1. “How Critics Have Failed Female Filmmakers.” Richard Brody states his case.
“Calling attention to their work as often and as vigorously as possible is all the more important because the cinematic roadsides are strewn with the wreckage of major artistic careers of independent female filmmakers of the past half century, including Shirley Clarke, Barbara Loden, Claudia Weill, Kathleen Collins, Julie Dash, and Leslie Harris—as well as such men as Wendell B. Harris, Jr., Matthew Harrison, and Rob Tregenza. Critical attention is all the more important for the makers of films that aren’t box-office hits, that aren’t widely advertised, and that don’t have the built-in publicity of celebrity actors. A review and some vigorous follow-ups can make clear the kind of important experience that awaits, an experience that may differ significantly from today’s mainstream but that, with the right breaks, should be tomorrow’s.”
2. “Rod McKuen R.I.P.” The prolific poet and lyricist dies at 81.
“Mr. McKuen, whom The St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture described as having been, at his height, ’the unofficial poet laureate of America,’ was the author of dozens of books of poetry, which together sold millions of copies. For a generation of Americans at midcentury and afterward, Mr. McKuen’s poetry formed an enduring, solidly constructed bridge between the Beat generation and New Age sensibilities. Ranging over themes of love and loss, the natural world and spirituality, his work was prized by readers for its gentle accessibility while being condemned by many critics as facile, tepid and aphoristic. Mr. McKuen’s output was as varied as it was vast, spanning song lyrics, including English-language adaptations (’Seasons in the Sun’) of works by his idol, Jacques Brel; music and lyrics, as for ’Jean,’ from the 1969 film ’The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,’ for which he received an Academy Award nomination; and musical scores, including that of the 1973 television film ’Lisa, Bright and Dark.’ He also appeared as a singer on television, on many recordings and in live performance.”
3. “Rodney Ascher Interview.” Bilge Ebiri chats with the filmmaker about his new documentary, The Nightmare.
“A cinematic-style reenactment is one layer of reality. A talking-head interview is another, although sometimes I would try to reveal some of the mechanisms even within the interview—like the lighting gear or an extra person. When a crew comes to shoot your story, there’s a frightening element with all these people coming into your life. And although this is a documentary, every documentary has layers of artifice—ours more than most. So let’s put the cards on the table about that. Also, did you ever see Demons 2? It’s actually kind of an influence on this movie. It’s the eeriest thing at the end when they go to that soundstage and everything is operating automatically. Is that the filmmakers who are putting the characters through these trials? Every time I try to explain some of this stuff, I find a different metaphor. But it felt kind of right. “
4. “Edgar Allen Poe.” Marilynne Robinson penetrates the life and work of the famous author, mostly by way of his only completed novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.
“Poe’s great tales turn on guilt concealed or denied, then abruptly and shockingly exposed. He has always been reviled or celebrated for the absence of moral content in his work, despite the fact that these tales are all straightforward moral parables. For a writer so intrigued by the operations of the mind as Poe was, an interest in conscience leads to an interest in concealment and self-deception, things that are secretive and highly individual and at the same time so universal that they shape civilizations. In Pym and after it Poe explores the thought that reality is of a kind to break through the enthralling dream of innocence or of effective concealment and confront us—horrify us—with truth.”
5. “The Scariest Movie at Sundance.” Matt Patches on how Robert Eggers made the horrifying, historically accurate The Witch.
“Adapting the words was only part of Eggers’s controlled approach. He also had to teach his actors to speak it. Properly. According to Eggers, the family originally hailed from Essex before migrating to the New World, factually consistent with the Great Migration. ’But I cast Ralph [Ineson as the father], and Ralph’s Yorkshire accent, Yorkshire attitude was so amazing that we decided to make the family from Yorkshire.’ This didn’t mean fudging a detail. With Eggers, it’s about recalibrating. Hunting for evidence, the director discovered in Dedham, Massachusetts, the Fairbanks House, the oldest surviving timber-frame residence in North America. Its original owner, Fairbanks, was from Yorkshire and moved to Massachusetts with Essex people. When he couldn’t get along with the church, he moved his family outside. ’So I was like, ’Well, this is perfect.’ Way back when the family was from Essex, we talked about doing a 1770s Essex dialect. But it sounds insane. It sounds like a pirate. So we worked on creating a Yorkshire accent that was sort of free of some of the modern urbanisms, but that could suit this language.’”
Video of the Day: Film Comment’s video essay about how Robert Altman’s early TV work shaped his style:
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.