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Doomed Passion Projects

This week will see the release of Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Noah,’ a cinematic epic over a decade in the making. But many of our greatest filmmakers’ most ambitious movies went unrealized.

“All people dream, but not equally,” D.H. Lawrence wrote. “Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind, wake in the morning to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, for they dream their dreams with open eyes, and make them come true.”

NOAH

Niko Tavernise

On Friday, the Biblical epic Noah hits theaters. The $130 million mega-production has been gestating in the mind of visionary filmmaker Darren Aronofsky since he was 13 when, as a seventh grader enrolled at Mark Twain IS 239 in Brooklyn, he penned a poem about the Noah’s Ark story entitled “The Dove.” He began work on the screenplay to Noah a decade ago. And after a turbulent production—one in which many of the film’s sets, including the giant ark they’d erected in Long Island, were wrecked by Superstorm Sandy—and a ridiculous deluge of pre-release criticism, his childhood dream will finally become a big-screen reality this week. 

The Creator

You Have to See ‘Noah’

It’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ slamming into the Bible, until Noah morphs into Jack Torrance onboard the ark, awaiting his unborn grandchild with a glazed, murderous look in his eyes.

Darren Aronofsky does not come from the Less Is More school of filmmaking—to put it mildly. 

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Niko Tavernise/Paramount

In Pi, a numbers theorist named Max Cohen decides to put a power drill through his own brain. Requiem for a Dream concludes with a montage of four junkies simultaneously enduring prostitution, prison, amputation, and electroshock therapy. At one point in Black Swan, Natalie Portman sprouts feathers, writhing in agony as her femurs snap back and morph into bird legs; at another point, Winona Ryder repeatedly stabs herself in the face with a nail file. In The Fountain, Hugh Jackman plays a conquistador. And a neuroscientist. And a futuristic astronaut.

Above the Law

Fascist Fascination With D-Listers

Putin’s reviving a Stalin-era fitness program to toughen up Russians—with help from Steven Seagal. Why do today’s strongmen have such a weakness for our washed-up celebrities?

Say what you will about Vladimir Putin. For a guy in his sixties—at least based on the shirtless horseback photos we’ve all seen—he’s in better shape than most of us.

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AFP/Getty

So it’s not surprising to see Russia’s president—who has dominated the world stage thanks to a bloodless takeover of Crimea—stress the importance of physical fitness to his 143 million-plus population. It’s all part of his latest initiative to revive a Stalin-era conditioning program appropriately titled “Ready for Labor and Defense.” Funding for the project is courtesy of all the revenue generated from the recent Sochi Olympics Games, estimated to be in the billions.

New Rule

Bill Maher for Congress?


It’s not so far-fetched. Political comedians are already grassroots political candidates.

Bill Maher wants your vote for Congress this November. No, Maher’s name won’t be on the ballot, at least not yet.

Real Time With Bill Maher

The Daily Beast

Maher recently announced his “Flip a District” contest where he will pick one “terrible, entrenched” member of Congress and “see if we can’t send him scuttling under the refrigerator on Election Night.” (Translation: Beat him)  The contest is now heating up after Maher announced on his HBO show last Friday the first two House members under consideration to be chosen as the big “winner.”

Flood Warning

The Historical ‘Noah’

The first few chapters of Genesis contain some of the strangest prose in the Bible, but the big reveal is a God making peace with man’s sinful nature.

In the beginning, the earth was a formless void, and darkness covered the face of the deep, according to Genesis. Out of chaos, God created the universe and brought order. But fairly soon things started going very, very badly.

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Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis

The first chapters of Genesis, what scholars call the Bible’s “primeval history,” depict a gradual distancing between God and his creation, a tour of man’s growing alienation. The Fall is followed by violence—the murder of Abel. Angels begin consorting with human women, and giants roam the earth. Then it started raining.

WINTER IS COMING

Read 'The Winds of Winter' Chapter

The man behind Game of Thrones has something for you to read.

“Hiya kids, hiya hiya hiya.

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Lucas Jackson/Reuters

With season 4 of HBO's GAME OF THRONES almost upon us, I thought the time was ripe for me to give my readers another taste of WINDS OF WINTER.”

STEALTH FIGHTER

The Dramatic Life of Joy Reid

Ronan Farrow may have gotten all the attention, but another new anchor at MSNBC started the same day as him. And Joy Reid’s life story is every bit as colorful as his.

Joy Reid loves the sweet science of boxing because “it’s a sport, even at the turn of the 20th century, where a black man could beat up a white man in front of an entire crowd and not get lynched.”        

