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ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Not since the legendary Gen X standard Sassy has a teen fashion mag garnered appreciation for telling girls they look great with what they already have, rather than telling them what they need to buy. Rookie was the pet project of 12-year-old Tavi Gevinson before she exploded as a style icon, actor, and maybe this decade’s most dynamic tween. Six years later, the online magazine is a hotbed for offbeat style, with tutorials on how to dress “Spawn-of-Satan chic” (think Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby) and take cues from “Secret Style Icons” like cereal box characters or the witches of Hocus Pocus. It has also featured poignant art, advice on everything from depression to sex (queer and straight), and guest pieces by Karen O, Miranda July, Lena Dunham, Joss Whedon, and John Waters, among many notable others. The publication’s amazing history is chronicled in Rookie Yearbook Three, launching tonight. Gevinson talks with writer and trans-rights activist Janet Mock at the book party, and will sign copies following a Q&A.

Wed., Oct. 22, 7 p.m., 2014

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Kevin Smith’s Podcast-Inspired Horror Film Tusk Labors for Infamy

Kevin Smith is a bright guy who over the years has become a little too taken with his own persona, his own jokes, his own cult following — it’s the filmmaker’s equivalent of getting high on your own supply. No matter how awkwardly pontifical or ill-shapen his movies have gotten in the past 10 years — including his last, 2011’s ploddingly self-righteous Red State — there’s always a herd of noisy Jay and Silent Bob fanatics popping up to defend him as a genius. Smith seems to have bought the hype himself. In a guest column he wrote for the Hollywood Reporter last year, he actually referred to himself as a “naughty auteur.” It’s the sort of thing that would be hard for anyone other than, say, the eternally fabulous John Waters to get away with — and Waters would know better than to say it.

But even those of us who have grown weary of Kevin Smith might find a little sympathy for his latest picture, the body-horror tragicomedy Tusk, in which a madman yearns to re-create the bond he once had with a bulky, wrinkly, long-toothed marine mammal. Let me temper that recommendation: Tusk is kind of terrible, annoying and self-congratulatory in all the ways we’ve come to expect from Smith (without even, say, any of the silly sweetness of the 2008 Zack and Miri Make a Porno). But Tusk is at least trying to be about something. If you can squeeze past the movie’s excess blubber, it’s easy to see that even Smith — who maintains a large online fan base, thanks in part to SModcast, the podcast he does with longtime collaborator Scott Mosier — recognizes that the internet has opened up new channels for bad behavior and callousness. Tusk works hard, too hard, to be out-there: It wears its ambitions to become a midnight movie classic right there on its fat flipper. But there’s something mournful beneath all its bluster. It’s as if Smith were nursing a toothache of the soul, and this labored little movie was the best way he could figure to shake it off.

Tusk was inspired by a seemingly random news item that Smith first brought to light in a SModcast: A homeowner had posted a notice on a U.K. classifieds site offering free lodging to some lucky individual, with one catch: Said tenant would be required, now and then, to dress up as a walrus. Smith has taken this little squib and fleshed it out into a rambling tale of obsession and madness. It all begins so innocently: Los Angeles-based Wallace (Justin Long) and Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) host a popular podcast oh-so-cleverly called the Not-See Party, where, mostly, they just crack each other up with their constant patter of inside jokes. They’re obsessed with a homemade video one of their listeners has sent in: While re-enacting a scene from one of the Kill Bill movies, a hapless Canadian kid lops his leg off with a sword.

Wallace heads out to Manitoba to interview this one-legged figure of pity — clearly, he’s not above making fun of the kid. But his plans are derailed, and he finds himself without a story. Intrigued by a curious handwritten notice he spots in the men’s room of a pub, he ends up trekking out to Middle of Nowhere, Manitoba, to meet eccentric, crusty, wheelchair-bound former seaman Howard Howe (Michael Parks, who played the Fred Phelps stand-in in Red State). At first Wallace is amused by Howe’s Moby Dick-sized seafaring whoppers. Then, after imbibing too much spiked tea, he awakens to discover…

Those who wish to know nothing about the movie’s central plot element should stop reading here. (And if you’re the least bit squeamish, you should have some idea of the mild ewkiness you’re in for, though Smith, to his credit, doesn’t have much of a taste for torture gross-outs.) Howard, it turns out, was once lost at sea. Upon finding dry land, he also found his way into the welcoming embrace of a walrus, and, having been an abused child and all-around troubled dude, he’d never known such warmth and security. Arising from his whacked-out belief that walruses are superior to human beings, he has devoted his many lonely hours to designing a walrus “suit” in which to encase a human — in other words, Wallace. After his forced and grisly transformation, Wallace is a comically horrible sight, his eyes staring forlornly out of a shell of moist, putty-colored, pieced-together flesh, two horrible, whiskery Tusks poking out right where his human mustache used to be.

