- RoboCop’s guide to Renaissance Florence.
- And there goes the middle class.
- Kobani finally liberated from ISIS; Kurdish fighters “danced by firelight into the night.”
- Going Clear filmmakers on why Tom Cruise and John Travolta need to come clean about Scientology.
- The New Yorker moves downtown; ah, the memories.
- New Pope’s favorite apocalyptic novel.
- Mayor of New York: Repent, for the end is nigh.
- When in Phoenix (it could happen), check out the First Draft Book Bar.
- Print and read: Oddly, the birthplace of gay rights wasn’t America or England, it was mid-nineteenth century Germany.
Every year at the Oscars, the same four or five feature films are mentioned over and over again. Then they come to the shorts category and everybody looks confused since there was never anywhere to see the things. That’s changed in recent years with the increasing popularity (in arthouses, at least) of the Oscar nominated short film programs.
When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences votes each year for their favorite live-action short films, it can often seem as if they’re aiming for a smorgasbord appeal: something serious, something off-the-wall, a couple of snippet comedies, and at least something in black-and-white. The 2015 program, now a reliably audience-pleasing fixture on the art-house circuit, chucks that template in favor of more thought-out offerings that for once downplay the quirk…
There are some years when the nonfiction shorts nominated for the Academy Awards can be realistically seen as a menu of the world’s problems: short dispatches of despair and terror, war and its consequences, from far-flung countries and ignored communities. This year’s program has some of that quality to it as well; there is, after all, something about the form that seems to necessitate the choice of uncomfortable topics. But more than most years, this time the problems at hand are more personal than geopolitical…
You can see the trailer here.
Sometimes it can just take you a while to get around to that book that everybody has been reading. Anthony Doerr’s fairly beloved novel All the Light We Cannot See has been hanging around on the bestseller lists pretty much since it was published last summer, and for good reason. It’s not just the France-during-the-occupation setting or the gorgeous language, though both of those attributes help, of course. It has a magic to it, plain and simple.
All the Light We Cannot See is available in hardcover everywhere, with a paperback edition scheduled for this December; my review is at PopMatters:
Like many great novels of the Second World War and other epic clashes of civilizations, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See is a story of the grandeur of terror. At least it begins that way. It’s August 1944 in Saint-Malo, a venerable seaside town on the northwestern coast of France. The Allies have landed and are steadily punching their way out of Normandy. The war is nearing another crescendo of death…
Sometimes you write a piece, a poem, a scribble, a book, and that’s all it is. Just the thing there, no more and no less. There is of course, absolutely nothing wrong with that. The world would be far too complex to live in if we spent our time looking for nuance in every bit of text that we came across.
But there’s writing and then there’s writing. It’s that second kind which some of us are aiming for. That’s the kind that acts like glue, or a song you can’t get out of your head, an itch under the skin.
As Neil Gaiman wrote in his introduction to Bradbury’s ode to the written word and the life of the mind, Fahrenheit 451:
If someone tells you what a story is about, they are probably right. If they tell you that that is all the story is about, they are probably wrong.
Something more that goes beyond the words on the page. That’s the key to sticking in the reader’s mind. How to do it? Aye, there’s the rub.
Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel was nominated for nine (count ’em) Academy Awards. There’s no guessing exactly how it will fare up against the competition from Birdman and Boyhood, but it’s easy to say that whatever awards those films don’t get, should be sent Budapest‘s way.
My article about the film is at Short Ends & Leader:
Wes Anderson isn’t our greatest living filmmaker; his style is too narrowly defined for such a grand title. We tend to think of our greatest directors as both having a signature style but also being flexible enough to tackle many styles: Howard Hawks could move from urbane comedies to Westerns and epics, Martin Scorsese from urban grit to musicals and children’s’ fantasias, and so on. By contrast Anderson has one style, and each of his films simply refine it. All those twee little trinkets and fussy outfits could drive you mad, were one to watch too many in a row. But as perfectly Andersonian a spectacle as The Grand Budapest Hotel is, it also expands his reach in surprising ways. Being one of the year’s most unique spectacles, it’s also the first Anderson film made up of tragedy as much as it is comedy…
Here’s the trailer:
- Stay Florida, Florida.
- The ever-stylish and fiendishly talented Joan Didion.
- For this new James Patterson book, you’ll also get a couple nights on the town … and an explosion.
- The real blame for why the West ignored the latest round of Boko Haram attacks lies here.
- Author of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven admits that, no, he didn’t actually make it to the pearly gates.
- “Where the hell is the damn plow”? There are no libertarians in a Buffalo blizzard, it would seem.
- Guns, gun owners, and lies everyone tells.
- In the five years since Citizens United, super PACs have spent over $1 billion on federal elections, more than half of it coming from just 195 people; thanks Supreme Court!
- A little corner of France, in Israel.
- Print and read: Crusaders to ISIS: Why are so many so desperate to not call a thing by its real name?
When an author’s resume includes such masterpieces as the Barrytown trilogy (The Commitments, The Snapper, The Van), it’s generally best to listen to what they have to say…at least when it comes to writing.
Herewith some rules for writers from the great Roddy Doyle about calming down and getting on with it when you’re blocked:
Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph — Until you get to Page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety — it’s the job.