1. “The Valley Plays Itself.” For Grantland, Molly Lambert on Paul Thomas Anderson’s Los Angeles.
“Three of Paul Thomas Anderson’s first four movies take place in the San Fernando Valley, where he and I both grew up. This alone probably made me a mark for PTA fandom, as no other director has ever portrayed the Valley as Anderson does: lovingly. The Valley’s reputation in Los Angeles is a bit like New Jersey’s in New York. People in Los Angeles proper are known to hate on the Valley for being 10 degrees hotter, for its supposed lack of culture, for being far away (mostly psychologically). But if you’ve grown up there, you find that those hang-ups are irrelevant. The Valley is its own creature, part of Los Angeles but also a world of its own. Suburban sprawl means lots of space for riding bikes, green city parks, big backyards with avocado trees and swimming pools. It includes a diverse cross-section of industrial zones, rich neighborhoods littered with tacky McMansions, and ranch land right out of the Old West.”
2. “The 20 Best Music Videos of 2014.” Pitchfork’s latest year-end list celebrates clips from Azealia Banks, FKA twigs, Beyoncé, and more.
“Dancing is one of the most well-worn music video tropes, and there’s plenty of it on this list. But rather than hewing to typical choreography, picturesque sets, and rhythmic perfection in the Michael Jackson mold, many of the best videos of the year took a more impressionistic route, from the eerie digital twerker at the center of Arca’s ’Thievery’ clip, to FKA twigs flailing over a dead body in ’Video Girl’, to the freeform explosiveness of Sia’s ’Chandelier’. Even video formalist par excellence Beyoncé got in on the subversion with her (relatively) dressed-down, DIY video for ’7/11’, which has her getting loose in a messy bedroom. Along with all the dancing, the following alphabetical list includes breakout clips from Shamir and Vic Mensa, Rick Ross translated via emoji, heavy-metal LARPing, Anne Hathaway in drag, the ultimate mash-up video, and more.”
3. “Douglas Trumbull, the Man Who Has Revolutionized Movies Several Times, Wants to Try Again.” For Vulture, Matt Patches spoke to Trumbull about his tech-driven career, the ups and downs of dreaming big, and what the future of movies has looked like over the past several decades.
“And so my philosophy is that if you want people to go to movie theaters, you’ve got to offer something that’s really, truly spectacular. And I’d like to see the movie industry take those multiplexes and un-chop them up. I’d rather have fewer spectacular theaters than tons of cheap little multiplexes. That’s my philosophy that I’m trying to pitch to everybody, and just about all the major exhibitors are headed in that direction because they realize that the IMAX theaters are making more money per seat than regular theaters. Some of them want to make their own brands, so Regal has their RPX and AMC has something else, and because anyone can buy a digital projector. You don’t have to license the IMAX brand name particularly. So you can get a big screen and a better experience, and you can convert to 4K and you can get bigger brightness. And Christie and Dolby are now delivering this new laser-illumination system that’s really spectacular, so that you can quadruple the size of the screen and keep the brightness up. So there’s a lot of stuff in the pipeline, but I think it’ll take several years of transformation again, and it won’t be easy.”
4. “2014 in Music Film.” Wondering Sound’s J. Edward Keyes questions the “tortured artist.”
“In Whiplash, for example, the idea that Fletcher’s results justify his methods is ambiguous at best. That question swings over the film’s harrowing final scene like a chandelier suspended by rubberbands; Fletcher gets the results he wants, but the film also shows the effect of his bullying on Neiman, both physically as well as in the systematic decimation of all of Neiman’s relationships that aren’t directly related to music-making. There are sustained, gruesome close-ups of Neiman’s bleeding hands, and the scene in which he coolly ditches the girl he’d been dating is equally cutting. Suffering, it suggests, begets not art, but suffering. The film also pointedly contrasts Fletcher’s knives-out pedagogy with the softness of Neiman’s father, played with understated grace by Paul Reiser. Reiser’s character is a failed author, a fact Fletcher cruelly deploys in order to break into Neiman’s brain. But the context of Neiman and Fletcher’s late-film conversation about Jo Jones and Charlie Parker subtly suggests that, for all his mercenary theories on greatness and how to create it, Fletcher’s own lot in life is arguably much worse than Neiman’s father’s. And when a former student of Fletcher’s turns up halfway through the film, his presence is not so much a plot point as an open rebuke.”
5. “Style Is Substance.” For Fandor, Chuck Bowen celebrates the absorbing atmospheres in 2014’s best genre films.
“Style is substance. In this case, style is defined as the confidence of an aesthetic: an ability to corral lighting, choreography, color, sound and performance together to create an atmosphere that suggests its own life, meaning and ecstasy of creation. Style as substance offers refuge from ’filmed content,’ to borrow from Alfred Hitchcock. Or, more specifically, from preoccupations with literal-minded plotting, characterization, and superficial socio-political ’relevance’ that collectively serve as a distraction from conventional or inept craftsmanship. The genre film, with its encoded symbolic shorthand, is ideal for formal experimentation, as Hitchcock obviously well knew.”
Video of the Day: Season four of Girls gets a promo:
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