Smith can’t resist packing all kinds of shenanigans around this conceit, most of them involving the efforts of Teddy, Wallace’s girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez), and a French-Canadian detective played by a bodaciously disguised Johnny Depp. The movie sags whenever it’s supposed to be boisterously funny; Smith isn’t deft enough to navigate the whipsaw tone changes of his own script. The best, creepiest moments involve the one-sided conversations between Howard and his weeping, sad-eyed captive. Parks makes a decent maniacal villain — he’s elegant in a purely devious way, like a Masterpiece Theatre host gone off the deep end. But the movie really belongs to Justin Long, and only after he’s encased in that terrible, blubbery suit. As the human Wallace, he wasn’t as human as he thought: A good chunk of the meandering dialogue covers Ally’s disappointment in his desire to make fun of everything — including one-legged kids — rather than to engage on a human level, as he used to do in the old days, before, perhaps, the internet bestowed its twisted version of fame upon him.

But as Walrus Wallace, he’s a haunting blob of a movie centerpiece, an idea in search of a film worthy of him. Tusk isn’t quite it. There’s too much forced winking in it; everything is a goof, a lark, a Smith-style in-joke for the in-crowd. Still, at the end, it’s unnerving to leave Wallace alone, forever, encased in that weird sarcophagus of flesh. He’s a funny-ghastly vision, a waddling cautionary tale for those of us who fail to act like human beings while we have the honor of doing so.

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Here Are At Least 18 Movies You Should See This Fall

Pocket your smartphones and close your laptops, New York. You live in the greatest filmgoing city in the world. (Settle down, Paris!) So there’s no reason not to give yourself over this fall to immersive pleasures on giant screens. If you missed the summer’s curated indies of BAMcinemaFest, you’ll have more chances to fill your eyes — and especially your ears — with theatrical runs for the mystically bluesy Willis Earl Beal-led folktale Memphis (September 5, IFC Center); the restored 1981 graffiti-and-Mingus tone poem Stations of the Elevated (October 17–23, BAM); and the stunning jazz-pianist biopic Low Down (October 24, limited release), co-starring John Hawkes, Elle Fanning, Peter Dinklage, and Flea.

See also: The 2014 Fall (Arts) Issue: An Index

When the devils come to play at the costumed end of October, don’t miss the Halloween edition of See It Big! (October 24–26, Museum of the Moving Image), featuring increasingly rare 35mm prints of horror staples like Poltergeist and The Bride of Frankenstein. More repertory thrills are to be had with new restorations of Orson Welles’s noir masterwork Touch of Evil and legendary German expressionist spooker The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (both October 31–November 6, Film Forum). Or head to Anthology for their “Industrial Terror” series (October 24–31)—pairing the work of iconic scaremongers like George Romero and Herk Hervey with in-house training commercials they made for money—or their 12-hour Day of the Dead marathon (November 1, noon till midnight) of as-yet-undisclosed cult shockers. Daniel Radcliffe waves his freak flag in Horns (October 31, limited release) as a distraught young man who sprouts supernatural nibs from his noggin after his girlfriend dies.

On the fertile nonfiction front, there’s Rory Kennedy’s surprisingly fresh re-examination of Saigon’s fall in Last Days in Vietnam (September 5, limited release) and Nadav Schirman’s The Green Prince (September 12, limited release), a real-life psychological thriller concerning the unorthodox collaboration between the son of a Hamas leader and the Israeli government. A prolific art forger’s intent and mental health are to be questioned in the fascinating puzzler Art and Craft (September 19, limited release), and the life, career, and marriage of sexploitation pioneer — or is he, too, an artist? — Joe Sarno are illuminated in A Life in Dirty Movies (September 19–26, Anthology). And vérité godfather Frederick Wiseman makes an inspiring canvas out of London’s National Gallery (November 5–18, Film Forum), which allows curators, conservationists, and other colleagues to expound in hands-off long takes.