Joy Reid

William B. Plowman/NBC, via Getty

The even-tempered Reid—whose month-old program The Reid Report airs weekday afternoons on MSNBC—describes the Tea Party as a movement that “under the surface is about cross-racial resentment…a great industry in hatred and anger and self-victimization…There’s a lot of money in it.”        

THE MAN

Liam Neeson's GQ Cover Story

Liam Neeson

Paola Kudacki/GQ

He was on-set with Woody Allen when the Soon-Yi scandal broke.

When his fiction family is taken, he takes them back. When delivering an oddly Shakespearean soliloquy in a mostly crappy movie—something like, “Yes I’m an alcoholic, yes I’m a horrible father, but I did not hijack this plane!”—you believe him. And when someone calls him THE Liam Neesons, you don’t ask questions. Liam Neeson is the man.

And the action star is gracing the cover of GQ. He does the interview from a space he uses for meetings and to “sit and read and think.” (If that doesn’t sound like the Batcave, we don’t know what does.) But he’s not just a superhero. He’s a single father who, just like all dads, is worried about his boys getting hooked on drugs.

Neeson puts a toothpick box on a coffee table. “All right then, Let’s have at it.”

California Girls

Living Like ‘The Hills’

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John Shearer/Getty

Kristin Cavallari hosts a new style show, Lauren Conrad covers ‘Allure’ this April, and Audrina Patridge regularly pops up on taxi cab TVs. Why are we still taking lifestyle advice from the former stars of ‘The Hills’?

I watched Laguna Beach, and both of its subsidiaries—The Hills and The City—religiously. My early high-school self wanted to be the perfect mix of Lauren, Whitney, and Lo—a cool, popular girl with some serious style. While I grew older and left my days of lingerie tanks, Abercrombie and Fitch, and denim mini-skirts with Uggs behind, the cast of my favorite shows seemed to stay the same; nearly a decade later, they are still capitalizing on their high-school fame.

Around ten years have passed since Lauren Conrad, Lo Bosworth, Whitney Port, Kristin Cavallari, and Audrina Patridge made their reality television debut, forever ingraining themselves in the minds of Millennials. Yet, regardless of their impact on our friendships, relationships, and yes, even style, way back when, it’s hard to actually see where these girls—my young teen idols—actually fall in the reality of, well, the real, grown-up world today.

On March 17, Cavallari embarked on her most recent career move, a hosting gig for E!’s latest fashion, beauty, and lifestyle series, The Fabulist. On air, Cavallari, alongside fashion designer Orly Shani, dishes on the season’s hottest trends—jumpsuits, white-on-white, and rainbow-colored hair. If it’s obvious, they’re probably talking about it, as their trends are referenced by “the point of view of the industry experts and red-hot tastemakers who are driving the trends.” But Cavallari isn’t really to blame for the transparency of the show. She’s just trying to turn her Hills fame into a more sustainable career—“I had been wanting to get into the hosting world, but it had to be the right job,” Cavallari told The Examiner. Rather, we have to ask ourselves: why do we give the iconic “mean girl” of reality show past the authority (and experience) to tell us what is (or isn’t) cool?

The Message

‘Noah’: A Global Warming Epic

Darren Aronofsky’s longtime DP, Oscar nominee Matthew Libatique—who also shot ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Iron Man 2’—says the Biblical epic offers a stern warning about climate change.

The battle lines have already been drawn when it comes to Noah, filmmaker Darren Aronofsky’s staggeringly ambitious $130 million adaptation of the Noah’s Ark story from the Book of Genesis.

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Paramount Pictures

Conservative pundit Glenn Beck, the blowhardiest of the blowhards, claimed it might spread “dangerous disinformation” (he hasn’t seen it). It’s been banned in Pakistan, Bahrain, Qatar, U.A.E., and Indonesia, for allegedly contradicting the teachings of Islam. While Pope Francis reportedly gave the film the Vatican’s blessing after a brief tête-à-tête with the film’s burly star, Russell Crowe.

DEEP COVER

The Bar Crushed By BMI

A cover band’s naive performance of ‘Freebird’ has caused bar owners an expensive headache they wish they could tune out.

Last August, a small-time classic rock cover band performed at a bar called 69 Taps in Medina, outside Cleveland. By all accounts, it was a pretty typical show for Alter EGO, a quartet of middle-aged music men who’d long since come to terms with the fact that their 30-to-50-year-old audience (mostly comprised of their wives, friends and neighbors) preferred hearing hits.

