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Monday, April 2nd, 2018



NEW YORK MAGAZINE: It is certainly not a surprise that Trump has refused to disclose his tax returns. What’s truly shocking is how much petty graft has sprung up across his administration. Trump’s Cabinet members and other senior officials have been living in style at taxpayer expense, indulging in lavish travel for personal reasons (including a trip to Fort Knox to witness the solar eclipse) and designing their offices with $31,000 dining sets and $139,000 doors. Not since the Harding administration, and probably the Gilded Age, has the presidency conducted itself in so venal a fashion.

It is hardly a coincidence that so many greedy people have filled the administration’s ranks. Trump’s ostentatious crudeness and misogyny are a kind of human-resources strategy. Radiating personal and professional sleaze lets him quickly and easily identify individuals who have any kind of public ethics and to sort them out. (James Comey’s accounts of his interactions with the president depict Trump probing for some vein of corruptibility in the FBI director; when he came up empty, he fired him.) Trump is legitimately excellent at cultivating an inner circle unburdened by legal or moral scruples. These are the only kind of people who want to work for Trump, and the only kind Trump wants to work for him.

It should take very little work — and be a very big priority — for Democratic candidates to stitch all the administration’s misdeeds together into a tale of unchecked greed. […] Trump’s campaign followed his patented human-resources strategy, filling its ranks with other rapacious and financially precarious men. Paul Manafort was deeply in debt to a Russian oligarch when he popped up on Trump’s doorstep. Michael Flynn was selling his credentials to Russian and Turkish dictators while advising Trump. Jared Kushner was flailing about in an effort to make good on a massive loan he took out on a white-elephant Manhattan building and seems to have used his access to Trump to leverage potential investors who might bail him out. Even as he has wielded enormous influence, Kushner has been unable to obtain a top-secret security clearance, because he may be vulnerable to foreign influence.

The virtue of bribery is a subject of genuine conviction for Trump, whose entrée to politics came via transactional relationships with New York politicians as well as Mafia figures. Trump once called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars American corporations from engaging in bribery, a “ridiculous” and “horrible” law. Enforcement of this law has plummeted under his administration. Trump’s vision of an economy run by tight circles of politically connected oligarchs has reshaped America’s standing in the world. The same effect that applies at the personal level with Trump has appeared at the level of the nation-state. Small-d democratic leaders have recoiled from the Trump administration, while autocrats have embraced him. Similarly, the president and his inner circle feel most comfortable in the company of the wealthy and corrupt. They have built closer ties to Russia, the Gulf States, and China, all of which are ruled by oligarchs who recognize in Trump a like-minded soul. They share the belief that — to revise a favorite Trump saying — if you don’t steal, you don’t have a country. MORE

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HAPPY EASTER: David Lynch’s Rabbits

Sunday, April 1st, 2018

WIKIPEDIA: Rabbits is a 2002 series of short horror web films written and directed by David Lynch, although Lynch himself refers to it as a nine-episode sitcom.[1] It depicts three humanoid rabbits played by Scott Coffey, Laura Elena Harring[2] and Naomi Watts in a room.[3] Their disjointed conversations are interrupted by a laugh track. Rabbits is presented with the tagline “In a nameless city deluged by a continuous rain… three rabbits live with a fearful mystery”. Rabbits takes place entirely within a single box set representing the living room of a house. Within the set, three humanoid rabbits enter, exit, and converse. One, Jack, is male and wears a smart suit. The other two, Suzie and Jane, are female, one of whom wears a dress, the other a dressing gown. The audience watches from about the position of a television set. In each episode, the rabbits converse in apparent non sequiturs. The lines evoke mystery, and include “Were you blonde?”, “Something’s wrong”, “I wonder who I will be”, “I only wish they would go somewhere”, “It had something to do with the telling of time”, and “no one must find out about this”. The disordered but seemingly related lines the rabbits speak suggest that the dialogue could be pieced together into sensible conversations, but concrete interpretations are elusive. MORE

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

Friday, March 30th, 2018

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NPR FRESH AIR: Comedian Bill Hader is adept onstage and doing live performances. But he’s scared to death of standup. He says he remembers watching Chris Rock’s 1996 HBO special, Bring the Pain, and thinking, “I don’t know how people do that.”