Not rock ‘n’ roll enough for you? Then take it up with brooding Aussie rocker Nick Cave as he celebrates 20,000 Days on Earth (September 17–30, Film Forum) in this inventive docudrama. Welshman-cum-Chicagoan Jon Langford and his cult cowpunk collective get their due in Revenge of the Mekons (October 29–November 4, Film Forum), as does Britpop royalty Jarvis Cocker in Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets (November 19, limited release). For even worthier excuses to keep your devices dark, dig into the season’s brightest highlights below:

God Help the Girl
September 5

Whimsical, charming, and thankfully less precious than it sounds, Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch’s aspirational directorial debut is a naturalistic 16mm musical based on the lush, twee pop of the Scottish indie mainstays. Emily Browning stars as a mentally ill kitten who clicks with a nerdy lifeguard and drummer (Olly Alexander), and Hannah Murray’s rich girl, making a pop trio. The premise may be light on drama, but the big-hearted emotions are as infectious as the tunes. Amplify, in limited release, amplifyreleasing.com

John Waters
September 5-14

Celebrating 50 years of Baltimore’s funniest, filthiest provocateur (appearing live throughout the series), this complete retrospective includes all 12 of Waters’s directorial features: Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, early 16mm rarities from his personal collection, and more. There’s a free shorts program, a Polyester screening with scratch-and-sniff Odorama cards, and an eight-feature sidebar of darkly comic gems and perversities entitled John Waters Presents: Movies I’m Jealous I Didn’t Make. The Film Society of Lincoln Center, West 65th Street and Broadway, filmlinc.com

Hou Hsiao-Hsien
September 12-October 12

All 17 of the Taiwanese New Waver’s elliptical, sophisticated features will be projected on film in this traveling exhibition (entitled “Also Like Life”), from acclaimed faves like Flowers of Shanghai, Café Lumière, and Flight of the Red Balloon to such lesser-known pearls as Hou’s 1980 directorial debut, Cute Girl, and 1983’s Cinemascope musical The Green, Green Grass of Home. A special sidebar presents Olivier Assayas’s doc HHH: Portrait of Hou Hsiao-Hsien and other Hou-centric fare. Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Avenue, Queens, movingimage.us

Tennessee Williams
September 26-October 6

Coinciding with the release of John Lahr’s biography, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, Film Forum showcases 14 of the illustrious dramatist’s adaptations, including a double feature of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone and Sydney Pollack’s This Property Is Condemned, co-adapted by Francis Ford Coppola. A Lahr book-signing follows the opening-night screening of A Streetcar Named Desire, and Baby Doll co-star Carroll Baker will participate in a Q&A following the September 29 screening of Elia Kazan’s controversial classic. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org

NYFF 52
September 26-October 12

Anchored by a bold and bound-to-be-thrilling trio of gala premieres (David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman), the esteemed New York Film Festival offers vetted new features from beloved auteurs—Mike Leigh, Olivier Assayas, Mia Hansen-Løve, the late Alain Resnais—while keeping an eye on emerging young bucks like Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Josh and Benny Safdie (Heaven Knows What), and Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Philip). The Film Society of Lincoln Center, West 65th Street and Broadway, filmlinc.com

Force Majeure
October 24

An ice-cold knockout at Cannes, Swedish auteur Ruben Östlund’s brilliantly perceptive and frostily funny drama snowballs into an emotional avalanche. At least, that’s what happens when a picture-perfect family of four at a French Alps ski resort are torn apart by a snowy landslide that does no bodily harm but reveals how selflessly, or otherwise, we react in a moment of fear. (Try imagining National Lampoon’s Vacation as directed by Ingmar Bergman.) Magnolia, in limited release, magpictures.com

Goodbye to Language
October 29

The real guardian of the 3D galaxy is Jean-Luc Godard, who proves with this densely aphoristic but startlingly playful experiment that there’s still more to do with the de rigueur multiplex gimmick than tossing projectiles. Commenting on the way we live and communicate today (and cinema, literature, politics, everything!) via an adulterous couple, a soulful dog, and an imaginative use of optics-challenging technology that had Cannes erupting in mid-screening applause, the French master, at 83 years young, ain’t done yet. Kino Lorber, in limited release, kinolorber.com

