1. “Truth Be Told.” Wesley Morris, for Grantland, on Errol Morris as prosecutor.
“Morris’s movies have come to seem like polygraphs, and Morris has come to seem like a one-man lie detector. After his first two movies, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he spent time working as a private investigator, and his hunt for answers, for truth, is a partial source of the exhilaration in a typical Morris movie. Sometimes the case seems too unwieldy for Morris’s dismay to do its best. So it was with 2008’s Standard Operating Procedure, which conjures the immense moral horror of the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib but never reconciles its fascination with and repulsion by the grotesque staging of guards and prisoners captured in photographs. That was a movie in which Morris’s senses of humanity and outrage could never locate even a speculative explanation, let alone a concrete answer, for what the images were saying. He seemed caught off guard by the surrealism of the scandal.”
2. “Recreation: Thom Andersen Discusses His Films.” Aaron Cutler, for Fandor, speaks with the filmmaker.
“As I continued to follow the writing that was being published about the Blacklist, I noticed that people seemed to be very interested in the anti-Communist films that Hollywood produced in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I watched some of those films and shared that fascination, but to me they formed a kind of political camp, and were really of only limited interest. Partly as a result, I began to notice the lack of attention paid to films that were written and directed by blacklisted film artists. I would come across passing references to them at times, such as in Raymond Durgnat’s writing, but little more than that. Yet several of their films were quite strong, and the notion that their presence in the Hollywood film industry didn’t matter seemed counterintuitive to me.”
3. “Dismembrance of the Thing’s Past.” Dave Tompkins, for The Paris Review, on John Carpenter’s The Thing.
“The film poses a series of existential questions, the first one being whether it’s even possible to discuss the Thing without sounding totally high. Can one be the Thing if one is worried about being the Thing? Or does the Thing fake-worry about being the Thing, so as not to reveal its cosmic sloppiness? I can see how easily the Thing can take over one’s entire life, an unstoppable force assimilating and mimicking one’s existence—like the Internet. One look at Thing message boards confirms the theory that the Thing should be just as freaked out by humans as they are by it. In the film, Wilford Brimley’s Dr. Blair supposes this while performing an autopsy on Norwegian Two-faced Thing, his eraser head traveling directly from an astro-parasitic entity to his own bottom lip. A clear violation of Thing health code.”
4. “There’s no universal “right age” for Aliens, or any other movie.” For The Dissolve, Tasha Robinson responds to Matt Zoller Seitz’s article “Notes on Watching Aliens for the First Time Again, with a Bunch of Kids.”
“That said, turning the entire debate into, ’I’m 30, and I was scared by something at age 5, but I came out fine’ is entirely discounting what it feels like to be scared as a kid, or what it’s like as a parent to be helpless in the face of a child’s irrational terror. The question isn’t whether watching Aliens as an 11-year-old is going to irreparably destroy someone’s life, forcing them to be institutionalized and tranquilized until their untimely Aliens-induced suicide. Like so many other questions about child-rearing, it’s about what’s right for individuals in the moment, and who gets to make those choices. Pretending that the naysayers are implying that watching a film too young is a devastating, life-ruining act is setting up a particularly ridiculous straw man to tilt at. It’s overstating the argument to make it ridiculous. It’s also missing a point: Plenty of those kids who were protected from R-rated movies until they were 18, or denied access to horror films until they could sneak into them on their own, also turned out to be productive members of society who weren’t ruined by restrictive environments. The connection between youthful cultural access and future career success is tenuous enough that it makes a pretty weak rhetorical weapon, which hasn’t stopped people from wielding it like the dinnertime baseball bat in The Untouchables.”
5. “The Infinite Set.” Reverse Shot’s Damon Smith on 2001: A Space Odyssey.
“Elsewhere, Kubrick uses his 2.20:1 frame to emphasize curvature, deploying an arsenal of arcs, spheres, and other foregrounded celestial crescents to depict travel through interplanetary space. He also creates an entire series of rotational shots for interiors—the Pan Am shuttle stewardess’s zero-gravity, upside-down walk to enter the cockpit is the first and most dizzyingly fun. The famous tracking shot of Dave Bowman jogging along the Discovery’s preposterously curved, Ferris wheel–like hull opens the ’Jupiter Mission’ sequence, while the command module itself is a sphere with circular air locks for spherical pods, oval portholes, and a rounded hublink corridor that Bowman traverses as it turns 360 degrees. Earlier, the Earth spins wildly through the windows of the pinwheeling space station where Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester) cagily ducks the inquiries of a scientist concerned with rumors of an ’epidemic’ on the moon. Such an abundance of onscreen curvatures seems metaphorically related to Einstein’s revelation that the fabric of spacetime is curved by massive gravitational bodies, a scientific axiom that surely must not have been lost on Kubrick.”
Video of the Day: Mr. Holmes gets a teaser trailer:
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