1. “The Republic of Bad Taste.” The New Yorker publishes and excerpt from Jonathan Franzen’s Purity.
“His own fall from grace served as his credential with the kids. Their problem was that they took things too seriously (self-destructive behavior was itself a form of self-importance), and his message to them was always, in effect, ’Look at me. My father’s on the Central Committee and I’m living in a church basement, but do you ever see me serious?’ The message was effective, but it shouldn’t have been, because, in truth, he was scarcely less privileged for living in a church basement. He’d severed all contact with his parents as a twenty-one-year-old, in 1981, but in return for this favor they protected him. He hadn’t even been arrested for the ’subversive’ prank he’d played on the Republic’s leading literary magazine, the way any of his at-risk charges would have been. But they couldn’t help liking him and responding to him, because he spoke the truth, and they were hungry to hear it. The girls practically lined up outside his office door to drop their pants for him, and this, too, of course, was ironic. He rendered a valuable service to the state, coaxing antisocial elements back into the fold, and was paid for his service in teen pussy.”
2. “Bombast: The Tribe.” Nick Pinkerton looks at the complicated on-screen legacy of Apache casting on screen.
“The Western is a genre that, more than any other, has been connected to white chauvinism, but it’s also the only genre that, during its heyday, consistently gave the impression of the United States being what it actually was and is—an ethnically diverse polyglot experiment in democracy in which misunderstandings and outrages abounded and violence was frequently the first resort. The absence of Native American actors in primary roles was a constant, while the portrayal of Natives varied depending on the material and talent involved, though I suspect it was nevertheless true that the average American moviegoer living in the Golden Age of horse operas had a better general grasp of the diverse tribes and their customs—even as received in a Hollywood bowdlerized fashion—than the contemporary multiplex customer, who may, however, be able to tell you a great deal about Hobbits, HYDRA, and the rites of the Na’vi.”
3. “Killing It.” Grantland’s Wesley Morris on Spy’s comedic wealth.
“[Paul] Feig might be the first director who is getting away with the Muppets’ idea of comedy in a non-Muppets movie. Normally, I’d tire of all the laughing, and there was a moment during the second half when I had to stop for my health. I took the break to reappreciate McCarthy. As female comedy stars go, she is unusual; only Bette Midler and Whoopi Goldberg have as many pitches of profanity as McCarthy does. But she also has that quality that a lot of star comedians have, in which audiences laugh before she’s even done anything. Watching her in something like Identity Thief was painful, because there was no one to tell her that her coarseness and vulgarity were obnoxious. The movie was laughing at her, and the audience obliged. But there, and in last summer’s Tammy, which she cowrote and her husband, Ben Falcone, directed, McCarthy played a sad, mocking part that dumped gags all over her. Feig appears to adore McCarthy. He doesn’t treat her like a clown. When she works with him, she can risk being obnoxious because he comes up with sensible environments for her excesses or, in an uptight Sandra Bullock, the ideal foil.”
4. “The Pen, the Sword, and the Duel.” For The New Yorker, James Guida uses a scene from The Wire as a jumping-off point for a look at the “natural literary subject” of the duel.
“And, without literature, there would be much less to go on, historically speaking. Duelling was usually illegal. It was often tolerated, but, still, discretion was an issue—duelling at dawn was popular for reasons of secrecy, and, in the aftermath of an ’affair’ or ’encounter,’ principals were known to flee for neighboring countries. One outcome of the silence surrounding the activity was that, for first-timers, the nearest guide to protocol might lie in fiction. ’Gentlemen, who remembers how it’s described in Lermontov?’ one of the confused parties asks in Chekhov’s The Duel. (The character is thinking of A Hero of Our Time, Lermontov’s masterful short novel from 1840.) Chekhov’s bracingly comic story—available in a series of duel-themed novellas reprinted by Melville House—is set after the custom had waned, but, according to Leigh, life really did imitate literature in this fashion. Other authorities seem to have agreed: when duelling took off in the American South, Mark Twain blamed Sir Walter Scott.”
5. “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer cinematographer Jonathan Furmanski.” The DP describes the shooting of the buzzy episode of the show.
“We tried to understand what the language was in the original film. For example, the camera in Act One is very high and looks down on the jurors. Then in Act Two it becomes a little bit more eye level and then Act Three it gets even lower until you’re looking up at all of the guys. We tried to integrate that as much as we could into our photography plan. In the original film, they didn’t use a lot of long lenses. They used medium range lenses so those were the focal lengths that we relied on to carry us through our coverage. As far as deep focus goes, we definitely went for that element as well and the wider lenses helped us in that regard. Typically on the show we’re shooting between a 2 and a 2.8, but we tried to get a little bit closer to a 4 or a 5.6 so we would have that ability to have stacks of guys in the frame and hold a lot of them in focus so we could cover a lot of conversations in one shot.”
Video of the Day: The trailer for Ridley Scott’s The Martian:
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