Watch DJ Khaled, Nas, and Travis Scott’s New “It’s Secured” Video

DJ Khaled has shared his video for “It’s Secured” with Travis Scott and Nas. The song is taken off Khaled’s Grateful album, which arrived last week and features an all-star cast of collaborators including Beyoncé, Jay Z, Drake, and more. Check out the new video below. The album features previously released tracks “Wild Thoughts,” featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller, “Shining,” featuring Beyoncé and Jay Z, “I’m the One” featuring Chance the Rapper, Justin Bieber, Migos’ Quavo, and Lil Wayne, and “To the Max,” featuring Drake. DJ Khaled’s last LP was 2016’s Major Key.

VIDEO

Watch DJ Khaled’s episode of Pitchfork.tv’s “Over/Under”:

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BET Awards 2017: Watch Kamasi Washington Pay Tribute to George Michael

Kamasi Washington took the stage at the 2017 BET Awards tonight to pay tribute to the late George Michael. He performed Michael’s song “Careless Whisper” with El DeBarge joining on vocals. Watch below. Shortly before their performance, Roman GianArthur performed a tribute to Chuck Berry with a brief rendition of ”Johnny B. Goode.” Elsewhere in the broadcast, Future and Kendrick Lamar performed their remix of “Mask Off,” and Chance the Rapper was honored with the 2017 BET Humanitarian Award. Michelle Obama introduced him in a special video message.

Washington recently announced a new EP, Harmony of Difference, which incorporates the six-movement suite he debuted at the Whitney Biennial earlier this year. His excellent album, The Epic, came out in 2015.

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BET Awards 2017: Watch Kendrick Lamar and Future Perform “Mask Off”

Future performed at the 2017 BET Awards tonight, and he brought out Kendrick Lamar for their remix of “Mask Off.” They also performed a version of the song the song during Kendrick’s headlining Coachella set earlier this year. ”Mask Off” originally appeared on Future’s self-titled album, the first of two LPs he dropped earlier this year. Watch below. Bruno Mars, Big Sean, Mary J. Blige and A$AP Rocky also performed over the course of the broadcast. Both Chance the Rapper and New Edition earned honors. Chance received the BET Humanitarian Award, with a special introduction from Michelle Obama, and New Edition received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Future recently began his Future Hndrxx tour in support of his second new album this year, Hndrxx.

Read Pitchfork’s “A Breakdown of 2017’s Song of the Summer Contenders.”

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‘Preacher’ Heads Out ‘On The Road’ For An Action-Packed Season Two Premiere

AMC

Preacher is back for its second season. I published my overall thoughts on the early episodes on Thursday, and I have a review of the premiere coming up just as soon as I put you in a covered cage to cure you of the internet…

The instant “Come On Eileen” came on Tulip’s car radio early in “On the Road,” I knew some kind of ironically-scored action sequence was coming up — it’s part of both Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s directorial aesthetic for this show (remember the “You’re So Vain” car chase through the cornfield in the pilot?) and for a lot of filmed action post-Tarantino — and that it was likely to be fun. And, indeed, we very quickly got into a car chase between Tulip and the cops, shot through a grindhouse-y filter meant to evoke old film stock, complete with our three heroes all singing along lustily to Dexy’s Midnight Runners. But that chase scene is really just the set-up to the premiere’s real action centerpiece, as the Cowboy — who will be revealed later in the episode to be known as the Saint of Killers — finally catches up with his target and slaughters a bunch of cops trying to gun him down. It is, like the best action moments from season one, simultaneously thrilling and ridiculous, with a kind of Rube Goldberg quality to the way the carnage keeps on going and going — Cassidy using a corpse as a wheel stop to avoid being burned to death by direct sunlight, or Tulip having to (off-camera, thankfully) use another corpse’s bloody intestine to siphon gas for their getaway — and gets season two off to a very promising start.

But then, season one opened in similar fashion, also with visual games involving film stock and that trademark mix of comedy and gore (RIP, Tom Cruise). It wasn’t until we had settled in for a spell in Annville that the first season started to run aground creatively. So perhaps what’s most exciting about “On the Road” isn’t the big shootout, nor even the way Cassidy’s brawl with the strip club bouncer takes place mainly on the monitors while Jesse and Tulip are interviewing the manager(*), so that it becomes a background gag until the bouncer’s stray bullet flies through the wall and kills her.

