Thursday, November 19, 2015

Groupon's goofy 'clip-in man bun' goes viral

Posted By on 11.19.15 at 01:30 PM

Groupon's "Clip-in Man Bun"
  • Groupon's "Clip-in Man Bun"

Ashley Hamer expected the "clip-in man bun" to receive a few scattered guffaws when she wrote a Groupon ad for it last week.

Instead the puffy attachable-hairpiece sale went viral, inspiring a #Manbun hashtag on Twitter and countless memes, many of which involved photoshopping faux man buns on celebrities (Obama, Donald Trump, and NBA commentator Ernie Johnson, for example). Hundreds of media outlets—from CNN to GQ to the New York Post—quickly hopped on the bandwagon with incredulous "Can you believe this is a thing?" coverage.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

The great Chicago Reader potato-chip-eating challenge, 2015 edition

Posted By on 10.08.15 at 12:30 PM

  • Brianna Wellen

If art is all about subverting the expected, then the people at Lay's are some of our most popular and profitable contemporary artists. Forget Jeff Koons: you can find Lay's experimental flavors in every goddamned grocery and convenience store in our fair nation. Every year, they give us the opportunity to appreciate their genius even more when they turn over new-potato-chip-flavor-devising duties to their loyal customers. Coming up with a new potato chip flavor isn't easy, y'all! If you have any doubts, just try it yourself.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Hard to Be a God—the bigger, demented brother of Mad Max: Fury Road—plays Chicago for one more night

Posted By on 06.08.15 at 01:00 PM

Hard to Be a God
  • Hard to Be a God
Tonight at 6:30 PM the Siskel Film Center presents the last Chicago screening of Aleksei German's Hard to Be a God (2013). It's perhaps the most important movie in town—an epic, philosophical work by one of Russia's most venerated directors, who worked on the film for over a decade and died during postproduction. In God every image—every sound effect, practically—reflects years of serious thought, although the filmmaking itself feels spontaneous. As in his previous features My Friend Ivan Lapshin (1984) and Khroustaliov, My Car! (1998), German's camera is almost always roving the scene (the Wellesian camera movements are breathtaking), creating the impression that the filmmaker is first discovering the setting—an alien planet that resembles medieval Europe—along with the audience. And given how densely realized the setting is, he achieves the effect with extraordinary ease. The narrative of God can be difficult to follow, since so many stray details are vying for one's attention, but the film's opacity is deliberate. Not only that, it's essential to German's artistic achievement: God is a meditation on humankind's propensity for barbarism, and German made this horrible aspect of our nature indigestible.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Horrible Bosses 2 has a lot to say about degradation—and almost none of it's funny

Posted By on 12.01.14 at 01:30 PM

Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston in Horrible Bosses 2
  • Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston in Horrible Bosses 2
Warning: This post contains spoilers.

In a pivotal sequence in Horrible Bosses 2, which opened commercially this week, Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day)—a sort of white-collar Three Stooges—are plotting to kidnap the grown son of the ruthless CEO who has bankrupted their independent manufacturing business. Dale proposes they go to the dentist's office where he used to work and steal some laughing gas, which they'll use to knock their victim unconscious. They break into the office after hours, only to be interrupted by the dentist (Jennifer Aniston), who's about to use the waiting room for a session of her sex addicts' support group. Nick, unable to get away in time, gets mistaken for a new member while his friends hide in the bathroom. At first he thinks he's at an AA meeting, and when pressured to share his history (something that would never happen at a real support group), he delivers a vaguely worded "confession" that makes him sound like a gay S&M freak. (As far as we know, the straitlaced Nick is nothing of the sort, which makes the situation that much more embarrassing for him.) The dentist declares she likes trying to "turn" gay men, then promptly kicks out the rest of the group so she can bully Nick into sex. The dentist now preoccupied, Kurt and Dale fetch some laughing gas, then wait in the car and ponder whether Nick's confession was true.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Eminem and Marilyn Manson's boring rape fantasies

Posted By on 11.21.14 at 03:00 PM

Marilyn Manson performing in 2009
  • Rockman via Wikipedia
  • Marilyn Manson performing in 2009
UPDATE: The parts of a video mentioned in this post that depict Marilyn Manson were taken from his 2012 videos "No Reflection" and "Slo-Mo-Tion." They are not unreleased footage.

