The FAR will not bend to your preconceived notions! Baby-faced actors can play villains, the patriarchy will not dominate documentaries, beloved musicians can reinvent themselves, and maybe that thing you said sucked about that musical actually doesn’t suck. Put all your expectations in a pile and pour on the gasoline, we’re as punk as Dennis Hopper.*
Thanks to Miller for contributing this week, he can expect only good things in his future. Please send articles throughout the next week to ploughmanplods [at] gmail and post articles from the past week below for discussion. We defy you to have a Happy Friday.
At Reverse Shot, Bedatri D. Choudhury looks at female documentarians working together as necessity and as counter to auterist limitations:
Colonialism thrives best when people are encouraged to fight each other for a piece of whatever pie seems to be on offer, believing that there aren’t enough resources to keep everyone satisfied. “Documentary, through its earliest forms, is a colonial concept. The white man appears and then because he is the master, he unveils the story the way he sees it. He, literally, becomes the seer,” says filmmaker Marjan Safinia who, for the past 20 years, has been collaborating on directing documentaries.
Jacki Weaver takes Random Roles questions from Cameron Scheetz at The AV Club, dishing on parts in Animal Kingdom, Stoker, and her new release Stage Mother:
My 58-year career, for the first half of it, because of my physical statement—you know, the baby face and because I’m very small—I used to get the Sally Field roles. You know, the nice girl roles! And I was still playing children into my 30s and very frustrated. So when I was finally getting the womanly roles in my 40s, I had sort of died and gone to heaven. […] I’ve been married [on camera] 19 times. So, no, it was nice to play a villain!
Karen Han of Polygon suggests Russell Crowe’s singing in 2012’s Les Misérables is Not That Bad and the real problem… is Hugh Jackman!
It trickles down from the movie’s bigger issue: its orchestration. Claude-Michel Schönberg’s original orchestration is, put generously, synthesizer-heavy, a symptom of the fact that it came out in the 1980s. For the movie, however, the orchestration (still courtesy of Schönberg) is entirely, well, orchestral. The synth has been removed, presumably in an attempt to make the musical feel less kitschy and more serious. But Les Mis may be the rare synth-y musical that has escaped that kitschy feeling — it’s such an iconic production and sound that it transcends any sense of cool or uncool. Anyway, it’s musical theater — since when has “cool” really mattered?
John Semley in The Nation examines Neil Young’s recent archival releases as part of his ongoing destruction and re-invention:
For Young, nostalgia is as seductive and empty as fame. Instead, he practices what English historian J.H. Plumb might term “destructive” history. Yet it is destructive in a critical and ultimately productive way, because, as Plumb writes in The Death of the Past, it “dissolves those simple, structural generalizations by which our forefathers interrupted the purpose of life in historical terms.” As a song like “Cortez The Killer” illustrates, situating oneself in some flow of history offers, in the final analysis, little comfort.
And Nick Pinkerton marks the death of Linda Manz by posting a long and brilliant 2019 lecture on punk and how it’s expressed through her in Dennis Hopper’s movie Out Of The Blue:
Much of art-making in America—much of art-making in the world as a whole—is today a middle-class-and-up activity. This has always been the case to a certain extent, but has been exacerbated by the steady disappearance of educational opportunities for social mobility and, particularly in the United States, the gutting of humanities programs, the kicking away of ladders of access. As art becomes the province of the middle-class, you have an increasing discomfiture with what has been labelled “problematic” work—a genuine inability to comprehend what sort of things people are exposed to when they don’t have a secure social safety net in place, and how that experience can manifest itself in rather tickling and uncomfortable ways in the art that is made by hurt people.