Ever wonder how so many people know about internet videos such as how one Russian woman keeps 129 cats in her tiny Moscow flat or up to the minute stories about the latest technology innovation? Does it seem like there are so many articles, videos and photos that are making waves in the news but they’re hosted on different sites and it’s difficult to find out where something you heard about is located? Well, have you heard about digg.com?

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image from criterion.com

I’m surprised I’ve successfully avoided talking at length about any films from my favorite director in this blog for so long. Truth be told, the average moviegoer may find the films of Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman a little inaccessible. I would argue that many of Bergman’s films’ style has been phased out over the years and, to modern audiences, may be a bit difficult to understand or even, to hold their interests. However, Bergman’s films are incredibly important to consider when developing a portrait of cinema since its creation. From his first masterpiece “The Seventh Seal,” made in 1957, to the director’s swan song, 1982’s “Fanny and Alexander,” Bergman has one of the most influential canons of cinematic work since the creation of the motion picture camera.

Known for his minimalistic approach and existential themes, Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander” is probably one of the director’s most unusual films in terms of its presentation and its  similarity to Bergman’s previous work. For one thing, it’s extremely lush with color and movement. Originally a TV miniseries in Sweden, the film was cut down to roughly three hours for the theatrical version. Both are superbly shot, thanks to Sven Nykvist, Bergman’s almost personal cinematographer. Both versions are a treat both visually and intellectually, as there are numerous ins and outs to so many of the characters involved in the main drama. Oh, and did I mention that it’s my favorite film?

The plot of the movie follows young Alexander and Fanny Ekdahl, children of a happily married, well-to-do couple in early 20th century Sweden. The film begins with an incredible, theatrical scene as the family celebrates Christmas together with their extended family. However, when tragedy strikes the family, the children are thrust into a world that is the antithesis of their old life and must come to terms with what has happened.

I’m hesitant to recommend “Fanny and Alexander” as a first stop for Bergman… while it’s arguably one of his most accessible films in terms of its structure and presentation, its length and definite dissimilarity from most of the director’s other offerings may mislead viewers in assuming the director’s other work will be very similar. I’d argue that “Persona,” a psychological drama from 1966, while not as awarded as his other films, is the best place to start. It’s certainly one of Bergman’s most important works, and it’s more akin to his earlier works, yet pieces of it continue to be obvious within later films such as “Fanny and Alexander.”

But, of course, don’t stop there… and I’m not just saying so because I’ve been Bergman obsessed for years.

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Would you rather check entertainment headlines from credited news organizations such as cnn.com, nyt.com or go where the stories you want will take center-stage? Mtv.com/news targets audiences who come to its homepage looking for the kind of news expected from the popular television station. While general news websites rarely feature an arts/entertainment article, you have to look hard to find something on MTV News’ website that isn’t related to pop culture.

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image from criterion.com 

When was the last time you heard about the Australian film industry without mentions to Aussie A-listers, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Naomi Watts (to name a few)? Even in art house theaters across this country, European films dominate marquees and its rare when an offering from down under surfaces.

It’s about time Peter Weir went back to his roots and served up something like 70s-fare “Picnic at Hanging Rock” or “The Last Wave.” You may know Weir as the director of “Dead Poets Society” or “The Truman Show,” but, despite being better known for these more recent titles, I think it’s Weir’s early films set in his native country that set him apart as a master filmmaker.

When I purchased “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” I had watched it once before and remembered being very struck by its eerie, almost other worldly tone. I hardly remembered the majority of its plot or any stand out performances by the cast but I was sure there was something in the film worth my $25 plus shipping on overstock.com. (Criterion Collection DVDs aren’t cheap…)

Now that I’ve owned this film for almost a year, I’m amazed by its replay-ability. I’ve watched it nearly seven or eight times in just a few months and there’s always something incredibly different to focus on with each new viewing. “Picnic at Hanging Rock” is Weir’s richest film in terms of use of tone, setting and the characterization of multiple individuals. It’s vague enough to warrant many interpretations yet concrete so that even passive move-goers can find something profound in the first viewing.

This is one of those movies that will have you hitting up wikipedia the moment it’s over to find out just what really happened and how this unusual story came to be. While it’s not as unusual as Nicolas Roeg’s, “Walkabout” another eerie story set in Australia, “Picnic at Hanging Rock” still pulls its fair share of twists and turns often left out of mainstream cinema. It’s a daring movie and certainly will leave some sort of impression due to its clever ambiguity and intriguing characters.

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image from nbc17.com

Never have I seen a news website so bottom heavy! NBC-17, a local broadcast station apparently likes to hide the bulk of its news several clicks on the scroll bar down to make the homepage appear as pear-shaped as a pregnant celebrity. But I’m going to give NBC-17 the benefit of the doubt and equate some of its lackluster design to how awkward my computer makes some websites look.

To its credit, the homepage has something for everyone in a small amount of space. From “Wacky News” to a syndicated AP video feed, you don’t have to go far from home to find the story you’re looking for.