(*) It’s a smaller-scale version of the pilot leaving the cellar door closed so we don’t actually see Tulip shoot down the helicopter with her improvised bazooka. Much less money was likely saved in this instance, but it’s another example of the show being smart in how it can approach violent scenes from very oblique angles.

No, what’s most exciting about “On the Road” is how confident and focused the episode seems even when bullets aren’t flying and tongues aren’t being ripped out of the mouths of poor bewitched witnesses.

As big a problem as Annville itself was in parts of season one, nearly as big was the fact that Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy were so often separate, and/or working at cross purposes. The chemistry between the three stars is one of the show’s best assets, and as with a lot of recent TV dramas that did a lot of narrative throat-clearing early on, things are almost always more interesting once the protagonists start working together. They’re not all entirely on the same page here — Tulip still seems skeptical about the search for God, even though she believes in, and doesn’t like, Jesse’s ability to use the Word of God on people(*), and Cassidy is just along for the ride with his mates — but they’re traveling together, with the same rough goal in mind, and at the moment the show feels much more of a piece than when the three of them were scattered around Annville, each pursuing a separate agenda.

(*) Tulip’s request for Jesse not to use the Word so much has some plot utility — at the moment, the show is a mystery about God’s whereabouts, and imagine how much less interesting a traditional mystery would be if the detective could compel every witness to do whatever he asked — but also acknowledges, as her response to their forced kiss last season did, that the Word is kind of an awful power for anyone to have, even someone as relatively well-meaning as Jesse Custer. Look at what happens to the poor gas station clerk when he couldn’t tell the Saint about Jesse, all because the Word had made him pretend the trio were never there.

As they’re preparing to say goodbye to Jesse’s preacher mentor Mike, Jesse even comments that their search for God is beginning to seem too easy. Things get complicated once their strip club visit turns deadly, but the pace overall also feels brisker, as if Sam Catlin and everyone involved recognized that they had three fun characters played by terribly charming actors, and best to let them interact as much as possible, while moving forward as quickly as possible with the story already, up to and including the Saint catching up with Jesse pretty quickly while Jesse is enjoying a post-coital smoke outside his hotel room.

It’s a very welcome pivot from last season — an entire hour where I felt like I was enjoying Preacher more for what it was than for my hopes of what it could be, with occasional bits of realized potential sprinkled throughout. A good start, and I liked tomorrow night’s episode (the show’s first in its new Monday at 9 timeslot) even more.

Some other thoughts:

* The episode ends with a title card paying homage to Preacher comics artist and co-creator Steve Dillon, who died in October from complications of a ruptured appendix. The shootout between the Saint and the cops featured a very clear and disgusting homage to one of Dillon’s visual signatures, as one of the Saint’s bullets blew the top of a cop’s head clean off, as often happened to characters on the page. For example:

DC/Vertigo

* With Jesse and Tulip a couple again, we get some more enlightenment about the nature of their relationship, including the fact that both enjoy a bit of violent foreplay, as she invites him to literally punch his way into the bathroom so they can start fooling around. As we saw with Donnie and Betsy Schenk last season, this show is in favor of rough play before and during sex, so long as it’s consensual.

* Hey, it’s Glenn Morshower — aka Aaron Pierce from 24, Landry’s dad on Friday Night Lights, and so many more (including a recurring role at the moment on Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here — as Mike. Morshower tends to play intensely-serious men, but his delivery also works well for dry humor, which “On the Road” took advantage of as we learned that Mike isn’t a kidnapper or serial killer, but someone who uses extreme methods to help his parishioners break their addictions.

* Note how Jesse’s face darkens when the subject arises of his mother’s place of origin. We’ve heard an awful lot about his father so far, including several flashbacks, but nothing much on her til now.

Finally, I’m going to try something new this year. For the most part, my goal is to treat Preacher as the TV show it is, rather than a never-ending list of deviations from the comics. That said, when it’s applicable, I may put a bullet point or two at the end of a recap noting a difference I found interesting. If you don’t care about the comics, you can just stop reading now; think of it like the notes for veterans at the end of my The Wire rewinds.

