This Week You Will Consider the End of:
- a suspenseful movie
- child acting
- a songwriting legend
- celebrity shame.
Thanks to scb0212, Simon del Monte, Babalugats, Drunk Napoleon and Son of Griff for contributing 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!
For Vanity Fair, Richard Lawson considers the murky gay politics of Knock at the Cabin:
It’s uncommon to see a studio film whose politics—or, at least, political allusions—are so murky and open source. The moral and sociological conclusions of Knock at the Cabin are, I’d imagine, clear in Shyamalan’s mind. There is room for the viewer to explore, though, to wonder what it’s really getting at. Yes, one read of the film leads to some pretty bad places. But that the film, rather than being didactic or antiseptic, allows room for that interpretation distinguishes it as something bold, something different. I certainly don’t want to see a movie that agrees with some of the current worst of humanity, that demands that a gay couple and their adopted daughter destroy themselves to set civilization back on its true course. And yet, the electric charge of the film, when one pauses and thinks “Wait, what is this movie saying?,” is grimly invigorating.
Monica Torres goes long in asking should child acting just be banned already?
Child acting was not considered oppressive labor by legislators in the late 1930s. But should it be now, now that we’ve seen the effects of this underage labor that fuels billion-dollar industries? There are child actors who have positive experiences, but is it worth the risk for those who do not? For these child performers, working in the spotlight while young often comes at an incalculable cost to themselves and with the near-total sacrifice of a normal childhood, as child stars from every generation since Temple’s have attested.
Farran Smith Nehme eulogizes Burt Bacharach for rogerebert.com:
Burt Bacharach died last week at age 94, and amid the flood of richly deserved tributes, there were lingering references to his music as cocktail accompaniment, or lounge atmosphere, or easy listening, or even (here’s where I’m inclined to lose my temper) Muzak. As a film critic I’ve often complained that most people listen to the dialogue and follow the plot in a movie. Unfortunately, they’re also likely to ignore the contradictions that lurk in an image, a facial expression, or in the background of a shot. Reading about Bacharach makes me think that music often gets the same deal. The songs were suited to a kind of lifestyle, they’re often associated with the more languid and pleasurable side of the 1960s, so people don’t always notice the deep regret in the lyrics and the fiendish difficulty of the time signatures. Unless, of course, they’re trying to sing them. “It all counts,” Bacharach told the Daily Telegraph in 2013. “There is no filler in a three-and-a-half-minute song.”
The Reveal‘s Keith Phipps revisits a classroom staple and recent Solute discussion topic, Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet:
Has anyone ever had a good experience watching a movie in a classroom? Often they’re crutches for lazy teachers. I remember a history teacher who showed us the entirety of the 3+ hour 1988 miniseries Gore Vidal’s Lincoln (starring Sam Waterston and Mary Tyler Moore as Abe and Mary Todd, respectively). The class was right after lunch. I think I was awake for about 20 minutes. But even when they were appropriate, as with Romeo and Juliet, in my day it was usually a case of 25 students squinting, if they’re paying attention at all, to watch a 20-inch screen. Televisions have gotten better and VHS has been supplanted, but I can’t imagine the experience has been improved that much. I feel like there’s a whole class of movies that have left muddled first impressions because of this. Maybe it’s time to rewatch To Kill a Mockingbird, too.
In The Red Hand Files, Nick Cave responds to questions in on the idea of songs being ‘cancelled’ with a typically mystical take:
So, I don’t know, Tom, I can’t get too animated by the fact that ‘Delilah’ has been banned. I understand there is a principle here, but on some level I like the fact that some songs are controversial enough to be outlawed. It fills me with a kind of professional pride to be a part of the sometimes contentious business of songwriting. It’s cool. I like it. I just wish it was a more worthy song to be awarded that greatest of honours, indeed that supreme privilege, of being banned.
Steven Hyden at Uproxx gives an interesting answer to a reader question – why aren’t there more negative album reviews?
Thirty years ago, music criticism was predominantly a local business. In every town with a daily newspaper or an alt-weekly, there was a person who covered concerts, interviewed musicians passing through town, and reviewed albums. And because this person was the only writer on staff who covered music, they wrote about everything. […] Instead of covering everything, music critics now are inclined to write only about genres they already like. I have mixed feelings about this. Expertise is a virtue, no question, but when everyone “stays in their lane,” you lose that wild hater energy that keeps the discourse interesting. I doubt, for instance, that Steve Albini actually knows anything about Steely Dan, but it’s fun to see him get so worked up about despising them.
And finally, Defector‘s Lauren Theisen wants to bring back shame around selling out:
The pushback to this year’s plague of bastardized creativity has felt pretty light. I think all the way back when Dylan started hawking lingerie, most of the stragglers threw up their hands. It’s easy for the sheer brokenness of our society to push you into a nihilism that looks a lot like “get that bag” culture, playing the get-out-of-jail-free-card that is “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism, so why try?” But I still care. There remains a gigantic difference between stuff that is cool but also has problems and stuff that is irritating and formulaically designed solely to separate you from your money. Every millionaire involved in the latter deserves your contempt.