1. “Previously On: In Praise of the Television Recap Sequence.” As plots become more and more complex, the humble summation has risen to an art form.
“Some recaps are technical masterpieces. On a complex show, an editor might have to reach back into previous seasons to pluck the narrative buds that the latest episode unfurls. Sharp, quick cuts of dialogue work with expert visual precision (Friday Night Lights did an extraordinary job with this—a character walks into the night with a pissed-off expression, while another character, seen in the previous fragment, describes her perspective on the drama in voice-over). Other recaps play a more expository role, and might not even be chronological, as with The Newsroom or Lost, which kicked off its last few seasons with hour-long recaps. And some shows choose to set a mood rather than offer any kind of chronology, as on Mad Men, whose enigmatic recaps and teasers have proved maddening to some viewers.”
2. “The Daring, Original, and Overlooked Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One.” Richard Brody on the William Greaves film.
“What of poverty, what of prejudice? Greaves is a magician; he pulls a rabbit out of a hat, but, being a real magician rather than a fake one, he doesn’t plant the rabbit there but finds it there by chance. The movie’s climactic scene stars Victor, a homeless man living in Central Park, whom the crew randomly encounters. Victor is an artist and a displaced person, a crude man of casual hatred and a flamboyant man of exaggerated refinements, a bohemian who places himself twenty years ahead of his time and a vestige of an era that was kinder to the bohemian. Rising rents forced him out of his home and onto the streets. Yet he’s no street angel; he’s an angry man filled with free-flowing contempt, a frustrated creator fuelled with an urge for destruction. Victor is a living vision straight from the works of Céline, a force of unresolved and worsening class conflict, a raving poet of the psychic underworld, a roving madman and a stunted genius and a frustrated bore. Victor is, in a way, the counterpart to Greaves himself, the man without a structure, the energetic person left to his own devices; his rage is the alternative to efforts to construct a better organized, more supple societal order.”
3. “Sundance 2015 documentaries: awake, cinema?” Can America’s biggest film festival find a place for nonfiction that pushes boundaries rather than buttons?
“Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room may not be nonfiction (except, perhaps, as an observational portrait of the artist’s exuberant, demented, movie-movie mind), but its presence in the festival serves an immediate rebuttal to the idea that Sundance is all glamour and convention. The film may feature movie stars like Charlotte Rampling, but it’s so unwieldy and inspired (and exhausting, but in the best possible way) it felt like a nuclear bomb vaporising all the infotainment in its blast zone. The Forbidden Room has more ideas in ten minutes than most filmmakers have in their entire oeuvres; Maddin jumps into the murky waters of lost styles of nutso movie storytelling and delivers back everything he finds, and the result is properly bonkers.”
4. “Video Evidence: Who Should Win the Oscar for Best Picture?” Which of the contenders asks the most essential question of cinema?
“I’ve expressed my doubts about Boyhood in other videos, a film that manages to be both radically experimental and ideologically square. It’s a masterpiece of middle class lives and values that might be too easy-going for its own good. It’s not until I start to dig into it that it starts to fascinate me. Like when I cut the film up to see how its twelve-year time span breaks down. The film is 160 minutes, about an average of thirteen minutes for each year. But some years are well below average: year eight is only four minutes long. Is it because the scenes he filmed that year weren’t as good, or didn’t fit into the arc of the story? And why does Ethan Hawke have twenty-five percent more time in the movie than Patricia Arquette, even though her character is the one who lives with the main character? Is it because boys are meant to bond with their dads instead of their moms? Is it a lack of the filmmaker’s consideration to develop the mother further? Or is it because Ethan Hawke is a skillful improviser who could generate more interesting material for his scenes? All these questions point to what I value most about Boyhood: it’s a film that calls attention to its own creative process, and invites viewers to take an active stake in the act of creation by asking questions about it. The content of the movie may amount to a bland exercise in normcore nostalgia, but the form is a radical achievement by mainstream standards.”
5. “The Fascinating New Documentary You Won’t Be Able To Shake.” The Wolfpack, about a family of brothers who rarely left their Manhattan apartment while growing up, was one of the biggest breakouts at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. It raises as many questions as it answers.
“The impoverishment of the Angulos’ home and the brothers’ unnervingly lean frames are on ample display in the film. But, Moselle said, ’Nothing alarmed me where I felt like I had to call the authorities in or anything. They’re a functioning family.’ The director credits a lot of her comfort with the family to how disarmingly articulate and even charming the Angulo brothers could be, not just while discussing their passion for cinema, but their own acutely cloistered childhoods, and inner emotional lives. That could be a product of a radical turn of events for the family after Mukunda, at 15, evidently broke out of the apartment and wandered through the neighborhood wearing a mask of Halloween killer Michael Myers. Naturally, one can only do that in New York for so long before authorities are called, and as a result, the kids say in the film that they were forced to spend time talking with a social worker. When asked whether she had verified that account with their social worker, however, Moselle declined to answer. ’That was something that I was interested in at one point, but I wasn’t able to get access,’ she later added.”
Video of the Day: Matt Zoller Setiz’s The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel gets a trailer:
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.