1. “In State of the Union Address, Obama Vows to Act Alone on the Economy” After five years of fractious political combat, President Obama declared independence from Congress on Tuesday.
“The president’s appearance at the Capitol, with all the traditional pomp and anticipation punctuated by partisan standing ovations, came at a critical juncture as Mr. Obama seeks to define his remaining time in office. He touched on foreign policy, asserting that ’American diplomacy backed by the threat of force’ had forced Syria to give up chemical weapons and that ’American diplomacy backed by pressure’ had brought Iran to the negotiating table. And he repeated his plan to pull troops out of Afghanistan this year and threatened again to veto sanctions on Iran that disrupt his diplomatic efforts.” [For a full text of the speech, click here.]
2. “Meryl Streep vs. Pauline Kael.” Karina Longworth on the physicality of Streep and how it made the actress Kael’s bête noir.
“Or maybe she didn’t ’feel’ anything about Streep at all. These types of attacks were part of what would now be called the Pauline Kael brand, and as with anything branded, there was something soulless about their manufacture; they were not, Kael would say, motivated by personal animosity. In fact, Kael claimed to be surprised when her attacks on filmmakers or other critics were ever taken seriously or personally. Kellow uses the word ’detachment’ to describe Kael’s attack mode. Kael’s daughter Gina, at her mother’s funeral, was more specific—and more critical. Gina noted that Pauline ’truly believed that what she did was for everyone else’s good, and that because she meant well, she had no negative effects. She refused any consideration of that possibility and she denied any motivations or personal needs…This lack of introspection, self-awareness, restraint, or hesitation gave Pauline supreme freedom to speak up, to speak her mind, to find her honest voice. She turned her lack of self-awareness into a triumph.’”
3. “The 10 Best Movies Based on Unfilmable Books.” Sometimes cinema and fiction should not bed down together, but every so often the results are magical.
“At best, the feature film and the novel have been uneasy bedfellows that have never stopped commingling fluids. Often the latter can get ’adapted’ into the former without much straining, but the results have as much of a chance at disappointing both the reader and the filmgoer as it does delighting either. Some books should never be made into films—for reasons that vary from unfilmable first-person voice to postmodernist tropes that purposefully obliterate the diegetic illusion that films can hardly live without. But of course these books regularly get optioned and filmed in any case, often with hopeless results. The ’filmographies’ of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner—the holy trinity of American modernists, whose fragile words absolutely belong only on the page—are testament enough to the idea that cinema and fiction sometimes just should not bed down together. Joseph Strick turned James Joyce’s Ulysses into a movie in 1967, but arguably in name only. American filmmaker Alex Ross Perry dared to adapt Thomas Pynchon’s massive Gravity’s Rainbow into a micro-indie (Impolex, from 2009), but then again, it’s more like a brief, penny-budget daydream about the book than a filmization in any meaningful sense.”
4. ”The Long Day Closes: In His Own Good Time.” Michael Koresky on the Terence Davies classic.
“Concentrated as it is on a fleeting era in his life—the years that Davies has called his happiest, after the death of his father and before the acute terrors of puberty set in—The Long Day Closes is all about the moment as it’s experienced. It offers a cinematic lushness—of cinematography, set and sound design, music—that constitutes a sort of constant ecstasy. Davies’s personal obsessions, forged during childhood, are on majestic display here: the songs of Doris Day and Nat King Cole, the escape of the movies, the enveloping comfort of friendly neighbors, the camaraderie of holiday celebrations. ’Everything seemed fixed, and it was such a feeling of security that this is how it will be forever, and I really believed that,’ Davies said of this period. Yet there’s an underlying sadness encroaching on those joys, an awareness that it all must end. In The Long Day Closes, we’re essentially seeing the world through the eyes of a child alive to its sensations, yet whose astonishment is bridled by the wisdom of a middle-aged man aware of its disappointments. The effect is an almost unbearable poignancy..”
5. “Bombast #125.” Nick Pinkerton spends a day at his local multiplex.
“Lone Survivor is a death-trip movie—the opening, in which a wounded Luttrell is airlifted out of combat, combined with the giveaway title, leaves no doubt as to the predestined outcome of Operation Red Wings. (In this and its fetishization of flayed martyr flesh it resembles The Passion of the Christ, though follow-up Apocalypto proves Mel Gibson far more gifted than Berg as a pedal-to-the-metal action filmmaker.) While Lone Survivor is ostensibly a paean to the SEALs’ combat expertise, the film doesn’t do anything to comprehensibly showcase that expertise in a firefight situation. Yoking his film to an experiential style in which illegibility denotes truth, Berg gives us no perspective as to how the SEALs’ elite training gives them a fighting edge. All we learn is that SEALs, even when Swiss-cheesed with bullet holes, consistently shoot straighter than the other guys, and are chained together by an unbreakable code of honor. We also learn that Taliban fighters are filled with what looks to be delicious strawberry jam, popping like so many pastry confections as they waltz into the line of fire. It’s numbing stuff, enough so that you can make a game of looking for thing to admire: Playing one of the doomed three, Wahlberg’s Contraband co-star, Ben Foster, embodies mean country boy tenacity. He also has to deliver the line ’Shah killed twenty marines last week,’ a statement that is not, if you want to split hairs, actually Based on a True Anything.”
Video of the Day: The international trailer for David Gordon Green’s Joe:
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.