1. “Jess Row: Native Sons.” A straight white American man on loving James Baldwin and learning to write about race.
“When Another Country was published—at the very peak of Baldwin’s public stature as a civil rights activist—it was taken as a document of a very small slice of the present: the Greenwich Village and Paris of the late 1950s and early 1960s, where interracial couples and gay people were able to live openly, mostly but not entirely out of the omnipresent shadow of violence. But Another Country is also an intensely prophetic book, in which Baldwin glimpses a world much more like the one we inhabit today, where overt, legal racism and homophobia is inexorably falling away, and what we have to look at, instead, is the face of the person we’ve feared and misunderstood and avoided. It’s a plural world, a world of unstable pronouns, multiple identities, and overlapping narratives. Which is not to say that anyone in the book ends up happy: this is a novel, after all, that begins with one man’s leap off the George Washington Bridge and ends with a series of betrayals—profound and petty—among his survivors. It’s out of that traumatized state, Baldwin seems to say, that the most important realization occurs: our offenses, our intertwined histories and mutual obligations, are more like love affairs than legal cases—love affairs that are never really over. ’It doesn’t do any good to blame the people or the time,’ one of his characters says, ’one is oneself all those people. We are the time.’”
2. “I Re-Watched Garden State and Will Never Feel Again.” Some snark from Jezebel’s Lindy West on the Zach Braff film.
“The Velcro magnate talks about how he got too rich selling his patent for ’silent Velcro’ (HOW IS THAT A DESIRABLE PRODUCT, BTW), and now he’s terribly, terribly, terribly bored and alone with only his mansion, his friends, his hot babes, and his anything-he-wants-in-the-universe, and I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to knit our brows and nod and feel like we learned something profound about the world because IT’S SO HARD BEING A RICH WHITE MAN SWIMMING IN VELCRO MONEY. Except it’s not. It is objectively easier than being most other things that a person can be. If you’re so fucking bored, invent something else. God, fuck this movie.”
3. “Bombast: Queens, City of Cinema.” Nick Pinkerton checks out a few movie theaters in his new hood.
“Guardians of the Galaxy is in every respect a superior movie to Lucy, and I prefer the entertainment product of Marvel Studios to that of EuropaCorp almost across the board. I guess that makes me a pair of pleated khakis instead of Parisian pleather pants with extraneous zippers, because while you can always score points by rolling your eyes and going ’Marvel has their next 17 superhero movies planned out, Hollywood is bankrupt,’ Besson’s multiplex pollution (Paris When It Bleeds, Assassinette, Le Dernier Arrondissement) goes uncommented on where it isn’t cheered on outright. Lucy is the sort of thing that coasts on the ’batshit’ defense, which holds that everything is permissible of a movie, so long as it’s improbably off-the-wall enough. For this it qualifies in spades: where most filmmakers use only 10 percent of the film technique available, Besson drenches you with Koyaanisqatsi-scale bucketfuls, even tossing in a bit of Eisensteinian associative montage when Lucy is first being lured into the den of villainous, inscrutable Asiatics, cross-cut with footage of a cheetah stalking its prey. Not to get all Jay Sherman, but It Stinks.”
4. “The Greats: Mike Leigh” Tim Grierson celebrates a living legend.
“The secret to his next superb movie can be found in a comment he made in the same interview. Asked if Happy-Go-Lucky was about happiness being a matter of perspective, the filmmaker responded, ’It’s an unhealthy habit to say that life is what you make of it, and if you want to be happy, then you can be happy. That’s just rubbish, basically. Life is about luck and it’s about circumstances and socioeconomic conditions and all the rest of it, but you know, you can also make choices. It’s about spirit and generosity and all the other things, too.’ As if to back up his contention, he delivered Another Year, a gracefully understated drama about a happily married older couple (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen) and their friends, many of whom (especially Lesley Manville as the high-maintenance Mary) are struggling to find the contentment that has blessed the central couple their whole lives. Gently investigating the role of luck in our lives, Another Year would seem like a warm soufflé from just about any other writer-director, but because Leigh made it, there’s always a tinge of sadness around the edges: If happiness is so ephemeral, how can we know it’ll last?”
5. “Paying Attention.” Jonathan Beller on networks and film production companies dreaming up new ways to sell eyeballs to advertisers.
“Not too surprisingly, this (counter-)revolution in the expropriation of human ’sensual labor’ (Marx again) has a history. The gathering and organization of attention by mechanized, standardized media, which is visible in early, though still persisting forms, including coinage, printing, and lithography, really becomes a thing unto itself with the advent of cinema—the open book of the industrialization of the senses. Phenomena such as the cult of the celebrity or the fetish for the painted masterpiece are revealing—the celebrity is not an individual but a social relation characterized by the accumulation of attention, and similarly the masterpiece accumulates the value of all of the gazes that have fallen upon it—inasmuch as they illustrate an important aspect of the attention economy. The productive value of the gaze accretes in the organization of social being, i.e., publicity. This visual economy, the attention of spectators, produces the value, which is to say, the fact of both the painted masterpiece and the media icon. From the practical function of cinema and allied visual technologies we may derive a mediatic model for the extraction of surplus value—one in which spectators work in deterritorialized factories (museums, newspapers, cinemas, televisions, computers) to produce value for media companies and those investors who have a stake in the fourth estate. The cinematic century posited that looking could be treated as value-producing labor; the digital age presupposes it.”
Video of the Day: A trailer for Björk: Biophilia Live:
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.