1. ”Ulysses and the Moral Right to Pleasure.” Dan Chiasson celebrates Bloomsday.
“The book is dirtier than people imagine or remember. If you know it only by reputation, you know, probably, that a guy jerks off on the beach, while, at home, his wife entertains her lover (the hilariously, humiliatingly named Blazes Boylan) in a bed whose brass quoits have been ’loosed’ by her infinite trysts. But sex, a pleasure more intense than others but not fundamentally distinct from them, is everything in Ulysses. There has never been a novel more sympathetic to every weird thing people do to make themselves happy, from preparing a mutton kidney to eating a gorgonzola sandwich, to singing aloud ’Love’s Old Sweet Song,’ to ’worshiping at that altar where the back changes name,’ one of many, many descriptions of backsides and things people do to other people while on all fours. You could watch porn for weeks and see the same repertoire of actions, the identical durations, the same outcomes, over and over; once in a while somebody mixes in a gourd or dresses as a nun, but the basic template is fixed. In Joyce, cheering on your wife as she fucks her boyfriend is a fantasy, a source of pleasure. (Joyce wanted Nora to cheat on him, so that he could feel for himself what a cuckold feels.) The pleasure Bloom takes in Molly’s backside, especially in its messes and smells, finds, in Joyce (like so many pleasures of its kind) an exact linguistic embodiment: ’I do indeed explore the plump mellow yellow smellow melons of her rump.’ Language is, of course, the real pleasure, the fundamental bawdiness.”
2. “Scream Queens.” What do we hear when a woman screams for the camera?
“Like pornography, horror is what Linda Williams so usefully terms a ’body genre,’ a cinematic configuration that operates by visceral mimesis, shuttling bodily pleasure and performance between screen and spectator. Insofar as the filmed scream in Murders in the Rue Morgue cues audiences to scream, the request to censor it is a response to that response. Jason Joy is effectively troubled by a scream that alighted not from the screen but from his own body in the screening room: an unexpected echo, an uncanny reverberation of the death rattle. The censor’s is the first in a series of screams that every horror film elicits: Everywhere it goes after it demands and draws more, its screams are often doubled and sometimes, quite strangely, dubbed.”
3. “Transforming Phone Video Into Publicity and a Film.” Cara Buckley on Kevin B. Lee’s video essay Transformers: The Premake.
“In assembling what Mr. Lee calls a ’desktop documentary,’ he also probed the political and economic forces that shaped the film. Footage from Detroit, for example, includes details of the tax subsidies awarded to Paramount to shoot there. ’It was about poking inside and asking what brought this film together,’ Mr. Lee said. Transformers: Age of Extinction was co-produced with a Chinese company, a designation that lets the film bypass China’s strict quota on foreign films; just 34 non-Chinese movies are allowed to appear in theaters there each year. As is required of a coproduction, much of the film was shot in China and also features Chinese performers, namely the pop star Han Geng and the actress Li Bingbing, who is seen in the premake at an appreciation cocktail party tearfully thanking Mr. Bay. While Mr. Bay, in another clip, tells an interviewer, ’It’s not about box office, I care about making a good movie,’ the financial bounty of the Chinese component is plain. The country reaps the second-highest box office receipts in the world and is projected to assume the top spot in coming years.”
4. “Why Game of Thrones Isn’t Medieval—and Why That Matters.” Fantasy worlds are never just fantasy. They appeal to us because they refract our own histories and speak to contemporary interests.
“So why, outside of dorky pedantry, does any of this matter? Because fantasy worlds are never just fantasy. They appeal to us because they refract our own histories and speak to contemporary interests. George R. R. Martin’s fantasy has grown to enormous popularity in part because of its modernity, not its ’medieviality.’”
5. “Bombast: Punking Out.” Nick Pinkerton on We Are the Best!, Suburbia, and more.
“I’m not inclined to chastise the Moodyssons for making a movie that showcases their version of what punk is or was or could’ve been—here, a space outside of official adult and school culture in which to craft an identity and foster a sense of self-worth—rather than another. Why, though, should We Are the Best! be about punk rather than any other niche extracurricular hobby? I’m not sure that it makes much difference that it is. If anything, showing the application of punk’s universal prescription for disobedience to a particularly Swedish context may say more about national culture than the subculture. Perhaps the defining aspect of rebellion in wealthy Scandinavian countries, where a base-level prosperity is virtually guaranteed by small populations and a surfeit of natural materials, and where permissiveness is woven into the fabric of national identity, is the invention of an enemy—see the xenophobia of Norwegian Black Metal, based on a fantasy of encroaching foreign hordes in what is in actual fact one of the most uniform gene pools on the planet.”
Video of the Day: Brian Williams raps “Baby Got Back”:
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