* So there are two significant changes here with the Saint, one of which giveth, the other of which taketh away. In the comics, his guns are enchanted so that his bullets never miss, even if they have to go through walls, tank armor, etc., in order to hit their target, where in the shootout with the cops and Jesse, he misses a few times. This takes away one of the cooler aspects of the Saint on the page, but he’s still extremely formidable, and it gives the shootouts a slightly more chaotic feel that suits Rogen and Goldberg’s style. And as if to compensate for watering down one of his powers, Catlin’s script in turn makes him seemingly immune to the Word of God, when this is how Jesse is able to stop the Saint when they first meet in the comics. It probably evens out in the end, but we’ll see how things go.

* Also, the comic didn’t tend to have Tulip or anyone else question Jesse’s use of the Word quite as much, even though he occasionally used it to do monstrous things. I think the show is smart to do it, because it just feels grosser when a flesh-and-blood person is doing it than when a comic book character is.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com

Source: http://uproxx.com

Roger Ebert’s Birthday 2017: Table of Contents

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SUNDAY, June 18, 2017, WOULD HAVE BEEN ROGER’S 75th BIRTHDAY. So we decided to commemorate it this week with a combination of articles that he wrote himself, like his interview of Paul McCartney in 1984, whose birthday is the same day and same year, June 18, 1942. We compiled other articles in this brief Table of Contents, including Roger’s article explaining how he understood his Catholic religion at a certain point in his life; as well as his philosophical article "How I Believe in God," one that I constantly read and re-read. I also chose an article that I find infinitely fascinating about the Frenchman who didn’t sleep. That article, for me, summarizes Roger’s curiosity and ability to discover eccentric and very interesting people. That is one reason he was never bored or boring. 

Brian Tallerico chose Roger’s anti-gun column, "Body Count," which he wrote in 2012 right after the tragic shootings in Aurora, Colorado, because it is as relevant today after last week’s tragic shootings in Washington, D.C. Matt Zoller Seitz chose an article about the errors of political prayers. And on a lighter note, Nick Allen chose a collection of Roger’s Pixar reviews as a comparison with "Cars 3" which opened last Friday. 

And to cap it all off, I am including a video of the Google Hangout we had for Roger’s birthday in 2014, including a cake and a discussion with Werner Herzog, Steve James, John Singleton, Alan Polsky, Anne Thompson, Matt Zoller Seitz, Josh Golden, Sam Fragoso, Ali Arikan, and Kartina Richardson. Oh what a day that was!

ARTICLES BY ROGER

Paul McCartney: Give My Regards to Broad Street

How I Believe in God

How I Am a Roman Catholic

The Man Who Didn’t Sleep

The Body Count

The Error of Political Prayer

ARTICLES ABOUT ROGER

Celebrating Roger’s Birthday on Google Hangout

A Collection of Roger’s Pixar Reviews

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Political Thumbnails 6/23/17

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Thumbnails is a roundup of brief excerpts to introduce you to articles from other websites that we found interesting and exciting. We provide links to the original sources for you to read in their entirety. Normally we stick pretty close to articles about movies, but like our founder, Roger Ebert, we believe that our first responsibility is "citizen." So occasionally we stray from our lane to fulfill our role of participant in a free democracy. President Trump has said that he doesn’t want poor people in his Cabinet helping to run the country. None of us can afford to stay silent about this egregious statement and other injustices. Today we want to present a Thumbnails column about politics because we fear for the direction our country is headed. [The sculpture of Roger pictured above was made by Rick Harney.]—Chaz Ebert

1.

"How to Live With Critics (Whether You’re an Artist or the President)": Poet and critic Adam Kirsch pens an excellent essay at The New York Times.

“The promise of fascism was to replace plurality by unity — ‘one people, one state, one leader,’ in the words of the Nazi slogan — thus making debate unnecessary. The problem, of course, is that plurality — the existence of profoundly different points of view on questions of morality and politics — can never simply disappear. It must be actively suppressed, which is why Communist and fascist states that emphasized the unity of the people’s will relied so heavily on secret police forces. How to live with criticism is perhaps the hardest lesson that a liberal democracy teaches its citizens. No one really welcomes it, neither the left nor the right. ‘If we are free to loathe Trump, we are free to loathe his most loyal voters,’ wrote Frank Rich in New York magazine in March, a sentiment that would be heartily reciprocated by readers of Breitbart. But as soon as our critics become our enemies — voices to be silenced and dismissed, rather than listened to — we have left the realm of politics behind. The artist can look away from criticism, sometimes even has to do it, because the creative act involves a difficult self-assertion, which might be compromised by even a small degree of doubt. Politicians who set themselves up as artists of reality, however, who demand the total appreciation an artist longs for, are extremely dangerous. By suggesting that all criticism of their ideas and plans is invalid, nothing but the product of malice, they make public deliberation impossible. We will always need political dreamers; but for the sake of our democracy, we must hope that the future belongs to the critics.”

