1. “Ciao, Bella: Post-Twilight, Kristen Stewart Continues to Astound.” For The Village Voice, critic Melissa Anderson offers an appreciation of the under-appreciated actress.
“The Twilight franchise’s advancement of a conservative agenda of one (undead) man, one woman might have been boosted by the fact that Stewart and Pattinson were dating for much of the series’s 2008–12 run. But throughout these years, the actress, refusing to be pigeonholed, signed up for projects that complicated the swoony, boy-crazy, high-femme virgin character that was bringing in box office billions. As Joan Jett in The Runaways (2010), Floria Sigismondi’s lush recounting of the rise and fall of the jailbait Seventies rock group, Stewart no longer slinks—she swaggers, strutting not for guys but for girls. She plays the teenage guitarist like a heat-seeking missile, one aimed at Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), the bandmate she’s besotted with. Bathed in cherry-bomb-red light, these two share a sultry kiss, the lip-lock initiated by Jett. Stewart’s brilliant baby-dyke bravado in The Runaways, her unabashed lustfulness, reveals an appetite that Twilight tamped down (if not outright forbade). Since that franchise concluded, her characters’ desires, sometimes unconventional, have often been expressed in more oblique, though no less stirring, ways.”
2. “Fifty Shades of Moby-Dick.” Did an illicit love affair give birth to the Great American Novel?
“Where other biographers see friends, [Michael Shelden] sees fornicators; instead of affection, he sees infatuation. And since he can’t shake his romance-novel mood, you’ll have to endure sentences such as, ’She would always be restless and dreamy, a bright woman with endless curiosity searching for an elusive happiness,’ and the faux-suspenseful query: ’She may have been eager to cross the line into adultery, but was he?’ You’ll have to hear of Melville’s lust for a ’dreamy realm of lovesick heroes and heroines,’ but it should be tormentingly clear by this point that Shelden himself is the one salivating for such sickness. He believes that Moby-Dick was written for [Sarah] Morewood, ’to amaze her, amuse her, and to conquer the world for her,’ and it’s hard to overstate how hokey that is. Worse, he’s consistently inept at handling Melville’s language; the best he can do with Moby-Dick is to say that it has ’passages of prose like the best poetry,’ a nonstatement. The writer who won’t be bothered with the integrity of his sentences won’t be bothered with much of anything else either, proof included.”
3. ”The Shallows Sticks All Too Close to the Surface.” For The New Yorker, Richard Brody on the Jaume Collet-Serra film.
“[Blake] Lively is perhaps the great melodramatic actress of the current time, but she’s still awaiting her Douglas Sirk. I can think of several candidates, including Amy Seimetz, Alex Ross Perry, and Nathan Silver, who have made exemplary modernist melodramas. I hope to see her appear in films directed by them and other leading, younger filmmakers—filmmakers of discovery, who don’t presume to know what a story is in advance but whose process of filmmaking poses, en route, the question of what the cinema is. Because the history of movie-making shows that it’s only the fruitful synergy of direction and performance that leads movie actors to display the most original and distinctive aspects of their personae.”
4. “A Conversation with Mel Brooks.” Tablet Magazine’s Ivor Davis chats with the comedy legend, who’s still blazing saddles at age 90.
“I recently talked to Brooks about his new show and his remarkable career as his landmark 90 birthday—celebrated today—was fast approaching. ’These personal appearances brings me back to my first love, which is live theater,’ he told me. ’I started on the Borscht Belt in the late 1940s as a drummer and pianist. We did three or four items a week in a musical review. A play, then amateur night. I was always busy onstage doing something. Writing sketches beginning on Broadway in 1952 in a show called New Faces, with Eartha Kitt, Paul Lynde, and Carol Lawrence. I still get goosebumps when a Broadway orchestra strikes up. I am energized by what I do.’”
5. “Why Trump Makes Me Scared for My Family.” Aziz Ansari, in an op-ed for The New York Times, on why the presumptive Republican nominee for president makes him afraid for the safety of his family.
“The vitriolic and hate-filled rhetoric coming from Mr. Trump isn’t so far off from cursing at strangers from a car window. He has said that people in the American Muslim community ’know who the bad ones are,’ implying that millions of innocent people are somehow complicit in awful attacks. Not only is this wrongheaded; but it also does nothing to address the real problems posed by terrorist attacks. By Mr. Trump’s logic, after the huge financial crisis of 2007-08, the best way to protect the American economy would have been to ban white males. According to reporting by Mother Jones, since 9/11, there have been 49 mass shootings in this country, and more than half of those were perpetrated by white males. I doubt we’ll hear Mr. Trump make a speech asking his fellow white males to tell authorities ’who the bad ones are,’ or call for restricting white males’ freedoms.”
Video of the Day: Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World gets a trailer with English subtitles:
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.