Television

RECAP: Parenthood Season Finale: The Tomato in the Room

Parenthood - Season 5
Sam Jaeger as Joel Graham, Savannah Paige Rae as Sydney Graham, Erika Christensen as Julia Braverman-Graham Ben Cohen—NBCU Photo Bank/NBC

Hot tomato, that is. The season 5 finale — which may be it for the series — saw steamy twists, but not a lot of resolution

The NBC family drama wrapped its fifth season — and possibly its last, as the show is currently on the bubble — with plenty of romantic revelations, mostly predictable but with one big surprise (at least for those who didn’t have it spoiled during last week’s preview).

Prodigal daughter Haddie is back with a whole new look — and a big surprise. She comes home from college for summer break with her “best friend” in tow: blonde cutie “Lauren,” played by Tavi Gevinson of Rookie Magazine fame. She keeps the sexual nature of their relationship secret at first, then hints at their intimacy to her dad, but he doesn’t put two and two together until Lauren drops a heavier hint. Kristina finds out after Max, who has walked in on the two smooching, bluntly asks his mom, “If two girls are kissing, does that mean that they’re lesbians?” Though stunned, Kristina accepts and embraces the news in the family’s signature Berkeley way.

It’s an odd choice on the writers’ part to so heavily feature a character who’s been absent all season in the finale. And Haddie’s not the only long-forgotten character to crop back up: Ryan, who was hospitalized last week but had been gone for months, has a large role in the episode when his mother arrives to take him home to Wyoming. After his medical discharge from the army, it seems he has no other choice — though a romp in the hospital bed with Amber confuses the matter and leads her to pick up a pregnancy test later in the episode. Though she’s smiling, it’s hard to root for a positive result knowing that he’s laid up from drunk driving.

As for the plot lines we’ve been focused on for the last stretch of the season, not much comes into focus. Adam and Kristina’s school plan gets no air time at all, much less a decision on whether Bob Little will lease them the property. And Joel and Julia all but fall back into each other’s arms after Victor wins an essay contest at school — emphasis on the “all but.” Even a bedtime story with Sydney, who throws a tantrum until Joel agrees to stay for the night, delivers nothing but smiles and meaningful eye contact. All that will-they-or-won’t-they tension, and all the viewer gets to show for it is an awkward Breyer’s commercial between segments in which a husband asks his wife, “Who’s hotter? Me or Joel?” (Joel, dude. Always Joel.)

The other will-they-or-won’t-they plot line, between Sarah and Hank, resolves as expected: with hesitation on her part, then talk of how much work it will be with his Asperger’s (a diagnosis he still hasn’t formally received), then a kiss. It’s nice to see one “tomato in the room” plucked, though not exactly cathartic to revisit a relationship that has failed once before, and was never especially passionate in the first place. Also in the category of relationships it’s hard to care about: Drew and Natalie. They were thrown together in the penultimate episode and are now apparently so in love that Zeek is inspired to loan Drew the freshly-finished Pontiac (which gives the episode its name) to drive up to see his girlfriend.

The real strength in this finale lies in its more quotidian moments — as is always the case for Parenthood. Adam and Crosby’s vigorous victory lap around their childhood home is sweet, and Zeek and Millie’s last dance through the empty living room is even sweeter.

In what may be the show’s final sequence, the Braverman clan gets together for one last feast on the lawn. Their dialogue is muted in favor of the soundtrack, a thoughtful cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin,’” putting special emphasis on one piece of advice — “your sons and your daughters are beyond your command” — that’s never been a great problem for the Bravermans. If there’s one thing they’re good at, it’s supporting for their children, no matter what’s going on in their own lives. This last barbecue, reminiscent of so many others on the show, doesn’t expand on the plot, but it does stay in line with the vibe. As Sydney tells her parents while begging them to get back to normal, “It’s not special, it’s how it’s supposed to be.”

Television

Scandal Watch: A Child For A Child, The True Explosion In The Season Finale

ABC

Who lives, who dies.

Beware, spoilers ahead. Because… this is a recap.

Suffice it to say that for the past week Scandal producers have been building an exponential amount of hype, almost to eye rolling proportions, around how insane this season finale would be. “Watch tonight or hate yourself tomorrow,” warned teasers promising, “Twisty, crazy, OMG moments.”