2.

"Barack Obama on the new health care bill": A powerful statement from the former president, published on his official Facebook page, about the importance of health care.

“I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse. But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system. The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely. Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”

3.

"Trump: We Can’t Trust Losers Like Hamilton With Our Economy": Essential commentary from The Daily Beast‘s Michael Tomasky.

“Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first secretary of the Treasury, was never a wealthy man. He married into wealth (one of Schuyler sisters made famous by the play), but the family riches were not readily accessible to him, and he eventually resigned from George Washington’s cabinet because he couldn’t support his family on the meager salary. I think most people would say Hamilton was nevertheless a pretty good man at Treasury. He set up the first national bank. He consolidated the country’s debts and paid them pretty fairly. He established the mint. Of course, there were a lot of people who didn’t think much of Hamilton at all, and they were Jeffersonians, the yeoman farmers; who, interestingly enough, were the predecessors of today’s Trump loyalists (more or less). They didn’t like Hamilton because he wasn’t rich enough, though. They didn’t like him because he was (by the standards of the day) a big-government liberal. In any case, the idea that a non-wealthy person can’t be trusted to handle the country’s money can be refuted by the example of the very first head of the Treasury. It’s true that most Treasury chiefs, even under Democrats, are people who’ve made plenty of money either in industry or finance. But the idea that we need someone like Steven Mnuchin, a hedge-fund guy worth billions whose reverse mortgage business was at one point foreclosing at twice the rate of its competitors, is ridiculous. Again, though, it draws applause from the cheap seats. Sounds right.”

4.

"Will The Senate Pass Its Health Care Bill?": Nate Silver offers his expert analysis at FiveThirtyEight.    

“After a false start in March, when House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the AHCA from the House floor, Republicans regathered to pass their bill in May by a 217-213 majority. It’s tempting, therefore, to assume that the same process will play out in the Senate and that the BCRA will eventually pass after a few weeks of drama. When the ink is still drying on the bill, as it is right now, Republican senators have lots of incentive to express their concerns, whether to stake out a negotiating position or to posture before their constituents. McConnell is a skilled vote-whipper, however, and the Senate has generally toed the party line in support of the GOP agenda and President Trump. And even if the bill isn’t exactly the one that senators might want, it’s still in line with longstanding GOP policy objectives. So all of this probably ends with a big signing ceremony in the Rose Garden — and millions of people losing their insurance, right? Well, maybe. Betting markets give roughly even odds that key provisions of Obamacare, such as its employer mandate, will be repealed before the end of the year. I don’t know what probability I’d assign to the bill’s passage myself. But I do think it’s worth pausing to take an inventory of some of the differences between the House’s situation and the one the Senate now faces.”

5.

"Trump Admits To The Crime of Witness Tampering In Disastrous Fox News Interview": As reported by Jason Easley of Politicus USA.

“After saying that he did not tape Comey, Fox News goaded Trump into taking an arrogant victory lap that turned into a confession of a crime. Fox and Friends host Ainsley Earhardt called Trump’s lie a ‘smart way’ to keep Comey honest during the hearings. Trump responded, ‘Well, it wasn’t very stupid. I can tell you that. He did admit that what I said was right, and if you look further back before he heard about that, I think maybe he wasn’t admitting that, so you’ll have to do a little bit of investigative reporting to determine that.’ President Trump went after the special counsel Robert Mueller for being friends with former FBI Director James Comey, and claimed that the investigation is biased against him, ‘He’s very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome. The people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters. Some of them worked for Hillary Clinton. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous if you want to know the truth, from that standpoint.’ What Trump confessed to with his lie about the tapes met the definition of witness tampering, ‘Obstruction of justice through an attempt to harass, influence, or intimidate a witness before or after his or her testimony. It is a criminal offense.’”