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image from criterion.com

If you’ve been reading my blog and noticed where I frequently link back to the films I offer commentary on, you may already know a little bit about The Criterion Collection. The Collection includes hundreds of film titles and “is dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements.” While a majority of the titles are foreign and were made pre-2000, Criterion includes recent offerings such as “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Traffic.” With its impressive list of titles and often astounding transfers of very old films, when I pick up a Criterion Collection DVD, I expect a piece of cinema that is more often than not, of the highest caliber.

Sure I’ve run into titles that were preserved for their innovations in some obscure method in filmmaking and didn’t feature any superior elements in my opinion, I usually agree with Criterion’s idea of what should be deemed an “important film.”

Naturally, when I chose “Sweet Movie,” a 1974 Yugoslavian film from director Dusan Makavejev to watch with a bunch of friends a couple weekends ago, I was surprised when it was anything less than a good film.

*A quick warning, do not watch this film unless you want to be completely deterred from eating for about a week.*

Does a food orgy complete with human excrement and a gynecological competition need to be seen together and across the span of less than two hours? “Sweet Movie” definitely begs the viewer to be disgusted and disturbed minute after minute.

I tried to find meaning behind the madness that was the soft-core pornographic film coupled with a plot line as confusing as any low-budget indie art house flick but I was too distracted by “Sweet Movie’s” complete disregard for the traditional film experience. I assumed its ability to make me squirm and cover my eyes yet fail to turn it off completely was the reason why it became licensed by the Criterion Collection.

While I can’t actually recommend the film, I can say that if you have an unhealthy addiction to chocolate or ever wanted to be covered entirely in sugar, “Sweet Movie” has the power to cure you forever of these desires.

What are some of the most shocking movies you’ve seen? Were you ever driven to stop watching because they were so disturbing?

I don’t usually get my news from the radio and am more likely to switch stations from an unrecognizable classical piece to the latest poppy hit, but I was very impressed with npr.com’s streamlined website design. Upon first glance, the website looks just as busy as most news sites and many websites that are too much for the eyes. But upon closer inspection, npr.com’s links are uniform in design and the reader knows where they’re going before they click.

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image from pastemagazine.com

As a senior undergraduate, I’ve tried to begin the job search (read: rat race) early. I’m one of the lucky ones who knows what profession to at least look for a job in and I’ve begun working on narrowing it down to companies I think may hire me. Unlike many of my peers, I’ve known I wanted to work in magazine or book publishing for quite some time now. Looking further back, I’ve pegged New York City as my final destination since the ripe age of 11 years old. Paste Magazine, a monthly arts & entertainment magazine is probably the only publication I’d tear myself away from New York to work for.

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As much as I love classic cinema, this time of year I’m a regular at several local cineplexes. Once exams are over, I’ll probably hit up the movie theater around noon and sit through three or four shows in order to see everything in line for an academy award. Sound a little sad and pathetic? Well, it probably is.

Usually, I used to check my local newspaper for showtimes in order to plan out when and where each film is playing, but have since graduated to hitting up websites like Rotten Tomatoes that allow readers to see schedules next to film “grades” which are compiled reviews from various publications and critics. But recently, the website has been having trouble gathering schedules from the cinemas in my area.

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If you haven’t heard already, Joel and Ethan Coen’s “No Country For Old Men” may be one of the best thrillers to hit screens in years.

Of course, coming from the same duo who offered up “Fargo” and “Blood Simple,” it was already on the horizon. “No Country’s” commanding cinematography and detail-oriented twists solidify this story of a dry Texas community facing change in the early 1980s as Academy Award fodder. I very much enjoy the slow, sensitive pace the Coens employ even during chase sequences — it’s what keeps audiences a part of the story while allowing a message most cookie-cutter thrillers let slip to reign supreme in the film’s conclusion.

When I saw “No Country” last week, I couldn’t help but think of “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,“a Robert Altman directed drama from 1971. Classified at its release as an anti-Western, this film may come off a little like a character piece with certain touches and embellishments. However, it was Altman’s genius control of pacing and overall mod through the film’s setting that immediately struck me several years ago when I first watched it. Using Winter and all its brutality to his advantage, Altman creates the town of Presbyterian Church in exact opposition to the traditional arid desert setting of popular Westerns. Much like the Coens utilize the emptiness of the desert and the crusty, overlooked corners of the U.S., “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” hones in on Presbyterian Church as a living entity that has just as much of an effect on its characters as they do on each other.

If we’re getting into specifics, check out how unusually each film presents its sheriff character. Tommy Lee Jones is excellent as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who comes from a long line of law enforcers and must come to terms with the changes time has brought to his community. In “McCabe,” there’s no sheriff at all! Devoid of Native Americans, law enforcement or dangerous outlaws, Altman usurped the Eastwood and Denver standard from years before. In their own way, both films show a diminishing effectiveness or importance of the officers who have traditionally defended a clear cut law.

The average moviegoer may find the films a little slow in the beginning, especially if it’s the first time experiencing Altman’s often difficult over-lapping dialogue techniques or the Coens’ meticulous attention to detail, but the spellbinding conclusions are rewarding.

Of course, don’t expect many “O Brother Where Art Thou” moments, this picture may be the most serious the pair has ever offered. Still, “No Country For Old Men” has my vote for best picture of the year so far.