Culture Feature

6 Major Takeaways from Ava DuVernay's Vanity Fair Interview with Angela Davis

As part of Vanity Fair's September issue, Ava DuVernay and Angela Davis discussed changing the world.

Ava DuVernay and Angela Davis are two of the most influential voices of our current moment.

Today, a transcript of a conversation between them was released, and it's as moving and mobilizing as you might expect.

The conversation will be published in the September issue of Vanity Fair, as part of a special issue entitled The Great Fire. The issue features Breonna Taylor on the cover and was guest-edited by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who also wrote the cover story, an interview with Breonna Taylor's mother.

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Who Cares If "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" Is Good?

What's the difference between Star Wars and Marvel and DC and literally every other blockbuster now? Pretty much nothing.

Star Wars is trending on Twitter. Again.

There's, of course, #TheRiseofSkywalker because that's the title of the new movie. "Kylo" and "Knights of Ren" and "Keri Russel" are also trending because Vanity Fair released "The Ultimate Preview." Kylo makes sense, considering he's the big Star Wars bad guy and people like memeing Adam Driver. But Knights of Ren and Keri Russell only received a single preview image each, with zero additional context (even the most "ultimate" preview is still a preview). Apparently, that's still enough to become two of the top trending subjects in the United States.

Knights of Ren The incredibly exciting Knights of Ren?PHOTOGRAPH BY ANNIE LEIBOVITZ, VARIETY FAIR

I don't intend to hate on the actual Star Wars movies. I've seen all of them and found them fun and watchable. I appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the original trilogy (I'm a sucker for practical effects) and the influence they've had on pop culture, but the franchise never clicked with me the way it clicked with so many others. But that's okay, just because I don't love a specific movie doesn't mean it's not an important and integral part of many people's lives.

But when Vanity Fair merely sharing a few preview images is enough to make every one of those topics trends on Twitter, I can't help but wonder whether the quality of Star Wars even matters anymore.

zorri bliss Keri Russell as Zorri Bliss, whatever that means.PHOTOGRAPH BY ANNIE LEIBOVITZ, VARIETY FAIR

The original Star Wars trilogy (Episodes IV, V, and VI) created a lasting legacy of lore and mythology that inspired countless spin-offs; from novels to video games, to Christmas specials. Regardless of personal opinion, it's impossible to argue that the movies weren't "special," at least in a cultural context. They changed the entire landscape of nerd culture and were the first real mainstream science-fiction/fantasy trilogy.

The prequel trilogy, on the other hand, was critically panned. With brilliant dialogue like, "I don't like sand," how could they not be? And yet, the Star Wars fandom persisted unfettered––so much so that Disney spent $4 billion dollars to buy Lucasfilm in 2012.

Now, in 2019, we're down to the last film in the resultant last trilogy––Episode IX. While watching the most recent trailer, half of which is a shot of the new Jedi hero jumping over a hovership, I realized that Star Wars has become indistinguishable from every other major action franchise currently oversaturating the market.

How is this Star Wars character jumping over a ship any different than a Marvel superhero jumping over a ship? Or a DC superhero pretending to be a Marvel superhero and jumping over a ship? Aside from their titles, what distinguishes any of these things from each other ?

Star Wars Episode IV Poster

Star Wars achieved its massive popularity by being the only piece of media like it––a massive space opera with rich, expansive worldbuilding. But now that everything is derivative, what gives the new Star Wars films their identity outside of licensing agreements? Why are these new reveals still so fresh and exciting that they trend on Twitter?

Take the "Knights of Ren," for instance. In the preview image, Vanity Fair describes them as "elite fearsome enforcers of Kylo Ren's dark will." They certainly look cool, but didn't Avengers: Infinity War have a similar shtick with the Children of Thanos? Weren't those guys also "elite fearsome enforcers" of Thanos' 50% malarkey? Moreover, a good chunk of the Marvel movies (and countless other movies) take place in space now, so the space setting doesn't distinguish Star Wars anymore either. So is it lightsabers? Guys calling themselves Darth?

children of thanos Children of Thanos

Disney's marketing strategy for Star Wars revolves around making every individual movie an "event." This requires the creation of hype, and regardless of whether or not I understand it, their hype-machine is clearly working. If one picture of the "Knights of Ren" can get people buzzing, okay, fine. But it's worth noting that, at least at one point, Star Wars movies really were events––not because of Disney's marketing, but because people deeply loved the distinct world George Lucas had created. Where does that leave Star Wars now?

Like most major franchises these days, Star Wars' cultural clout seems to live entirely off the fumes of its former greatness and originality. Its story and quality no longer matter any more than the quality of Game of Thrones' final season actually mattered. Regardless of whether it's good or bad or just okay, people turn out in droves because they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves—even if that means getting hyped up over random teaser images of something they've seen countless times before.



Film News

Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time In Hollywood" Looks Incredible

See the first images from Tarantino's newest feature.

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Say what you want about Quentin Tarantino as a person, but the guy has never made a bad movie.