Image of the Day

The latest episode of Jeremy Scahill’s "Intercepted" podcast at The Intercept features interviews with Alison Macrina of the Library Freedom Project, reporter Sam Biddle and Felix Biederman of Chapo Trap House.

Video of the Day

A must-see excerpt from comic Jim Jefferies’ Netflix special in which he tackles the issue of gun control.

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It’s in the Details: On the Authenticity of Pixar’s “Cars” Franchise

It’s in the Details: On the Authenticity of Pixar’s “Cars” Franchise

June 23, 2017
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There’s a moment at the end of the second act of Pixar’s “Cars 3” in which the movie delivers a punch to the face of Tom Cruise’s 1990 NASCAR flick “Days of Thunder” that will leave series racing fans laughing. If you weren’t a racing fan, or a fan of racing films, you wouldn’t get it, even if you watched the Cruise in his stock car flick, and you wouldn’t appreciate it. The conversation concerns the racing technique “drafting,” or “slipstreaming,” a tool that racers used for six decades, but Cruise’s character reveals as a secret weapon for him and his mechanic played brilliantly by Robert Duvall, (whose Harry Hogge has a special place in my gear-driven, 93-octane pumping heart as one of my favorite movie characters). To 90% of moviegoers, it was a basic plot device, but it was one of innumerable moments that pulled fans of the sport out of the movie. The moment in “Cars 3” is so well played only fans deeply in tune with racing movies—and how bad some are—can fully appreciate it.

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To understand how well Cars “gets it” when it comes to NASCAR and racing pantheon would take someone who lives and breathes racing like Lightning McQueen or even Steve McQueen. John Lasseter, the Pixar head who directed the first Cars film, was the son of a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership. In a 2012 interview with Crave, he described himself as having “motor oil for blood” and claimed that automobiles were his biggest passion, not animation. In other words, he’s a gearhead, a class of human who finds automobiles to be more than just metal, rubber and glass. A rich guy wouldn’t go on vacation with a 1962 Ford Falcon in tow to his RV instead of an expensive vintage convertible something, but a car guy would.

Where Lasseter’s passion comes through most obviously is in putting his heroes in the cast. Richard Petty voiced McQueen rival Strip “The King” Weathers based off his nickname, and drove a car based off his actual Plymouth Superbird, down to his legendary No. 43 on the doors, and the engine size painted on the hood. His wife Lynda, who died in 2014, played the King’s wife; his team owner Tex, voiced by former Charlotte Motor Speedway Manager Humpy Wheeler. A director doesn’t go this deep with crucial characters if there isn’t a spirit they want to capture, a history they want not only to survive but thrive.

Every character, voice, and vehicle in this franchise is part of this authenticity. “Cars 3” pays tribute to Wendell Scott, the first African-American to win a NASCAR race, portrayed as River Scott, a No. 34 Ford coupe who in a short bit of dialogue mentions “back when they wouldn’t let us race.” Scott’s original car was a No. 34 Ford coupe. Next to him is a car voiced by the actual Junior Johnson, who ran moonshine until he turned to racing (and is part of a pivotal scene where Lightning reclaims himself while on a mock lights-out moonshine run through the country). Scott and Johnson are giants of Southern and American culture. Tom Wolfe wrote about Johnson in his book The Last American Hero, which was adapted into a film starring Jeff Bridges as Johnson. Scott’s story was told in the film “Greased Lightning,” played by Richard Pryor

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In every scene there’s a sign, a trophy, a tip of the hat, a name, a billboard that tributes racing, the cars and the racers. They’re all based off the real signs you would find covering a garage wall like wallpaper. There’s a depth to the movies not found in “Days of Thunder,” the “Fast and Furious” series, or even the excellent “Rush” directed by Ron Howard.

While these are animated movies aimed at kids, there’s seriousness in this attention to detail that respects a part of our culture not often in the spotlight—another example of Pixar having its finger on the pulse of the hearts of kids and grownups, especially the kids inside those grownups. 

Pixar doesn’t have to go through the trouble of having Richard Petty, who retired in 1992, play a major role, or his son Kyle. It doesn’t have to cast Formula One drivers Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton who are usually racing the world over and far from any Disney studio. It would be easier to pull a random actor off a set then to bring in the actual Junior Johnson.

