1. “He Was Like the Beatles to Me.” J.J. Abrams on Dick Smith.
“It was in 1981 as a 9th grader and, how do I say this, an insanely rabid Dick Smith fan after admiring his work from The Exorcist to Scanners, The Godfather and Altered States, I wrote the man a fan letter — never expecting to hear back. I came home from school one day and found a cardboard box addressed to me. The return address was Dick Smith, Larchmont, New York. My heart pounded as I opened the box. The enclosed note read, ’Dear J.J., Here’s an old, but clean, tongue from The Exorcist. Put peanut butter inside it, to stick it on. Or moisten inside and put dental-plated adhesive powder inside it. Yours, Dick.’ My mother was very concerned.”
2. “The Great American Cops and Robbers Movie.” Ignatiy Vishnevetsky on Michael Mann’s Heat.
“His terse dialogue has a similar crafted quality, though perhaps it’s easier for writers than regular viewers to appreciate the work that goes into a construction like ’I’m alone; I am not lonely.’ Mann, often discussed in terms of visual style and theme, is under-appreciated as a dialogue stylist. ’Neil’s voice is street, but his language is precise like an engineer’s’ is how he introduces McCauley on the first page of Heat’s screenplay, and that almost describes the writer-director’s best dialogue: direct, carefully worded, lacking ornamentation, with lots of ’I’s and ’you’s. Contractions (or lack thereof) control rhythm, inform performance, and create meaning. The McCauley-Hanna conversation in the restaurant—set at an airport food stand in the script, foreshadowing their final meeting—is a marvel of carefully fitted parts. So is the rest of the movie.”
3. “What’s Missing from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” Richard Brody on the Alfonso Gomez-Rejon film.
“Here, that omission is particularly grating because Earl is black—and the movie offers no sense of what that fact means to Greg—or, for that matter, what it means to Greg that he himself is white. Rather, Greg’s very notion of self, as outlined in the script by Jesse Andrews (adapting his own novel), is so blank as to empty the film nearly before it starts, yet so cluttered as to stifle the slightest effort to discover him. Greg is a false neutral—a white male of unnamed ethnicity who, unable to negotiate the school’s ’factions’ (Rachel’s crew, which he calls ’Boring Jewish Senior Girls, Subgroup 2A,’ among them), belongs to none and ingratiates himself, via phony friendliness, to them all. Greg’s supposed neutrality, as a member of no faction, as a featureless neutral person, gives him the universal identity of no identity—as a generic white guy, he is, ostensibly, humanity itself.”
4. “Mezzanine Essentials: The Trial.” Bilge Ebiri on Orson Welles’s classic.
“All these spaces and incidents are connected via dream logic. There is no way all these different rooms could all be part of the same building. Some doors are too small, while some are comically huge. Some ceilings are unnaturally low, while some are impossibly high. Lights hang ominously close above people’s heads. Character relations turn on a dime, then turn back again. Leni attempts to sleep with K, but later reveals that another man is staying in her tiny room, waiting for his chance to be heard by the Advocate. Is she also sleeping with him? The man seems curiously apologetic and shy.”
5. “Dave Chappelle Won’t Be Making Jokes About Rachel Dolezal Anytime Soon.” Here’s why, according to Soraya Nadia McDonald of The Washington Post.
“Despite the mention in his speech, backstage and no longer held to the constraints of a 15-minute time slot, Chappelle revealed why he would wait a while before he incorporated any Dolezal jokes into his act, if he decides to do so at all. ’The thing that the media’s gotta be real careful about, that they’re kind of overlooking, is the emotional context of what she means,’ Chappelle said thoughtfully, between drags of American Spirit cigarettes. ’There’s something that’s very nuanced where she’s highlighting the difference between personal feeling and what’s construct as far as racism is concerned. I don’t know what her agenda is, but there’s an emotional context for black people when they see her and white people when they see her. There’s a lot of feelings that are going to come out behind what’s happening with this lady. And she’s just a person, no matter how we feel about her.’ Yes, the man who came up with the idea of Clayton Bigsby, a blind black Klansman (who doesn’t know he’s black), was reserved when it came to Dolezal.”
Video of the Day: Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert 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.