“I need a character,” Hader tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “I need people out there with me.” So Hader has stuck with sketch comedy — where he has been wildly successful. He joined the Saturday Night Live cast seven years ago along with Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg, who both recently left the show. And he’s garnered quite a bit of laughs and attention — including a recent Emmy nomination — for his role as Stefon, an obsessive New York clubgoer and nightlife critic.

“The majority of people come up to me and say ‘I’m a Stefon,’ or ‘I’ve been called a Stefon,’ or ‘I used to date someone like Stefon,’ ” Hader says. He cites one person who approached him to say he “liked that Stefon was gay, but it’s not the joke that he’s gay.” Hader says that he and John Mulaney, a writer for Saturday Night Live who co-created the character of Stefon with Hader, appreciated that comment, because it meant the viewer got what they were going for. The joke is “more about how [Stefon’s] doing a bad job and on a lot of drugs,” Hader says.

Hader says that as a child, he loved watching old movies with his family — and he was always interested in what was going on behind the scenes. So when he moved to Los Angeles to begin a career in entertainment, he intended to direct films. He found work as a production assistant on both low-budget and expensive Hollywood films for nearly four years before joining the sketch-comedy group Second City. Hader was eventually noticed by actress Megan Mullally (formerly of Will and Grace), who recommended him to Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels. Hader was nominated for an Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. The last Saturday Night Live cast member to be nominated in this category was Eddie Murphy in 1983. MORE

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CINEMA: Dog Day Afternoon

Thursday, March 29th, 2018


ISLE OF DOGS (Directed by Wes Anderson, 101 minutes, USA, 2018)

meavatar2BY JONATHAN VALANIA Near the end of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, Snoopy, a wire-hair fox terrier owned by Sam Shakusky, the bespectacled, coonskin-capped orphan-on-the-lam at the center of the film, is accidentally killed by an errant arrow. By way of eulogy, Sam is asked if Snoopy was a good dog. Unwittingly channeling the louche moral relativism of a Left Bank existentialist, Sam shrugs wearily and asks “Who’s to say?” Anderson’s new film, a stop-motion animated puppet pageant called Isle Of Dogs, dispenses with any and all such moral ambiguity: it is the cleanly-drawn story of good dogs and, with a few strategic exceptions, bad humans. Set in the mythical Japanese city of Megasaki 20 years in the dystopian future, Isle Of Dogs imagines the unthinkable: a world without Man’s Best Friend.

All the dogs in the Megasaki have mysteriously contracted the dreaded Dog Flu, which is threatening to make the species leap into the humans. As a protective measure, the city’s corrupt, cat-loving Mayor Kobayashi signs a decree banishing all canines to Trash Island, a massive putrefying  garbage dump off the coast of the Japanese Archipelago. A dog’s life is hard on Trash Island, where they sleep in a cubist mosaic of toxic detritus and wander its vast rancid wastes competing with rats and each other for maggot-riddled scraps. We soon learn — thanks to a muckraking student newspaper reporter/foreign exchange student from America named Tracy Walker, voiced by Greta Gerwig —  that Dog Flu was actually created by evil scientists in the mayor’s employ and unleashed on Megasaki’s dog population as a pretext for their eventual banishment and replacement by robot dogs. You see, Mayor Kobayashi just so happens to own the factory that makes robot dogs.