Racing is like war, flying and many other heart pumping, real-life experiences that can’t actually be captured on the precise medium of film. It is something that lives in the moment, whereas film has to live forever, and so inherently lacks the same feeling that anything could happen. Movies can provide us endless cool car chases, race scenes, or shots of Tom Cruise doing barrel rolls or burnouts, but, ultimately, what happens on a race track can be remade as a highly visceral experience, but it still isn’t the actual experience.

The authenticity then rests on the creators and their attention to detail to make it as believable and informed as possible. By the measurement, the “Cars” series finishes the race with the rest of Pixar’s impeccable canon, and far ahead of other racing films before it.



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How Countries Around the World Fund Music—and Why It Matters

The Weeknd photo by Suzi Pratt/Getty Images

In North America, it’s hard to imagine a government-supported artist more prominent right now than Abel Tesfaye, the Canadian pop lothario best known as the Weeknd. Now a multiplatinum artist who has worked with everyone from Daft Punk to Kendrick Lamar, in August 2013 the Weeknd was already booked in overseas arenas ahead of his proper major-label debut album, Kiss Land. That’s when his management received almost $150,000 for marketing, promotion, and more. (Neither the Weeknd nor his management would comment for this story.)

The money came from FACTOR, a public-private partnership geared toward advancing the Canadian music industry. The Canada Council for the Arts, which funds classical music, awarded almost $21 million in music grants and prizes last year, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government sharply increased federal arts spending. FACTOR, with funds from the Department of Canadian Heritage and Canada’s private radio broadcasters, provided only about $11 million in funding, but that was mainly classified under folk, alternative, rock, and pop. A FACTOR grant financed the showcase gig that brought Majical Cloudz to the attention of Lorde, who later brought the Montreal duo on her North American tour. FACTOR also supported the making of Grimes’s Art Angels, as well as recent projects by Carly Rae Jepsen, White Lung, and U.S. Girls. In recent years, two of the larger Canadian provinces, Ontario and British Columbia, have also rolled out their own music funds.

If Scandinavian governments treat art as a right, Canadian officials seem to be buying into the idea that music creates economic value. “That’s been the big shift in thinking, from a cultural activity to an investment,” FACTOR president Duncan McKie explains. Likewise, and unlike the Canada Council, FACTOR is admittedly oriented toward commercial success. Where FACTOR is at least partly taxpayer funded, Canadian musicians have another, wholly private source of money available to them, too. Radio Starmaker, funded by the major commercial broadcasting companies, awarded about $6.6 million in grants last year, to Grimes, Majical Cloudz, Purity Ring, Fucked Up, and many other artists considered “rising stars.”

With so much funding available, and so much of an emphasis on sales potential, some grumbling about the Canadian process is inevitable. FACTOR alone has been criticized as insular and supportive of mediocrity, while Canada Council’s recent rollout of a new online grant platform was beset with glitches. But for many artists, even an imperfect system of funding would still be far better than no funding at all.

“If I didn’t get it I’d be making synth-pop,” jokes Owen Pallett, the violin-looping singer-songwriter, recurring Arcade Fire collaborator, and Oscar-nominated film composer. More seriously, Pallett contends that trickle-down economics, at least in artistic communities, actually works. Even when he has been playing to smaller crowds in out-of-the-way towns, he says, he has been able to pay his band what he considers a living wage: What they’d make if they were working in a bar at home. “Government funding for the arts is a mark of a successful civilization and should be maximized,” Pallett emphasizes. He’s less interested in nitpicking FACTOR’s funding choices than expanding them.

Grants can also keep artists afloat as they navigate the new economic realities of streaming. “Now the concept of putting even $10,000 into making a record is an expensive investment on something that probably isn’t going to return that much,” says Preoccupations guitarist and synth player Scott Munro, whose Calgary-based band has received FACTOR funding. “You’ll make money off radio play, but it’s definitely not like it was even 10 years ago. The granting system helps to ease that transition.” For a band on Preoccupations’ level—critically respected and able to play festivals worldwide, but not a presence on major charts—that money might mean being able to record in a better studio without going deep into debt or having to go back to holding down a regular job.

