This Week, Hear From:
Always great to hear from our contributors this week, scb0212, clytie and Miller. 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 Defector, Tara Ariano has concerns about television’s penchant for bringing back old ideas, and explores them through the curious case of the new A League of Their Own series:
In the show, Carson is also married to an enlisted man (Patrick J. Adams’s Charlie), but she soon finds herself drawn to her teammate, Greta (D’Arcy Carden), and before the series premiere has ended, Carson and Greta have shared their first kiss. Spoiler: Max, and Max’s transgender uncle, and the First Lady of Max’s church, and about half the Peaches, and the team’s ex-Marine chaperone Beverly (Dale Dickey) are also queer. Maybelle Blair, a former member of the real-life League, has estimated that 450 out of 600 players were lesbians, but generously added that the movie audience of 1992 probably wasn’t ready to see characters’ sexuality portrayed with full historical fidelity; Rosie O’Donnell, who plays Doris in the movie and has a guest role in the series, has said that in her head canon (and against Marshall’s wishes), Doris was queer. Given that the players’ queerness is a huge element in the series and entirely absent from the movie, one might wonder why they even have a title in common—that is, until one remembers what [Warner Brothers Discovery CEO David] Zaslav knows, which is that originality is risky. A period TV series about the women’s baseball league called Catcher Carson? Alien! Scary! A period TV series that kind of reminds you of a movie you’ve watched and enjoyed 50 times on TBS? Familiar! Attractive!
For Criterion, Chris Vognar analyzes how music selections add subtext to the machismo of Bull Durham:
What is Shelton up to here? He’s given Crash, the old soul, an old blues. Nuke wasn’t even alive when the song came out. But Shelton has also provided a raucous love song for two guys squaring off to fight. “I would love to make love to you,” Tina shouts, “when the lights are low. / I would like to scream to you, baby, / just to let you know.” In case you didn’t notice, this is no jock jam. It’s foreplay. Crash ends up connecting on the only punch of the fight, after which he introduces himself as Nuke’s new catcher and offers to buy the kid a drink. Thus begins their long-term mentor-student relationship, fraught with the kind of bickering and rivalry you’d find in classic romantic comedies.
Todd Haynes gives a warm Haynsian interview to Rory O’Conner at The Film Stage touching on Douglas Sirk, collaborating with Kelly Reichardt, and of course his own movies:
I guess I am always learning something about cinema from those eras and the culture of those eras. I also feel that by placing things in the past you’re almost always putting a frame around the story and the experience for the viewer, and that frame asks the viewer to do a little bit of translation and reading as they watch it, and to me that’s an exciting opportunity. It’s not for everybody. Some people just want to watch present-tense, or present-day films that reflect back on the contemporary culture that they live in and kind of affirm that experience. I enjoy what happens when there is a distance and that distance has to be filled in by your own knowledge, your own expectations, your own awareness of this genre or that genre.
John Carpenter gives a very Carpenterian interview to Adam Nayman at The New Yorker, touching on basketball, new horror films, his legacy, and when he knew he was done making movies:
It was just a culmination. On “Ghosts of Mars,” I was exhausted. That was the big thing. I remember seeing a behind-the-scenes [featurette], and it showed me on set working, sitting in the scoring session. God, I’d aged. Tired and ancient. And I thought, I can’t do this anymore. It was too rough. For me, it became not worth it. And I didn’t want to say that about movies. Movies are my first love, my life. But, anyway, why am I telling you all this? This is not something I want to talk about.
James Ellroy gives a very Ellroyian interview to M.R. Allen at Crimereads where he talks about his latest novel, his love for the atomic bomb, his hatred for the movie adaptation of L.A. Confidential and why he’ll never retire:
The reason my books have lasted this long, the reason I am held in such high esteem is I have never faltered. I have written great book after great book. I have taken all kinds of risks. I write enormous books set in different historical periods. I mean, Perfidia is 700 pages long. The ambition, no other crime writer has gone out, consciously, to carve out the path that I have. So whoever the other crime writers might be today or the people of my generation who have stuck around, I know and they know they are not of my league and not of my caliber. And so there’s enduring literary value there. I am the most honored crime writer if you look at mainstream honors. I’m considered in Europe and in academia as the greatest crime writer ever. The books are great, you know, they are calculated to be great. Listen brother, I’ve got a 17-year-old boy’s hard-on for being great and doing great work. And I’m 74 and it ain’t going away. It feels good to be 74 and get up and be writing one big ass, wild ass, crazy, provocative, offensive, heavily plotted, wildly corrupt and insanely funny book after another.
Not unrelated – James Grieg at Dazed says the real problem prompted by problematic art is moral panic:
In an essay published in 1984, Mary Gaitskill wrote of a prevalent tendency among mainstream critics to assess works of art “in terms of the message they imparted”, which “could be judged on the basis of consensual ideas about what life is”. This approach, she argues, was based on the idea that “stories are supposed to function as instruction manuals”, and that the quality of a film could be determined by whether these instructions were correct. It would be short-sighted to imagine that this set of values, which Gaitskill was critiquing almost 30 years ago, is either unique to our current moment or a damning indictment of young people today. We are generally too quick to ascribe cultural trends to the influence of social media alone. While the internet is clearly capable of shaping culture, it often reflects deeper currents and older concerns: in this case, the long-standing fear that art has the power to corrupt impressionable minds.