Watch Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche in a New Clip From ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’

From his tattered and abstract poem of adolescent yearning with Cold Water in 1994 to his most recent feature Something in the Air, which explored intersection between creative passion and ideological inclination, director Olivier Assayas’ work captures a world “where what’s lost may be found, where the world can be saved.” And with his new film Clouds of Sils Maria, the director weaves together a cast that includes Kristen Stewart, Juliette Binoche, Chloe Moretz, Stewart, and Johnny Flynn to tell the story of….

At the peak of her international career, Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is asked to perform in a revival of the play that made her famous twenty years ago. But back then she played the role of Sigrid, an alluring young girl who disarms and eventually drives her boss Helena to suicide. Now she is being asked to step into the other role, that of the older Helena.

She departs with her assistant (Kristen Stewart) to rehearse in Sils Maria; a remote region of the Alps. A young Hollywood starlet with a penchant for scandal (Chloë Grace Moretz) is to take on the role of Sigrid, and Maria finds herself on the other side of the mirror, face to face with an ambiguously charming woman who is, in essence, an unsettling reflection of herself.

And now, after Stewart became the first American actress to win a César Award in 30 years, you can watch her and Binoche in a new clip from the feature. Possessing a wonderfully natural simpatico, the two make a mesmerizing duo to watch, even in the most banal moments. See for yourself below.

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Everything You Need to Know About Nigeria’s Ongoing Nightmare, Boko Haram

Photo: Diariocritico de Venezuela via Wikimedia Commons

Last week while the internet raged about Charlie Hebdo, militants from Boko Haram carried out their bloodiest attack yet. At least 2,000 civilians, mostly women, children, and the elderly, were killed. An estimated 16 towns around the target region of Baga have been razed to the ground.

Back up. What’s Boko Haram?
“Boko Haram” which roughly translates into “the sin of Western Education,” is a radical insurgent group based mostly in the Northern, less oil-rich half of Nigeria. Though founded in 2002, Boko Haram executed their founder in 2009, installing leadership that was much more violent and radical. Since then, the group has orchestrated a massive prison break, kidnapped and murdered hundreds, if not thousands, of children, and reduced much of the region into a state of emergency.

It’s not really about radical Islam.
Off the record sources I spoke with who work in Western Africa downplayed the role radical Islam played in Boko Haram’s rise. One of the reasons it’s been so easy for Boko Haram to recruit has been the wide-spread unemployment– particularly youth unemployment– in Nigeria’s more rural north. Supporting this notion is a study from the Brookings Institute this year which found that youth unemployment outside of the cities almost doubled between 2009 and 2012–precisely the period when the group began to gain momentum.

Why now?
Many suspect that the attack was in anticipation of next month’s elections in Nigeria.  President Goodluck Jonathan has garnered criticism for his failure to address the crisis, reportedly taking last weekend off to attend his daughter’s wedding. Boko Haram’s ultimate goal is to defeat the Nigerian Army and establish a Caliphate under Sharia law. The acceleration of the attacks is most likely an attempt to undermine public safety in the name of pursuing a coup.

#BringBackOurGirls
Last April, when Boko Haram abducted 276 girls from their school in the Northeastern town of Chiboc, the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, garnered wide-spread participation, including from First Lady Michelle Obama. However to date, none of the girls have been released (although some have escaped), and the international response has been widely condemned as insufficient.

Why is it so hard to stop them?
Most blame a variety of factors. President Goodluck obviously bears much of the blame for presiding over violence that has escalated dramatically each year. Nigeria is an economically powerful country, the largest economy in Africa and a major oil exporter. However it is also rife with corruption, and exact figures over where and how international aid has been put to use are impossible to come by. Boko Haram is also crueler than most militants– even ISIS–frequently using the children they kidnap in suicide bombings. Unlike France, Nigeria also does not have wide-spread freedom of the press or internet infrastructure, which has made reporting the crisis difficult.

What can I do to help?
The Christian Association of Nigerian Americans has set up a relief fund for the victims. You can also donate to Amnesty International here.

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Photo: @ashramchic on Instagram

Jessica Chastain Set to Join the Cast of Xavier Dolan’s ‘The Death and Life of John F. Donovan’

After wooing the Cannes jury back in May with his new film Mommy, Xavier Dolan was set to take a break. But of course, for the prolific young filmmaker, that really is never true. And as he discussed in detail at MoMA last year, his follow up film will also be his english-language debut with the Hollywood drama The Death and Life of John F. Donovan. The film will tell the story of a”Dean or Brando”-esque movie star whom “America has been waiting for,” who becomes pen-pals with an 11-year-old boy—surely somewhat inspired by this letter Dolan wrote to Leonardo DiCaprio after seeing Titanic

During his talk at MoMA, Dolan had mentioned his love for Friday Night Lights and how he’d love to cast Taylor Kitsch in the leading role for Donovan. But although a male lead has yet to emerge, it looks as though the ever-wonderful Jessica Chastain will be signing onto the project. In speaking to Bent, Dolan said, “It dawned on me that I should ask Jessica about playing the ‘villain’ role in John F. Donovan…There is this character of the editor-in-chief of a gossip magazine. The movie really is a satire of the business — more dramatic than humorous. And there’s this antagonistic figure that wants to ruin the lives of ever star, especially that of the lead character. And I reached out to Jessica and she read the script. She loved it, and we got along like hotcakes. That’s basically it. I can already foresee all the pleasure we’ll have working together.”

So although Tom at the Farm, one of Dolan’s strongest films to date, still does not have US distribution, production on Donovan is said to begin early in 2015 in Montreal, New York, Miami, England and Eastern Europe. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this one.

Is Governor Cuomo Really A Democrat? Here’s How To Decide

Artwork by Vince Patti

New York is a blue state. We haven’t voted Republican in a presidential year since 1984. The State Assembly is 2 to 1 Democrats and every statewide elected official is a Democrat. Despite all this, the State Senate has been controlled by Republicans for all but 2 of the last 50 years. How? Well every 10 years they gerrymander the heck out of their district lines and end up eking out a majority. The infuriating part for progressives is that these lines get approved by the Democratic Assembly and (in 2012) by a Democratic governor. In fact, in 2012 the Democrats won a large majority of the popular vote for Senate but don’t control the chamber because of 5 breakaway Dems created the Independent Democratic Conference or IDC and formed a coalition with Republicans.

Why is this important? Several reasons. While other states are passing minimum wages of $11 and even $13, New York is only going up to $9 because the Senate wouldn’t approve any higher. While affordable housing is being lost at an alarming rate in New York City, the Senate blocks stronger rent laws. While women’s reproductive rights are under assault all over the country, the Senate blocked a vote on a Women’s Equality Bill. And of course, no vote on the Dream Act, which would help undocumented immigrants who’ve lived here almost all their lives go to college.

And all the while, until very recently, Andrew Cuomo has supported Republican control of the Senate, effectively killing these progressive goals. If he wanted any of these bills to pass, all he had to do was veto the redistricting bill in 2012, the courts would have drawn fair lines and Democrats would have enough seats to control the Senate even without the breakaway Dems.

Now Cuomo says he supports his own party controlling the Senate and the IDC is going to join the regular Democrats in a coalition, but this is only after the Working Families Party threatened to run a candidate against Cuomo. This begs the question, how are progressives supposed to trust a guy who had to be negotiated into supporting his own party controlling the legislature?

The Cuomo campaign has announced it is creating an additional “Women’s Equality” ballot line to run on in the fall. The cynicism here is breathtaking. The Women’s Equality agenda was blocked in the Senate by the very Republican led coalition Cuomo empowered by signing the redistricting bill and supporting the IDC Senators who allied with Republicans.

