1. “The Many Faces of Tatiana Maslany.” In portraying a horde of clones on Orphan Black, the actress has created TV’s strangest—and most sophisticated—meditation on femininity.
“By structuring the story around the clones’ differences, Orphan Black seems to suggest that the dull sameness enforced by existing female archetypes needs to die. Early in the first season, there is a serial killer hunting down the clones—it turns out to be Helena, the Ukrainian—who ritualistically dismembers Barbie dolls after dyeing their hair to match that of her next victim. It’s a creepy touch, but one that can also be read as a metacriticism of how women are used on TV: the punishing beauty standards to which they’re held, the imposed uniformity. (Need a new sitcom wife? Grab the prototype and change the hairstyle.) Our low tolerance for difference among female characters means that they will almost always be less interesting, less memorable and less beloved than their male counterparts. In this context, Helena becomes a kind of hero, slaughtering televisual conformity and constituting, in both her savagery and her warmth, a radical expansion of what women on television can be. And each character, including the criminally insane one, gets considerable attention and respect, even when it comes to questions about butter.”
2. ”’Space Is the Place’ Offers Otherworldly Takes on Identity.” For The New York Times, J. Hoberman on BAM’s program devoted to Afrofuturism on film.
“The term doesn’t characterize a genre or a movement so much as an aesthetic, said Naima J. Keith, who was a curator for the exhibition ’The Shadows Took Shape’ last year at the Studio Museum in Harlem. A strategy found in literature, music, art and film, Afrofuturism is an imaginative reworking of African-American history, developing allegories of abduction and enslavement, and employing sci-fi concepts such as genetic transformation, alternate realities and, in some cases, repatriation to a home planet. New genealogies and origin myths proliferate in the series, programmed by the British film journalist Ashley Clark. Afrofuturist protagonists are typically aliens and sometimes cyborgs, as in Kibwe Tavares’s computer-animated ’Robots of Brixton’ (2011). Not just space travel but also time travel is possible, figuring in both Haile Gerima’s ’Sankofa’ (1993) and Ngozi Onwurah’s ’Welcome II the Terrordome’ (1995), where, as in several films, radio functions as the modern equivalent of a tribal drum.”
3. “Why Paige from The Americans is TV’s most progressive Christian.” EW’s Jeff Jensen on how Paige Jennings keeps the faith.
“What I appreciate about Paige’s representation of faith is that it reminds us—or maybe informs us—that conservative Christianity wasn’t the only Christian game in town during the ’80s, just as it isn’t today. According to the producers of The Americans, they drew from progressive strands of Protestant, mainline churches of the period to portray Paige’s faith. As such, she rebuts and rebukes the decade’s dominant cultural narrative about Christianity. But she also rebuts and rebukes her non-religious parents, who represent a different cultural narrative of the Reagan era: the lapsed ’60s idealist-turned-disillusioned, materialistic yuppie. She critiques the religious and secular cultures of her time, at the same time.”
4. “Martin Scorsese Remembers Shooting Taxi Driver in New York.” The filmmaker emails Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri from Taipei and reflects on the experience of shooting the film during one particularly grisly summer in New York City.
“It was a rough period in the history of New York—as a matter of fact, the famous Daily News headline ’Ford to City: Drop Dead’ came out while we were editing. Although I couldn’t tell the difference. Apparently, the city felt like it was falling apart, there was garbage everywhere, and for someone like Travis, who’s come from the Midwest, the New York of the mid-’70s would be hell—[that] must have prompted visions of hell in his mind. But one thing I can tell you: We didn’t have to ’dress’ the city to make it look hellish.”
5. “Sadness Squared.” For Reverse Shot, Daniel Witkin on Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Twilight.
“The space of Ozu’s films is defined not only visually but also socially and culturally. The living rooms, offices, and neighborhood bars that make up his personal directorial universe also constitute the recognizable social space of late twentieth-century Japan, a nation balancing tradition and modernity, great economic resurgence and shell-shocked introspection. If we seem unable to decide whether Ozu belongs primarily to his nation or the world, I think it has something to do with the domestic milieu in which his cinema is so firmly rooted, defined biologically as well as culturally, straddling temporalities both natural (the seasons, gently passing) and social (when will she get married?).”
Video of the Day: Fear the Walking Dead gets a teaser:
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