1. “Robert Zemeckis’s Contact Is the Proto-Interstellar.” Nick Schager says the two have more in common than you might recall.
“Contact tries to bridge the divide between faith and science by contending, finally, that both can—and, in many cases, must—coexist, a notion that also comes through in Interstellar’s gonzo third-act plummet down its own pseudo-spiritual wormhole. That McConaughey (as Palmer Joss) embodies Contact’s have-it-two-ways attitude is thus a further, fitting conduit between Zemeckis and Nolan’s films, which also both utilize cutting-edge aesthetics on a grand scale. Be it an opening three-minute reverse-zoom from the Earth to the cosmos—which, in 1997, was the longest all-CG scene in movie history—or a pair of beautiful mirroring shots following Ellie running through a house and a satellite station (respectively), Zemeckis’s artistry is at once imposing and subtle. Even without the IMAX proportions available to Nolan, Contact stands as a technologically breathtaking blockbuster that marries all manner of disparate imagery, from traditional compositions to computer-generated spectacles to TV-filtered action that includes cleverly reconfigured vérité footage of President Clinton commenting on the alien communiqué.”
2. ”Interstellar Isn’t About Religion (and Also It Is Totally About Religion).” Christopher Nolan is the latest filmmaker to avail himself of the spiritual setting of space.
“There’s also a lot of talk of good and evil. There’s a lot of talk of faith. There’s a lot of talk of love—love that is explicitly not romantic (Interstellar is as asexual a blockbuster as you’ll find), but that is, in its best manifestation, selfless. None of which is to say that Interstellar is a Christian—or even a religious—film. It is not, and this is the point. The ’they’ is not necessarily a metaphysical being; Zimmer’s organ was chosen, he has said, for ’its significance to science.’ Good and evil, faith and love—these ideas, of course, extend far beyond religion. What it is to say, though, is that Interstellar, like so many space movies before it, has adopted the themes of religious inquiry. The scope of space as a setting—the story that takes place within the context of the universe itself, across dimensions—has allowed Nolan, like so many filmmakers before him, the permission of implication. Nolan has said that one of his primary artistic influences is the postmodern author Jorge Luis Borges.”
3. “The Mysterious World of the Deaf.” For The New York Review of Books, Gavin Francis on cochlear implants and Lydia Denworth’s I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language.
“I Can Hear You Whisper is a triptych of reportage, popular science, and memoir. As reportage into the controversy surrounding cochlear implants it’s both timely and rigorous, though Denworth admits her own pro-implant bias. As popular science it’s enthralling, offering a window onto the latest research into perception, language, and the weaving of conscious awareness. As a memoir it is tender and involving: accompanying Denworth and her son on their journey, and imagining making the same journey with my own children, I was often deeply moved. To implant or not to implant is the question embedded in the fabric of this book, and there are no easy answers. But I remember the wisdom of my old teacher at medical school, as he placed his stethoscope gently into hard-of-hearing patients’ ears: ’Use whatever means you can to understand and be understood.’”
4. “Music Critics See Their Role and Influence Waning in the Era of Digital Music.” For American Journalism Review, Dan Singer traces the career trajectory of music journalism in our digital era.
“One of the biggest shifts in digital-era music journalism is the changing role of the music critic. ’I feel like professional music criticism is almost a thing of the past,’ said Rolling Stone contributing editor Chris Weingarten, who has been vocal about the topic in recent years and calls himself the ’Last Rock Critic Standing’ in his Twitter bio. He noted that there are ’limitless’ opportunities to write about music online for free or next-to-nothing, but professional critics are losing the relevancy they once had. ’A critic’s voice is now someone who’s trying to speak articulately in the midst of noise,’ Weingarten said. Album leaks and streaming services like Spotify have democratized the public’s access to music, Weingarten said, and this diminishes the immediacy and impact of reviews written by professionals. ’By the time any of those reviews hit, you’ve heard it. You’ve made up your mind,’ Weingarten said. ’The whole idea of sitting down and reading eight grafs about it after all that? It’s almost like, ’Yeah, I’ve moved on.’”
5. “Last Rites.” For Cinema Scope, Adam Nayman on Foxcatcher.
“Like Mark Schultz (and, for that matter, John du Pont), Foxcatcher is a movie that does its best to hold things in. ’Subtle’ isn’t the right word for what Miller and his collaborators are doing here. They nudge the audience early and often to pick up on fine-print subtext—as when du Pont can’t quite meet his imperious mother’s (Vanessa Redgrave) gaze when he tells her about his wrestling-team endeavour (’It’s a low sport,’ she hisses, class bias and sexual judgment rolled up into one)—or sometimes go in for an all-out shove, as in the literally rampaging symbolism of the scene where the depressed billionaire sets a group of valuable racehorses free. And yet there’s a sense of restraint to Foxcatcher that’s impressive, and not just in comparison to the sorts of films that get released during awards season. When David, now also in du Pont’s employ, sits to record a testimony for an (in-house) video testifying to his employer’s greatness, the impression is of a man who knows exactly what’s wrong with the person in question—and with his own decision to work with him—but can’t just come out and say it; instead of speaking up, he shuts down.”
Video of the Day: Fifty Shades of Grey gets an official trailer:
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