Every week, With a Little Help from Our Friends highlights the best pieces of writing on film, television, and literature published around the Internet. Please share if you like what you see.
For your reading enjoyment …
It is one of the uncontested wisdoms of our era that “marriage is hard work.” The belief that conjugal happiness can be earned only by rigorous and sustained emotional labor is so deeply entrenched in the common culture that when Amy Dunne, the female protagonist of David Fincher’s new movie, Gone Girl, boasts cheerfully of finding marriage “easy,” it is as if she had entered Dracula’s castle scoffing at the existence of vampires: the audience knows at once that her hubris must be punished.
I saw Ava DuVernay’s Selma at a “for your consideration” screening the same night a grand jury in St. Louis County declined to indict Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Reading the headlines on my phone set off a bomb somewhere in the back of my head. I had just spent two of the last three or so hours sitting comfortably in a movie theater, watching DuVernay recreate the events of the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, as led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams and Martin Luther King, Jr., portrayed in the film by the magnetic David Oyelowo. As such a film must, Selma puts special emphasis on the horrific violence inflicted upon participants in the movement, from the black men and women who made up its backbone to the white allies who made the sojourn from all around the United States – Michigan to Massachusetts – in support of civil rights, unity and equality for all citizens of this great nation.
This audiovideo essay collaboration on Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 is the fourth entry in the Out 1 Video Essay Project commissioned by the Melbourne International Film Festival. The project includes another Paratheatre piece by Cristina Álvarez López & Adrian Martin, Paratheatre: Plays Without Stages.
A common misunderstanding: often, when people casually use the word “soundtrack” in relation to films, they refer only to the music—or, worse (because even more distant from the material film itself), the cleaned-up, pristine CD of the musical score, which usually bears scant relation to how that music was used, performed and mixed in the movie. (“I collect soundtracks” is a misnomer you often hear.) But cinema soundtracks are a fused totality of voices, music and noises. Here is a swift historic panorama of some of the possibilities.
In Hayao Miyazaki’s 2001 masterpiece Spirited Away, a 10-year-old girl named Chihiro stumbles across a strange bathhouse that caters to ghosts and gods. There, she’s given a new name—Sen—and put to work, with no idea when or whether she’ll ever get back to the life she once knew. Once the water rises in the land surrounding the bathhouse, Chihiro/Sen is cut off from the outside world, and joins the long line of children in fantasy stories who’ve disappeared into another reality. She’s Alice. She’s Wendy Darling. She’s Lucy Pevensie. And she’s every kid who’s ever read, watched, or heard about those characters.
Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, I’ve been waiting for “The Grapes of Wrath.” Or maybe “A Raisin in the Sun,” or “Death of a Salesman,” a Zola novel or a Woody Guthrie ballad — something that would sum up the injustices and worries of the times, and put a human face on the impersonal movements of history. The originals are all still around, available for revival and rediscovery and part of a robust artistic record of hard times past. But we are in the midst of hard times now, and it feels as if art is failing us.
Last week, HBO debuted Banksy Does New York, a documentary on Banksy’s 2013 residency in NYC, where he debuted a new work every day in various areas of the city, each imbued with his trademark wit and moralistic commentary. Each of his pieces ignited some sort of confrontation, be it another artist painting over his work to make a point, or individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit charging admission to see a section of a wall. In Queens last fall, I got to look at one piece just hours after it was created and moments before it was defaced. The graffiti was of a workman erasing a quote from Gladiator — “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” Both the piece within the piece and the work itself would now only be echoes, as a local graffiti artist angrily tagged over it while a hissing crowd pleaded him to stop. The next day, it was painted over.
The Walking Dead’s fifth midseason finale, “Coda,” claimed the life we all knew it would…[Major Spoilers]
One of fall’s best movies is the romantic drama Beyond the Lights. (Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri loved the movie, and rightly so!) Writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s first film since 2008’s The Secret Life of Bees (she also directed 2000’s beloved Love & Basketball) is the story of a pop star’s rise, fall, and ultimate redemption. The movie feels real — both emotionally and in terms of how it portrays the many sides of the music industry. Some of that is thanks to singer-songwriter-producer Terius Nash, better known as The-Dream. His songs, performed by the film’s main character Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), do dual service — they are legit hits in their own right, but they also perform a significant amount of story work. Vulture spoke with The-Dream about the parents of pop stars and how he elicits truth from artists he writes for.
It was a well-executed prank, but it does raise questions. “Screencaps”—still images or looping GIFs, usually taken from TV shows, and featuring text—are a huge part of the viral ecosystem: During one recent week, according to analytics service Rebloggy, they accounted for six of the 18 most popular posts on Tumblr. Their ubiquity embodies everything great and everything troubling about pop-culture in the Internet age—an age where fan passions and remix culture clash with traditional ideas of intellectual property, authenticity, and linear storytelling.