1. “Remembering Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock.” Matt Zoller Seitz on one of history’s greatest TV characters.
“This was no coy actor’s pose, though. Trekkers who met the actor will tell you that while he could be prickly about the character early on, Nimoy was always respectful of their love for Spock, because he realized how much he’d meant to them, and to him, over the—how they appreciated him and identified with him because of Nimoy’s lovingly detailed, obviously personal performance, which in some small way helped illuminate whatever struggles they were going through. Nimoy’s attitude toward Spock warmed over time, eventually becoming something close to an unabashed embrace. While I never had the chance to interview him at length, I did speak to him briefly at a Los Angeles screening about 15 years ago, and he didn’t scowl or flinch or otherwise recoil from my fanboyish eagerness to discuss the character. I asked, ’Do you ever feel that in some ways the character was as much a curse as a blessing?’ He said simply, ’All actors should be so cursed.’”
2. “Russia’s Army of Avengers.” Masha Gessen on the Murder of Boris Nemtsov.
“The scariest thing about the murder of Boris Nemtsov is that he himself did not scare anyone. ’He was no threat to the current Russian leadership and to Vladimir Putin,’ said the Russian president’s press secretary, Dmitri Peskov, eerily echoing comments the president made in 2006, when the opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed. By this Mr. Peskov meant that the Kremlin did not kill Mr. Nemtsov, a former first deputy prime minister, who was gunned down in central Moscow on Friday night. In all likelihood no one in the Kremlin actually ordered the killing—and this is part of the reason Mr. Nemtsov’s murder marks the beginning of yet another new and frightening period in Russian history. The Kremlin has recently created a loose army of avengers who believe they are acting in the country’s best interests, without receiving any explicit instructions. Despite his lack of political clout, Mr. Nemtsov was a logical first target for this menacing force.”
3. “That Scarred Skyline.” Keith Phipps on the feelings roused whenever the World Trade Center shows up in a film.
“When Kong gazes at Manhattan in the Dino De Laurentiis-produced 1976 remake of King Kong, he latches onto the image of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, illuminated on the evening of his New York rampage by a full moon. He’s drawn to them by forces more powerful than a gorilla’s aversion toward immersion in water. He wants nothing more than to grab Dwan (Jessica Lange), the doomed human object of his desire, and climb them, thanks to their resemblance to a pair of towering rocks on his native Skull Island. They hold a power over him they didn’t have over others most at the time. New, huge, but little-loved, the twin towers impressed New Yorkers with their size—at the time of their completion in 1970 and 1971, they were the tallest buildings in the world—but not their beauty. (If nothing else, they screwed up TV reception.) But their absence from the New York skyline in the years since 9/11, and their replacement by the new, single One World Trade Center, gives the towers a new power when they turn up in old movies. Kong would understand it. ’Déjà vu,’ Jeff Bridges’ scientist says, drawing on his time on Skull Island as he starts to put together Kong’s plan. ’I don’t know where, but I’ve seen this view before.’ Kong isn’t the only one who sees the old World Trade Center as a reminder of a place that’s now reachable only in memory.”
4. “Framing the Unframeable.” For Reverse Shot, Graham Fuller on Come and See.
“The prime visual strategy used by Klimov and cinematographer Alexei Rodionov creates an illusion of third-dimensionality. The film’s mise-en-scène is dependent less on lateral movement (via panning shots, of which there’s no shortage) than on movement into and away from deep space (via forward and backward tracking, Steadicam, and handheld shots). As the camera advances and recedes, as people, animals, and vehicles proceed backwards and forwards over floors, roads, dirt, and grass, the unseen space fronting the onscreen action becomes an integral part of the film’s milieu. Whereas 3D movies invade the space in front of the screen by seeming to project flying objects into the audience, Come and See calls into being whoever or whatever is situated before the foreground—and therefore imperceptible to the viewer—by having characters who are photographed in full-face close-ups gaze at those elements.”
5. “Burn, Hollywood, Burn.” Adam Nayman, for Cinema Scope, gives David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars another whirl.
“I bring up David Fincher’s film because, like Maps to the Stars, the fans of Gone Girl (and I am one) insist that it’s a) a comedy and b) an effectively discordant and discomforting one. The tension between Gone Girl’s meticulous, grey-scale mise-en-scène and its purple-hued storytelling is apparent and rather exciting, but for those who don’t immediately find Gone Girl funny, the film is hard slogging. With this in mind, I didn’t find Maps to the Stars particularly funny, partly because its grotesque showbiz universe is so wearyingly familiar and partly because [Bruce] Wagner hits his anti-grace notes so squarely on the nose. While I can acknowledge Cronenberg’s strategic decisions to isolate his characters in one-shots while they hurl barbs back and forth and to torque the film’s sound design to emphasize the dead air which the audience’s nervous laughter is supposed to fill, it doesn’t feel like the aesthetic has been generated out of the material so much as been layered atop it.”
Video of the Day: Diplo’s Major Lazer have released a new track called “Lean On”, featuring “Turn Down for What”’s DJ Snake and MØ:
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