Nightcrawler
October 31

Expect to hear Jake Gyllenhaal’s name during awards season, and not just for losing 20 pounds to sink into the sociopathic skin of a freelance crime videographer and ruthless bottom feeder who waits by his L.A. police scanner to be first on the scene. Wickedly entertaining and authentically disturbing, writer-turned-director Dan Gilroy’s socioeconomic thriller offers perverse truths about the bloodletting cost of journalism as public tastes skew toward the cheap and sensational. Open Road Films, in limited release, openroadfilms.com

Story of My Death
November 20-30

Too tragicomically, singularly strange to be called merely an 18th-century costume melodrama or a philosophical allegory, Catalan auteur Albert Serra (Birdsong) presents this, to use his own description, “unfuckable” tussle between Enlightenment and Romanticism in the passing of two fabled deflowerers: giddily debauched, powdered dandy Casanova (Vicenç Altaió) and shadowy bloodsucker Dracula (Eliseu Huertas). Pensive and painterly, this challenging slice of cultural flamboyance finds a deadly seriousness in the dryly self-parodic. Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, anthologyfilmarchives.org

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TASTE BREAKER

Considering Divine’s unpleasant dietary habits in Pink Flamingos, you might want to give the concession stand a wide berth before settling in to enjoy the career retrospective of Baltimore’s King of Trash. Titled like a dare, the Film Society at Lincoln Center’s “How Much Can You Take?” brings to theaters John Waters’s 12 features in all their crass glory, as well as numerous shorts (screened free) and even eight boundary-pushers the director is jealous he didn’t make. Tonight’s opener is 1974’s glam-diculous Female Trouble; followed by a discussion between Waters and critic J. Hoberman.

Mondays-Sundays, 6:30 p.m. Starts: Sept. 5. Continues through Sept. 14, 2014

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Shannong & the Clams

Summer is almost over but Bay Area boobies Shannon and the Clams are still on their never-ending hunk hunt, winking their way to the Big Creepy Apple for three nights of terrorizing greasy retro rock. Channeling the Shangri-Las and surfy psych rock, the crusty Clams whoop and ooga booga in the ultimate embodiment of punks at a sock hop. Like an acid trip bizarrely brought to you by the campiest of John Waters clips, they turn on the steam with songs like “Rip Van Winkle” and “Rat House,” buoyed by lead singer Shannon Shaw. After three albums of familiar Muppet-style punk, (especially 2013’s critically acclaimed Dreams in the Rat House), they’ve earned the reputation for putting on the kookiest, wildest live shows around. Go boogie with them.

Tue., Sept. 9, 9 p.m., 2014

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Burlesque Doc Exposed Is Better When It Shows Rather Than Tells

It can be less than compelling in real life to hear a burlesque performer explain how their routines are designed to challenge the beholder’s preconceptions of gender or beauty or whatnot.

While there’s a degree of such preaching in Beth B’s Exposed, the doc will surely be eye-opening for those not already in the choir.

The picture follows eight burlesque performers based in New York, and features plenty of often-explicit footage of their acts. When Bambi the Mermaid pushes an egg out of her vagina — things emerging from vaginas and rectums is a recurring theme — and explains that the egg-laying is an homage to the trashy oeuvre of John Waters, Exposed hints at a less-explored, potentially more interesting theme than body politics: how what they call New Burlesque fits into the modern sleaze of New York, and Coney Island in particular.

Much of the third act is concerned with the charismatic Mat Fraser, a British man born with foreshortened arms due to his mother’s use of thalidomide, and Mat’s fellow performer and wife, the fully armed Julie Atlas Muz.

Seeing Mat and Julie cuddling in bed is more powerful (and heartwarming) than any degree of political exposition.

Like burlesque itself, Exposed is at its best when it shows rather than tells.

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HOLY WATERS

About 15 minutes into Female Trouble, Divine, in all her voluptuous glory, is hurling her mother into a Christmas tree after not getting the cha-cha heels she asked for. Pink Flamingos, Polyester, and Hairspray sound like the makings of one truly demented holiday in South Florida. The logic is simple: John Waters has always had a knack for making a garish show of dysfunctional families, and nothing brings out the dysfunction like Christmas. Tonight, the Pope of Trash takes the stage in A John Waters Christmas, sharing his most twisted holiday traditions, perverted presents, and other twinkling horrors of the season. Sing along to his signature carols like “Here Comes Fatty Claus” and spend the cold winter’s night under a warm, cozy blanket of smut. This is truly the yuletide spectacular we’ve been praying to Satan for.

