• Cast members Theo James (R) and Shailene Woodley of the new film "Divergent" are interviewed at the 51st annual Publicists Guild Awards in Beverly Hills, California February 28, 2014. (Fred Prouser/Reuters)

    Spectacular Now

    The Hippie Who Conquered Hollywood

    If Jennifer Lawrence is the girl you want to be, then Shailene Woodley is the girl that you are—and her gift is for making that person just as inviting as the idealized alternative.

    Shailene Woodley has had to answer more questions about Jennifer Lawrence than practically anyone in Hollywood. Maybe including Lawrence herself.

    Her answer varies. Sometimes she’s flattered by the comparisons, sometimes she brushes it off, and sometimes, like in the segment that was cut from her recent appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, she seems downright exhausted.

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  • Daniel Koebe/Corbis

    Open the Floodgates

    Why We Cry at Movies

    Those sniffling and sobbing their way through ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ are not perverse or cruel or masochistic. They are enhancing their empathy and decision-making and social skills.

    This weekend, thousands of people will stand in line to pay $13 for the privilege of grieving to the point of weeping. The Fault in Our Stars is opening and it’s got everything guaranteed to send you rummaging for your tissues: teenagers sick and suffering, life plans thwarted, sweet youthful love doomed.

    Our love of weepies is a bit strange. It seems that one of the most flamingly obvious rules of human nature is that people tend to seek pleasure and avoid pain. So why do we pay moviemakers $13 to make us cry? Enjoying weepies might even seem perverse. If we enjoy watching a story about dying teens, does that mean we might enjoy it when teenagers really die? Of course, these are not new questions. Over 2,000 years ago, Aristotle was scratching his head about them.

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  • A24 Films

    ‘What I Want to Do’

    Just Don’t Call It an ‘Abortion Comedy’

    Hailed as an ‘abortion comedy,’ ‘Obvious Child’ isn’t about politics—it’s about a woman’s struggle with herself as a person. This wouldn’t work without the kind humor of Jenny Slate.

    Funny, touching, and bracingly honest, Obvious Child is the story of Donna, a struggling stand-up comic who is dumped by her boyfriend, has a one-night stand with a much nicer guy (not at all her type), and gets an abortion. That makes Jenny Slate, who plays the heroine, the face of the “abortion comedy,” as the film came to be known after its premiere at Sundance.

    “I get why people do it,” Slate tells me of that label, but “I don’t think of our movie as an abortion comedy at all. It puts me off a bit just because it seems flippant, it seems like we’re being rough with the subject, when if you watch the movie it’s anything but rough with it, it’s strong and it’s gentle. But I’m happy to be the face of the movie no matter what people call it.”

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  • Gia Coppola, director photographed at the 70th Venice International Film Festival 2013 whilst promoting her film Palo Alto. (Yves Salmon / eyevine/Redux)

    Family Business

    The Next Great Coppola

    Gia Coppola’s debut, ‘Palo Alto,’ an engaging and poetic teenage drama based on James Franco’s stories, ushers in another generation of filmmaking from the famous family.

    Gia Coppola sounds surprisingly tentative for someone who has made such a self-assured first feature. “I was really nervous about working with actors because my only real experience was using my friends in short films,” she says of Palo Alto, her totally engaging, emotionally bold, and often poetic drama based on James Franco’s stories about high school kids floundering on the edge of adulthood. “I feel like it’s hard for me to articulate what I want, and I’m pretty shy. But I just tried to be as honest as possible and tell them what the scenes meant to me. And I had seen when I was working on Twixt how my Grandpa would work with actors.” There is something authentic and warm in the way she evokes “my Grandpa,” the great Francis Ford Coppola.

    Palo Alto, an ensemble piece starring Emma Roberts, Franco, and Jack Kilmer (Val’s son, in his first role), came about because Coppola met Franco at a party (just try to maneuver that without connections). He sent her the book, which was about to be published. She had recently graduated from Bard, where she studied photography, and sent him some of her work. The project took off from there. What Franco obviously gleaned, and Palo Alto demonstrates, is that she has a true director’s eye, and talent that outweighs insider access.

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  • Jaimie Trueblood/Focus World, via AP

    Slang

    There’s No Shame in ‘Walks of Shame’

    Elizabeth Banks stars as a woman who has to traverse a city after losing her wallet post-one-night stand. The movie is probably entertaining fluff. The phrase is far more damaging.

