1. “Buster Keaton’s Cure.” For Cabinet magazine, Charlie Fox reflects on the icon of silent cinema, his affinity for alcohol, and more.
“As a child, silent cinema was a ghost house I had to explore. My sense of reality was already perilously vague and the thought of these films that would allow me to watch the mischief of specters—everyone in them was, by the time of my childhood, decidedly dead—was a deep and wicked thrill. Whole days disappeared in the attempt to cast the shadow of Nosferatu on the wall as I climbed the stairs again and again. (I failed: it was very tough to get the head correct, my skull lacking the required Expressionist jags.) I remember chancing across Buster’s face in a film history book one monochrome morning and feeling the peculiar sensation that this haunted boy knew I was looking at him. Wholly at odds with the wild-eyed mania that silent film acting often promised, his presence was gentle and radiated an unmistakable sadness. He had the dreamy, lonesome look of a stray dog. His eyes would widen in moments of moonstruck goofing or genuine enchantment, then look on the edge of sleep when he was puzzled. Nobody else’s body yielded so smoothly to the sublime mindlessness that the best physical comedy requires, and he was beautiful in a way that, say, a clerical nebbish like Harold Lloyd would never match. On film, even in flashes of jackrabbit energy, he’s airily nimble and weirdly aided by the jittery accelerations and diminuendos of silent film speed that can make him seem too limber in his skittering or too light in his falls to be made of flesh and bone. At those moments he’s closer to a bewitched marionette.”
2. “Busby Berkeley and the Art of Order.” For this soldier-turned-filmmaker, beauty comes down to vision, great legs — and mathematics.
“In many other dance routines, Berkeley shaped his dancers into individual petals on a collective, whirling blossom. In fact, there is an entire line of study — Fibonacci phyllotaxis — devoted to studying the appearance of Fibonacci sequences in the structural formations of certain plants. But Fibonacci numbers aren’t just seen in flowers. Shapes like Pascal’s triangle and certain spirals also follow the sequence, shapes that Berkeley frequently uses in his arrangements. What’s interesting about the prevalence of Fibonacci numbers in Berkeley’s work is their relationship to the Golden Ratio. Believed to be especially aesthetically pleasing, the Golden Ratio has been used in art and architecture since the Renaissance Period. If you divide a Fibonacci number by its immediate predecessor, the result approximates the Golden Ratio and gets continually closer to the real deal as the Fibonacci numbers progress. Like Fibonacci flowers, the Golden Ratio is widespread in biological structure, from leaves on a stem to the human body.”
3. “Entertaining the -isms.” RogerEbert.com’s Nick Allen asks us to digest movies with such issues as racism, sexism, capitalism, feminism, etc. in mind.
“First, let’s address the (white, male) elephant in the room. Disregarding ideas like sexism & feminism in a film is a bastardization of the biological truth that human beings watch the same thing differently—a concept that makes movies worth watching, and talking about. (If we all started seeing the same movies in the exact same way, that would be a nightmare, and I would personally bomb the polar ice caps so that global warming could just finish us off already.) However, some viewers are able to see films differently by looking past elements within them (such as sexism & feminism), and can more readily accept the images of these that may or may not be in Jurassic World as the sum of entertainment. Anyone can dive into a film as deep as they may like, but it is very counterproductive to reject the -isms, or the different ideas within them. To do so is a privilege. Some viewers go into a movie with the same standards of simple entertainment, but their experience is compromised by the very -isms within the film. They do not always have the same luxury to be detached from the images within their entertainment.”
4. “The Power and Glory of Dusty Rhodes.” Salon’s Chauncey Devega on the “American dream” who transcended pro wrestling’s racial divide.
“Dusty was not an American original. He was an ’everyman.’ He was also a racial trickster of sorts, a white brother who talked ’black.’ But he did so in earnest, not in minstrelsy. He was, like so many of professional wrestling’s great characters, simply being himself with ’the volume turned up.’ The character Dusty Rhodes was a man out of a Mark Twain novel (perhaps the under-appreciated Pudd’nhead Wilson), and in that role not a con artist, but rather a man who could speak to both sides of the colorline, channeling the best hopes of black, white, and brown interracial intimacy, dreaming and sharing, as together we worked for the Common Good against those who only saw greed and money as their personal gods.”
5. “Diary.” Ben Lerner, author of the exquisite 10:04, on the fatal problem with poetry.
“I’m offering this aggressively cursory summary of avant-garde hatred—a particularly bitter poetic logic—because I think it gets at something crucial about the disdain for poetry. Even writers and critics allergic to anything resembling avant-garde rhetoric often express anger at poetry’s failure to achieve any real political effects. The avant-garde imagines itself as hailing from the future it wants to bring about, but many people express disappointment in poetry for failing to live up to the political power it supposedly possessed in the past. This disappointment with the political feebleness of poetry in the present unites the futurist and the nostalgist and is a staple of mainstream denunciations of poetry.”
Video of the Day: Deadly Adoption gets a full trailer:
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.