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Wow, man — 'Easy Rider' is turning 40 this summer

Lewis Beale
Newsday (MCT)

Cultural trendsetter, or dated, hippie-dippy artifact?

"Easy Rider" will be 40 years old this summer, and viewers can determine for themselves whether this Dennis Hopper-directed flick is still shocking and raw, or a reminder of how crazy, sick and self-absorbed the '60s could be.

A road movie about two hippie drug dealers, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Hopper), who decide to ride across America on their Harleys, the film was produced on the cheap and grossed an astonishing $19 million (more than $90 million in contemporary currency). It provided Jack Nicholson with a role that turned him into a star, and it pointed the way to the new, more independent filmmaking of the 1970s.

Seen today, "Easy Rider" seems filled with the excesses of youth and is a perfect reflection of the sex, drugs and rock and roll spirit of the age. Whether it's actually any good, however, probably depends on your political convictions and the number of joints you smoked back in the day.

Here are 10 things you need to know about "Easy Rider":

1. The scene in which Fonda, Hopper and Nicholson smoke dope? That was real marijuana they were inhaling.

2. The movie's original title was "The Loners."

3. The cocaine dealer in the beginning of the movie is played by record mogul Phil Spector.

4. Hopper originally proposed a 220-minute cut of the movie. Another editor was brought in who reduced it to a more watchable 95.

5. Four police cycles - 1949, 1950 and 1952 Harleys - were used.

6. The hippie commune was re-created in Santa Monica, Calif., because the New Mexico commune it was patterned on did not permit filming.

7. Nicholson's role was originally slated for Rip Torn. But Torn, a Texan, withdrew after he and Hopper almost came to blows over the director's comments about Southern rednecks.

8. Toni Basil, who would go on to greater fame as a choreographer and singer ("Mickey"), had a small role as a prostitute.

9. The movie was nominated for two Oscars, including best screenplay and best supporting actor for Nicholson.

10. In 1998, the movie was added to the National Film Registry, an honor given to films deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant."

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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