Prediction of the Week: There Will Only Be Three

“Within three years, Paramount won’t be in existence, Sony will disappear, Fox will buy Warner Bros., and you’ll have Fox, Disney, and Universal left.”

Source: STX Entertainment: A New Hope for Hollywood? – The New Yorker

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Academia and Star Wars

Criticisms — or defenses — of Star Wars’s narrative retreading are misguided.

Source: Making Things Right: “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” – The Los Angeles Review of Books

(Spoiler alert: do not read the linked article if you have yet to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.)

Yale Professor J.D. Connor has penned a review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens that is composed of a series of astute observations. There is superb grist here for serious students of film or of the Star Wars universe, and his observations about Disney’s handling of the Star Wars “canon” (and that of the Marvel Universe, which it also now owns) make the piece worth the read.

But it should be read only for the occasional enlightening nugget because, unfortunately, the piece is meandering and confusing. He denigrates critics for impugning (or defending) the film’s narrative repetition of Episode IV, only to say that the problem with the film is that “resonance with earlier versions are far too strong.” He deconstructs the film into a series of patterns, very subtly derides it as typical franchise fare, and explains that what made the first movies unique were sound and special effects.

I am sure there was a point to all of this, that Professor Connor did not spend a big chunk of his Winter break away from undergraduates and faculty politics penning this piece for no reason. I cannot discern it. It seemed aught more than an expository vehicle for the author’s use of the toolkit of scholarly critique.

And this is my problem with so much academic criticism of art, literature, music, and film. Having slogged through five thousand words of deconstruction, we do not walk away enlightened, uplifted, or more capable of appreciating art generally or the piece itself. we are left only with the work (or its creator) in pieces at our feet, looking at each other and saying “okay, now what?”

Great criticism instructs, clarifies, and opens new vistas that allow us to appreciate art, an artist’s oeuvre, or a single work. It provides us with the tools to be discerning. It gives us the wherewithal to judge whether a work is worthy of our time and consideration.

Passable criticism at least serves to tell us whether a work is subjectively worth our time and consideration, and then provides a reasonable case to back up the point.

So if you’re a fanboy or a film student, do read Dr. Connor’s essay. Otherwise, give it a pass.

When a Working Artist Has to Live Off the Grid

Amid a documented rise in the number of homeless in New York City, many of those without homes may be effectively invisible – going about seemingly normal routines and even work without a place to live.

Source: Homeless model: New York’s hidden homeless – BBC News

A fascinating story that poses a question: how long can any city hold itself out as a center of arts and letters when only the most successful artists and scribes can even afford to live there?

Gehry Reconsidered

He is now 86, and shows little sign of slowing down. “I get excited about working on new things,” he said recently. On the list is a shimmering tower that he is creating in Arles, France, to mark a lushly funded private arts complex called LUMA and a series of wriggling slabs for the vast Battersea Power Station in London which is being converted into luxury flats. He is adding to the quarter-mile-long building he recently completed for Facebook in California. And he is supporting arts education in low-performing Los Angeles schools. Mr Gehry is hard on himself, never satisfied that a given design is right. “All I see is what I could have done better. I can’t help it.”

Source: A life in shapes | The Economist

Bridge On the River of Angels

It is also a microcosm of urban crisis — and opportunity. It raises all sorts of questions. What is meant by public space? What is or should be permissible there? What is the solution to the problem of homelessness? What is the best way to help an addict? What is the role of private interests attempting to reinvigorate a public space? Who controls land? What constitutes a power grab? What constitutes commendable, civic-minded community engagement?

Source: Under the Bridge: A Talk with LA Historian and “Under Spring” Author Jeremy Rosenberg – The Los Angeles Review of Books

Los Angeles is Los Angeles no more. Jeremy Rosenberg explains why, and why that is a good thing.

Has Franzen Peaked?

“Purity” feels like an imitation of Mr Franzen’s earlier novels, without the emotional resonance and subtlety. Navigating its illegitimate children, seduction, covered-up crime, international espionage and a secret billionaire feels like being a spectator to, not a friend in, the melodrama. It is testament to Mr Franzen’s talent that he has created his own great works to measure up to. Unfortunately, though, “Purity” does not manage to do so.

Source: Being Franzen’s friends | The Economist