1. “Emma Stone.” For Interview, Diane Keaton chats with the 26-year-old Birdman star.
“I feel more ready than I ever have to do something incredibly different and challenging and scary. I think because I just played Sally Bowles [in the Broadway revival of Cabaret]. You know, because you started on Broadway, there’s something about having to go up and do it every night, no matter how you’re feeling, having to tell the whole arc of a story and not just scene by scene the way that you do on film. I feel more like I understand acting in a different way. It’s totally different when you’re shooting something. But only in the past six months to a year have I felt like I can really try these different things. I think I was really scared of that for a long time. And if something was really challenging, I thought that I was just going to fall on my face and embarrass myself. I’m just less scared of that now, of failing.”
2. “The Killing of Osama bin Laden.” In an exposé for the London Review of Books, Seymour M. Hersh asserts that the Obama administration lied about the bin Laden raid.
“[Vanity Fair’s Mark] Bowden was careful not to claim that he had actually seen the photographs he described, and he recently told me he hadn’t seen them: ’I’m always disappointed when I can’t look at something myself, but I spoke with someone I trusted who said he had seen them himself and described them in detail.’ Bowden’s statement adds to the questions about the alleged burial at sea, which has provoked a flood of Freedom of Information Act requests, most of which produced no information. One of them sought access to the photographs. The Pentagon responded that a search of all available records had found no evidence that any photographs had been taken of the burial. Requests on other issues related to the raid were equally unproductive. The reason for the lack of response became clear after the Pentagon held an inquiry into allegations that the Obama administration had provided access to classified materials to the makers of the film Zero Dark Thirty. The Pentagon report, which was put online in June 2013, noted that Admiral McRaven had ordered the files on the raid to be deleted from all military computers and moved to the C.I.A., where they would be shielded from FOIA requests by the agency’s ’operational exemption’.”
3. “Feminus Ex Machina.” For the Los Angeles Review of Books, Marysia Jonsson and Aro Velmet on Alex Garland’s Ex Machina.
“This gendering of AIs as female in popular culture reflects a change in our perceptions of technological possibility. Today, rather than an omnipotent HAL to guide our spaceships and resolve our political differences, we want tactile gadgets that adapt to our emotional needs and remember our preferences: a pocket Stepford wife, voiced by Siri. Technological overreach is less likely to recall visions of a nuclear holocaust and more likely to remind us of our Internet addictions. Machinery, in our imaginations, no longer visibly towers over us. It penetrates us through a million tiny devices that have become extensions of our bodies. As we glide our fingers over the reactive surfaces that surround us, we achieve not a mechanical nirvana, but a heightened sense of the mundane. Smartphones, search engines, and social networks may claim to make our lives more rational, but we know that they exist primarily to better respond to our visceral desires.”
4. “On England’s Coast, Thomas Hardy Made His World.” For The New York Times, David Shaftel travels through the Wessex of the author’s novels.
“A five-minute drive southwest of Dorchester is Maiden Castle, the remains of the 47-acre Iron Age hill fort that Mr. Nixon said was the site where Sergeant Troy, the freeloading opportunist who performed his military sword exercise for the heroine Bathsheba Everdene, whom he was wooing, in a scene he said was ’fraught with Victorian symbolism.’ The fort is in the shape of a kidney bean and its earthen ramparts are covered in wild grass and ferns. The invading Romans moved the settlement’s inhabitants to the site of Dorchester. These days the fort is reached by walking trails, its only residents sheep. It took us 15 minutes to scale the fort’s outer berm from where we could see down into the pits between the ramparts, like the one where Bathsheba became ’enclosed in a firmament of lights and sharp hisses, resembling a sky-full of meteors close at hand’ as she watched ’the marvelous evolutions of Troy’s blade, which seemed everywhere at once, and yet nowhere specifically.’”
5. “Catching Saul Bellow’s Mind in Constant, Roiling Action.” Richard Brody on The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune, 1915-1964, the first of the two volumes of Zachary Leader’s new biography of Bellow.
“Though immensely sympathetic to Bellow’s work and to his literary ventures, Leader doesn’t whitewash the record of the author’s personal life; he documents lies, philandering, a haughty touchiness. It’s neither hagiographic nor reproachful. Leader includes, in his account of Bellow’s life, an array of conflicts and foibles that don’t depart drastically from the run of modern lives not lived on the literary grid. (Writers didn’t invent adultery, after all.) But Leader does open the book with the retrospective moral doubts that Bellow expressed from his deathbed—and, in considering the source of those doubts, Leader hints at his own perspective on the matter: that angels who live beyond reproach, without conflict or willfulness, are unlikely to write good novels.”
Video of the Day: The trailer for Johnnie To’s Office, now with subtitles:
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