Paramount via Everett Collection
Kate Winslet has given some amazing performances. She's brilliant as a depressed suburbanite in Little Children (2006), as a depressed suburbanite in Revolutionary Road (2008), and as a depressed suburbanite in the recently released Labor Day (2013).
Admirers of Winslet often place her alongside Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman as one of the best actresses of her generation. She's received many awards and nominations, including a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in The Reader (2008) as a depressed woman who might as well live in the suburbs. All of this leads to the question: is Kate Winslet overrated?
When we measure greatness in acting, we should consider versatility. Winslet has acted in over 20 movies and she's played some variation of sorrow in the majority of them. In addition to the aforementioned films, she's acted in Sense and Sensibility (1995), Jude (1996), Titanic (1997), and Finding Neverland (2004).
It seems that there are two roles that Winslet often plays. The first is the depressed woman who struggles to find happiness in contemporary suburban America. The second is the depressed woman who struggles to find happiness in a different time period.
Winslet supporters may cite the lack of female roles as a defense, and claim that Winslet is merely doing the best she can with what she's given. If this is so, then what do we make of Blanchett's diverse performances as Queen Elizabeth, Bob Dylan, and the living trainwreck that is Jasmine French? What about Nicole Kidman as Suzanne Stone, Virginia Woolf, and Charlotte Bless?
Winslet has indeed been fantastic in many films, but the difference between her and other great actresses like Blanchett and Kidman is that Winslet hasn't shown her versatility. With the exception of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Carnage (2011), two vastly underrated Winslet performances, she's played the same, sad woman time and time again.
Here's hoping that Winslet does something different in her next film.
What do you think?
Season 4 of Louie is expected to return to FX this May. Fans of the television series, which is created, written, and directed by Louis C.K., are aware of the comedian's complete artistic and creative control over the material, and we trust that C.K. will do everything he can to make the show as great as the first three seasons. To begin the anticipation, below is a list of things that would make Season 4 one for the ages.
Multi-episode arcsAlthough Louie is known for its lack of continuity, some of the most fascinating stuff happens in stories that span more than one episode. Season 3, for example, gave us "Daddy's Girlfriend," a harrowing portrait of a date gone wrong, and it remains the show's greatest achievement.
Guest starsThe best thing about Louie is its perfectly cast guest stars. Among the more notable ones have been Ricky Gervais as Louie's hilariously inappropriate doctor, Melissa Leo as Louie's sexually aggressive date, and (perhaps best of all) David Lynch as Louie's professional mentor. Not to mention cameo appearances by Robin Williams and F. Murray Abraham. Here's hoping that Season 4 surprises us with more guest stars.
FlashbacksEvery now and then, a Louie episode will provide a glimpse into Louie's childhood. The Season 1 episode "God," in which a young Louie contemplates the existence of a higher power, is already a classic; in "Poker/Divorce," Louie reminisces on a former classmate to hilarious results. It would be fun in Season 4 to witness Louie's first attempts at stand-up comedy, or even to observe how he interacted as a teenager.
PamelaIt's been a while since we've seen Pamela (Pamela Adlon), Louie's love interest from Seasons 1 and 2 who turned him down before moving to France to live with her son and ex-husband. Although Louie has always avoided the conventions of television storytelling, few fictional relationships are as authentic and moving as the one shared between Pamela and Louie. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but it would be a beautiful moment if Pamela returns.
DaughtersLouie understandably revolves around the comedian's daily adventures, but it's always lovely to observe his interactions with his daughters Lilly (Hadley Delany) and Jane (Ursula Parker). Now that they're getting older, it'd be interesting to see how this relationship is tested, and whether or not it can sustain through adolescence.
Cinema's most controversial filmmaker Lars Von Trier is back with Nymphomaniac, a two-part, four-hour film that many are describing as a cerebral sex odyssey. Judging from the various clips and posters, the film intends to shock and provoke the viewer with its frank depiction of sexuality. However, it's also the work of a brilliant artist whose contribution to cinema cannot be underestimated. Whether you're familiar with the Danish filmmaker's work or are curious to jump on the bandwagon now, below is a list of things to expect from Nymphomaniac to ensure that you are prepared for its VOD release on March 6.
It's sexual, duh
The title, trailers, and posters aren't misleading: Nymphomaniac is a graphic film about sexuality. This shouldn't surprise anyone, but it bears repeating in case anyone had doubts. However, it should be noted that the film isn't pornographic, and those who have seen The Idiots or Antichrist will be able to handle it.
