1. “The Other Wonder Woman.” Matt Zoller Seitz on why Michelle MacLaren is the best director on TV.
“Her visual chops are undeniable, but the managerial skills she honed while toiling on the logistical side of showbiz are an equally important part of her success. TV is art made under pressure. Big Hollywood films might shoot for months; TV dramas typically shoot entire episodes in two weeks. A producer is both a diplomat and an enforcer, overseeing the logistical and financial aspects of a shoot while negotiating truces between prickly artists and telling them ’No’ without crushing their spirits. MacLaren approaches the job with a stoic unflappability leavened by nonchalant Canadian cheer. While managing a second unit on the 1991 mountain-climbing drama K2 in British Columbia, MacLaren asked her mom to FedEx a box containing Halloween decorations, candy, espresso beans, and a grinder, then staged a Halloween party on Mount Waddington. Even with Wonder Woman looming, she’s directed the second episode of Better Call Saul and has signed a two-year deal with HBO to develop and oversee new projects. This producer-director hybrid thing is not without its cognitive dissonance, but for the most part, it works: Who better to blow up trains than a woman who spent decades making sure they ran on time?”
2. “America’s Top 40, By Me.” Glenn Kenny on the best films released in the U.S. in 2014.
“My friend Mark Harris wrote one of the more compelling and convincing impending-death-of-cinema essays recently; it was published on Grantland. A necessary response to the never-satisfied ’there aren’t really THAT many comic book movies’ claque, it outlines a studio-movie future of Nothing But Franchises. As Charles Scorsese said in Goodfellas, and I’m paraphrasing here, there’s nothing nobody can do about it, at least given conditions as they stand. But who can really say? After all, nobody predicted this whole The Interview mess, which could be what they call a game-changer in all sorts of unusual ways, most of them likely very unpleasant. On the other hand, large-scale acts of bad faith on the part of multinationals could lead to a useful paradigm shift relative to the production and distribution of creative work. But don’t let me get on a tangent here. Mark’s dire forecast put me in a don’t-know-what-you’ve-got-’til-it’s-gone mood, and informed my decision to Go Big with my best films of the year list. So, yes: Forty. And a few honorable mentions too. Pretty much in order of preference, although I do not guarantee the ability to put forward too many close-reading-distinctions past the thirtieth film, honestly.”
3. “There Is No ’Genius of the System.’” And Richard Brody responds to Harris’s Grantland article about Hollywood’s toxic addition to franchises.
“Critics and journalists often make the self-serving yet self-defeating mistake of writing mainly about movies that reach (or are likely to reach, or are designed for the purpose of reaching) the widest audience, on the assumption that they thereby insure their own popularity and centrality. Of course, reporting on the business side of movies is important, and so, for that matter, is celebrity journalism—both offer behind-the-scenes stories that converge on the process of filmmaking and inflect the act of viewing, and both offer a sort of popular and practical reflexivity that’s akin to the artistic reflexivity of modernist cinema.”
4. “Madonna On New ’Rebellious and Romantic’ Music, Demo Leaks, ’Possibly’ Crashing the Grammys and the ’Crazy’ Sony Hack.” “It’s kind of like the old me and the new me all mixed in together,” Madonna tells Billboard of her stunning new single “Living For Love.”
“Originally I wanted to put everything out together. I have an overabundance of songs, and actually, the reason I wanted to call the record Rebel Heart was because I felt like it explored two very distinct sides of my personality. The rebellious, renegade side of me, and the romantic side of me. In my mind, it was almost like I wanted to do a two-record set. So you get this chunk of songs, and that chunk of songs. That was my original goal. But then all the demos leaked and I can’t really go down that road anymore, so I put out (the six songs) first and then, I think a few more songs are going to come out during the time of the Grammys. Then the rest of the album will just come out together (in March), and they’ll just get my rebellious and romantic side all mixed in together.”
5. “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The Police Aren’t Under Attack. Institutionalized Racism Is.” The way to honor those who defend our liberties with their lives—as did my father and grandfather—is not to curtail liberty, but to exercise it fully in pursuit of a just and peaceful society.
“Those who are trying to connect the murders of the officers with the thousands of articulate and peaceful protestors across America are being deliberately misleading in a cynical and selfish effort to turn public sentiment against the protestors. This is the same strategy used when trying to lump in the violence and looting with the legitimate protestors, who have disavowed that behavior. They hope to misdirect public attention and emotion in order to stop the protests and the progressive changes that have already resulted. Shaming and blaming is a lot easier than addressing legitimate claims.”
Video of the Day: The trailer for True Story:
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