Back on Trash Island, we soon make the acquaintance of a small posse of exiled curs — voiced by the likes of Edward Norton (Rex), Bill Murray (Boss), Bryan Cranston (Chief), Bob Balaban (King) and Jeff Goldblum (Duke) — who are sick, starving and on the verge of giving up. Suddenly a small prop plane crashes into the island, and the dogs pull its pint-sized aviator out of the wreckage. His name is Atari, the 12-year-old ward of Mayor Kobayashi. Atari has come looking for his beloved best friend/bodyguard, Spots (Liev Schreiber), who was exiled to Trash Island while his young master was in coma after surviving a tragic bullet train wreck that has left him an orphan. Together they embark on a film-long odyssey across Trash Island in search of Spots and in the process, with the help of  haystack-haired Tracy and — wait for it — Yoko Ono, thwart the Mayor’s evil plan to genocide the dogs with weaponized wasabi, and reveal the miraculous discovery of a cure for Dog Flu.

As always, the latest installment of Wes World is an impeccably-curated, semi-precious, eye-dazzling display of aesthetic prowess. Like Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle Of Dogs was filmed in painstakingly artisanal stop-motion by Tristan Oliver — think Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer or Davey & Goliath —  and production designers Adam Stockhausen and Paul Harrod have invested the post-apocalyptic mis en scene of Trash Island with a scuzzy splendor and rendered Megasaki a sinister noir shadowland. Visually, the film pays homage to samurai epics, late period Kurosawa and peak Kaiju, the cinematic genre that brought us the stompy likes of Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan. Andy Gent’s dog puppetry is a four-legged marvel of matted fur, wagging tails, canine incisors and impossibly sad cobalt blue eyes that are forever trying to break your heart. Alexandre Desplat’s score channels the sonic tropes of the Land Of The Rising Sun, most notably the majestic taiko drums of Kabuki theater. However, the soundtrack is absent the usual ‘60s Mod-psych deep cuts, with the exception of The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band’s high lonesome “I Won’t Hurt You” which is used to devastating effect at the tipping point of the film’s epic sadness.

On paper, the storybook unreality of stop-motion film-making seems like a perfect match for the high twee snow-globe artistry of Wes Anderson. In reality, the downside of stop-motion is that puppets, no matter how artfully they are mastered and manipulated, rarely evince the kind of emotional buy-in you get from watching the trials and tribulations and triumphs of an ensemble cast of homo sapiens. This is why the anthropomorphized furries of Fantastic Mr. Fox, for all their charm and whimsy, will never come close to evoking the broken, sad-eyed pathos of a Richie Tenenbaum or the unearned triumphalism of Max Fischer, the soulful foppery of Monsieur Gustav H. or the quiet desperation of Steve Zissou in twilight. Still, Isle Of Dogs has many clever tricks up its sleeve, lots of yucks to be had and the narrative resonates on multiple levels. On its face, it seems like a classic story about a boy and his dog — or more accurately a boy and some dogs that help him find his dog — set in Japan in the near-future. But beneath the surface, it hits a lot closer to home in the here and now. At heart, Isle of Dogs is a cautionary tale about people and how easily they can be deceived and misled by demagogues and enlisted to assist in the demonization and eventual but inevitable genocide of The Other. And that, tragically, is a story that never gets old. NOW PLAYING AT RITZ-FIVE


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RESEVOIR DAWG: Meet Folktronica Prodigy Gordi

Thursday, March 29th, 2018



BY KEELY MCAVENEY Here’s what you need to know about Gordi: she is a 25-year Australian old singer-songwriter who combines folk and electronica with striking results. Her debut album Resevoir came out last summer, described by one critic as “At once cavernous and claustrophobic, substantially assembled from gloomy electronica and echoing drums, all of which provides an appropriate backdrop to a rich voice appealingly laced with melancholy.” She is currently touring with the likes of S. Carey, Bon Iver’s drummer. He’s featured on her track “I’m Done,” a breakup ballad that is both emotionally fragile and empowering. Not only has she mastered lyrical and melodic balance, but also occupational. When she’s not touring, she’s ardently pursuing her studies at med school. Her U.S. tour with S. Carey made its way to Boot and Saddle in Philadelphia last night. Here’s what she had to say to Phawker:

PHAWKER: I’m sure you get asked all the time about the stage name Gordi? But, where did it come from, and why did you choose it for your stage name?

