1. “The Nerd Hunter.” The casting director Allison Jones is reshaping American comedy, one misfit at a time.
“By the time Jones finishes reading a script, she already has ideas about which actors might be right for the roles—and who can handle the pressure of constantly improvising during the eighty-hour workweek that shooting a television comedy often requires. But she also likes the surprise of the unknown, and on the first day of casting she was wading through fifty or so candidates chosen from some nine thousand who had appealed to her in online head shots. She was looking in particular for ’Paul Feig types,’ well-meaning nerds who are endearing in their benevolent oddness. ’She finds people that your heart can break for,’ the actor Paul Rudd told me. By lunchtime, however, Jones hadn’t seen anyone worth showing to Feig. ’They’re forcing it,’ she said. ’It’s not real. You’re either a nerd or you’re not.’”
2. “Mezzanine Essentials: Peeping Tom.” For Movie Mezzanine, Robert Greene on the Michael Powell classic.
“The film remains relevant today not simply because of its vast influence, but because of the fundamental truth Powell expresses about the dark heart of cinema. Film is an art form of repressed desires, built on the voyeur impulse and geared to serve some of our most reactionary compulsions. Movie directors are psychological intruders, mad scientists obsessed with using illusions of reality to create involuntary emotional reactions in viewers. As a filmmaker myself, I find the unsettling revelations of Peeping Tom to be a kind of truth tonic; I urge all who watch, write about or, especially, make movies to try to understand Powell’s dark message: The cinema wants to hurt you.”
3. “Live and Direct.” The definitive oral history of 1980s digital icon Max Headroom.
“On Thursday, April 4th, 1985, a blast of dystopian satire hit the UK airwaves. Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future was a snarky take on media and corporate greed, told through the eyes of investigative journalist Edison Carter (Matt Frewer) and his computer-generated alter-ego: an artificial intelligence named Max Headroom. [It] kicked off an extensive franchise, and Max became a singular ’80s pop culture phenomenon that represented everything wonderful and horrible about the decade. Max hosted music video shows; Max interviewed celebrities; Max hawked New Coke; Max Headroom became US network television’s very first cyberpunk series. Max was inescapable—and then almost just as quickly as he had appeared, he was gone. Thirty years after the premiere, I spoke with the writers, directors, producers, actors, make-up artists, and network executives that helped bring Max Headroom to life. And it all began, like so many things in the ‘80s, with music videos.”
4. “All Are Welcome.” Matt Fagerholm on religion at the movies.
“Watching last year’s two evangelical hits, I was struck by just how much they differed from one another. [Harold] Cronk’s [God’s Not Dead] is, in many ways, a response to various legal cases alleging discrimination of college students on the basis of their Christian beliefs. These cases are listed in the end credits and are followed by a plug for the conservative nonprofit group, Alliance Defending Freedom, urging viewers to contact them if they feel their faith is being challenged by others. According to a featurette included on the film’s DVD release, many of the students were shunned because they refused to endorse the rights of same sex couples. The conspicuous lack of this topical controversy in God’s Not Dead suggests that the filmmakers were uneasy with their own subject matter and opted instead to stage a straightforward morality play. The Christians who commit their lives to Christ are depicted as pure-hearted underdogs. Practically everyone else is a reduced to a hateful caricature with an invalid worldview. Even the worst of them secretly yearn to follow Jesus, especially once they’ve been hit by a car.”
5. “The Simple Joy and Sincere Wonder of Furious 7.” Richard Brody on the James Wan film.
“The fighting is the source of the fun—the blend of high-speed NASCAR-style needle-threading, demolition-derby impact, martial-arts choreography, and cross-vehicular crawls and leaps, all of which are rendered deliriously hyperbolic in visions of a nearly hallucinatory splendor. Wan renders the weightiest items weightless, as in the midair ballet of cars and trucks dropped from a military transport plane above the Caucasus Mountains; the burst of a high-speed sports car out one tower window and into another, then out the other side and into a third, in the pristine heights of Abu Dhabi; and the leap of an armored vehicle from over a bridge in Los Angeles, where the action begins and concludes. The Rube-Goldberg-esque interlocking of speed, flight, marksmanship, combat, and acrobatics in elaborate plein-air set pieces are notable feats of visual engineering.”
Video of the Day: The trailer for Rialto Pictures’ restoration of Forbidden Games:
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