So will Cuomo’s newfound support of Democrats translate into a progressive majority in the State Senate next year and will legislation long blocked begin to move? We’ll know soon enough. If he really campaigns for Democrats in the fall and within a year he’s signed bills raising the minimum wage & allowing localities to raise it further, strengthening and expanding rent regulation, decriminalizing marijuana, codifying Roe v Wade, and passing the DREAM Act we’ll know he’s kept his word. If none of these things happen, well, we were taken for a ride. In the meantime, Cuomo is facing a challenge to his left from Zephyr Teachout in the September primary. That should keep the pressure on him for now.

Driverless Cars, Snowden Spy, + Bill Murray

Bill Murray Gave This Spontaneous Speech At A Stranger’s Bachelor Party
Travel around the world and get married at JFK, he told the group of young men.

Snowden: I Was an Undercover Spy
“I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word, in that I lived and worked undercover overseas—pretending to work in a job that I’m not—and even being assigned a name that was not mine.”

Google Unveils Self-Driving Car
The cars have two seats, no steering wheel, gas, or brake pedal—just a stop-and-go button. If all goes well, 100 to 200 of the cars are expected to be driving on California roads in a pilot program next year.

Long Island School Bans Backpacks
Fanny packs are still open game.

Why Online Games Make Players Act Like Psychopaths
Dying in DayZ isn’t like dying in other videogames. The game, developed by Bohemia Interactive, has “configured death with an extreme level of consequentiality not found in other online first-person-shooters.”

How The Gun Lobby Scapegoats Mental Illness
After a tragedy, gun companies want us discussing anything but guns. Here’s how both parties, and the media, comply.

Literary Icon Maya Angelou dead at 86
The civil rights activist, poet and novelist will be remembered as a pioneer.

Visiting The Online Shrine For A Drug Forum’s Dead
Heroin overdoses are common and meth lab explosions seem to kill regularly.

 

Enjoy a New Trailer for Roman Polanski’s ‘Venus In Fur’

In truth, I would watch Mathieu Amalric do just about anything. Whether he’s playing an emotionally unstable musician , a butler with a secret, or a murderous somnambulant, there isn’t a role he doesn’t tackle with a thrilling kind of ferocity and manic charge. And after its Cannes premiere last May, Roman Polanski’s latest theatrical adaptation, the Amalric-led Venus in Fur will finally have its U.S. theatrical release on June 20th.

And now, you can enjoy a new trailer for the feature HERE—which also stars the brilliant Emmanuelle Seigner, as the two bring us David Ives’ Tony-winning erotic tale that goes as follows:

Alone in a Paris theater after a long day of auditioning actresses for the lead role in his new play, writer-director Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) complains about the poor caliber of talent he has seen. As Thomas is about to leave the theater, Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) bursts in, a whirlwind of erratic—and, it turns out, erotic—energy. When Thomas agrees, reluctantly, to let her try out for the part, he is stunned and captivated by her transformation. Not only is Vanda a perfect fit (even sharing the character’s name), but she apparently has researched the role exhaustively—down to buying props, reading source materials and learning every line by heart. The likeness proves to be much more than skin-deep. As the extended “audition” builds momentum, Thomas moves from attraction to obsession… Adapted from the Tony Award-winning play by David Ives.

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Tracey Emin’s Bed, Christians and Gay Marriage, + Bad Waiters

Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’ Is Up For Sale
Few pieces of art have divided opinion quite like My Bed – in which Tracey Emin claimed to have spent a week after a bad break-up. Fifteen years on, it can be yours for an estimated price of between £800,000 and £1.2m.

How the NRA Enables Massacres
As a shooting spree leaves seven dead in California, the gun lobby is trying to thwart attempts to study gun deaths and officials who see gun violence as a public health crisis.

Did Christians Get Gay Marriage Right?
The marriage equality fight is all but won. Will the future of marriage be boring as hell, or a Bible-thumper’s idea of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Pope to Meet Sex-Abuse Victims
David Clohessy, the executive director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said “The simple truth is this is another gesture, another public-relations coup, another nice bit of symbolism that will leave no child better off and bring no real reform to a continuing, scandal-ridden church hierarchy.”

The Worst Waiter in History
Edsel Ford Fong — the world’s most insulting waiter —  greeted patrons with a “sit down and shut up!

Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz Tour: When Sex Stops Selling
The only thing more entertaining than the Bangerz tour is witnessing the stunned expression of short-straw dads watching it with their kids. There were plenty of empty seats at the O2 and, unusually for an artist of her sway, she only played one night there.

Snowden Journalist Set To Make ‘Biggest’ Disclosure Yet
Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who helped NSA leaker Edward Snowden expose state secrets to the world, is set to make his “biggest” disclosure yet — the names of Americans the government spied on.

NYPD Officers To Carry Heroin Overdose Antidotes
Thousands of New York City police officers should soon be carrying emergency antidotes to help deal with the recent spike in heroin overdoses.

 

World Cup Watch: Controversy and Subways

With the World Cup under a month away, excitement is ramping up from football (soccer) fans across the planet. It’s the greatest sporting contest on earth, where country vs. country goes head-to-head.

How is Brazil going to handle the beautiful game? In Sao Paulo there’s a bus strike (not good)— it makes you wonder how the city will accommodate  the huge influx of World Cup attendees. Here’s what the Sao Paulo subway looks like just a few weeks before the World Cup. Help!

For every World Cup, there’s always a few bad eggs. Brazilian police have put together security guidelines for visitors traveling to the event, including much needed advice to tourists not to scream if robbed:

“Don’t fight, scream or argue,” advises a brochure filled with World Cup safety tips compiled by the São Paulo police that will be published in four different languages, Brazilian newspaper Estadao de Sao Paulo first reported.

According to São Paulo-based writer, Kevin Raub: “People have been killed over a backpack and others have been killed simply out of frustration when the thieves couldn’t get what they wanted. It’s best not to antagonize them whatsoever.”

With every World Cup, there comes controversy—be it Maradona’s Hand of God score, or a Zidane headbutt.

Brazilian artist Paulo Ito’s World Cup mural goes viral:

After spending $11 billion on World Cup preparations, tensions are understandably high to make the event a major success. And Brazilian artist Paulo Ito has succinctly summarised the discontent in a mural at a schoolhouse.

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“Two years ago I painted in an abandoned building and I was thinking to paint something about poverty, but when I went inside I changed my mind,” Ito said. “They already live what I was supposed to paint.” Instead, Ito said he painted what the people asked him for: football team symbols, and SpongeBob SquarePants.

 

Stop and Frisk for the Soul, Marijuana Sizzurp, + Buying Fame

Image via @actabliss on Instagram

Penn. Gov. Won’t Appeal Gay Marriage
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who is running for reelection, chose a path followed by fellow Republican governors Chris Christie and Brian Sandoval, who both abandoned appeals they thought they would not win.

Boston Bomber Used Christmas Lights
“The marathon bombs were constructed using improvised fuses made from Christmas lights and improvised, remote-control detonators fashioned from model-car parts,” prosecutors wrote.

Iran ‘Happy’ Video Teens Released
Six Iranian teenagers were released on bail Wednesday, three days after being arrested for creating their own video for Pharrell Williams’s hit “Happy.”

Uber Launches in Saudi Arabia
Uber, the popular taxi service ordered via a smartphone app, is launching today in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh. But don’t expect any female drivers to show up—women are still not allowed to drive in the kingdom.

France Buys Trains Too Fat for Stations
Whooops!

What Stop And Frisk Does To A Young Man’s Soul
Every afternoon when Trey left school in his car, two white patrolmen would follow him in their cruiser, sometimes a few blocks, sometimes several miles, before turning on their patrol lights.

The Daily Show’s Jason Jones Paid To Be Famous In India
Jason Jones traveled to India to learn about its form of democracy. What he found was that for the right price, anyone can buy good press. Of course he bought some.

Marijuana Sizzurp Hits The LA Market
The real sizzurp doesn’t make you stupid enough, right? So what you really need is a marijuana-infused sizzurp!

Why So Many Rock Stars Only Make It To 27
When Kurt Cobain committed suicide 20 years ago, the idea of the 27 Club entered the public consciousness.