On Friday Netflix made available simultaneously all thirteen episodes of its House of Cards re-make (above). The serial, starring Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher, has had a mixed press – Alessandra Stanley for The New York Times described it as ‘a delicious immorality play with an excellent cast, but the tempo is slow and oddly ponderous’. But it is the innovative release strategy that has attracted most attention. This has been shaped by the recognition that in the age of DVDs and DVRs our viewing habits are changing in fundamental ways. As Brian Selter writes in The New York Times, ‘People have been known to brag about finishing a whole 12-episode season of Homeland in one sitting.’ (We watched just the three shows on Friday night.) Selter is good on the changes, as is Mark Sweney for the Guardian and Tim Carmody for The Verge, who says House of Cards is ‘more like a thirteen-part movie than episodic TV’. Across the jump, more links to more interesting stuff, with recommendation h/ts to among others @nictate, @annehelen, @prodnose, @bergersmicer and @Geoff_Andrew.
• The New York Review of Books, February 1 1963, vol 1 no 1: Happy 50th Birthday! The link takes you to the Index page of the first issue – and from there to all of the articles. Slate asks Was this the best first issue of any magazine ever? and hymns ‘the arrival of a particular sensibility, too: that of the engaged, literary, post-war progressive intellectual, who was concerned with civil rights and feminism as well as fiction and poetry and theater.’
• Double agents in love: … and in the latest NYRB Lorrie Moore writes thoughtfully about Homeland.
• What made The O. C. great, bitch: a terrific essay by Jia Tolentino and Mallory Ortberg about ‘the first show to capitalize on the growing popular appetite for indie music, an early champion of nerd culture as default, the first teen soap to be explicitly self-aware’.
• TV on TV – the set that failed: Christine Geraghty at CSTOnline is typically acute about the representation of television as a medium in the 1959 Hancock episode ‘The set that failed’:
It’s interesting that the programme collects up and makes fun of so many of the criticisms that were being made of television by the sociologists and educationalists of the 1950s in terms of the quality of television’s technology and the effect on the audience.
• Wake up call… Hindle Wakes (1927): ithankyou is very good on director Maurice Elvey’s silent film version of Stanley Houghton’s 1912 drama.
• The making of Pulp Fiction in stills, snapshots and script pages: a terrific Vanity Fair portfolio of photos and ephemera, which is accompanied by an oral history of the movie’s production that is fascinating even to those of us who rather resist the film’s charms.
• Steven Soderbergh on quitting Hollywood, getting the best out of J-Lo, and his love ofGirls: this Mary Kaye Schilling interview with the director has generated boffo buzz online this week – and when you read it (which you should) it’s easy to see why.
• What is the 21st century? – Revising the dictionary: at Mubi.com Ignatiy Vishnevetsky reflects on digital workflow and its impact on how films are made and how they are written about. Steven Soderbergh is central to this too, but this is the core of Visnevetsky’s argument:
One of the biggest problems facing film criticism and film culture is that that there is often very little relationship between how movies are written about and how they’re actually made. Film is a medium that is inextricably linked to technology, but the language we use to talk about and evaluate films is by-and-large the language of antique or dying technologies or of environments (such as the old studio system, with its clear divisions of filmmaking labor) that no longer exist. While much of the old critical / cinephilic vocabulary—mise en scène, montage, etc.—still works, it’s often not enough.
• The evil that men do: Anthony Lane for The New Yorker on Caesar Must Die, the new film from the Taviani brothers, Paolo and Vittorio…
• Film of the week – Bullhead: … and for Sight and Sound Paul Tickell writes wonderfully on Michaël R. Roskam’s ‘Belgian cattle-doping film noir’.
• Stefan Kudelski, Polish Inventor of Recorder That Changed Hollywood, Dies at 83: who knew that the Nagra tape recorder was invented by Mr Kudelski? Paul Vitello at The New York Times writes the obit.
• 10 former art sensations that the market has left behind: caveat emptor say Shane Ferro and Rachel Corbett at BlouinArtInfo as they reflect that ‘taste can be fickle’.
• Paradiabolical: Adam Curtis’ latest – and, as always, essential – post aims to tell two stories:
One is the complex local power struggles that have helped the rise of Islamism in Africa, and the second is the way past western interventions have fuelled a hatred and distrust of Europe and America – that has in turn massively helped the Islamist cause.
• Palestine – how bad, & good, was British rule?: another invaluable NYRB article, from Avishai Margalit about the British in Palestine between, roughly, 1917 and 1948.
• For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II: this is an astonishing – just, astonishing – story, from Mike Dash at Smithsonian.com.
• How blogging helped me write my dissertation: Maxime Larivé at The Chronicle writes that ‘blogging has allowed me to face my ghosts, build up a network of contacts, and advance faster through the process of writing my dissertation’ (and there’s even a Soderbergh reference in there too).
• ‘Fandom is a world with no prejudice’: Gina Bellman (second from left above, with the cast of her show Leverage) writes beautifully about fandom from the other side:
At the conventions, the fans appear relatively laid-back about meeting their perceived idols compared with their excitement about putting faces to avatars and finally meeting their co-conspirators from around the world. I think it’s fair to say that most of them are functional members of society leading fulfilling lives. But some can relate to the author of the “fan farewell”, isolated by anxiety disorders or physical disabilities. I’ve never before witnessed a group of people so accepting. It’s a world with no prejudice. The fandom they belong to accepts them, encourages them and embraces them, and the Twitterati they follow engages and responds.
• Embrace and ambivalence: an ideas-rich piece for the American Association of University Professors by Virginia Kuhn on media-rich digital dissertations (with a nod to John Berger along the way):
As scholarship exceeds the bounds of the printed page, the attendant issues such as formatting, archiving, and citation practices must be reconsidered.
• envisioning the future with yo la tengo, r. buckminster fuller, & sam green: a tremendous Michelle Aldredge gwarlingo post about the visionary designer, architect and inventor and about a highly distinctive ‘live cinema’ presentation on his life from artist Sam Green, The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller which is described as ‘part TED talk, part travelogue, part Japanese Benshi’.
• Walking the dead: Alex Butterworth posts about his intriguing REACT Books&Print project, and about Berlin, timelines, transport, and the locative symphony.
• “The Wheel of the Devil”: on Vine, gifs and the power of the loop: Chris Baraniuk at The Machine Starts offers historical context and true insight to the discussion of Vine.
• The Railway Children – 8mm film of wrap party: … and finally, there is something so innocently other-worldly about these fragments just posted to YouTube by Gary Warren, who was the child actor who played Peter in the 1970 film with Dinah Sheridan and Jenny Agutter.