1. “Is the Affordable Care Act Working?” After a year fully in place, the Affordable Care Act has largely succeeded in delivering on President Obama’s main promises, an analysis by a team of reporters and data researchers shows. But it has also fallen short in some ways and given rise to a powerful conservative backlash.
“At its most basic level, the Affordable Care Act was intended to reduce the number of Americans without health insurance. Measured against that goal, it has made considerable progress. A perfect measurement of the numbers of people affected by the law is still difficult, but a series of private sector surveys and a government report reach the same basic estimates: The number of Americans without health insurance has been reduced by about 25 percent this year—or eight million to 11 million people. Of that total, it appears that more than half of people who are newly insured signed up for Medicaid, especially in the states that opted to broaden eligibility for the program to low-income residents. Most of the rest enrolled in private health plans through the new state insurance marketplaces.”
2. “The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed.” For Wired, Adrian Chen on Facebook’s unsung laborers.
“In Manila, I meet Denise (not her real name), a psychologist who consults for two content-moderation firms in the Philippines. ’It’s like PTSD,’ she tells me as we sit in her office above one of the city’s perpetually snarled freeways. ’There is a memory trace in their mind.’ Denise and her team set up extensive monitoring systems for their clients. Employees are given a battery of psychological tests to determine their mental baseline, then interviewed and counseled regularly to minimize the effect of disturbing images. But even with the best counseling, staring into the heart of human darkness exacts a toll. Workers quit because they feel desensitized by the hours of pornography they watch each day and no longer want to be intimate with their spouses. Others report a supercharged sex drive. ’How would you feel watching pornography for eight hours a day, every day?’ Denise says. ’How long can you take that?’”
3. “Institutional Bias.” Wesley Morris on Citizenfour and Dear White People.
“The movie appropriates some of [Spike] Lee’s current snobbery (lumps for Tyler Perry), his plotlines, and old tricks (those reverse shots, the ensembles speaking to the camera, the spitballing of slurs and presumptions). Lee isn’t using them anymore. But there’s a lot of framing that’s out of Ozu and Bergman, too. [Justin] Simien is just as much a film student as Damien Chazelle, whose second feature, the music-school abuse thriller Whiplash, opened this month, and who tries to electrify you with his talent. Simien’s doing portraiture, not Chazelle’s action painting. In Simien’s film, we’ve reached a point at which white people are just as comfortable with—and just as capable of—policing so-called authentic blackness as black people are. Sometimes those white police abuse their power. This movie is, at least partially, about the effects of that abuse. Not all the jokes are funny or timeless. Some of them are simply tired. But themes of what kind of black person—and, for that matter, what kind of white person—one should be are modern and loaded. They’re not post-anything.”
4. ”Birdman Never Achieves Flight.” Richard Brody on the Alejandro González Iñárritu film.
“In Birdman, the long take converts cinema to theatre—and back. It’s the story of a movie actor who renews both his art and his career by means of serious theatre. Iñárritu stages the action, onstage and off, like theatre; the camera is almost always in motion, and it follows the actors and their perfectly timed comings and goings and performances, which, as onstage, demand continuity of action and characterization. In lending movie acting the technical difficulty of stage performance, Iñarritu reinforces the theme of Birdman—the higher artistic dignity of acting in the theatre. What the cinema brings to the story is the idea of wondrous gimmickry—that of the continuous image itself, along with the element of fantasy, as the erstwhile Birdman seems to float in the air, to enjoy telekinetic power (and he does enjoy it), to fly through the streets like Birdman appeared to do onscreen. The movie is certainly a tour de force of planning and coördination, a sort of backstage theatre (behind the behind-the-scenes story of Riggan’s play) that would itself make for worthwhile viewing—it would even be of greater interest than the dramatic result.”
5. “Bombast: 35, Stayin’ Alive.” Nick Pinkerton on medium-specific squabbling and nastiness at the New Bev.
“As the debate drags on, I have a feeling that we can look forward to more of the A Movie is A Movie crowd tarring 35mm partisans with the brush of elitism—never mind that, in their open-minded acceptance of changing times, these jes’ folks anti-snobs are effectively championing a corporate dictum that put thousands of projectionists, lab techs, and auxiliaries of old-fashioned celluloid production, postproduction, distribution, and exhibition out of work, all in the name of the bottom line. Come to think of it, I was very nearly one of them—from 2005 to 2011 I worked as the technician at the New York City branch of the Paris-based company Laser Video Soustitres, operating a laser engraving machine that burned subtitles, frame by frame, into the emulsion of 35mm prints. (I also had, before this, a stint as a very, very bad print trafficker.) Only when it became obvious that 35mm subtitling, as a full-time occupation, was about to go the way of Connecticut whaling did I finally transition into the far more stable business of full-time freelance criticism. It remains to be seen what industry I will turn out the lights on next.”
Video of the Day: OK Go’s video for “I Won’t Let You Down”:
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