Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Choreography in Slow Motion

Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Choreography in Slow Motion

In Quentin Tarantino’s films, movement is everything. If his characters are not moving, they are about to move. In ‘The Hateful Eight,’ the maneuvering of the devious travelers around each other in Minnie’s Haberdashery, with its rambling architecture, is every bit as important as the words they say to each other, or the shots they fire at each other. The ability of a Tarantino character to move or not move can often be telling: consider the lonesome death of Vincent Vega on the toilet in ‘Pulp Fiction,’ or the sky-bound pirouettes of Uma Thurman’s Bride in the ‘Kill Bill’ films. So when Tarantino slows down the motion of a character in one of his films, whatever the external reason may be, the ultimate take-away is this: Tarantino notices. He is attentive to human movement, to human physiognomy, almost with the attentiveness of Eadweard Muybridge. When he slows down a character’s motion, then, we, as viewers, are intended to see everything: muscular shifts, the different ways clothing falls on the moving body, the beauty of the body moving through space–and we are supposed to consider what the movement might mean. In his sixth (sixth!) video piece on Tarantino, Jacob T. Swinney brings us up close to Tarantino’s study of motion by focusing on his slo-mo scenes. What do we learn? Well, why don’t you look and tell me? 

Watch: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘The Revenant’ Creates a World of Stillness

Watch: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘The Revenant’ Creates a World of Stillness

When watching Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘The Revenant,’ these lines by Wallace Stevens came to my mind many times.

Among twenty snowy mountains,
the only thing moving
was the eye of the blackbird.

How could they not? The film tells the tale of human activity crushed to near-silence by the enormity of the landscape–but not quite. Within each frame, there is a trickle of movement, indicating that whatever assault the natural world may offer, be it from punishing cold or sexually aggressive bear, the human urge to colonize and explore will endure, and yet that endurance will take place nestled within a stillness more immense than anything the merely human mind could imagine, a stillness that has been on Earth for millions of years, impenetrable, impassible, unchangeable. Tom Williams’ beautiful video piece gives us a view of that stillness, but it also points up the importance of its opposite. The story of one wanderer across a frozen landscape then becomes, in a sense, the story of America.

KICKING TELEVISION: Bingeing on Judd Apatow’s ‘Love’

KICKING TELEVISION: Bingeing on Judd Apatow’s ‘Love’

In love, I’m Paul Rudd eating cupcakes out of the garbage. My failings are not malicious. I was single for a long time. And I’m a writer. And I used to live in the woods. Loneliness and solitude are—were—my jam. I wouldn’t say I’m good at marriage. It’s a process, I keep telling my wife and my therapist, which makes her furious and makes him nod. The love part I’m good at. I think.

I’ve never been very good at moderation, so the advent of streaming media was made for people like me. I am Netflix. My predisposal to binging is indicative of what makes me a less than ideal husband. I’m incapable of diffusing any manner of consumption. I crave excess at the expense of reason or commitment or even Friday night. Let’s watch six hundred and thirty-one minutes of ‘House of Cards’! is not a loving proposition, but to me it’s the very definition of happiness.

In an attempt to bridge the gap between my gluttonous leanings and my marital duty I binged on ‘Love,’ Judd Apatow’s new Netflix series. I was initially apprehensive because—though I like many of the productions that Apatow has been involved in—I was worried Love would be a TV adaption of his bromantic comedies. But ‘Love’’s Gillian Jacobs’ effortless wit and against-type female leads in ‘Community’ and ‘Life Partners’ were outstanding performances, and the supporting cast—Brett Gelman (excellent in the gone too soon ‘Go On’), Kerri Kenney-Silver (reboot ‘Reno 911’ please)—provided hope. I worried about Paul Rust, though I knew very little about him except a faint recollection of hating ‘I Love You, Beth Cooper.’

A show that is about love is an ambitious undertaking. Of course, most shows are about love on some level, except for Chuck Lorre productions. But to be so forward about the intentions of your series’ discussion creates almost impossible expectations. In discussing love, ‘Love’ asks that the audience consider their own experiences with the state. Gourmandizing the series inflates the scope and breadth of that experience, or it did for me anyway. Binging on ‘Love’, whether by accident or by design, was a cathartic and introspective three hundred minutes, which asked me to reevaluate how I have loved or been loved..

‘Love’ is the story of Mickey (Jacobs), a program manager at a satellite radio station, and Gus (Rust), an onset tutor, navigating the peripheries of modern day LA. I didn’t love Rust early on—he seemed too out of place as a lead, my issue not his— but as I ate through the first few episodes, he grew on me. He’s not a typical male lead, but perhaps that’s why he eventually appealed to me. I can identify with someone who’s not the archetype of masculinity, who errs on the side of idiosyncratic, who isn’t the most beautiful of God’s creatures, who dances like a drunken Muppet, who crushes up. But early on he and Jacobs develop a chemistry that seems organic and true, which is absent from most film and TV. And I like that they’re in their 30s, and close in age. I’m sick of leading men who get older while their love interests remain the same age. It’s masturbatory and false and, frankly, tired.

