the number of people, especially children, dying by gun violence. I am hoping that our next mayor will help to resuscitate our reputation of a world class city.

         Chicago still has so much to offer from its architecture to its jazz clubs and cultural institutions like the Art Institute, the Lyric Opera, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the DuSable Museum of African-American History, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Navy Pier, South Shore Cultural Center, the Field Museum of Natural History, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, the American Writers Museum, Jane Addams Hull House Museum, the Driehaus Museum, the Museum of Broadcast Communications and many many more. Of course we have many colleges and universities like the University of Chicago, DePaul University and College of Law, Northwestern, Loyola and many good city colleges. And a wealth of hospitals and medical centers. 

        No matter whom one supports, it is impossible to deny the momentous and meaningful nature of the mayoral decision itself, and you can feel the current of electricity running through the city as you discuss this historic decision at the bus stop, at coffee shops, on the streets or at the office. Though I am throwing my support behind Toni Preckwinkle, I am thrilled and proud to have this choice of two women candidates who I think will do everything they can to fulfill the promises they are making on the campaign trail to uplift this city and all of its residents. I have no naive thought that they will be magicians, but I do have hope that they will come prepared to address the issues so near and dear to all of us: safe streets, reduction in gun violence and deaths, good public schools, affordable housing, accessible health care,  meaningful employment for city residents, partnership with the business community and community organizations,  maintenance of utilities and infrastructure, continuation of the cultural institutions that attract international tourists, and just the joy of being part of such a thriving hub of humanity. 

        Nine years ago, Ms. Preckwinkle became the first woman elected as the President of the Cook County Board, and has been a tireless champion of affordable housing. Earlier in her life, Preckwinkle spent a decade as a high school history teacher, and spent two decades as Alderman representing the needs of her community. She worked in the Department of Economic Development during the Harold Washington Administration, and as County Board President, she has expanded access to health care for 350,000 people. Among her stated priorities as mayor are ensuring a $15 minimum wage, preventing school closures, investigating various unsolved murder cases suspected to be hate crimes against transgender citizens, quadrupling the city's investment in small business microloans, replacing all water lines that may contain lead, and creating the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice.

        Ms. Lightfoot recently served as President of the Chicago Police Board from 2015 to 2018 and was also a partner at the Mayer Brown law firm. With her role as chair of the Police Accountability task force, she conducted an in-depth analysis of the Chicago Police Department and issued a detailed report of her findings in April 2016. Other notable titles she has taken on have included Assistant United States Attorney in the criminal division and the Interim First Deputy of the Chicago Department of Procurement Services. She shares Preckwinkle's desire to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and investigate hate crimes. Lightfoot also  believes in legalizing cannabis, abolishing ICE, eliminating food deserts throughout the city, implementing mayoral term limits and addressing gun violence as a "public health crisis."

        Both candidates are smart and capable women, and I believe both are sincere in their desire to improve our city. I am supporting Toni Preckwinkle because she has balanced county budgets of over nine billion dollars ($9,000,000,000);  created the CountyCare program for Medicaid-eligible residents, provided new educational and ecological opportunities as president of the Forest Preserves of Cook County and reduced the number of children tried as adults and the population in the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, among her many other notable achievements.

        Yet what she and Lightfoot have provided me, above all else, is an indefatigable hope for the future at a time when it is in distressingly short supply. I must admit too, that I am hoping that as women they will bring a deep wealth of caring and empathy. One primary example of this was demonstrated after the horrible tragedy in New Zealand when a terrorist killed fifty people in a mosque. Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand was there on site comforting the survivors and their families, providing hugs and assurances, exhibiting a level of compassion so deep that it was felt around the world, and then getting down to the immediate business of gun control so that an act like that would be much more difficult to carry out in the future. 

        Yes, we need more women in these governing positions, and on April 2, Chicago will have one more. 

        By: Chaz Ebert
        Posted: March 22, 2019, 8:02 pm

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                              • Entertainer
                                Entertainer published a blog post The Dirt

                                Thumb dirt 2019

                                When I told a friend of mine that I was reviewing Mötley Crüe’s “The Dirt,” he replied, “I don’t need a movie. I have Dr. Feelgood.” The sad thing is how true that statement is when one discovers the complete lack of depth, insight, or even competent filmmaking in this by-the-numbers Netflix original. You could listen to Dr. Feelgood two full times during the run time of “The Dirt” and learn just about as much about the band as you do in this R-rated Wikipedia article of a movie. And you’d have way more fun.