GORDI: Yeah, it’s a family nickname that, like, yeah, my brother started calling me when I was a kid, and we don’t know gordi_1290_1290_90where he got it from. He just like picked it out of nowhere. He was a weird child. [laughing] And, yeah, it’s, I don’t know, I kind of like, I thought of… it was suggested to me a few years ago that maybe I think about playing under another name, and I kind of wasn’t keen on the idea, and then, yeah, eventually, like, I don’t know, I came around to it. And, yeah, I feel like I’m too far down the road now to go back. Unfortunately, I sort of started going by it at the same time as Lorde and Birdy were coming around. I thought it looked like some weird imitation.

PHAWKER: Tell me about your reasons for titling the album Reservoir.

GORDI: It’s one of those things that I was thinking about what I was going to call the record, and I’d made a list of all of these different words that I liked, and lines from the songs. And none of them were really kind of sticking for me, and then I have my best mate who lives in New York. We actually talk on the phone all the time, and she and I often would use the expression that if someone’s a bit like, sort of, if one of us is a bit like reflective or contemplative, or a bit like down, then we would talk about being like, “in the reservoir.” And it was just like this real colloquial thing we talked about, which we eventually shortened to “res,” like I feel like I’m a bit in the “res” today.

VICE: The Rise & Fall Of An Alt-Right Gladiator

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

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TOMMY GETS HIS TONSILS OUT: Q&A With The Replacements/GNR Bassmaster Tommy Stinson

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018



BY JONATHAN VALANIA Tommy Stinson was the bass player in the The Replacements. He also played bass in Guns N’ Roses for nearly 20 years, and Soul Asylum for two albums, and played guitar and sang and wrote songs for Bash N’ Pop and Perfect and made solo albums. (For the in-depth 411 on Tommy Stinson’s life after The Replacements, check out this Rolling Stone profile from a couple years back.) But above all things Tommy Stinson was — along with his brother Bob on guitar, drummer Chris Mars and singer-guitarist Paul Westerberg, arguably one of the greatest songwriters of the last 40 years — in The motherfucking Replacements. You kids gotta understand what a big fucking deal that is/was. At the height of their powers, The Replacements were a perfect storm of glitter, hairspray and doom. Live, they were shambolic and alcoholic, on record they were dog-eared glory, the original inglorious bastards. They were junkyard dogs with hearts of gold. The Replacements were made to be broken. And they were good at breaking things: themselves mostly, but also the will of their audience, their unshakable bond with rock critics, their indie cred, the unrealistic expectations of major labels and the maxed out expense accounts that went with them, and on a good night, the ceiling on greatness. Because when the booze was in the seventh house and Westerberg and the Brothers Stinson aligned with Mars — The Replacements were the greatest rock n’ roll band on Earth. Period. The end. In advance of Stinson’s performance at South Philly Van Club on Wednesday with his acoustic duo Cowboys in the Campfire, we got him on the horn to talk about the past, the present and what comes next.

PHAWKER: Alright, we’re rolling. This the interview with Tommy Stinson. It is March 12, 2018. So we finally speak. Long time a fan. First time a caller. Thanks for doing this. Excited to speak with you.

TOMMY STINSON: Yeah, sorry it took so long to hook it up.

PHAWKER: No worries, it happens sometimes. Where are you guys right now?

TOMMY STINSON: We’re in St. Petersburg, Florida. I’m out by the pool, trying to hide from the rain here, so you’re gonna hear a little music in the background. Is that gonna be alright?

