Negotiating New Masculinities in ‘The Art of Self Defense’

As a transgender man, I have a complicated, strange, and usually arduous relationship with masculinity. Why are men so obsessed with the fact that they are men? For people who claim to be independent and strong, why is is validation from someone they perceive as superior (read; more powerful) so important to them? Why is violence, hatred, and ugliness seen as so essential to being a man in mainstream society? I ask myself these questions constantly. They keep me up at night. The same questions seem to keep Riley Stearns up at night as well, as indicated in his new film, The Art of Self Defense.

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Jesse Eisenberg in ‘The Art of Self Defense’

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‘The Dead Don’t Die’ Is Exactly What You Would Expect from Jim Jarmusch, but with Zombies This Time!

If you’ve ever seen a Jim Jarmusch film, it’s pretty easy to catch on to his style and cadence: the importance of music, a celebration of strangeness, and every character seems bored out of their minds no matter what’s going on around them. The Dead Don’t Die (2019) is no different, except this time there’s flesh eating zombies caused by corporate fracking. But don’t worry, Iggy Pop is still there.

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Adam Driver stars as “Officer Ronald Peterson” in writer/director Jim Jarmusch’s THE DEAD DON’T DIE, a Focus Features release. Credit : Frederick Elmes / Focus Features © 2019 Image Eleven Productions, Inc.

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The Mundane as Extraordinary in Alex Lehmann’s ‘Paddleton’

Ever since his role in The Big Sick in 2017, Ray Romano seems to have made a comeback and proven to audiences that he can play both comedy and drama in equal measure. Netflix’s Paddleton allows him to prove this yet again, cast alongside indie film veteran Mark Duplass.

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This is the second film that director Alex Lehmann has worked on with Mark Duplass, having released Bluejay in 2016—which is also labeled as a Netflix original. Mark and Jay Duplass have been powerhouse producers of the independent cinema scene for years now, and it was announced just last year that Netflix would have the screening rights to their next four films, with Paddleton being the first of that contract.

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The Enduring Delight of Alan Alda: A Personal Essay

Last night, at the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, Alan Alda was presented with his lifetime achievement award. Today, it is his 84th birthday. Here, I reflect back on the strangely wide effect that Alan Alda has had in my own lifetime.

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The cast of M*A*S*H being cute as always.

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A Celebration of Specialness: A Look at the Idiosyncrasies of Small Town Life in David Byrne’s ‘True Stories’

With David Byrne’s True Stories (1986) releasing on Criterion today in a beautifully restored 4k edition supervised by Mr. Byrne himself, I have been thinking a lot about what makes the film so unique, and loved by so many. There is a tendency to see the film as a scathing critique of small town southern life, rather than a celebration of the idiosyncrasies that can exist in a place so removed from the rest of the world. To see True Stories this way, however, is to seriously misinterpret not only the film, but David Byrne as a person.

It is understandable that fans of Byrne’s band The Talking Heads – known for its deceivingly upbeat pessimism – would want to see a film about a town full of neurotics, fools, and people whose favorite pastime is going to an outlet mall as a harsh criticism of suburban life; that we are meant to laugh at these people rather than with them. However, what True Stories really marks is the beginning of Byrne stepping away from that pessimism. It is only in hindsight that this becomes abundantly clear, as we see what Byrne is up to now. His new album, pointedly called American Utopia takes a much more positive (although not at all ignorant) approach to the current state of the world than, say, songs such as Only the Flowers or Life During Wartime. In fact, Byrne has been working continuously on a project called Reasons to Be Cheerful that shares technological innovations, social movements, and optimistic profile pieces from all over the world, with the sole purpose to restore faith in humanity during a time where it feels like there may not be much of that left.

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‘Overlord’ Is the Kind of Over-The-Top, Bloody Escapism That We Deserve

In the first year of my mom and dad’s marriage, my mom remembers coming home late to see my dad sprawled on the couch, exhausted, watching Die Hard (1988). When she asked him what had made him decide to watch this particular film so late in the night on a weekday, he replied, “I’ve had a stressful day. I just needed to watch people blow up.” Although not nearly as charismatic or witty as John McTiernan’s modern classic, my father’s exhausted confession perfectly sums up my feelings about Julius Avery’s Overlord (2018).

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Podcast #1: Halloween, Horror, and Childhood Scares

Dear Much Ado readers, get ready to be listeners!

We’re so proud to share the first episode of our podcast with you. It’s been a year (and a month) since we opened Much Ado and we could never imagine how far we’d come in such a short time.

On our Patreon page we set a goal of $75 to start working on our podcast and this month we hit that goal, thanks to your help! Every time we gain a new Patron, we come one step closer to saving enough money to pay to our writers. You can help us with as little as $1.

Our first episode is about, as it should be on October 31st, Halloween! Podcast host Charlie Dykstal talks with our writers Mia Vicino, Mary Beth McAndrews and Tyler Llewyn Taing about horror films that scared them in childhood, jump scares and how cathartic horror films can be.

Listen to the first episode on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play. Don’t forget to subscribe for upcoming episodes and share your feedback with us on twitter or via e-mail at muchadoaboutcinema@gmail.com.