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Pop Culture Roundup

What moviegoers get in Ron Howard’s movie about The Beatles

The tale told by “Eight Days a Week” is a familiar one: how the bugs flew, and what sort of buzz they made around the world. Beatles fans, from the maniacal to the merely devout, will be tempted to complain that they know this stuff already—everything from the Cavern Club and the hurly-burly of the Hamburg trips to the pullulating mob in Shea Stadium, in 1965, and so forth. The finale of “Eight Days a Week,” with the Beatles riffing on a rooftop, in 1969, and a wakelike blend of raw elegy and what-the-hell cheeriness filling the January air, echoes the ending of “Let It Be,” a documentary from 1970. So, what does Howard possess that earlier chroniclers don’t? Has he got juju eyeballs, monkey finger, or what?

Well, he’s got crowdsourcing. Word went out, partly on social media, that the filmmakers were hunting for fresh evidence of the Beatles on tour: private snaps and home footage, as well as professional fare. One woman had shot the concert at Candlestick Park—the band’s last stadium performance, in November, 1966—on Super 8 and kept it stashed away ever since. On top of such rare finds, Giles Martin, the son of Sir George Martin, was tasked with digitally buffing and restoring material that was known about but deemed too messy for consumption. Much of the mess was caused by human screams, which drown the flow of the music as a waterfall outroars the river that feeds it, and which meant that even the four lads themselves couldn’t always hear their own fabness. (Some of the happy howling resembles a clip from a horror film.) Ringo, interviewed for the movie, remembers a period when the only way to decipher what point they had reached in a song, enthroned as he was behind his drum kit, was to observe the motion of John’s and Paul’s backsides. One presumes that George was already bending his mind toward the East, with the result that his ass remained transcendentally calm.

Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Is a Horror Movie—and the Monster Is Our National Security State

Oliver Stone’s gripping film is a horror movie, not a thriller. All horror movies are about a monster. The monster in this case is a composite character, comprising bits and pieces of James Clapper (the NSA head who lied to Congress about his surveillance of millions of Americans) and Michael Hayden, his predecessor, who is still proud of having used a big black marker to cross out the Fourth Amendment from the copy of the Constitution in the National Archives. It is sometimes forgotten that J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is also a horror tale, in which the dark lord of Mordor, Sauron, not only menaces the world but does so through diabolical inventions such as the eye of Sauron and the ring of power. Perhaps the most menacing monster of all are the thousands of ordinary NSA employees who operate the Eye of Sauron on behalf of the dark lord of an intrusive and lawless US government. Many no doubt think they are keeping the republic safe, without stopping to consider whether their methods have left us with a republic to begin with.

There is zero evidence that warrantless bulk electronic surveillance inside the United States has ever stopped a single act of terrorism. Inside the country, the program was apparently mainly used to bust drug dealers by tracing whoever calls one, and then local law enforcement was instructed to lie to the judge about how they made their case (since the surveillance was illegal). The entire process is far more damaging to society, inasmuch as it corrupts public institutions and trust, than the purchase of a few dime bags of pot. Indeed, since marijuana appears to reduce desire for opioid abuse and probably cuts down on pill addictions (which are legal with a prescription), all the pot deals the Feds busted with their unconstitutional tactics probably actually damaged Americans’ physical and mental health.

Amazing Time Lapse Shows Full Construction of D.C.'s African American History Museum

The Victorian prison compound at Reading near London would be just another penal facility if it weren’t for one star inmate: Oscar Wilde, who spent two excruciating years here from 1895 to 1897, after he was convicted of committing homosexual acts.

Wilde was locked up in his cell 23 hours a day, and barred from any human contact during the hour he spent outside. Upon his release, he wrote about the gruesome conditions in a letter to the editor of the Daily Chronicle: including the “revolting sanitary arrangements,” with one small tin vessel per cell; and the innumerable cases of mental illness and insanity.

