1. “Callow, Grating, and Glib.” For the New Republic, James Wolcott on the first-person fodder of Lena Dunham Inc.
“Despite bluff talk about squirreling away acorns for her octogenarian Hollywood tell-all, Dunham operates on a much tighter time-loop and a much laxer filtration process, the inappropriate, often insensitive, nearly always self-centered blurting of unedited thoughts forming the basis of her comedy of embarrassment and incontinence. ’Getting naked feels better some days than others. (Good: when you are vaguely tan. Bad: when you have diarrhea.)’ A little of this goes a long way, and there’s a lot of it in Not That Kind of Girl. At other times Dunham does a standard knockoff of the nice-naughty Jewish girl routine, offering sub–Sarah Silverman-isms such as ’Holocaust, eating disorder. Same difference.’ (From ’13 Things I’ve Learned Are Not Okay to Say to Friends.’) The shock tactics and venting tantrums deployed in Girls don’t play so well on the page, where there are no other characters to react to the provocation, only the solitary reader who may feel at times as if he or she is babysitting a brat. “
2. ”Interstellar Is a Flowery Greeting Card.” Richard Brody on the Christopher Nolan film.
“Sometimes movies produced and released around the same time intersect in surprising ways to reveal a mood, a tone, a frequency. Interstellar shares a crucial artistic gene with Whiplash—namely, its self-punishing anti-hedonism. In the latter film, a young drummer develops his art by being sexually and romantically self-denying, by choosing a quasi-monastic submission and isolation and practicing until his hands bleed. In Interstellar, Matthew McConaughey plays a pilot who takes on an outer-space mission to save mankind, even though his heart bleeds. Both movies share the aesthetic of their characters’ similarly grim dedication to an ideal, and both offer the triumph and redemption of that pleasureless devotion. Just as Damien Chazelle, the director of Whiplash, offers a narrow and stultified version of the music that his film celebrates, Nolan presents a wonderless, astonishment-free vision of what ought to be a miraculous cosmic spectacle. He offers the bigness without the joy, the adventure without the thrill.”
3. “How I Got Rejected from a Job at the Container Store.” As if life wasn’t messy enough for this bestselling author.
“For years we Americans have been fed the convenient lie: study hard, work hard in your chosen field, work hard at your marriage, save money, organize your flour, salt, and sugar into labeled bins, and you will be in control of your life and your destiny. But control is an illusion during the best of times. Now, in this new gilded age, where profit takes precedence over people, and commerce takes precedence over art; where a CEO earns 331 times the salary of the average worker, and a company going public feels no compunction about ordering massive layoffs to appear lean in the eyes of investors; where a woman still earns only 78 cents to every man’s dollar, and where access to health insurance—though much improved—still carries strange loopholes that leave some of us uncovered for months; where none of us is able to save nearly as much as we should, despite cutting back on everything, including necessities like food and shelter; where affordable childcare, universal daycare, and paid maternity leave are fantasies that only happen in other countries, not ours; where a college education requires our children to take on the kind of massive nooses of debt that will render them too cash-poor to have any future material goods in need of organizing and containing, most of us are just a single job loss, a single medical diagnosis, a single broken marriage removed from a swirling, chaotic, wholly uncontained abyss. All three of these stressors together, combined with a move, and you get a 48-year-old mother of three, sobbing at the sight of a rejection letter from The Container Store.”
4. “My Stepfather, The Peeping Tom.” My mother’s husband confessed to having spied on me in my bedroom and bathroom years ago. Figuring out how to maintain a relationship with him—and with my mother—has been traumatic, even if they don’t consider it sexual abuse.
“It wasn’t until I was 21 that I began to take my intuition seriously and took to scrutinizing my house. Look at how the nicks in the bathroom door lined up so perfectly with the nicks on the jamb, creating a perfect peephole. Crouch down low and affix your eyeball, behold the toilet bowl, right there with its puffy pink plastic seat cover, the kind that warms your butt when you sit down on it. Notice how the nicks between two separate pieces of paneling on my bedroom wall came together in the perfect little hole, as if manufactured, which it was. If you walked into my back hallway and moved a strip of particleboard propped against the wall there, you would find a big, punched-in looking hole. The hole was covered with a strip of electrical tape, dull and dry from being peeled back so many times. When I peeled it back for the first time it fell to the dusty floor like a dead autumn leaf. When I put my eye to the hole, there was my bedroom, all laid out like a diorama, a doll’s house. There was my bed, the posters on my wall, my stacks of books and records. The writing on the floor, my mirrored armoire. All that was missing was me.”
5. “Altman doc reminds a critic of why the movies matter—and when he noticed” Michael Phillips watches Altman and gets nostalgic.
“Altman may well have been my first real introduction to the auteur theory, in practice. His films felt alien to me on one level. On another they seemed familiar—not ’lifelike,’ but not like other films I’d seen. The technique can be excessive and self-conscious in his movies that don’t work, but the way his restless, side-winding camera caught little bits of behavior by apparent accident appealed to the younger me. The sardonic streak too, I suppose. These were prime years in America for jaundice, for satirically inclined filmmakers, backed by the studios, for commercial artists fed up with Vietnam, with Nixon, with the divisions within the country.”
Video of the Day: Get your jizzy jazz on with this trailer for the second season of Broad City:
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