It's made for the art-house crowd
Sex sells and the film's marketing campaign has gone viral, but moviegoers interested in mainstream entertainment should look elsewhere. Nymphomaniac, like Von Trier's other films, is a challenging, confrontational work that forces the viewer to contemplate deep themes. If that isn't your thing, you've been warned.
The actors aren't actually having sex
Although some of the sex scenes look extremely real, Von Trier had the body parts of pornography actors digitally composited onto the body parts of the film's cast. So if you were hoping to see Uma Thurman get it on with Shia LaBeouf, you're going to be disappointed.
The film will be released on demand
Those who would rather watch the film in private are in luck, as are the art-house lovers who don't live in a major city. On March 6, Nymphomaniac: Volume 1 will be on demand, and on March 21, the film will be released in selected theaters. Nymphomaniac: Volume II will be on demand on April 3, and in selected theaters on April 18.
Early word of mouth is positive
Whether you're a lover of cinema or a Lars Von Trier fanatic, you can rest knowing that critics so far are praising Nymphomaniac, with some even suggesting that it's Von Trier's best film. This is especially reassuring for those who worried that Von Trier would forgo artistic expression for cheap provocation.
Are you excited to see Nymphomaniac? Let us know what you think below.
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Jerry Seinfeld is known to most people for his iconic hit television sitcom Seinfeld (1989-1998), but his latest web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is clearly his best work.
Interest in the show has been growing since its 2012 premiere, and the recent Seinfeld "reunion" tie-in with the Super Bowl has introduced many audiences to the show for the first time. The show, which streams on Crackle, is straightforward, and the brilliant title is not at all misleading. In each episode, Seinfeld and another comedian drive around in a classic car and share a cup of coffee. It's like a late night talk show but more genuine: Seinfeld chooses fellow comedians he is fond of, his guests aren't there to promote anything, and the conversations feel spontaneous and honest. Although we'll never know if the show is planned like other talk shows, there's a sense that the conversations are mostly improvised, and because Seinfeld's guests are fellow comedians, we trust that they aren't censoring themselves in front of the cameras as, say, a politician or movie star would.
Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is preferable to his famous sitcom because it is his purest artistic statement to date. At this point in his career, the respected comedian can do whatever he wants, and that he chooses to push the creative boundaries with each project is remarkable. In this case, Seinfeld offers a meta-commentary on the art of comedy. His encounters with guests like Louis C.K., Tina Fey, Chris Rock, and Larry David provide glimpses into the entertainment industry and the experience of being a professional comedian. More interestingly, they demonstrate what draws individuals to comedy in the first place. Comedy, Seinfeld and his guests suggest, is the ability to laugh at the absurdity of life and the irrational, meaningless experience of being in it. Whether it is Chris Rock's articulation of why bullying benefits children, Larry David's rant on why it doesn't matter whether he drinks coffee or tea, or Louis C.K.'s justification that he went into debt to buy a boat, there's a sentiment that none of it matters so they might as well laugh at it while they can.
Seinfeld has always been a brilliant observational comic, and most critics and fans deem his self-titled sitcom "a show about nothing." However, Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee is the ultimate show about nothing, but the irony is that as we follow Seinfeld and friends as they talk about the meaning of comedy and the meaning of life, nothing inadvertently becomes everything. It is doubtful that Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee will become as popular as Seinfeld, but as an artistic and comedic expression, it is by far Seinfeld's greatest achievement.
If the teaser for HBO's Doll & Em is any indication, we're in for a real treat. The six-episode comedy series premieres on Wednesday, March 19 at 10 PM ET/PT, and is co-written by its stars, Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells. Below are a few reasons why we can't wait for it to begin.
Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells
Mortimer is one of the best actresses around, and she's criminally underrated. Films like Match Point, Lovely & Amazing, and Our Idiot Brother prove that she has the comedic and dramatic chops, and she elevates HBO's The Newsroom with her performance as MacKenzie McHale. It's about time that a project revolves around her. Wells isn't as famous, but Doll & Em has the potential to make her a star.
It's on HBO
Say what you will about its competitors, but HBO still offers the best and most innovative television around. Lately, shows like Veep and Girls have been highlights, and Doll & Em looks to join them.
Unlike Girls, which centers on four 20-something New Yorkers, Doll & Em is about two 40-something Brits as they navigate show business. This is a refreshing shift, and with Mortimer and Wells at the helm, it's doubtful that the show will be as unrealistic as Sex and the City.
