Links for the weekend

Links for the weekend

So let’s talk about Beyoncé. Everyone else is. Especially about her half-time Super Bowl show last Sunday (above, the video is embedded in several of the pieces linked to), which through the week prompted a slew of interesting pieces. These include The roots of Beyoncé’s Super Bowl spectacular by Ann Helen for NPR’s The Record, who writes thoughtfully of a ‘display of imperial charisma [that] comes off as a historical inevitability, and as something that benefits us all’. Also worth reading are Tom Shales’ How many Beyonci does it take to blow out a Super Bowl? for the Chicago Sun-TimesWhy the Super Bowl needed Beyoncé by Mark Blankenship at NewNowNext and On Beyoncé’s face from Avidly. But make sure you don’t miss Anne Helen Petersen’s Beyoncé, feminism, ambivalence and the fascinating string of comments that this ‘sermon’ (her word) has sparked. There are more good links across the jump, with h/t thanks this week to @charleskriel, @Chi_Humanities, @erik_kwakkel and @alanclarkeGD. Meanwhile, just because I can…


The worst thing about Birth of a Nation is how good it is: as insightful as ever, Richard Brody at The New Yorker reflects on D W Griffith’s ‘disgustingly racist yet titanically original 1915 feature’.

The Life Story of David Lloyd George (1918) – the great lost British film: Neil Brand is very persuasive at Silent London about the qualities of Maurice Elvey’s long-thought-lost biopic that is to be shown next Sunday at the Barbican (I’ll be there); as Brand writes,

I urge you to see this ‘lost’ masterpiece on its only London showing, and be prepared to have your preconceptions about British cinema, the first world war and silent cinema acting overturned.

If you can’t make it, there are clips online at the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales.

Soul on ice: a near-definitive piece by Jerry Whyte at Cineoutsider about Carl Dreyer’s La passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928), prompted by the recent Masters of Cinema Blue-ray re-release.

The legacy of a camera-toting huckster: the great story, in an article for The New York Times  by Amanda Petrusich, of itinerant filmmaker Melton Barker who during four decades made the same two-reeler in towns across the States, each time featuring – for a fee – local kids as the stars; there’s more, including several versions of his film, The Kidnappers’ Foil, here.

Capote classic In Cold Blood tainted by  long-lost files: a fascinating report by Kevin Holliker for the Wall Street Journal on challenges to Truman Capote’s (supposedly) ‘immaculately factual’ 1966 tale of a family’s slaughter.

Live to tell: Adrian Martin at transit is terrific on the modern teen movie, ‘the least doctrinaire, the least self-conscious, and the least … politically correct of popular genres’.

Graf Attack!: or The Possibility Space: Daniel Kasman reports for Mubi.com from the International Film Festival Rotterdam on his discovery of the films and television of Dominik Graf  - it’s a stimulating piece in many ways, and should be read with the exemplary notes on Rotterdam’s retrospective by curators Olaf Moller and Christoph Huber and a richly informative Senses of Cinema interview with the director by Marco Abel, I build a jigsaw-puzzle of a dream-Germany.

Domink Graf’s 2004 drama Kalter Fruhling is online in its entirety (although I’m not sure that it should be) and I have embedded it here. This is part of the description from the Rotterdam programme notes:

The last part of a loose trilogy of pulp melodramas Graf made around the turn of the millennium, this is the most abstract and obviously subversive of the three. Imagine Douglas Sirk and Alfred Vohrer joining forces to help Jean-Marie Straub adapt a particularly outrageous Rosamunde Pilcher rip-off, and you get some idea of the sheer weirdness you’re in for.

On thickness and thinness in cinema: @girishshambu is good on the documentary qualities of fiction that are sacrificed by ‘intensified continuity’.

Re: found footage: Patrick Russell at the BFI blog makes some good points about the interest and value of the recent ‘genre’ of compilation or found-footage features exemplified by Penny Woolcock’s From the Sea to the Land Beyond (2012) and Julien Temple’s London: The Modern Babylon (2012)

Prometheus – the second screen experience: interesting piece at Graffiti Comet about the innovative elements of the movie’s Blu-ray.

