Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
A remarkable tale of immigrant success, wrapped around a crime story.
"'Outlander,' The Wedding Episode and TV's Sexual Revolution": The Huffington Post's Maureen Ryan pens an essential piece on sex, filmmaking and the female gaze.
“The decision not to do the usual, boring thing was reflected in how the couple's three sex acts were shot over the course of the hour. It wasn't the chain of the predictable sequences that we typically see; it wasn't about the male's confident conquests of the compliant lady-prize. Jamie's inexperience was absurdly charming: He thought he'd hurt Claire when she had an orgasm, and she introduced him to pleasures he'd never seen the horses partake of. The whole night gave Jamie new layers of humanity by acknowledging the truth that sex can be nerve-wracking for guys, even if they're deeply attracted to their partner. The key to the episode's success was its curiosity about the couple's mating dance, and the curiosity the characters had for each other. They didn't know where the evening was going, and neither did we. A clever series of flashbacks to the wedding-day preparations added to our insight into their emotional states: Jamie had taken a lot of trouble to get Claire a special ring, and she'd prepared for the nuptials by getting extremely drunk. By slowly revealing how they felt about this contrived marriage, they gained each other's trust. They got to know each other, and the progression of that knowledge was reflected in their increased appetite for each other every time they had sex. It was more comforting, and more sexy, each time.”
"John Carpenter Talks About His Storied Filmmaking Career, Creative Differences and the Term 'Slasher'": RogerEbert.com film critic Simon Abrams interviews the iconic director for Vulture. Related: Chris Arrant of Newsarama reports that "Carpenter has launched the comic series, 'Asylum.'"
“You and Hill have talked about how slasher films were passe, and that the best way to proceed with ‘Halloween III’ and succeeding sequels would be to make them about the holiday Halloween, not Michael Myers. [Carpenter:] ‘I would never put it in those words. I would never use the word ‘slasher.’ That's a word that was made up later. I thought, ‘I don't think there's any story left here. So let's do something else, come up with a new story.’ That's how it started. I was talking with Joe Dante about it, and he said ‘You know [British science-fiction writer] Nigel Kneale is in town, and he may have a good story. Let's go talk to him.’ So I ran out to talk to him; it was Joe, Debra, and myself. And he was working on ‘Creature From the Black Lagoon’ out at Universal. He came up with a story that I thought was real interesting.’”
"Beyond Narrative: When Cinema Stops Making Sense": A superb essay from Movie Mezzanine's Charles Bramesco.
“Back in the early ‘20s, a group of rabblerousing Dadaist artists decided to test the limits of film and see what they could get away with. They eschewed constructs like dialogue, character and plot as bourgeois conventions and instead focused on gauging the possibilities of a nascent art form. Dziga Vertov’s ‘Man With A Movie Camera’ may be the best-known example, but big names such as Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp also churned out logic-defying film shorts such as ‘Anemic Cinema’ that forewent storytelling in favor of mind-expanding formal experiments. These enfants terrible had little interest in bad guy/good guy showdowns or fresh-faced lovers. How could they? There was a dynamic new medium just begging to be turned inside out. This guiding collection of ideas is called Cinéma Pur. The term ‘pure cinema’ crops up in popular criticism today, too, bandied about most recently during discussions of ‘Gravity’’s breathtaking cosmic long shots. In the contemporary vernacular, it means something close to ‘art for art’s sake,’ but the crux of the idea is that story becomes extraneous when impressionistic visuals can create an emotional response in the viewer just as effectively.”
"'The Simpsons'/'Family Guy' crossover is one of the most fascinatingly weird things to ever happen to television": An in-depth analysis of the much-hyped episode by Entertainment Weekly's Darren Franich.
“There are whole stretches of dialogue where ‘Simpsons’ characters and ‘Family Guy’ characters are talking about ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Family Guy.’ The centerpiece of the episode is a conversation about how Peter Griffin’s favorite beer tastes a lot like Homer Simpsons’ favorite beer–in fact, Pawtucket Ale is literally just Duff beer, the same bottle with a different label. ‘This beer tastes exactly like Duff!’ says Homer. ‘It may have been inspired by Duff, but I like to think that it goes in a different direction,’ argues Peter. But soon, the ‘Family Guy’ guy gets angry. ‘I used to prefer Duff when I was younger, but I haven’t even had it in 13 years,’ he exclaims–which roughly translates into checking out of ‘The Simpsons’ when the show started to frequently make Moe-centric episodes. ‘Maybe DUFF should be in trouble for NOT BEING THAT GREAT!’ Peter exclaims.”
"Steven Soderbergh Is Doing Some Next-Level Work on 'The Knick'": At Vulture, RogerEbert.com Editor-In-Chief Matt Zoller Seitz hails the acclaimed filmmaker's TV series as "the greatest sustained display of directorial virtuosity in the history of American television."
“[The episode] ‘Get a Rope’ contains many harrowing setpieces, starting with the inciting incident (an off-duty Irish cop mistakes a black woman for a prostitute, scuffles with her boyfriend, then gets stabbed and taken to Knickerbocker Hospital) and continuing through the inevitable escalation. When I watched ‘Get a Rope’ the first time, it seemed almost unbearably brutal, but on second viewing, I was struck by how Soderbergh had pulled a Hitchcock or Spielberg, never showing us as much as we think he’s showing us. The initial stabbing and a subsequent scene of a white mob dragging a black man off a bicycle are filmed from a distance (which makes them more horrifying even though, or perhaps because, the direction isn’t rubbing your face in gore). When we see shots of African-Americans being battered by a white mob, the camera tracks the action laterally through a chain-link fence in the foreground. The fence creates a kind of ‘scrim’ effect: You see the gist of the horror, but not every detail. The fence bit consists of three acts of violence that last about 12 seconds total, but they’re so ugly that 12 seconds is all Soderbergh needs to get the point across. Even the most prolonged moments of savagery, such as a fight in a hospital hallway and a scene of a prone man being kicked, are shot so as to obscure the bloody details. I wouldn’t call this approach ‘tasteful,’ exactly. There’s a touch of the documentary to it; it’s journalistic, perhaps cold. It’s unflinching, but not exploitive. It feels right.”
Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" is highlighted in the Grantland article, "The First Oscar Lock of the Year Is Here (And It's Not What You Think It Is)," written by the great Mark Harris.
Our contributor Scott Jordan Harris has recommended this enticing trailer for Michael Barnett's documentary, "Becoming Bulletproof," chronicling the production of a western featuring a cast of actors with various disabilities.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A look at the entire "Alien" franchise, and a reappraisal of its unloved installments.
A review of the first four hours of David Lynch's "Twin Peaks: The Return".