    You know that a bit of street slang has become universally understood when it makes the leap into the title of a throwaway rom-com starring a strikingly beautiful woman we know is “quirky” because she stumbles a lot. So it is with the phrase “walk of shame,” which is now Walk of Shame, a movie starring Elizabeth Banks as a woman who has a comic adventure trying to traverse a city after losing her wallet and ID after a one-night stand.

    The movie no doubt sets out to be a bit of entertaining fluff that no one should take too seriously, but the phrase that produced its title, in three short words, manages to speak volumes about our culture’s impossible and contradictory demands put on young women when it comes to sex and dating. The “walk of shame” is a slang term that usually describes a person, usually a woman, who is making her way home from spending the night at someone else’s house for a sexual encounter.

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  • Mark Schwartzbard

    Seeing Old ‘Friends’

    Courteney Cox Goes Behind the Camera

    A favorite ‘Friend’ talks about how love, loss, and David Fincher prepared her to direct her first feature-length movie, the indie dramedy ‘Just Before I Go.’

    I’ve always felt a kinship to Courteney Cox. I think we all have.

    There was the way she managed, as Monica Geller on Friends, to make the combination of neuroticism and rabid energy seem warm, endearing, and fun. There was the middle finger she gave critics and industry suits who wrote off Cougar Town based on its misfire of a title by steadfastly guiding the little sitcom that could through 88 episodes and two networks, turning it into, at one point, the most consistently firing sitcom on TV and a showcase for her most nuanced acting yet.

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  • Tribeca Film Festival

    Crazy Kate

    SNL’s Funniest Gal Hits the Big Screen

    A screeching wacko prone to meltdowns, epic fits of entitlement, and wedding proposals, Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon is hilarious as a psycho girlfriend in ‘Intramural.’

    There’s a long, proud tradition of crazy girlfriends on films: Amanda Peet in Saving Silverman, Isla Fisher in Wedding Crashers, Cameron Diaz in Vanilla Sky, Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls. They’re the obsessive, manipulative, outrageously annoying characters that you would never want to spend more than five minutes in a room with, yet, in these films, you relish every second they’re on screen and miss them terribly when they’re not there.

    Now you can add Kate McKinnon in Intramural to that canon. In the quirky comedy that debuted this week at the Tribeca Film Festival, McKinnon proves why she’s destined to become Saturday Night Live’s next breakout star.

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  • Summit Entertainment

    Divergent

    ‘Divergent’s’ Fear of Teen Sex

    Divergent’s bold step into the battle over rape culture and teen sexuality is actually a meek regression, as its heroine remains deathly afraid of what’s hiding under her own covers.

    Divergent is a film about a teenage girl that blatantly glosses over the desires of its adolescent heroine. It’s also a movie about sex and rape culture that doesn’t really show any sex. Confused? So, clearly, are the filmmakers who have rendered their characters two dimensional and flimsy by making them poster children for enthusiastic consent (aka saying yes and really wanting it) as opposed to believable teenagers.

    In an effort to start a conversation and bolster a movement, the team behind Divergent has actually undermined their own progressive agenda, producing a film in which the 16-year-old heroine Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) boldly conquers her cruelest enemies, but remains deathly afraid of what’s hiding under her own covers. In this way Divergent’s bold step into the frontlines of the battle over rape culture, female liberation, and teen sexuality is actually a meek regression, as its heroine, hiding behind sexual timidity and a set of obscenely huge eyelashes, reverts into a well of prudishness far deeper and scarier than the various cliffs and gorges scattered throughout the Dauntless compound.

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  • Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment

    Pantsuits

    Hollywood vs. Hillary 2016

    The villain in the new movie Divergent bears a striking resemblance to Hillary Clinton. Why are Hollywood’s powerful female leaders always the bad guys?

    Many people will love Divergent, the new Hunger Games-style science-fiction movie that arrives Friday in theaters: fans of the blockbuster young-adult novel by Veronica Roth on which the film is based; fans of actress Shailene Woodley, who plays Roth’s nonconformist heroine Tris; fans of a post-apocalyptic future in which the Earth’s remaining human beings wall themselves off inside the ruins of a major metropolis (in this case, Chicago) and split up into five factions (Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite) designed to “keep the peace.”

    One person who won’t love Divergent, however, is Hillary Clinton.

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  • Jessica Hill/AP

    Before She Was Famous

    Yale Classmates Dish on Lupita

    Hollywood’s It Girl was known at the prestigious drama school as a hard worker with raw talent and an intuitive gift for language, wowing in her audition for ‘Romeo and Juliet.’

