Pecs Appeal Makes a Comeback
During the eighties action-movie boom, the almost laughably large bodies of Sly and Ahnold were raking it in at the box office and redefining a bigger-is-better brand of masculinity. Now, after years of scaled-down, guy-next-door types (from Keanu in the Matrix flicks to Damon's Jason Bourne) and outright spindly dudes (Spider-Men Maguire and Garfield), brawn is officially back. Chris Hemsworth added nearly 20 pounds of muscle to get into Thor shape—similar to the staggering gains made by Chris Evans to play super-buff Captain America and Ryan Reynolds for Green Lantern. (Even chick-flick heartthrobs are bulking up—Taylor Lautner, Channing Tatum, Kellen Lutz, Ryan Gosling, and Joe Manganiello (at left)—and could likely bench-press any member of the original Brat Pack.) While much of this can be ascribed to our cultural obsession with physical perfection, these popcorn flicks might actually betray some global political coding. "Although superhero films are not full-fledged allegories, they're a lucrative showcase for America's might," says James Farrelly, who specializes in film studies at the University of Dayton in Ohio, "and, in the person of these larger-than-life superheroes, a visual representation of America's power and resolve." If that doesn't sound Reagan-era-esque enough, take heart: Stallone's and Schwarzenegger's O.G. girths will be onscreen together next year in The Tomb.

• • •

From Podcast to Broadcast
Forget open-mic night—comedy's career springboard of choice is now the cheaply produced, easily distributed podcast. IFC recently adapted Marc Maron's hugely popular WTF, in which he will merely pretend to be a neurotic comic grilling his peers in his garage; the network is now also home to Scott Aukerman's Comedy Bang! Bang! MTV moved Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer's "You Had to Be There" podcast out of a Brooklyn apartment and into a Times Square TV studio. "The podcast showcases personality at its best," says MTV's Brent Haynes, The Nikki and Sara Show's executive producer, "because people tend to be less 'on'—in a good way."

• • •

Indie Filmmakers Do the Right-Wing Thing
Independent film often has a narrow cultural focus—and appeal. But a growing cadre of socially conservative directors are targeting millions of underserved right-of-center cineasts. October Baby, about a girl who survived her mother's failed abortion, drew an impressive $8,000-per-screen average in limited release, prompting a wider release in March. Since 2008's Fireproof, starring Kirk Cameron, earned $33.5 million, there've been more indie-right hits, but the striking things about October Baby are its art-house feel and unpreachy tone. Alabama brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin, who codirected and produced the drama, approached it like auteurs, not ideologues. "There's room for diversity," says Jon, who also cowrote the film. "There's a huge market and a big gap. What's coming are filmmakers who understand movies and an audience's values and are passionate about both."

• • •

Hollywood Mavericks
 

The Leading Man

The Showrunners

The Career Opportunists
 

The Next Big Thing

The Survivors

The Idea Man
 

The Directors

The Outsourced Superhero

The Creative Collectives