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Showing posts from January, 2013

Disseminations

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Various items...

I recently saw two of the more controversial movies of last year, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty. I don't feel compelled to say much about the former — it's fine for a Steven Spielberg movie, and wanting it to be more than a Steven Spielberg movie seems to me to be an error. Yes, I would have preferred, say, Charles Burnett'sLincoln or Alex Cox'sLincoln or Cheryl Dunye'sLincoln or even Guillermo del Toro'sLincoln, but what we got is Spielberg's Lincoln, and so we should not be surprised that every moment of possible emotion is squeezed through John Williams's typically John Williams score, or that there are lots of faces making faces, or that it is a white savior movie, or that it exemplifies the tradition of quality in Hollywood cinema. What we should be surprised by is that it is not worse — it is easily, to my eyes, Spielberg's most interesting and least annoying historical film. That may have something to do with Tony Kushner'…

Pause

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I've promised myself to devote the month of January primarily to work on a book manuscript (about 1980s action movies and their relationship to the Reagan presidency) that a certain academic publisher is interested in. Thus, I need to get work done. The internet looms as an endless temptation, and I am more than skilled at losing hours to idle surfing. I've also got other writing assignments that need doing, classes to prepare for, etc.

So I'm signing off at least until February, barring interesting announcements or cosmic events or just an overwhelming desire to violate my own resolutions. (It usually happens.) I will also likely be only slowly or vaguely responsive to emails, etc. Please don't take it personally. I've got three weeks in which to get real work done, then life returns to its normal craziness.

Django Unchained and "Accuracy"

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I really didn't intend to write anything more about Django Unchained, at least not before viewing it again, but I found Jelani Cobb's essay at The New Yorker's Culture Desk blog annoying, and I know from experience that there's just no getting rid of an annoyance until I write about it. So here we go...

Cobb's essay is well-written and thoughtful, which is more than can be said for many attacks on Django Unchained, but it is fundamentally flawed for reasons Cobb pooh-poohs as aestheticizing or art-for-art-saking or just callous and insensitive: it's not a movie about actual history as Cobb defines it, but a movie (partly) about the representation of history in movies.
The film’s defenders are quick to point out that “Django” is not about history. But that’s almost like arguing that fiction is not reality—it isn’t, but the entire appeal of the former is its capacity to shed light on how we understand the latter. This statement is infuriating in its reductionism…

"The Way We Name Things Is Important, Ma": On the Short Stories of George Saunders

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The recent, wonderful profile of George Saunders in The New York Times Magazine by Joel Lovell reminded me that one of the first book reviews I ever published was of Saunders's first two story collections. It appeared in English Journal in the May 2003 issue. (They insisted, despite my protestations, that I send them my own dustjackets for the hardcovers of the books so that they could scan them. They promised to return them. They never did. Also, the published the piece as by "Matt Cheney", even though the manuscript and everything else used my full name, as I prefer for my byline. Thus did I discover some of the perils of academic publishing.)

I'd forgotten about this review, and it reads to me as if written by somebody other than myself, but for the sake of completism or the historical record or posterity or something, here it is, a review I wrote, according to the original computer file, in September 2002:

Strange Horizons 2012 in Review

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I have a small contribution in the grand collage that is the Strange Horizons reviewers' "2012 in Review". Well worth taking a look at for the huge, wonderful variety of writers' interests and enthusiasms.

Happy new year!