The FAR has absorbed all written human knowledge, but you puny fleshlings still have much to learn. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Start with ancient tomes about unspeakable power, move to genre takes on quarantine, then learn why the outcome of the culture wars will be a positive one, before cooling off with a tale of indie movie exploitation.
Thanks to the well-read Belated Comebacker and The Psychic Johnny Smith 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.
At The Ringer Brian Phillips on the fun (and flaws) of Raiders of the Lost Ark on its 40th anniversary, including the moment that crystalizes what makes the movie great – when Indy consults a bigass book about the Ark:
Again: He has the book right there. It’s, conservatively, 1 million pages long. He opens to the picture of the Ark in less than two seconds. This is a tiny, almost unmentionably trivial detail; at the same time, I’m positive that nothing more delightful has ever happened in a movie. As delightful? Maybe. But more? The book tells us several things, quietly, all at once. First, it tells us that even more than the worlds in most movies, this is a world in which reality will always furnish whatever is the most atmospheric thing for any circumstance. Need to chase a train through the desert? Here are some beautiful horses. Need to steal a plane from the Luftwaffe? Oops, there’s a 7-foot Nazi beefcake shirtlessly guarding it. Are you in a North African bazaar? Have an adorable, mischievous, superintelligent monkey. I’m convinced that this, the ready availability of the coolest thing for any moment, is what makes the famous scene where Indy pulls his gun and shoots the sword-twirling assassin, so indelible. It extends a logic that’s been part of the movie’s ground rules from the beginning. “You expected something good? Here’s something better.”
For Collider, Douglas Laman suggests comedies will be the route to films that take on the pandemic, despite attempts by the thriller and horror genres:
How many people cackled at National Lampoon’s Vacation because it reminded them of their own costly family vacations gone awry? The pandemic, on a day-to-day level, brings to mind the same sort of mundane difficulties plaguing any voyage in a road trip comedy like Recovery. Within this genre, the madness of the pandemic can be captured in an intimate, funhouse mirror reflection of the pandemic. It’s all just comedically disjointed enough to offer up giggles while still being firmly rooted in some version of reality. It also helps that these comedies know that quarantine and all that comes with it is enough to create conflict. Several upcoming pandemic thrillers feel the need to throw in extra forms of obstacles. Williamson’s untitled film reportedly follows a killer hunting down quarantined college students, while Songbird shifted things into the future and added authoritarian health care workers to intimidate the protagonists. In these stories, a hat gets put on a hat to make the COVID-19 outbreak extra “scary.”
JM Mutore takes to RogerEbert.com to argue that current depictions of Black activism coupled with an increase in activism in the real world will create change, and profiles relevant filmmakers:
Dallas-raised filmmaker Ja’Tovia Gary has crafted several short films and documentaries which chronicle the imagination and legacy of Black women artists and activists, and she is currently working on an autobiographical feature. Gary was pleasantly forthright when I asked her about the radical themes in her work. “I’m interested in the liberation of Black people and all oppressed people around the globe, so that includes liberation from the various systems that enact violence and harm in our lives,” she said. “There’s all types of work I want to do, and it may not be overtly political, but like WEB DuBois says, all art is political, whether you want it to be or not. Whether it’s overt, or whether it’s very subtle and covert. Because we’re talking about life—because we’re talking about people, ultimately we’re going to be talking power.”
Speaking of the culture wars, The Guardian‘s Steve Rose reports on Disney’s role as a flashpoint of progressive and conservative clashes:
If Disney is forced to pick a side, the conservative agenda is likely to lose out, says Shilpa Davé, assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia. This is not purely a matter of principle. “It’s self-interest, too,” she says. “What has happened is that they realise that they have to appeal to a changing demographic, so the bottom line for them is: how are they going to get more customers? And how are they going to appeal to new generations? And so part of this is: yes, we want to include diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, because that’s where our generations are going. They have to be forward-thinking if they want to succeed. We live in a global world. And we also live in a racially diverse, a class diverse, a religiously diverse world, and we cannot isolate ourselves. Corporations understand that.”
Brent Lang for Variety reports on a new documentary that explores the harrowing process of making 1995’s Kids, and the consequences for the amateur actors that the film used:
Harris felt that the film, which many audience members mistakenly believed was so steeped in reality that it was almost a documentary, played up the shock value, dwelling on the hardships faced by the skateboarders who came from unstable homes. At the same time, he felt that Clark and Korine failed to capture the strong sense of community that these teenagers had created and some of the more positive elements of their intense friendships. “We were a tight-knit group who skateboarded and hung out,” says Harris. “We were in the right place at the right time and we become part of this cult classic film and had to deal with everything that comes with that. You can take a person out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of a person, and to me ghetto refers to the mental and emotional trauma we went through.”