Let’s start with two important pieces of writing about politics. One is Charles Simic’s Bleak house, a short but devastating state-of-the-American-nation piece for the New York Review of Books blog:
We have forgotten what this country once understood, that a society based on nothing but selfishness and greed is not a society at all, but a state of war of the strong against the weak.
The other is Stefan Collini’s essay on the privatisation of higher education in the London Review of Books, Sold out:
[Future historians] will at least record that, alongside its many other achievements, the coalition government took the decisive steps in helping to turn some first-rate universities into third-rate companies.
If you have the energy to read further below are many more links, some even a touch more cheerful, with thanks for Titter tips to @emilynussbaum, @filmdrblog, @filmstudiesff, @CraigClunas, @KeyframeDaily and @melissaterras,
• Storming the stage – Benjamin Britten’s cinematic mind: Paul Kildea at the BFI blog on the cinema, England and the great composer.
• How British television sat upon a Britten film: at Slipped Disc distinguished music filmmaker Tony Britten tells an all-too-familiar story about dealing with small-screen commissioners, and about how his determination got Benjamin Britten – Peace and Conflict made.
• The utopian news program: The Hour and The Newsroom: at the Los Angeles Review of Books, an immaculate comparison of the two shows by Aatif Rashid.
• Gravity and the power of narrative limits: a really good take on the movie by Jason Mittell at JustTV, but perhaps best read after you’ve seen the film.
• A foreign criminal – Panic: a great piece by Adrian Martin at Fandor about the 1963 British thriller:
Like much British genre cinema of the early 1960s—a field far more appreciated now than it was at the time by critics and connoisseurs—the atmosphere is mucky and amoral, saturated in cynicism, cheap thrills, and low-life gangsterism.
• Today’s best action directors aren’t working in Hollywood, but in direct-to-video: one of those pieces that makes you think about a whole area of film that you never otherwise consider – Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at The A.V. Club on the interest (and achievement) of films like Undisputed III: Redemption, 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded, Universal Soldier: Regeneration, U.S. Seals II, and The Marine 3: Homefront.
• 12 Years a Slave, Mother of George, and the aesthetic politics of filming black skin: a fascinating piece by Ann Hornady at The Washington Post.
• Romeo and Juliet – the film adaptations: a comparison of the most recent with earlier versions, by Jill L. Levenson, editor of Romeo and Juliet: The Oxford Shakespeare.
• Our university: thoughts about documentary maker Frederick Wiseman’s latest institutional study At Berkeley by Genevieve Yue at Reverse Shot.
• Escape from Tomorrow – behind the scenes: regular readers will know that I am fascinated by Randy Moore’s dystopian thriller that was shot secretly at Disney World; the movie is not released in the UK yet, but here is an interesting interview-based piece from Vice:
• From Hastings to Leighley – rediscovering Bill Brand: at Critical Studies in Television Christine Geraghty reflects on the very particular qualities of Trevor Griffiths’ Thames Television serial from 1976.
• Dying technologies: the end of 35 mm slide transparencies: a really interesting research project from Tate, with numerous detailed texts.
• Video factory – transcoding video for BBC iPlayer: a tech-y but nonetheless really interesting post at the BBC Internet blog from Marina Kalkanis.
• A correlation between free, digital open-access: this is an important piece from Tyler Green at Modern Art Notes about free admission at art museums and developments in making digital images freely available.
• Manifest opulence: Julian Stallybrass at the LRB blog has a healthy rant again Frieze and the art market:
Future generations may look on our various spectacles of conspicuous consumption – the art fair, and the fashion, yacht or car show – with the same incomprehension and horror that we look on the mass slaughter of the buffalo.
• Heroes and villains – Nate Hill in New York: a remarkable piece of critical writing about the performance artist by Gene McHugh at Rhizome.
• The dead are real: Larissa Macfarquhar is very good in the New Yorker on the historical fiction of Hilary Mantel.
• Nick Hytner – the final lap: a very good interview for The Stage by Alistair Smith.
• Coming up on Hear and Now – Stockhausen’s Gesang der Jünglinge: last night Radio 3 broadcast excerpts from the original master tapes of ‘the first masterpiece of electronic music’, and Robert Worby has the story.
Image: Walker Evans, South Street, New York (detail), 1932; used thanks to The Getty Trust Open Content Program.