1. “IV Drip.” Wesley Morris on Paul Thomas Anderson’s Postlapsarian Comedy Inherent Vice.
“Anderson’s strategy for capturing Pynchon is to roll him up and smoke him, until the smoke passes on to you and some confusion and conflation set it, until it’s all just Paul Thomas Pynchon. In the opening scene, the singer Joanna Newsom appears as Doc’s artsy pal. She stands in a low-angled shot and narrates the setting, using lines from the novel. By the time Inherent Vice is over, she has gone from talking over the movie — sketching background details and conjuring states of mind — to talking to it. The densely polished joshing of the book becomes a hazy, bleary movie farce. Being stoned here is a joke. But so is lucidity. Anderson doesn’t overdo the high. This is as much a druggy wild goose chase as The Big Lebowski, but he opts not to make being stoned an extravagantly surrealist experience. To that end, people vanish and materialize like smoke, the frame speeds up toward the end of coked-up scenes. But it’s never over the top. It doesn’t have to be. Whether it’s sex or love or pot, everybody’s on something. Drugs aren’t special. They actually are a food group. In one of the movie’s few moments of casual surrealism, Bjornsen gobbles a tray of marijuana like a cartoon bear.”
2. “Phil Stern R.I.P.” The famed Hollywood photographer dies aged 95 after a career taking iconic portraits of stars including Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Frank Sinatra.
“During his career, ’Snapdragon’ Stern worked as a special still cameraman on an array of films, including Guys and Dolls and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Variety reported. He also become renowned for his photography while serving as a U.S. Army Ranger in the ’Darby’s Rangers’ unit in the North African and Italian campaigns during World War II. ’There were a lot of very ugly things during the war—and a lot of very beautiful things,’ Stern told the magazine earlier this year. ’I photographed everything.’ He was later decorated with a Purple Heart for his services. Ater the war, Stern settled in Los Angeles, where he became a staff photographer for LOOK magazine. Over the past few decades, his photos of Monroe and Dean have gained iconic status, while he has also photographed Louis Armstrong, Orson Welles and Joan Crawford. He even contributed photos for albums by artists Liza Minnelli, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie.”
3. ”California Split: 40 Years Later.” Kim Morgan sits down for a chat with Elliott Gould, George Segal, and Joseph Walsh.
“And they split … these two magnificent actors in this picture, these characters, they split. The beauty, certainly aided with Altman too. And then the idea of gambling. We’ve all been to Vegas. Do you ever watch the faces there? Do you ever watch the people who have never gambled? They are so excited. And you pay for that excitement. But to look underneath, underneath all that, there is a trap. There is a sadness. And for the George character, I always thought, this is the kind who would always end up in trouble. He gambles because something is missing in his life. I didn’t even know what that was. What was missing. Even when I was writing. And we didn’t need to know. His gambling is a way to kill the something that’s missing. Whereas Elliott’s character gambles as a way of life. His emotional content for everything and the laws that he steals time away…these are the words, ’I steal time. I can’t steal any more time.’ And to see that come together as a writer, and to see the two actors pull that off to such an extent, I’m not even that amazed anymore. You watch it again and it’s not dated at all because these feelings and these things are never gonna stop. In the world of gambling, they will never stop. These emotional feelings. “
4. “The Great American Novel Buried in Norman Mailer’s Letters.” Richard Brody on Selected Letters of Norman Mailer, edited by J. Michael Lennon.
“Mailer didn’t want to be a public intellectual, with the lofty airs of the pundit; he wanted to be the public intellectual, to redefine the very notion in order to dispel the technocratic detachment and academic idealism in favor of his existential engagement with the moment, a blend of a journalist’s physical and first-hand involvement and risk, a novelist’s imagination, and the Rousseau-like confession of wins and losses in the public arena. Since the realm of media was the realm of sex and power, he needed both to take part in events and to be a celebrity, not to melt into the event but to be it, to rival it. His ideas would, in effect, be both philosophy on the wing and the country’s most popular TV show. Not for nothing did he think of himself as ’running for President’—a President’s greatness depends, first of all, on winning an election in the world’s biggest popularity contest, before winning the esteem of the élite on the basis of ideas and actions.”
5. “The 100 Best Tracks of 2014.” The best tracks of the year according to the writers and editors of Pitchfork. Below is Meaghan Garvey on FKA twigs’s “Two Weeks.”
“’Fuck alternative R&B!’ FKA twigs proclaimed, and she was right—if nothing else, for all those wolf-cries of flimsy Aaliyah simulacra that have littered blogs in the 2010s, rendering any legitimate comparisons to the R&B icon hopelessly impotent. But, but—have you seen the ’Two Weeks’ video? It’s impossible to ignore the Queen of the Damned influences as twigs plays both goddess and courtier, her quiet drama instantly making Kanye’s ’moving painting’ feel comparatively po-faced. The comparison goes deeper than that, though: on ’Two Weeks’—the first time twigs’ pop potential made even remote sense—she redefines ’diva’ for 2014 and beyond in a way that no one since Aaliyah has done so effectively. In its universe, whispers and screams hold equal power, and attraction is revealed as something far more complicated than a cut-and-dry binary of ’hot’ versus ’not.’ ’Two Weeks’ bursts into bloom in the humid space between physicality and sentiment; to call the desire expressed here ’lust’ feels insufficient, crass even, but emotions alone are all but children’s playthings. ’I know it hurts’: toying with what exactly ’it’ entails becomes its own foreplay. When another R&B deity commanded me to bow down, I’d never considered taking it literally; beholding ’Two Weeks’, I prostrate myself at twigs’ altar, submitting to whatever is yet to come.”
Video of the Day: The official trailer for The Gunman:
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