1. ”’We’re in Disarray’: An Interview With Spike Lee.” The filmmaker discusses Ferguson, getting tenure at NYU, and the eclecticism of his new movie, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.
“Yeah, but you can’t live your life on Kickstarter. I know I can’t. It’ll give you a pass one time. But I’ll work within the Hollywood system. It just depends upon the budget. I’m not crazy. I knew going in that there’s no way any studio would do this film. I never even sent it out. It was always conceived as a Kickstarter project. So the goal was to raise the money in the time allotted, and we did it. But not getting the necessary funds for a project has happened before. Not just to me. There’s a lot of great stuff out there that has yet to receive financing and the green light. That’s just the nature of the beast in dealing with the Hollywood system. And also, if you have a script that’s ambitious, even with Kickstarter you’re not going to raise $10 million. That’s not going to happen.”
2. “Philip Levine R.I.P.” This great poet of grit, sweat and labor dies at 87.
“His work was not to every critic’s taste. Because of its strong narrative thrust, frequent autobiographical bent and tendency to shun conventional poetic devices, some reviewers dismissed it as merely prose with line breaks. Others found monotony in his revisiting the same themes again and again. But many admired his deceptively simple style, which could belie the carefully worked out cadences beneath its colloquial surface. They also praised Mr. Levine’s unabashed use of poetry as a vehicle for radical social criticism, noting his frank explorations of the nature of masculinity and his cleareyed depictions of working-class lives and the immigrant Jewish experience.”
3. “A Chill Nor’easter: Olive Kitteridge.” Molly Haskell on how Frances McDormand cuts to the quick as the crabbed protagonist of Lisa Cholodenko’s transfixing tragicomedy of female unlikability.
“When Frances McDormand accepted her Best Actress Award from the Screen Actors Guild, expressions of gratitude were in short supply. Instead, she promoted Olive Kitteridge and herself. Aggressively. ’We love Olive Kitteridge,’ she said, including co-star Richard Jenkins in the embrace. She wished the audience could ’hang out’ with them and see more of their work. Noting where the four-part HBO series had appeared, where it was now appearing (in-flight) and when it would come out in DVD, she concluded with a feminist rallying cry: it needed to be four hours long and could have been longer. Women’s roles need time to develop. ’Ninety minutes is not enough to tell a female story,’ she said: four hours is good, six better. And then she waved her hand into an episode-lengthening future.”
4. “Spike Lee’s Vampiric Remake.” Richard Brody on Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.
“The refined dramatic control of Lee’s craft leads to intensity, the sense of latent and potential violence, of springs coiled and ready to snap, in every shot. It’s more than suspense: it’s the sense of excess, of an outburst that will exceed and even stagger expectations. For Lee, this notion of intensity, of looming violence, has a political aspect, and he aptly studs the script with references to America’s violent history and tendency, as well as to the primal, aestheticized, and spiritualized violence that the Ashanti dagger symbolizes and, literally, conveys.”
5. “The Trappings of Desire.” Nick Pinkerton on Fifty Shades of Grey.
“The film’s major deviation from the book comes in its dumping Ana’s interior monologue which, from what is admittedly only a browsing acquaintance with James’s prose, seems to me to have been a necessary exigency. This window to Ana’s psyche gone, it remains for Johnson to convey Ana’s experience with the tools available to her—the way she carries herself before, after, and during sex, the flush in her cheeks, a fleeting expression of hesitance, the tenor of a moan. Very little of this comes across, however, so when Ana suddenly arrives at a point where she can no longer tolerate Christian’s fetishes, it’s wholly abrupt—she’s been playing along and giving a very convincing performance of someone enjoying herself while doing so. That Christian hasn’t noticed her resistance or hasn’t cared to might serve the purposes of [Sam] Taylor-Johnson’s story, but I don’t see how giving us nothing to notice does.”
Video of the Day: Filmmaker :: kogonada, with a little help from Sylvia Plath, reflects on women and mirrors in the films of Ingmar Bergman, in this exclusive new video essay:
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