1. “The Misunderstanding of 3-D.” The New Yorker’s Daniel Engber makes a case for the maligned medium.
“But the secret of 3-D—its central irony, let’s say—is that it isn’t any good for spectacle. Adding a dimension often serves to shrink the objects on the screen, instead of giving them more pomp; trees and mountains end up looking like pieces in a diorama; people seem like puppets. Action, too, suffers in the format, because rapid horizontal movements mess with the illusion and fast-paced edits in 3-D tend to wear a viewer out. Yet the artsy way of looking at 3-D glorifies the format for its decadence, its delicious and despised absurdity. That’s the sense I got last month at BAM, where mindless, stunning films like Resident Evil: Retribution, Katy Perry: Part of Me, and Step Up 3D were juxtaposed, low-meets-high, with experimental shorts. It was as if the mainstream and the avant-garde had been allowed to gather and miscegenate in pure, visual abstraction.”
2. “The Cheerful Mind Behind Hannibal’s Deeply Disturbing, Gruesome Fantasia.” For the Vulture, Dan Hyman profiles Bryan Fuller.
“Fuller, 45, has long been obsessed with mortality. Yet for someone so fascinated with the morbid, in conversation he is charming and downright cheery. All wide-frame glasses and unkempt beard, Fuller is quick to extend an invite for coffee minutes after making your acquaintance, or slip in a self-deprecating comment. It’s enough to make you forget he’s the man responsible for NBC’s horrifying Hannibal, which returns for its third season Thursday night. It’s Fuller who principally dreams up the show’s notoriously brutal, visually stunning killings, dismemberments, and the gruesome cannibalistic fantasia that plays out onscreen each week. Ask him if he possesses a sadistic streak beneath the sunny surface, and Fuller chuckles: ’I’ve never quite divorced the horror of death from the beauty of life,’ he says. ’They go hand in glove. There is whimsy and light to be found in everything.’”
3. “Competitive Edges.” For Artforum, Dennis Lim on this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
“Even when they conjure the past, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s films exist fully in the moment—which accounts in part for the singular force of his historical dramas—and The Assassin, a hypnotically beautiful evocation of Tang Dynasty–era imperial intrigue, is no exception. An early fight—filmed first as an abrupt flurry of close-ups and then from afar in a long take—sums up Hou’s commitment to rethinking, moment by moment, the rules and, in particular, the staging of the wuxia film. The plot concerns a highly skilled female assassin (Shu Qi, in a near-wordless, brilliantly gestural performance) dispatched to kill a provincial governor (Chang Chen), who also happens to be a cousin to whom she was once betrothed. It’s true, as some predictably complained, that Hou’s fondness for narrative ellipses and disdain for close-ups makes it tricky to diagram the relationships among the characters. But the masterful layering of sensory effects—the caressing camera movements and trance-inducing sound design, the startling shifts between mythic landscapes and opulent interiors awash in gauze and brocade—has the effect of sharpening a sympathetic viewer’s subliminal attention. As always in Hou, what remains unspoken—the invisible forces and secret passions governing the characters—emerges with a stealthy clarity. Readable as an allegory about present-day China-Taiwan relations, The Assassin is above all pure cinema: a hallucinatory interplay of color, movement, and light and a mesmerizing study of bodies in space.”
4. “Want to Understand Star Wars Fans? Start Here.” It’s junk cinema but, like the Millennium Falcon, it’s fast junk—and don’t you dare call it junk unless you’re a fan, for only its fans can criticise it.
“Junk is everything in Star Wars. The Jawas deal in junk. The droids are sold as junk. Our heroes are delivered as junk into the Death Star’s trash compactor. That the Death Star is the only new piece of technology on display is sign enough of its nefariousness: those serving the empire are the only people in the galaxy not to have heard of recycling. Everyone else tinkers, modifies, retrofits, recycles and retools. If the vast, multibillion-dollar franchise that Star Wars spawned can be boiled down to a single insight on Lucas’s part, it is this: that the slightly crabby, proprietorial fondness that Han Solo nurses for the Millennium Falcon would be something that people would be feeling a lot more in the years to come. They would feel it for their computers, their Ataris, their Apples, their Xboxes, their iPhones and their iPads. That we could have a relationship with technology was, in 1977, news. Lucas took that feeling and on it he built an empire.”
5. “Out of the Closet, Into the Sand: Wakefield Poole.” For Fandor, Dennis Harvey revisits an era when “If it feels good, do it” seemed as sound a life philosophy as any.
“Boys in the Sand (1971) started life as a short Poole shot with his lover Peter Fisk and a couple friends, intending only to show it privately. But he was so pleased with the results he decided to film additional segments and assemble a commercial feature. Purportedly shot over three weekends on Fire Island on a budget of $8,000, it was an enormous success, making a celebrity of classically handsome blond actor/model Casey Donovan a.k.a. Calvin Culver. (Though like other talented actors such as Reems and Georgina Spelvin, he would find that porn notoriety basically squelched his hopes for a mainstream acting career.) Reacting against the ’dirty’ ambiance of the few gay sex films to date, Poole had made something very few of them (or heterosexual porn films, for that matter) would ever be: Boys was actually sweet, playfully romantic as well as explicitly sexy. As the director later stated, its performers weren’t just having sex: They were making love. It was the first XXX feature (gay or straight) to actually credit its makers and cast members onscreen, even if some created pseudonyms for the occasion.”
Video of the Day: Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America gets a trailer:
Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to [email protected] and to converse in the comments section.
Links for the Day: Angels in America Oral History, Stephanie Zacharek on The Devil Wears Prada, Voyage of Time Trailer, & More
1. “Angels in America: The Complete Oral History.” How Tony Kushner’s play became the defining work of American art of the past 25 years.