Some Tarantino films are better than others. Everyone has their favorites and least favorites, and we could probably argue for hours about the merits of each. But the fact remains: every Tarantino movie is very good and very original and wholly his.

He's also always had a knack for bringing together ridiculously talented people and getting the absolute best out of them all. Be it John Travolta's career-resurrecting turn as Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction or then-unknown Christoph Waltz's Academy Award-winning performance as Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino knows how to direct actors.

Today Vanity Fair revealed some early preview images from the set of Tarantino's newest upcoming film, Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood, and holy shit, they look great.

Photograph by Andrew Cooper/©2019 Sony Pictures Entertainment.

There's Leonardo DiCaprio as a faded TV Western star.

Photograph by Andrew Cooper/©2019 Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Brad Pitt as his stunt double.

Photograph by Andrew Cooper/©2019 Sony Pictures Entertainment.

And Margot Robbie as legendary actress Sharon Tate.

This movie is an interesting turn for Tarantino, because unlike his previous three films which essentially created alternate historical realities, this one is centered around the actual Manson Murders.

Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood is set to come out in theaters on July, 26th.


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com


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The 'Sorry to Bother You' Oscar Snub Is a Fucking Travesty

In a new interview with Vanity Fair, notorious party-girl Rihanna reveals that she isn't dating, and is prepared to wait forever to meet a real man.

Despite all the rumors of hook-ups and romances, Rihanna confesses that sex without love is a hollow enterprise she has no interest in.

If I wanted to I would completely do that [just have sex for fun.] I am going to do what makes me feel happy, what I feel like doing. But that would be empty for me; that to me is a hollow move. I would wake up the next day feeling like shit.

She described her frustration with men who think they'll look weak if they act like gentlemen.

You want them to feel good being a man, but now men are afraid to be men. They think being a real man is actually being a pussy, that if you take a chair out for a lady, or you're nice or even affectionate to your girl in front of your boys, you're less of a man. It's so sick. They won't be a gentleman because that makes them appear soft. That's what we're dealing with now.

Rihanna won't have any of that, preferring celibacy to waking up with Mr. Wrong and feeling guilty.

I will wait forever if I have to … but that's O.K. You have to be screwed over enough times to know, but now I'm hoping for more than these guys can actually give.

As much as she hopes to find real love with a partner she can respect, she is content to be alone for now and to concentrate on work.

I'm fine being with myself. I've got too much on my plate, and I'm not even worried about it.

But she knows who she's waiting for.

A very extraordinary gentleman, with a lot of patience, will come along when I least expect it.

Is she waiting for a fairy tale prince to scoop her up, then? She answers like the bad girl we know and love:

Not on a white horse. Probably on a black motorcycle.

Meanwhile, those of us who can't qualify as Rihanna's soulmate will have to be content with ogling her in Vanity Fair's stunning new photos by Annie Leibovitz. Behold her here, waiting for her man.

You can pick up your copy of the magazine on newsstands, on October 13.

Amal Clooney just made Vanity Fair's Best Dressed List, even as she shrinks away to almost nothing, as over-revealed in recent photos.

Amal chose a transparent lace gown by pal Stella McCartney on a 'date' in Italy last week, with husband George Clooney.

Dining at the luxurious Villa D’Este, Amal and George were caught in several amorous embraces that surely came as a huge shock to the camera-shy couple. Just kidding!

In one shot, Amal seems to be impaling poor George on a lethal hipbone, but let's not feel sorry for him.  He clearly knows what he likes. Or what he pays for. Or something.

Meanwhile, in Vanity Fair's just-published 2015  International Best-Dressed List, Amal is ranked number 4, ahead of Taylor Swift and a bunch of dubious socialites.

If the list were based strictly on money spent, Mrs. Clooney would easily have won out over her competitors.

Now, if she will only eat, we can get back to those exciting pregnancy rumors!

Kanye West was on hand for the premiere of his new art installation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a video directed by Ten Years A Slave's Steve McQueen.

The nine-minute video has been described as interesting, dope, and pretty cool, but in the Guardian, it is reviewed without enthusiasm:

McQueen’s trademark wide shots and his strong eye for composition were nowhere to be seen.

Uh-oh. And then this:

There is a spontaneous quality to the footage, which really documents a semi-energetic performance. West pauses to breathe a lot. It seems, however, to take all McQueen has just to keep his subject in frame.

Well, who knows, art is subjective, and so is Kanye. Speaking to a small group of museum attendees, Kanye extolled his own magnificence and even included the Missus, Kim Kardashian, who was in the audience playing with her cellphone.

Me and my wife have extreme forms of beauty—her visual beauty, and my sonic beauty.

According the Vanity Fair, Kanye joined McQueen and museum director Michael Govan for a panel discussion in which he veered chaotically from subject to subject,  ranting, laughing, and making proclamations about his artistic purity.

'I will die for the truth. . .truth is what comes closest to love and beauty,' said Kanye, unwittingly paraphrasing Keats in Ode on a Grecian Urn.

It's funny how one generation gets John Keats and another gets Kanye West. Not funny, actually; more like cray.