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It’s in the Details: On the Authenticity of Pixar’s “Cars” Franchise

It’s in the Details: On the Authenticity of Pixar’s “Cars” Franchise

June 23, 2017
  |  

Print Page

There’s a moment at the end of the second act of Pixar’s “Cars 3” in which the movie delivers a punch to the face of Tom Cruise’s 1990 NASCAR flick “Days of Thunder” that will leave series racing fans laughing. If you weren’t a racing fan, or a fan of racing films, you wouldn’t get it, even if you watched the Cruise in his stock car flick, and you wouldn’t appreciate it. The conversation concerns the racing technique “drafting,” or “slipstreaming,” a tool that racers used for six decades, but Cruise’s character reveals as a secret weapon for him and his mechanic played brilliantly by Robert Duvall, (whose Harry Hogge has a special place in my gear-driven, 93-octane pumping heart as one of my favorite movie characters). To 90% of moviegoers, it was a basic plot device, but it was one of innumerable moments that pulled fans of the sport out of the movie. The moment in “Cars 3” is so well played only fans deeply in tune with racing movies—and how bad some are—can fully appreciate it.

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To understand how well Cars “gets it” when it comes to NASCAR and racing pantheon would take someone who lives and breathes racing like Lightning McQueen or even Steve McQueen. John Lasseter, the Pixar head who directed the first Cars film, was the son of a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership. In a 2012 interview with Crave, he described himself as having “motor oil for blood” and claimed that automobiles were his biggest passion, not animation. In other words, he’s a gearhead, a class of human who finds automobiles to be more than just metal, rubber and glass. A rich guy wouldn’t go on vacation with a 1962 Ford Falcon in tow to his RV instead of an expensive vintage convertible something, but a car guy would.

Where Lasseter’s passion comes through most obviously is in putting his heroes in the cast. Richard Petty voiced McQueen rival Strip “The King” Weathers based off his nickname, and drove a car based off his actual Plymouth Superbird, down to his legendary No. 43 on the doors, and the engine size painted on the hood. His wife Lynda, who died in 2014, played the King’s wife; his team owner Tex, voiced by former Charlotte Motor Speedway Manager Humpy Wheeler. A director doesn’t go this deep with crucial characters if there isn’t a spirit they want to capture, a history they want not only to survive but thrive.

Every character, voice, and vehicle in this franchise is part of this authenticity. “Cars 3” pays tribute to Wendell Scott, the first African-American to win a NASCAR race, portrayed as River Scott, a No. 34 Ford coupe who in a short bit of dialogue mentions “back when they wouldn’t let us race.” Scott’s original car was a No. 34 Ford coupe. Next to him is a car voiced by the actual Junior Johnson, who ran moonshine until he turned to racing (and is part of a pivotal scene where Lightning reclaims himself while on a mock lights-out moonshine run through the country). Scott and Johnson are giants of Southern and American culture. Tom Wolfe wrote about Johnson in his book The Last American Hero, which was adapted into a film starring Jeff Bridges as Johnson. Scott’s story was told in the film “Greased Lightning,” played by Richard Pryor

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In every scene there’s a sign, a trophy, a tip of the hat, a name, a billboard that tributes racing, the cars and the racers. They’re all based off the real signs you would find covering a garage wall like wallpaper. There’s a depth to the movies not found in “Days of Thunder,” the “Fast and Furious” series, or even the excellent “Rush” directed by Ron Howard.

While these are animated movies aimed at kids, there’s seriousness in this attention to detail that respects a part of our culture not often in the spotlight—another example of Pixar having its finger on the pulse of the hearts of kids and grownups, especially the kids inside those grownups. 

Pixar doesn’t have to go through the trouble of having Richard Petty, who retired in 1992, play a major role, or his son Kyle. It doesn’t have to cast Formula One drivers Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton who are usually racing the world over and far from any Disney studio. It would be easier to pull a random actor off a set then to bring in the actual Junior Johnson.

Racing is like war, flying and many other heart pumping, real-life experiences that can’t actually be captured on the precise medium of film. It is something that lives in the moment, whereas film has to live forever, and so inherently lacks the same feeling that anything could happen. Movies can provide us endless cool car chases, race scenes, or shots of Tom Cruise doing barrel rolls or burnouts, but, ultimately, what happens on a race track can be remade as a highly visceral experience, but it still isn’t the actual experience.

The authenticity then rests on the creators and their attention to detail to make it as believable and informed as possible. By the measurement, the “Cars” series finishes the race with the rest of Pixar’s impeccable canon, and far ahead of other racing films before it.



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