“Twenty-five years ago this summer, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America premiered in the tiny Eureka Theatre in San Francisco’s Mission District. Within two years it had won the Pulitzer Prize and begun a New York run that would dominate the Tony Awards two years in a row, revitalize the nonmusical play on Broadway, and change the way gay lives were represented in pop culture. Both parts of Angels, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, put gay men at the center of American politics, history, and mythology at a time when they were marginalized by the culture at large and dying in waves. It launched the careers of remarkable actors and directors, not to mention the fiercely ambitious firebrand from Louisiana who wrote it—and rewrote it, and rewrote it, and rewrote it again. Its 2003 HBO adaptation was itself a masterpiece that won more Emmys than Roots. But the play also financially wiped out the theater that premiered it; it endured casting and production tumult at every stage of development, from Los Angeles to London to Broadway; its ambitious, sprawling two-part structure tested the endurance of players, technicians, and audiences. Slate talked to more than 50 actors, directors, playwrights, and critics to tell the story of Angels’ turbulent ascension into the pantheon of great American storytelling—and to discuss the legacy of a play that feels, in an era in which gay Americans have the right to marry but still in many ways live under siege, as crucial as ever.”
2. “Donald Trump Versus the ‘Haters.’” For The New York Times, Wesley Morris grapples with Trump’s recent usage of “hater.”
“It’s the underside of ‘hateration’ that Trump’s campaign exploits: the seething resentments of people—particularly white people—who feel disenfranchised, silenced and oppressed. The populism contains a paradox: He embodies what he mocks. His tweets chastise ‘haters and losers.’ But he himself has hated on Mexicans, Muslims, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, establishment Republicans, Megyn Kelly and the American news media, pitting his constituent ‘us’ against them. With him, ‘hater’ is a term of compound narcissism: It’s persecuting and persecuted, wronged and righting, both sword and shield. He’s at once the hater, the player and the game.”
3. “I Hate The Devil Wears Prada Even More Today Than I Did 10 Years Ago.” The film has been the subject of much celebration. Here’s why Stephanie Zacharek isn’t joining.
“But even though The Devil Wears Prada is set at a fashion magazine, and hits hard at the foibles of fashion people, it isn’t really a fashion movie—if anything, it’s a movie that hates fashion. Over and over again, Andy laments that what she really wants to be is a journalist—the subtext, so hamfisted it barely qualifies as a subtext—is that she’s too good for fashion, with all its idiocy and frivolity. Streep’s Priestly has the movie’s smartest line—one that the film, ultimately, betrays. Surveying one of Andy’s impossibly dowdy, pre-makeover work outfits, she says, in a cool and level voice, ‘You’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care what you put on your back.’”
4. “Why TV Shows Are Darker Than They’ve Ever Been.” Just because something appears to be low-light doesn’t necessarily mean it was shot that way. Slate‘s Matthew Dessem explains it all.
“The look of television that we’re all familiar with—brightly lit, easy to read, low contrast—was invented, more or less, by Metropolis cinematographer Karl Freund in the fall of 1951 for I Love Lucy. Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz wanted a live studio audience but also wanted to shoot on film, which would normally have been too time-consuming to keep an audience in high enough spirits to laugh. As he explained in a 1952 interview with American Cinematographer, Freund devised a way to light the set so that multiple 35mm cameras could shoot at once, moving freely without spoiling the lighting. He further modified things to allow for a transfer from film to television that would accommodate the technical peculiarities of the new medium: The equipment that was available back then unavoidably exaggerated contrast, so the original photography had to be done with as little contrast as possible.”
5. “The Best Actor on TV is Mr. Robot‘s Rami Malek.” For The Vutlure, Matt Zoller Seitz states his case.
“This is the sort of assignment that might earn kudos for an A-for-effort actor, who can juggle all of the hero’s aspects without making obvious slip-ups. It’s easy to imagine someone playing Elliot a bit too cute and likable, or else underplaying to the point of near-catatonia. But Malek goes much further, working with series creator Sam Esmail, the show’s directors and cinematographers, and his co-stars with keen intelligence and economy of gesture, acting with the filmmaking instead of adjacent to it, as only a true screen actor can. His castmates’ efforts seem more intense and believable because Malek is there as our guide, taking every preposterous scenario seriously, wryly noting absurdity with his eyes and body as well as his dialogue and voice-over, creating the subtlest, deepest lead male performance on TV—an electrical field that seems to be powering every other element, as if the actor were the socket that Mr. Robot had chosen to plug itself into.”
Video of the Day: Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time gets a trailer:
Links for the Day: Melissa Anderson on Kristen Stewart, Aziz Ansari on Trump’s Anti-Muslim Prejudice, Fifty Shades of Moby-Dick, & More
1. “Ciao, Bella: Post-Twilight, Kristen Stewart Continues to Astound.” For The Village Voice, critic Melissa Anderson offers an appreciation of the under-appreciated actress.
“The Twilight franchise’s advancement of a conservative agenda of one (undead) man, one woman might have been boosted by the fact that Stewart and Pattinson were dating for much of the series’s 2008–12 run. But throughout these years, the actress, refusing to be pigeonholed, signed up for projects that complicated the swoony, boy-crazy, high-femme virgin character that was bringing in box office billions. As Joan Jett in The Runaways (2010), Floria Sigismondi’s lush recounting of the rise and fall of the jailbait Seventies rock group, Stewart no longer slinks—she swaggers, strutting not for guys but for girls. She plays the teenage guitarist like a heat-seeking missile, one aimed at Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), the bandmate she’s besotted with. Bathed in cherry-bomb-red light, these two share a sultry kiss, the lip-lock initiated by Jett. Stewart’s brilliant baby-dyke bravado in The Runaways, her unabashed lustfulness, reveals an appetite that Twilight tamped down (if not outright forbade). Since that franchise concluded, her characters’ desires, sometimes unconventional, have often been expressed in more oblique, though no less stirring, ways.”
2. “Fifty Shades of Moby-Dick.” Did an illicit love affair give birth to the Great American Novel?
