1. “Anita Ekberg R.I.P.” The international screen beauty and Fellini star dies at 83.
“Anita Ekberg, who became an international symbol of lush beauty and unbridled sensuality in the 1960 Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita, died Sunday morning. She was 83. Her death, in Rocca di Papa, southeast of Rome, was caused by complications from a longtime illness and was confirmed by her lawyer, Patrizia Ubaldi. Fellini cast Ms. Ekberg in La Dolce Vita as a hedonistic American actress visiting Rome. A single moonlit scene—in which she wades into the Trevi Fountain in a strapless evening gown, turns her face ecstatically to the fountain’s waterfall and seductively calls Marcello Mastroianni’s character to join her—established her place in cinema history. Ms. Ekberg won a Golden Globe, sharing the 1956 award for most promising newcomer with Dana Wynter and Victoria Shaw, but most of her roles focused primarily on her face and figure. When she traveled overseas to entertain American troops in the 1950s, it was as a sex symbol. Bob Hope introduced her as ’the greatest thing to come from Sweden since smorgasbord’ and joked that her parents had won the Nobel Prize for architecture.”
2. “Slavoj Žižek on the Charlie Hebdo massacre: Are the worst really full of passionate intensity?” How fragile the belief of an Islamist must be if he feels threatened by a stupid caricature in a weekly satirical newspaper, says the Slovenian philosopher.
“How fragile the belief of a Muslim must be if he feels threatened by a stupid caricature in a weekly satirical newspaper? The fundamentalist Islamic terror is not grounded in the terrorists’ conviction of their superiority and in their desire to safeguard their cultural-religious identity from the onslaught of global consumerist civilization. The problem with fundamentalists is not that we consider them inferior to us, but, rather, that they themselves secretly consider themselves inferior. This is why our condescending politically correct assurances that we feel no superiority towards them only makes them more furious and feeds their resentment. The problem is not cultural difference (their effort to preserve their identity), but the opposite fact that the fundamentalists are already like us, that, secretly, they have already internalized our standards and measure themselves by them. Paradoxically, what the fundamentalists really lack is precisely a dose of that true ’racist’ conviction of their own superiority.”
3. ”’That’s a Fairly Silly Question’: An Interview with Mike Leigh.” Calum Marsh chats with the acclaimed (and playfully salty) filmmaker on the evolution of style, shooting in digital, and the limits and joys of making period pieces.
“What follows is, I think, one of the more fascinating interviews I’ve conducted, even if in the moment it seemed among the most trying. I should say that Leigh’s occasional rebuffs were delivered with warmth and a kindly smile, and that, being both old and British, his wit leans so far toward dry that it may be mistaken on the page for an irritability that isn’t there in person. This is a useful point to consider if you’ve seen his latest film, Mr. Turner—a biopic on the life and death of the illustrious J.M.W., a beloved painter and, as the film makes clear, a notorious curmudgeon. As Turner, Timothy Spall is if nothing else an irascible, querulous chap, huffing and grunting extravagantly; he, too, is difficult—but he is very much the ultimate crank. Leigh wouldn’t want you to get the two confused.”
4. “HAL, Mother, and Father.” Jason Z. Renikoff on watching the sixties and seventies through 2001 and Alien.
“Put on the film now and you see the physical metaphor of evolution as Kubrick and Clarke imagined it: a perfectly symmetrical monolith, its facets immaculately smooth, the most ordered object imaginable. And there I see how my father was in the thick of it. He thought his work with computers was in a small way helping to liberate humanity, to allow people to think beyond what had until then been the limits of cognition. When those right angles appeared in the shape of a monolith, my father saw freedom, but I doubt he saw what else they stood for: that they were the same right angles of urban renewal displacing working-class neighborhoods and erecting in their ruins other kinds of monoliths, housing projects like prisons, expressways that gutted street life. Or the monolith of an office building somewhere in Thailand, where as a part of Operation Igloo White all the might of the United States military was mobilized in a truly insane attempt to automate ’strategic’ bombing in Vietnam via a dense network of computers, but only managed to drop bombs on random people. I very much doubt he realized how his work, the very systems of command and control he was helping to develop, would in the hands of the greedy and inhuman come to destroy the world he thought was on the verge of being born.
5. “11 Offenses of 2014.” Below is Reverse Shot’s Andrew Tracy on Gone Girl.
“David Fincher’s winkingly nasty adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s postgrad-clever potboiler has already attracted reams of commentary, and acquired passionate and eloquent defenders and detractors both, so one more screed against it hardly seems necessary at this point. For this detractor, though, the overwhelming feeling is one of rueful regret that so much passion and eloquence was squandered on an object so unworthy. The crux of the matter—is it a scathing satire of misogyny, or just plain misogynist?—is made moot by the fact that the film itself doesn’t care either way. While it’s true that Rosamund Pike’s ivory-skinned spider woman is ultimately not treated as anything more than a cartoonified femme fatale, Gone Girl: The Movie never truly departs the default plane of movie-world ’realism’; it has neither the hyperbolic exaggeration nor the wry distance required for actual satire, never mind Fincher’s typically cool remove. What it does have is hefty doses of glib, po-po-mo nattering about the Masks We Wear and the Personas We Adopt—catnip for a cultural climate that defines art (and, increasingly, reality) as primarily a matter of positioning and branding. Perhaps this is why the is-it-or-isn’t-it debate ultimately feels so futile. Gone Girl isn’t a provocation, it’s playing the part of a provocation, and all the while smugly congratulating itself on its ability to commit to nothing except its own immaculate, frictionless surface. “
Video of the Day: Patti Smith on her cinematic lullaby for Noah:
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