1. “The Epic Story of Orson Welles’s Unfinished Masterpiece.” For Vanity Fair, Josh Karp reveals why Welles’s last movie, The Other Side of the Wind, is the stuff of legend.
“Orson would stalk the set, looking through a circle made with his fingers and explaining precisely which lens and focal length he wanted. Without ever peering through a camera, he always seemed to know which image would be captured, and those who did as they were told wound up doing the best camerawork of their lives. Conceptually, it seemed, Orson used each frame of film as an easel on which he was creating individual works of art that he would then string together in a way that multiplied their impact. ’The concepts Orson had for shots were utterly astounding,’ said crew member Eric Sherman. ’And each shot had something to do with the larger creation.’ But still, there were times when even Orson was overwhelmed by executing his own vision, once waving off [Gary] Graver’s idea for capturing an image they’d tried to shoot over and over. ’No, Gary,’ Welles said. ’God doesn’t want me to make this shot.’”
2. “The Radical Vision of Toni Morrison.” At 84, she sits comfortably as one of the greatest authors in American hsitory, even as her uncompromising dream for black literature seems farther away than ever.
“What we know now is that the inclusive, empowered revolution that Morrison raised a battle cry for has failed to come to pass. Over the last decade or so, a righteous assault on the hegemony that exists in American literature has come to the fore. Suddenly, the old guard’s oft-repeated line that people of color don’t read, that they don’t submit, that their work isn’t up to snuff was being widely and publicly debunked by workshops run by programs like Kimbilio, Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation and the Asian-American Writers’ Workshop. But what has remained more elusive is the part that Morrison figured out as an editor: What happens after the workshop and the head count? How do people change an establishment? How do people change an industry?”
3. “Recreating a Feminist Revolutionary.” Richard Brody on Elisabeth Subrin’s 1997 film Shulie, part of Lincoln Center’s “Art of the Real” series.
“The reconstruction of the states of mind that gave rise to [Shulamith] Firestone’s ideas is also a restoration of their primal force. Soss as Firestone refers to the open discrimination against ’Negroes’ in the workplace and the overt pressure that men exert on ’any intellectual woman or [woman] involved with the arts.’ Whatever progress may have occurred in American society in the intervening thirty years is irrelevant to Firestone’s program, which isn’t a matter of incremental change but, as her book’s subtitle says, of revolution, and of a revolution that’s rooted not merely in the organization of society but in human biology. Shulie doesn’t reveal the historic extremes of Firestone’s ideas, but it brings to life the furious energy that gave rise to them. It’s profoundly moving to see a twenty-two-year-old art student struggle with the pettifogging scrutiny of her fogyish male professors and declare, with the kind of simple, good-humored calm with which all absolute visionaries see past as trivial to the total, the existential urgency that whips her into an inner fury in her daily life.”
4. “Let There Be Light.” Wesley Morris on Clouds of Sils Maria, Ex Machina, and The Longest Ride.
“[Alex] Garland also adapted Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel about the inner lives of clones, Never Let Me Go, into a sleepy movie that thought the book was about their outer lives. Gleeson and Alicia Vikander, who plays Ava, pick up where the actors in that movie left off. In fairness, Vikander doesn’t have much of a choice. But for a creature that’s passing the Turing test with flying colors, her hints at sentient humanness cry out for their own Turing experiment. The performances stiffen further as a horror movie pools around them. Isaac is wonderful, though. He has the beard that Robert De Niro used to play Satan in Angel Heart and the swagger that Al Pacino probably uses to load the dishwasher. He’s permitted to work with abandon here. The best scene in the movie has him and Mizuno disco dancing in sync to Oliver Cheatham’s ’Get Down Saturday Night,’ a song that deserves to replace ’Got to Give It Up’ as the movies’ atmospheric party jam. Isaac is actually too wonderful. His whatever-dude insouciance takes the menace out of the movie. Garland needs the noise and lights to keep you on edge because his villain has too much creative leeway. His evil sleaziness never reaches full-on psychotic. But maybe Isaac was looking for a way out of a cliché.”
5 “The Queen on Broadway.” Zoë Heller on Peter Morgan’s play The Audience, directed by Stephen Daldry.
“Speculative fictions about the ’real’ Queen behind the royal mask tend to be rather wishful—endowing her with qualities and values that reflect the authors’ own. The Queen in Alan Bennett’s play A Question of Attribution is a canny, rather droll figure, with a distinctly Bennetian line in poker-faced ironies. Sue Townsend’s Queen in the novel The Queen and I is a tough, no-nonsense lady who adapts to life on a council estate with admirable resourcefulness and vim. Such projections are generally harmless enough. But Morgan’s portrayal of the Queen as a closeted socialist is a fantasy not just about her but about the British class system and about what socialism entails. The comforting illusion he purveys in The Audience is that the crucial divisions in British society are not those of privilege, but of sensibility. The Queen and Harold Wilson get along splendidly—despite their class differences—because they share a love for Britain and its ancient ’social fabric.’ (It’s ghastly, uncaring arrivistes like Thatcher who are the trouble.) The moral here—that the rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate need not be at odds with one another, so long as the rich man remembers to be compassionate—seems a particularly sentimental and dishonest way of selling the status quo to a liberal theater audience.”
Video of the Day: Stephen Hawking sings Monty Python:
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