“Where other biographers see friends, [Michael Shelden] sees fornicators; instead of affection, he sees infatuation. And since he can’t shake his romance-novel mood, you’ll have to endure sentences such as, ’She would always be restless and dreamy, a bright woman with endless curiosity searching for an elusive happiness,’ and the faux-suspenseful query: ’She may have been eager to cross the line into adultery, but was he?’ You’ll have to hear of Melville’s lust for a ’dreamy realm of lovesick heroes and heroines,’ but it should be tormentingly clear by this point that Shelden himself is the one salivating for such sickness. He believes that Moby-Dick was written for [Sarah] Morewood, ’to amaze her, amuse her, and to conquer the world for her,’ and it’s hard to overstate how hokey that is. Worse, he’s consistently inept at handling Melville’s language; the best he can do with Moby-Dick is to say that it has ’passages of prose like the best poetry,’ a nonstatement. The writer who won’t be bothered with the integrity of his sentences won’t be bothered with much of anything else either, proof included.”
3. ”The Shallows Sticks All Too Close to the Surface.” For The New Yorker, Richard Brody on the Jaume Collet-Serra film.
“[Blake] Lively is perhaps the great melodramatic actress of the current time, but she’s still awaiting her Douglas Sirk. I can think of several candidates, including Amy Seimetz, Alex Ross Perry, and Nathan Silver, who have made exemplary modernist melodramas. I hope to see her appear in films directed by them and other leading, younger filmmakers—filmmakers of discovery, who don’t presume to know what a story is in advance but whose process of filmmaking poses, en route, the question of what the cinema is. Because the history of movie-making shows that it’s only the fruitful synergy of direction and performance that leads movie actors to display the most original and distinctive aspects of their personae.”
4. “A Conversation with Mel Brooks.” Tablet Magazine’s Ivor Davis chats with the comedy legend, who’s still blazing saddles at age 90.
“I recently talked to Brooks about his new show and his remarkable career as his landmark 90 birthday—celebrated today—was fast approaching. ’These personal appearances brings me back to my first love, which is live theater,’ he told me. ’I started on the Borscht Belt in the late 1940s as a drummer and pianist. We did three or four items a week in a musical review. A play, then amateur night. I was always busy onstage doing something. Writing sketches beginning on Broadway in 1952 in a show called New Faces, with Eartha Kitt, Paul Lynde, and Carol Lawrence. I still get goosebumps when a Broadway orchestra strikes up. I am energized by what I do.’”
5. “Why Trump Makes Me Scared for My Family.” Aziz Ansari, in an op-ed for The New York Times, on why the presumptive Republican nominee for president makes him afraid for the safety of his family.
“The vitriolic and hate-filled rhetoric coming from Mr. Trump isn’t so far off from cursing at strangers from a car window. He has said that people in the American Muslim community ’know who the bad ones are,’ implying that millions of innocent people are somehow complicit in awful attacks. Not only is this wrongheaded; but it also does nothing to address the real problems posed by terrorist attacks. By Mr. Trump’s logic, after the huge financial crisis of 2007-08, the best way to protect the American economy would have been to ban white males. According to reporting by Mother Jones, since 9/11, there have been 49 mass shootings in this country, and more than half of those were perpetrated by white males. I doubt we’ll hear Mr. Trump make a speech asking his fellow white males to tell authorities ’who the bad ones are,’ or call for restricting white males’ freedoms.”
Video of the Day: Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World gets a trailer with English subtitles:
Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to [email protected] and to converse in the comments section.
Links for the Day: Ta-Nehisi Coates Playboy Interview, Ethical Dilemma on Four Wheels, American Pastoral Trailer, & More
1. “The Playboy Interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates.” Bomani Jones sits down for a chat with the Pulitzer Prize finalist.
“The [James] Baldwin thing, for me, was intentional. I love The Fire Next Time. You’ve got this essay in book form; dude is using journalism, using first person, the history, the literary criticism, all just kind of mashed together. He’s talking about the most essential conflict of his day. Now here we are in this era, and motherfuckers are uploading videos of people getting choked to death, beaten on the street, black president. This seems like the moment for that form. Where’s that book? My editor said to me, ’The road is littered with motherfuckers who tried to do that.’ My agent knew Baldwin. She said, ’You just don’t come across as a Jimmy.’ [laughs] But she said, ’I think you can do it.’ I tried the first time; it did not work. Second time, did not work. Third time—we’ve got something there.”
2. “Ethical Dilemma on Four Wheels.” For self-driving cars to become a reality, they’ll need to decide whether they should kill you or not.
“The easiest question was whether a self-driving car with a single passenger should crash itself into a wall to avoid hitting a group of 10 pedestrians. About three-quarters of respondents agreed that sacrificing one life to save many more was the moral thing to do. After that, things started to get tricky. The fewer pedestrians there were to save, the weaker the consensus that the car should sacrifice its passenger. If crashing into a wall would save just one pedestrian, only 23% of those surveyed thought that’s what the car should do. When the researchers asked people to imagine that they were riding in the car with their child or another relative, their willingness to swerve away from innocent pedestrians faltered. Still, between 54% and 66% of survey takers agreed that the car should do what it must to save as many lives as possible.”
3. “The Sequels of 2016 Aren’t About Storytelling; They’re Just Brand Extensions.” Mark Harris, for Vulture, and today’s brand of sequel.
“Sequels have always been a financially driven proposition, and it’s not a revelation that some of them are churned out like sausage (happy 24th anniversary, Meatballs 4). But for the 15 years or so of the post–Star Wars blockbuster era, the bottom-line pragmatism behind sequels did not erase another priority: narrative. Is there more left to tell? Can audiences be lured back with the promise that a story they thought was complete was merely a first chapter? Sometimes that could take filmmakers quite a while to figure out. Aliens did not appear until seven years after Alien; Terminator 2: Judgment Day arrived seven years after The Terminator. Neither movie was a mere reprise of the original or anything like it, which is one reason why each is now regarded as a genre classic in its own right.”
