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Memorial Day #LongReads: Cannes, Cruise and a Comedian

Memorial Day #LongReads: Cannes, Cruise and a Comedian

Rapid fire is the publishing world’s new normal, but inspiring long-form content is not a thing of the past. Enter #LongReads: a weekly post containing what we believe to be five of the most compelling pieces of long-form, entertainment-related content circulating around the web.

Memorial Day is a weekend for relaxation and recovery. From a global film industry that appears to be relaxing into the uncertainty of the 21st century, to a comedian who doesn’t find his own celebrity intimidating, this week’s installment of #LongReads contemplates different aspects of relaxation and recovery in some very unexpected ways.

ANALYSIS: Here’s Why This Was the Best Cannes Film Festival in Years by Eric Kohn

In his post-mortem analysis of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Indiewire’s chief film critic Eric Kohn expresses a distinct optimism not just about the festival, but, more importantly, about the future of cinema. He argues that this year’s Cannes is especially significant because it manages to embrace both the old and new generations of filmmaking in a way that it has never done before. Kohn notes that the line-up “blended a healthy mixture of traditional artistry with boundary-pushing innovation,” citing veteran French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard’s “Goodbye to Language” as a film that “tickled the sweet spot of audiences hip to his playful musings on culture and daring manipulation of 3-D technology.” A large portion of this year’s line-up, Kohn also argued, contemplates a problem specific to the industry: audience retention. “Godard assails it in ‘Goodbye to Language’ with his wry shot of hands passing a pair of smartphones back and forth,” says Kohn, “[while] in Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars,” the movie business is a vain, artless place. Indeed, it is the willingness to contemplate this difficult reality that, Kohn seems to suggest, makes Cannes a beacon of hope. 

How YouTube and Internet Journalism Destroyed Tom Cruise, Our Last Real Movie Star by Amy Nicholson

LA Weekly’s Chief Film Critic, Amy Nicholson, re-examines the infamous Tom Cruise “couch-incident” on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Cruise’s behavior on the show is said to have been the cause of his undoing in the eyes of the public and the film industry at large. Rather than prescribing to popular opinion, Nicholson comes to Cruise’s defense – arguing that his appearance on “Oprah” must be understood in relation to the developments in web technology and digital publishing that were taking place at the same time. The explosion of the blogosphere and the advent of YouTube, Nicholson notes, occurred at the precise moment when Cruise decided it would be okay to let his guard down in front of the press. Prior to the ill-fated appearance on “Oprah,” Cruise had, for the majority of his career, maintained a safe distance from the press – cultivating a persona, Nicholson suggests, reminiscent of the Classic Hollywood stars. Although Nicholson’s argument focuses Cruise’s actions being taken out of context, she also seems to be issuing a broader critique on remix culture – specifically the consequences of misappropriation. The publication of this article in L.A. Weekly precludes the release of Nicholson’s book on Cruise, which will debut in July.

Why Jerry Seinfeld Doesn’t Buy the ‘Burden of Celebrity by Scott Raab

Instead of writing up a full-fledged feature on Jerry Seinfeld, Scott Raab opted to publish a transcription of his interview with the legendary comic. Although the question-answer format is not nearly as sophisticated as a feature — complete with exclusive portraits and analysis — in the case of Seinfeld, who played a fictional version of himself on television, a feature seems rather reductive. In a feature story, the subject is ostensibly a character constructed by the writer via a delicate combination of observations and carefully selected quotes. The only way to get to know Seinfeld “the man” is to serve him up as he is in real life, through a straight transcription. During his conversation with Raab, Seinfeld is genial and straightforward. At one point, when Raab asks Seinfeld to recount the moment he would describe as his “peak,” Seinfeld says it was when he got offered a position as an emcee at a club, three nights a week for 85 dollars. “Obviously many wonderful things have happened, but that’s my golden moment,” he told Raab.

Trigger Warnings and the Novelist’s Mind by Jay Kaspian Kang

Although Jay Kaspian Kang does not make the association himself, his discussion on university-mandated “trigger warnings” ties directly into the longstanding debate surrounding the film and television industry’s ratings system. “Trigger warnings” are placed at the beginning of a piece of writing to warn prospective readers of disturbing content that may offend or incite flashbacks of similar experiences. The main proponents of “trigger warnings,” Kang notes, are “feminist writers and academics,” who are not attempting to impose a particular form of censorship, but rather trying to promote conversations about difficult subjects such as rape and other forms of violence, without putting real-life victims at emotional risk. While Kang understands the logic behind “trigger warnings,” he still finds them troubling, as they interfere with what he describes as “the sanctity of the relationship between the reader and the text.” At one point in his piece, he notes how “a preemptive label like ‘Trigger Warning: Violence and internment’ strips it down to one idea.” Kang does not, by any means, defend wrongful behavior. He seems to suggest that well-intentioned “trigger warnings” may actually be a prescriptive form of protection as it approaches victims as a category, rather than individuals. The film and TV ratings system, an analogous entity to “trigger warnings,” possesses a similar, dogmatic quality. Although the Production Code was initially created by Hollywood to avoid government-imposed censorship, the Code laid the groundwork for a culture of self-censorship in the filmmaking community.

How the Novel Made the Modern World by William Deresiewicz

William Deresiewicz’s essay centers on two radically different pieces of academic criticism written on the history of the novel. Deresiewicz interrogates both author’s positions on the novel and reading. The cross-application of his literary discussion becomes apparent about halfway through as he embarks on a discussion centered on the relationship between reader and novel. Although his observations about the relationship between reader and novel speak strongly to the relationship between viewer and television show, Deresiewicz is not particularly keen on making the comparison himself. The novel’s relationship to time — which, Deresiewicz says, is controlled by the reader — is not unlike the present-day TV series, which can be streamed according to the viewer’s schedule rather than that of the network. Deresiewicz also severely underestimates the emotional impact of a TV series, arguing that in the case of film and TV,  “[t]he camera proposes, by its nature, an objectivist aesthetic; its techniques are very crude for representing that which can’t be seen, the inner life.” While that may have been the case in the early days of television when shows were shot exclusively in studios on the same set, the incorporation of handheld techniques, along with a focus on serialized narratives rather than procedurals, has tempered the “objectivist aesthetic” quite a bit, allowing much more room for viewer interpretation.

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