Fri., Dec. 13, 8 p.m., 2013

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Tennessee Williams Goes Camp in The Mutilated

You might not assume that John Waters and Tennessee Williams have much in common, though Waters has publicly confessed his adoration of Williams. One thing the two share is a romantic view of what others might consider sleaze. But whereas Waters treats filth as light comedy, Williams, at his best, spins trash into profound tragedy.

However, when Williams is off his game, as with the 1966 one-act The Mutilated (usually paired with “The Gnädiges Fräulein” as Slapstick Tragedy), a tale of twisted friendship between a lonely Blanche DuBois knockoff and a New Orleans hooker, he slides into camp; if the cannibalistic denouement of Suddenly, Last Summer has ever made you guffaw, you understand.

The stroke of mad genius in this production at the New Ohio Theatre, transplanted from Provincetown — where else? — is to cast Mink Stole, veteran of many a Waters film, and performance artist Penny Arcade as the leads. Cherry Jones and Marian Seldes they are not. Still, Stole minces sweetly through the role of Trinket Dugan, a belle with damage to the chest area that she considers an unspeakable affliction. Arcade, in contrast, is a riot, gnashing across the boards like Edith Massey as Celeste, the slatternly, amoral frenemy who knows Trinket’s secret, uses it to extort her, and loses no opportunity to emphasize the size and integrity of her own boobs. Oh — and it’s a Christmas play. There’s a chorus of carolers. At the end, a miracle occurs. This production gives the play what it needs: more slapstick, less tragedy.

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I Am Divine: A Probing Documentary of the John Waters-Made Drag Queen Icon

In I Am Divine, a worthy documentary tribute to the drag queen icon, trash king John Waters recalls hatching Pink Flamingos‘ infamous dog-shit scene: “What can we do that isn’t against the law—yet?” Waters snickers.

That dangling “yet” reminds viewers that Divine’s life and career is now being considered from the safety of hindsight. In the film, Divine (né Glenn Milstead) is first an icon, then a person. As director Jeffrey Schwarz’s bubbly gallery of talking heads observes, Divine had mixed feelings about his early collaborations with Waters. Divine couldn’t find steady work as a character actor in later years because he was best known for gobbling feces.

But he also understood that when you celebrate bad taste as much as he did, you look at the world in a uniquely grotesque, context-free way. So it’s gratifying to see Divine praised for being outrageous, as when film critic Alonso Duralde gushes that “[nobody] in the history of cinema is going to top [eating shit.]” But it’s even more exciting to hear anecdotes about Divine’s love life, or his experiences acting opposite boyhood idol Tab Hunter. Mink Stole may be right to remember that “when you were with Divine, it was a grand moment of excess.”

But late Pink Flamingos co-star David Lochary could have summed up Divine’s life when he said, “But once [the process of making movies is] finished, it’s all gravy from there, sort of. I love it once it’s done.”

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Revisit the Mighty Divine in Trash Classic Pink Flamingos

Every scene in Pink Flamingos without Divine is a little less filthy. Baltimore-based trash king John Waters put the drag queen on a pedestal worthy of a sideshow. But Divine, the subject of BAM’s six-film “I Am Divine” retrospective, shone even without Waters’s carnival barker hype. She even exudes beguiling charm in Lust in the Dust, Paul Bartel’s otherwise snoozeworthy 1985 kitsch western. But Pink Flamingos remains the ur-text for Divine and Waters fans because it is a manifesto. Divine is introduced as “The World’s Filthiest Person,” a title that villainous power couple Raymond and Connie Marble (David Lochary and Mink Stole) covet. But Divine earns it throughout Pink Flamingos thanks to what Waters argues is a natural perversity. Try, if you can, to ignore the laborious real-life process that went into the excretion of Divine’s now-infamous dog treat (in real life, the poor mutt was constipated after eating steak for three days). Instead, revel in the scene where Divine saunters around after shoving an uncooked skirt steak between his legs (Divine identified as he). Better yet, see the blow job scene that even Waters feels is excessive. What better way to combat, in Waters’s words, contemporary “porno chic” mores than filming a vaguely Mothra-esque Divine as he voraciously fellates his son? It may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but Divine’s not wrong when he bellows, “I will be Queen one day, and my coronation will be celebrated all over the world. Do not forget: I am Divine!”