FROM SWASHBUCKLERS TO SUPERMEN: A HISTORY OF ACTION-MOVIE HEROES

There’s a moment in Mission: ImpossibleRogue Nation — Tom Cruise career-saver, franchise MVP and the summer's best non-Imperator Furiosa action blockbuster — where the CIA director refers to the film's relentless hero as "the living manifestation of destiny." As a government official talking about an unpredictable agent, the line is patently (if knowingly) ridiculous. As Alec Baldwin talking about Tom Cruise, the dialogue sounds right on the money. That phrase could be dropped into the first sentence of his biography and nobody would think twice. — ROLLING STONE

MALE STRIPPER TO MOVIE STAR: THE EVOLUTION OF CHANNING TATUM

It's hard to imagine — let alone remember — living in a world where it wasn't a universally acknowledged truth that Channing Tatum used to be a stripper. Today, that particular chapter of his origin story seems as inextricable from the 35-year-old actor's story as Ginger Rogers is from Fred Astaire's career, or Scientology is from that of Tom Cruise, or Michael Fassbender's penis is from that of Michael Fassbender. And yet, considering that the news only broke a few years ago, there's a pretty good chance that you were alive and present for such a blithely ignorant time in our history. — ROLLING STONE

It wasn’t necessarily clear on the evening of February 27, 2011, but Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross winning an Academy Award for the dissonant industrial score for The Social Network, beating the likes of Hans Zimmer and his protégé John Powell, was a watershed moment. Zimmer lost for Inception, the “Braaahmms!” that soon became ubiquitous in both movies and their marketing, but the impact of the win had less to do with the music than with the musicians. The Academy had vouched for rock stars before, but giving an Oscar to the mastermind of Nine Inch Nails isn’t the same as giving one to Talking Heads frontman David Byrne for helping Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su evoke traditional Chinese compositions in The Last Emperor. In an instant, the same award for which John Williams had been nominated 44 times belonged to the guy who wrote “Closer,” and suddenly anything seemed possible.
— THE DISSOLVE

"LET THEM EAT CAKE: HOW A TERRIBLE JENNIFER ANISTON MOVIE TURNED INTO  THIS YEAR'S OSCAR CINDERELLA STORY"

The answer has to do with the bizarre economics of the independent film world, with the work that a star is willing to put into her best shot at acting immortality, and with the grim spectacle of awards season itself. It begins with Pete Hammond, ahumanoid pull-quote machine whom the studios pass around like the office stapler. The morning after Cake’s TIFF premiere, Hammond—perhaps in the spirit of the ringer-filled Toronto audience that gave Cake a standing ovation before the screening—filed a Deadline Hollywood post that began: “Jennifer Aniston – Oscar contender? You better believe it.” And everyone has. Cake, directed by Daniel Barnz, currently clocks in at 44 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but Aniston has remained a fixture in the Best Actress race since Hammond fired the starting gun. — SLATE

"FACE VALUE: ON SPIKE LEE'S 25TH HOUR"

Spike Lee begins 25th Hour by placing the camera directly inside the Tribute of Light—the defiant 9/11 memorial that replaced the twin towers with shafts of illumination. It’s an artwork that intangibly reconstitutes the architecture of the past as an installation that literally lights the present. As seen in cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto’s oblique compositions, the thick blue beams resemble those of a projector, firing out into the infinite darkness as though in search of a screen. It’s only when the camera retreats for a wider view, the first percussive strains of Terence Blanchard’s mournful score building to a possessed wail, that we get a clear picture of what we’re watching. —  REVERSE SHOT

THIS IS THE PART WHERE I DEFEND ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

"…I first saw the movie at its storied première (every Sundance has that one screening that feels more like a happening), after which I called it “The Citizen Kane of teen cancer tearjerkers,” a somewhat backhanded compliment that nevertheless was meant to convey a genuine admiration for what I’d just watched. A little more than a month after returning to sea level, I learned my dad had a Grade IV brain tumor. (For those of you fortunate enough not to know how brain tumors are classified, that’s not the kind you’d pick if given the choice.)

I saw Me And Earl and the Dying Girl again a few weeks later, and while my second viewing wasn’t exactly revelatory—in fact, I found the film sloppier and more labored in its construction than I remembered—it nevertheless helped me untie a knot that’s been tightening in my mind since I first learned about my dad’s diagnosis."
— THE DISSOLVE