Kerry Washington said that the cast was “floored” over and over again during the table read. Scott Foley promised the Hollywood Reporter a “divisive” final moment that would leave people “up in arms” and cause “Twitter [to] explode. Explode!” So did it live up to the hype?

The end of last week’s episode left audiences with the promise that a literal ticking time bomb was going to go off (with Cyrus’ blessing) during a high profile funeral that could kill Sally Langston, Leo, Andrew (Mellie’s love interest). But that was not the real explosion, so to speak. In the opening minutes Jake warned Fitz, cops were called, and the bomb exploded only after all the main characters were evacuated. Cyrus’ soul is saved. But since this occurred in the very beginning, the end had to be even more dynamic. So the episode was jam packed with twist after twist, reveal after reveal, and the final moment didn’t go out with a boom — like James’ murder — but was rather a culmination of the sociopathy and moral depravity we have come to expect from the cast of characters.

What was the moral depravity? The murder of a child. After the explosion, when Sally Langston is shown making on-site tourniquets, it becomes clear that Fitz isn’t going to win the election. “Dad, I’m sorry you’re going to lose,” says his son Jerry, which become his final words before stepping onstage during a campaign event. Mid-speech, Jerry starts seizing and bleeding through his mouth and nose onstage and in spite of doctor’s best efforts, he dies. We soon find out that he was purposely infected with meningitis. Immediately we are led to believe Mama Pope is the culprit — which, in all honesty, doesn’t make total sense because isn’t her goal to cause havoc and ruin the presidency? While this would emotionally scar Fitz, it would win him an election. So Fitz reinstates Papa Pope/Eli in B613 to take control of the situation and towards the end of the episode we find out that, in fact, it was Eli who killed Jerry. Why? Well Olivia wanted Fitz to win presidency. Eli wanted to regain power. And as for poor Fitz? As Eli put it, incredibly chillingly, “He took my child, so I took his.”

Other key moments:

-When Fitz thinks he’s going to lose the election, he tells Liv that he’ll finally divorce Mellie, they can finally get married and move to Vermont to make jam. (If only the biggest scandal in season four could be a huckleberry shortage.) Unable to live in the reverie, Liv tells Fitz that Mellie was raped by Big Jerry. This led to a beautiful scene between Fitz and Mellie where he kisses the top of her head. Mellie tells him that Jerry is his son (“I don’t care,” says Fitz) and that “I fought him” (he holds her.)

-Huck and Quinn get caught having sex in the office. “Oh dear Lord my eyes,” Abby says. The voice of the people. They continue their affair, although Quinn shows Huck where his family, who was taken from him by B613, lives. Which will complicate things. Charlie gave Quinn the address, so I hope they don’t end up murdered.

-Mama Pope is back in a hole underground thanks to Papa Pope (who told everyone she’s actually dead).

-David has all the B613 files and Jake’s blessing to catch the bad guys

-Harrison might get murdered by Papa Pope, the newly instated head of B613.

And then there’s Olivia

-Olivia finally decided to take evil Papa Pope up on his offer of getting on a plane and leaving the country. When Abby (who needs more lines next season) demands to know why, Olivia gives one of the most gripping mini-monologues of the night: “I’m the thing that needs to be fixed. I’m the thing that needs to be handled. I’m the Scandal. And the thing to do with a Scandal is shut it down.” She flies off on a private plane with none other than… Jake.

So what say you? Great finale or was it overhyped?

‘Mean Girls’ Is Not a Comedy. It’s Mythology.

The Tina Fey teen comedy premiered ten years ago this week. What explains the movie's success? Not Hollywood. Try James Joyce, Carl Jung and Bantu folklore

Saturday marks the 10-year anniversary of the world premiere of Mean Girls at Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome. Decennials are often an opportunity for sober reflection, and in that spirit, I would like to suggest that the Lindsay Lohan vehicle has been with us far longer than a decade. The film is widely considered to be a comedy or even a “teen movie,” but in fact, it is neither. Mean Girls is American mythology. Let us examine the evidence.

