1. “How ’You Do You’ Perfectly Captures Our Narcissistic Culture.” Colson Whitehead on the meaning of our colloquial shenanigans.
“We don’t all partake of the same slang menu—you say ’pop,’ I say ’soda,’ and we’ll all get properly sorted on Judgment Day. Wherever you hail from, you’ll recognize ’You do you’ and ’Do you’ as contemporary versions of that life-affirming chestnut ’Just be yourself.’ It’s the gift of encouragement from one person to another, what we tell children on the first day of kindergarten, how we reassure buddies as they primp for a blind date or rehearse asking for a raise. You do you, as if we could be anyone else. Depending on your essential qualities, this song of oneself is cause for joy or tragedy. You’ve also come across that expression’s siblings, like the defensive, arms-crossed ’Haters gonna hate’ or the perpetually shrugging ’It is what it is.’ Like black holes, they are inviolable. All criticism is destroyed when it hits the horizon of their circular logic, and not even light can escape their immense gravity. In a world where the selfie has become our dominant art form, tautological phrases like ’You do you’ and its tribe provide a philosophical scaffolding for our ever-evolving, ever more complicated narcissism.”
2. “Shakespeare in Tehran.” Stephen Greenblatt travels to Tehran for the Iranian Shakespeare Congress and reflects on the state of literature in Iran.
“What did it mean that Shakespeare was the magic carpet that had carried me to Iran? For more than four centuries now he has served as a crucial link across the boundaries that divide cultures, ideologies, religions, nations, and all the other ways in which humans define and demarcate their identities. The differences, of course, remain—Shakespeare cannot simply erase them—and yet he offers the opportunity for what he called ’atonement.’ He used the word in the special sense, no longer current, of ’at-one-ment,’ a bringing together in shared dialogue of those who have been for too long opposed and apart. It was the project of many in my generation of Shakespeare scholars to treat this dialogue with relentless skepticism, to disclose the ideological interests it at once served and concealed, to burrow into works’ original settings, and to explore the very different settings in which they are now received. We wanted to identify, as it were, the secret police lurking in their theater or in the printing house. All well and good: it has been exciting work and has sustained me and my contemporaries for many decades. But we have almost completely neglected to inquire how Shakespeare managed to make his work a place in which we can all meet.”
3. “Inside the Weird World of Twitter’s Celebrity-Impersonating ’Parody’ Accounts.” For Flavorwire, Jason Bailey gives us the lowdown.
“That’s the kind of following you can get by exerting no effort whatsoever. Now imagine the kind of audience you can amass if, like @BiIIMurray, you grab a premium, celebrity-inspired handle and tweet from it regularly. That effort—for attention, for secondhand celebrity, for whatever—has resulted in one of the most bizarre elements of the social media platform, circa 2015: celebrity ’parody’ Twitter. An anonymous nobody takes up the online persona of a famous person, labels theirs (deep within the bio) a ’fan’ or ’parody’ account—while actually parodying nothing about the figure in question—and enjoys the adulation of fans and followers who don’t check bios or haven’t learned to look for the blue ’verified’ checkmark next to a celebrity’s name.”
4. “The Melodrama of Woody Allen’s Critical Reputation.” Glenn Kenny on the drama of liking the filmmaker.
“For many Allen detractors, it is immaterial, or, to be a bit of a cynic about it, there’s a hierarchy of what content IS material: ’You have to have a little faith in people’ doesn’t count, but the retrospectively damning ’I’m reminded tonight of the farmer who had incestuous relations with both his daughters simultaneously’ (from Bananas; there is a possibly legitimate comic setup to that bit, but never mind) is a prime exhibit. The Salon piece, a late-breaking bit of Allen disapprobation, is just one of a great many you see these days; a cultural note that attempts to instruct the reader that ’we’ can’t accept ’this’ anymore. One almost universal feature of such pieces is a frustrating vagueness about what action ’we’ are supposed to take concerning the unacceptable state of affairs. What about Woody Allen, then: Should Sony Picture Classics not finance the next batch of Allen films? Should a boycott be organized?”
5. “What’s Behind a Europe Plan That Would ’Destroy’ Independent Film.” A proposed change in copyright law to eliminate territories would be the “death knell” of the continent’s up to 28 foreign presales, a necessary part of any film’s budget.
“At issue are plans, proposed by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, to break down what he calls the ’national silos’ in copyright legislation by getting rid of territorial exclusivity. At the moment, any film or TV series, whether European or American, is licensed separately to all 28 countries in the European Union. When Lionsgate sold The Hunger Games to Europe, for example, it kept the franchise for the U.K., where it has its own distribution operation, but did separate territorial deals with distributors such as StudioCanal in Germany and France’s Metropolitan. This territory-by-territory licensing is the rule in Europe and is how most independent films get financed. Depending on the movie, preselling a film in Europe can account for 30 percent to 60 percent of a film’s budget. Such European directors as Lars von Trier, Mike Leigh and Pedro Almodovar rely on presales to territories to get films made.”
Video of the Day: The We Were Monkeys-directed video for Azealia Banks’s “Ice Princess”:
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