The Roundup: March 3, 2014

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.


Film Preservation 2.0 by Michael Dessem at The Dissolve


I’ve written before about my worries about moving from film to digital, and yes, I have a romantic attachment to film. But on those pieces, I’ve had people point out that digital is good because it will be cheaper and easier to store than giant film reels. It would seem that way, but at this point in time, digital preservation is actually MORE costly, MORE difficult, MORE time-consuming, and MORE prone to disaster than current safety film stock. We need to not assume that digital is a placebo for preservation – there’s a long road ahead as all the technology is worked out to make digital preservation both cost-effective and safe.

As the death of film accelerates, the terms and stakes of the battle are changing rapidly, in ways that aren’t well understood outside the small community of archivists working directly in the field. Digital technology offers a chance for perfect, lossless preservation, but only at significant financial cost, and higher risk of catastrophe. Unless the unique challenges of digital preservation are met, we run the risk of a future in which a film from 1894 printed on card stock has a better chance of surviving than a digital film from 2014.

Gigi (1958): A Defense by Farran Smith Nehme of The Self-Styled Siren


I’m in the habit of backpedaling on my opinion of Gigi, letting myself capitulate to the current trend of considering it a bit squicky and borderline pedophiliac. I did this as recently as last week in this very same column, when I shared an article about the art style in Minnelli’s musicals. But the Self-Styled Siren has shown me the error of my ways. I’m not going to apologize for liking Gigi anymore.

And one question: Why is Gigi, which ends with its vivacious heroine happily married to a rich man who loves her the way she is, a sick-sick-sick movie; while Vertigo, in which the lovelorn female lead tries to turn herself into a fictional character and winds up stone dead, is a “preferable” depiction of male-female relations?

Who Killed the Romantic Comedy by Amy Nicholson at LA Weekly


The romantic comedy as a film genre is dead. But what, or who, killed it? Nicholson goes through the usual suspects and shows how each has a part to play in the loss of the romantic comedy, but can’t bear the full blame they’re often given. It’s a fascinating read – I’ve never been a big fan of romantic comedies (except the good ones, natch), but I do think it’s a shame that there’s seemingly no place for them in the current cinematic climate.

As in an Agatha Christie novel, there are many suspects. Some observers blame teenagers, who aren’t interested in any romance that doesn’t start with a “bro” (and preferably stars two guys in capes). Others blame men who think they’ll lose testosterone if they buy tickets to any movie with a whiff of chick flick about it. Still others point to the all-important foreign markets, or j’accuse ourselves, arguing that as a culture we’ve simply stopped believing in love.But when we set out sleuthing for the smoking gun, the plot thickened: Those usual suspects have airtight alibis. As with any good murder mystery, the truth is both more complicated than you might have assumed — and a whole lot simpler.

In Memory of Alain Resnais by Richard Brody of the New Yorker


Another French New Wave (ish) director has left us, and Brody looks at the recurring theme of memory in Alain Resnais’ films. I’ve only seen a couple films by Resnais, and they are tough to crack, but I think this little memorial piece has helped set me up to understand him better in the future.

Resnais, who was born in 1922, spent wartime in occupied Paris, where he took acting classes and tried to launch a career, amid primordial efforts at filmmaking. (He also clandestinely ferried food to a Jewish journalist friend in hiding, Frédéric de Towarnicki, who later worked with Resnais as a screenwriter.) Resnais started making films after the war, a time when memory itself was, in France, an equivocal virtue—and he made memory his subject. And, from his quest to realize memory in cinema, he made one of the most original of style in the history of the medium.

In Character: Amy Adams by Alex Withrow of And So It Begins


Alex seems to be moving more into lead/supporting actors than character actors in his In Character series, but I can’t say I really mind. Amy Adams is an interesting one for me, because I will go see anything she’s in because she’s in it and I like her, and yet she’s always surprising me with how good she is. It’s like, I expect her to be good, but then she’s amazing and I can’t ever remember how amazing she is until the next film, when I’m surprised all over again.

One of the greatest reveals of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, is discovering that the petit, unassuming wife of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the one who really runs the show. Peggy is the ticking clock, the angel (or devil) on Lancaster’s shoulder, quietly chiming in whenever she deems it necessary. But the true beauty of Peggy is that she doesn’t follow a straight path. She never sets out to get her way in the same manner that she did before. She can ask for something calmly, or demand it with a raised voice, both with equal weight. A smile or stare of cold resentment from Peggy say more than any monologue.

A Few More…

Not Cinema

The Male Gaze of Critics by Colin Biggs at Movie Mezzanine


I’ve been sharing a bunch of True Detective-related stuff, lately, so I’m sorry for that, but I am pretty into the show right now and there’s not much else on TV I’m watching. Give it a few more weeks and I’ll be sharing Game of Thrones stuff. :) Anyway, I’ve seen snippets of these charges of misogyny against the show on Twitter, but I think Colin makes a good distinction here between whether the show is misogynistic or whether the characters are. Now, there’s a whole other discussion to be had over how many shows favor the male point of view regardless of how good each show is on its own, but this is a decent place to start.

While many are hailing the latest detective serial as a dark masterpiece and further proof that television is in a golden age, others aren’t so quick to lay on the praise. In particular, The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum is in the camp that True Detective fails to push past its slick surface to deliver something meaningful. The big reason for that? Flat female characters.

This Game Tracks Your Fear and Teaches You How to Master It by Brian Crecente at Polygon


When I first read this headline, I thought it was just about some survival horror game or something, and I was like NOPE. Turns out it’s actually about a researcher developing a game to aid trauma victims in recovery and learning to cope with fear via a biofeedback monitor that affects the gameplay. Even more interesting, the developers are in talks with Microsoft to use Kinect for the monitoring, which is one of the more unique and useful ways I’ve seen discussed to use Kinect.

In my hour or so playing the game, the view into this surreal world would sometimes become obfuscated with static, a sign that my heart rate was rising. While exploring some rooms my heart rate dictated how hard it was to find a clue or survive a flood. Later, if my heart rate increased the world would become jarringly distorted and filled with blaring music. The point of all of this was two fold, Reynold said: To create a biofeedback-enhanced horror adventure game and to train people to recognize and deal with their own stress. And it works. Not only was the game obviously tuned to my emotional state, by the end of the journey I found myself pausing and taking a deep breath to slow my heart rate and more calmly tackle the nightmares that confronted me.

The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar by Michelle Navarre Cleary


I’ve been saying this for years. Teach grammar by reading good books and writing about what excites you. By the time you’re learning actual grammar concepts, you should already “know” what’s right. That said, I do love diagramming me some sentences.

This finding—confirmed in 1984, 2007, and 2012 through reviews of over 250 studies—is consistent among students of all ages, from elementary school through college. For example, one well-regarded study followed three groups of students from 9th to 11th grade where one group had traditional rule-bound lessons, a second received an alternative approach to grammar instruction, and a third received no grammar lessons at all, just more literature and creative writing. The result: No significant differences among the three groups—except that both grammar groups emerged with a strong antipathy to English.

A Few More…

Photos of the Week

25 Literary Opening Lines Diagrammed on One Giant Poster at MentalFloss


Told you I liked diagramming sentences. These are beautiful. Click the image above to see it GIANT-SIZED.

Han and Chewie: The Early Years


Video of the Week

I’m way behind on watching Criterion’s Three Reasons videos, but I finally got to the one for Fantastic Mr. Fox, and it’s pretty fantastic.