                                Mötley Crüe was one of the biggest bands of the ‘80s for reasons that “The Dirt” never even attempts to explore. There’s no interest at all in why Crüe’s brand of hedonism rock spoke to people in the era of excess because director Jeff Tremaine (“Jackass 3D”) is too interested in the most memorable stories from the 2001 book on which this film is loosely based. That book was loosely based itself on the band’s own history (some of the stories in it have been walked back since its publication) and Tremaine and writers Rich Wilkes and Amanda Adelson basically just skim through the craziest moments as quickly as possible. It’s like being at a party with a drunk fan who read the book a decade ago and wants to share the stories his whiskey-addled brain can recall. Did you hear about the time Ozzy Osbourne snorted ants?!?! Remember when Tommy Lee ran around a fancy hotel in his underwear?!?! The opening scene I can’t even really write about in a way that seems appropriate?!?! Crazy, right!?!?! Get me another beer and I'll tell you more!

                                Douglas Booth plays Nikki Sixx, who we see team up with Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon) and Tommy Lee (Machine Gun Kelly) first, and then the trio boots one lead singer before finding their frontman, Vince Neil (Daniel Webber). And it's off to the glam rock races from the band's inception to their 2015 "final" show (barely taking any time for when the band had a different lead singer). “The Dirt” isn’t even remotely concerned with how the Crüe made such popular rock or showcasing their underrated talents as musicians, too content to string together outrageous stories with some of the required, increasingly dramatic beats.

                                As you’d expect, a first half populated by sex and drugs becomes a back half populated by tragedy … and sex and drugs. “The Dirt” is bland when it’s just the party stuff but becomes somehow even more intolerable when it chooses to speed through the serious stories from the book like the car accident that killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle, the time Nikki basically died from a drug overdose, and the tragic death of Vince’s child. Most of these “time to get serious” beats, with the exception of the Skylar Neil arc, which just feels like something Tremaine couldn’t handle dramatically, are sped over in about one scene, driving home just how superficial the whole affair has been. And there isn't even an ounce of interrogation of the crew's most questionable behavior. Tommy Lee cheats on Heather Locklear, Vince basically walks away from the band, Nikki does enough drugs to nearly kill him - but they're the Crue, man! Just turn up "Shout at the Devil"! And I said get me another beer! 

                                Even the book tried harder to capture the guys' imperfections in a way that felt more honest. Now some might argue that a movie about a band as extreme as Mötley Crüe should be a rocking good time and superficial instead of deep. That’s nonsense. We have the music videos and the albums to get the image. Why do we need that again in a movie? Great biopics offer more than the stories we know and impersonations of the people who once dominated the charts. Worst of all, despite its attempts to shock, “The Dirt” is something that Mötley Crüe never was – boring. It offers nothing that the fans of the band won’t already know, won’t win over a single new one, and has absolutely nothing to recommend it in terms of filmmaking. Let’s all hope the inevitable Poison movie is better. 

                                By: Brian Tallerico
                                Posted: March 22, 2019, 12:06 pm

                                • Entertainer
                                  Entertainer published a blog post Ramen Shop

                                  Thumb ramen shop image

                                  Most of us have a favorite dish from our childhood. Something so wrapped up in nostalgia, that even if it’s bad for you or hard to make, you’ll endure the stomach pains or time demands just to taste it again. Somewhere in your subconscious is a dish that brings you back to the table of your old family home. Maybe it’s your mom, dad or beloved grandparent serving you the plate of something so deliciously steamy, just the smell wafting from the kitchen is enough to make you forget your present-day grown-up troubles for a minute or two.

                                  Although Eric Khoo’s movie is named “Ramen Shop,” there’s surprisingly little ramen in it. Instead, the comfort food of choice for Masato (Takumi Saito) is Bak Kut Teh, a Singaporean pork rib soup that his mom used to make. It’s a recipe that the young man and his Japanese father never learned how to make before her untimely death. Years later, Masato works at a ramen shop with his father and uncle, and he becomes a master of one side of his culinary heritage but not the other. After his father dies, Masato decides to visit Singapore to find his mother’s side of the family and reconnect with the Singaporean cuisine that ties them all with the help of a local food blogger, Miki (Seiko Matsuda).

