1. “Kalief Browder, 1993–2015.” Browder, who was held at Rikers Island for three years without trial, committed suicide on Saturday at his parents’ home in the Bronx.
“He was driven by the same motive that led him to talk to me for the first time, a year earlier. He wanted the public to know what he had gone through, so that nobody else would have to endure the same ordeals. His willingness to tell his story publicly—and his ability to recount it with great insight—ultimately helped persuade Mayor Bill de Blasio to try to reform the city’s court system and end the sort of excessive delays that kept him in jail for so long. Browder’s story also caught the attention of Rand Paul, who began talking about him on the campaign trail. Jay Z met with Browder after watching the videos. Rosie O’Donnell invited him on The View last year and recently had him over for dinner. Browder could be a very private person, and he told almost nobody about meeting O’Donnell or Jay Z. However, in a picture taken of him with Jay Z, who draped an arm around his shoulders, Browder looked euphoric.”
2. “Adjusting to a World that Won’t Laugh with You.” A.O. Scott argues that we’re suffering through a crisis of comedy.
“It’s no good longing for a simpler age, though it is possible to imagine that once upon a time things were clearer. Through the middle decades of the 20th century, people went to hear jokes in places that were segregated by race, taste and gender. The guys at a stag smoker could guffaw at dirty jokes about women without the awkwardness of having real women present. Racist humor could flow freely at country clubs where the only black faces belonged to waiters and caddies. With a few exceptions, African-American humorists plied their trade on the chiltlin circuit, and Jews mostly stuck to the borscht belt. Television enforced these divisions and also upheld puritanical standards of decency. But as it tried to expand and homogenize a broad, fractured audience, the medium also helped to loosen old, restrictive customs. The wider American public was introduced to Flip Wilson and George Carlin, Joan Rivers and Richard Pryor. On TV, those comedians could be simultaneously countercultural and mainstream. And if they sometimes pushed against the walls of the box, getting into trouble for being too risqué or too political, their new fans knew that outside that box—in concert or on a record, for a clued-in crowd or a basement full of your friends—they could push even further.”
3. “Jean Harlow: Bombshell.” Over at Chiseler, a tribute to the movie icon by Dan Callahan.
“’I want to be free, I want to be gay and have fun!’ Harlow says in Hell’s Angels, leaning back happily on a couch to be admired. ’Life’s short, and I want to live while I’m alive.’ No bra, no panties, no problem! Her smile is so open, so inviting, as if to say, ’Come on, let’s enjoy ourselves,’ and she wants to take that enjoyment to the limit, and beyond that limit. Harlow in Hell’s Angels is the kind of person who will make out with you in a bar and won’t care how many people are watching. In fact, she obviously gets a kick out of being watched, in the bar on screen and from the dark of the movie theater, because that attention adds to her pleasure.”
4. “Kickstarting Abel Ferrara’s Siberia.” For Fandor, Adam Cook speaks with the filmmaker about his new project.
“We’re not so open-ended that we’re just throwing dreams out one after another, it’s a story structure that came to me out of the blue, it’s outside the box for us. It takes place in iconic nature. It begins in Jack London wilderness, with snow, Willem [Dafoe] is working at a café, serving coffee to whoever comes by on dogsleds. Then we start realizing you’re privy to the reality of this but you’re also going inside Willem as a character. Instead of Willem playing a character, he very much is the character. Anyways, we begin in Jack London-ville, but the script moves kind of like an odyssey, something between The Odyssey and Alice in Wonderland, by dogsled. He ends up in mythical settings, not a specific time, he’s traveling into the desert, magical countryside.”
5. “Bourdain finds Budapest a visual, culinary delight.” Last week’s episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown was extraordinarily framed around the work of Vilmos Zsigmond.
“If you’ve been following the show for any period of time, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m a hopeless cinematography geek. That everybody who works on the show is a cinematography geek, that we’re the type of people who, in their spare time, sit around talking about directors of photography we love, films whose looks we are inspired by, and whenever possible emulate (if not outright rip off). It’s expected of the people who work with me. If you don’t know who Greg Toland is—or Vittorio Storaro or Chris Doyle, chances are you’re not going to make it on the Parts Unknown road crew. That’s the kind of nerdy, dysfunctional, annoying people we really are. So all of us were super-geeked about the gentleman who agreed to take us back to Hungary, the country of his birth, and walk us through some of the locations that figured heavily in the past. His name is Vilmos Zsigmond, and he is the cinematographer responsible for some of the most strikingly beautiful, iconic images in the history of film.”
Video of the Day: A clip from the documentary Listen to Me Marlon:
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