PHAWKER: That’ll be fine. So, let’s start with the obvious question. Tell me a little bit about Cowboys in the Campfire [pictured, below]. What is this all about?Tommy+Stinson+Press+Photo

TOMMY STINSON: Yeah, the Cowboys in the Campfire came from collaborating with Chip Roberts for the last ten years. We decided if I had some time down the road that we’d, you know, do a duo thing, where it’s just him and I stripped down and play some songs, write some songs, stuff like that. I was busy with Guns ’n Roses and the Replacements and things like that, and we didn’t really get a chance to do it. Literally sat down to do it about two years ago. And, you know, we both found ourselves coming up on summer and going, well, what have we got going on? We’ve got nothing going on this summer, so we got in the van, booked some shows, and went out as Cowboys in the Campfire and had a lot of fun doing it. And, you know, we’ve done it now for a couple of years, trying to build a little following for it, and we’re gonna work on a record here over the next month or so. Then hopefully put that out by the summer.

PHAWKER: So is it mainly covers? Originals?

TOMMY STINSON: Originals. I mean we do “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” That’s an old folk song that we joined up. And, you know, some other things, original stuff. We might do a couple covers here and there as we go along. We might throw in “Working Man’s Blues” by Merle Haggard at some point. We like that one a whole lot.

PHAWKER: Will there ever be another Bash & Pop album down the line?

TOMMY STINSON: Yes, there will be. I will probably—we’re gonna start working on a new Bash & Pop record in April.

PHAWKER: Excellent. So I’m calling you from Philadelphia. You were living here a few years back. I thought I’d ask you the obligatory question. What, if anything, do you miss about the Philadelphia area?

TOMMY STINSON: You know, I don’t really miss where I lived when I lived in Philadelphia. We were living in Media. I likedBASH+N+POP_REG.+ED+PROOF it okay over there, but, you know, it’s not my kind of scene, you know, a little older, kind of retiree community for the most part.

PHAWKER: It’s pretty Trump-y out there, yeah.

TOMMY STINSON: Yeah, but I got some friends there, you know. Some friends that I’ve known a long time. My buddy, Matt Cord [who DJ’d at WMMR for many years and now works at 95.7 Ben-FM]. I’ve known him for thirty some years. He’s a good old buddy. Yeah, but other than that not really missing a whole lot of it.

PHAWKER: Are you still living up in Hudson River Valley?

TOMMY STINSON: Yeah, live in Hudson, New York.

PHAWKER: Can I ask you some Replacements questions?


PHAWKER: Okay. My friend, Bob Mehr wrote, in my opinion, the definitive Replacements biography, Trouble Boys. I was wondering if there’s anything in that that you’d like to correct or address otherwise?

TOMMY STINSON: You know, he pretty much did the job on that. I’ll be honest with you: I haven’t read it. I lived it, so ITrouble Boys Cover figured that’s probably all I need to do is that. Probably some time on the road I’ll read it, but I lived it. A lot of the stuff in there that starts off the book is kind of painful, so I don’t really want to retrace those steps. But, you know, I trust Bob did a very accurate accounting. He researched it long enough and did his very best to make sure he got everything as right as he could, and I think that’s probably close enough.

PHAWKER: I thought he really did your brother [Replacements guitarist Bob Stinson [pictured, below, in dress], who passed away in 1995]  justice. He really created a very rich and complex portrait of your brother, he didn’t just paint your brother as some kind of rock ’n roll casualty or just a fuck up or something like that. A real person came through there.

I was also surprised to learn that your brother came up with that awesome lead on “I Will Dare,” which is my all-time my favorite Replacements song. And your brother’s lead on that is one of my favorite guitar parts of all time — that deep, dulcet Duane Eddy vibe.

TOMMY STINSON: Yeah, well he had a lot of different things going on inside of him that would be surprising if you go back and look step by step at the early history [of the Replacements]. He was—when he was into something, he really put his all into it and was quite an amazing guitar player actually.

PHAWKER: So, I wanted to share a live Replacements anecdote, I’m sure you get this kind of thing all the time, so please indulge me. Saw you guys at the Ritz in New York City in 1986 when Tim came out. You guys were in the middle of playing a slow, quieter song. Paul has a lit cigarette dangling from his lip, and this is back when clubs still trusted you with the actual can of beer instead of pouring it in a harmless plastic cup. This guy throws a can of Rolling Rock from the back of the room, which was really far away, and it must’ve been really full for it to travel that far, and it hit Paul right in the forehead. He didn’t miss a note. The cigarette didn’t even fall out of his mouth. I was just like: ‘Rock ’n fucking roll!’

