1. “Black Like Her.” For The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb on the Rachel Dolezal scandal.
“Among African-Americans, there is a particular contempt, rooted in the understanding that black culture was formed in a crucible of degradation, for what Norman Mailer hailed as the ’white Negro.’ Whatever elements of beauty or cool, whatever truth or marketable lies there are that we associate with blackness, they are ultimately the product of a community’s quest to be recognized as human in a society that is only ambivalently willing to see it as such. And it is this root that cannot be assimilated. The white Negroes, whose genealogy stretches backward from Azalea through Elvis and Paul Whiteman, share the luxury of being able to slough off blackness the moment it becomes disadvantageous, cumbersome, or dangerous. It is an identity as impermanent as burnt cork, whose profitability rests upon an unspoken suggestion that the surest evidence of white superiority is the capacity to exceed blacks even at being black. The black suspicion of whites thus steeped in black culture wasn’t bigotry; it was a cultural tariff—an abiding sense that, if they knew all that came with the category, they would be far less eager to enlist.”
2. “Looking at The Flick.” For The New Inquiry, Brandon Harris on Annie Baker’s Pulitzer-winning play.
“In November of 2011, around the time Roger Ebert wrote ’Who would have dreamed film would die so quickly?’ I imagine Annie Baker was writing The Flick and trying to cope. Four years later, Ebert is dead, Baker’s play has won a Pulitzer, and film is still here, sort of. It sure feels gone. People shoot on it, but not very many. Even fewer people ’finish’ on it. Striking prints is rare. Screening them, outside of repertory viewing, even rarer. The phenomenological costs of this have yet to be calculated. Perhaps my attention span, and yours, isn’t long enough to account for them anymore.”
3. “Philosophers on Rachel Dolezal.” Below are some thoughts by Charles Mills.
“The Rachel Dolezal case has it all—race as subjective (’I feel black; therefore I’m black’); race as intersubjective (’I need to start performing my blackness so these other folks will know I’m black’); and race as objective (’Rachel, honey, we’re white so you can’t be black’). The Dolezal parents know they’re objectively Caucasian (though the Caucasian race doesn’t exist), and perceive no absurdity in simultaneously declaring that they’re both part Native American (since by intersubjective consensus the one-drop rule only applies to blacks). The final proof is the eyeball test: presenting the photograph of their young daughter in her previous pristine blond blue-eyed incarnation. Walter White, another blond blue-eyed American, who was the (black) chair of the national NAACP from 1931 to 1955, might have quibbled: ’Hate to break it to you folks, but back in the 1890s a whole bunch of octoroons headed up north—I believe some said they were going to Montana—after telling their kin: ’Don’t call us, we’ll call you ... Actually, then again, we probably won’t.’’”
4. “Park Effects.” Mark Harris on the dark impact of the $500 million Jurassic World weekend.
“Some box office analysts will say these movies represent a statistical blip, and they could be right, but here’s the thing: Events dismissed as blips change the course of history all the time. Three gigantic films have defined 2015 for some; for others, they’ve been the exceptions within an ongoing narrative about the slow death of theatrical business for movies. We won’t know whether this was an odd year or the shape of things to come until about 2018, but in practical terms, it won’t much matter, because by then, the mere idea that this kind of money can be made and then built upon will have substantially reshaped the way Hollywood studios plan their slates and define themselves. In fact, it’s happening already, and Universal, fifth in market share last year and vying for first in 2015, knows it. Twenty years ago, ’blockbuster,’ at its most hyperbolic, meant a franchise big enough to give you a park. Now it means a franchise big enough to give you a world.”
5. “Roy Andersson: Reflections.” Shade Rupe speaks with the filmmaker about how he’s “inspired by painting history.”
“Step for step, I found that I really needed deep focus for what I want to achieve. I can’t make the background scenery clearly visible without deep focus. Diffuse background for me is terrible, but I started in that style with Swedish Love Story. But now I’m inspired by painting history. In painting history, you have almost no diffusion in background. It’s deep focus all the time. During the realist periods and even later. I am a big fan of some German painters from the thirties. Many of them. There was a period called ’Die Neue Sachlichkeit.’ That’s translates to English as, ’The New Objectivity.’ There you have deep focus all the time. Sometimes the human beings are grotesque, but, however, background is always sharp.”
Video of the Day: Nelson Carvajal’s tribute to film fathers:
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