Reading Prison went on being a functioning jail until 2013. Now, it is hosting a multidisciplinary tribute to Wilde (until Oct. 30) by a high-profile group of artists, writers and performers including Nan Goldin, Marlene Dumas, Ai Weiwei, Steve McQueen and Patti Smith. For the first time in the prison’s history, the public can actually visit its central wings, and spend time inside Wilde’s cell.

Why You Should See The Birth of a Nation, No Matter How You Feel About Nate Parker

By Stephanie Zachary, the film critic for TIME in New York City.

Movies, and sometimes the people who make them, work on us at strange, subterranean levels we can’t even begin to comprehend. That’s why, even though relatively few people have seen it, few know quite how to feel about Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation, which premiered here at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday to a rousing response from the audience, some seven months after its sensational Sundance unveiling. Parker’s debut picture—about Nat Turner, the enslaved African American who led a violent revolt against slave owners in 1831—is distinctive for one notable reason: Movies about the history of blacks in this country are rarely made, and if you rule out the usual suspects like Spike Lee and Lee Daniels—and count back to the days before 12 Years a Slave and Selma—they have rarely been made by people of color. But months ahead of its release in the United States, in October, The Birth of a Nation has also become infamous for a thornier reason: In 1999, while they were students at Penn State University, Parker and his roommate and wrestling teammate Jean Celestin—cowriter of The Birth of a Nation—were accused of raping a fellow student. Parker was acquitted. Celestin was found guilty, though the verdict was overturned. Their accuser committed suicide in 2012. In the context of this terrible blot, should Parker be lauded as a filmmaker? Should people show tacit support of him and his actions by seeing the film? Is his work, or his view on anything, in any way trustworthy?

Anyone who believes he or she will find true gratification in refusing to buy a ticket to The Birth of a Nation should probably stay away. But this sort of punishment by refusal can’t rewrite the past, and it suggests that closing ourselves off from a movie is a bold way to engage with the world, when in fact, it’s the opposite. The Birth of a Nation isn’t a great movie—it’s hardly even a good one. But it’s bluntly effective, less a monumental piece of filmmaking than an open door.

The historian is the hero of this new NBC drama:  “Timeless” (debuting October 3rd)

NBC’s new action-packed time-traveling drama is definitely not your Back to the Future scenario. Nothing humorous or whimsical about emergency time travel trips to save American history. Who do you call for that type of job anyway? Any one of Marvel’s Avengers right? Not this time (although no one would have argued about a little extra Chris Hemsworth.) An unsuspecting team is recruited to travel back to critical events to ensure that history indeed repeats itself, despite the mysterious criminal who stole the time machine prototype for unknown, yet presumably evil reasons.

Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) is a respected history professor whose mother was something of a renowned history professor as well. Though she is looking after her dying mother, Lucy’s life is full and content until she is ambushed by Homeland Security. What do they want with someone like her who leads a quiet life? After learning why she was enlisted, shell-shocked Lucy resists their plea for her help. That is until she is strong-armed into the mission by the ever-so-convincing Homeland Security officer, “I’d think someone who loves history would want to save it.” How could she turn back now?

New documentary casts light on a coup  d’état that hounded blacks out of government in North Carolina and left many dead

On November 10, 1898, a coup d’état took place on United States soil. It was perpetrated by a gang of white-supremacist Democrats in Wilmington, North Carolina, who were intent on reclaiming power from the recently elected, biracial Republican government, even if, as one of the leaders vowed, “we have to choke the Cape Fear River with carcasses.” They had a Colt machine gun capable of firing four hundred and twenty .23-calibre bullets a minute. They had the local élite and the press on their side. By the end of the day, they had killed somewhere between fourteen and sixty black men and banished twenty more, meanwhile forcing the mayor, the police chief, and the members of the board of aldermen to resign.

The new government remained in control, of both the town and the story. Subsequent generations of white residents knew about the events of 1898 as a “revolution” or a “race riot,” if they knew about them at all. In the black community, the episode remained a suppressed trauma. “It was just, like, something we talked about on the porch, like a folk thing, but it wasn’t really in the mainstream,” Christopher Everett, the director of “Wilmington on Fire,” a new documentary, said not long ago. Before Rosewood, before Tulsa, press materials for the film note, there was Wilmington—“a massacre kept secret for over one hundred years.”

