1. “Harold Ramis R.I.P.” Alchemist of Comedy Dies at 69.
“Harold Ramis, a writer, director and actor whose boisterous but sly silliness helped catapult comedies like ’Groundhog Day,’ ’Ghostbusters,’ ’Animal House’ and ’Caddyshack’ to commercial and critical success, died on Monday in his Chicago-area home. He was 69. The cause was complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a disease that involves swelling of blood vessels, said Chris Day, a spokesman for United Talent Agency, which represented Mr. Ramis. Mr. Ramis was a master at creating hilarious plots and scenes peopled by indelible characters, among them a groundskeeper obsessed with a gopher, fraternity brothers at war with a college dean and a jaded weatherman condemned to living through Groundhog Day over and over. ’More than anyone else,’ Paul Weingarten wrote in The Chicago Tribune Magazine in 1983, ’Harold Ramis has shaped this generation’s ideas of what is funny.’ And to Mr. Ramis, the fact was that ’comedy is inherently subversive.’”
2. “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers.” You might find your Prime membership morally indefensible after reading these stories about worker mistreatment.
“With Walmart’s and Amazon’s business model, the workplace practices that raise employee productivity to very high levels also keep employees off balance and thus ill placed to secure wage increases that match their increased output. The ’cult of the customer’ preached by both corporations is a scented smoke screen thrown up to hide this fact. Apart from the model’s intensive use of IT, there is not much to distinguish its methods from those of the primitive American and European capitalism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. On both sides of the Atlantic, these excesses were harbingers of the rise of the labor movement and the political Left, both revolutionary and democratic, with the movements strongly focused on relations between capital and labor as the central issue of politics and society.”
3. “Film Criticism: State of the Art.” Film criticism is at something of a crossroads, both symbolically and actually.
“The passing last April of Roger Ebert saw the occasion of a considerable amount of reflection on film criticism, as both pursuit and profession. Writers noted, many times over, that the days of the monoculture in which a figure like Ebert could come to represent the entire profession were long since past, a temporary fluke in media brought about by the technological nature of communications media. With first radio and then television, both passive receivers, becoming ubiquitous presences in people’s homes, culture was united in the limited number of options available, and thus coalesced around a comparatively small number of widely shared cultural reference points. As the influence of cable TV and then the Internet came grew, the number of cultural reference points became comparatively larger and less widely shared. This has extremely wide-ranging implications, but where film criticism is concerned, it has transformed the landscape from a single empire into a myriad of small, frequently warring city-states.”
4. “Oscar Chat 2014, Part I: Actresses.” An “actress-sexual” ping pong match between two discerning critics.
“I don’t want to steer too far from your objective of looking squarely at the work. But I think, as audiences, we’re hardwired to respond to performances in which actors, particularly female actors, assert degrees of control in a very cathartic way. It’s why [Lupita] Nyong’o’s scene with the soap, the one moment in which she shows any resistance toward her owner, Epps (Michael Fassbender), is the one that’s making the rounds at awards shows. But at no other point is Patsey truly given ’a voice,’ so to speak, and it was Nyong’o’s task to summon that ’voice’ from her gut, bringing something achingly, almost imperceptibly active to an extraordinarily passive role. Having seen the film again, I’d say she’s easily this year’s nominee who makes the most of very little.”
5. “In the Most Competitive Oscar Season Ever, Bloggers Are Keeping Score.” How Oscar bloggers are keeping score.
“Today’s Oscar bloggers are writing from inside the house. You may not know their names, but most everyone in Hollywood does—loves them, hates them, courts them. At junkets they attend what one of them calls ’Oscar Blogger Days.’ They’re at every festival and VIP after-party, with a hand on Melissa Leo’s shoulder, a joke for Alfonso Cuarón, or a whisper into the ear of George Clooney’s publicist. When they write something negative or leave an actor out of their predictions, they hear about it, a lot.”
Video of the Day: According to Matt Zoller Seitz, Nelson Carvajal’s new video essay combines many sinister, TV-obsessed film images into a single nightmare reel:
Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org and to converse in the comments section.