1. “The World Needs Female Rock Critics.” The problem for women is that our role in popular music was codified long ago.
“The problem for women is that our role in popular music was codified long ago. And it was codified, in part, by the early music press. In the effort to prove the burgeoning rock scene of the sixties a worthy subject of critical inquiry, rock needed to be established as both serious and authentic. One result of these arguments—the Rolling Stones vs. Muddy Waters, Motown vs. Stax, Bob Dylan vs. the world—was that women came out on the losing side, as frivolous and phony. Whether a teen-age fan or a member of a girl group, women lacked genuine grit—even female critics thought so. ’The Supremes epitomize the machine-like precision of the Motown sound,’ wrote Lillian Roxon in her rock encyclopedia. ’Everything is worked out for them and they don’t buck the system.’ Judgments like that are still routinely applied to female artists today. In Jessica Hopper’s [The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic], under the chapter heading ’Real/Fake,’ appears a 2012 essay on Lana Del Ray, an artist whose look harks back to those big-haired, mascaraed sixties singers, and whose career has unfolded beneath a cloud of suspicion as to her credentials, musical and otherwise. ’As an audience, we make a big stink about wanting the truth, but we’re only really interested in the old myths,’ Hopper writes. The myth of women’s deceitfulness is one of the oldest.”
2. “Relish the City Closing In with the Noir Pickup on South Street.” For The Village Voice, Charles Taylor on Samuel Fuller’s classic.
“Pickup on South Street is the most claustrophobic American film before Psycho. Hitchcock’s lament for the aridity of the modern age focused on ’private traps.’ Sam Fuller’s 1953 noir, the finest distillation of his tabloid sensibility, is about public traps: the confinement of rigid political identity, the division of society into citizens and criminals, the solely economic line that separates pauperhood from respectability. The macguffin here is a piece of microfilm that, in the opening scene, is being ferried to communist agents by the unwitting courier Candy (Jean Peters) but gets stolen en route by the pickpocket Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark). The picture is a race to convince Skip to turn over the film and forgo the big score he expects from selling it.”
3. “Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer and Comedy Actress A-List in Raunchy, R-Rated Roundtable.” Six of TV’s most provocative female comedians—including Ellie Kemper, Kate McKinnon, Gina Rodriguez and Tracee Ellis Ross (below)—talk sexism, sex scenes, penis bags and why women need to stop apologizing.
“I tested once for a network show to play a lawyer. A Harvard-educated motherf—in’ lawyer, OK? I wore a skirt suit and heels. Seemed appropriate. Then there were many discussions about my hair. They’d printed up all these pictures of me from 15 f—in’ years ago and had me in and out of the bathroom trying on clothes. They finally pick a skirt—the shortest I brought. Then got a T-shirt from one of the people in the office. The woman says, ’Hmmm, your boobs.’ I was like, ’I didn’t bring a bra for this T-shirt.’ She screams down the hall, ’Who wears a 34B?’ I put on someone else’s bra, a size too small, and somehow auditioned. I remember wondering, ’What did I just allow myself to do?’ The other actress [who auditioned] was dressed like she was going to a club and got the role. It was one of those moments where you’re so confused and humiliated. But that’s part of the biz.”
4. “Jonathan Franzen talks up, and around, his new novel.” The author, whose Purity releases later this year, hopes that, among other things, he never becomes glib.
“’Wheels are turning desperately in my head,’ Franzen said when asked at the start of the discussion by interviewer Laura Miller of Salon.com whether Purity was more ’playful’ and ’adventurous’ than his recent books. The author, wearing jeans and a blazer and his familiar dark-rimmed glasses, explained that he had recently returned from East Africa and was struggling to figure out ’cogent ways’ to talk about Purity. ’I beg everyone’s indulgence because I haven’t figured it out,’ he said. Not everyone stayed with him. The crowd was standing room only at the start, but numerous seats were empty by the time the conversation was opened to questions from the audience. Those who left early missed a highlight of the event, a self-described ’rising sophomore at the University of Connecticut’ telling Franzen that The Corrections was the basis for her project on the ’depressed male protagonist in post-9/11 literature.’”
5. “Wishful Thinking.” Reverse Shot’s Nick Pinkerton on Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland.
“In the course of his career, Bird has built up an impressive amount of cult cachet. The actor Simon Pegg, for example, recently stated on his website, sight-unseen, that Tomorrowland ’[couldn’t] be anything but a hugely entertaining think piece” in the hands of Bird. He was right in at least one respect—it’s a polemic of a movie, more a well-oiled delivery system for a big idea than a collection of scenes within which glimmers of individual life are visible. But movies have a funny way of conveying feelings other than those they’re meant to—any work that exemplifies craft and felicity of form, as Mad Max: Fury Road does, is in some respects a hopeful film, while Tomorrowland, though a veritable rah-rah pep rally, is leaden and enervating.”
Video of the Day: The trailer for The End of the Tour:
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