                                  In Masato’s quest to find his family and his favorite childhood dish, he discovers not only long lost relatives and new culinary delights but also the war scars that tore his family apart decades ago. Much in the same way the Western nations have not forgotten about the atrocities committed by Nazis in World War II, several Asian countries, including Singapore, have not forgiven Japan for its deeds from that era. During Masato’s visit, there’s a news report discussing a museum exhibit commemorating the anniversary. Masato may be the product of two former opponents, but it was his parents’ mutual love of food that brought them together, and it could be the key to healing his family’s rifts.

                                  If your knowledge of Singapore comes from an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show or “Crazy Rich Asians,” you at least know that the food there is the tasty amalgamation of several culinary staples, a mixture of many Southeast Asian cultures boiled and plated before our hungry characters. There are different mixtures of curry and spices, various grilled meats and clear broth soups, crunchy whole crabs and plump dumplings, wispy noodles and sticky mounds of rice. Khoo gives his audience a sampling of these dishes but rarely does he serve them a “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”-like close-up or have his camera drool over each spoonful as “Tampopo” does in its love letter to the hearty bowl of ramen. Instead, these shots are like appetizers, somewhat distant from what we’re used to in movies or documentaries about food, building towards the movie’s main course, Bak Kut Teh. Miki may not be the most lively presence in the movie, but as Masato’s guide to Singaporean cuisine, she helps the audience also understand the meaning and history of some of the menu options.

                                  The film’s soft watercolor palette gives the impression of a gentle story. The colors change from a somewhat pastel view of the present day to a washed out, soft-focus perception of an idyllic past, like faded family photographs. When Masato revisits some of the sites in his parents’ photographs, we see past and present united briefly. It gives him a chance to reflect, and viewers a chance to see how emotional and meaningful this food trip is for him. It’s more than just the search for an old family recipe, it’s a chance for him to reclaim this part of his cultural identity.

                                  Sometimes our past can come with so much baggage, it’s preferable to just focus on the good things like our favorite childhood meal. In reconnecting with his estranged relatives, Masato also finds anger and pain on both sides of his family tree. However, the movie is about reconciliation and doesn’t go too deep into exploring that generation-long grudge. “Ramen Shop” believes that the healing power of food can satisfy our hunger for comfort in difficult times, and that should be filling enough for now.

                                  By: Monica Castillo
                                  Posted: March 22, 2019, 12:07 pm

                                  • Entertainer
                                    Entertainer published a blog post Roll Red Roll

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                                    There have been a depressingly large number of films about how our culture of toxic masculinity can lead to cover ups of crimes like sexual assault and rape. But what separates the harrowing “Roll Red Roll” is the approach by the filmmaker Nancy Schwartzman. The victim of this case is only referred to as Jane Doe and we only see the perpetrators in news footage, photographs, or through their social media posts and texts. How does one make a story about a crime without speaking to the criminal or the victim? Schwartzman’s tack allows her to paint a picture of how something like this impacts an entire community, from the people who almost instantly took the side of the accused to protect a football program, to the reporters who broke the stories, to those inspired to come forward and reveal their own traumas.  Some of the filmmaking here is a little frustrating, but “Roll Red Roll” is ultimately an insightful portrait of an entire city shaken and altered by one heinous act, amplified by modern technology.

                                    “She is so raped right now.” These are some of the first words heard in “Roll Red Roll,” over footage of the peaceful town of Steubenville, Ohio. Before long, it won’t be peaceful at all, descended upon by international news outlets and even the Guy Fawkes-wearing members of Anonymous. But, at the beginning, confusion reigned. A girl woke up after a party, unsure of what had even happened to her. Other party goers knew the truth, and it started to spread on social media that two members of the popular high school football team—Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond—had raped a girl who was basically unconscious from drinking too much. A blogger named Alexandria Goddard caught the story as the case was developing and scoured the social media of everyone who knew about the party and discovered a horrifying truth.