    When Lupita Nyong’o’s name was called at the Oscars, the town of New Haven, Connecticut, erupted with joy. Most Oscar acceptance speeches are a boring list of industry executives, agents, and managers, but Nyong’o’s speech for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave was notable for its shout out to her alma mater, the Yale School of Drama, and her class, nicknamed, “The Wilsons.”

    While many actresses have toiled on the Hollywood casting circuit for years, the 31-year-old Oscar winner was a full-time student until relatively recently. She graduated in 2012 from the prestigious drama school, and has had one major TV role, in a Kenyan drama produced by MTV, called Shuga.

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  • Steve Granitz/WireImage

    Norma Desmond Redux

    Oscar Plastic Surgery Blowback

    Yes, Kim Novak’s face shocked us at the Oscars. But did she really deserve all the nip-and-tuck hate-tweeting?

    The Oscars are invariably remembered as much (if not more) for the speeches, snafus, and outlandish red carpet outfits as for the awards. Last year, Jennifer Lawrence’s charming tumble over her couture when accepting her Best Actress award generated maximum buzz (Anne Hathaway’s nipples came in close second). This year’s highlights included John Travolta butchering Idina Menzel’s name, Ellen Degeneres’ celebrity group selfie and 81-year-old actress Kim Novak’s face—nipped, tucked, and stiff with silicone.

    The Internet gasped in horror—or was it amusement? —when the Vertigo star took the stage with Matthew McConaughey to present the award for Best Animated Feature to Disney’s Frozen (an unfortunate coincidence, generating countless rudimentary puns on social media). A sampling of tweets, including several from well-known figures in the entertainment and media industries: Comedian Nick Youssef joked that “Kim Novak was just safely transported back to the Hollywood Wax Museum”; Chelsea Lately writer Fortune Feimster quipped, “I’m assuming Kim Novak was representing the movie ‘Mask’”; Huffington Post editorial director Howard Fineman broadened the mockery: “#AcademyAward for worst plastic surgery: tie between Kim Novak and Goldie Hawn.”

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  • Suhaib Salem/Reuters

    Arab Spring

    The Year’s Most Dangerous Doc

    ‘The Square’ is the definitive documentary on Egypt’s uprising, but Jehane Noujaim tells Andrew Romano what she had to endure to get it made.

    The best documentary of the year may also have been the most dangerous to make.

    When 50,000 young Egyptians occupied Cairo’s Tahrir Square on January 25, 2011 to protest the fascist regime of Hosni Mubarak, filmmaker Jehane Noujaim (she made 2004’s documentary Control Room, about the broadcast network Al Jazeera) was more than 2,000 miles away, in Davos, Switzerland, awaiting the arrival of Egypt’s leadership at that year’s high-flying meeting of the World Economic Forum. “’If the country erupts and I’m with them there, filming, then that will be an interesting story, because there will be a lot of people in the square with their cameras,’” Noujaim thought. “But of course none of the leadership showed up.”

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  • Gareth Cattermole/Getty

    Her Again

    Why Meryl Is So Special

    When we see her, sitting at the Oscars or the Golden Globes, smiling that mischievous smile at the hoopla and pressing of the flesh around her, she just seems good fun.

    A few years ago Bette Midler joked, with mock-exasperation, that her message to Meryl Streep was: “Do you have to say yes to everything?” It may have been said in jest, but a legion of Hollywood actresses would have nodded ruefully in unison. La Streep not only can do no wrong, she is adored. The plum parts for women of a certain age are hers to pick. And here she is with her eighteenth Oscar nomination, a record for a performer, even though reviews of her performance in the movie August: Osage County have been mixed. Of her turn as the drug-addled and vituperative matriarch Violet, The New Yorker said Streep’s portrayal was “overwhelming,” and not in a good way.

    But whether her loud, rancorous scrapping with Julia Roberts, who plays her daughter, is too overblown – better for the theater stage where the film began life, say critics, rather than the more confining movie screen – you can’t take your eyes off it. It is still a distinctive Streep-ian tour de force. It perhaps falls into the same bracket as The Iron Lady, for which Streep won her last, third Oscar playing Margaret Thatcher: amazing performance in a not-so-great film. Her scenery-chomping performance in August is in sharp contrast to that of another Oscar-nominated national treasure—the British Judi Dench—for her role as a mother searching for her lost son in Philomena. Both women are indomitable, but Dench’s Philomena is self-contained, quiet, determined not to cause a fuss, while Violet’s default setting is fuss-with-added-hellfire.

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