A new perspective on Hollywood
There have been a number of HBO series about Hollywood including Entourage and Extras, but Doll & Em looks to offer a new perspective. The actresses will be playing versions of themselves, and plenty of Hollywood movie stars will be guest starring.
Something to look forward to on Wednesday
In a brilliant programming move, HBO will air Doll & Em on Wednesday instead of Sunday. This means that we actually have a quality program to watch in the middle of the week.
The Internet has provided a platform for lesser-known filmmakers to present their work to a mass audience. This is clearly beneficial, but it can be daunting and time-consuming for the average person to search for the right film. This is a shame, however, because some of the best content can be found in cyberspace by creative individuals who aren't yet controlled by the studio system. On the web, filmmakers from around the world are releasing short films to express themselves and to garner a wide audience. Each month, we're going to present 10 of the best short films that you can watch online immediately. Below are our picks for February 2014 (click the title of a film to watch on YouTube or Vimeo).
Who made it: Ole Christoffer Haga
What is it: A charming animation about a man and a dog.
How long is it?: 7 minutes and 20 seconds
2. The Lincoln Division
Who made it: Bowie Alexander
What is it: A fake documentary about a ghost machine.
How long is it?: 12 minutes and 13 seconds
3. I Fenicotteri (Flamingos)
Who made it: Francesca Coppola
What is it: A powerful short about the relationship between a father and daughter.
How long is it?: 15 minutes and 5 seconds
Who made it: Ayu Dwi Astiti
What is it: An adaptation of the song/short story "Oh I Never Know" by Sarasvati.
How long is it?: 10 minutes and 23 seconds
5. The Fatal Sneeze
Who made it: Lewin Fitzhamon
What is it: A silent film about a man with an uncontrollable sneeze.
How long is it?: 5 minutes and 45 seconds
6. Long Branch
Who made it: Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart
What is it: A short about a one-night stand with a poignant twist.
How long is it?: 13 minutes and 42 seconds
7. La Robe
Who made it: Romain Claris
What is it: The making of a dress.
How long is it?: 3 minutes and 58 seconds
8. Big Man
Who made it: Julius Onah
What is it: A story about two brothers growing up in Nigeria.
How long is it?: 14 minutes and 5 seconds
9. Raw Love
Who made it: Martin Deus and Juan Chappa
What is it: A romance between two high school friends.
How long is it?: 14 minutes and 32 seconds
Who made it: John Strong
What is it: A thriller about a man with a secret.
How long is it?: 9 minutes and 57 seconds
A frank assertion to begin: I don't think Justin Bieber needs any help. This is not because I condone reckless behavior, but it's unlikely that the pop star is genuinely having a public meltdown. Call me crazy, but I think Bieber's recent antics are an attempt to seek more publicity and present a fabricated image of himself to a public that can't help but buy into it. Like Miley Cyrus, everything Bieber does is carefully calculated, and although outsiders might observe his behavior and deem it shameful and embarrassing, Bieber knows exactly what he's doing and he's benefiting from it in major ways. Below are eight reasons why.
The behavior is too stupid
It's one thing to get a DUI, but it's something entirely different to be investigated for egging your neighbor's house. Even a narcissistic, self-absorbed celebrity wouldn't be this idiotic. Add to this Bieber's instagram picture after his arrest, and something tells me that this was planned all along.
The behavior is too public
Whenever we discuss "leaks" to the media, what we're really talking about is a celebrity's attempt to pass something off as private. Make no mistake: celebrities leak information themselves to give of the illusion of a scandal. The recent sexually suggestive photograph of Bieber and his friend might seem candid, but Bieber's been in the spotlight too long to let something like this happen without his knowing.
Public figures fabricate their image
We think we know Bieber because he tells us about himself, but everything he says and does is meticulously constructed in advance to present a certain image to the public. All public figures, whether they be Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, or Bieber, aren't showing us who they really are. They're showing us what they want us to see, and we buy into it every single time.
Everyone loves a comeback
A few months from now, Bieber will turn his life around. He will stop getting into trouble, he will publicly apologize and admit his wrongdoings, and he will present a better image of himself to the public. Everyone will love him for it, and he will once again be called a positive role model. Bieber understands that the public loves a story of redemption, and it's not unreasonable to think that he's purposefully putting that story into motion for future glorification.
His music is too good
I find it amazing that in between vandalizing property, driving under the influence, and hooking up with prostitutes, Bieber found the time to release the best music of his career. Each week since October 2013, fans have been treated to a new song, and all of them are eclectic, experimental, and creatively inspired.
