1. “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture.” A.O. Scott on Tony Soprano, Walter White and Don Draper, the last of the patriarchs.
“The widespread hunch that Mad Men will end with its hero’s death is what you might call overdetermined. It does not arise only from the internal logic of the narrative itself, but is also a product of cultural expectations. Something profound has been happening in our television over the past decade, some end-stage reckoning. It is the era not just of mad men, but also of sad men and, above all, bad men. Don is at once the heir and precursor to Tony Soprano (fig. 2), that avatar of masculine entitlement who fended off threats to the alpha-dog status he had inherited and worked hard to maintain. Walter White, the protagonist of Breaking Bad, struggled, early on, with his own emasculation and then triumphantly (and sociopathically) reasserted the mastery that the world had contrived to deny him. The monstrousness of these men was inseparable from their charisma, and sometimes it was hard to tell if we were supposed to be rooting for them or recoiling in horror. We were invited to participate in their self-delusions and to see through them, to marvel at the mask of masculine competence even as we watched it slip or turn ugly. Their deaths were (and will be) a culmination and a conclusion: Tony, Walter and Don are the last of the patriarchs.”
2. “Bill Hader Can Make You Cry.” Amy Nicholson interviews on the SNL star about his role in The Skeleton Twins.
“Lorne Michaels must not have been too surprised when Hader left the show to try to play it straight. After all, during Hader’s audition, instead of going for oversized laughs, he did dead-on impressions of Al Pacino and James Mason. Impressions became his special skill, but amid the broad mania of the show, he made a point of doing them perfectly. ’I would find the rhythm,” says Hader. ’I would try to talk the way that people actually talk.’”
3. “Robert Christgau: Expert Witness.” The Story Till Now.
“Because I was finishing a book when Microsoft shut me down, for a while I stopped grading albums altogether, but soon I found myself writing up a few for my own mental clarity. This kind of judgment is the gut and backbone, not just of my work but of my fandom—by the time I’m done writing a capsule, I know and understand the record in a way I didn’t before, which readies me to revisit it in the future. This work is time-consuming, but also so much part of my life that I was thinking about blogging capsules gratis until Medium called. That said, getting paid has lit a fire under me as it usually does — I’ve been buckling down to a decision whenever I had a few hours ever since Medium took me on.”
4. “The Strength of Robin Williams.” Yesterday, thinking of Robin Williams made Matt Zoller Seitz feel better.
“Some of these head-on confrontations with mortality were nearly great (The Fisher King and Garp are strewn with Grim Reaper-type images and figures), others were good (Vietnam, and Awakenings, in which Williams plays a recessive and melancholy doctor trying to rescue patients from a kind of living death) and others were horrid (the allegedly inspirational Patch Adams, in which Williams’ character seems to think that laughter is not just the best medicine but a substitute for it, strip-mines our affection for him). But the philosophical and emotional through line is consistent and, sadly, impossible to miss. On some level he must’ve known that there is no point, none whatsoever, to suffering except to get through it and tell other people what you went through and how they can cope with it, if they haven’t figured out already—or to just listen; to be there, in the deepest sense, for somebody else.”
5. “25 Comic-Book Movies That (Thankfully) Never Happened.” As we prepare for a deluge of superhero movies over the next few years, console yourself with the knowledge that the following films thankfully got away.
“Years before Zack Snyder finally managed to bring Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s beloved series to the big screen in 2010, The Matrix producer Joel Silver had the great idea to bring on Terry Gilliam to do the same thing. That it didn’t happen came down to a number of reasons, not least of which being that Gilliam himself believed the movie unfilmable—this from a man who has spent more than a decade trying to bring a Don Quixote movie to the screen. Instead, the project fell into a hibernation so deep that it took nearly two decades and numerous other directors to eventually get it into theaters.”
Video of the Day: The trailer for this year’s New York Film Festival:
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