1. “U.S. to Restore Full Relations with Cuba.” The move would erase a last trace of Cold War hostility between the two nations.
“President Obama on Wednesday ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century as he vowed to ’cut loose the shackles of the past’ and sweep aside one of the last vestiges of the Cold War. The surprise announcement came at the end of 18 months of secret talks that produced a prisoner swap negotiated with the help of Pope Francis and concluded by a telephone call between Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro. The historic deal broke an enduring stalemate between two countries divided by just 90 miles of water but oceans of mistrust and hostility dating from the days of Theodore Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill and the nuclear brinkmanship of the Cuban missile crisis.”
2. “This Is (Hopefully) Not the End.” Watching the North Korea–lampooning, Sony-hack-inciting, hilariously unnerving The Interview with Seth Rogen in a movie theater for perhaps the last time.
“Certainly, the dramatic real-life events have drowned out the actual content of the movie. Whatever happens, The Interview will forever be a talking point in the argument about the liberties permissible to art. At some point soon, we may know conclusively if this was an act of aggression by a rogue nation—the New York Times is reporting that North Korea was in fact ’centrally involved’ in the hack. But for now, we’ll argue: Are there some things too horrible to be wrangled into comedy? Or is there always value in trying? And should anyone ever be able to scare us into censoring ourselves?”
3. “How The Interview Handles the Assassination of Kim Jong-un.” Richard Brody weighs in.
“That climactic scene is the one that was at the center of controversy between the film’s directors and its producers at Sony. The shell that’s launched from the tank flies toward Kim’s helicopter in super-slow motion. When the shell strikes, the helicopter bursts into flames (again, in slow motion). Then there’s a cut to Kim, whose countdown is about to reach zero. What results is a moment of grotesque comedy that shocked me with its gory audacity: the wave of heat and shock makes Kim’s face waver—then his hair, eyebrows, and even skin begin to catch fire. Apparently, Rogen and Goldberg had gone further: the New York Times reports that Kazuo Hirai, Sony’s C.E.O., ’insisted over the summer that a scene in which Mr. Kim’s head explodes when hit by a tank shell be toned down to remove images of flaming hair and chunks of skull.’ In the cut that I saw, at a press screening last week, there was a little bit of flaming hair and even flaming flesh—but no chunks of skull or other mutilations.”
4. ”Inherent Vice: Paul Thomas Anderson on His Trip Through Thomas Pynchon’s L.A.” For Variety, Scott Foundas sits down with the filmmaker.
“Anderson wasn’t always quite so easygoing. When he first started out, and for a good while after, the director (who was 26 when he made Boogie Nights) developed a reputation as something of an enfant terrible. He had fought for final cut—and won—with the producers of his 1996 debut feature, Hard Eight, and had publicly criticized New Line Cinema (distributor of Boogie Nights and Magnolia) for failing to properly promote his films. Looking back at his younger self now, Anderson sees someone with a surfeit of false confidence and bravado. ’I was also the youngest person on the set, and it felt like if you didn’t map out every shot, someone was going to come and eat you alive,’ he says. But by all accounts, including his own, the 44-year-old Paul Thomas Anderson of today is a changed artist and man.”
5. “Best of the Avant-Garde 2014.” For Fandor, Jordan Cronk on the continuing evolution of non-commercial filmmaking.
“Anton Ginzburg’s Pan unfolds in unassumingly dramatic fashion, accumulating historic and cinematic gravitas as it unlocks a slipstream of bygone mediums through a conflation of various aesthetic modes and materials. Commencing with a visual overture of sorts, as Ginzburg’s 16mm lens gazes upon the ornate architecture of an unnamed cathedral, the film initially appears to be reverently indexing a space of social and spiritual intimacy. And indeed, the monumentality of these black-and-white images is worthy of Wiseman or Emigholz. But soon the image tilts and distorts, pulling back to reveal the source of the image on screen and the apparatus aiding our perspective as distinct entities. The church footage, now seen as a projection, flickers across the frame as a video monitor rests conspicuously in the distance. As Ginzberg’s camera then proceeds to push into the screen’s distorted, analogue pixelations, unstable hues flowing lava-like across the screen, these subtle epiphanies induce a kind of retroactive syndication, suggesting an aesthetic continuum which Ginzburg leaves ominously open-ended.”
Video of the Day: The trailer for Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy:
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