1. “Evil Against Evil.” Niles Schwartz on the fascinating incoherence of American Sniper.
“As a consequence of real life, American Sniper’s rehabilitation of Chris, where he gradually overcomes the PTSD that he’s been rejecting by reaching out to physically wounded veterans, is tragically overwhelmed by the horrific return of the repressed. I regret that sounds like a trivialization of an actual tragedy, but the film’s conclusion is, for me, an all-too-appropriate way to express the insoluble character of America’s last 15 years, with its rampant and contradictory foreign invasions coupled with disengaged psychological hermeticism. Chris Kyle says goodbye to his wife and children before taking a young vet with PTSD to a gun range, where we know the young man will—inexplicably—shoot Chris. Taya’s perspective of the mysterious young man waiting for Chris by a truck is one of the most unsettling images in recent memory, the film’s third angel of death recognized by the knowing audience, or perhaps another doppelganger heralding a terrifying psychosis we/Chris/America cannot snap out of. Eastwood again invokes The Godfather, as the husband’s enigma and burrowed sins walk away from the gaze of a long suffering wife, the closing door blotting her out from what calls him away.”
2. “Lost Film Spirits.” Daniel Kasman interviews Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson.
“We also thought of ourselves as a the medium for these lost film spirits. And the medium always speaks in his or her own voice. Same within paranormal seances, same as in the seances that are just the seatings in the dark in Paris, which is just the movie schedule, where the medium is a director or some other fraud in a jeweled turban. They’re both mountebanks, they’re both projecting things for people who want to believe what they see. And by the end of the evening, when the lights go on, they can discuss amongst themselves whether they were enchanted or not.”
3. “This Year’s Independent Spirit Awards Barely Differed From the Oscars.” Jason Bailey explains how that can be fixed.
“Even Josh Welsh, president of the Spirits’ presenting organization Film Independent, admits that the ceremony’s unique categories (like First Film, First Screenplay, and the Cassavetes and Altman awards) are ’key to the spirit of the show.’ So the Spirits could set themselves apart from the other Oscar imitators with more categories like those—a way to spotlight the pictures that don’t have a chance in hell with the more staid and conservative Oscar voters. And they could even find a way to still acknowledge Oscar flicks that are indie-ish; Indiewire’s Eric Kohn has suggested the Spirits add a ’Spirit of Indie’ category for your Birdmans and Silver Linings Playbooks, to give them ’a place at the table without dominating it.’ And that’s good advice—because right now, domination is a an apt description for a ceremony that increasingly serves as little more than an Oscar dress rehearsal.”
4. “Peter Strickland: six films that fed into The Duke of Burgundy.” Director Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio) lists the cinematic influences on his brilliant new film The Duke of Burgundy, a tale of lepidoptery and lesbian sadomasochism set in an all-female world.
“The Duke of Burgundy could’ve been a contemporary film, but instead of placing a love story unusual by social standards in an ordinary setting, it felt more effective to place a love story that is the norm in society in an extraordinary setting. Morgiana felt like an appropriate setting in terms of atmosphere and tone. It’s more delirious in its Gothic aspirations than The Duke of Burgundy, but the decadence of Morgiana could perhaps fuel the theatrics I wanted to explore. The score by Luboš Fišer is achingly lyrical and veers gracefully between pastoral and camp Gothic. There is one scene in The Duke of Burgundy where Evelyn discovers a trunk as a consolation prize for missing out on the purchase of a bondage bed, which is a blatant rip-off from the basement scene in Morgiana. Without any false modesty, we couldn’t come close to matching the ecstatic chiaroscuro of that scene, but we tried. It’s a scene worthy of Cocteau or even a Cocteau Twins album cover.”
5. “Utopia and its Discontents” Slawomir Sierakowski interviews Slavoj Žižek.
“It became a commonplace to observe that the rise of ISIS is both the last chapter in the long story of the anti-colonial reawakening as the arbitrary borders drawn after World War I by the great powers are being redrawn, and, simultaneously, a chapter in the struggle against the way global capital undermines the power of nation states. But what causes fear and consternation is another feature of the ISIS regime: the public statements of the ISIS authorities make it clear that the principal task of the state power is not the regulation of the welfare of its population (health, fight against hunger)—what really matters is religious life, to ensure that all public life obeys religious laws. This is why ISIS remains more or less indifferent towards humanitarian catastrophes within its domain—their motto is ’take care of religion and welfare will take care of itself.’ Therein resides the gap that separates the notion of power practiced by ISIS from the modern Western notion of so-called ’bio-power’ which regulates life: the ISIS caliphate totally rejects the notion of bio-power.”
Video of the Day: Insurgent gets a final trailer:
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.