TOMMY STINSON: That’s a good one.Bob Stinson Dress

PHAWKER: I’ve always wanted to ask you guys, what was the deal with loud plaid suits?

TOMMY STINSON: You know, we all just kind of had a thing for plaid and like that, just always had a thing for it. We were always looking at the Slade videos and pictures. They’re all wearing, you know, crazy plaid outfits. That might’ve had something to do with it as well.

PHAWKER: Slade. That makes sense. I wanted to ask you about working with [legendary producer, best known for his work with Big Star/Alex Chilton] Jim Dickinson on Pleased To Meet Me. I actually interviewed him for a Big Star story years ago, and we got to talking about his time working with The Replacements and he was telling me about you guys had punched a hole in the wall at Ardent Studios [in Memphis, where all the Big Star tracks were recorded] somewhere, then, when you guys were totally drunk, you would just like puke in that hole in the wall. You remember this?

TOMMY STINSON: No, he’s full of shit on that one. We definitely didn’t punch a hole in the wall, and we definitely didn’t puke in the studio. That was—he kind of liked to spin some lies back then about different things just for, you know, comic relief.

PHAWKER: He was a master raconteur.

TOMMY STINSON: But, yeah, no, that didn’t happen. [laughing] He was a fun cat to work with and also could be very fucking cantankerous. And when he got cantankerous, we actually kind of got a kick out of it. Like ‘He’s just kind of having an existential meltdown right now, and it’s kind of funny.’ We’d kind of watch with slight amusement. No, I mean, he was all Jim, all day, every day, and I mean that with great reverence.LET IT BE

PHAWKER: What do you remember about making Let It Be?

TOMMY STINSON: Oh, that’s so long ago. I can’t even [laughing]. We might want to steer away from tour stuff because, I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t remember a whole lot. It was so long ago. I really have to pick my brain too much for that.

PHAWKER: Where do things stand now with the Replacements reunion? I thought the shows were great.  I was just astonished at the size of the crowd when you guys played in Philadelphia. It was like the Replacements were ten times more popular in death than they ever were in life.

TOMMY STINSON: Yeah, that surprised us as well, and we had a lot of fun with that. It was fun, you know, but I don’t know if we’ll ever do it again.

PHAWKER: So, there’s no plans to do shows some time in the future?


PHAWKER: Sorry to hear that. Last question: The Replacements raised a lot of hell and got into a lot of trouble in the name of punk rock or rock ’n roll rebellion and left behind a long trail of wreckage. What is your one big regret from all that time? If there’s something you could go back and do over again and not do or do differently?

TOMMY STINSON: You know, I don’t have any. I have no regrets about what we did, how we did it, because I think we were as honest as we could be, and sometimes honesty comes with a price.


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ARTSY: Signs Of The Times

Monday, March 26th, 2018

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Artwork by the daughter of @SandraSMcCrae

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Win Tix To A Super-Exclusive, Once-In-A-Lifetime Special VIP Advanced Screening Of The New Wes Anderson Animated Insta-Classic Isle Of Dogs

