1. “B.B. King, Defining Bluesman for Generation, Dies at 89.” B. B. King, whose world-weary voice and wailing guitar lifted him from the cotton fields of Mississippi to a global stage and the apex of American blues, died Thursday in Las Vegas. He was 89.
“His death was reported early Friday by The Associated Press, citing his lawyer, Brent Bryson, and by CNN, citing his daughter, Patty King. Mr. King married country blues to big-city rhythms and created a sound instantly recognizable to millions: a stinging guitar with a shimmering vibrato, notes that coiled and leapt like an animal, and a voice that groaned and bent with the weight of lust, longing and lost love. ’I wanted to connect my guitar to human emotions,’ Mr. King said in his autobiography, Blues All Around Me (1996), written with David Ritz. In performances, his singing and his solos flowed into each other as he wrung notes from the neck of his guitar, vibrating his hand as if it were wounded, his face a mask of suffering. Many of the songs he sang—like his biggest hit, ’The Thrill Is Gone’ (’I’ll still live on/But so lonely I’ll be’)—were poems of pain and perseverance. The music historian Peter Guralnick once noted that Mr. King helped expand the audience for the blues through ’the urbanity of his playing, the absorption of a multiplicity of influences, not simply from the blues, along with a graciousness of manner and willingness to adapt to new audiences and give them something they were able to respond to.’”
2. “Cate Blanchett Opens the Closet Door with Lesbian Romance Carol.” For Variety, Ramin Setoodeh profiles the Oscar-winning actress, star of Todd Haynes’s new film.
“On a recent afternoon in Manhattan, lounging outside the Crosby Street Hotel with her hair in a ponytail and a shawl draped over her shoulders, Blanchett says she wasn’t convinced that Carol would ever make it to theaters. ’It was so hard,’ she recalls. ’Midrange films with women at the center are tricky to finance. There are a lot of people laboring under the misapprehension that people don’t want to see them, which isn’t true.’ And while the franchise-obsessed movie industry covets young male audiences above all else, it can no longer ignore female moviegoers—who account for at least half of ticket sales each year. Blanchett believes there is some hope. ’I think there’s been a critical mass of women who have reached a certain place in the industry,’ she says, citing Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, as well as producer Allison Shearmur, who made the Disney fairy tale about a magical glass slipper a reality. ’I want it to not be discussed anymore,’ Blanchett notes. ’But it needs to be discussed.’”
3. “Advice for Robert Downey Jr.” Richard Brody on the hyperbole of the actor’s remarks about Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and what it says about the film industry.
“But there’s a decadent side to independence, too, and Downey has put his finger on it: the sense of righteousness that comes from launching a production without support from the industry and the self-satisfied humanism that often coincides with a production done locally on a small scale involving the lives of what are (unintentionally condescendingly) called ’ordinary people.’ There’s a special political failing that results—the self-congratulatory good feelings of the overtly liberal cinema. And there’s an aesthetic failing that follows as well: the shibboleth of the self-effacing director who gives his or her performers the space in which to shine, and who, in fact, makes films in which the actors are compelled to do the bulk of the work. The special mediocrity of independent films is the lack of direction and of production alike, the sense that there’s neither an infrastructure surrounding the set nor a stimulus on the set, but, rather, a faux stage on which the actors give boundlessly of themselves without keeping any true creative control.”
4. “Review: Mad Max: Fury Road.” The heavyweight champion of post-apocalyptic road carnage is back—with “a cast-iron-plated manifesto on the physics of screen action.”
“Shot in the Namib Desert of south-west Africa by DP John Seale, Fury Road has a palette that’s all ochre by day, cobalt by night. It seems that the eco-crisis which has scorched the earth has brought with it an infertility epidemic, but we are given to understand only as much of the actual mechanics of the society that has emerged since ’the world fell’ as we can glimpse in the rear-view. The camera is almost perpetually in motion, and when it isn’t, everything else is; the dialogue, mostly shouted, is half-heard over the roar of a V8 engine. This isn’t haphazard storytelling: Miller knows that stopping off for exposition breaks will cost him valuable speed. Max, Furiosa and the others speak of their world—or rather don’t speak of it—as people who are accustomed to living in it might, and save their breath for matters of practical exigency, which is to say survival. How do you steer without a wheel? Use a wrench! How do you free yourself of harpoons in the rear end of your truck? Get back there with a bolt-cutter! How do you keep a commandeered vehicle moving when you’re about to abandon ship? Use the huge, gouty foot of an obese, recently deceased steampunk J.P. Morgan with an ornate false nose and holes in his waistcoat to accommodate his chained nipple rings!”
5. “Uganda’s Tarantino and his $200 action movies.” A Ugandan film company that makes low-budget action movies in the slums has found a cult following online—one US fan liked their films so much, he abandoned New York to become an action movie star in Kampala.
“[Isaac] Nabwana’s love for films began long before he was allowed to watch any—his older brother Kizito would return from the local cinema hall and describe what he’d seen in vivid detail. ’I remember the gestures he used… there was a guy who used to crush people, so I liked that,’ says Nabwana. ’Even now I see them in my head.’ At senior school, Nabwana decided he would make his own action movies one day. ’I had that art in me, I wanted to make a movie—I had to fulfil that dream,’ he says. But there was not enough money for him to even finish school. ’So I started making bricks and digging sand to sell to people around here,’ he says. Finally, in 2006, at the age of 32, Nabwana had saved up enough to pay for the first month of a six-month course in computer maintenance. ’That was enough to know how to assemble a computer,’ he says. He then taught himself how to use editing packages such as Premiere Pro and After Effects, and borrowed a camera from a neighbour. ’And with that I started… I did not know how to write a script. But then I thought of these drama actors, how do they do it? And I started figuring it out.’”
Video of the Day: The Kickstarter video for Abel Ferrara’s Siberia:
Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org and to converse in the comments section.