4. “Now Is the Time to Discover Michael Mann’s Ali” The Village Voice‘s Bilge Ebiri revisits the Muhammad Ali biopic starring Will Smith.
“The contained back-and-forth of these early passages plays itself out on a broader scale throughout the film, as incidents and impressions from Ali’s life collide with and inform one another. Ali tells Malcolm X about the day he learned of Till’s death, and Malcolm speaks of the impotence he felt in the wake of the Birmingham church bombing that killed four little girls. Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, had banned him from speaking out, so Malcolm had to quell his fury: ‘My muscles seized…my leg gave out. All I wanted to do was find something and break it.’ If Malcolm’s body seizes up from his inability to speak out, Ali’s body becomes an expressive instrument. This is part of the aesthetic strategy of the film. Extended passages of melancholy, silence, and subdued anger give rise to bursts of poetry and physicality.”
5. “Film of the Week: Right Now, Wrong Then.” For Film Comment, Jonathan Romney on Hong Sang-soo’s latest.
“There’s a café in Right Now, Wrong Then which could easily be called Novella. This film shows Hong in delicate miniature mode, and while we may think we’ve seen it all before, what’s distinctive is the musical delicacy with which he adjusts small but all-important inflections. The first time we see this story, in the film’s first part, a young woman mixes orangey-pinkish pigment for a painting she’s working on; in the second part, the paint is blue-green. The two halves of the film, you might say, are colored differently.”
Video of the Day: Ewan McGregor’s adaptation of Philip Roth’s masterpiece American Pastoral gets an official trailer:
Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to [email protected] and to converse in the comments section.
Links for the Day: Senate Rejects 4 Measures to Control Gun Sales, How American Politics Went Insane, American Honey Trailer, & More
1. “Senate Rejects 4 Measures to Control Gun Sales.” The Senate on Monday failed to advance four separate measures aimed at curbing gun sales, the latest display of congressional inaction after a mass shooting.
“Eight days after a gunman claiming allegiance to the Islamic State killed 49 people in an Orlando, Fla., nightclub, the Senate deadlocked, largely along party lines, on amendments to block people on the federal terrorism watch list from buying guns and to close loopholes in background check laws. Families of gun violence victims looked on from the Senate chamber as the votes were held. Further action on gun safety measures or mental health provisions seemed unlikely before the fall election, given the rush to finish a series of spending bills and the relatively limited time that Congress will be in session before November.”
2. “America’s Long, Rich History of Trashing Poor Whites.” In White Trash, historian Nancy Isenberg charts America’s perennial exploitation of one of the country’s most derided groups.
“In her dense and important new book, White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, Nancy Isenberg identifies a clarifying precedent for the Webb model of political aggrievement. In 1858, South Carolina’s James Henry Hammond, a leading intellectual of the white supremacist movement, argued before the Senate that, ‘there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life’ in order to allow elites to cultivate ‘civilization, progress, and refinement.’ Hammond argued that the South had done the right thing by enslaving genetically inferior blacks, the natural fit for such a role in the U.S. But Yankees, by forcing poor whites to compete with blacks for menial work, had essentially become traitors to their race. ‘The North had committed a worse offense,’ Isenberg writes, ‘it had debased its own kind.’”
3. ”Green Room Director Remembers Anton Yelchin: ‘There’s Nothing More Valuable Than Good People’” Jeremy Saulnier shares his memories of the late actor and how he changed his relationship to filmmaking.
“In an industry governed by Excel sheets and foreign sales estimates, Anton reminded me that there’s nothing more valuable than good people. He put me back in the comfort zone I knew growing up, making backyard films with best friends, and created a protective bubble where creativity could thrive. Decompressing from our recent press tour together, he treated me to dinner. I was telling him how amazing it was to find such a young cast (25 and under) with so much talent and experience. It was lightning in a bottle, and we captured it. Soon, I said, you kids will be playing good guys and bad guys, husbands and wives. But we got your youth on screen, we archived it. It felt like a mission accomplished.”
4. “The Shadow Doctors.” The New Yorker‘s Ben Taub on the underground race to spread medical knowledge as the Syrian regime erases it.
“In the past five years, the Syrian government has assassinated, bombed, and tortured to death almost seven hundred medical personnel, according to Physicians for Human Rights, an organization that documents attacks on medical care in war zones. (Non-state actors, including isis, have killed twenty-seven.) Recent headlines announced the death of the last pediatrician in Aleppo, the last cardiologist in Hama. A United Nations commission concluded that ‘government forces deliberately target medical personnel to gain military advantage,’ denying treatment to wounded fighters and civilians ‘as a matter of policy.’”
5. “How American Politics Went Insane.” It happened gradually—and until the U.S. figures out how to treat the problem, it will only get worse.
“Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers—political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees—that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the system from pursuing naked self-interest all the time. As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal—both in campaigns and in the government itself.”
Video of the Day: Andrea Arnold’s American Honey gets an official trailer:
Links for the Day: Anton Yelchin Dead at 27, How Netflix Became Hollywood’s Frenemy, Westworld Teaser, & More
1. “Anton Yelchin Dead at 27.” The Star Trek actor was killed yesterday when he was “pinned between his car and a brick mailbox, which was attached to a security gate.”
“There was something so sad yet so assuring about the Russian-born Yelchin. Maybe it was his eyes—big, gleaming, set deep into his pale, pensive face, like he was pondering something profound but reluctant to mention it to anyone. He was, after all, a chess aficionado, and a punk rock and blues guitar player, as well as a prolific actor who worked at a herculean pace. He appeared in over 40 movies in a 16-year career.”
2. “How Netflix Became Hollywood’s Frenemy.” The streaming service is changing the way TV shows and movies get made—whether studios and networks like it or not.
