1. “Meryl Streep’s Hunger Games.” Charles Taylor on the actress’s recent string of gorgon roles.
“More kindly, you might say that Streep, who is still only 65 (and, thank God, still looks like herself, having chosen not to disfigure her face in the manner of so many others actors), has entered her late-decadent period. She began as a dull barometer of respectable taste, like NPR, conferring a veneer of civility and culture on those who like that sort of thing. Then she moved on to Great Lady poses, roles that made her the heir apparent to that paragon of boring American acting Helen Hayes. Now, she has entered the Sacred Monster stage. Streep now provides a higher-brow version of the kind of bald scenery chewing that Joan Crawford and Susan Hayward specialized in. But unlike those paragons of masochism, Streep doesn’t suffer or go nuts. Rather, Streep has managed to channel the tastelessness of her showboating grotesquerie into middlebrow vehicles like Doubt and August, which come to the screen with the cachet of acclaimed stage shows, or the Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady, whose cachet is political and historical. No one need be embarrassed watching a Streep performance—though, by God, she should be.”
2. “F. Murray Abraham on Inside Llewyn Davis’s Oscar snub. And underwear, acting prep, Jared Leto, and which Bible character he’d like to play. (Hint: not one of the good ones.)
“F. Murray Abraham has played a lot of baddies in his remarkable career. Two-timing drug dealer Omar Suárez in Scarface. The melty-faced Ru’afo in Star Trek: Insurrection. And most famously, the Mozart-hating Antonio Salieri in Amadeus, the role that won Abraham an Oscar in 1985. But none is quite as chillingly ruthless as Bud Grossman, the Chicago talent booker that Abraham plays in the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, now available on DVD. He has only a handful of lines, but for anybody who’s ever felt the sting of rejection (i.e., the entire planet), everything about Abraham’s performance is haunting and uncomfortable. ’I don’t see a lot of money here,’ he declares to struggling folk singer Llewyn. If his blunt dismissal doesn’t ring true, you’ve lived a very charmed life.”
3. “Able-Bodied Actors and Disability Drag.” Why Disabled Roles Are for Disabled Performers.
“Just as non-white roles were once prized by white actors looking to show off their range, disabled roles are similarly prized by able-bodied actors today. A hundred articles and a thousand jokes have been written about how pretending to be disabled is a shortcut to an Oscar. For Hollywood stars, imitating disabled people in an effort to make able-bodied audiences think ’Wow! I really believed he was one of them!’ is a route to legitimacy as a serious actor. The able-bodied narrative on this topic focuses on how ’convincing’ the performances of able-bodied actors are when they play disabled characters. To many in the disabled community, whether an able-bodied actor is convincing to other able-bodied people when playing a disabled person is immaterial. The ugly spectacle of it is fundamentally offensive.”
4. “It Came From Inside the House.” Community, Criticism and The Act of Killing.
“During my five year run as a writer/blogger focused on the world of documentary film, I only occasionally wrote negatively about a film (I did not consider myself a critic) and almost only when I felt the film had raised such interesting issues about filmmaking that it required a conversation that presented more than one (often fawning) presentation of what a film was doing or attempting to do. Even so, writing critically was the worst part of that blogging experience, as sometimes the slings and arrows were aimed at work made by friends or by filmmakers/broadcasters who I admired. Still more often, I’d be admonished for what I’d written not by the filmmakers themselves but by their inner or outer circle. One industry veteran once took me to the woodshed with the caution that it was unseemly for one filmmaker to be criticizing another’s work so publicly.”
5. “The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.” New! “State of American Well-Being: 2013 State Rankings and Analysis”
“For the sixth consecutive year, global well-being improvement leader Healthways and world-leading management consulting firm Gallup have released their analysis of the state of well-being across the United States. The analysis is based on data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a definitive measure and empiric database of real-time changes in well-being throughout the world. More than 178,000 interviews nationwide fueled the 2013 analysis, which examined Americans’ perceptions on topics such as physical and emotional health, healthy behaviors, work environment, social and community factors, financial security, and access to necessities such as food, shelter and healthcare to create a composite well-being rank for each state.”
Video of the Day: A video essay by Matt Zoller Seitz and Steven Santos about Deadwood, which turns 10 this month:
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.