1. “This Summer’s Action Heroes Are Several Shades of Gray.” Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott on the aging stars of this summer’s blockbusters.
“But nostalgia only partly explains the enduring popularity and renewed appeal of movie stars over 50. They bring gravity, craft and seasoned, relaxed professionalism to projects that otherwise might lack those qualities. When filmmakers are smart or lucky enough to cast Ms. Streep, they are almost guaranteed a memorable performance; she’s money in the bank. She brings her tool kit (a United Nations of accents and so forth) along with a vivid persona and a stellar résumé, conferring weight on even the flimsiest vehicle. She can prop up bad movies and weaker younger co-stars, much like Morgan Freeman, the hardest-working senior citizen in movies. He shares that honor, if now more behind the camera than on, with the avenging auteur Clint Eastwood (84), whose reascension as a critical and popular phenomenon offers further evidence that movies are currently enjoying a different kind of senior moment.”
2. “Iris Apfel, Rare Bird.” For Interview, Colleen Kelsey chats with the star of Albert Maysles last film.
“I had no idea what I was getting into. I’ve never done anything like it. I didn’t know anything about documentaries, but he promised that they would be very discreet and that they would not get in my hair and just follow. And that’s what we did. It went on and off for about four years because we were very rarely in the same place at the same time. He was in Europe a lot getting awards, and I was working and traveling, and I broke my hip and all that. But we finally ended up with enough film to make three more movies. I don’t know what went on the cutting room floor, but a lot of stuff. And of course, he didn’t work with any kind of script, so I had no idea what to expect. It was all done on blind sight. It was a wonderful experience because he was a great and talented gentleman. Everybody thinks we were old, old friends; we just hit it off. I never met him until the day we started to work together.”
3. “How Hollywood Keeps Out Women.” For L.A. Weekly, Jessica P. Ogilvie on the methods by which Hollywood ensures that it remains a boy’s club.
“Explanations for why studio executives and top agents tend to snub talented women have been playing on repeat for decades. Since at least the 1970s, studio execs have deflected discussion of themselves and pointed to the women. They contend that the pool of female talent is too small and that women are not interested in directing action and comic book movies—and have even suggested women can’t handle big budgets. But Barbara Schock, chair of NYU’s graduate film program, says, ’We train everybody in the whole range of filmmaking. I’m seeing no difference whatsoever in their abilities,’ whether male or female. Researchers such as Susanne Quadflieg, a neuroscientist and an expert in gender bias at Bristol University in London, say these claims are based in bias: ’The majority of people who do research on gender stereotyping think that these stereotypes don’t have much of a kernel of truth.’ Instead, [Ava] DuVernay says, these are simply attitudes that permeate the studio system and much of Hollywood. ’It’s misguided and steeped in patriarchy,’ she says. ’There is an antagonistic context toward images of women by women, images by black people, brown people, indigenous people, that are outside of dominant culture. And the way that things are—they’re run by men, there’s a comfort level there. They are the first that come to each others’ minds. ... I’m saying this very matter-of-factly, with no passion. It’s just the way it is.’”
4. “Nadja à Paris.” Nadja Tesich, the star of Eric Rohmer’s 1964 short film Nadja à Paris, originally wrote this essay in the 1990s, but never published it. In the last three months before she died in February 2014, Lucy McKeon helped Nadja revise the piece, recording her thoughts and their discussions.
“Occasionally, unintentionally, triggered by a smell or an old tune, my mind drifts to that time when Paris didn’t resemble the USA at all, when life on the street and screen was similar and our days appeared like the films of the nouvelle vague. There was something breezy about reasons then, why you did this or that, no clear motivation or Hollywood endings. Of course there were American films around but many were quite good, nothing like the bang-bang violence we now dump all over the globe. Those films didn’t crush or overwhelm others in quantity (a reason why they were so admired) and you could also see French, Italian, Polish, Czech, or Russian films any time. There was a cinematheque, which for students was one franc.”
5. “Nerd Plus Ultraon.” Wesley Morris on The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
“By the time everyone’s at that farmhouse, the movie feels as if it’s in a holding pattern. Whedon has misjudged how much these people’s lives mean to us now. It isn’t that there’s no room for the ordinary in one of these movies. There’s no place for the banal, and banal is what that stretch at chez Hawkeye is. Unless [Linda] Cardellini is turning into a wasp or a sorceress, why, really, are we here? Whatever was special or new about the superhero movie in the early 2000s, with the release of the first X-Men and Spider-Man movies, has evaporated. Once upon a time, we would have admired that opening sequence, which climaxes with about five of the Avengers running from their respective battles into a single slow-motion shot, as the state-of-the-art technical achievement it is. But now we feel about it the same way Tony Stark feels about that secret door. It’s a cliché. World-saving is no longer a surprise to these characters. It’s work. Grunt work. For them. For us.”
Video of the Day: Jonathan Rosenbaum celebrates Orson Welles’s 100th birthday:
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