1. “It’s not about Islam, it’s about courage: Authors protesting Charlie Hebdo’s PEN award are missing the point.” Approve of the French satirists or don’t—but it takes true guts to publish under the tangible threat of murder. So argues Salon’s Laura Miller.
“Charlie Hebdo’s humor is too crude and obvious to appeal to me, but I’m predisposed to favor anyone who takes religious authorities down a peg. Raised in the Catholic Church, I regard anti-clerical campaigns as anything but passé; my own experience suggests to me that some French Muslims might find irreverent portrayals of the prophet, however crass, to be a crowbar prying open the confining box of tradition and piety. I don’t think anyone should be forced into secularism, but history tells us that this is far less of a threat than the compulsion — enforced by the state or by a more intimate community — to believe and observe. For this reason, I feel that no religion should be shielded from ridicule and satire; organized religion is always a form of power.”
2. “Charlie Hebdo: The literary indulgence of murder.” Nick Cohen on the protests of PEN’s free speech award for Charlie Hebdo.
“Max Fisher of Vox tried to shake up Anglo-Saxon leftists by pointing them to a New Yorker cover showing Barack Obama as a Kenyan Muslim and Michelle Obama as a terrorist. It was a satire of the Tea Party fantasy that Obama was a foreigner, who could not stand for election, his wife was a far leftist and between them the couple married the ideologies of the Mau-Mau and the Black Panthers. No one who understood New York liberal culture could fail to see that the New Yorker was not really saying the Obamas were actual terrorists. Similarly, he continued, as if he were speaking to an unusually stupid child, no one who understood Parisian culture could fail to see that Charlie Hebdo was mocking the prejudices of the French Right.”
3. “Bombast: Pop-Pop-Pop-Popular.” For Film Comment, Nick Pinkerton responds to Washington Post pop-music critic Chris Richards’s piece titled “Do you want poptimism? Or do you want the truth?”
“I’m not particularly interested in talking about Furious 7 any more than I have already. No, really, I’m not—I think it’s a slapdash, deathly dull, and unavoidably morbid movie, and history will validate my opinion. I am, however, interested in the place that it has assumed in the discussion of popular art—particularly ’nakedly mercantile’ films and music, and particularly in recent years. Though my bailiwick is movie chat, I have always found it instructive to look at music journalism, which is closer to the concerns of young people, and therefore closer to the speed of change, to get a sense of what lays ahead for my own field. In the tenor of the conversation about Furious 7, I detect something like the language which has been used in the discussion around the by-no-means-new issue of rockism vs. poptimism, one of the defining dichotomies of the last decade of pop writing. To recap: the rockist is a devotee of small-band guitar/bass/drum music; he is also, the grievance goes, usually a ’he,’ and touts the authenticity of the music that he listens to over that of the poptimists. The poptimist is open to various pop/hip-hop/electro/R&B/dance idioms which invite an ethnically diverse/female/LBGTQ fan base, idioms dismissed as synthetic by the rockists who, until relatively recently, at least, held all of the most important positions in music journalism.”
4. “They Only Do One Black Movie a Year.” For Filmmaker, Robert Townsend talks Hollywood Shuffle.
“The scenes in Hollywood Shuffle depicting the audition process are not that far-fetched—they were very close to our experiences! We’d see some actors who were very proper, Harvard and Yale trained, and they’d have to read for these parts where they’re saying ’I ain’t be got no weapon!’ and the casting directors would say ’You’re not black enough.’ Or the casting directors would be on the phone and eating their lunch while you’re pouring your heart out doing an emotional scene. There are also actors who will try to psych you out. The scene in Hollywood Shuffle where the other actor says to me, ’Don’t sell out, Bobby, all they want us to do is play butlers and slaves,’ was based on something that happened to me when I was auditioning for A Soldier’s Story. There was an actor who kept saying, ’Yeah, they got the white man trying to tell the black man’s story,’ and I’m sitting there thinking, really? It seems like a good script to me. Then they call this guy and he jumps up with a smile—’Here I come, yes sir!’.”
5. “Why Avengers: Age of Ultron Fills This Buffy Fan With Despair.” For The Village Voice, Stephanie Zacharek is disappointed by Joss Whedon’s latest.
“Despite its supernatural elements, Buffy showcased Whedon’s gift for finding high drama within the parameters of the mundane—he knew it didn’t need finding there, because that’s simply where it lives. Maybe that should make Whedon a natural for bringing a group of much-beloved Marvel comic-book characters to the big screen, where he’d have a wider frame to explore the glories and vicissitudes of friendship and loyalty, as well as the everyday stress of being charged with saving the world. The Avengers movies give Whedon a bigger palette, along with that bigger screen, to work on. But with their valley-of-the-giants scale of visual extravagance, their adherence to the slice-and-dice school of editing that’s now a requirement for any action movie that aspires to be a hit, and their staid approach to teamwork, loyalty, and life-and-death struggles, they have also crushed and flattened the texture of everything that made Whedon’s work and vision amazing in the first place.”
Video of the Day: The official trailer for Sean Baker’s Tangerine:
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 email@example.com and to converse in the comments section.