1. “There Goes the Neighborhood.” Lee Weston Sabo on Godzilla and the gentrification of pop.
“Godzilla has no anarchy or eccentricity, much less any experimental spirit or Japanese weirdness. [Gareth] Edwards is too preoccupied with turning the movie into something new, serious, and, worst of all, respectable. It’s the gentrification of pulp filmmaking, the process by which properties originally intended to spin light-hearted ridiculous yarns are repurposed, repackaged, and resold as serious adult fare. If there’s one thing I always need more of in my summer blockbusters, it’s daddy issues—or, at least, that’s what my therapist, Hollywood, keeps telling me. Far from an old-school monster mash, the new remake of Godzilla is just the latest in a series of mega-budget action movies that in some way revolve around absent fathers, surrogate fathers, and grumpy white men who just need a hug, like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Man of Steel, J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek and Super 8, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. They even managed work it into a James Bond movie with Skyfall, albeit muddled with an Oedipal complex. Knee-jerk cynicism might ascribe the prevalence of these dour themes in blockbuster movies to formulaic filmmaking-by-committee, the so-called ’human element’ that received wisdom says is necessary for a light genre movie to succeed. That’s possible, but there are dramatic clichés other than father-son melodrama that would serve the same purpose. It strikes me more as a Freudian slip, an embarrassing reflection of the macho insecurities and arrested development in contemporary American film culture.”
2. “Rik Mayall R.I.P.” The star of The Young Ones dies at 56.
“He played obnoxious, poetry-writing anarchist Rick in The Young Ones with his friend Adrian Edmondson. The pair later starred in the sitcom Bottom. A pioneer of the 1980s alternative comedy scene, Mayall also appeared in Blackadder and The New Statesman. His manager Roger Davidson said: ’He was a quiet, polite, caring gentleman. The antithesis of the characters he played.’ Edmondson added: ’There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing. They were some of the most carefree stupid days I ever had, and I feel privileged to have shared them with him. And now he’s died for real. Without me. Selfish bastard.’”
3. “Before Manhood.” Amy Taubin on Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.
“Toward the end of the film, as Mason prepares to leave for college, his mother asks herself where the time went. It’s the worst day of her life, she says, and her grief and inchoate anger are very much like those of Celine in Before Midnight, who also confronts time past as the loss of possibilities. It is the first time any character in Boyhood is overwhelmed by what has and hasn’t been, and the scene puts a brake on the narrative, foreshadowing the full stop soon to come. On the day that Mason begins his life as an adult, the college roommate he’s just met invites him on a hike to Big Bend National Park, a wilderness unlike anything we’ve seen in the film, its beauty enhanced for Mason and his new friends—who include a young woman with whom he has instant rapport—by the lysergic something or other they’ve swallowed. Looking toward what could be the edge of the world and listening to the stillness, Mason says simply, ’It’s, like, it’s always right now.’ No sooner have the words left his lips than the film is over and, for us, now is memory.”
4. “Bungalow 89.” James Franco wrote a short story about Lindsay Lohan.
“Once upon a time a guy, a Hollywood guy, read some Salinger to a young woman who hadn’t read him before. Let’s call this girl Lindsay. She was a Hollywood girl, but a damaged one. I knew that she would like Salinger, because most young women do. I read her two of the Nine Stories, ’A Perfect Day for Bananafish’ and ’For Esmé—with Love and Squalor.’ ’Bananafish’ was great because it has a nagging mother on the other end of the phone line, nothing like Lindsay’s real mother, but still, the mother-daughter thing was good for her to hear. And there’s the little girl in the story, Sibyl, and the pale suicide, Seymour, who kisses her foot and talks about bananafish with her, those fantastic phallic fish who stick their heads in holes and gorge themselves—it should be called ’A Perfect Day for Dickfish’—and then, bam, he shoots himself.”
5. “Die, Hybrid! Die!” Marketeers, note: artful, exciting, shape-shifting documentaries may have a renewed energy—but the fact of them is as old as the movies.
“Labelling the new breed of films, such as the ones I programmed in Little Rock, that favour cinema over reportage, cross-pollinate fictional and nonfictional modes, push boundaries of form etc, has been a bit of a parlour game in recent years. The documentary-centric Cinema Eye Honors gives out an annual juried Heterodox Award to the film that best succeeds at exploiting the ’increasingly blurry line between fiction and nonfiction’. Some have used the term ’chimera’ to describe the new whatsit films. I’m still not sure what Tom Roston meant by his ’New Doc Vague’ but I respect the desire to try to name these films. I called my programme ’Cinematic Nonfiction’, this column is called Unfiction, etc, ad infinitum. Nothing has stuck like ’hybrid’, though. It’s a fine enough description, as far as these things go, if one is talking about docufiction mashups. It can be an especially useful term when trying to find common ground between films like Keith Miller’s gritty gang drama Five Star and the tiny Texas epic Stop the Pounding Heart (both of which played in Little Rock). The former is often programmed as a fiction film and the latter won the Italian Oscar for Best Documentary, but they share many formal traits and using the word ’hybrid’ can accelerate the discussion, which is a necessary and stimulating thing.”
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