Someone leaked an unreleased Marilyn Manson video this week, or at least the embryo of one. A two-minute clip of dark but fairly rote horror scenes surfaced on YouTube and bounced around seemingly every music website before it was taken down on copyright grounds. Manson can clearly be seen holding a machine gun on a rooftop in one part of the video; in another, the video's alleged director, Eli Roth, appears as a man who rapes a woman played by Lana Del Rey. Manson's camp quickly denied involvement with the viral clip, though a 2013 interview with Roth reveals that he did film a video in which both Manson and Rey appear. Roth said the resulting footage was "so sick" he'd kept it locked up. The evidence suggests that all the scenes in the YouTube clip were intended for the same Manson project—that is, this probably isn't Manson footage collaged with unrelated Lana Del Rey footage by a fan, as a Manson spokesperson claims. But there is no proof.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

If you're looking for something weird, Gyorgy Palfi's film Free Fall shouldn't disappoint

Posted By on 10.10.14 at 12:30 PM

Free Fall screens three times at the Chicago International Film Festival.
  • Free Fall screens three times at the Chicago International Film Festival.
As usual several of the more interesting-sounding titles at this year's Chicago International Film Festival weren't made available for preview, and so, I can't say for certain that Gyorgy Palfi's Free Fall—screening at the festival today at 6:15 PM and tomorrowSunday at 2:45 PM, with Palfi in attendance for both shows—is any good. But based on my experience of the first two features by this Hungarian writer-director, I can say with some confidence that his latest should be eye-catching at the very least.

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

One Bite: Cappuccino-flavored Lays

Posted By on 09.04.14 at 05:00 PM

At the 7-Eleven at the corner of Franklin and Lake:

Me: This is a thing?

The lady behind the counter at 7-Eleven: They're actually pretty good. I mean, I liked them.

Me: OK, I'll bite.

(What I should have asked: Are they caffeinated?)

Back at Reader world headquarters:

Me: [sniff] [odd smell that's sort of like cinnamon, except with weird chemical topnotes]

Me (hopefully, straining for enticingly, to nearest coworker): Want to try a cappuccino-flavored Lay?

Nearest coworker: [shudders]

Me: [crunch] [taste of something like potato chip, but sweet, not salty, and, therefore, unnatural]: Ugh.

Nearest coworker: [a look that says, "What did I tell you?"]

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Monday, August 18, 2014

I spent the summer of 2000 in the dive bar of multiplexes

Posted By on 08.18.14 at 02:38 PM

Wesley Snipes (right) in The Art of War
  • Wesley Snipes (right) in The Art of War
As far as movies went, the summer of 2000 was a season of disappointment. The big-studio flops included, but were not limited to: Battlefield Earth, Roland Emmerich's The Patriot, the Wesley Snipes actioner The Art of War, Coyote Ugly (Jerry Bruckheimer's misbegotten attempt at a feminist statement), Paul Verhoeven's Hollow Man (though, unlike any of the other movies listed here, that one has gotten better with age), and a couple of flat children's features (Titan A.E. and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle). I remember all of these more vividly than I probably should, since I spent the summer working at a suburban multiplex that was on its way out of business and could no longer afford to rent high-profile titles. It was a bit like working at one of those cramped little video stores you used to find in supermarkets and gas stations, except that all the movies were on celluloid.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bachelor in Paradise is heaven for people who enjoy cringing

Posted By on 08.13.14 at 12:53 PM

Marcus is the most boring man alive—but Clare dont care!
  • ABC
  • Marcus is the most boring man alive—but Clare don't care!
I'm about halfway through I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends, a memoir and shoo-in for the Pulitzer by Bachelor villain and season 16 "winner" Courtney Robertson (cowritten by an actual writer person). It's full of enlightening tidbits, for instance that a psychologist—the same one who administers a 150 question personality test during an advanced stage of the audition process—always travels with the show and "is a permanent fixture on set." The implication is that the shrink is winnowing out the mentally unstable, but she sticks around just in case a few happen to slip through, despite her best efforts of course. And sure enough every season features at least a few sick pups who'll have their idiosyncracies and insecurities played up by cruel producers and brilliant editing, and their carcasses picked to bits by avian-beaked host Chris Harrison. The show would be a real snooze without them.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Two from the Drafthouse: A Field in England and Nothing Bad Can Happen

Posted By on 07.02.14 at 03:07 PM

A Field in England
  • A Field in England
Starting this Friday Facets Multimedia will host a weeklong run of Nothing Bad Can Happen, an unsettling German docudrama written and directed by Katrin Gebbe. This is Gebbe's first film, though it feels highly familiar, in part because the novice filmmaker wears her influences (Michael Haneke, Harmony Korine) on her sleeve, and in part because it has much in common with other recent titles released by Drafthouse Films, a young distribution company that aims to "destroy the barriers between grindhouse and art-house." I have to give credit where credit is due—nearly every Drafthouse release I've seen features a potentially exploitative premise and a striking visual style. The selections have ranged from masterful (The Act of Killing, the re-releases Wake in Fright and Ms. 45) to imperfect but compelling (Borgman, Cheap Thrills, I Declare War) to gross and unedifying (The ABCs of Death, Pieta); but they all advance the conviction that cinema can transform even the most lurid subject matter into art.

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