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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Marking Cassavetes’ birthday with a discussion on male discourse in his films

On the cusp of what would have been John Cassavetes’ eighty-seventh birthday, it is not only possible to pause and imagine the work the man could have made throughout his sixties and seventies — think, for a moment, on Cassavetes as being alive and well, writing and directing films in a post-9/11 America — but also we can turn to his works for a lens onto a version of the world that, given the recent state of affairs on this planet, we could sorely use.

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9780199536351

Woman as protagonist in BBC’s re-adaption of Conrad’s The Secret Agent

With the recent surge of interest in Conrad’s text following the programme airing in July, one needs to question the contribution that BCC’s adaption offers to the oeuvre of Conrad’s criticism. Tony Marchant’s adaption is acutely aware of global relevance of this text, noting that the “contemporaneity just hit[s]” you “in the face”. Yet, his production precisely fails in this presentation of terrorism.

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From Harlem to Wakanda: on Luke Cage and Black Panther

While watching the first episode of Luke Cage, I noticed something of a minor miracle. Starting from the amazing opening credits sequence, you could actually count the minutes before a single non-black face graced the screen. Every character of consequence, heroic or villainous, was black. Not only that, they were characters well-versed in blackness, however stereotypical.

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The nothingness of hyper-normalisation

In recent years my academic work has revolved around the analysis of two main concepts: ‘hyper-democracy’ and ‘normality.’ The former in relation to the outburst of forms and tools of democratic engagement in a historical period defined by anti-political sentiment; the latter relating to the common cry of those disaffected democrats – ‘why can’t politicians just be normal?

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Why we love horror (and Halloween)

It’s dark and warm and chaotic. The people in my group are screaming and scrambling to get away from the maniac who’s lumbering toward us with a roaring, smoke-belching chainsaw.

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9780190227364

Why is the Bible so much like a horror movie?

What does the Hebrew Bible have in common with horror movies? This question is not as strange as it might seem. It only takes a few minutes with the biblical texts to begin to realize that the Bible is filled with all kinds of horror. There are strange figures dripping blood (Isa. 63) and mysterious objects that kill upon touch (2 Sam. 6:7).

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Lovecraft resurgent

Not many, however, noted that Stranger Things, with its murderous, tentacled creature unleashed through a trans-dimensional portal into a small town by the experiments of a mad professor, owed virtually everything to the imagination of H. P. Lovecraft. He composed these scenarios over eighty years ago in classic stories like ‘The Dunwich Horror’ and ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’.

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Wrongful Allegations

What if they are innocent? Justice for people accused of sexual and child abuse

Many people watching UK television drama National Treasure will have made their minds up about the guilt or innocence of the protagonist well before the end of the series. In episode one we learn that this aging celebrity has ‘slept around’ throughout his long marriage but when an allegation of non-recent sexual assault is made he strenuously denies it.

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The earnest faith of a storyteller

Ang Lee, the two-time Academy Award-winning director, has noted that we should never underestimate the power of storytelling. Indeed, as a storyteller, Lee has shown through his films the potential of stories to connect people, to heal wounds, to drive change, and to reveal more about ourselves and the world. In particular, Lee has harnessed new technology for storytelling in movies such as Life of Pi (2012) and his upcoming feature film Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (to be released on 11 November, 2016).

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American History

The development of urban nightlife, 1940s hipsters, & the rise of dating

Cities in the early days of the United States were mostly quiet at night. People who did leave the comfort of their own homes at night could often be found walking into puddles, tripping over uneven terrain, or colliding into posts because virtually no street lighting existed.With the advent of gas lighting, culture transformed in fascinating ways. Here are 12 interesting facts about urban nightlife, which show how times have greatly changed and, remarkably, how some things have remained the same.

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Oxford Classical Dictionary

Ben-Hur: tracing the iconic novel and films through history

The latest film adaptation of the story of fictional Jewish noble Judah Ben-Hur is premiering in theaters today. You’ve probably seen the 1959 film version starring Charlton Heston, but do you know about the story’s rich history and impact over the last 136 years?

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Journal of Social History

A curve in the road to a “Drug-Free America”

Virtually every American over 35 who had access to a television set in the waning years of the Reagan Administration is familiar with the PDFA’s handiwork. The frying pan with a sizzling egg stand-in for “your brain on drugs.” The stern, middle-aged father confronting his son over the boy’s pot stash, only to be told, “I learned it by watching you!”

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libraries

From the archives: the top 5 movie scenes set in libraries

Paul Feig’s Ghostbuster’s remake has made waves on both sides of the Atlantic. As the original 1984 film set some significant action in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library, we couldn’t help but indulge in a rifle through the archives of cinematic tributes to libraries.

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Songs of exile: a playlist for Psalm 137

Psalm 137 begins with one of the more lyrical lines in the Hebrew Bible: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” It ends eight lines later with one of the thorniest: “Happy shall he be, who taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” Partly because it deals with music—another famous verse asks, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”—the psalm has been like poetic catnip, a siren song luring musicians and composers.

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Hinduism

Portraying Krishna in X-Men: Apocalypse

Another summer, another season of superhero movies. Big budgets, big muscles, big explosions: Each release only strengthens the genre’s domination of Hollywood—and the sense that comic-book franchises make up a contemporary mythology, and superheroes are its gods. Among this year’s offerings is X-Men: Apocalypse, which opened the last week of May.

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