1. “Hollywood Cowardice.” George Clooney Explains Why Sony Stood Alone in North Korean Cyberterror Attack.
“A good portion of the press abdicated its real duty. They played the fiddle while Rome burned. There was a real story going on. With just a little bit of work, you could have found out that it wasn’t just probably North Korea; it was North Korea. The Guardians of Peace is a phrase that Nixon used when he visited China. When asked why he was helping South Korea, he said it was because we are the Guardians of Peace. Here, we’re talking about an actual country deciding what content we’re going to have. This affects not just movies, this affects every part of business that we have. That’s the truth. What happens if a newsroom decides to go with a story, and a country or an individual or corporation decides they don’t like it? Forget the hacking part of it. You have someone threaten to blow up buildings, and all of a sudden everybody has to bow down. Sony didn’t pull the movie because they were scared; they pulled the movie because all the theaters said they were not going to run it. And they said they were not going to run it because they talked to their lawyers and those lawyers said if somebody dies in one of these, then you’re going to be responsible.”
2. “The Best Pop Music Cues of 2014.” Adam Nayman, for Fandor, on the notes that sent us spinning this year at the movies.
“A recent online quiz asking participants to differentiate between the noises made by household appliances and snatches of soundscapes from David Fincher films was on point: ever since Zodiac (2005), the director has employed almost exclusively ambient, minimalist musical scores. Gone Girl is no exception, with Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor’s music rarely rising above buzzy room tone backing. That’s why it’s doubly funny when an actual pop song rises out of the mix: Blue Oyster Cult’s seventies hit ’Don’t Fear the Reaper,’ already immortalized on Saturday Night Live but used here with a different sort of irony. Overlaid on the scene where Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne drives his addled dad back to the senior citizens’ home where he’s been stashed—a minor subplot that’s more significant in Gillian Flynn’s source novel—the song casts the father-son car ride in a morbid shade; the lyrics about the inexorable passage of time and the need to accept one’s mortality bounce tautly off of the image of a man trying to ignore the ominous portent of his own possible future sitting there scowling in the passenger seat.”
3. “Back to black: the 101-year making of the oldest black American-starring feature.” Ashley Clark on how Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day finally got its field day (and title).
“Even more extraordinarily, hidden within the material were nearly a hundred stills depicting the black cast and white crew happily mingling on set, several frames of Williams interacting with white extras on location during a filming break—remarkable considering established narratives about the Jim Crow era’s poisonous racial dynamics—and startling images of Williams having his blackface applied by a valet. Williams, a major Broadway star by this juncture, was replicating the established stage tradition of blacking up, yet was the only cast member to do so. (’A sop to the white audience,’ says [Ronald S.] Magliozzi [associate film curator at MoMA], explaining this bizarre contrivance. ’The fact that the lead wore blackface allowed the rest of the cast not to wear blackface before white audiences.’)”
4. “Alfred Hitchcock’s Fade to Black: The Great Director’s Final Days.” The scriptwriter on Hitchcock’s last, unfinished film, David Freeman had a front row seat as the aging, pain-wracked director raged against the dying of the light.
“He was a bit like the Eiffel Tower. You hear about it all your life, and when you finally see the damn thing, it looks so much like the postcards, it’s difficult to see it fresh. Hitchcock’s public self was so distinct that it was often impossible to know if I was dealing with the corporeal man or the invented persona. I think he sometimes got it confused, particularly in his storytelling. He was a well-known raconteur, and some of his stories were widely known and repeated—often by him. There were times when he seemed to feel obliged to tell Alfred Hitchcock stories. Sometimes he was at the top of his form and told them well; other times less so. I was aware of this and, as I came to see, so was he. With his high-waisted black suits—with trousers that rested above his enormous belly, leaving just a few inches of white shirt exposed and with a black tie tucked into his pants—he looked positively fictional, out of Dickens, perhaps, or a banker by Evelyn Waugh.”
5. “Agnès Varda Interview.” The “grandmother of the French New Wave” discusses her ever-evolving artistic practice.
“Just describe it! Review it! Criticize it! Make a comment! Do whatever you want! You know you forget that artists express themselves with their art. My films express me. My art expresses me. That exhibition you saw has many references to what interests me—the puzzle for example. I always say that films are puzzles and that the characters are puzzles because you have to reconstruct them. I love portraits. I made a portrait with silver print and video on the side—as a triptych. It was my way of reconciling analog silver prints with digital video; still images with movement.”
Video of the Day: The Colbert Report says farewell:
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