Why you should watch a “bad” movie this holiday weekend.

The Neon Demon is the anti-populist performance art cinema you need

Earlier this week, an enterprising Reddit user posted a graphic in the r/Movies subreddit that showed the correlation between box office performance of big-budget movies and their rating on the movie review aggregating site, Rotten Tomatoes.

What we see here is pretty intuitive. Better movies make more money (and Kung Fu Panda will make money no matter what). But what then are we to make of the bad low-budget movies? What about the movies that cost a scant few million and actually take a chance at saying something bold? What about the movies that are simply misunderstood, but held hostage by a composite numerical score that does not explain the scope of the film’s ambition?

Take, for example, the new movie, The Neon Demon. It’s the latest from Danish auteur Nicholas Winding Refn, best known to American audiences as “The guy who did Drive.” In Refn’s younger days, making movies in his native Denmark, he specialized in gritty tales of ruddy men doing violent things. His protagonists were anti-heroes, criminals, aggressively masculine, difficult to empathize with—and totally compelling.

But once he started making movies for U.S. audiences, he backed away from the ultra-real in favor of the ultra-stylized. Drive was as much powered by its electronic soundtrack and beautiful art direction as it was by Ryan Gosling’s quietly compelling turn as “The Driver.” (And we mean really quiet. Gosling only averaged about 10 words per minute throughout the entire movie.) It was a film about mood built around another anti-hero, but this time he was pretty, and so was the film.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]Personally, I think the worst thing is giving the audience what they want to see, because in a way it’s almost disrespectful.[/quote]

Since that time, Refn has made two more films, Only God Forgives and now The Neon Demon, which tells the story of a teenage model new to LA with dreams of making it big in a town filled with people who want to consume her for her beauty. It’s a natural progression in the Refn filmography, as each one of his movies is more stylized and more surreal than the one that came before it. And the heroes have gotten quieter, too. Gosling returned to star in Only God Forgives and said 100 words throughout the entire movie, which in 2016 terms basically means he said five tweets. Jesse, the heroine of Demon—who is played by literal Disney Princess Elle Fanning—primarily spends the movie emoting while being gorgeous, as her adversaries gorgeously plot against her. One of those adversaries is real-life model Abbey Lee playing a fictitious model in the film.

Refn started forcing his audience to immerse themselves in his films by giving them tableaus instead of narrative queues. Viewers were given the responsibility, or perhaps the luxury, of deciding what a Refn film was trying to say. With such a subjective point of view, how can a person honestly review one his films at all? How can one person say that his film accomplished its objective, if the only intention is to provoke an emotional reaction?

The bottom line is, the current art of Nicolas Winding Refn means everything and nothing at the same time. I once interviewed the director for another project of his, a book of movie posters made during the salacious peak of grindhouse cinema. He explained that the best way to get audiences in the door for that kind of schlock cinema was to promise them the most lurid visuals imaginable, to make promises with a poster that no film could live up to. And while Refn has become a master of the provocative, the promotional materials for his films are intentionally vague and practically obtuse. The only thing you are promised is that something will happen, and that you’ll just have to show up to find out.

When I asked him about this chasm between presentation and reality in his films in a previous interview he said,

“Personally, I think the worst thing is giving the audience what they want to see, because in a way it’s almost disrespectful. These people are here to give you their precious time. You should really take them on an odyssey, and the best way to do that is to give them what they don’t expect. That is not for everyone, but they certainly won’t forget it, and I think that’s more interesting than anything else, because that’s what art does. Art travels with us for the rest of our lives if it has an impact. Whether it’s good or bad is almost irrelevant, because not about quality. It’s about how you experience it.”

Refn’s films are, in effect, the anti-blockbuster. They are the anti-superhero chronicle. So if you’ve been looking for one, The Neon Demon is your antidote to the 4th of July wiz bang spectacular that has come to define summer at the movies. The Rotten Tomatoes score is hovering at an unflattering 46 percent, but don’t let the stigma of the “bad movie” detour you. Refn makes art for the thinking filmgoer, and even if you think his art is trash, it still respects the viewers enough to let them make up their own minds.

And that sounds like just the right kind of movie to be patronizing on Independence Day.

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

Keep Reading Show less
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.


Four black women, Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan, worked as "human computers" at NASA during the Space Race, making space travel possible through their complex calculations. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn all played a vital role in helping John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.

They worked behind the scenes, but now they're getting the credit they deserve as their accomplishments are brought to the forefront. Their amazing stories were detailed in the book "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race" by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was later turned into a movie. (Darden was not featured in the movie, but was in the book). Johnson has a building at NASA named after her, and a street in front of NASA's Washington D.C. headquarters was renamed "Hidden Figures Way."

Keep Reading Show less

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News
Courtesy of John S. Hutton, MD

A report from Common Sense Media found the average child between the ages of 0 and 8 has 2 hours and 19 minutes of screen time a day, and 35% of their screen time is on a mobile device. A new study conducted by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, found exactly what all that screen time is doing to your kid, or more specifically, your kid's developing brain. It turns out, more screen time contributes to slower brain development.

First, researchers gave the kids a test to determine how much and what kind of screen time they were getting. Were they watching fighting or educational content? Were they using it alone or with parents? Then, researchers examined the brains of children aged 3 to 5 year olds by using MRI scans. Forty seven brain-healthy children who hadn't started kindergarten yet were used for the study.

They found that kids who had more than one hour of screen time a day without parental supervision had lower levels of development in their brain's white matter, which is important when it comes to developing cognitive skills, language, and literacy.

Keep Reading Show less