1. “Israel, Hamas Cease-Fire Holds” Calm settled over the Gaza Strip and Israel on Wednesday as sides weigh gains.
“An open-ended cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip was holding Wednesday, as many people on both sides of the conflict wondered what was gained during 50 days of fighting. The Gaza war—the 3rd round of fighting since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power in 2007—left more than 2,200 people dead, caused widespread destruction in the densely populated coastal territory, and paralyzed large parts of southern Israel during much of the summer. After more than seven weeks of fighting, the two sides settled for an ambiguous interim agreement in exchange for a period of calm. Hamas, though badly battered, remains in control of Gaza with part of its military arsenal intact. Israel and Egypt will maintain a blockade tightened seven years ago, despite Hamas’ long-running demand that the border restrictions be lifted. Early Wednesday the Israeli military said there were no reports of violations since the cease-fire went into effect at 7 p.m. (1600 GMT) Tuesday. Hamas declared victory, even though it had little to show for a war that killed 2,143 Palestinians, wounded more than 11,000 and left some 100,000 homeless. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and six civilians were killed, including two by Palestinian mortar fire shortly before the cease-fire was announced.”
2. “Venice Film Review: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).” Peter Debruge reviews the Alejandro González Iñárritu film, which is scoring raves from the Venice Film Festival.
“Birdman offers by far the most fascinating meta-deconstruction of an actor’s ego since Being John Malkovich, and one that leaves no room for vanity. From the moment Keaton first removes his wig to the sight of him wrapped in Batman-like facial bandages, his performance reveals itself in layers. The role demands that he appear superficial and stiff onstage, while behaving anything but as the character’s personal troubles mount and his priorities begin to align—at which point, he appears in a dual role, donning the ridiculous Birdman costume to hover, seen only by Riggan, like a cracked-out version of Broadway’s own Harvey.”
3. “William Greaves R.I.P.” The documentarian and pioneering journalist dies at 87.
“William Greaves, a producer and director who helped bring an African-American perspective to mainstream America as a host of the groundbreaking television news program Black Journal and as a documentary filmmaker, died on Monday at his home in Manhattan. He was 87. His daughter-in-law Bernice Green confirmed his death. Mr. Greaves was well known for his work as a documentarian focusing on racial issues and black historical figures. In his later years he was equally known for his most uncharacteristic film, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One. Made in 1968, it mixed fact and fiction in a complex film-within-a-film structure that made it a tough sell commercially, and it waited almost four decades for theatrical release. When it finally had one, in 2005, it was warmly praised as ahead of its time.”
4. “Michael Brown’s Mom Laid Flowers Where He Was Shot—and Police Crushed Them.” New details emerge about callous tactics that fueled anger in Ferguson.
“As darkness fell on Canfield Drive on August 9, a makeshift memorial sprang up in the middle of the street where Michael Brown’s body had been sprawled in plain view for more than four hours. Flowers and candles were scattered over the bloodstains on the pavement. Someone had affixed a stuffed animal to a streetlight pole a few yards away. Neighborhood residents and others were gathering, many of them upset and angry. Soon, police vehicles reappeared, including from the St. Louis County Police Department, which had taken control of the investigation. Several officers emerged with dogs. What happened next, according to several sources, was emblematic of what has inflamed the city of Ferguson, Missouri, ever since the unarmed 18-year-old was gunned down: An officer on the street let the dog he was controlling urinate on the memorial site. The incident was related to me separately by three state and local officials who worked with the community in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. One confirmed that he interviewed an eyewitness, a young woman, and pressed her on what exactly she saw. ’She said that the officer just let the dog pee on it,’ that official told me. ’She was very distraught about it.’ The identity of the officer who handled the dog and the agency he was with remain unclear.”
5. “Interview: Anita Elberse.” Erika Olson chats with the Harvard Business School professor on what Hollywood’s love of blockbusters means for the rest of us.
“Production and marketing budgets are important signals to the marketplace. Audiences aren’t the only ones falling for this; everyone in the ’value chain’ for films takes it as a cue. Theaters, for instance, will often commit to dedicating more screens to big-budget films, and will also give them more favorable weekends. Their decisions can have a huge influence on potential revenues; we know from research that the number of screens given to a film is the single best predictor of its box office success. Then the media will give these big-budget—or ’tent-pole’—films more attention, which drives awareness and the intention to see a film among audiences, and thus also increases likely ticket sales. Even critics help fuel the self-fulfilling prophecy: no critic has a chance to review all films, but they’ll make sure to cover all the big-budget ones that everyone is talking about, thereby giving the ones that were already drawing attention even more of a push. I have to make it clear that spending big is no guarantee for success, though. All studios can do by adopting a blockbuster strategy is significantly increase the odds of success. They’ll still have big flops. And great small films can still find a way to large audiences.”
Video of the Day: David Lynch takes the Ice Bucket Challenge:
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