Defying the Nazis VR: Experience a Dramatic 1940 Escape From Europe

Imagine, as a child, leaving behind everything you know—your family, your home, even your native language. Those were only some of the hardships facing the child refugees who fled Nazi France for freedom in the United States. In the virtual reality companion piece to the Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky documentary Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War (premiering Tuesday on PBS), you can step inside the ship with them as they travel from Portugal to the United States.

How The Sharps Defied the Nazis and Became American Heroes

In some respects, Waitstill and Martha Sharp resembled other Holocaust rescuers: They were motivated by strong religious and moral convictions, and they viewed their wartime heroism as nothing extraordinary — simply what others in similar circumstances would have done.

But the nature of their circumstances distinguished them from other rescuers. Rather than living under Nazi occupation, the Sharps were leading a comfortable existence in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, where Waitstill Sharp (1902–84) was a Unitarian minister and Martha Sharp (1905–99) a social worker. Then, in January 1939, an exhortation to help jolted them from that life forever.

Their largely unknown story is the subject of “Defying the Nazis” — both a documentary on the Public Broadcasting Service co-directed by Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky, and a companion volume by Joukowsky, the Sharps’ grandson.

Woody Harelson opens up about his performance as President Lyndon B. Johnson in the upcoming biopic LBJ,

Woody Harrelson isn’t the only actor playing President Lyndon B. Johnson during cinema’s current LBJ renaissance, between his foul-mouthed turn in Rob Reiner’s LBJ, Bryan Cranston in HBO’s All the Way, and John Carroll Lynch in Pablo Larrain’s fellow Toronto Film Fest entry Jackie. He is, however, most certainly the only actor playing President Lyndon B. Johnson right now who politically self-identifies as an anti-government anarchist and has few kind words for the man he plays onscreen in the biopic—in a pointed Texas accent and under heavy prosthetics.

“I’m more of an anarchist than anything,” confirmed Harrelson as he spoke with The Daily Beast about LBJ, Reiner’s first politically-themed film since An American President. “I don’t really believe in government. I don’t see the positive effects of it. Our federal government was just supposed to take care of trade between the states and protect us in times of war—and instead, it’s become belligerent around the world and it’s constantly in every aspect of our lives.”

National World War I Museum and Memorial to be Featured on Jeopardy!

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The National World War I Museum and Memorial will be featured prominently on the Friday, Sept. 23 episode of the Emmy Award-winning television game show Jeopardy!.

Jeopardy!, the top-rated quiz show on television with more than 23 million viewers each week, will feature the Museum in an entire category of video clues filmed on-site at the Museum. Jeopardy! Clue Crew members Jimmy McGuire and Kelly Miyahara visited the Museum and participated in the filming of the clues.

“With millions of viewers across the world, Jeopardy! provides a tremendous opportunity to educate the public about the Great War and its enduring impact,” said Dr. Matthew Naylor, National World War I Museum and Memorial President and CEO. “We are thrilled that the team at Jeopardy! chose to recognize the importance of the First World War by traveling to our nation’s official World War I museum and memorial.”

‘Botched’ Repair to China’s Great Wall Inspires Outrage

The Great Wall of China. A stirring symbol of national pride whose overlapping sections span thousands of miles. A crumbling, melancholy monument to China’s imperial grandeur, so imposing that it inspired the stubborn myth that it is visible from the moon.

One part of the Great Wall is even more visible now, but for very wrong reasons.

Chinese preservationists, internet users and media commentators have been incensed this week after pictures showed that officials repaired part of the Great Wall in northeast China by slapping a white substance on top of the crumbling, weathered stones.

A once unkempt, haunting 700-year-old stretch of the wall now looks like a cement skateboarding lane dumped in the wilderness.