                                    It was a truth that a lot of people didn’t believe at first. Or didn’t want to believe. Police interview footage with the boys’ coach about the definition of rape is upsetting, as is what sounds like talk radio footage that could be linked to under the internet definition of "victim blaming." For a good while, it seemed like Alexandria’s story wouldn’t make a difference—and the blogger herself was verbally attacked and even sued for libel. And then something remarkable happened when Anonymous caught wind of what felt like a cover-up. They went deeper than Alexandria could possibly have and found the proof to completely change the narrative.

                                    Clearly, there’s a lot to analyze here. Without social media, what happened to this Jane Doe would likely never have been uncovered. The police claimed they were investigating, and maybe they would have gotten around to charges, but a case in which the victim can’t remember what happened can be very hard to prove. Social posts, hacked videos, rallies led by Anonymous —these are all modern aspects to crime solving and dealing with trauma that didn’t exist until very recently. I wish, however, that Schwartzman dug a little deeper into how they impacted this case, and maybe even how these elements are impacting crime solving, reporting, and dealing with trauma on a larger scale.

                                    Some of the other choices in “Roll Red Roll” are a bit baffling—especially an overcooked credits sequence set to hardcore punk band Amen—but the story is one worth telling, a reminder that social media can offer a window into a toxic environment that we wouldn’t otherwise have. The only way to fix it is to look through that window, talk to our children about what’s right and wrong, and support victims. As dangerous as social media can be, it led to justice in this case. And while it was undeniably something that caused pain the night of the rape and the next day as it amplified and inflicted more trauma on Jane Doe, it was also ultimately a catalyst for people to heal. 

                                    By: Brian Tallerico
                                    Posted: March 22, 2019, 12:07 pm

                                    • Entertainer
                                      Entertainer published a blog post Trading Paint

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                                      For years, movie fans have wanted to see Michael Madsen and John Travolta reprise their characters Vic and Vincent Vega, criminal brothers in Quentin Tarantino’s movies “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” respectively. It’s been a long time since the Tarantino Omniverse has been invoked seriously, but the recurring/overlapping characters in films written and directed by Tarantino was a fun thing to track. And Madsen had mentioned that Tarantino had an idea to team up the characters in spite of their advancing ages.

                                      But it hasn’t happened yet and instead Madsen and Travolta meet in the decidedly undistinguished dirt-racing film “Trading Paint.” This movie begins on the Talladega track, as young Cam Munroe (Toby Sebastian) goes up against Bob Linsky (Madsen). The race announcers, both of whose last names should be “Exposition,” explain that Cam is the son of track manager Sam “The Man” Munroe, who was himself once Linsky’s most bitter rival. (A later shot in which Travolta makes a sweeping arm gesture and exclaims “F***ing Linsky” ought to be made into a GIF.)

                                      Anyway, Cam blows the race because his car’s engine is garbage. This seems like a soluble problem, but apparently with Sam in charge of Cam’s career, it’s intractable. In flashback we learn why Sam himself doesn’t race anymore: because he’s a terrible driver who killed Cam’s mother in an auto accident. I mean, that’s not what the film wants us to believe but nevertheless shows us: a completely avoidable crash that happened because Sam chose to make out with his wife rather than keep his eyes on the road.

                                      He seems to have learned to take this in stride in some respects because the next scene shows him at the fishing hole romancing some lady who looks an awful lot like Shania Twain. It took me a while to realize she actually IS Shania Twain, because I initially thought “What does Shania Twain need this kind of low-rent enterprise for?” Maybe she really wanted to meet Travolta. 

                                      In any event, the “snake” Linsky offers Cam the opportunity to drive for him instead of his dad. He promises to actually give him a car that works. Imagine. And so he does. But Sam doesn’t take it very well. He asks Shania Twain to talk to the kid. And say what? Travolta’s the one who’s in a huff. And he’s in so much of a huff that he takes to racing again himself. You’d never have guessed, I’m sure.

                                      During one race pitting the three men of speed against each other, those exposition-happy track announcers say of Sam: “So now he’s mixed up with a crazy soap opera that has his son, Cam, racing for his old arch rival Bob Linsky. Hell, you couldn’t write this any better.” I give the screenwriters Gary Gerani and Craig R. Welch a lot of credit for having the cojones to tee up the ball for film reviewers like that. But not for anything else. 

