TV Room: ‘Wormwood’

Launching Friday on Netflix is Errol Morris’s immersive new six-part series Wormwood, which mixes hardboiled investigative documentary filmmaking with David Lynchian recreations. A four-hour theatrical edit is also playing in limited release.

My review is at Film Journal International:

When Eric Olson was still just a child in 1953, his father Frank died while away on business. The official explanation was that Frank fell or possibly jumped out of a hotel room. “At that moment,” Eric says in Errol Morris’ epic new investigation of the mysteries surrounding Frank’s death, “the world stopped making sense entirely.” That burning ember of uncertainty stayed with Eric the rest of his life…

Reader’s Corner: Umberto Eco’s ‘Numero Zero’

9780544635081_hresUmberto Eco’s latest novel Numero Zero goes on sale today. It’s a slim fantasy about crackpot conspiracy theories and journalists who play the game of massaging the truth a little too well.

Eco told NPR that he hopes readers of his novel “will become more suspicious and attentive when reading a newspaper.”

My review is at PopMatters:

Beware of stories by hack journalists who are given a chance at doing something greater and in the process discover that the seemingly too-good-to-be-true offer masks something darker that will test the limits of their conflicted ambition and fraying morality. Fortunately, Umberto Eco’s newest crackpot thriller, Numero Zero, is not one of those stories. His hack journalist doesn’t aspire to much more than he is, and he’s in on the big secret from the get-go. Unfortunately, the novel, for all its intellectual zip and brash erudition, never builds into anything more than a trifle…

Here is an excerpt from Numero Zero.

Reader’s Corner: David Maraniss and the Untwisted Fact

They say no good deed goes unpunished. It’s just as proper to say that no reported fact goes untwisted. Thusly Obama biographer David Maraniss’ op-ed in the Washington Post:

In the introduction to my book, I took note of a sick political culture where “facts are so easily twisted for political purposes and where strange armies of ideological pseudo-historians roam the biographical fields in search of stray ammunition.” That sentence is now cited on right-wing Web sites as evidence that I hold them in contempt. True enough, one of the few accurate things that I’ve read from them. I do hold some of them in contempt, not because of their politics, nor because of their dislike of Obama. Political debate and disagreement are the lifeblood of American democracy. No, I hold them in contempt for the way they disregard facts and common sense and undermine the role of serious history as they concoct conspiracy theories that portray the president as dangerous, alien and less than American.