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Weekend Reads (Jan 28): Oscars, Action Movies, Autechre, Aliens, Marie Kondo
Recommended weekend reading material for January 28, 2023.
Every week, I compile a list of interesting and thought-provoking articles to offer you some enjoyable weekend reading material.
The full list of 2023 Oscar nominees has been released, and I’m pretty excited to see that Everything Everywhere All at Once leads with eleven(!) nominations, including “Best Picture,” “Best Lead Actress” for Michelle Yeoh, and “Best Supporting Actor” for Ke Huy Quan. I, of course, hope that Everything sweeps its nominations, but it’s up against some stiff competition. I also hope that RRR’s “Naatu Naatu” wins “Best Original Song.”
The 2023 Oscars ceremony will be broadcast on March 12, 2023, with Jimmy Kimmel hosting.
Much has been said about Hollywood’s lack of diversity. As it turns out, a recent American Film Institute study reveals that Hollywood was more diverse during the silent film era.
The study reports that from 1910-1930, 10.9% of feature film credits were attributed to women writers, directors and producers. During that same period, over 27.5% of women were credited as writers or co-writers; 19.6% of feature films were based on source material written by women; and films directed by women during this time period were 31% more likely to have female writers.
As the article points out, information about many of these films — including information about the women who helped make them — has been missing from official sources, so the AFI is working to add that to its catalog.
Haley Nahman addresses the “contagious visual blandness of Netflix” that she sees as pervading too many modern movies and TV shows.
It’s actually, specifically, about how movies these days look. That is, more flat, more fake, over-saturated, or else over-filtered, like an Instagram photo in 2012, but rendered in commercial-like high-def. This applies to prestige television, too. There are more green screens and sound stages, more CGI, more fixing-it-in-post. As these production tools have gotten slicker and cheaper and thus more widely abused, it’s not that everything looks obviously shitty or too good to feel true, it’s actually that most things look mid in the exact same way. The ubiquity of the look is making it harder to spot, and the overall result is weightless and uncanny. An endless stream of glossy vehicles that are easy to watch and easier to forget.
In this sprawling essay, Wyatt Mason examines what makes for a truly great action movie, with John McTiernan’s Predator as a prime example.
[T]hese movies need to be good for the dudes who see them, not that I’m suggesting that action movies are only for dudes, except that I am suggesting that. They are meant to take the culturally and capitalistically and physically and sexually unempowered men of the world and fill their hearts with love, love of violence that might suggest how we’d feel if we stood a chance at lives that triumph over the limitations which, daily, make us feel like toads. The action movie is a testament to the ridiculousness of believing it should be otherwise; it is and has been a valentine shot — bang-bang! — into the rightfully broken heart of idiotic manhood.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the duo’s debut album, Treble’s Jeff Terich offers a beginner’s guide to Autechre’s challenging and otherworldly electronic music.
The Manchester duo of Sean Booth and Rob Brown began producing music at the dawn of the ’90s, but quickly transitioned from techno and acid house into more unconventional takes on those sounds, to what we now know (perhaps dubiously) as IDM, or “intelligent dance music.” And for a while, it was dance music — Autechre made some of the most forward thinking electronic music of the ’90s, beginning to dismantle the basic elements of beat-driven music, but that beat still remained at the heart of it. But as they advanced into the 21st century, the beats began to take new shapes as well, with different time signatures, tempos and patterns. They rewrote the rules altogether.
If you ever found yourself wishing that your folk and country music were a little trippier and more space-minded, then welcome to the world of Cosmic Americana.
There has been a growing interest over the last several years in combining the sonic earmarks of country and folk music with the more spacious structures of ambient music, psychedelia, spiritual jazz, minimalism, and new age. The notion of psychedelicizing country and folk music is hardly new: the Flying Burrito Brothers, Sandy Bull, the Byrds, and the New Riders of the Purple Sage all started that work almost six decades ago, to say nothing of the Grateful Dead, who serve as a nigh-universal touchstone among this current crop of lysergically-minded pickers and grinners. Still, the best work of recent years manages to voyage into vistas previously untold.
Public libraries have unfortunately become a major battleground in today’s culture wars, and Christian librarians can find themselves caught in the middle of the conflict. But they can also remind everyone that libraries serve a greater common good.
[I]f Christian librarians can work for pluralism in the public library — finding ways to serve their communities and coworkers no matter their faith background — can we work for it elsewhere? Faithful public librarians can show how to live in a community with passionate and serious disagreements by listening to criticism, trying to find solutions, and making their libraries welcoming to as many different people in their communities as they can.
Forget about the Star Trek’s version of alien life (i.e., humans with pointy ears and bad cases of acne). Today’s scientists are expanding their concept what constitutes “life” in their search for extraterrestrials.
Alien life could have genetic code with, say, different bases. NASA-supported 2019 research, from the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, successfully created synthetic DNA that used the four old-school bases and four new ones: P, Z, B and S. Scientists have also altered the strand part of genetic code, creating XNA — where X means anything goes — that uses a molecule such as cyclohexene (CeNA) or glycol (GNA), rather than deoxyribose. Big thinkers have long suggested that rather than using carbon as a base, as all these molecules do, perhaps alien life might use the functionally similar element silicon — meaning it wouldn’t have nucleic acids at all but other molecules that perhaps play the same role. If we can whip up such diversity in our minds and our labs, shouldn’t the universe be even more creative and capable?
Kondo says her life underwent a huge change after she had her third child, and external tidying has taken a back seat to the business of life. “My home is messy, but the way I am spending my time is the right way for me at this time at this stage of my life,” she said through an interpreter at a recent media webinar and virtual tea ceremony.
Kondo says that, for many, the perfectly organized space is not realistic. “Up until now, I was a professional tidier, so I did my best to keep my home tidy at all times,” she said at the event. “I have kind of given up on that in a good way for me. Now I realize what is important to me is enjoying spending time with my children at home.”
On the one hand, it is a little humorous and ironic to see Kondo’s admission of “defeat,” hence all of the “Vindication!” tweets and whatnot. On the other hand, her new perspective seems like a very healthy and natural adjustment to the vagaries and realities of raising a family.
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