1. “53 Historians Weigh In on Barack Obama’s Legacy.” Below is the response from Thomas Powers, authors of The Killing of Crazy Horse.
“One theme dominates American history from its origins to this morning’s news—the consequences, and how to deal with them, of the importation into the United States of Africans as slaves. President Barack Obama is not a descendant of slaves, but he is black, and that fact has unloosed or perhaps only illuminated a renewed white political resistance to racial equality that future historians will record as the third phase of the struggle by white Americans to retain political and social control. The first phase, centering on the question of slavery, extended from the counting of black slaves as three-fifths of a man in the Constitution of 1787 through ratification of the 13th Amendment banning slavery in 1865. The second phase, triggered by white shock at the social revolution implicit in the end of slavery, centered on white use of vigilante terror and control of the courts to deny political and civil rights for black Americans. Soon after the civil-rights acts of the 1960s ended the second phase, a third emerged, triggered by white shock at the fact of black legal and political equality. The first line of white defense in each phase has been denial—denial in the first phase that slavery was cruel, exploitive, and wrong, and denial in the second phase that lynching, Jim Crow laws, and whites-only primaries were intended to control African-Americans. In the third phase, it is denied that implacable Republican hostility to Obama has anything to do with race; that the all-Republican South, like the all-Democratic South which preceded it, is primarily an instrument of white control; that voter-ID laws are aimed at blocking votes by blacks and Hispanics, and that the predominance of white men voting Republican (64 percent in the midterm elections) is explained by race. History suggests that it takes roughly 50 years for denial to run its course; after that, everybody will know what the struggle is about, and no historian will blame it on Obama.”
2. “The Holocaust film that was too shocking to show.” In 1945, overseen by Alfred Hitchcock, a crack team of British film-makers went to Germany to document the horror of the concentration camps. Despite being hailed as a masterpiece, the film was never shown. Now, in a documentary called Night Will Fall, the full story of its creation and suppression is being told.
“[Sidney] Bernstein assembled a remarkable team, including the future Labour cabinet minister Richard Crossman, who wrote the film’s lyrical script, and Alfred Hitchcock, who flew in from Hollywood to advise Bernstein on its structure. They set to work on a documentary entitled German Concentration Camps Factual Survey. As they worked, reels of film kept arriving, sent by British, American and Soviet combat and newsreel cameramen from 11 camps, including Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. As well as the dead, the footage showed starved survivors and human remains in ovens. In one piece of film, from Majdanek concentration camp, we see huge bags containing human hair. Collected from the murdered, it would have been carefully sorted and weighed. ’Nothing was wasted,’ says the narrator. ’Even teeth were taken out of their mouth.’ Bernstein’s film then cuts to a large pile of spectacles. ’If one man in 10 wears spectacles,’ we are asked, ’how many does this heap represent?’”
3. “Confessions/Observations of an Awards Season Skeptic, Part One.” How Glenn Kenny was compelled to stop worrying and be okay with the Golden Globes.
“But there’s something to be said, if not for shallowness, then for the ability to relax into the climaxes of awards season rather than stress about what the Globe results mean for the narrative. This, I suppose, will be the task of all manner of self-appointed ’gurus,’ self-proclaimed reluctant prognosticators, ostensibly dispassionate industry analysts, and many more as various Guild and non-Guild awards ceremonies disperse various and sundry tea leaves prior to the big night less than eight weeks from now—The Oscars. The showbiz pundits whose job it is to predict sure things and/or front-runners might normally be flummoxed by the way the movie awards at the Globes were fanned out. The generosity itself was sufficient to make one suspect it was deliberate, for the sake of an entertaining show: a little love for ’Serious Indie One,’ a little for ’Serious Indie Two with Movie Stars In The Cast,’ a little love for ’Comedic Quirky Indie’...okay, so, trending: ’No Love For Blockbusters, and, Surprisingly or Perhaps Disturbingly, Little Love For Socially Conscious Drama.’”
4. “David Hall (1937–2014).” For Artforum, Leo Goldsmith remembers the pioneering video artist, who died last year.
“Hall’s work regards video as a distinct medium with unique formal properties—its paradoxical mix of the immaterial video signal and the boxy, wood-paneled television set, its ubiquity in public and domestic spaces, its seeming intractability as an art commodity. But it also allowed Hall to explore aesthetic concerns for a brief period in a broadcast medium. While working with Barbara Steveni’s Artist Placement Group in 1971, Hall was commissioned to make TV Interruptions, ten works that screened unannounced and uncredited on Scottish television. These include some of Hall’s most iconic images, including one of a burning TV set, and another that shows a running faucet that seems to slowly fill the television monitor with water. All of the TV Interruptions play with dead air and decontextualization—alien to the television format to this day—but they do so with surreal humor and a careful sense of the monitor’s dimensions and physicality. Tap Piece, as the latter ’interruption’ was later titled, wouldn’t work projected on a gallery wall. (This past fall, Tate Britain organized an installation of these works on monitors, which coincidentally opened the week of Hall’s death.)”
5. “The Counterfeit Oscar Acting Style.” Richard Brody on Julianne Moore and Jennifer Aniston’s performances in Still Alice and Cake, respectively.
“Moore and Aniston, excellent actors, cut their performances to the pseudo-refined scope of the drama. They map their expressions one-to-one to the needs of each scene. They’re virtuosi who are here misdirected to turn ballades and fantasies into drawing-room miniatures. Moore’s subtlety is a natural register; her formidable technique is utterly internalized. For Aniston, whose comic gifts are hard to stifle, the mode is uneasy, and she seems constantly on the verge of breaking out; her technique involves a self-restraint that she imposes on herself, and that effortful self-mastery is part of what wins acclaim. Moore shows off the graceful ease with which she can work hard; Aniston shows off the fierce effort with which she achieves graceful ease. They play each scene with restrained and unambiguous precision, as if filling out each moment of screen time by clicking out cinemoticons. Neither actor—and neither movie—ever comes close to letting go.”
Video of the Day: The video for Flying Lotus’s “Coronus, the Terminator”:
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