                                      By: Glenn Kenny
                                      Posted: March 22, 2019, 12:07 pm

                                      • Entertainer
                                        Entertainer published a blog post Out of Blue

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                                        Writer/director Joseph Mankiewicz famously said that the difference between movies and life is that movies have to make sense. The arc of a storyline with a beginning, middle and end, with actions and consequences, is itself a way of imposing order on chaos. Crime is a disruption of the order we attempt to impose through law, and we resolve that tension by finding out who, and, if we can, why.

                                        Sometimes, though, there is a meta-take where the answer is that there may be no answer, or the answer doesn't matter, and the quest for resolution only brings more chaos. “Out of Blue,” adapted by director Carol Morley from the 1997 Martin Amis novel Night Train, has a self-consciously artsy screenplay with meta air quotes around its air quotes. He sets the quintessential quest for truth, a murder mystery, in the context of literal questions about the nature of the universe, or, more accurately, universes. If some astrophysicists believe that there are an infinite number of universes with every possible variation of our lives occurring simultaneously, then how much can it matter whether we find the answers in this one? If Schrödinger’s Cat can be both alive and dead at the same time in the sealed box, is there even a murder to solve?

                                        Detectives arrive at the scene of a death at an astronomical observatory. The body on the floor was an astrophysicist named Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer). “One of the Rockwells?” someone asks. Yes, the daughter of a prominent family led by a former POW turned electronics magnate named Colonel Tom Rockwell (James Caan) and his wife, Miriam (Jacki Weaver). Their twin sons went into the family business, but Jennifer became a scientist who looked to the stars for answers.

                                        “The catastrophic death of a star brings new life to the universe,” she tells a small group of students just before her death. We will hear her again, in flashbacks, describing her search for the “dark heart” that will reveal the secrets of black holes. She cautions that we are not the center of the universe, and an epigraph before the film tells us that we should not think of ourselves as living in the universe but the universe as living in us.

                                        The detective investigating the death is Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson), a recovering alcoholic who says that she cannot remember anything about her past before she joined the police force. In case we cannot figure out that this means she is dedicated investigating the details of other people’s lives but not her own, Amis gives us a character to explain that to us. The same with the parallels between a detective following clues to solve a crime and a scientist following clues to test a theory, and the references to masks and personae, all of which are more than made clear by the film itself and then unnecessarily explained to us by its characters.

                                        That happens a lot in this film, where what may have worked in literary prose comes across as pretentious on screen. The central concern about who shot Jennifer Rockwell is resolved pretty quickly, which means “case closed” for the police department. But Hoolihan wants to know why, and so she keeps looking. A female detective with a man’s name, who is told by another character she should look more like a woman, and takes pride in her reputation for never showing any queasiness or emotion at a crime scene suddenly starts getting dizzy. Is she investigating what happened to Jennifer or what happened to her?

                                        Weaver is a standout as a mother who at first natters on about Jennifer as a baby until her sorrow leaves her nothing but the truth, and Jonathan Majors as Jennifer’s colleague shows impressive ability to convey a great deal in his few scenes. Hoolihan finds it suspicious when his response to learning of Jennifer’s death is not “How?” but “Why?” And yet, that is where she soon finds herself—in both senses of the term.

                                        The problem with giving us a mystery and then telling us it does not really matter is that we end up wondering whether that message itself really matters. In “The Big Sleep,” a likely influence on Amis for both the novel and the film, director Howard Hawks and author Raymond Chandler knowingly left one of the murders unsolved because the real story was about the detective, not the crimes. Perhaps in one of the alternate universe versions of this movie, the characters come across as human beings acting out of understandable motivations. But the version in this universe tries too hard to both be a part of—and comment on—the genre of crime stories, and does not succeed at either. 

                                        By: Nell Minow
                                        Posted: March 22, 2019, 12:08 pm

                                        • Entertainer
                                          Entertainer published a blog post Hotel Mumbai

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                                          How do we establish a proper ethics code around a narrative film that dramatically recreates an act of real-life terrorism? How much time do we need to allow between the tragedy’s actual occurrence and its Hollywood-ized on-screen reflection, with which people would eventually fill their entertainment-hungry eyeballs while munching on their popcorn? When should these movies be released—is the unlucky timing right after a deadly attack in Christchurch, New Zealand a touch … insensitive? Taking it a step further, do these films that give unspeakable carnage, like the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, a “The Poseidon Adventure” action movie treatment, need to be made? I won’t pretend to have the answers to these questions. I will just say, it’s complicated—cinema has always served as a reflection of its times and storytellers are still feeling their way through the unique horrors of the 21st Century. And we aren’t even a quarter of the way there yet.