“Just a few years ago it would have sounded absurd for a Netflix exec to talk about what makes good storytelling. But these days the Silicon Valley interloper is arguably the biggest influencer in Hollywood. Netflix has harnessed the shock waves of the broadband revolution, becoming simultaneously one of the top-performing tech companies—its stock rose 134% in 2015, the best return of any Fortune 500 member—and one of the world’s fastest-growing entertainment businesses. It’s spending $5 billion this year on television and film content, a spree that far outpaces its rivals—and underscores the pressure it’s exerting on those rivals to rethink the way they operate.”
3. “Ciudad Juárez: Mexico’s drug wars, rendered in art.” Over at The Economist, a look at art helping people come to grips with violence and suffering.
“It might seem unlikely that an artist like Francis Alÿs would be able to engage in any meaningful way with life in Ciudad Juárez. He is known for a poetic and absurdist mentality, sending a peacock as his representative to the Venice Biennial of 2001, for example, or arranging for a troop of Household Cavalry to march through the centre of London in 2004. Yet the sensitive and understated works on display here pack a powerful punch. Mr Alÿs has lived in Mexico City since 1986, and frequently collaborates with artists from his adopted home, so he is no uninformed outsider when if comes to life in Mexico.”
4. “L.G.B.T. People Are More Likely to Be Targets of Hate Crimes Than Any Other Minority Group.” Even before the shooting rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were already the most likely targets of hate crimes in America, according to an analysis of data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Nearly a fifth of the 5,462 so-called single-bias hate crimes reported to the F.B.I. in 2014 were because of the target’s sexual orientation, or, in some cases, their perceived orientation. Ironically, part of the reason for violence against L.G.B.T. people might have to do with a more accepting attitude toward gays and lesbians in recent decades, say people who study hate crimes. As the majority of society becomes more tolerant of L.G.B.T. people, some of those who are opposed to them become more radical, said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center. The flip side of marriage equality is that people who strongly oppose it find the shifting culture extremely disturbing, said Gregory M. Herek, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, who is an expert on anti-gay violence. ‘They may feel that the way they see the world is threatened, which motivates them to strike out in some way, and for some people, that way could be in violent attacks,’ Mr. Herek said.”
5. ”Pitchfork Review: All Things Must Pass.” Given his own studio, his own canvas, and his own space, George Harrison did what no other solo Beatle did on All Things Must Pass: He changed the terms of what an album could be.
“All Things Must Pass had the quality of a broken-off conversation picked up years later; there were gorgeous songs here that Harrison had brought to the group, only to be met with to varying degrees of indifference. ‘Isn’t It a Pity’ had been rejected from Revolver, while ‘All Things Must Pass’ was passed over for Abbey Road. In hindsight, it is impossible to imagine these songs having half the impact if they had appeared sandwiched between, say, ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ and ‘Why Don’t We Do It in the Road.’ Taken together, they have their own cumulative weight and depth; you can even imagine their demos perhaps sounding too patient or too plodding to the other three. Reviewing it in Rolling Stone at the time, Ben Gerson compared it to the Germanic Romanticism of Bruckner or Wagner, composers who were unafraid of risking a little ponderousness to reach grandiose heights. Harrison might have been nursing resentments, but his former bandmates did him a perverse favor by leaving him with this material: This is music of contented solitude, and it only makes sense by itself.”
Video of the Day: HBO releases a teaser for their new series Westworld:
Links for the Day: Queer and Muslim in America, Keith Uhlich on eXistenZ, Why Johnny Depp Films Are So Bad Lately, & More
1. “LGBT Clubs in American History: Cultural Centers, Safe Spaces & Targets.” Raillan Brooks, for The Village Voice, on his having to come out three times.
“The American LGBTQ community seems not to have figured out that we’ve been conscripted into the country’s Middle Eastern wars, thanks to the liberation narrative that’s clotted LGBTQ political narratives in the wake of marriage equality. It did get better—thanks to Uncle Sam—and now, it seems, we owe him. So when he asks for support for drone strikes in Syria, or a blithe military alliance with Israel (one of whose expansion stratagems is to pitch Tel Aviv as a gay mecca reclaimed from the gay-murdering Palestinians), he’s also sure to remind us of the ’human rights violations’ in whatever Muslim state he wants to bomb next. It’s called ’pink-washing,’ and it gets liberals to consent to intervention after intervention in the names of queer people.”
2. “ON MUBI: David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ.” Keith Uhlich on the auteur’s sensual sci-fi thriller.
“One fear among the many: Eroticism equals death. Or is the latter just intertwined with the former—an ever-present possibility, but not necessarily a certainty? How do we reconcile lusting for someone or something that could very well hasten our end? Let’s go back to the beginning, to Geller’s first line of dialogue, spoken in a church where the faithful have gathered to try out her new VR product (also named eXistenZ): “The world of games is in a kind of a trance.” That’s the word. ’Trance.’ Effectively being inside your body even as you are outside of it. The way Cronenberg and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky stage the scene, Geller is almost always framed with the adoring crowd barely, if at all visible on the edges of the image. She’s by herself even in a room full of people, perhaps by choice, most certainly out of necessity. But there’s another just like her: Ted Pikul (Jude Law), the anonymous yet attractive PR nerd sitting at the back of the church. As Geller speaks, he leans slowly forward, his chair creaking—a first involuntary step toward full-on infatuation. Why fight it? Can it be fought?”
3. “Why Have Johnny Depp’s Movies Been So Bad Lately?” New York magazine’s David Edelstein ponders the question.
“[Depp’s] infatuation wasn’t with the Brando who trained under Stella Adler and learned to release his volcanic emotions onstage and in movies. It was with the crazy, lazy Brando, who skipped (often entertainingly, but still …) along the surface of his roles. Depp’s next guru was even farther gone: Hunter S. Thompson at his most alcoholic and paranoid, his brain addled by years of amphetamines. So Depp was inspired by men who indulged their appetites (or, as therapists say these days, ’self-medicated’) to the point where they became cartoons of themselves. It’s no wonder that acting became like free jazz, played better when drunk—in spirit if not literally.”
