1. “Oscar to Suicide in One Year.” Tracing the Searching for Sugar Man Director’s Tragic Final Days.
“Death, especially when it is violent and unexpected, often leaves a hazy, and sometimes unwarranted, glow around the deceased. But Malik Bendjelloul, by all accounts, stood out as exceptionally talented, creative and for the most part also happy and well-adjusted. Over the course of the past several months, however, friends say he also had become increasingly lonely and isolated. The Oscar win had catapulted him into the upper reaches of the New York and Los Angeles art worlds, away from his best friends and family. For the past several months, he had been living in New York, writing a script for a feature-length film about a South African conservationist named Lawrence Anthony, who had traveled to Baghdad in 2003 to rescue wounded and abandoned zoo creatures. However, writing for movies was harder than Bendjelloul had anticipated, and he apparently had grown frustrated and anxious. He developed insomnia while in New York. He also had lost touch with some of the people he had been closest to in Sweden and confessed to at least one close friend that he felt lonely.”
2. “It’s Tartt—But Is It Art?” Some of the self-appointed high priests of literary criticism are deeply dismayed by The Goldfinch and its success.
“’Its tone, language, and story belong in children’s literature,’ wrote critic James Wood, in The New Yorker. He found a book stuffed with relentless, far-fetched plotting; cloying stock characters; and an overwrought message tacked on at the end as a plea for seriousness. ’Tartt’s consoling message, blared in the book’s final pages, is that what will survive of us is great art, but this seems an anxious compensation, as if Tartt were unconsciously acknowledging that the 2013 Goldfinch might not survive the way the 1654 Goldfinch has.’ Days after she was awarded the Pulitzer, Wood told Vanity Fair, ’I think that the rapture with which this novel has been received is further proof of the infantilization of our literary culture: a world in which adults go around reading Harry Potter.’”
3. ”Orange Is the New Black Star Uzo Aduba on Her Journey From Track Phenom to Crazy Eyes.” The Nigerian-American actress is given her close-up in season of of the Netflix series. Aduba on Suzanne’s transformation and her own backstory.
“For me, it bred the question of what nature and nurture can really do to someone. It’s almost a reflection of the pre-ADHD days, before there was a name for it. I think of myself as a little kid and I had a wild imagination, but it was something that was encouraged and supported, which helped steer me into the arts. But yes, what happens when you have an over-hyper or over-sensitive child if people aren’t there guiding you in the right direction? For Suzanne, she was a kid—and a person now, as an adult—who was incredibly misunderstood and, because she’s been misunderstood her entire life, it’s helped unravel her.”
4. “I Spit on Your Fairy Wings, and Your Little Dog, Too!” Laura Bogart on Maleficent and other films.
“Maleficent now exists within the archetype of the woman warrior, the righter of wrongs, and the avenger. This archetype wields her wand and sword, her pistol and Tiger Crane Kung-Fu, and, above all, her wits, directly against her enemies. She is Coffy, hiding razor blades in her hair; she is Beatrix Kiddo, crossing names off her ’Death List Five’; she is Arya Stark, whispering her own kill list as a nightly prayer; she is Carrie, unleashing telekinetic Hell against the high school sadists and the fundamentalist mother who’ve tormented her; she is Mystique, the mutant revolutionary out to assassinate the political operatives who oppress her kind. She is Katniss Everdeen, who must ’remember who the real enemy is’ if she’s to escape the ceaseless spiral of violence and use her power for a purpose. And she is Maleficent, who must learn that cruelty is simply scratching an itch, not treating the wound that burns clear to the bone. Every time the woman warrior flexes her might, she’s defining who she is and who she wants to be: the victim-turned-avenger, asserting her worth against those who tried to break her—or the villain, just another abuser who thinks that making someone, anyone, pay, is the same as actual gain.”
5. “Art, Freedom, and the Bechdel Test.” Glenn Kenny explains it all.
“The movements Wood laments the loss, or diminishment of, have seemingly returned, and to the mainstream even. And real milestones have been passed with respect to gay liberation, at least. But there’s been a dilution; the values represented by these movements have been both commoditized and marginalized in that they are only deemed important if the operate within a pop culture context, or matrix, if you will. It’s more comfortable than what we understand a genuine radicalism to be. This is why Questlove, who plays with the house band on a television chat show that recently excised a remark by Shailene Woodley about women’s image issues that the audience found sufficiently alienating to boo the actress, wants resistance rather than barricade storming. Empathy is a great thing, but do we really gain it through pop culture? Or do we just posture and preen about our good intentions? Are we debating, to the point of rage, the color of the curtains, so to speak, while the same interests that have been running our lives forever continue to do so.”
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