The Roundup: August 20

My top flips into my Flipboard magazines this week, whether the articles are new or old. Read more of my magazines at my Flipboard profile.

Current Film

You Can Do Anything: Must Every Kids’ Movie Reinforce the Cult of Self-Esteem? by Luke Epplin at The Atlantic

I find the fact that so many kids movies have a super-obvious and condescending message irritating in the first place, but that so many have the same message with no counterpoint is really getting old. It’s one thing to encourage kids to dream, but another to set unrealistic expectations without helping them learn contentment.

In addition to disparaging routine labor, these films discount the hard work that enables individuals to reach the top of their professions. Turbo and Dusty don’t need to hone their craft for years in minor-league circuits like their racing peers presumably did. It’s enough for them simply to show up with no experience at the world’s most competitive races, dig deep within themselves, and out-believe their opponents. They are, in many ways, the perfect role models for a generation weaned on instant gratification.

Why Kick-Ass 2 Creator Mark Millar’s Rape Comments Have So Many People Angry by Kristy Puchko at Cinemablend

Response to the Mark Millar story I included in last week’s roundup.

Secondly, rape and decapitation are not the same. Both are horrible acts of violence, sure. But the latter is not one that causes people to ask, “Well, what was she wearing when she got decapitated?” There’s no victim blaming inherent in decapitation, but more to the point decapitation is not a thing that people fear in their day-to-day life the way that many women fear rape.

Sophomore Efforts Marathon: The Elephant Man (1980) by Dan Heaton of Public Transportation Snob

I think The Elephant Man was one of the first Lynch films I saw, certainly the first one I liked (I may have seen Blue Velvet earlier, which I did not like). I have yet to go back and see Eraserhead, but I intend to.

The opening shots of Merrick’s mother screaming are extremely chilling and set the mood for the entire story. He’s misunderstood as a monster, and the terror of facing the public remains with Merrick. The overall message is upbeat, but Lynch creates a tone of dread that matches Eraserhead. When life is going well, it feels like it’s only a matter of time before this hope crashes back to reality.

Summer of the Mega-Flop by Ben Kenigsberg at Slate

I wish I could find another article on this summer’s box office I read and stupidly didn’t add to Flipboard, but it pointed out that overall box office is actually UP this year, despite all the flops. Some films are doing extremely well, others very poorly, which suggests the event film is oversaturating the market now – there are simply too many of these films for everyone to go to them all.

What we’ve experienced over the last half-decade has been the creation of a blockbuster bubble, with all the major studios herding toward the same global “event movie” model. Films with built-in brand recognition are easier to market overseas; action sequences and special effects don’t lose much in translation. Always present, the emphasis on repeating past successes and finding tie-ins and spinoffs has only grown.

Classic Film

A Day – and Night – Under the Stars with Catherine Deneuve by The Lady Eve of The Lady Eve’s Reel Life

A lovely and very informative tribute to Catherine Deneuve, originally for the TCM Summer Under the Stars blogathon, but just as worth reading now that Deneuve’s TCM day has come and gone, for this year anyway.

Catherine Deneuve has portrayed a wide range of characters on screen, expanding her repertoire (from sweet and innocent to beautiful and aloof to strong and independent) as her career progressed. She came, almost accidentally, to film acting through her sister and was initially admired primarily (and extravagantly) for her serene and impeccable porcelain beauty. Soon enough she was recognized for the depth and sensitivity of her work and, as her reputation flourished, she was able to pick and choose her roles.

Seconds by Scott Tobias at The Dissolve

With John Frankenheimer’s Seconds hitting the Criterion Collection this week, there have been a lot of people writing about it, and I really liked Tobias’s take on the film. I saw it years ago when I was probably too young for it and not ready for either its cynicism or its formal experimentation, but I’m eager to revisit it. See also: Seconds and the Semiotics of Rock Hudson, by Glenn Kenny.

At times, Howe’s black-and-white photography emphasizes the drab grays of Arthur’s suburban manse, but from the opening-credits sequence (by Saul Bass), Seconds mangles and distends the windows of perception until viewers get immersed in his sweat-soaked nightmare. The film tells the story of a man who tries to change his identity, but the elasticity of science isn’t matched by the elasticity of consciousness. For an individual to truly change, without leaving any psychological residue behind, is impossible—to quote Confucius via The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

Imitation of Life (or) How to Traumatize Your 13-Year-Old Daughter by Carley at The Moviola

I haven’t seen Imitation of Life myself, but I really enjoyed Carley’s look at the relationship between a biracial daughter and her black mother within the film, and how it played into her relationship with her own mother. I’ve never had that much desire to see the film, but I’m much more interested now.

My mother had many methods of discipline–but her subtle tactics were the ones that really worked, much more so than verbal correction. One of such clever tactics was to scold me (and my sister) through movies. Particularly old movies. I don’t remember what my silly 13-year-old mouth said that day […], but apparently it warranted a mandatory viewing of Douglas Sirk’s 1959 melodrama Imitation of Life, followed by a written page of my personal thoughts on the film after it was over.