You, me and Star Trek: The Next Generation: look, it’s the second Anne Helen Petersen recommendation of the week – another smart and gorgeous and totally personal piece, this time from The Awl.

Hannah barbaric: The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum is just great on HBO’s Girls and Enlightened.

Has NBC passed the point of no return?: @emilynussbaum (rightly) recommended the ’fantastic & convincing’ analysis by @TVMoJoe (Josef Adalian) of the desperate decline of the Peacock network.

House of Cards and the changing nature of television: more on the game-changer that the Netflix original series may prove to be, here from Craig Hubert at BlouinArtInfo

House of Cards and the decline of cable: … and here from Tim Wu at The New Yorker

Lunch with the FT – David Fincher: .. and here is the director of House of Cards interviewed by Matthew Garrahan over a salad in a Washington D C basement bar.

The shape of the century: a truly evocative piece by James Pardey from the archives of Eye about the design of the covers of Fontana Modern Masters paperbacks.

82nd and Fifth: New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has launched a beautiful new online series with 100 works of art and 100 curators they inspired – audio and image slideshows are accompanied by opportunities to rotate or explore in other ways the objects being discussed.

The Story of the Beautiful: virtual tours of James MacNeill Whistler’s 1884 Peacock Room, complemented by all sorts of other info, courtesy of the Freer Gallery of Art.

Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1925: this is a wonderful interactive graphic accompanying the current MoMA exhibition – go play! Plus, WQXR has put together a playlist of music written during these years as an accompaniment to the show.  

At MoMA: Hal Foster reviews MoMA’s Inventing Abstraction for the London Review of Books. (I can’t tell you how much I want to see this show before it closes on 15 April.)

• Jerry Saltz on ’93 in art: looking back twenty years to the Whitney Biennial that everyone hated, the New York critic reflects on why it was so good.

• How do you solve a problem like MOCA?: Bob Colacello at Vanity Fair has the inside dope on what’s been happening at the troubled Los Angeles museum.

Alec Soth’s Great Plains Dispatch: I love the photography of Alec Soth (with whom we filmed many moons ago), and here he is reflecting on his recent assignment on the oil boom in North Dakota for The New York Times; his images, with echoes of Walker Evans and W Eugene Smith, are compelling.

The next chapter – storytelling embarks on an interactive adventure: David Cornish at Wired talks to @matlock and others on a quest to understand which digital directions publishing should follow.

On getting lost: a really stimulating piece from Thinking about museums about story-telling, linearity immersion, magic and the design of museums.

Dara O Briain’s Science Club – Delivering extra content while you watch: producer Michael Orwell writes for the BBC Internet Blog about the use of Twitter to deliver complementary content during broadcasts.

Opening up speech archives: ‘flu drove me from Luke McKernan’s British Library conference about the potential of speech-to-text technologies for media archivists, but his excellent blog post is a great place to start exploring this important topic.

The rise and fall of Nikola Tesla and his tower: a wonderful essay from the Smithsonian’s Past Imperfect blog about the brilliant Serbian who invented AC motors but who died penniless in 1943.

Speak, memory: a typically and apparently effortlessly elegant essay by Oliver Sacks for The New York Review of Books about imagined memories and plagiarism.

Remembering Stanley Forman: Michael Chanan at Putney Debater pays tribute to a remarkable man of the Left, a Jew, a Communist, a great film archivist, a historian and one of the nicest people you could meet.

(The portrait comes from Michael’s blog, where the credit is to Martin Smith’s It’s a wonderful life (1994); see also the informative interview with Stanley by Tony Pomfret and Tom Fogg.)

I can vividly recall the distinctive timbre of Stanley’s voice as he talked in the bar about a film we had just seen at the NFT. Stanley was knowledgeable and persuasive and, yes, dogmatic, but in the most polite way possible. We shall not see his like again.