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‘Avengers: Endgame’ Is Like Graduation Day: Satisfying, Nostalgic And Long As Hell

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“What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course,” Durst famously says in the series’ stunning conclusion, captured on a hot mic while going to the bathroom.

His full comments were in a different order, according to The New York Times, which reported Wednesday that Durst’s lawyers are planning to devote much of their defense on the documentary’s “manipulations” when Durst goes to trial later this year.

A portion of the documentary footage’s transcripts, submitted as part of the ongoing court case involving Durst’s alleged murder of close friend Susan Berman in 2000, shows that the filmmakers cobbled together Durst’s apparent confession from a much longer sequence of rambling remarks.

“That’s the hero gig: Part of the journey is the end,” Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) says in the culminating “Avengers” extravaganza, having spent the past decade auditing a course in Joseph Campbell studies. The wealthy tech wunderkind otherwise known as Tony Stark is the reason we’re here today, 22 Marvel movies deep and counting; thank or blame him as you will. What a journey it’s been — one in which death is impermanent, enemies come and go, and entire nations and planets join the carefully calculated crusade cooked up in Hollywood boardrooms and passed down from one director to the next. Once considered a risky choice to launch an entire franchise, Iron Man’s destiny won him the ultimate prize: eternal fame.

As a reward for being the guinea pig, Downey — an actor whose Marvel affiliation rehabilitated his flailing career — gets to be the one true star of “Avengers: Endgame,” which bids farewell to several company players whose contracts predate Disney’s governance. For anyone paying attention, the departures on which “Endgame” hinges much of its narrative come as no surprise. Everything has been leading to this, a precious handover when the seniors graduate and the juniors take their place. As we go on, we remember all the times we had together.

Is it a spoiler to say that the characters who supposedly died at the hands of the giant purple villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) in “Avengers: Infinity War” can be resurrected to keep the series alive for many moons? No. You already knew that. You already knew, in broad strokes, close to everything that happens in “Endgame,” and you wanted it that way. For fans, this is comfort food, deep-fried and delectable. Does anyone care whether a funnel cake uses the highest-grade dough? What counts is that it’s chewy and familiar. But a little quality goes a long way, and thankfully “Endgame” has it in spades. It’s a satisfying spectacle that justifies its absurd three-hour running time — a feat.

Robert Downey Jr. in "Avengers: Endgame."
Robert Downey Jr. in “Avengers: Endgame.”

Most films involving at least one Avenger follow the same pattern: exposition, banter, battle, then more exposition, more banter and an even bigger battle, and probably another one after that, and finally a setup for the next installment. “Endgame” understands that combat is not Marvel’s strong suit, even if it dominates the enterprise. (The studio’s action sequences tend to assault the senses with incoherent editing and overblown digital effects, but I digress.) In their latest joyride, co-directors Joe and Anthony Russo, who have maybe learned a few tricks after making four of these suckers, let the Avengers savor one another’s company.

Particularly in the movie’s first half, our heroes luxuriate in their friendships. Lo and behold, they are real characters. Sure, they have goals to execute in order to restore 50% of Earth’s population, decimated by Thanos in “Infinity War.” But they get time to play paper football, discuss email habits, attend grief-support groups and make “Back to the Future” jokes. Refreshingly, the comedy in Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s script is a guiding force instead of mere window dressing. Plus it’s fun when Iron Man judges how Captain America’s (Chris Evans) suit makes his butt look.

But of course we wouldn’t have a movie if there weren’t a world to save. After inducting Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) into their clique, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) put their O.G. Avenger creds to work. Their aim is to seize the so-called Infinity Stones needed to reset Thanos’ damage, prompting them to time-travel through the franchise’s greatest hits to pull off various conquests. That takes them back to New York in 2012, where the first “Avengers” entry was set, and to Asgard in 2013 and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” planet Morag in 2014.

Along the way, we’re provided an inventory of Marvel’s payroll. That means cameos galore. Remember when Robert Redford, of all people, was in one of these films? I won’t tell you who else appears for fear of being scolded by the diehards, but it’s rather shocking to realize just how much of Hollywood has been bitten by the comic-book bug. On the one hand, it’s delightful to see so many great actors and actresses in one place; on the other, don’t [insert Oscar-nominated superstars here] have something better to do than appear silently for 30 seconds so we can feel a little nostalgic?

Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner in "Avengers: Endgame."
Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner in “Avengers: Endgame.”

I’m being coy about what else happens in “Endgame” because I’d rather not see my inbox flooded with angry emails. Trust that I’ve only scraped the surface. But know also that even a superhero agnostic like me might be held rapt by what unfolds onscreen — not because “Endgame” is an especially excellent movie, but because its quest to please everyone who purchases a ticket is filled with so much winning humor and pathos. Much like in the new “Star Wars” trilogy or the latest “Game of Thrones” episodes, watching characters meet or reunite after years apart is reward enough. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe was made for anything, it’s this.

It helps, too, that “Endgame” isn’t overly violent. There’s far less action than expected, which gave my eyes and ears a much-deserved rest. Instead, it’s a fairly thoughtful saga about the toils of heroism, what it means to risk your life for a greater good, and how the leadership torch gets passed from one generation to another. Downey is especially good at capturing these struggles; after years on the front lines, he wears exhaustion all over his body. Hemsworth, too, gives a bravura performance, though his is built more on comic tension: Thor has let himself go, looking more like Jeffrey Lebowski than a Norse god. 

The rub, and therefore the success, of “Endgame” is that not much of anything is actually ending, and yet we still leave feeling like an era has passed us by. Just like the forthcoming “Star Wars” spinoffs and Game of Thrones” prequel, there’s another batch of Avengers-adjacent movies simmering right now, including July’s “SpiderMan: Far From Home.” Maybe Downey’s contract has run out, but the franchise will march on — to infinity and beyond, if you will. Call me when we’ve really reached the last superhero flick ever, and we’ll have a lot more to reflect on. But for now, dear reader, I almost shed a tear. Almost.

“Avengers: Endgame” opens April 26.

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Jennifer Garner Leads People Magazine’s Beautiful List

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FILE - Jennifer Garner claps during the 32nd American Cinematheque Award ceremony honoring Bradley Cooper in Beverly Hills, California, Nov. 29, 2018.

FILE – Jennifer Garner claps during the 32nd American Cinematheque Award ceremony honoring Bradley Cooper in Beverly Hills, California, Nov. 29, 2018.

LOS ANGELES — 

Actress, businesswoman and children’s advocate Jennifer Garner is featured on the cover of People magazine’s annual beautiful issue, the magazine said on Tuesday.

People said it chose the 47-year-old “Alias” actress for balancing her career and charitable work with the raising of her three children with ex-husband Ben Affleck.

In addition to film and TV roles, Garner co-founded organic baby food company Once Upon a Farm and works as an ambassador for advocacy group Save the Children.

Garner told People that she never considered herself “one of the pretty girls” when she was growing up in West Virginia. She described her style at the time as “band geek-chic.”

Her current “uniform” more often than not is workout clothes, or jeans, a sweater and sneakers, if she is not dressed up for a red carpet or photo shoot.

When she does get glammed up, Garner said her kids will ask “‘Can you wash your face? Can you put your hair in a ponytail and put your glasses and sweats on?'”

“And I see the compliment in that,” she said. “They just want me to look like Mom.”

People’s beautiful issue will hit newsstands on Friday.

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Everything Between Jon And Daenerys On ‘Game Of Thrones’ Just Got Awkward

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Aegon Targaryen, Sixth of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, has entered the game.

But yeah, we’re going to go ahead and keep calling him Jon Snow.

The second installment of the last season of “Game of Thrones” didn’t leave us wondering what Jon (Kit Harington) would do with the shocking information he just learned about his parents.

First, a recap: The season premiere, whatever its shortcomings, at least gave us the series’ most pivotal moment to date, when Jon learned about his real parents and real birthright as the true-born son of Lyanna Stark (Aisling Franciosi) and Rhaegar Targaryen (Wilf Scolding). The whole kingdom believes Lyanna was abducted by Rhaegar, who sparked a rebellion when he “stole” her from Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) ― but the couple really just ran away to elope.

Jon’s pal Sam (John Bradley) even has some weird proof in the form of visions from Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and an old diary kept by the maester who annulled Rhaegar’s previous marriage to Elia Martell, making Jon a legitimate Targaryen heir. Were it not for the war that preceded the events of “Game of Thrones,” Rhaegar would have been king after his father, and Jon after Rhaegar.

