This Week, You Will Age Gracefully With:
- Phillip Baker Hall
- Ewan McGregor
- proper movie-watching
- masters of the written word.
Thanks to scb0212 for his timeless contributions this week. Send articles throughout the next week to ploughmanplods [at] gmail, post articles from the past week below for discussion, and Have a Happy Friday!
At The Reveal, Scott Tobias salutes Phillip Baker Hall with a piece on his role in Hard Eight:
Much like what Quentin Tarantino did a year later with one of his favorite character actors, Robert Forster, by casting him in Jackie Brown, Anderson helped give Hall’s career a second life, including two more roles for Anderson in Boogie Nights and Magnolia. Yet Hard Eight, like Secret Honor, remains a defining part for an actor who rarely enjoyed leading-man status, but had the talent to hold the screen and inhabit characters who are irreducibly complex. Sydney is very much the gentleman he appears to be, the man Clementine nicknames “captain” for the way he presides over the casino and insists on treating her with generosity and respect. He’s also a lowly gambler and a killer, with equal command over the seediest corners of Atlantic City and Reno. Human beings are never one thing. Hall could be many things at once.
In this week’s most awesome alliance of Solute concerns – cinephilia and semantics – the provocatively-titled Wired series called “Why We Hate Streaming” continues with this provocatively-titled essay by Jason Kehe, “Nobody Knows How to Watch Movies Anymore”:
Movies are, and have always been, designed to be seen, and this is the source of the modern-day dissonance. Carrying the word analysis a bit further: We only watch things that are in progress. You say of a TV show, for example, that you are watching it. But if you’ve finished the series, you’re more likely to say you’ve seen it. Thus: I watched some of The Expanse, but I’ve seen Battlestar Galactica. To have seen something, in other words, is to have apprehended the whole of it, to have appreciated its entire shape. So perhaps the question must be asked again: Is it possible you were, in a way, right in telling your friend you saw a movie, at home, last night? Can a theatrical mindset ever be brought to bear on at-home movie-watching—as something to be submitted to, rather than focused on? Might it then be called movie-seeing?
GQ‘s Rosecrans Baldwin spends some time with Ewan McGregor having digested (almost) the entirety of his prolific career up through Obi-Wan Kenobi:
As we leave I ask McGregor if he has a sense of what type of actor he’ll likely be in the coming years. From my own experience, middle age can lead to self-acceptance, make you care less about what other people think, but also lead to new appetites and new ideas. “I don’t know,” he says. “I’m quite excited about it.” He thinks about it more. “I’m going to name-drop: I remember meeting Terry Gilliam…” He’d been sent a script. For more than 20 years, Gilliam had been trying to make a version of the film that became 2018’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. “He says, ‘What the fuck have you been doing all this time? You’ve been underplaying everything. What happened to the guy in Trainspotting? What happened to that guy?!’ It was quite rude. It’s rare that somebody challenges you. But it stuck with me.” As though he had taken the criticism on board. And the work now is maybe more free, even cathartic.
Slate brings us an excerpt from Matt Sienkiewicz and Nick Marx’s book on the rise of conservative late-night comedy:
Gutfeld’s subsequent career as a Fox News star is a very useful object lesson in the growth of right-wing comedy. Today’s commonsense liberal perspective on mainstream right-wing comedy derives from a handful of forgettable efforts that were unable to give the format its marquee media franchise, like The Daily Show has been for liberal comedy in the 21st century. Moreover, popular coverage of right-wing comedy reinforces narratives and taste-based preferences among liberals about the necessary failure of conservative comedy. This sentiment is outdated and shortsighted. Among the post–Daily Show failed experiments in right-wing political comedy that liberals like to point to, The ½ Hour News Hour (on Fox News) ended during the second George W. Bush administration, while the first-run syndicated talk show The Flipside and Headlines Tonight (on One America News) lacked the economic support that franchises like The Daily Show enjoy. Focusing on these failed comedic attempts obscures the much more recently successful development of political comedy in Fox News’ programming strategy, thanks to figures like Bill O’Reilly protégé Jesse Watters and Gutfeld himself. It also prevents liberal critics from understanding the size, scope, and strength of today’s right-wing comedy industry.
And in the blog for his comic SMBC, Zach Weinersmith contemplates why authors tend to write less reflectively in their advanced years than in middle age:[post is below the amusing but unrelated comic]
I got to thinking about this reading Jan Morris’ recent book of published daily reflections, Thinking Again. She wrote it when she was 91 and 92, and it was published in 2020. It is almost entirely trivial, and hardly even reflective. I would say it’s almost startlingly in the moment for someone who anticipates dying at almost any time. Much of it is about that day’s weather, favorite trees, how she talks to people in the neighborhood, being Welsh, current politics, and so on. Even the subject of her wife’s dementia – surely a spur to thoughts on the nature of being – is mentioned with something close to dispassion. […] It occurred to me as I wrote this that I literally cannot think of an author who became more reflective in old age. Some (CS Lewis is perhaps the ultimate example) write essays that don’t seem to change in style or tone, whose period in his life are only detectable from biographical knowledge. Some, like Orwell, never get past middle age, and never got properly trivial. EB white, as I recall is talking about world government and the nature of democracy in middle age, but his later essays are more apt to be about dogs and barns and grandchildren.