Read On is a regular feature in which The Dissolve’s staff recommends recent film pieces. Because there’s always someone writing something notable about the movies somewhere on the Internet.
Vanity Fair’s James Wolcott on Showgirls, casinos, and the dark side of Vegas:
“As with so many impressionable boomers who received their cultural education at drive-ins and double features, it was the movies that first impressed Las Vegas on my bubblegum brain. Not Ocean’s 11, the Rat Pack caper movie—too drab-looking and middle-aged—but Viva Las Vegas (1964), starring Elvis Presley as a racecar driver with the quintessentially dopey name of Lucky Jackson and Ann-Margret wiggling her sugar bowl like a go-go dancer possessed. The movie was the standard Elvis combination of travelogue and bozo frolics, but the anthemic title song transcended all. So celebratory! It made Las Vegas sound like a nonstop fiesta, one big trampoline. On-screen, such happy-go-lucky hedonism lost its spell as Vegas movies began to dwell on the dark, abusive, addictive, pathological side, the busted loves, broken dreams, grandiose delusions (see Francis Ford Coppola’s career-bending debacle of 1981, One from the Heart), and existential brutalism (1986’s Heat, starring Burt Reynolds and scripted by William Goldman, recently retooled for Jason Statham and retitled Wild Card). We began to get a genre of downers that, to paraphrase the critic Pauline Kael, might have been labeled ‘Come Dressed as the Sick Soul of Vegas.’ Or come undressed, as the case might be. Two thousand fifteen marks the 20th anniversary of a trinity of top-director movies casting Las Vegas as America’s moronic inferno and pagan capital.”
The A.V. Club’s Ryan Vlastelica looks at how film restorers brought The Apu Trilogy back to life:
“The films of Satyajit Ray’s The Apu Trilogy are not only the best and most influential in Indian cinema, they stand among the greatest made anywhere, tracking a life from childhood to parenthood, through despair to triumph and maturity. Yet despite their acclaim, it’s likely cinephiles have never fully experienced them due to the depreciating audio and visual quality of these films since their release about 60 years ago. Beyond the normal wear and tear that comes with time and making prints, the films’ original negatives were housed in London’s Henderson Film Laboratories when that warehouse caught fire in 1993. Many reels were burned beyond repair, and the rest suffered heavy damage. Enter Criterion, the beloved restorer and distributor of classic films. Years ago, Criterion decided to try to resurrect Ray’s masterpieces, a process only now at completion. After a massive worldwide effort, the films have been restored to shockingly good visual quality; they probably haven’t looked this clear since their premiere, if ever. The re-release of The Apu Trilogy will begin at New York City’s Film Forum on May 8, followed by a broader release throughout the summer. The A.V. Club spoke with Criterion technical director Lee Kline about the process of returning Apu to cinema-level quality, and the importance of film restoration.”
Grantland’s Steven Hyden asks us to conduct a thought experiment: Who would be stupid enough to try to kill John Wick in John Wick 2?
“Maybe you’re a cynic who’s not impressed by a guy moving with cool efficiency through a nightclub and delivering head shots and stab wounds like he’s handing out appletinis. Personally, I feel like any right-thinking person will stay out of his way from now on. Because John Wick cannot be threatened. Any chance of defeating this guy was lost the moment he took a sledgehammer to the concrete floor in the basement and let loose his arsenal. Now, the best strategy for survival is to point him in the direction of the nearest dog pound and pray that he gets sentimental.”
Buzzfeed’s Alison Willmore talks to Arnold Schwarzenegger about the roles that made him famous, funny, and “finally, a serious actor”:
“The best of Schwarzenegger’s early roles, all of which traded on his award-winning physique, was as an exaggerated version of himself in Charles Gaines and George Butler’s docudrama about competitive bodybuilding. The movie tracked the rivalry between Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno as they worked the 1975 circuit, adding in some pre-reality TV style tweaks to their relationship. ‘I would say that 95% was me — the personality was me,’ Schwarzenegger said of the movie, in which he famously compared working out to sex and delivered highly quotable lines like, ‘Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer.’ While the competitions were real, some of the personal dramas were engineered or amplified. Schwarzenegger pointed out that one of the more famous scenes, in which he plays mind games with Ferrigno in front of his parents, was arranged after Butler requested some confrontation. ’It was set up, the scene, but then everything else that we played out was real conversations,’ Schwarzenegger explained. ‘Lou always looked at me much more with suspicion after that. He couldn’t believe what happened! It was funny. We had a good time.’ ”
Plus, the rest of today’s biz-ness:
- Steve Buscemi will direct Solo Pass
- Judd Apatow is working on a screenplay about soldiers returning from Iraq
- Sam Claflin will return for The Huntsman
- Kevin Spacey’s Nine Lives is set to bow in spring of 2016
- Freida Pinto will play somebody? in Jungle Book: Origins
- Jeff Nichols’ next movie, Loving, will star Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga