1. “Livin’ Thing.” An Oral History of Boogie Nights.
“Nearly 20 years later, Boogie Nights endures. For its beautiful portrait of nontraditional families; for Reynolds and Wahlberg, the surrogate father and son, who were never better; for Philip Seymour Hoffman, squeezing into character and breaking hearts; for its prodigy director sticking to his guns and nailing it; for John C. Reilly’s hot-tub poetry; for Roller Girl. Is everybody ready? This is the making and near unmaking of Boogie Nights.”
2. “What the Torture Report Reveals About Zero Dark Thirty.” The Oscar-nominated film, revisited.
“Revisiting the film in light of the report, it’s clear that even if the movie did not draw a direct connection between torture and this information, it did imply it. The protagonist—a C.I.A. operative named Maya, played by Jessica Chastain—watches video footage of dozens of detainees providing information about al-Kuwait. It’s unclear to the audience how many of these informants have been tortured, but their exhausted, swollen faces suggest many have. The claim is brought out explicitly in one of Maya’s final interviews, during which a detainee tells her that he’ll provide information because he ’has no desire to be tortured again.’ Ultimately, Maya says 20 sources have helped to identify al-Kuwati and his relationship to bin Laden.”
3. “David Lynch’s Bad Thoughts.” J. Hoberman on “David Lynch: The Unified Field,” now on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts through January 11.
“The first image glimpsed beyond the portal to ’David Lynch: The Unified Field’ might be a riff on one of Jasper Johns’s late 1960s single-image relief paintings—a human face at the center of a dark grey field, supported, as if a flower, by a stringy-looking white stalk. Entering the room you discover it’s the 1967 canvas Man Throwing Up. Welcome to Lynchland, where bodily fluids and organic matter are the coin of the realm, orifices gape, revulsion merges with delicacy, and austerity is the handmaiden of disgust.”
4. ”’Fuck tha Police’ in Historical Context.” Rappers have clashed with cops for more than 30 years. Where is the hip-hop response to Ferguson and Staten Island?
“It used to be, a rapper wouldn’t just wait until an unarmed black kid was shot dead in the street, or choked out on a sidewalk, to write a song about it. He’d write a song about it before it even happened, and then he’d write another song praising himself for having such foresight. Rap music wasn’t just the black CNN: it was the black Psychic Friends Network. In fact, the history of rap music could be viewed as a litany of complaints about the police that seems to have predicted this current state of unrest. A list of rappers who have some sort of grievance with the police could double as a list of rappers whose names aren’t Iggy Azalea and would be entirely too long, so I just picked 10. With all due respect, past and present, and without further…to do.”
5. “Taking Care of Nighttime Business.” Reverse Shot’s Jeff Reichert on Inherent Vice.
“Inherent Vice impresses, on the main, even if it inspires a sterile kind of admiration. This may have something to do with its success as adaptation—it may be the most obvious choice among Pynchon’s novels for silver-screen immortalization given that it’s riffing so hard on one of cinema’s favorite genres (and those riffs are themselves on the original noir novels as refracted through half a century or so of films of the same), but this simpatico quality presents possibilities and pitfalls in equal order. More on this later. It’s probably the simplest of Pynchon’s novels, which allows some of the writer’s worst qualities to shine through. His byzantine, diffusing plots, simplistic characterizations (elevated mightily here by Anderson and his troupe), hysterical character names, and forced jokes might just play better on the page, yet they’re dutifully transcribed for the screen by a highly skilled amanuensis. Perhaps reading a book, where we can direct the pacing ourselves, affords us the ability to skip quickly past and forgive undesirable elements, while movie time determines how long we must linger. It’s a perplexing film, but it’s never less than worthy of serious grappling. Yes, Virginia, Thomas Pynchon can be adapted for the screen—the proof is there, all 148 minutes of it. But just because we can, should we?”
Video of the Day: Mad Max: Fury Road gets a new trailer:
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