Saturday, March 24th, 2018



Wes Anderson is the two-word answer to the increasingly asked question: What good is a liberal arts education? There are times in this country’s history when we’ve had to take stock and ask ourselves: Do we really want to live in a world without English majors? And this is one of them. Let us rejoice, then, bundled up in our Blonde On Blonde scarves and winter beards, in this the darkest hour in American life since the rockets red glare and the twilight’s last gleaming, and check-in to The Hotel Andersonia where we will shelter in high style for a 99 minute respite from the artless and the ordinary, and the brutes and the vulgarians that currently lord over it. As such, we have 20 pairs of tickets to giveaway to a special advanced screening of Wes Anderson’s latest, Isle Of Dogs, at the Ritz 5 on Monday March 26th at 7:30 PM. To qualify to win, all you have to do is be among the first 20 people to sign up for our mailing list. To qualify, all you have to do is sign up for our mailing list (see right, below the masthead). Trust us, this is something you want to do. In addition to breaking news alerts and Phawker updates, you also get advanced warning about groovy concert ticket giveaways and other free swag opportunities like this one! After signing up, send us an email at PHAWKER66@GMAIL.COM telling us a much, with the words I LOVE DOGS in the subject line. If you are already on our mailing list, just send us an email saying as much. Either way, please include your full name and a mobile number for confirmation. Good luck and godspeed!

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Q&A With New York Magazine Film Critic Matt Zoller Seitz, Author Of The Wes Anderson Collection

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview originally published on March 14, 2014

Matt Zoller Seitz is the TV critic for New York magazine and and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism. A Brooklyn-based writer and filmmaker, Seitz has written, narrated, edited or produced over a hundred hours’ worth of video essays about cinema history and style for The Museum of the Moving Image and The L Magazine, among other outlets. His five part 2009 video essay Wes Anderson: The Substance of Style was later spun off into the hardcover book The Wes Anderson Collection. Seitz is the founder and original editor of The House Next Door, now a part of Slant Magazine, and the publisher of Press Play, a blog of film and TV criticism and video essays. He is the director of the 2005 romantic comedy “Home” and the forthcoming science fiction epic “Rabbit of the Sith.” He is currently writing memoir titled “All the Things that Remind Me of Her.” [via ROGEREBERT.COM]

PHAWKER: Please explain the premise of the book and how it came about and how you were able to secure Wes Anderson’s cooperation.

MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: The Wes Anderson Collection started out a series of video essays called The Substance Of Style and that was a five-part series for Moving Image Source which is the online magazine of the Museum of the Moving Image and the purpose of the series was to explore the worlds of Wes Anderson’s style and look at the various pieces of art, particularly cinema, that had fed his imagination. To kind of lay it all out for you visually. I published that in March or April of 2009 and a little while later I got a nice email from Wes saying that he had seen it and appreciated it. And then not long after that I got a call from the editor of Abrams Books who had also seen it and had said ‘Hey, I want to publish a book on the films of Wes Anderson. Would you like to write it? And is there some way that we could almost make it like a book version of the series of video essays, which is to say very visually driven? The result was eventually the Wes Anderson Collection and it took a few left turns along the way but the basic idea of the book is a tour of the artist’s stylistic development over time. There are a lot of different elements and one is an interview with the filmmaker himself and the other is artwork, such as frames from the movie and images from other films that the artist has borrowed from and stolen from and otherwise used. The book is trying to look and feel like a Wes Anderson film.


Thursday, March 22nd, 2018


DEATH OF STALIN (Directed by Armando Iannucci, 107 minutes, 2018, USA)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITICThe Death of Stalin is a hilariously morose comedy based on the French graphic novel La mort de Staline by Fabien Nury (Les chroniques de Legion). Director Armando Iannucci (Veep) brings his razor-sharp eye for political satire to Stalinist Russia without skipping a beat in a film that is way more relevant than it has any right to be today. The director even opted to “tone down real-life absurdity” to make the film, which has been banned in Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan a bit more believable. Assisted by the talents of such comedic geniuses as Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin and Jeffrey Tambor, The Death of Stalin is easily one of the funniest films of 2018.