Disney Film Highlights Holocaust Rescue by U.S. Christians

The inspiring efforts by a handful of American Christians to save Jews from the Nazis will be featured in the new documentary, "Defying the Nazis," which will air on PBS this week. This amazing story of Holocaust heroism is also highlighted in "Rescue Over the Mountains," an animated short created for schools by Disney Educational Productions and The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

"Rescue Over the Mountains" may be viewed by visiting www.theyspokeout.com (Choose the "Episodes" tab.) It is part of a seven-episode series, "They Spoke Out: American Voices Against the Holocaust," created by the unique team of Disney's educational division, legendary comic book artist Neal Adams, and Holocaust historian Dr. Rafael Medoff. This dramatic 12-minute film is designed for classroom use; a teacher's guide is available by contacting info@wymaninstitute.org

"Rescue Over the Mountains" blends animation, comic book-style illustrations, and period film footage to chronicle the work of the rescue network established and led in Vichy France in 1940-1941 by American journalist Varian Fry. Key members of Fry's group included dissident U.S. consul Hiram Bingham IV, ex-wrestler Charles Fawcett, and Unitarian minister Rev. Waitstill Sharp and his wife, Martha. (The Sharps are featured in this week's PBS film; check local listings for the PBS broadcast in your area.)

Fry's rescue effort was halted in 1941 by the Roosevelt administration, in response to complaints by the Nazis. The administration forced Fry to leave France by refusing to renew his passport, on the grounds that he had been "carrying on activities evading the laws of countries with which the United States maintains friendly relations.” The United States had not yet entered the war, and the Roosevelt administration still maintained friendly relations with Nazi Germany.

50th Anniversary Celebration Of 'Star Trek' Continues In New York, Massachusetts, United Kingdom

The 50th anniversary of the debut of Star Trek–which first aired in Canada and the United States 50 years ago this month–continues worldwide, with events in New York, Massachusetts and Birmingham, England, among other places.

The Paley Center for Media is the only New York venue for the global art exhibition, “Star Trek:  50 Artists, 50 Years,” on display through September 25.  Traveling next to NEC Birmingham, in Birmingham, England, the exhibition features works by artists from around the world, famous fans, and Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed Mr. Spock; these include posters, photos, sculptures, comic strips and textiles, all also featured in a book published earlier this month, in which the artists share their work in progress and insights into their inspiration.  The 2-D and 3-D works–including one by celebrity fan, Mayim Bialik, of The BigBang Theory, and the last work created by Nimoy, an accomplished photographer–pay homage to the visionary optimism of Gene Roddenberry’s enduring classic and its many offspring.

Simon Schama’s new book, based on his TV show, celebrates “The Face of Britain"

This splendid book by the historian and art critic Simon Schama could ­hardly be better timed, since it might plausibly be argued that “the face of Britain” changed on or about June 23, 2016. With the “Brexit” referendum, British citizens voted to leave the European Union, as the supposedly United Kingdom sought to become — in the eyes of many observers — whiter, more insular, more Christian, as well as considerably angrier, like one of those howling popes by Francis Bacon, a favorite artist of Schama’s.

This is hardly the first time the country’s identity has come into question, as ­Schama reminds us in “The Face of Britain,” a “triangular collaboration” of his British publisher with the National Portrait Gallery, from which most of his well-chosen ­illustrations are drawn, and Oxford Film and Television, which has produced a BBC television series to accompany it. The gallery was founded in 1856, Schama explains, “to tell the British who they were,” and “it was not accidental that the question was put at a time of sudden imperial uncertainty in India and the Crimea,” which also happened to be the golden age of ­self-consciously British museums.

Photographs, newspapers, coins and books preserved in a Nazi time capsule from around 1934 have been discovered in Poland.  It includes TWO copies of Mein Kampf.

The capsule was recovered by archaeologists who knew about its existence for years but were unable to access the copper cylinder in the town of Zlocieniec, which had been part of Germany during the Second World War.

It had been buried around 80 years ago during the construction of the Ordensburg Krossinsee building, which had been used to train members of the Nazi party, and the researchers had to find their way through thick concrete, German mines and wade through groundwater to access the capsule, TalkRadio reports.