4. “Here Comes the Angel of Death.” Farran Smith Nehme’s essay on Here Comes Mr. Jordan, now on the Criterion Collection.
“At first, the sweetness and slapstick of Mr. Jordan may seem like the purest escapism. Audiences were primed for a movie that said that things happen for a reason, and that death can, in a pinch, be undone. Look closer, however, and it’s easy to see the grimness that lurks under the bright surface. Bruce Farnsworth’s first murder is described in detail—they drugged him, then drowned him in his bath. Farnsworth eventually meets a second end that is even grislier (’Take a look in the basement icebox,’ says Max). Later, we learn of crooked boxing promoters planning to kill Joe’s erstwhile rival, K. O. Murdock, just as the title is in Murdock’s hands. The half-heavenly world of Here Comes Mr. Jordan has an awfully high murder rate.”
5. “Borges and $: The Parable of the Literary Master and the Coin.” Thirty years ago, the world lost a great literary mind—the Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. Today, Elizabeth Hyde Stevens revisits the financial conditions that produced this life of pure literature, finding unexpected hope in the darkest period of Borges’ forgotten past.
“The role of money plays a two-sided role in Borges’ artistic life. On one side of the coin’s face, Borges was blessed with the most privileged, ideal life for a burgeoning literary genius. Educated in Europe, raised by his father to become a serious writer, Borges devoted his entire life to literature. He did not take a full-time job for nearly 40 years. But on the coin’s reverse side, we see that young Georgie Borges did not actually write his great fictions until after his family lost their money. For anyone who has struggled to make writing pay, Borges’ financial story is a perplexing—yet utterly hopeful—case to consider.”
Video of the Day: Ken Loach’s Palm d’Or winner I, Daniel Blake gets a trailer:
Links for the Day: LGBT Clubs in American History, The Second Amendment Hoax, Richard Brody on The Fight, & More
1. “LGBT Clubs in American History: Cultural Centers, Safe Spaces & Targets.” Barry Walters, writing for Billboard, on the horror and sadness of the Pulse shooting and how places of worship for LGBT people have been defiled in the past by hatemongers.
“Since Stonewall and well before, gay clubs have been our schools, our places of worship. Nightclubs are where we’ve long learned to unlearn hate, and learn to become and love our real selves. They’re our safe spaces; places where music and dancing and the joy of our collective togetherness unlocks our fears and extinguishes our lingering self-loathing. This is why the first important public post-Stonewall gay disco in Manhattan was named Sanctuary; why one of the biggest and longest-running queer dancefloors of London is called Heaven; and why the most beloved current LGBT club in San Francisco is known as Oasis. For many who’ve never known the security of a truly secure and happy home or school or work life, these places are the homes and churches where we celebrate and extinguish despair with our families of choice.”
2. “Only When I’m Dancing Can I Feel This Free.” Alfred Soto, writing for MTV, on queer liberation, dreams, and self-discovery on the dance floor.
“The politics of dancing is the politics of feeling good; the politics of dancing is also the politics of willing yourself to feel good. Pop is replete with miniature psychodramas in which memory and desire, subject and object, play out on the dance floor. The teen in The Crystals’ ‘Then He Kissed Me’ gets a happy ending. So does Sylvester in 1978’s ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).’ For others, the scenarios were more fraught. In Donna Summer’s ‘Love’s Unkind,’ released in 1977, the clomping girl-group beat forces Summer to the sideline, ‘standing on the outside of the inside where I wanna be.’ Shannon’s forlorn ‘Let the Music Play’ literalizes the trauma: Freestyle’s urtext depicts a couple for whom sharing dance-floor space presents a congeries of competing lusts, where the right signals go to the wrong people, the wrong ones go to the wrong people, and in the meantime the androgynously sung refrain repeats ‘Let the music play’ as if in prayer.”
3. “The Second Amendment Hoax.” Slate‘s Dahlia Lithwick on how the NRA and conservatives have perverted the meaning of the right to bear arms.
“What does all this have to do with freedom? Well the document that promises and protects our freedom has been interpreted to say that we are all condemned to live out our days in terror, hostage to powerful interests who urge us to become ever more free by purchasing and stockpiling ever more lethal weapons of war. Perhaps nobody so perfectly captured this twisted definition of freedom as former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, who in the wake of yet another round of futile debates about gun rights last fall said this: ‘I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.’ Indeed.”
4. “The Muhammad Ali Documentary That Gets to the Existential Heart of Boxing.” The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody on William Greaves’s The Fight.
“There are no supertitles in The Fight to identify the participants in the film; some people who turn up are named in the course of the events, but the rest of them test viewers’ knowledge and discernment. There are no graphics, no talking-head interviews, no montage scenes to speed the action ahead (except for one ingenious sequence, done with a minimalistic clarity, to show the labors involved in preparing the Garden for the bout), and only a little added music. It’s an existential documentary that thrusts viewers into the world of the fight, in which Greaves reports on the action as well as on the reporting of that action.”
5. “The UK Leaving the EU Would Change the European Music Industry.” Pitchfork enlisted experts across the music industry to help break down the potential impact of a decision that will affect trade, free movement, and international support networks.
“If Britain leaves the EU, we could find ourselves excluded from having free movement across much of Europe’s mainland. That could have two expensive, complex implications for touring bands: individual visas to enter each EU country, and the introduction of the carnet, a document detailing every single piece of equipment on deck, to prevent the import or export of products without paying VAT. It costs between £1000—£2000 (approximately $1400—$2900), and lasts just 12 months.”