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The Daily Beast

“An original song can be a set killer,” drummer Rob Bisker, who works in home medical supplies, told The Daily Beast. So they played “Jesse’s Girl” and “Bad Moon Rising” and “Brown Eyed Girl” and other songs you’d expect to hear from any classic rock cover band at any dive bar in any American town. They also played “Freebird,” a song not typically included in their repertoire. They knew it was cliché, Bisker said, but he and his band mates decided to learn the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic just in case someone happened to yell out a request for it, as drunken concert goers are wont to do. As predicted, someone did, and on that August night at 69 Taps in Medina, Alter EGO performed a few minutes of “Freebird” for the first time in their cover band career. 

UNGOOP

What’s ‘Conscious Uncoupling’?

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have announced their intention to ‘consciously uncouple’—whatever that means. But could something quite sensible lie behind this hokey-sounding separation cleanse?

For Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, there will be no clothes thrown out of windows, car tires slashed, and screaming confrontations on the street. No, unsurprisingly for this queen of all things holistic—who once heard rocks talking to her—even the breakdown of her marriage must come, as they say, from a good place. As revealed in a break-up statement on her website Goop, she and Martin have decided to “consciously uncouple.”

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Mario Magnani/Getty

Consider yourself in good company if you think this sounds like one of those hippy-dippy expressions new-agers say in the heat of the Los Angeles sun, and in response everyone around them just nods politely while thinking, “Yeah, good luck with whatever that is.”

I Love the ‘90s

‘The Bitch’ Survives Typecasting

After years of being typecast as ‘the bitch’ thanks to ‘The Hangover,’ Rachael Harris finally gets the warm sitcom role she deserves in Fox’s Surviving Jack.

Rachael Harris is not a bitch.

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Rachel Harris of the new television show "Surviving Jack" participates in Fox Broadcasting Company's part of the Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter 2014 presentations in Pasadena, California, January 13, 2014. (Kevork Djansezian/Reuters)

That's important to clarify right off the bat, because you just might have the wrong impression of the Surviving Jack star. Before landing the role as the warm, but mischievous, mother in the '90s-set ABC sitcom, Harris has made a career out of playing the kind of sharp-tongued, caustic characters that you relish watching on TV and in movies but wouldn't be able to handle spending two minutes in the same room with in real life. You know, for the sake of your self-esteem.

Artist First

More Than Just a ‘Girl’

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Jemima Kirke. (Jessica Miglio/HBO)

Playing Jessa is both a blessing and a curse for Jemima Kirke. It helped the artist/actress win her latest exhibit in San Francisco, but she’d rather be seen as, first of all, an artist.

Before the world came to know her as the actress who plays the wistful bohemian Jessa Johansson on the hit HBO series Girls, the 28-year-old London-born, Brooklyn-based Jemima Kirke was an artist. Kirke even earned a BFA in painting from one of the most prestigious art schools in the country, the Rhode Island School of Design, the alma mater of artists who include Jenny Holzer, Kara Walker, and the late Francesca Woodman. Her art career may have taken an unexpected detour due to her role on Girls, but a new exhibition proves that Kirke, who maintains that she’s an artist before an actress, is still on her way to making it. 

Last Friday, San Francisco’s Fouladi Projects opened an exhibition of Kirke’s paintings entitled, “Platforms,” which runs through May 10. Kirke’s second solo show features oil portraits of women in her life. The exhibition almost didn’t happen; Kirke was initially hesitant when the women who run the gallery, Holly Fouladi and Hope Bryson, approached her about staging a show of her work after discovering her email address on her artist website.

“I said no at first because I was a little bit unsure if I wanted to take gigs based purely on the Girls celebrity, which is, of course, how they found me,” explained Kirke. “I realized very quickly that’s a silly principle to have, because that is how they know who I am, and that I should be grateful for that, and I am now.”

What happens when a faux psychic detective is busted for having lied to the cops for eight years? That’s a good question. Unfortunately, the series finale of ‘Psych’ doesn’t tell us.

What happens when faux psychic detective Shawn Spencer is busted for having lied to the Santa Barbara Police for eight years? That’s a good question. Unfortunately, the series finale of Psych doesn’t tell us.

Psych

USA Network

“The Break Up” was as satisfying of an ending as possible given the lackluster season. There was a surprise cameo and some memorable throwback lines (“Have you heard about Pluto? That’s messed up, right?”). For those of us who have stayed around for eight years, that was an adequate thank you.

Why the GOP Is Angry About Colbert

When Stephen Colbert was announced as David Letterman's successor, Rush Limbaugh and company both criticized and politicized the move. Keli Goff discusses whether they're actually mad.

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