- Miley to Elvis: Is it even possible to steal culture, and if so, is it a problem?
- Reasons we might be doomed, #514.
- Facebook pays cop’s salary.
- By 2030, New York won’t even be among the world’s 10 biggest cities.
- Maybe Hamas should have been taking lessons from the Kurds.
- This Congressman thinks undocumented immigrants from Central America could carry Ebola.
- Archie takes a bullet (literally) for gay rights and gun control.
- NPR decides it doesn’t really want their ombudsman being … an ombudsman.
- Spoils of war: ISIS now has not only hundreds of American Humvees but dozens of American 155mm artillery pieces with GPS aiming.
- “[Eric Cantor]’s got a lot of private-sector friends he has done favors for … it would be easy for him to become Eric Cantor Inc. and make a few million dollars a year.”
- Weaponized drones: Pretty soon, everybody will have them.
- “Thank heavens, then, for Germany, as nobody has said very often;” Nick Hornby on the World Cup.
- Men explaining things to women.
- Nixon on the whole gay thing: “I am the most tolerant person on that of anybody in this shop.”
- Print and read: The Christian Right gets ready for war.
Just last year, a little sci-fi/horror film called The Purge lit up theaters with its canny blend of exploitation thriller jolts and subversive agitprop. Now comes the inevitable sequel, which ramps up the class-conscious revolutionary rhetoric in an expanded story about a near-future America where one night a year all crime is legal for 12 hours.
The Purge: Anarchy opens this Friday everywhere. My review is at PopMatters:
In the first film, the ridiculous rationale left open the suggestion that the Purge’s real purpose was even uglier. What if the big night isn’t a means to purge unwanted impulses, but rather, a way to get rid of unwanted people? In Anarchy, the politics read loud and clear. Sergeant and his carload of charges face down everyone from flamethrower-wielding ATV rednecks to storm troopers cruising around in armored big rigs and nihilist skateboard punks with ghostface makeup and machetes…
You can see the trailer here:
When John Carney made the incomparable Dublin street-musical Once, he ginned up magic from the mundane. With the glitzier and slightly more stock Begin Again, he uses the same starry-eyed formula for almost equally wonderful results.
Begin Again is playing now around the country. My review is at Film Racket:
Nothing in Begin Again, a grin-machine Roman candle of a film, should work. It features more cliches than should be legally allowed. A starry-eyed and uncompromising songwriter. A bum music producer needing one last shot. A rising star who just dumped the songwriter to get busy losing his soul. The comic relief guy. A fractured family that just needs their dad to get his act together. A basket full of dreams. Some beautiful songs that just need to be heard. New. York. City. But writer/director John Carney gets away with it, whipping through the stock situations with a hummingbird-light grace….
Here’s the trailer:
A few years back, Mike Cahill made one of the more ghostly sci-fi movies of recent years with Another Earth. Now he’s back with that film’s enigmatic Brit Marling and Boardwalk Empire‘s Michael Pitt for a globe-spanning story about, well, eyes.
I Origins opens this Friday in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:
A haunted-looking Michael Pitt is the main attraction in Mike Cahill’s curious fandango of a science-fantasy story about fate, destiny, genetics and love, and that’s unfortunate. Pitt can usually excel when playing dreamers or tortured types befitting his sensuously languorous mien. But for I Origins, Pitt has to put on a sweater, adjust his glasses, and play a molecular biologist. For the many scenes that call for a sense of true obsession, he can’t quite summon the proper focus, deploying a Johnny Depp-like dourness. Without that, an already disjointed film drifts further apart…
You can see the trailer here:
Ernest Hemingway had no problem with expounding on his talent, courage, or general manliness. To nobody’s surprise, this didn’t arise from a well of confidence but rather one of rabid insecurity. Just see his rivalry with F. Scott Fitzgerald, and all those petty little put-downs in A Moveable Feast.
Papa Hemingway also scrapped (albeit in a mildly literary way) with the other big prize-winning author of his time, William Faulkner. They respected each other, but found time to lob critiques back and forth.
When the literary magazine Shenandoah prevailed upon Faulkner to review The Old Man and the Sea, he found room to list Hemingway’s faults but, interestingly, in the context of praising the novel. Here’s an excerpt of that review from Open Culture (emphasis added):
Time may show it to be the best single piece of any of us, I mean his and my contemporaries. This time, he discovered God, a Creator. Until now, his men and women had made themselves, shaped themselves out of their own clay; their victories and defeats were at the hands of each other, just to prove to themselves or one another how tough they could be. But this time, he wrote about pity: about something somewhere that made them all: the old man who had to catch the fish and then lose it, the fish that had to be caught and then lost, the sharks which had to rob the old man of his fish; made them all and loved them all and pitied them all. It’s all right. Praise God that whatever made and loves and pities Hemingway and me kept him from touching it any further.
Makes you want to go back and hunt down all the glories of the novel which too many English teachers have managed to hide.
The ever-expanding world of sci-fi reboots gets another entry with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which rejiggers themes and even a few climactic scenes from the raggedy 1970s series (Conquest of…, Battle for…, etc.) only without much satirical intent. Like 2011’s admittedly lamer Rise of the Planet of the Apes, none of it manages to stand out except, again, for Andy Serkis’ regal, affecting, and soulful performance as the leader of the apes, Caesar.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is now playing pretty much everywhere. My review is at PopMatters:
[The film is] expected to deliver summer action set-pieces, including the battle featuring a rifle-wielding ape cavalry that was promised in its saturation ad campaign. As misunderstandings accumulate and warmongers on both sides get their way, the battle is joined on the crumbled, vine-covered streets of San Francisco. Many, many apes are shot down but curiously, we see just about no humans killed. This may be a nod to a specist ratings board in order to keep a PG-13, but it also points to a general lack of interest in the human characters. Even the heroic humans are pallid and unmemorable, unlike the carefully delineated apes. By the time the apes do gear up for battle, the audience is ready to charge right along with them…
You can see the trailer here:
- So you can be homophobic to your workers, as long as your discrimination is religion-based.
- The classic rock era defined: The Beatles to Nirvana, that’s it.
- Libertarian magazine poll finds that Millennials are quite libertarian, sorta.
- Get yer free New Yorker articles here.
- Goldman Sachs, less awesome at predicting football scores than might have been imagined.
- Dr. Zhivago as Cold War pawn.
- This time, regarding Gaza, the world is too worn out to care.
- Copy of Das Kapital sells for $40,000.
- Todd Akin, now even less apologetic.
- The Jehovah’s Witnesses of Brooklyn Heights.
- Print and read: Widespread repression, millions of refugees, and no fix in sight; the Arab world today.