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Cinema in the Age of Stupidity

Although cinema holds many useful purposes in modern society, perhaps its most important function is its ability to generate empathy, and ultimately, to foster social change. In the last century, film has played a vital role in shaping important social movements, from In the Heat of the Night to Philadelphia and beyond. Now, film’s utility…

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What Congress Could Learn from “Life of Pi”

At various points in the run-up to the 85th Oscars on Sunday night, nearly every nominee for Best Picture found cause to associate itself with President Obama or Congress. For some films, like Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, and Lincoln, it was a natural fit. Others had to try a little harder. Beasts of the Southern…

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Did Obama Rig the Oscars?

Conspiracy theorists, start your engines. When early front-runner Zero Dark Thirty won but one Oscar on Sunday night, it marked quite a fall from grace. For most of awards season, it was the prohibitive favorite for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and most of the technical awards. Of course, we all know what happened.…

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Asking the Right Questions about “Zero Dark Thirty”

So much has already been written about Zero Dark Thirty, and yet we seem no closer to a consensus on whether the film depicts torture as producing information that led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian has argued passionately that the film suggests that it does, and that it…

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We Are All Kathryn Bigelow

I am still trying to wrap my mind around this interview of Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow by The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins. Here is an excerpt: The film includes wrenching scenes of a terrorist suspect being waterboarded and subjected to other forms of torture by C.I.A. operatives; the suspect eventually surrenders information that…