John Wyver writes: another Sunday, another lot of links, starting out with a couple of essential lists to help you catch up with the year’s highlights.
• The 50 best films of 2021: who can resist this essential offer from Sight & Sound, compiling the choices of more than 100 critics and contributors?
• The 10 best TV series of 2021: also from Sight & Sound, and I voted in this one; four of my five choices made the cut, including The Underground Railroad (above).
• The silences of the silent era: Pamela Hutchinson at Criterion’s The Current:
Important strides are being made toward recognizing that women, people of color, and members of other oppressed communities made silent films, and, even more so, in making those films accessible. But there are still persistent absences, lost histories of performers who were beloved by audiences in the 1910s and ’20s but are little known today. Their omission from the record books is not so innocent, because it was motivated by prejudice and has reinforced similarly pernicious attitudes in subsequent eras.
• American families: also at The Current, Radha Vatsal discusses Alan Berliner’s 1986 found footage documentary The Family Album and raises similar questions, albeit in a different context, to Pamela Hutchinson’s article.
• The big dream: Annette, Perfect Lives, and the gesamtkunstwerk: Ruairi McCann for Mubi’s Notebook on Leos Carax and, remarkably, Robert Ashley’s pioneering video opera made way back in 1984, part of the recording for which I attended at the Almeida.
• A tale of the tapes – on the ‘recreated’ conversations in Speer Goes to Hollywood: Glenn Kenny at RogerEbert.com with a fascinating, knotty, deeply detailed story about ethics and documentary film-making.
• Why Dune‘s visual effects feel so different: I learned a lot from this fascinating analysis by Thomas Flight:
• ‘You just have to accept that Wes Is right’: Matt Zoller Seitz, extracted in Vulture, with the crew of The French Despatch explaining ‘how [they] pulled off the movie’s quietly impossible tracking shot’.
• Here’s why movie dialogue has gotten more difficult to understand (and three ways to fix it: Ben Pearson for slashfilm on why ‘it has become more difficult to, in the paraphrased words of Chris Tucker’s Detective Carter in Rush Hour, understand the words that are coming out of characters’ mouths.’
• Lots of additional recommendations in this:
• Anglicizing the avant-garde: a smart piece by Benjamin Riley for The New Criterion about interwar visual culture in Britain, in response to the Met’s exhibition “Modern Times: British Prints, 1913–1939” (which I think is a version of show that was at the British Museum a while ago).
• Colour photography, children’s books and Collins Publishers (1940s), part 1: Going Shopping: a wonderful post by Stephen Herbert about a group of images of Britain just after the last war.
• Tool: Screenshot: terrific thoughts from Kim Bell at The Believer on the history of the screenshot ‘as an alternate history of photography’.
• 1000 Words – Writer Conversations #3 Joanna Zylinska: provocative ideas from one of today’s most significant and influential photography writers and theorists.
• What does it mean to save a neighborhood?: an excellent Michael Kimmelman essay for The New York Times about planning, regeneration and community with implications far beyond its specific location of lower Manhattan.
• Twitter thread of the week:
• ‘More democratic, and less toxic’ – turning a troubled theater around: A.J. Goldmann for The New York Times on recent developments at Berlin’s Volksbühne.
• Inside story – the first pandemic novels have arrived, but are we ready for them?: Lara Feigel takes the wartime short stories of Elizabeth Bowen as a touchstone to start her discussion of new books from, among others, Ali Smith, Sally Rooney and Roddy Doyle.
• As the lock rattles: a remarkable review essay by John Lanchester for the LRB on the pandemic.
• Not humane, just invisible – a counternarrative to Samuel Moyn’s Humane: for the LA Review of Books, Priya Satia:
Samuel Moyn’s new book, Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, argues that with the advent of drones, the latter has vanquished the former, inaugurating an era of endless humane war akin to policing. Moyn is right to call our attention to endless war and to drones’ role in suppressing antiwar sentiment but misunderstands how they do so.
• Pokémon and the first wave of digital nostalgia: Kyle Chayka for The New Yorker on the creation of ‘a new Internet aesthetic from the old.’
• Colin Currie Group | Steve Reich: Drumming Part 1 50th Anniversary Exclusive Film – just glorious: