1. Fun and interesting facts from around the web
     


  2. Your weekly streaming recommendation: The Station Agent

    HBO’s Game of Thrones concluded its fourth season last month, and the series won’t be back until 2015. But if the idea of going that long without seeing a Lannister or a Stark sounds too painful, why not check out a movie featuring one of Game of Thrones' many talented actors? All month, we'll be counting down movies starring Game of Thrones cast members. This week: the wonderful indie drama The Station Agent.

    Nearly 10 years before he shot to fame and earned an Emmy for his performance as the witty, boisterous Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, Peter Dinklage broke out with a very different kind of performance: the quiet, guarded protagonist at the center of Sundance sensation The Station Agent

    Dinklage stars as Finbar, a train enthusiast who inherits a small, defunct New Jersey train station from his only friend — and decides to make it his permanent place of residence. In time — and despite his own fierce resistance to the idea — he forms a pair of relationships: one with a cheery food vendor player by Bobby Cannavale, and one with a heartbroken artist played by Patricia Clarkson.

    The Station Agent is the rare movie that manages to create numerous three-dimensional characters who feel like they have rich, complex inner lives. Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, and Bobby Cannavale play the unlikeliest of trios in The Station Agent — three lonely people, with virtually nothing in common, who come to depend on one another.

    That might make The Station Agent sound cornier than it is — but for all the deep emotions it evokes, the film wisely avoids the trap of openly telling us why these people care for one another. There are few of the expositional monologues or emotional breakthroughs that characterize lesser dramas. By the end of the film, you’ll feel like you know all three of them so well that it’s almost painful when the story is over. The Station Agent is the rare drama that feels both totally original and universally relatable, and it shouldn’t be missed by anyone.

     


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  4. A world-ranked competitive eater talks training, hot dogs, and vomit

    In anticipation of Nathan’s this weekend…

     


  5. 5 words that are badly broken

    Some words are born from strange splits that were never meant to happen

     


  6. Your weekly streaming recommendation: The War Room

    It’s June, which means we’re in the heart of summer blockbuster season — and you might already be tired of superheroes, giant monsters, and mind-numbing explosions. Fortunately, video-on-demand presents no shortage of alternatives. 2014 happens to be the 30th anniversary of the Criterion Collection, which aims to father “the greatest films from around the world.” All month, we’ll be counting down a few of their strong offerings currently available to stream on Hulu. This week: the fast-paced, Oscar-nominated political documentary The War Room.

    There are some people who argue that a piece of art gets better when you impose limitations on it. A poem, written in meter, forces the writer to be more creative with their word choice than they would need to be in free verse. An artist with a limited palate is forced to explore the complexity of a a few color.

    By that same logic: When a filmmaker has $165 million dollars and more than a month to shoot, you get a bloated behemoth like the latest Transformers movie. When a filmmaker has no money, two cameras and limited access to their subject, you get a tight, focused documentary like The War Room.

    In 1992, D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus set out to follow Bill Clinton through the Democratic primaries to Election Day, which marked the end of his (ultimately successful) bid for the presidency. It’s a format Pennebaker had already explored with great success in 1960, when he followed the Kennedy and Humphrey campaigns in Primary

    The only problem: Pennebaker and Hegedus had minimal time with Bill Clinton, and no access whatsoever to his campaign manager. Under those constraints, Pennebaker and Hegedus turned their lenses to two unexpected but fascinating subjects: communications director George Stephanopoulos and chief strategist James Carville.

    Stephanopoulos and Carville turn out to be the perfect narrators for the documentary, offering an unprecedented and honest perspective on the nuts and bolts of a modern presidential campaigns. They’re the leaders of the ground troops of the Clinton campaign, processing and repackaging the daily news as they guide their candidate towards his victory. Regardless of your political affiliation, The War Room will make you consider the high-stakes gamesmanship of a high-profile election — what it takes to win, and whoreally deserves credit for the person who ends up in the White House.

    A final note: If you’re in the mood for a double feature, The War Room would make a fascinating counterpoint to Mitt, the documentary about the Romney campaign that premiered on Netflix earlier this year. The War Room chronicles a successful Democratic presidential campaign while spending almost no time with the actual candidate; Mitt chronicles a failed Republican presidential campaign while spending time almost exclusively with the actual candidate. Taken together, they paint a fascinating picture of the ways in which the campaign trail has changed over the past 20 years.

     


  7. The cult of natural childbirth has gone too far

    It’s childbirth, not performance art

     


  8. "GOOOOOOOOOOOAL!" is but one possibility
     


  9. Fun and interesting facts from around the web
     


  10. Gaming offers boys a virtual reality where success is easily attained. But how will they fare in the real world?
     


  11. It’s June, which means we’re in the heart of summer blockbuster season — and you might already be tired of superheroes, giant monsters, and mind-numbing explosions. Fortunately, video-on-demand presents no shortage of alternatives. 2014 happens to be the 30th anniversary of the Criterion Collection, which aims to father “the greatest films from around the world.” All month, we’ll be counting down a few of their strong offerings currently available to stream on Hulu. This week: Cure.

    After Silence of the Lambs swept the Oscars in 1992, studios across the globe pumped out a bunch of a serial killer thrillers designed to provide the same kind of thrills. Some, like Seven, were strong enough to stand on their own; others, like Kiss the Girls, offered grim, paint-by-numbers narratives that should never have made it into production.

    But I’m betting many ardent thriller fans haven’t seen — or even heard of — one of the best and strangest serial killer dramas to emerge from that wave in the ’90s: Cure, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s chilly, unsettling breakout thriller that arrived in Japan in 1997 (and earned a limited release stateside several years later).

    Cure follows Takabe, a police officer investigating a bizarre string of murders in which a large X has been cut into each victim’s throat. Each murder has been committed, seemingly independently, by a different killer — and when questioned, none of them can recall why they suddenly decided to kill someone, or what the carved X really means. As Takabe grows increasingly obsessed with solving the seemingly inexplicable string of crimes, his own sense of judgment — and reality — begins to come into question.

    With that premise alone, Cure could have been a creepy, enjoyably middlebrow ride — but it quickly becomes clear that this film has far more on its mind than your typical serial killer thriller. As Takabe digs deeper and deeper into the heart of the mystery, we meet the man he doesn’t yet know is at its center: Mamiya, a disheveled vagabond who expresses constant confusion about who and where he is (and often immediately after those things have been explained to him). When the two finally meet, after a slow, riveting build-up in which they’re drawn closer and closer together, Cure has amassed a tension that propels it to a staggering final act.

    In the two lead roles, both Koji Yakusho and Masato Hagiwara deserve ample credit for their magnetic performances. But much of Cure's power is due to the top-notch work of director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who generally positions the camera at an uncomfortably chilly, almost voyeuristic distance — making the sudden, unpredictable explosions of violence all the more powerful. 

    Watch Cure this weekend, but don’t watch it alone — if only so you can spend the rest of the night debating the meaning of the brilliant, cryptic final scene.

     


  12. During the work week, Yasir Salem is an elegantly dressed marketing director. On the weekends, he houses hot dogs like nobody’s business.
     


  13. The rise of ‘Weed Inc.’

    Washington and Colorado decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana on Jan. 1. Is this the start of a ‘green rush’?