                                          I bring up these questions because they kept crawling in my mind as I watched and wrestled with Anthony Maras’ searing, startlingly confident debut “Hotel Mumbai,” where every fatal bullet fired out of the ruthless terrorists’ semi-automatic weapons hit me at my core. I must admit: this skilled, historical action film was one of the toughest, most disquieting sits I can remember in a while—tougher than Paul Greengrass’ “July 22” and on par with the same filmmaker’s masterful “United 93.”  So much that I almost (almost) resented Maras’ first-rate filmmaking chops and unflinching command of camera and action that managed to mentally and physically place me among the countless victims and survivors of the majestic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, where the majority of his film (co-written by Maras and John Collee) is set.

                                          A small amount of relief: In “Hotel Mumbai,” the writing duo persistently emphasizes the complex humanity of the characters. In that, we are not just watching a jingoistic, thinly sketched battle between the good and the bad. There are shades of nuance in the good here and an abusive hierarchy within the evil, delicately portrayed not to make the audience feel for the terrorists but to help them understand the chilling indestructibly of terror networks and the terrorist mindset. The ones that murder dozens at random in the hotel are a group of merciless yet disposable men; brainwashed by religious lies, radicalized and sent to carry out massacres by the powerful those who coldly give commands at the other end of a phone line.

                                          Before we reach the glorious hotel, Maras swiftly familiarizes us with the players, starting with the Lashkar-e-Taiba jihadists, who approach the city by boats and begin their fatal attacks across the bustling metropolis, including a major transportation hub and a restaurant. We then meet the happily married father Arjun (an astonishingly brave Dev Patel, carrying most of the narrative), an employee and waiter at the Taj, who is about to lose a lucrative shift of large tips after misplacing his shoes. His (soon-to-be-a-hero) boss Hemant Oberoi (the legendary Anupam Kher of “The Big Sick”) surely won’t let him run his errands in sandals at such a highbrow, first-class establishment that takes pride in treating the guests as God. Borrowing a pair too small for his feet at the last minute (a tiny but rich detail you will hold on to while following him), Arjun earns his spot back in the service roster. The evening would be populated by a number of VIP guests, including an arrogant, womanizing Russian businessman (Jason Isaacs with a curious accent) and a well-off family consisting of the architect David (Armie Hammer, excellent with little to do), his wife Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi, who steals the film), their newborn baby (his cries while in-hiding are a recurring source of suspense) and a heroic babysitter (Tilda Cobham-Hervey).

                                          The characters (apart from Oberoi) are fictional for the most part and come with plenty of dramatic embellishments that supplement the basic story. Along the way, phones run out of battery (among the most Hollywood plot details that repeat), families get separated, egotism becomes certain individuals’ worst enemy and racial profiling plagues a group of exhausted survivors’ unity. Thankfully, Maras and Collee don’t give white privilege an easy pass when the circumstances grow direr by the second. (Except, in an earlier scene, they somehow grant David the overconfidence to order an extremely Americanized burger meal at Taj’s world-class restaurant.) Maras establishes unassailable directorial authority throughout, guiding the viewer through a maze of rooms, hallways and backdoor escape routes with clear orientation, even when one loses count of the fallen bodies. Nick Remy Matthews’ documentary-like cinematography and the work of co-editors Maras and Peter McNulty weave together a massive canvas, making all of it feel like a claustrophobic horror film unfolding in real-time. 

                                          Still, after the substantially scaled catastrophe comes to an end, the question remains: what do we do with all this filmmaking dexterity when it serves an effort that, despite the best of intentions, feels exploitative and too soon? I will leave that decision up to you, as I suspect the answer will depend on your tolerance level. For my part, I will look forward to seeing what the promising Maras does next.