In broad terms, Tina Fey’s first film adheres to the critical superstructure known as the “monomyth,” as described by 20th-century mythologist Joseph Campbell:

A hero [Lohan's Cady Heron] ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder ["Girl World"]: fabulous forces ["the Plastics"] are there encountered and a decisive victory is won [Regina George and Aaron Samuels break up]: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons [popularity] on his fellow man [Gretchen Weiners and Karen Smith].

There is no question that Cady views this new world as both mystical and possessing of separate natural laws. “Having lunch with the Plastics,” she says in voice over, “was like leaving the actual world and entering ‘Girl World.’ And ‘Girl World’ had a lot of rules.”

As with James Joyce’s Ulysses, Mean Girls imposes a mythological structure on the mundane concerns of its hero. The particular myth from which Mean Girls draws its inspiration is not so well telegraphed, though Fey leaves us several clear signposts.

Like the original Ulysses, Cady is recently returned from her own series of adventures in Africa, where her parents worked as research zoologists. It is this prior “region of supernatural wonder” that offers the basis for the mythological reading of the film. While the notion of the African continent as a place of magic is a dated, rather offensive trope, the film firmly establishes this impression among the students at North Shore High School. To them, Africa is a monolithic place about which they know almost nothing. In their first encounter, Karen inquires of Cady: “So, if you’re from Africa, why are you white?” Shortly thereafter, Regina warns Aaron that Cady plans to “do some kind of African voodoo” on a used Kleenex of his to make him like her—in fact, the very boon that Cady will come to bestow under the monomyth mode.

Where in Africa Cady hails from is never made explicitly clear, but several clues greatly reduce the universe of possibilities. In a brief flashback to her “one other crush,” Nfume, a young Cady is speaking Afrikaans (according to the subtitles). On her first day of school, Cady greets the Unfriendly Black Hotties with “Jambo,” a Swahili greeting. After Cady has carelessly cleaned up after a house party, her mother notices that her “fertility vases of the Ndebele tribe” are misplaced. The Ndebele tribes are native to Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa, all places were at least part of the population speaks Afrikaans. Both Swahili and the Ndebele languages belong to the Bantu family, a branch of the Niger-Congo languages spoken among a network of sub-Saharan ethnic groups. This makes Bantu folklore a logical place to start our search.

Like many contemporary ethno-religious traditions, Bantu folklore often makes use of anthropomorphized animals, a form mimicked in Mean Girls‘ reciprocal use of zoomorphism (the depiction of humans in animal form). On several occasions, Cady imagines her peers transmogrified into great cats, monkeys, and other jungle dwellers. At Halloween, Cady observes,”the hard-core girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears.” At the mall, Janis Ian compares their teacher (played by Fey) to “a dog walking on its hind legs.”

Cady’s surname, Heron, is also both the name of a bird and phonemically similar to “hare.” This latter similarity is of particular note because so many of the Bantu folktales feature rabbits.

Armed with that clue, I can say with some confidence that Mean Girls is a retelling of the traditional Bantu fable “Ozibane! Zibane! Zibane!,” or “Dance Like That!,” as anthologized in the 1921 compendium Specimens of Bantu Folk Lore From Northern Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe).

In the fable, Miss Rabbit encounters a group of girls drawing water at the river. The girls “gave some of their beads to Miss Rabbit, telling her to put them on. They further dressed her head with other beads, so that she looked just like a civilised little girl.” The ensemble then dances as the girls sing: “How well dressed she is! Uwî-i! Ozibane!”

Miss Rabbit returns the beads. The next day, the girls bring an apron for Miss Rabbit, redress her, and the dancing recommences. At the conclusion of the day Miss Rabbit does not return the clothes, but instead lures the girls into the forest, where they are devoured by hyenas. The story concludes: “nko kâfwida ka kâno:” “This is where the story dies.”

The corollary between the fable of the dancing rabbit and Mean Girls are nearly too obvious to state: An outsider is adopted by a group of girls who dress her up in their own clothes and adopt her into their social circle, while still regarding her as something of an outsider. (“I love her,” Regina says. “She’s like a Martian.”) Unbeknownst to them, the newcomer plans all along to sabotage them. She refuses to return clothes. (“I want my pink shirt back,” Damian shouts.) Instead, she leads them to ruin.

