1. “The Grantland Q&A: Robert Downey Jr.” The Avengers star on life inside and outside of Iron Man’s armor.
“Right, no, where you’re knocking, I don’t know where the knob to that door is. I know that it opens by itself, and I step into it sometimes, but it’s not that I can’t distinguish my personal reality from my career. There’s a ... there’s some constellation that is this experience, this planet ... let me put it this way: I ran into Keanu Reeves a dozen years ago. He just got back from shooting the first Matrix, and I said to him, naïvely, ’Hey, man, how’d that go?’ He was like, ’I’ve been on another planet for nine months.’ And I was like, ’Uh, OK, how’d the shoot go?’ But once I saw it, I was like, man, I didn’t know. Once I saw the movie, any question I could have asked him was answered in that answer. Mine has been more of a slow-burn version of that. It was a business and a creative thing, it was a personal thing, it was an intuitive thing. And now it’s become, I don’t know, I think it’s like a national product.”
2. “Better Call Caravaggio.” Matt Siegel on how Vince Gilligan borrows from the Baroque.
“The eldest character in Better Call Saul isn’t Mike Ehrmantraut, Tuco’s unsuspecting abuelita, or any of the nursing-home residents shakily spooning gelatin from attorney-branded dessert cups. It’s the show’s sixteenth-century lighting scheme, which has better lines than even Bob Odenkirk himself—they’re just in the form of shadows rather than wry legalese. In fact, while Saul’s setting derives from the blue crystal ’artwork’ of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, much of its symbolism draws from the black brushstrokes of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Saul’s creators, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, have already confessed a soft spot for symbolism; they used a hot-and-cold color palette to divide the wardrobes of criminals and law-abiding citizens, with Jimmy bridging both worlds as he fights the temptation to break bad. These biblical undertones extend far past the fiery brimstone of Tuco’s shirt and the heavenly hues of ’Hamlin Blue’—they go all the way back to the Baroque era of painting.”
3. “The Tyranny of Pew-Pew.” For The Village Voice, Alan Scherstuhl on how fun fantasy violence became inescapable.
“[Burt] Reynolds’s smile said, ’Ain’t this all just a laugh?’ The other men of ’77 played it comic-book straight. Mark Hamill’s dashing naif Luke Skywalker grows great through violence in a manner closer to D&D and Marvel comics than to the Tolkien and Kurosawa that George Lucas has so often cited as his influences. Luke is more Peter Parker than Frodo Baggins, a dreamer flowering into a man as a talent for violence suddenly wakes in him through no doing of his own, although Lucas never bothered to reconcile the great contradiction between Luke’s adventures and his Jedi training: If killing Vader would lead him to the Dark Side, what are we to make of Luke’s routine slaughter of stormtroopers and TIE pilots? Meanwhile, Hamill’s co-star, Harrison Ford, united in his particular manliness the best of Reynolds’s cocksure disinterest with just enough of that searching hopefulness of Hamill and Lucas: In the years to come, we would believe that Indiana Jones believes in mumbo-jumbo we knew Harrison Ford was barely tolerating.”
4. “Let’s Here It for the Boy.” For Artforum, Melissa Anderson on Nighthawks and Will You Dance with Me?, both screening as part of Film Society of Lincoln Center’s “Art of the Real” series.
“We are fully immersed in Jim’s nighttime rituals; the camera often assumes his point of view, his desirous looks either reciprocated or ignored. The thrill and the tedium of his evenings out are equally highlighted; the ecstasy of sleeping with someone new is followed by the dispiriting morning-after small talk, with Jim asking the bulk of the questions while kindly driving his tricks—most of whom are nonprofessional actors, as are the bars’ denizen—to the nearest Tube station. ’Don’t you get anxious about whether or not you’re going to see these people again?’ Judy asks Jim over drinks at a pub. In boldly addressing that question, Nighthawks gives us one of cinema’s first complex, fully realized gay protagonists.”
5. “Seeing Istanbul Again.” Maureen Freely on learning to see the city anew as she was translating Orhan Pamuk’s memoir, Istanbul: Memories and the City.
“When I cast my mind back to the seven years I worked with Orhan, the first thing I see is a sea of troubled eyes. I see the island just outside Istanbul where he and I spent many long summer days, going over each and every line of my translations. I see the other translators who had come out to that island for the summer, just to be near him. I see the island coffeehouse where Orhan and I went to work one day, so as to be within running distance of the pier. Was another translator coming out to have supper with him that evening, or a foreign journalist, or a new girlfriend? Or was I the one who had to be on a particular ferry back to the city? I can’t remember. We had fifty pages to get through before I had to leave or the guests arrived. I had no time to look around me. The waiter kept bringing us more tea as we walked our usual fine line between spirited discussion and open warfare. It was only when the light began to mellow that I looked up and saw that we had an audience. The coffeehouse that had been empty last time I checked was packed with women of a certain age and their grandchildren, all staring at us, open-mouthed.”
Video of the Day: The trailer for M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit:
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