                                          By: Tomris Laffly
                                          Posted: March 22, 2019, 12:08 pm

                                          • Entertainer
                                            Entertainer published a blog post Relaxer

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                                            I don't know if you can get on the same wavelength as "Relaxer"; you're either with this grimy slacker comedy or you aren't. I like "Relaxer" a lot, possibly because it is what high-school age me thought American indie cinema was like. Adenoidal drop-out protagonists, over-determined scatological humor, an oppressive dream-like mood—"Relaxer" takes me back to my adolescence (I was a teenage misanthrope!). I was reminded of the hilariously crass Gen X indie comic books of Chester Brown ("Ed the Happy Clown"), Dan Clowes ("Ghost World"), and Joe Matt ("Peepshow"), as well as the sad-sack antihero protagonists of early movies by Jim Jarmusch ("Stranger Than Paradise") and Richard Linklater ("Slacker"). 

                                            Which is weird, because "Relaxer" isn't really like those comics or movies. Instead, "Relaxer" is a light, but moody comedy about an irredeemable loser who is too unwell to save himself. Imagine a deceptively optimistic comedy concerning a neurotic fish who's slowly circling his unwashed, slow-draining aquarium. 

                                            "Relaxer" follows Abbie (Joshua Burge), a scrawny oddball who refuses to leave a ratty, over-stuffed leather couch—he says it doesn't belong to him—until his snotty older brother Cam (David Dastmalchian) says he can. Unfortunately, Cam won't let Abbie get up until he's completed the latest in a series of bizarre dares/challenges, all of which involve eating or drinking too much, too fast. So when we first meet Abbie, he's about to vomit and/or urinate after drinking (most of) a gallon of milk. Soon after that, Cam gives Abbie an ultimate, final challenge: sit on the couch and defeat level 256 of "Pac-Man." The year is 1999, the place is suburban Michigan, and the rest is mostly immaterial.

                                            According to Potrykus, Abbie represents his own long-held fantasy of dropping out of society just to play video games. Watching "Relaxer" does not, however, feel like having a bad nightmare. It's more like a detailed stress dream, one that you just have to get out of your system, no matter how grim and unbearable it may seem in retrospect. 

                                            After all, Potrykus' jokes are never really on Abbie—they're just about Abbie. Abbie's completely unhygienic: he rarely wears a shirt, so we often get two eyes-ful of Burge's sweaty, acne-covered chest. Abbie's also too weak-willed to take care of himself. And he doesn't really have any friends, except for Faygo-swilling burnout Dallas (Andre Hyland) and fair weather acquaintance Arin (Adina Howard). 

                                            But wait, there's more: Abbie's dad is in jail, but Abbie wants to visit him—after he wins $10,000 from a "Nintendo Power"-sponsored contest (hosted by disgraced competitive video game player Billy Mitchell). Abbie also thinks he might have psychic powers. He is pretty much as incompetent and unlikely to survive as his brother Cam says he is. Which is funny since, in the movie's press notes, Potrykus says that his earlier comedies are "cold and dark," like Cam and his worldview. I've only seen "Buzzard"—which features at least one all-time great sequence (Bugle Treadmill!)—but I can see similarities between it and "Relaxer." Cam's borderline nihilistic point-of-view defines Abbie's world, even if Abbie refuses to let his brother's apparent obnoxiousness bring him down. 

                                            "Relaxer" is not as grim as it sounds. Potrykus clearly loves Abbie, though I suspect it's because he, and the audience, already know that Abbie is useless ... we just want to believe he's not. That sort of magical thinking is the key to enjoying "Relaxer," a comedy about wish fulfillment. Which strangely makes a lot of sense since, generally speaking, a lot of DIY/maker culture looks like modern-day alchemy (for more on DIY culture's ties to the supernatural, I highly recommend Peter Bebergal's recent non-fiction book Strange Frequencies). 

                                            If you believe you can do something impossible, then your quest to hack the code of everyday life can be a spiritually fulfilling reward unto itself. Abbie's quest to beat "Pac-Man" (and win money, and be self-sufficient, and reunite with his dad) isn't at all spiritual, but that's what makes it funny—he has the patience of a saint, without any other saint-like qualities. Everyone else in Michigan may be scrambling for their bunkers because of pre-Millennial fears of the Y2K bug. But Abbie will succeed no matter what happens—because he knows he will. Even if he has to bury himself in sweat, debris, vomit, feces, urine, and, uh, is that snow? I can't honestly recommend "Relaxer" to most readers, but if you like this kind of thing, you'll probably love it.

                                            By: Simon Abrams
                                            Posted: March 22, 2019, 12:08 pm