A few more corollaries: Close readers will hear an echo in Cady Heron’s mock-conclusion to the film in the fable’s final line: “And that’s how Regina George died.” (Here the expectations of modern cinema take over from the story’s natural conclusion.) The word for “bead” in Afrikaans, kraal, also bears a strong phonic similarity to “grool,” the portmanteau of “cool” and “great” that Cady accidentally coins in her first substantial conversation with Aaron. Finally, there is some suggestion that “hare” is a more accurate translation than “rabbit” given the available species of Leporidae in southern Africa.

The mythological record surrounding this particular tale is too scant to establish a phylogenic progression from Miss Rabbit (Hare) to Cady Heron, as is now all the rage among folkloricists. Having at least established Mean Girls‘ place in the broader context of Bantu oral traditions, we then turn its one role as a modern myth.

Carl Jung viewed myths as a portal into the “world of the archetype,” as the critic Stephen F. Walker phrases it, which compensates for the “imbalanced aspects of the individual conscious mind.” Mean Girls opens with a classic Jungian archetypal event: Separation from the parents. The film’s enduring popularity is owed in part to its satisfying the core aspect of a traditional myth: It is a story that offers us a way to navigate the “psychological dangers” of the world, to again quote from Campbell. The spectacular popularity of BuzzFeed’s “Which ‘Mean Girls’ Character Are You?” quiz is sufficient evidence that the film possesses a diversity of valid archetypes to which we might anchor ourselves.

The film satisfies several other aspects of valid mythopoeia: It has an internally consistent set of rules (“We only wear our hair in a ponytail once a week”), its own neologisms (grool, fetch, mathlete), and a battery of lines that are so easily repurposed that even the White House has gotten in on the fun. This is the essential aspect of the film that separates it from a movie that is merely popular. One who refers to “making fetch happen” is not merely quoting from a beloved movie. He or she is invoking a mythological story (that of trying, in vain, to pass off an invented motif as genuine), in the same manner that one might invoke Sisyphus to describe a never-ending labor. The great irony here, of course, is that Mean Girls is itself an invented mythology passing into the realm of folklore. Fetch, in other words, has happened.

Colin Firth Says the Wet Pride and Prejudice Shirt is a Fake

The once-and-always Mr. Darcy never went for a dip in that lake.

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Colin Firth is kind of puzzled about why his wet Darcy shirt is such a big deal. The scene in which he emerges from the lake in the BBC’s 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice was voted by British viewers as one of the 100 Greatest TV Moments of all time. He and Darcy were so conjoined in people’s minds that several of his subsequent roles made fun of his Austenesque heart-throbbiness. But as close watchers of the old series know, he never actually did emerge from the lake. And now he says the shirt, one of seven made for the series, was never really that wet. Is there no end to the media’s deceit?

Firth, who visited TIME to talk about his new historically based movie The Railway Man, a sort of love-story-that-becomes-a-war-story, also addressed his reputation as an ideal romantic leading man. According to him, it’s all about context: if someone creates a story about a dreamy person and you are cast in that role, you become dreamy. He claims anyone could be dreamy. Even Marty Feldman. “Although,” adds Firth, “he doesn’t particularly do it for me.”

And in a development that could well make Pride and Prejudice fans rethink their veneration of him, Firth revealed in a fuller interview with TIME that subscribers can read here, that, until he was cast as Darcy, he had never read a word of Austen.

Watch the full interview below.

 

obituary

The Miraculous Life of Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Hamilton—AP

The Colombian author's book One Hundred Years of Solitude established him as the defining member of a movement known as magic realism. A Nobel laureate, García Márquez died on April 17 having inspired an entire generation of Latin literature

When Gabriel García Márquez was born, in 1927, in the sleepy little town of Aracataca, not far from Colombia’s Caribbean coast, there were certain established fixities in the world of letters. The centers of gravity were Europe and North America, with a few auxiliary poles in Wellington, perhaps, or Kolkata. The novel, just beginning to be shaken up by Joyce and Woolf, told mainly of carriages moving under birch trees and conversations on rainy boulevards. Its characters, as often as not, were the people you might meet at dinner parties thrown for Count Tolstoy or Marcel Proust.