Video of the Day: A tribute by Candice Drouet to the values of LGBTQ movies:
Links for the Day: The Politics of Mass Murder, Please Don’t Stop the Music, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Acceptance Speech, & More
1. “The Politics of Mass Murder.” After Sunday’s shooting in an Orlando gay club, some politicians and advocates have emphasized homophobia and gun control, while others have focused on Islamic extremism.
“On the Democratic side, leaders were much more eager to show their solidarity with the LGBT community. Obama noted that ’the shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance, and to sing, and to live,’ and Vice President Biden said ’the violence is not normal, and the targeting of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans is evil and abhorrent.’ Hillary Clinton addressed the LGBT community directly: ’Please know that you have millions of allies across our country. I am one of them.’ Leaders of left-leaning organizations including the National Center for Transgender Equality, the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, and Muslim Advocates gathered outside of the Human Rights Campaign building in Washington, D.C., to decry the violence. Like Obama, Clinton, and other Democratic politicians, though, they also emphasized a policy issue: gun control.”
2. “Please Don’t Stop the Music.” The Orlando shooter violated a sanctuary, but his desecration will not defeat us.
“We may never know how much homophobia drove Mateen to do what he did, or what other springs of madness and extremism he drank from. But we can definitely say this: Just as Dylann Roof preyed upon the specific openness and hospitality of the Mother Emanuel Church, Omar Mateen exploited the specific things that make gay bars magic. He took the dark, the loudness, the density, the chaos of the dance floor—and he made them his accomplices in what is the largest mass shooting in this nation’s history.”
3. “What We Lose with Every Mass Shooting.” Orlando is not merely the destruction of innocence. It’s worse.
“So before we start talking about banning anyone from a Muslim country, or even before we wring our hands again about how easy it is to get your hands on an AR-15, a weapon that is built for, and exists only, to kill people in this country, we should all accept that, for all the advancements that have been made in ensuring equal rights for our fellow citizens who are gay, there is still a kind of virulent hate that we can see in its more polite forms in our legislatures and some of our courtrooms, and now we can see it in its most raw and unreconstructed form in our nightclubs.”
4. “Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City.” How one school became a battleground over which children benefit from a separate and unequal system.
“At the heart of Faraji’s concern was a fear that grips black families like ours. We each came from working-class roots, fought our way into the middle class and had no family wealth or safety net to fall back on. Faraji believed that our gains were too tenuous to risk putting our child in anything but a top-notch school. And he was right to be worried. In 2014, the Brookings Institution found that black children are particularly vulnerable to downward mobility—nearly seven of 10 black children born into middle-income families don’t maintain that income level as adults. There was no margin for error, and we had to use our relative status to fight to give Najya every advantage. Hadn’t we worked hard, he asked, frustration building in his voice, precisely so that she would not have to go to the types of schools that trapped so many black children?”
5. “Maxwell: Hostage of Love.” With his first new album in seven years out soon, the R&B survivor opens up about moving past family trauma and shame, and how it feels to be a 43-year-old bachelor singing songs of everlasting romance.
“I’m a little bit more confident now. I’m older and I have a lot of things that I really want to clarify about why everything was so secretive and bizarre with my life, just things I was ashamed of that I shouldn’t have been ashamed of. Because the circumstances of my life—my mother’s origin, my father’s origin, how she was 16 when she had me and he was much older, being shipped off here—I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. I felt transformed through this music thing. It was like I finally felt good about myself. That’s why I didn’t really connect myself with the energy people gave me onstage back then. It was like, This is happening…but, really? Because most people grow up with parents and family that really love them and nurture them to the point where they believe the world revolves around them. I didn’t really have that.”
Video of the Day: Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony acceptance speech:
Links for the Day: Rewriting David Foster Wallace, John Lasseter on Technology of Storytelling, Love Trailer, & More
The Rewriting of David Foster Wallace, John Lasseter on Technology and the Evolution of Storytelling, Gaspar Noé’s Love Trailer, & More.
“Nobody owns David Foster Wallace anymore. In the seven years since his suicide, he’s slipped out of the hands of those who knew him, and those who read him in his lifetime, and into the cultural maelstrom, which has flattened him. He has become a character, an icon, and in some circles a saint. A writer who courted contradiction and paradox, who could come on as a curmudgeon and a scold, who emerged from an avant-garde tradition and never retreated into conventional realism, he has been reduced to a wisdom-dispensing sage on the one hand and shorthand for the Writer As Tortured Soul on the other.”
2. “Technology and the Evolution of Storytelling.” John Lasseter on why it’s such an exciting time to be a filmmaker.
“Alfred Hitchcock is one of my favorite filmmakers and one of the reasons why I’ve studied and admired his films is that guy used new technology in incredible ways, but it was completely invisible in everything he made. You study his films and realize there’s no way he could have made that film, that shot, without that technology. But he didn’t want you to notice it. We focus on entertaining people in new ways, and if you focus on the technology too much you get caught up. It’s important, I believe, to make the technology invisible, but have it push to do something new. That’s when you make real breakthroughs. If you love a technology, if you really, really, really, really love a technology, then dig into it. Learn as much as you can. It’s fun. That’s what I did with CG.”
3. “How same-sex marriage could ruin civilization.” In the wake of the US supreme court ruling that legalised same-sex marriage throughout America, many commenters and objectors have claimed it will have disastrous consequences. But rather than just dismissing them as irrational bitterness, it’s important to consider the genuine scientific basis for such claims.
“Legalising same-sex marriage has one obvious result; more marriages. This means, more weddings. Weddings mean a lot of people gathered in one place, a situation which normally makes a place very warm, seeing as how people give off body heat. People also have to travel to weddings, often over long distances. This requires vehicles, the vast majority of which give off CO2. This situation is even worse if you include destination weddings, where the happy couple and guests fly to other countries to tie the knot, and flying gives off even more CO2. Increasing the number of weddings will no doubt lead to more of this, and thus increasing the threat and potential damage of climate change. Overall, opponents of same-sex marriage could make an effective and logical case against marriage simply by highlighting the dangers of climate change. None of them seem to be doing this though. Weird.”