Now everything is a mess.

When, in the final seconds of Sunday’s episode, Jon and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) are standing before Lyanna’s tomb, Jon finds the courage to tell Daenerys that he is actually the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

And Jon’s royal heritage creates more problems than one. 

First off, Daenerys is his father’s sister. It may seem less gross at this point when we’ve all been fairly desensitized to the intimate sibling relationship between Jaime and Cersei Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Headey), but, yes, an intimate relationship between aunt and nephew is still very gross. (Even if the earlier Targaryens thought otherwise.)

Also, incest aside, Daenerys did not spend the last several years walking around the desert, collecting ships and setting slaveholders ablaze only to stand down after she finally reached Westeros. Nor is she likely to be particularly pleased that her identity is built on a lie. She amassed a great amount of power ― armies, an armada ― as the exiled queen striving to take back her family’s titles.

For her part, Daenerys is immediately skeptical of Jon’s story and makes the pretty good point that it was relayed to him via Bran and Sam: “Your brother and your best friend. That doesn’t seem strange to you?”

Fair question. But what happens now?

Daenerys’ followers seem to like her for her, regarding her as a just ruler with a fearsome power to withstand heat and flame ― not to mention the two giant lizards. So it seems likely they’ll stick around.

But still. Her claim is now problematic.

We see three possible scenarios coming out of this revelation. In no particular order:

1. Jon doesn’t actually want the titles and still wants to see Daenerys on the Iron Throne.

Dismay, chagrin, straight-up explosive rage ― many emotions passed over Daenerys’ face as she learned her bootstrapping boyfriend has the better claim to the Iron Throne. Luckily for Jon, she does seem to like him, which reduces his odds of becoming food for emaciated dragons after the battle for Winterfell. Jon’s very existence, however, sullies her claim, and much would depend on the strength of her supporters.

2. Jon doesn’t actually want the titles, but thinks Daenerys might have a cruel streak.

Daenerys did not tell Jon that she executed Sam’s family, and he seems a bit shocked once he learns that fact from his friend. Perhaps he has come to believe she isn’t the savior Westeros really needs, after all.

3. Jon actually does want the titles.

However reluctantly, however much brooding he needs to finally come to the decision, Jon could potentially see himself as a better ruler for Westeros than his aunt-slash-girlfriend. Obviously, he can’t make any moves before the Night King and his zombie army are defeated, but this would undoubtedly become the darkest timeline.

In any case, at least these Targaryen-Stark lovebirds have already enjoyed their Magic Carpet moment.

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How America Became A Nation Of Truthers

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From the moment the Declaration of Independence was signed, containing the bold and rather conspiratorial accusation that King George III had committed a series of outrageous acts “all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states,” the United States was destined to be a country of conspiracy theorists.

And it has been: For centuries, Freemasons, Communists, giant lizard people, Illuminati, Catholics and Jews have all been suspected of conspiring to overthrow or control, from the shadows, our ever-growing federal government. We suspect that fluoride in the water or airplane condensation trails are mind-control chemicals; we trade emails and Twitter threads about Russian collusion and Pizzagate. 

“I think every country probably has conspiracy theorists, but not every country has a discourse that is sort of swayed by, overtaken by, conspiracy theories the way that ours is,” said journalist Anna Merlan, author of the new book “Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power,” in a phone conversation with HuffPost.

In early 2016, Jezebel sent Merlan, now a reporter on the Special Projects Desk at Gizmodo Media Group, on a conspiracy cruise. It was a heady time for the people on the boat, believers in redemption theory, anti-vax bunk, UFOs, faked moon landings. Then-candidate Donald Trump was one reason why. “My general thought was, it’s really interesting that a lot of these people are very excited about Donald Trump and they really see him as somebody who could maybe be an astounding truth teller and bust open all these government secrets. What are they gonna do when he loses?” Merlan told me. “And then, of course, that’s not what happened at all.”

Instead, shortly after the election, she found herself writing a proposal for a book that would chart the path forward for an America under Trump ― an America flooded with conspiracy theories. “We have waves of conspiracy theorism in America that usually seem to coincide with times of social change and social upheaval,” she said. Our current boom is no exception, save that now conspiracy theories can easily spread, mingle, and mate on social media. 