By the time García Márquez died at 87 on April 17, all that had changed, and largely because of him. A new continent had been discovered, so it seemed, rich with tamarind trees and “pickled iguana,” and folk cultures everywhere had an epic voice. Villagers could be imagined seeking daguerreotypes of God, and men arriving on doorsteps amid a halo of yellow butterflies. Macondo, a never-never town of almond trees and “banana wars” (a lot like Aracataca) had become as much a part of the reader’s neighborhood as Yoknapatawpha County or St. Petersburg.

The story behind this was, of course, half-miraculous. The eldest of 11 children, “Gabo,” as he was universally called, was born to a telegraph operator and a colonel’s daughter. When his parents moved to another city in search of work, he was left behind, a tropical Pip, to spend his early years with relatives. From his grandfather, he heard tales of fatal duels and his country’s unending civil wars; from his aunts and grandmother, he absorbed all the spells and spirits sovereign in a world in which Arab and Indian and African cultures mixed. Scarcely was he out of his teens than the boy was publishing short stories in a newspaper, while studying law with a view to help the disenfranchised. The newspaper for which he also wrote columns was called — too perfectly — El Universal.

One day, after 18 months of continuous writing, he completed a book, his fifth, so large that his wife Mercedes had to pawn her hair dryer and an electric heater to pay for postage to send it to the publisher. Cien Años de Soledad was published in 1967 (such was the interest in Latin writing then that it did not even make it into English till three years later), and Pablo Neruda, South America’s reigning Nobel laureate, pronounced it “perhaps the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since the Don Quixote of Cervantes.” He could as easily have called it a narrative Alhambra, a palace in the Spanish tradition but fluent with foreign shapes and dizzy curlicues amid the water and the orange trees.

One Hundred Years of Solitude promptly established García Márquez as the defining member of what was called the boom in Latin American writing and a movement known as magic realism; yet, really, he was throwing open the gates for writers from forgotten everywheres — you can see his influence in India’s Salman Rushdie, in Nigeria’s Ben Okri, even in Murray Bail from Australia.

He was, essentially, a trafficker in wonder. “Incredible things are happening in the world,” says a sometime alchemist in the first chapter of One Hundred Years of Solitude, as he sees a gypsy’s dentures; García Márquez’s realization was that the world of the alchemist, the dew still on it, could be equally incredible to the denture maker. He spun out his tales of everyday miracles with such exuberance that 30 million copies of the book were not just bought around the world, but read.

Not one to stay put, he followed that imaginative dawn with The Autumn of the Patriarch, an unflinchingly political novel that consisted of just six paragraphs, each 30 pages or more in length, and his tales of unexpected innocence were forever intertwined with more hardheaded stories of the solitude that comes with power. Realistic enough to be a true romantic, he treated dreams and revolutions with equal weight: if his fabulous flights were always, he insisted, just the documentary work of a reporter with an eye for marvels, his nonfiction accounts of corruption such as News of a Kidnapping featured secret messages transmitted on TV programs and kidnappers offering talismans to their hostages. A friend to Presidents as well as revolutionaries, García Márquez never abandoned the public world: even in his 70s, 17 years after winning the Nobel Prize, the most famous man in Colombia was writing articles like a cub reporter.

Though García Márquez lived in Paris, Mexico City, Havana and Barcelona, he was proudly claimed by Colombia — by all South America — as one who had taken an area too often associated with murders and drugs, and infused it with an immortal light: a literary Columbus discovering a New World that would soon belong to us all. When he fell ill, therefore, in the summer of 1999, much of the continent seemed to hold its breath, urging “el maestro” back to health. And when he died on Thursday in his home in Mexico City, it did not seem impossible that a man could open his mouth and songbirds would fly out.

Pico Iyer has written nonfiction books on globalism, Japan, the 14th Dalai Lama and forgotten places, and novels on revolutionary Cuba and Islamic mysticism. He regularly writes on global culture and the news for TIME, on literature for the New York Review of Books and for magazines around the world.

Watch Colin Firth Swear in Italian

Of course when he says bad words, they still sound classy

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Colin Firth’s wife is Italian. Therefore Colin Firth speaks Italian. When Firth dropped by TIME’s offices to promote his new movie The Railway Man, he acknowledged that he spoke it well enough to make an Italian movie, as long as he were playing an English guy. Firth’s particularly fond of Italian insults, which he claims are more precise than the ones in the language you are currently reading.

