'American Fiction' And The Wet Eyes Of The Sentimentalist | Defector
We tell ourselves stories to feed our delusions. It’s an ugly world out there, and so many Americans prefer the easy way out. We genuflect to the guru and the influencer; we admire the charlatans who can captivate a crowd and turn a quick buck. We prefer the CliffsNotes to the book, and all the […]
Any real art finds its level by meeting humans and life on their own terms. In place of that sort of probing, American Fiction gives you a movie about angst and love, a fantasy of good negro life so mired in sentiment it has no politic but the simplest judgment of the most obvious racism we can all agree is bad, and no depth outside of what we all need is more love in our lives. Implicit in a film like this—as with so much of the cinema, literature, and non-fiction by and about black people that has emerged post-George Floyd—is a participation trophy for the white, liberal audience: Kudos to you for watching; go tell a friend. Assuage your guilt for the price of a ticket; you're the good guys, after all.
Lily Moayeri: Trailers Use Slower and Moodier New Versions of Classic Songs to Lure Viewers (Variety)
“It’s what I call the old-comfortable-shoe phenomenon,” says Jonathan McHugh, a music supervisor, director and founding member of the Guild of Music Supervisors. “You give people something familiar, like Destiny Child’s ‘Say My Name’ in the new ‘Candyman,’ and all of a sudden they’re more engaged in the content and predisposed to enjoy what they’re watching because they love the song.”
Says Brian Monaco, president and global chief marketing officer at Sony Music Publishing: “It’s called ‘trailerizing’ a song. That means changing every aspect of the song but leaving the lyrics. People know the lyrics. The goal is to catch people’s attention. Maybe they’re not paying as much attention to the trailer, and they start to hear the chorus of the song, and they go, ‘Wait, I know this song.’ They start paying attention, and now they’re watching the trailer.” At Sony and in his four-times-a-year writing camps, Monaco has teams of writers working on reimagined versions of legendary artists’ catalogs. He has entirely reworked ELO’s discography, has redone a large portion of the Beatles’ songs and now is tackling Paul Simon’s newly acquired hefty songbook.
Tom Breihan: 20 Years Ago, 'Donnie Darko' Turned '80s Pop Into Nostalgic Dread (Stereogum)
The ’80s that Kelly remembered wasn’t bright or fun. It was teenage kids getting into dumb arguments over the sex habits of the Smurfs. It was authorities falling for the shallow charm of a motivational speaker — ’80s icon Patrick Swayze, still beautiful. In 2000, there wasn’t a lot of cool-kid cachet in Echo & The Bunnymen or Tears For Fears or Duran Duran. They weren’t influences that bands mentioned in interviews, and they hadn’t yet become parts of a lucrative nostalgia circuit. They were just songs that sometimes got played on alt-rock stations’ flashback-brunch shows. Only Duran Duran’s “Notorious” was fresh in the cultural memory, and that was just because of a posthumous Biggie single. Kelly made them fresh. Later, in a director’s-cut DVD, Kelly swapped out “The Killing Moon” for INXS’ “Never Tear Us Apart” and made it even more tingly.
Richard Kelly built beautiful little fantasias around those songs, and those scenes hit like a drug. The songs were key to the cult of Donnie Darko. Eventually, one of those songs even became a strange new kind of hit. The film ended with a montage of its characters pondering the imponderable, and Michael Andrews, composer of the film’s plinky-piano score, set that montage to a new version of “Mad World,” the Tears For Fears song from 1982. Andrews’ friend Gary Jules sang the angelic vocal, and Jules and Andrews replaced the drum-machine boom of the original song with shivery pianos and cellos, turning it into an eerie meditation.
As Donnie Darko slowly became a word-of-mouth cult hit, Jules and Andrews released their version of “Mad World” as a single. Michel Gondry directed a dreamlike video. In the UK, the “Mad World” cover exploded. Nearly three years after Donnie Darko had its Sundance premiere, the “Mad World” cover had become an out-of-nowhere smash, earning the coveted position of Christmas #1. All the movie trailers set to moody orchestral versions of pop songs are a direct result of “Mad World” doing what it did.
Namwali Serpell: Pixar’s Troubled “Soul” (The New Yorker)
The most glaring artistic error in “Soul” is its misprision—its elision, really—of what soul means for black culture.
Twenty-two’s fumbled attempts to puppeteer Joe’s body are excused as the ineptitude of any newbie soul, but they’re still played for laughs along a racial register.
Inexplicably, all of Twenty-two’s attempts at being black at first disconcert but then enchant others—including Joe, who takes Twenty-two’s innocence for granted, despite her long history of soul counselling. She means well.
Pixar’s “Soul” is, in fact, the latest in a long tradition of American race-transformation tales, each of which finds a pretext—a potion, a spell, a medical treatment, or simply makeup—to put a white person in a black body (or vice versa).
The white desire to get inside black flesh is absolved as an empathy exercise. Blackface gets a moral makeover. It’s telling that, in most race-transformation tales, the ideal is presented as a white soul in a black body.
Well-meaning or no, that’s still slumming. “Soul” calls it “jazzing,” which would depress me were it not for the unwitting pun on, uh, jouissance.
As in NBC’s “The Good Place,” the dirtbag, depressive white woman teaches the neurotic, brilliant black man how to stop fussing about ambition, cultivate gratitude for what you have, and just be. Not only does Twenty-two use Joe as a vehicle but the movie must also make the grandiose and grotesque claim that he has learned to live through her.
