“Imagine a category that rewards excellence in blending fact and fiction in in an original manner (this is distinct from Best Adapted Screenplay, which celebrates the adaptation of a previous, distinct work.) … This is a category that doesn’t nitpick the details, but appreciates a film’s attempt to bring together the realms of fiction and nonfiction.” And it might shut the nitpickers up (but probably not).
“Here is the question I’m trying to answer: What will happen to me – an Americanized Russian-speaking novelist who emigrated from the Soviet Union as a child – if I let myself float into the television-filtered head space of my former countrymen? Will I learn to love Putin as 85 percent of Russians profess to do? Will I dash to the Russian consulate on East 91st Street and ask for my citizenship back? … Or will I simply go insane?”
“While we all know about the major controversies underpinning this year’s [awards race] – such as the shameful lack of diversity in this year’s #OscarsSoWhite nominees – no film is immune from its own internal drama. Here’s a look at some of the specific quarrels and criticisms that have plagued 10 of this year’s nominated films.”
Edward Rothstein: “The historian is starting to be perceived as a pedant. And the ‘Gotcha Game’ – as one critic has called efforts to call out film inaccuracies – is being portrayed as a culturally philistine enterprise. … Actually, if these films didn’t make such claims on history, they would get considerably less attention. History, they insist, matters. But some also claim its mantle disingenuously, in order to give authority to their manipulations. Fact-checking is important because it helps disclose what is being changed and why.”
“The spat began earlier this month, when director Feng Xiaogang lambasted the popularity of a spate of recent Chinese movies based on popular reality television shows. … That hurts genuine filmmaking, he argued, because it draws investor money away from more serious movies.” Arguing back was no less than the People’s Daily (sounding not unlike The Wall Street Journal, actually).
Now here’s a good way to celebrate Black History Month: four dozen-and-change movies to revisit or to discover, from all the way back in 1920 (Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates), through the landmarks (Nothing But a Man, Sweet Sweetback, New Jack City, She’s Gotta Have It, Daughters of the Dust) to this decade (Fruitvale Station).
J. Hoberman: “While American Sniper has drawn a large and diverse audience there is no consensus as to what the movie means. Rush Limbaugh hailed it as’an extension of the November elections’ … Jane Fonda saw it as a movie about the psychic cost of war … The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has reported a spike in anti-Arab threats. A French journalist contacted me … to see if I thought the movie’s unexpected popularity was a response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.”
“My advice? Don’t teach everyone how to code. Teach them how to identify and understand needs, as well as how to visually express logic. Teach them how technology works, so they can understand the realm of possibility and then envision game-changing innovations. And then create an environment where they don’t even have to think about writing code — where building great apps is as easy as using iTunes. Just drag and drop.”
“In recent days, some commenters have dismissed Williams’s comic moonlighting as the work of a guy who couldn’t stand not to have a camera trained on him, or of a newsman who actually just wanted to be an entertainer. A more charitable view would be that he was an anchor trying to remain relevant in a news environment that, thanks in part to Stewart, was turning him into a dinosaur in a bespoke suit.”
“The idea that what Jon Stewart and his team did was journalism always rankled some journalists, but that’s exactly what it was. At its most fundamental level, the purpose of journalism in a democracy is to build a more informed citizenry. For many Americans, especially younger ones, Stewart fulfilled that task. And it seems to be a duty his successors are eager to take up.”
“Until recently, I’d assumed it was understood that Hollywood would emphasize the ‘story’ aspects of history, and that a distortion of real events, on screen, would hardly constitute a lie. At what point, I wonder, did we start expecting films to tell the truth about the past? And won’t we be in trouble if we do?”
James Poniewozik: “So Stewart wasn’t an actual news anchor. What his show did with comedy was a kind of journalism nonetheless, using satire and some thorough research of source material to analyze the news and analyze its analysis. Any honest media critic knew that Stewart was doing the job better than the rest of us. … Do the same thing in print and you’re an op-ed columnist. Stewart and company simply managed to do it in a format that people paid attention to.”