The film is not only about the death of Stalin, as the title would suggest, but life under the dictator and the bumbling coup that would soon follow. When a scathing letter from a pianist paralyzes the dictator with a cerebral hemorrhage, it triggers into motion a bizarre chain of events that unleashes the blood thirsty ambitions of his Central Committee. Chief among them NKVD head Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale), who was responsible for “The Great Purge” that killed almost 600,000 Russians who were suspected of being disloyal to Stalin and Mother Russia. When Beria finds Stalin lying on the carpet clinging to life in a puddle of his own urine, he commences plotting his own rise to power, before alerting the other Committee members, or even getting help. After pilfering Stalin’s desk for confidential files filled with blackmail-worthy dirt on his colleagues, he orders the Red Army out of Moscow, relinquishing their duties to the NKVD and sealing off the city. Surprisingly, Steve Buscemi steals the film with one of the best performances of his career as Moscow Party Head Nikita Khrushchev. He is charged with playing an intense game of cat and mouse with the Beria, who makes the mistake of underestimating the man’s ambition.

The Machiavellian game is then set into motion as each opportunistic member of the Central Committee arrives and immediately begins working their own angle to be the next supreme leader. The comedic vibe here is pitch black as the Committee simply stands around watching Stalin die while lamenting that there aren’t any decent doctors left, because Stalin had them all killed out of fear of being poisoned. It’s this kind of idiotic criminal complicitness that brings to mind the Trump administration and true to form the Committee spends the rest of the film scheming against one another as to who will be left to run the country after Stalin’s funeral.

As such, The Death of Stalin strikes a tricky tone, but it rings true. The events portrayed in the film happened 65 years ago, and that distance gives us the ability to laugh at this very dark chapter in this country’s history. Armando Iannucci succeeds in crafting a comedy that is equally hilarious as it is genuinely terrifying as we bear witness the absurd lengths men will go to not only save their necks but take complete advantage of a terrible situation to better their own standing.  While the film paints the political intrigue in shades of gloriously bleak gallows humor, the violence is portrayed in ways that are shockingly unfunny. It’s a dichotomy Iannucci uses to remind the audience that these bumbling characters — as funny as they may be — are still terrible human beings responsible for innumerable atrocities.


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CINEMA: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom), Won’t You Be My Neighbor? takes an intimate look at America’s favorite neighbor: Mister Fred Rogers. A portrait of a man whom we all think we know, this emotional and moving film takes us beyond the zip-up cardigans and the land of make-believe, and into the heart of a creative genius who inspired generations of children with compassion and limitless imagination. Opens June 8th in select theaters.

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Monday, March 19th, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 11.29.52 PM
Illustration by MARIO ZUCCA

THE RINGER: If you think about it, Bill Hader’s long and successful career can be traced back to the day he took his SATs—or, rather, the day he chose not to take his SATs. There he was, an anxious 16-year-old sitting in a classroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the time had come to make that first important step toward college by proving how well he remembered algebra and how many multisyllabic words he knew. “I put my name on the thing and everything,” Hader remembers, but the moment started to feel too big. The knowledge that with every bubble he filled in he would be actively determining his future was too much to handle. And so right then and there he decided: “Fuck it.”

“I got up and left,” Hader says. “The whole thing of like, ‘Here’s the thing you’ve been studying for, this is the moment, do or die,’ I just folded. This is just too intense and [I thought], ‘I just won’t go to college.’”

Minus a few semesters at the Art Institute of Phoenix and Scottsdale Community College, Hader stuck to that resolution. He moved to Los Angeles and got a couple of jobs as a production assistant on movies like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Collateral Damage and The Scorpion King, and then as an assistant editor on Iron Chef America. He joined an improv group at Second City’s outpost in Los Angeles to, as he puts it, “keep agile, keep creative.” One of the members of that group was Matt Offerman, brother to Nick Offerman (you know him as Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation) and brother-in-law to Will & Grace’s Megan Mullally. Mullally is the reason Bill Hader became an actor, even though he “never wanted to be an actor.” (“I don’t know why people become actors. I don’t know why people do a lot of things,” he adds.) After Mullally saw him in one of the Second City shows, she called up Lorne Michaels of Saturday Night Live. A few months later, Hader was moving to New York City to be a featured player on SNL.

Sometimes, it turns out, skipping the SATs is the right decision. MORE

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Cost of the War in Iraq
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