He smiles in his mug shot
Bieber's mugshot is a masterwork of self-absorption, but that's precisely the point. When most people are arrested, they're understandably upset, and their mug shots typically demonstrate this sadness. Bieber, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have a care in the world. This is because he seems to be in on the joke.
Most of his crimes are forgivable
Although we should never condone bad behavior, vandalism and soliciting prostitutes aren't the worst crimes that an individual can commit. If Bieber was truly having a meltdown, he would most likely be getting into more serious trouble. That his crimes are relatively tame -- misdemeanors no less -- should cause us to wonder if we should just take it with a grain of salt.
He has too much to lose
To quote Bieber, we should "never say never," but public figures in Bieber's position rarely screw it all up for themselves. There are exceptions, of course, but Bieber is a young man with a lot to lose, and if he's truly in need of help, something tells me that he would have gotten it already. The fact that he continues on his path with no reflection leads me to conclude that his recent behavior is part of the path he's created.
What do you think?
There's no denying that Downton Abbey is a deliciously entertaining show. It's not quite a soap opera, but the storylines are so absurd and the emotions of the characters are so heightened that we can't help but feel simultaneously moved and manipulated. It's all so superficial, but we love it anyway.
However, there is a more serious issue that threatens to undermine our enjoyment. Creator Julian Fellowes’ intention with Downton Abbey is to devote as much time and consideration to the stories of the servants who live downstairs as to those of the Grantham family who lives upstairs. By doing so, Fellowes suggests that the physical barrier of the household that separates the rich from the poor represents the class hierarchy of 19th and 20th century England.
Fellowes uses an omniscient perspective to tell his story, which eliminates subjectivity and causes the audience to view all characters — the rich as well as the poor — as equal. By breaking down these class barriers, Fellowes shatters the illusion of aristocracy, and implies that beneath the veneer of fortune and fame lie individuals whose lives are just as troubled as their poor servants. This may make for dynamite television, but it's important to recognize how insignificant the Grantham family's plight is compared to those of their servants.
Week after week, we are asked to watch, relate to, and feel for the Grantham family. However, as they worry about losing their millions (I'm talking to you, Lord Grantham) and whether or not they will find happiness and love (I'm talking to you, Lady Edith), servants like Ethel are trying to raise a child in poverty. We shouldn't have to ask ourselves which is worse, but the show often makes us wonder by giving both situations equal dramatic weight.
It's tempting to care about the Granthams, especially when they're so kind to their servants. However, we must remember that they are fictional. In real life, the hardships of the wealthy couldn't compare to what those who lived downstairs had to go through.
Miley Cyrus isn't the first pop culture provocateur, but she's cemented her status as one of the most controversial celebrities in recent years. Even those who wouldn't normally discuss her can't resist offering an opinion on the pop star's latest antics. Cultural critic Camille Paglia, for instance, criticized Cyrus for her sexual expression, harshly instructing the young pop star to "go back to school!" The problem with the criticisms from Paglia and others, however, is that they attack Cyrus for her behavior when, in fact, she possesses numerous positive attributes that young girls should emulate. Below are five significant, seldom discussed reasons why Cyrus is a good role model.
Cyrus knows who she is and what she wants, and she won't let anyone stand in her way. With each public appearance, she expresses herself honestly and without restraint. When Matt Lauer of The Today Show asked Cyrus if it was difficult to promote a controversial persona, Cyrus responded by saying "I think it's only hard if you're trying to be something you're not." Her I-don't-give-a... attitude silences her haters and gives her ample room to succeed on her own terms.
She's Comfortable With Her Sexuality
Cyrus' willingness to reveal it all on stage with such ease is empowering for young girls who struggle with body image issues. She encourages everyone to love their bodies, flaws and all, and she practices what she preaches with no regrets.
She's a Smart Businesswoman
At just 21 years old, Cyrus has accomplished a lot. She's learned how to stand out in a competitive, saturated market, and forcefully captures the world's attention with every move she makes. For most people, the success of Hannah Montana would be enough, but for Cyrus, it was just the beginning of an impressive career.
Cyrus doesn't follow trends. Case in point: When other pop stars like Britney Spears and Katy Perry release generic dance singles, Cyrus gives us power ballads like “Wrecking Ball” and “Adore You.”
She's a Philanthropist
Cyrus uses her status and wealth to make a difference in the world, thereby proving that she is more than her controversial star image. Among the charities she's affiliated with are Musicians on Call and Get Ur Good On. What can be better than that?