“Soul” takes as its premise the idea that a soul, branded with a personality, might be swapped in and out of different kinds of bodies. Even if we ignore the problem that unborn souls seem already to have races and genders—it’s a kids’ movie, not Plato!—we have to swallow the still more fundamental premise that the soul is individual, is sole. This idea is built into how we generally use the word, in Standard English: He has a soul.
Black English says, He’s got soul. The most glaring artistic error in “Soul” is its misprision—its elision, really—of what soul means for black culture. The word is used to signify not just an individual unit but also an indivisible substrate, a communal energy, a vibe. For all of the creators’ efforts to thread the needle of racial representation, their desperate wish to be authentic without being stereotypical, “Soul” never utters a sentence like “She’s got soul,” never says “soul brother” or “soul sister” or “soul music.” Perhaps those terms are too antiquated, but there isn’t even a mention of the still popular “soul food”; the film’s universal delicacy is pepperoni pizza, not fried chicken, and we all know why.
How Black Panther Asks Us to Examine Who We Are To One Another
Rahawa Haile considers how, by sliding between the real and unreal, Black Panther frees us to imagine the possibilities — and the limitations — of an Africa that does not yet exist.
How then does one criticize what is unquestionably the best Marvel movie to date by every conceivable metric known to film criticism? How best to explain that Black Panther can be a celebration of blackness, yes; a silencing of whiteness, yes; a meshing of African cultures and signifiers — all this! — while also feeling like an exercise in sustained forgetting? That the convenience of having a fake country within a real continent is the way we can take inspiration from the latter without dwelling on its losses, or the causes of them. Black Panther is an American film through and through, one heavily invested in white America’s political absence from its African narrative.
When Killmonger goads a museum curator early on in the film, calling out a history of looting, it is condemnation that falls squarely on Britain’s shoulders. Rarely must the audience think about the C.I.A.’s very real history in Africa. The fact that viewers were steered, at any point, into rooting for Martin Freeman, a British actor playing an American C.I.A. operative who attempts to purchase stolen resources from a white South African arms dealer, means that even a cinematic turducken of imperialist history gets a pass.
The convenience of having a fake country within a real continent is the way we can take inspiration from Africa without dwelling on its losses.
Maria Bustillos: The Startling Humanism of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’
In Max, we may read modern men in general, who were taught to fight and die and bleed for everyone else, uncomplainingly and alone, who were taught that women were weak, dependents to be “cherished” and protected—not equals who could fend for ourselves or fight side-by-side with them. But at some point in the late twentieth century, men somehow learned a different way of thinking about all that. What Miller is really doing is teaching men, not only women, how to rise above the patriarchy.
Anil Dash: Shushers: Wrong about movies. Wrong about the world.
So, what can shushers do about it? First, recognize that cultural prescriptivism always fails. Trying to inflict your norms on those whose actions arise from a sincere difference in background or experience is a fool’s errand.
Evgeny Morozov: Kickstarter’s crowdfunding won’t save indie filmmaking. (Slate Magazine)
To assess a film's odds of success (because even crowdfunders don’t want to back a loser), a prospective funder would want to know what people in the know—who are part of the “industry” in one way or another—make of it. This is the point often missed by those hailing Kickstarter as a revolutionary project that could emancipate the artists: What defines potential “success” for their film is still very much defined by the industry heavyweights.
It’s scary how the Memo makes Sandler and Murphy whipping boys, simply to sustain true Hollywood vulgarity. It perpetuates the collapse of critical thinking. When Sandler-bashing (and I don’t just mean the ludicrous Razzies, ratified only by tabloid media) turns into excoriation, it is necessary to examine the media’s cowardice and prejudices. The Sandler Memo has reduced criticism to a profession of chain letters.
Steven Hyden: Adam Sandler's inexorable march toward truth (Grantland)
Sandler's truth is that his onscreen persona has aged with his fans and experienced the same things at roughly the same time they've experienced it. Over the course of 20 years, Adam Sandler has gone from being a staple of sleepovers to dorm rooms to lousy apartments to the suburbs. And in that time he's remained, essentially, the same guy: He's "That asshole!," the incorrigible dickwad with a heart of gold, the loudmouth buddy who's progressively less fun to hang out with as you get older, the dude your wife forbids from crashing on the couch for "just a few days, I swear."
Keith Calder: vhxtv: We’re very proud to announce that VHX is powering the worldwide release of Indie Game: The Movie on June 12
But this is it. This is where we start. Crowd-funded on Kickstarter; self-released on iTunes, Steam, and VHX. Our Edison is Steve Jobs, our Chaplin is Louis CK, our multiplex is VHX, and our Warner Brothers is Kickstarter. I hope you can be our Hitchcock, our Curtiz, our Méliès, or our Griffith.
Allistair Pinsof: SXSW Review: The Comedy (FLIXIST)
The Comedy may be a challenging film, but it's one of the few character studies that has a clear focus and entertaining hook that will keep you invested. Heidecker was the perfect actor for this project. When he looks past his surroundings, you believe him. Sometimes making a joke is all you can do in a bad situation. For Swanson, life in its entirety is a bad situation.
Jim Carrey as a genius, the "representative jester of our time." "Carrey’s dream sequence of movies is a prophecy, a warning that this clanking ego-apparatus in which each of us walks around, this fissured, monumental self, half Job and half Bertie Wooster, cannot be sustained. Out of his own seemingly bottomless disquiet, Carrey writhes and reaches into the bottomless disquiet of his audience."