In Firth’s new movie, which also stars Nicole Kidman, he plays a former POW who worked on the horrific Thai Burma railway during World War 2. (This one of the most brutal episodes of the Pacific theater, but is not as well-known as some of the horrors of Europe.) Firth’s character is based on a real person by the name of Eric Lomax, a railway enthusiast who survived the war but not without a marriage-damaging amount of emotional damage. Lomax is bent on revenge and the movie follows what happens after he finds one of his tormentors showing tourists around his old prison camp.

In the fuller interview, which subscribers can read here, Firth also talks about the horror of naked costars and what he feels about his dreamy reputation.

Watch a longer version of the interview below.

remembrance

Gabriel García Márquez Dies at Age 87

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Hamilton—AP

The Nobel prize winning author of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' passed away Thursday following an infection that hospitalized him in March. The Colombian writer was widely considered to be the most popular Spanish-language writer since Miguel de Cervantes

Famed novelist Gabriel García Márquez passed away on Thursday, according to a family member cited by the Associated Press. He was 87 years old.

The Colombian Nobel Prize winning author was hospitalized for nine days in late March for an infection in his lungs and urinary tract. He had been recovering in his home in Mexico City since April 8.

García Márquez, known as “Gabo,” was born in Aracataca, Colombia on March 6, 1927. The northern Colombian town inspired the setting for his 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, which earned international critical acclaim and tens of millions of readers. García Márquez earned even more fans with his 1985 book, Love in the Time of Cholera. He was considered by many to be the most popular Spanish-language writer since Miguel de Cervantes, who wrote Don Quixote in the 17th century.

García Márquez won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982 for his novels and short stories. When he won the award, he called Latin America a “source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.” He is credited with helping to invent the literary genre of magical realism.

His death was confirmed by two family members who spoke anonymously to protect the family’s privacy.

[AP]

movies

Nas Documentary Time Is Illmatic Opens Tribeca Film Festival

Nas at Tribeca Film Festival.
Nas at Tribeca Film Festival. Andy Kropa—Invision/AP

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of his critically acclaimed debut album, Illmatic, rapper Nas kicked off the Tribeca Film Festival with a documentary screening and special performance

“Who woulda thunk it?” rapper Nasir “Nas” Jones asks early on in the documentary Time Is Illmatic, which opened the 13th annual Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday night at New York City’s Beacon Theater.

The unlikely story of how Nas went from eighth-grade dropout to one of hip-hop’s most celebrated and intellectual rappers is the subject of the new documentary, which weaves together archival footage, family photos, and interviews with hip-hop legends to explore the behind-the-scenes making of Nas’ landmark debut, Illmatic, which turns 20 years old this week.

Festival co-founder Robert De Niro, who Nas joked “plays me in all his movies,” helped introduce the film, calling it a storyabout the making of an artist here in our hometown.” Directed by One9, Time Is Illmatic marks the second time in a row the festival has kicked off with a musical documentary — following last year’s Mistaken for Strangers, about the band The National.

Since its release in 1994, Illmatic has sold more than a million copies and been the subject of multiple books and scholarly works. Critics credit Nas’ poetic wordplay and intricate rhymes with reinvigorating East Coast rap at a time when the West Coast ruled, and the album has since become a gold standard for hip-hop debuts. Time Is Illmatic does its best to show why, splicing clips of Nas’ early performances to highlight the vivid imagery — “I went to hell for snuffing Jesus,” “I’m waving automatic guns at nuns” — that stunned New York producers and attracted record labels’ attention.

Of course, if there were any lingering doubts about the rapper’s talent and charisma after the film, Nas likely settled it with a performance of Illmatic, which also featured a surprise guest performance from Alicia Keys (who briefly appears in the movie). Sauntering on stage dressed in all black and clutching a bottle of Hennessy, Nas breezed through the nine-song set, only stopping between songs to tell stories about the album’s genesis to a theater full of the album’s collaborators.

