The Cultural Gutter

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"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

“What Made This Man Betray His Country?”

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“His anger drove him to become the most successful and valued agent the CIA had run inside the Soviet Union in two decades. The documents and draw­ings he passed to the United States in the early 1980s unlocked the secrets of Soviet radar and revealed sensitive plans for research on weapons systems a decade into […]

Watching Aleksander Ptshuko’s Evenings On A Farm Near Dikanka

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At Teleport City, the Gutter’s own Keith spends Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka. “The movie opens as all good Christmas movies should: with a scene of a jolly witch tearing across the night sky astride her broomstick, collecting stars for her eldritch brews, while the devil bats the moon around and eventually slips it […]

On Writing The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

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John Le Carré writes about writing The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. “It was the Berlin Wall that had got me going, of course: I had flown from Bonn to take a look at it as soon as it started going up. I went with a colleague from the Embassy and as we […]

Eight Free Early Soviet Films

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Open Culture has a round-up of eight free and complete films by Dziga Vertov, including Man With A Movie Camera (1929) and the first Soviet animated feature, Soviet Toys (1924). (Thanks, Earl!)

RIP, Věra Chytilová

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Czech filmmaker Věra Chytilová has died. She was a central director in the Czech New Wave in the 1960s and is probably best known for her film, Daisies (1966). The Prague Post, The Houston Chronicle, The AV Club and The New York Times have obituaries. Fresques has an interview with Chytilová.

The Prague Museum of Communism

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At Teleport City, The Gutter‘s own Keith Allison continues to share his adventures in Prague. This time, he visits the Prague Museum of Communism.

Valentina Tereshkova, The First Woman In Space

“Tereshkova was celebrated in songs and her face was put on postage stamps. Soon after her flight, she was married off to a fellow cosmonaut, Andriyan Nikolayev. Khrushchev gave the bride away at a wedding filled with the Soviet equivalent of Hello magazine photographers. When the couple eventually split, their divorce needed the personal approval […]

Soviet Boardgames

Retronaut has a gallery of Soviet Era children’s board games. (via @wfmu)

Jack Kirby’s Collage

Imprint Magazine puts Jack Kirby’s collage in an art history context.

Russian Avante-Garde Design

Abebooks has a gorgeous gallery of Russian Avant Garde book cover illustration from the end of the Czarist era through the 1930s.

Red Skies: Soviet Science Fiction

A thorough and well-illustrated look at Soviet science fiction, from the 1920s through the 1980s. (via SF Signal)

Is Boring Bad?

Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott defend the slow and the boring film, giving as examples, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Dargis sees them giving space for thought. Scott sees “protests against the deep…[as] mask[ing] another agenda, which is a defense of the corporate status quo.”  And […]

The People’s Mario

Mario is a hero of the Proletariat.

Behemoth in Anime

The Master and Margarita anime? That’s right, Russian animation in Japanese style at Catsuka!

Kathryn Bigelow Retrospective

Kathryn Bigelow won a best directing Oscar for The Hurt Locker. Time for a retrospective. Here’s the trailer for Near Dark and some clips. Point Break (i.e. Keeanu Reeves best movie). Jamie Lee Curtis in the cop thriller, Blue Steel. The premillennial tension of Strange Days. The Pirelli ad, Mission Zero. And her sub movie, […]

I Can See Forever

It’s like the 1980s are a black hole and the event horizon reaches forever: The A-Team, The Karate Kid, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Tron, Ghostbusters, Conan The Barbarian, Red Dawn, Short Circuit and Wall Street.

Cartographic Curiosities

Step right up for your glimpse of Slate Magazine’s slideshow collection of cartographic curiosities!

“Good Dog”

Is there anything sadder than Laika? (Art by Nick Abadzis, music by Luca Tozzi).

“Able Baker perfect. No injuries or other difficulties.”

The title alone makes this story about the first primates in space worthwhile: “After 50 Years, Space Monkeys Not Forgotten.”

The Wolverines, 24 Years Later

John Plotz re-watches Red Dawn and sees a different movie: “Red Dawn did not conjure up the chest-swelling patriotism I felt as a 14-year-old. Instead, it turned out to be disturbing in an entirely unexpected way.”

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    Gentleman’s Gazette has a piece on the sartorial splendor of Hercule Poirot and of Captain Hastings in the BBC television adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Poirot mysteries.

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    At Pitchfork, Barry Walters writes about Grace Jones. “One night in 1993, I finally got my chance to see Jones perform at a local gay nightclub and took my friend Brian, whose partner Mark was too sick to join us….She didn’t back away from the elephant in the room: She dedicated one song to artist and AIDS casualty Keith Haring, who had used her body for a canvas on the occasion of her legendary 1985 Paradise Garage performance. That night’s show was remarkable for the simple fact that Jones just kept on going, granting one encore request after another, waiting patiently while the sound man scoured backing tapes to find the fans’ offbeat choices. When Jones got to such minor numbers as ‘Crush,’ it became clear that she didn’t want to leave. She was giving as much of herself as she could to the beleaguered troops, knowing full well that many wouldn’t live long enough to see her again.”

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    At Pornokitsch, The Gutter’s own dame with a shady past Carol writes about five films noir.  “Do you want to watch some film noir? I hope so, because I have five films to suggest. Films about dames gone wrong, poor doomed saps, murders, sex and modern knights errant.”

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    At The Alcohol Professor, The Gutter’s own Keith writes about Billie Holiday in a fantastic two-part piece. Part one traces “the history of Billie Holiday and NYC nightlife through the Harlem Renaissance to Café Society.” Part two covers “Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and the jazz scene in New York City clubs of a bygone era.”

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    The New Yorker has a profile of author Gene Wolfe. “His narrators may be prophets, or liars, or merely crazy, but somewhere in their stories they help to reveal what Wolfe most wants his readers to know: that compassion can withstand the most brutal of futures and exist on the most distant planets, and it has been part of us since ages long past.”

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    Remezcla has a gallery of Lourdes Grobet’s portraits of luchadores with their families and a bit of an interview with her. (Yes, the luchadores are in their masks and often wearing suits or casual wear, which is the best thing). (Thanks, Matt!) “Father and warrior, the masked wrestler is the perfect metaphor for the duality that Grobet’s photography wants to depict. Her work is resonant because she doesn’t try to demolish the myths that envelop lucha libre – she simply nurtures and expands them in an offbeat way.”

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