Fred MacMurray: The Perfect Heel by Greg Ferrara at Movie Morlocks

If you only know Fred MacMurray from My Three Sons, check out this post. Though I imagine most of you know him from plenty of other places, in which case, enjoy this tribute to an actor whose praises aren’t sung enough.

It’s on-screen that’s important and on-screen, few actors played a heel better than MacMurray. In three performances, he did it so well it really is jaw-dropping that he didn’t get nominations. I know, I know, nominations and awards are meaningless but, still, it’s peer recognition, for better or worse, and if his peers couldn’t recognize his greatness in Double Indemnity, The Caine Mutiny and The Apartment then, brother, I’m not sure they should have been trusted with anything.

Not Film

Why Every Teen Should Be Watching So You Think You Can Dance by Kate Kulzick at Sound on Sight

I’ve been a big fan of So You Think You Can Dance since Season 2 (though I’ve had to miss a few seasons here and there due to time constraints), and for a lot of the same reasons this author mentions. The first few years it was tempting to compare it to American Idol, but the whole tone and feeling of the show is so different that it’s really impossible.

Every week, fantastically talented dancers and choreographers get the opportunity to share their gifts, and hard work, with America, and this passion can’t help but inspire an appreciation for art and expression in the audience. The show has a hugely positive message; the dancers are incredibly supportive of each other and the aforementioned host, Cat Deeley, stays firmly in the dancers’ corners as they await judgment from the panel and is quick with a hug or encouraging word as needed.

Difficult Women: How Sex and the City Lost Its Good Name by Emily Nussbaum at The New Yorker

I think the two movies did a huge blow to Sex and the City‘s reputation, but this article is great at highlighting what the show was really about, and how good it was at it. (Disclaimer: I’ve watched the first season or so, a long time ago on DVD, and that’s it. I still found the article interesting.)

“Sex and the City,” in contrast, was pigeonholed as a sitcom. In fact, it was a bold riff on the romantic comedy: the show wrestled with the limits of that pink-tinted genre for almost its entire run. In the end, it gave in. Yet until that last-minute stumble it was sharp, iconoclastic television. High-feminine instead of fetishistically masculine, glittery rather than gritty, and daring in its conception of character, “Sex and the City” was a brilliant and, in certain ways, radical show.

The Way Nickelodeon Presents Its Creators Reflects the Network’s Ongoing Creative Stagnation by C. Edwards at Cartoon Brew

Indeed, I’m intrigued by some of the new Cartoon Network shows (and I’ve really been enjoying the relatively new Teen Titans Go!), but most of the Nickelodeon slate mentioned just sounds really unappealing.

The direction of this presentation style is the polar opposite of Cartoon Network’s recent profiling of their upcoming slate of auteur-driven, character-based properties from smart, hipster-ish millenials. While CN is at least making an effort to nurture bright ideas from the next generation of talent, Nick hopes to distract from rebooted ideas and threadbare concepts with quick cuts, dubstepping ducks and rectally-focused gags that take the form of toilet plungers, cow farts and “booty kicks.”

It’s Time for More Leading Women in Games by Colin Campbell at Polygon

Seems like there’s more and more discussion of women in games going on, and that’s a great thing. This article spends most of its time highlighting a third party that reimagines existing games with female leads instead of male ones, which I don’t think is the right direction to go, but the point is raising awareness of just how dismal the landscape is sometimes to girl gamers. The comments thread here is also well worth reading, which is unusual on these types of articles – the comments often devolve into misogyny quickly, but these stay pretty civil and articulate good points.

No-one is calling for a diktat that all fictional creations are offered to the public across an infinity of potentialities. But gaming got to this place of homogenous male leads, of creative sterility, because the marketers believed that’s what the world would pay for. This has not been an artistic choice, but a commercial one. The dominant video game male lead looks increasingly dated. As gaming audience diversifies, so must its output of lead character options.

50 of the Best Books You Haven’t Read by Authors You Already Love by Emily Temple at Flavorwire

I didn’t look through this entire list yet, but I’m intrigued by the first several entries, because I do like many of those authors and I haven’t read many (if any) of the books. It’s so easy to stick with the ones everyone reads and forget the rest.

After all, sometimes, amazing books just get lost in the shuffle, whether it’s because they’re before their time, fall out of fashion, or their author has one blockbuster that blots out all the rest. So after the jump, check out 50 great under-appreciated, under-read, and overshadowed novels by 50 of your favorite authors, and be sure to add any missing ringers to the list.

Images of the Week

Click on the image thumbnail to see it full-size in a lightbox. Click the links to see the source article and sometimes related images.

Exclusive premiere of Alex Pardee’s smashing The World’s End poster at io9

Cars and Films posters

The Secret of NIMH Poster by Mark Lone and Odd City at /Film

Video of the Week