It’s the first day of the second month of the year, and after far too long a break I have some new links to offer. One key event of the week, for all sorts of reasons which I hope to return to, was the release on BBC iPlayer only of Adam Curtis’ new film Bitter Lake (above). The film itself, glorying in its 2 hour 17 minutes length, is here (seemingly just for another 23 days, although why that should be the case is puzzling). But for The Spectator Pakistan correspondent for the Guardian Jon Boone offers an interesting riposte describing the film as ‘a Carry On Up the Khyber view of Afghanistan’. For the Guardian itself, however, Emma Graham-Harrison writes that ‘Bitter Lake is a brilliant portrayal of the west’s arrogance in Afghanistan’. For the same media source, Sam Wollaston pretty much agrees: ‘Adam Curtis’s beautiful, gripping film unravels a story of violence, bloodshed and bitter ironies’.
Other recent tidbits of interest include…
• No detail goes unnoticed when art is just a click away: for The New York Times, Ken Johnson has an excellent round-up of new online initiatives from major art museums.
• Filling the box – the never-ending pan-and-scan story: from David Bordwell, with a cornucopia of images, and simply essential.
• Nuremberg – Its Lesson for Today: Jan-Christopher Horak at the UCLA Film and Television Archive is fascinating on ‘the mother of all Holocaust documentaries’, made in 1948 by Stuart Schulberg for the U.S. Army.
• Visual education: from earlier in January, Luke McKernan on educational film and video.
• Video essay: Altman TV: so good on Robert Altman’s early television, from Film Comment (a transcript is here):
• My London film education: memories of cinema-going in the capital in the early ’90s by Julian Allen for Reverse Shot.
• La Ciénaga – what’s outside the frame: a rich Criterion essay by David Oubina on Lucrecia Martel’s 2001 feature film.
• American Sniper: Chris Wisniewski’s reflections for Reverse Shot made me think again about Clint Eastwood’s movie: ‘Patriotism and jingoism aren’t the same, and Eastwood’s film is too accomplished and too slippery to warrant blanket dismissal or repudiation.’
• The history of the American economy, told through Super Bowl ads: a glorious round-up from Matthew Zeitlin at Buzzfeed.
• Marshawn Lynch and the future of sports celebrity: Anne Helen Petersen, also for Buzzfeed, asks whether the running back’s refusal to speak to the press is indicative of ‘a new, negotiated mode of sports stardom’.
• I want to howl: who better to review a new biography of Eugene O’Neill than critic and biographer extraordinaire John Lahr, for London Review of Books?
• A small, never-ending culture war: Andrew Haydon writes for Exeunt about why he writes about theatre:
I guess, like anything, theatre is a small, never-ending culture-war. A series of attacks and counter-attacks by artists against each other, all trying to explain the violence and horror, beauty and brilliance of the world to their audiences.
• Arts criticism in the digital age: … after which, further interesting reflections at The Space from Natasha Tripney, founding editor of Exeunt.
• BBC Taster – first week: a major BBC digital initiative, discussed by Adrian Woolard, Head of Connected Studio.
• Museums should make time for slower digital experiences: Danny Birchall on the Wellcome Collection’s ‘immersive and interactive digital story about madness, murder and mental healing’.
• Photographing where we take our photographs: a really smart (and beautiful) visualisation project by Philipp Schmitt, highlighted here by Jillian Steinhauer for Hyperallergic and detailed in this video:
• College claims copyright on 16th century Michelangelo sculpture, blocks 3D printing files: a cautionary tale from Mike Masnick at TechDirt.
• The most powerful artwork I have ever seen: at Vulture Jerry Saltz visits the Niaux Caves in the Pyrenees.
• How John Singer Sargent made a scene: for the Guardian Sarah Churchwell pens a very fine preview of the new National Portrait Gallery exhibition.
• Renzo Piano’s hidden masterpiece: Martin Filler for New York Review of Books on the architect’s construction in Paris for the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé.
• The pursuit of beauty: Alec Wilkinson for The New Yorker profiles mathematician Yitang Zhang.
• Latin lives: Anthony Grafton for The Nation is great on the value of the humanities: ‘I have seen the past, and it works.’
• A Few Notes on Our Food Problem:
‘Cinema Pacific and the James Blue Project are pleased to make available this streaming copy of James Blue’s pioneering essay film, which, in spite of the official restrictions prohibiting United States Information Agency films from being released in the United States, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1968. The film examines, visually and poetically, the efforts by people on three continents to improve agricultural methods and conquer world hunger.’