Consider it his way of giving back. The documentary is a love letter to Illmatic, and it’s also an effective example of how politics and policy can shape art and popular culture. Time Is Illmatic spends far more documenting what happened outside of the studio than inside, providing a quick crash course in the history of white flight, the housing projects, local public education and the War on Drugs to contextualize Nas’ upbringing in the Queensbridge public housing development in Long Island City. In one of several interviews with hip-hop greats, rapper and producer Q-Tip offers a close reading of two lines from the song “One Love” — “Plus congratulations, you know you got a son / I heard he looks like you, why don’t your lady write you?” — to discuss the rampant incarceration of black men that destroyed many of the community’s families in what he calls “an African-American disease.”

Critics hailed Nas’s riveting tales of urban poverty and gang violence as a masterpiece, but on screen, Nas isn’t the most effective storyteller. The raspy rapper is quiet and pensive for much of the movie, leaving the most compelling accounts of the environment that produced Illmatic to others. His brother Jabari, whom Nas later joked was the real star of the film, offers the film’s most sobering moments as well as its funniest: In one scene, Jabari returns to the site of a murder he witnessed and describes the look on a late friend’s face as bullets passed through his body; moments later, he had the audience in fits of laugher after describing how he looked up from the concrete and asked Nas not to tell their mother about what happened.

Director One9 takes care to avoid making Time Is Illmatic an overly simplified story of a projects kid finding salvation in music: The rapper credits the involvement of his two parents with keeping him out of trouble as a child, but he notes that his father, blues musician Olu Dara, later split with his mom and encouraged him to drop out of school to educate himself. The film laments some generational changes in hip-hop, but it also explains the role of the crack epidemic in driving them. Instead of treating each Illmatic track as just another career milestone, the film uses them to illustrate larger points about the borough and the projects, covering years of Queensbridge rap without ever sensationalizing its history of drugs and violence.

In other words, Time Is Illmatic is as much about Nas as it his community, the story of Queensbridge told through one of its greatest artists. The most convincing way to tell the story of the neighborhood, it turns out, is not through its geography — it’s through the music.

“What you speak and put out into the universe,” Nas told the crowd between songs, “it’s real life.”

Television

The Creator of Adventure Time Drew Himself As One of His Own Characters

Adventure Time
Illustration by Pendleton Ward for TIME

No, he's not making bacon pancakes

Pendleton Ward, the creator of the TV show Adventure Time, drew himself in the style of his popular cartoon for this week’s issue of TIME. Seen above are characters from his show, with Ward himself in the middle.

From left to right: Flame Princess, Cinnamon Bun, Tree Trunks, Shelby, Marceline, Gumdrop Lass, BMO, Pendleton Ward, Lumpy Space Princess, Finn, Princess Bubblegum, Jake, Ice King, Snail, Embryo Princess and Gunter.

Read TIME’s interview with Pendleton Ward here.

movies

Five Movies You’ll Be Hearing About from This Year’s Cannes Film Festival

Jury members of the 66th Cannes Film Festival actress Nicole Kidman arrives for the screening of the film "Nebraska" during the 66th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 23, 2013.
Eric Gaillard—Reuters

Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum, plus K-Stew and R-Pattz and a very creepy Steve Carrell, bring snazz to the official selection at the world's biggest film festival

Let the binge begin! The Cannes Film Festival, the Riviera frolic that showcases hundreds of movies from around the world — including many that eventually achieve acclaim in the U.S. — today announced the lineup of its 67th edition, where plenty of Hollywood stars and internationally renowned directors will appear. The 11-day bash, which runs from May 16th to 26th, opens with Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman as the princess who reigned and died just a few miles down the Côte d’Azur from Cannes.

Festival director Thierry Fremaux likes to spark his lineup of serioso world cinema with young stars from popular Hollywood-spawned movies. So Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, the Twilight Saga darlings who brought separate films to Cannes (On the Road and Cosmopolis) in 2012, will be together and apart again this year. K-Stew joins Chloë Grace Moretz and Juliette Binoche in Olivier Assayas’s Sils Maria, a backstage trauma-drama that promises Black Swan frissons. And in David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, R-Pattz leads a high-powered cast that includes Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska and John Cusack. (Keep on reading for entries from Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum.)

