1. “The Tragedy of the American Military.” The American public and its political leadership will do anything for the military except take it seriously. The result is a chickenhawk nation in which careless spending and strategic folly combine to lure America into endless wars it can’t win.
“From Mister Roberts to South Pacific to Catch-22, from The Caine Mutiny to The Naked and the Dead to From Here to Eternity, American popular and high culture treated our last mass-mobilization war as an effort deserving deep respect and pride, but not above criticism and lampooning. The collective achievement of the military was heroic, but its members and leaders were still real people, with all the foibles of real life. A decade after that war ended, the most popular military-themed TV program was The Phil Silvers Show, about a con man in uniform named Sgt. Bilko. As Bilko, Phil Silvers was that stock American sitcom figure, the lovable blowhard—a role familiar from the time of Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners to Homer Simpson in The Simpsons today. Gomer Pyle, USMC; Hogan’s Heroes; McHale’s Navy; and even the anachronistic frontier show F Troop were sitcoms whose settings were U.S. military units and whose villains—and schemers, and stooges, and occasional idealists—were people in uniform. American culture was sufficiently at ease with the military to make fun of it, a stance now hard to imagine outside the military itself.”
2. “How Accurate Is The Imitation Game?” Slate’s L.V. Anderson separates fact from fiction.
“Leaving aside Turing’s codebreaking achievements, The Imitation Game also somewhat alters Turing’s personality. The film strongly implies that Alan is somewhere on the autism spectrum: Cumberbatch’s character doesn’t understand jokes, takes common expressions literally, and seems indifferent to the suffering and annoyance he causes in others. This characterization is rooted in Hodge’s biography but is also largely exaggerated: Hodges never suggests that Turing was autistic, and though he refers to Turing’s tendency to take contracts and other bureaucratic red tape literally, he also describes Turing as a man with a keen sense of humor and close friends. To be sure, Hodges paints Turing as shy, eccentric, and impatient with irrationality, but Cumberbatch’s narcissistic, detached Alan has more in common with the actor’s title character in Sherlock than with the Turing of Hodges’ biography. One of Turing’s colleagues at Bletchley Park later recalled him as ’a very easily approachable man’ and said ’we were very very fond of him’; none of this is reflected in the film.”
3. “Little Jimmy Dickens R.I.P.” The beloved “Grand Ole Opry” star dies at 94.
“Country Music Hall of Famer Jimmy Dickens, the Grand Ole Opry’s most beloved and diminutive ambassador, died Friday at a Nashville area hospital. He was 94. Mr. Dickens starred for decades on the ’Opry,’ where he was a vital part of the scene both onstage and backstage. His dressing room was an essential stop for performers on the show, and it was there that he held court for a variety of artists, some of whom came to the Opry more than a half century after Mr. Dickens’ 1948 debut. He remained a vital performer throughout his life, last playing the ’Opry’ on Dec. 20, a day after his 94th birthday and five days before he would be admitted to the hospital after suffering a stroke on Christmas Day. He died of cardiac arrest on Friday.”
4. “Field of Dreams.” For Artforum, Dennis Lim on David Lynch’s “The Unified Field.”
“Philadelphia looms large in the personal mythology of David Lynch as a place that both terrorized him and changed the course of his life, his Gomorrah and his Rubicon in one. A product of small-town America, Lynch credits this onetime epicenter of urban blight with instilling in him a fear and disgust so extreme it opened a mental pathway to ’another world.’ He transfigured the city’s postindustrial dereliction into the infernal wasteland of his first feature film, Eraserhead (1977), and the dying gasps of its manufacturing age—clanking gears, droning machines, venting steam—indelibly shaped his aesthetic vocabulary. It was art school that brought Lynch to Philly in 1966, and it was in his studio at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where he experienced an epiphany that, in the familiar telling, moved him away from painting. The story appears in his memoir-cum-self-help-guide, Catching the Big Fish (2006). He was at work on a painting of plants in a garden when he sensed a wind emanating from within the canvas, seeming to stir the leaves under his brush. What if paintings could move? he wondered. What if they had sound? The rest is cinema history.”
5. “Pynchon’s Blue Shadow.” Geoffrey O’Brien on Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice.
“The words in Anderson’s film are mostly Pynchon’s; the plot elements too, however freely they have been culled and transposed; the free-associative multiplicity and ricocheting mood changes are carried over with a miraculous lightness of touch. Yet Inherent Vice the movie is utterly its own thing, as thoroughly a piece of Anderson’s imaginative universe as of Pynchon’s. If Pynchon’s Doc Sportello could stare at a movie and feel puzzled by what he’s seeing, here it’s as if the movie stared back, infusing the materials of the novel with further ambiguities of emotion and association, pervading it with the actual California sunlight that feels like the movie’s binding force. People glide through it or are trapped or exposed by it. It offers promises of innocent happiness or flattens everything with an overlay of blinding impersonal brightness.”
Video of the Day: Brad Pitt helps you pronounce David Oyelowo’s name:
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