“Republic of Lies” is a frequently jaw-dropping, yet deeply sensitive and curious, journey through some of the most pervasive conspiracy theories in America today. Some may be obscure to the mainstream reader, others, like the depths of Russiagate, will be all too familiar. Conspiracy theories, after all, have taken over a vast proportion of our political discourse and news coverage. Throughout, Merlan wrestles with the country’s tendency toward conspiratorial thinking, a tendency that might lead to certain dark places but that also, she pointed out, “has a lot to do with how well this country has worked for us and our sense of whether or not this is a just place, a transparent place.”

In her new book, journalist Anna Merlan explores America’s long-time passion for conspiracy theories.
COURTESY OF METROPOLITAN BOOKS
In her new book, journalist Anna Merlan explores America’s long-time passion for conspiracy theories.
HuffPost chatted with Merlan about America’s long history and fraught present of offbeat beliefs, how the country’s deeply embedded racism has shaped conspiratorial thinking, and more:

You talk about conspiracy theories as a specifically or quintessentially American way of looking at the world. What is that about? 

Obviously, Americans are not the only people who engage in conspiracy thinking. There’s a lot of it all over the world. I would just argue that it is especially potent here because of, first of all, a really vigorous and open free press and a lot of access to technology and blogging platforms, all of which are good things, combined with a long history by the U.S. government of actual cover-ups and actual conspiracies and a continued suspicion of the U.S. government because of that. Combined with what I would argue is a national, inherent, nationwide suspicion of and distrust for authority. 

Did you talk to anyone from outside the country about this book? Did you get a sense of what it looks like to other people, the way that we have these crazy, like Pizzagate, stuff taking over the news?

I read a lot of studies about conspiracy theories in other countries and tried to understand how we differ. And then, as I was doing that, I got an email from a coalition of conspiracy researchers in the U.K., or in Europe, and they only study American conspiracy theories. There’s a whole consortium of European scholars who are completely engaged with American conspiracy theorizing and trying to understand why we’re like that. So I think that there’s definitely a really strong interest in how this happened in the richest country on earth.

One factor, which you write about a good amount, is the racial divide in America, and the fact that conspiracy theorizing seems to manifest in various racial groups. What did you start to see when you looked at conspiracy theories in white communities versus non-white communities?

To vastly oversimplify it, you can say the conspiracy theories that are more prevalent among white people, especially wealthy white people, have to do with a fear of outside influence or contamination. Like, anti-vaccine stuff is more prevalent in wealthier, whiter places. There’s also a lot more concern about outsiders, foreigners, incursion, stuff like that. Whereas in communities of color, especially the black community, a lot of conspiracy theorizing is focused on the federal government because the federal government has been the agent of so much injustice.

One thing that comes up in your book is that a lot of the conspiracy theories directed at people of color, especially black people, are based on truth. Some of them are just very real conspiracies. When some of them are true and some of them aren’t, can you talk about them in the same category?

Well, I think it’s sort of a major element of the book, is reckoning with the fact that not all conspiracy theories are crazy, not all of them are untrue. Even the ones that are crazy and untrue are often rooted in deep historical background. I always talk about conspiracy theories as a form of trauma, in a way, that they very much reflect a nation that has been fundamentally unable to believe the truth of what we’re being told by our government, by authority figures. 

And so, particularly when I’m writing about conspiracy theories among minority communities, I think the important thing to do is to understand where they came from, and to not be condescending, to not be snarky. I don’t think it’s helpful, I don’t think it’s culturally competent, and I don’t think it really reckons with the role that true conspiracies have played in this country’s history.

One way that they’re often covered is as entertainment. Do you think it can be innocuous entertainment to consume this kind of content, or is it really blurring the lines between fact and fiction in a way that is troubling?

I don’t think conspiracy theories in themselves are dangerous. I think any healthy democratic society can withstand a lot of conspiracy theorizing, a lot of interest in alternative beliefs, and also as human beings, I think it’s very understandable that we have a lot of natural curiosity about the world around us that sometimes veers into conspiracy thinking. I think all of that is fine. 

The only source of concern that I have is when conspiracy theories are used by the government and people in power to try to identify an enemy and turn people against an easily demonized or scapegoated group. I worry about conspiracy theories like the anti-vaccine sentiment that have real-world effects on public health.

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