Cannes is a club that keeps inviting its most esteemed members. Some of this year’s venerable guests are winners of the Palme d’Or, the festival’s highest prize. The 71-year-old Mike Leigh (Secrets & Lies in 1996) returns with the biopic Mr. Turner, starring Timothy Spall as 19th-century painter J.M.W. Turner. Ken Loach, 77, who won for The Wind That Shakes the Barley in 2006, has Jimmy’s Hall, set during Ireland’s “Red Scare” of the 1930s. And the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, mere pups at 62 and 60, and two-time laureates for Rosetta (1999) and L’enfant (2005), present Two Days, One Night (see below), which is not at all to be confused with the nutsy Korean reality show. The big treat for Euro-cinephiles: the promised return of 83-year-old enfant terrible Jean-Luc Godard, with Adieu au langage — goodbye, language!

Here are five movies that Mary Corliss and I are looking forward to at this, our 41st Cannes:

FOXCATCHER. Bennett Miller’s first two directorial efforts, Capote and Moneyball, earned 11 Oscar nominations and a win for Philip Seymour Hoffmann as Truman Capote. Miller reteams with Capote scripter Dan Futterman for another fact-based story, about Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and his older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), both Gold Medalists in wrestling at the 1984 Summer Olympics. They were sponsored by Team Foxcatcher, whose chief patron, paranoid schizophrenic plutocrat John du Pont (a creepy Steve Carell), shot and killed Dave. Sorry if that’s a spoiler, but you either knew this or will forget it by the time the movie opens in America later this year. Watch the trailer here.

THE HOMESMAN. Tommy Lee Jones, whose directorial debut The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada won him the Best Actor prize at Cannes 2005, returns with a title that’s easier to pronounce. Pioneer woman (and fellow Oscar winner) Hilary Swank saves Jones from a hanging on the condition that he help her transport three madwomen — Hailee Steinfeld, Miranda Otto and Grace Gummer — across the Old West. “Three crazy women for five weeks is a lot more than I bargained for,” Jones mutters in the movie’s trailer. But it beats a hanging, doesn’t it? Gummer’s mom, Meryl Streep, is also along for the ride.

LOST RIVER. Method heartthrob Ryan Gosling, who launched Nicolas Winding Refn’s mob-tinged car-racer movie Drive in Cannes in 2011, was a no-show last year for Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives but sent a note of apology: “I was hoping to be coming but I am in the third week of shooting my movie.” Now he’s finished with his debut as writer-director, and the result will be shown in the sidebar section Un Certain Regard. Shot in Detroit, and originally called How to Catch a Monster, the film stars Christina Hendricks (Joan on Mad Men) as “a single mother swept into a dark underworld, while her teenage son discovers a road that leads him to a secret underwater town.” Sounds enticing to us. So do the character names of costars Eva Mendes and Saoirse Ronan: Cat and Rat.

THE SEARCH. Michel Hazanavicius won three Academy Awards (writing, directing and producing) for his silent-film tribute comedy The Artist. He returns with a talkie, and a very serious drama, that is also obliged to classic American cinema. The Search updates the 1948 Fred Zinnemann film of the same name, which starred Montgomery Clift as an Army private who finds a homeless child (Ivan Jandl, an Oscar winner for Outstanding Juvenile Performance) in the rubble of postwar Berlin and tries to help the boy locate his mother. Hazanavicius changed the venue to Chechnya for the new film, which stars his wife Bérénice Bejo, herself Oscar-nominated for The Artist, and Annette Bening.

TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT. The Dardennes don’t usually cast top stars in their grinding dramas of working-class life. That changes with this story of a woman who has a weekend to convince her fellow workers to renounce their bonuses so she can keep her job. The woman is played by Marion Cotillard, Oscar winner for La vie en rose and Christopher Nolan’s go-to gal in Inception and The Dark Knight Rises. This is Cotillard’s fourth consecutive Cannes, after Midnight in Paris (2011), Rust & Bone (2012) and The Immigrant (2013). Ten years ago at the Festival, she won something called the Female Revelation award. Ah, the French!

Who won’t be at Cannes? Mystery man Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), who has at least three features in some stage of completion, but none here. There’s Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, The Master), whose period crime yarn Inherent Vice, with Joaquin Phoenix and Josh Brolin, is another tantalizing might-have-been. And no James Franco. Having directed three films last year, each shown in a different major European festival (Berlin, Cannes and Venice), the indefatigable Franco must have decided he’s been there and done that.

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