This Week, You Will Celebrate:
- a punk
- unseen classics
- a 90s original
- a 90s remake
- a screen legend
Thanks to scb0212, Rosy Fingers, and Miller 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!
A pair of eulogies for Shane MacGowan, frontman for the Pogues, one looking at the music that defined his career by James Parker at The Atlantic:
It starts where it finishes, in a dead-end drone: a single accordion note that seems to refine itself, thin itself out, even as it goes nowhere and lasts forever. That the song was recorded in 1985 is a mere accident of history: It could have been written at any point in the past 200 years. It could have been written by nobody at all—by Anonymous or by some mystery of collective authorship. Acid like a ballad by Brecht and Weill, blunter than all but the most sawn-off punk rock, the late Shane MacGowan’s “The Old Main Drag” is as undeceived a statement of human despair as anything in the canon of folk music.
And Amanda Petrusich remembers the joyful life of Shane MacGowan in The New Yorker:
I’m always grousing about how popular culture has become professionalized—guided by corporate interests, certainly, but also often lacking in spontaneity, mess, weirdness, glee, imperfection, or anything else that resembles sentient life. Though his vices were plainly and unromantically destructive—deeply toxic in every sense—MacGowan will always be a kind of high-water mark for what can happen when an artist disregards the whims or expectations of the Zeitgeist. Nothing the Pogues did ever felt intended to be palatable or to satisfy anyone’s expectations; nothing about MacGowan was small or manageable.
Sight & Sound presents a list of “Hidden Gems” – films with a single director advocating for them in last year’s “Top 100” list:
Hailing from every continent but Antarctica and spanning more than 120 years, this selection is, in its way, as representative of the riches of cinema history as that other list we released at the end of last year. Fiction rubs shoulders with nonfiction, films made by collectives sit alongside hand-crafted animation, and a healthy dose of comedy sidles up to heartbreaking drama – and then there are the films that defy all categorisation. […] So why did these 101 films receive just one vote rather than the dozens needed to make it into the official top 100 pantheon? Perhaps they are little-seen or hard to find; perhaps they have been overshadowed by a different film from the same director or the same movement; perhaps they aren’t the sort of film people think fit into discussions of the canon – too unusual, too light-hearted, too low-budget; or perhaps their appeal is simply too particular. Why isn’t Fear (1954), voted for by Michelangelo Frammartino, the best-loved of Roberto Rossellini’s films? Why isn’t the Māori anthology film Waru (2017) – picked by Alisa Lebow – deemed a modern classic, or Mike Leigh’s choice How a Mosquito Operates (1912) canonised for its importance to early animation?
At Downtime, Charles Bramesco looks at the contradictions in 1991’s The Rapture:
A louche erotic drama mutates into a psychological thriller, then finally ascends into a celestial parable. With that last drastic pivot, one type of movie turns into the other, its credence and ambivalence all the more affecting for their grounding up to that point. As Sharon says with the serene knowingness of those heeding the call, “Until you accept God into your heart, it’s like a fairytale, it’s like some joke you don’t get.” Even cinema itself can be converted.
At Paste Magazine, Kayleigh Donaldson revisits Gus van Sant’s Psycho remake and sees a director’s haunting vision of the future:
Nowadays, the idea of a shot-for-shot remake of a classic is still considered pointless by most, yet it’s now a default mode for major studios. Disney has spent well over a decade translating its animated films to live-action, changing so little of the aesthetic and tone that they feel more like theme park attractions than true narratives. Critics quickly grew tired of this formula, but remakes of The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid made billions. Franchise filmmaking has never been more generic, with assembly line productions like the Marvel Cinematic Universe rigidly committed to a tone and pallor that cannot change regardless of who sits in the director’s chair. It’s no longer desecrating a sacred object to do remakes in this manner; it’s good business. Van Sant called it a “marketing scheme” back in 1998, after all. Everyone else just caught up in the 25 years since.
And for Bookforum, Phoebe Chen reviews Yunte Huang’s new biography of screen legend Anna May Wong:
Though she is the book’s organizing interest, Wong often disappears behind reams of epochal précis that span half a century of Chinese Exclusion Acts, California’s anti-miscegenation laws (on- and off-screen), and more than one international conflict. After all, Huang’s premise is stitched into the subtitle: “Anna May Wong’s Rendezvous with American History.” This works because it’s all in service of Huang’s true subject, to which he always returns: the strange ambivalence that marks any racialized performer’s ascent to fame. Wong’s star image was built on endless contradictions that, at times, rattled her sense of self.