Call for Feature Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013
Her shows the confines and varying dimensions of love -- primarily between a man and his operating system -- as it meditates on whether or not you can truly possess what you love.

Theodore Twombly is a great name. Played by Joaquin Phoenix, Twombly is the physical center of Spike Jonze’s latest effort Her about a man who becomes entangled in a relationship with his operating system (OS), named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). The movie takes place in a future version of Los Angeles (though visuals of Shanghai substitute for the city’s sprawl and skylines) where personal letters are ghostwritten by third parties, the job Twombly has been in for years and excels at. He serves as a reserved and lonely everyman, a stand in for anyone seeking love, and you’re drawn to like everything about him. Phoenix embodies the quirky role and we believe in everything about the character, from his laughter to his nervousness to his moustache.


Twombly has been separated from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) for about a year and we find she’s trying to finalize their divorce. Twombly became distant in their relationship, perhaps more absorbed in technology and the artificial connections he makes between the consumers of his letters. He can fondly recall a girl’s broken tooth in a letter between one couple because he’s been their emotional emissary for so long. He doesn’t show much desire to connect with the people around him daily, particularly the oddball receptionist played by Chris Pratt (who may just be the odd coworker you feel uncomfortable hanging around). Amy Adams plays his best friend Amy, and she represents a portion of Twombly’s past when he could connect with humans. Through her and her husband, Twombly gets set up on a date with one woman (Olivia Wilde) that starts off well but closes strangely as she attempts to arrange a follow-up date.


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Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013
New York Comic Con felt smaller than the previous year but was no less crowded.

New York Comic Con felt smaller this year than the prior year, when AMC’s The Walking Dead dominated the show, from the exterior to the floor and to the merchandise. This year, the hit show did have a presence and a prime time panel, but there were no round table chats with actors for the press and there was no RV teeming with zombies out front of the Javits.


Perhaps Robert Kirkman didn’t want the show’s zombies overshadowing the 10th anniversary of his original The Walking Dead zombie comic book, which was reissued with a new limited cover from Image, and was celebrated with a panel as well. I’m not caught up on the stories, but the latest issue of the comics, #115, is purported to be the biggest ever as four various factions are poised to clash.


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Thursday, Oct 17, 2013
After a long absence, devoted fans of the band Travis agree their return was worth the wait.

The floor of Webster Hall was filled during the opening act for Travis on a balmy Monday night in New York City. Even the merch table sold out of a few sizes before the band took the stage. When it was mentioned that the group was actually milling about outside, there was no heading towards the door, as it would mean giving up allotted spaces held by simply standing in place.  All this loyalty was well rewarded, as the crowd went home happy after a sprinkling of new songs were embedded in a set full of familiar hits spanning the decades. There was plenty of audience participation – singing, clapping and gladly whooping it up on cue over and over again – in a venue full of mostly couples, with many fans holding their hearts in the universal gesture of emotional submission.


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Thursday, Oct 17, 2013
Walter Mitty doesn't sport much comedy. It doesn't plunge into a character's emotional depths. But it has an adventurous spirit. And that may be reason enough to see the movie.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is directed by and stars Ben Stiller. So you can expect bits of comedy will be sprinkled into the movie, including a laugh-out-loud moment early on when he’s online dating and trying to contact a co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). But it isn’t a pure comedy, or even a purely romantic comedy, at least from my perspective. Its sort of an adventure-driven story of growth for the titular character that develops out of his attempts at online dating—at least in the intro, though there are some familial obligations given later as reasons he couldn’t adventure before. Apparently, in the beginning, Mitty’s profile isn’t complete, and when he calls up the website’s support services Todd (Patton Oswalt) informs him that he should fill out a prompt for ‘been there / done that’. Mitty realizing he hasn’t been there or done that inadvertently finds himself on an adventure chasing down a photo negative from famed Life-cover photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) as he’s trying to court Cheryl and to save his job at Life magazine which is about to transition into a digital online publication (in the film).


By this point it is apparent that Mitty lapses into flights of fancy, tuning out the real world as his mind attempts to release his intrepid spirit through adventurous or explosive scenes. The first such dream has a moment that echoes a jumping scene in the third Bourne movie, as the camera jumps with the actor through the window. But as the slide becomes his focus, Mitty’s reality becomes almost as implausible as his dreams. He attempts to trail O’Connell through Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas and jumps out of a helicopter, recalls his skateboarding days and climbs mountains. The cinematography for these scenes is astounding as it displays these vistas proudly, encouraging a viewer’s own desire to explore the world.


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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013
For the first day of CMJ, I wandered between New Zealand and Iceland, or at least pretended to by visiting showcases from those countries, and have the photos and videos to prove it.

If I could really walk between New Zealand and Iceland (or take a bus at least), I would be amazed. It seems I make a habit of catching artists from either country though. I’ve attended the New Zealand Showcase at (le) Poisson Rouge the last two years, so I decided to go again this year. And I heard that a new artist Ásgeir, would be performing with a special guest at an Iceland Airwaves showcase. I’m not getting out to that festival at the end of the month, so this might be the closest I’ll come to it.


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