4. “Blank’s Canvas.” Angelo Muredda on A Poem Is a Naked Person.
“Predictably, though, it’s the world just outside the expected frame that most appeals to Blank’s digressive nature, and that inspires an ineffably beautiful time capsule of particular places in particular moments. Whether because of Russell’s reticence to grant longer interviews or because Blank saw him more as an entryway into a wider setting than as the proper subject himself, Russell operates here largely as a compelling but aloof cipher, a key that opens doors into other, more interesting rooms. Some of those other settings, like a tableau of a child’s unvarnished outdoor rendition of Three Dog Night’s ’Joy to the World’ or an interlude that layers Nelson’s recording of ’I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ over images of a lake glistening at sundown, feel like rare moments of grace and stillness amidst the din.”
5. “Interview: Piotr Szulkin.” For Film Comment, Other worlds, Ela Bittencourt chats with Poland’s master of allegorical science fiction during and after communism.
“Film is a scream. A slogan that you throw out there to attract people, whereas painting must be contemplated at leisure. With film, you gather viewers for some 90 minutes. They may get something out of it, or not, depending on how strong your film’s formal aspects are. But film is a type of shorthand, when it communicates thought. You cannot subject it to the infinite analysis that can be achieved when facing a painting by someone like Leonardo da Vinci.”
Video of the Day: A NSFW teaser for Gaspar Noé’s Love:
Links for the Day: SCOTUS Makes Same-Sex Marriage a Right Nationwide, The Confederacy’s Final Retreat, The Truth About TV’s Rape Obsession, & More
SCOTUS Legalizes Gay Marriage Nationwide, The Confederacy’s Final Retreat, The Truth About TV’s Rape Obsession, & More.
1. “Supreme Court Ruling Makes Same-Sex Marriage a Right Nationwide.” In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the court ruled, 5-4, that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage
“’No longer may this liberty be denied,’ Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in the historic decision. ’No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.’ Marriage is a ’keystone of our social order,’ Justice Kennedy said, adding that the plaintiffs in the case were seeking ’equal dignity in the eyes of the law.’ The decision, which was the culmination of decades of litigation and activism, set off jubilation and tearful embraces across the country, the first same-sex marriages in several states, and resistance—or at least stalling—in others. It came against the backdrop of fast-moving changes in public opinion, with polls indicating that most Americans now approve of the unions.”
2. “The Confederacy’s Final Retreat.” Jelani Cobb on one of the South’s last battles.
“I some future footnote or parenthetical aside, it may be observed that although General Robert E. Lee surrendered in 1865, the Confederacy’s final retreat did not occur until a century and a half later. The rearguard movement of Republicans in the aftermath of the slaughter in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church marked the relinquishing of the Confederacy’s best-fortified positions: the cultural ones. We have for decades willfully coexisted with a translucent lie about the bloodiest conflict in American history and the moral questions at its center. Amid the calls last week to lower the Confederate battle flag at the state capitol, the defenders of the flag averred that it represents ’heritage, not hate.’ The great sleight of hand is the notion that these things were mutually exclusive.”
3. “The truth about TV’s rape obsession: How we struggle with the broken myths of masculinity, on screen and off.” From soaps to prestige drama, it’s the theater through which both men and women grapple with maleness and power.
“When it comes to the history of rape on television, it boils down to two basic categories: TV meant for men, and TV meant for women. Primetime, network television was for male audiences (or a mixed-gender audience, which then, as now, defaults to appealing to men). Soap operas, TV movies, and niche cable channels appealed to women. The era between the ‘70s, when the rape reform movement was at its height, and the ‘90s, when the ’golden age of television’ began to take over, offers up an awful lot of one-off episodes about rape on primetime where a male protagonist encounters a female sexual assault victim and is heroic about it. The heroism was typically accomplished by both not raping and by avenging rape, through safely masculine methods like beating the crap out of a guy, arresting them, or killing them quietly.”
4. ”Tangerine and the Cinema of Sean Baker.’” Adam Cook on how Sean Baker’s generous cinema maps human geography.
“The madness, commotion and even life-ruining drama here somehow is bent to the tune of comedy, and there’s something endearing in this chaotic donut shop melting pot of gender blending and family disruption, maybe because it somehow feels inclusive of so-called ’deviant’ lifestyle choices. Most importantly, the funny doesn’t come from pointing and laughing at the eccentric cast of characters, but from looking at the world through their eyes. More than anything, they’re fun to spend time with. The film begins and ends with Sin-Dee and Alexandra. A secret revealed towards the conclusion comes between them but doesn’t break them apart. A moment of humiliation for Sin-Dee leads to their reconciliation, as Alexandra comforts her in solidarity, and the film’s cartoonishness dissolves in the mundane setting of a Laundromat, where a final gesture between these characters carries the weight of the world.”
5. “The Status of Love in the Age of Consumerism.” Amir Ganjavie interviews Jia Zhang-ke
“In life you have moments when unexpected things and accidents happen; those are times when you really start to rethink your life and love. The plane crash, or the reference to the Malaysian airliner, is to bring out that unexpected aspect of accidents in life and how that would change the way you think about your relationships, love, and emotions. When I was back home when I was growing up I had a lot of friends whose parents were aviators in the air force at the nearby base. Every year I would hear stories about my classmates losing their fathers because of accidents while they were flying. So to me unexpected accidents happen all the time and they make us think about relationships and love on a completely different level. I didn’t really spend a lot of time explaining the accident scenes in [Mountains May Depart] because just like accidents themselves they come and they go unexpectedly; sometimes you remember them and sometimes you don’t.”
Video of the Day: Legend trailer asks us to ponder whether two Tom Hardys are better than one:
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