At some point in binging on ‘Love,’ I fell in love with Jacobs. Or maybe I fell in love with Mickey, I’m not sure. Jacobs is brilliant, and she embodies the hesitancy of love. She’s the type of flawed character I adore, the kind I like to write and am drawn to in literature. Mickey wants to be loved, but her manner suggests either she doesn’t believe she deserves it or she’s afraid of it. I think I love Jacobs/Mickey because I’ve lived in that realm myself; I’ve occupied that self-destructive fear of the possibility of happiness.

At the core of any good romcom, or relationship, is a meet cute. To dismiss this trope as simply a tired device of the genre is folly. Mickey and Gus meet cute in a convenience store when Mickey has forgotten her wallet and the chivalric Gus covers her cigarettes and coffee. Meeting cute isn’t an easy plot device but rather a truthful one. Most of us meet our partners cute and it provides a narrative foundation for our lives together, just as it provides narrative foundation for romcoms.

In the meet cute at the end of ‘Love”s pilot, Mickey and Gus are enduring hangovers, one spiritual and the other of spirits. We tend to under-quantify how much alcohol has to do with love. Some would argue it’s more effective than or Tinder. It’s surprising that every beer, bourbon, and hard soda commercial doesn’t promise romantic bliss more explicitly—like: Drink Bulleit Tonight and You’ll Get Married Next June!—because they’re certainly employed as vehicles for love. Love discusses alcohol in these terms, as a facilitator, but also finds Mickey in AA, though she’s less than committed to the process. AA has become a convenient trope of television; ‘Mom,’ ‘Nashville,’ ‘House of Cards,’ ‘Nashville,’ ‘Flaked,’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ are among the series that use the mutual aid fellowship as a plot device. It’s a convenient exploitation; it provides a forum for characters to share, to be vulnerable, to provide drama. But here it becomes evidence of Mickey’s deeper failings, and not of the simplicity of what her addictions reveal about her character.

In their relationship’s infancy, Mickey and Gus get to know each other through conversation on an afternoon trip around LA, reminiscent of ‘Before Sunrise.’ We don’t see the early moments of love revealed so simply—so artfully—very often on television. What ‘Love’ captures with near perfection is the nervous furor of the virginity of companionship hopeful of affection. Mickey and Gus are not in love yet, but you can see the roots of something. We’re nervous with them—for them—as we indulge in the vicariousness of their burgeoning ardor. To witness its slow growth is something special on TV, where series race to establish love and then leave viewers with one hundred episodes of monotonous consummation.

In love and television there’s nothing more tired than the date. I’m not sure I’ve been on a date since I took a girl to see ‘Singles’ in 1992. My wife and I eat dinner together in restaurants, is that a date? But ‘Love’ uses “the date” in a unique and creative way, as a confused Mickey, wary of love, sets Gus up on a date with her roommate Bertie (the beyond excellent Claudia O’Doherty). Mickey participates in the date from hell by texting both Gus and Bertie, manipulating the evening, but ultimately endearing all three to each other. O’Doherty’s Bertie could’ve been a stock character, a wacky roommate, the Aussie sidekick. But instead there’s a truth to her, consistent with the series conceit, a sincerity that comes out as she Skype bakes with her mother or makes lame, nervous jokes. If season two of ‘Love’ gets bored of Mickey and Gus, I’d follow Bertie wherever life, or love, took her.

By episode seven of ‘Love’, Mickey and Gus have consummated their relationship. But they do so before their first date, and then fall awkwardly into a relationship of sorts, but one that’s difficult to watch and disappointing for the lovers. Soon after they become what many of us become in relationships: bored and self-destructive. Mickey’s fatigue and despondency manifest themselves in alcohol; she gets drunk and more awkward. Gus’ manifests in sexual greed; he has an affair with an actress on the TV show he works on.

While at this point in their narrative they’re not quite together, their egos, flaws, and fears convince them to implode. They’re suffering from the realities of post-infatuation. As I watched this I couldn’t help but recall the many, many, many, many times I’ve done this in relationships. It also made me realize how many people I’ve hurt in my self-destructive laziness. Watching it in ‘Love’ is cringe-inducing, in a positive way, in that it is genuine, true, that I understand it because I’ve behaved that way, and in seeing ‘Love’ I feel the shame and guilt I somehow avoided when I committed those crimes of dispassion. Ultimately, Mickey and Gus commit to each other, but in a way that seems perilous and unstable, but isn’t that how we all enter into love? Unsure, unprepared, but hopeful?

‘Love,’ in many ways, is about secondary and tertiary characters. And so is love. Those around us inform our relationships. They filter our emotions, our eccentricities, our fears. ‘Love’ fills around its leads with representations of elements of love. Iris Apatow plays life without sexual love, the wonderment of adolescence, before love confuses and drains. She’s confident, honest, and I trust her performance as a kind of younger version of Mickey from an alternate universe, a child actor who Gus tutors. Her character is a revelation, and may be the best thing about the show, but it is her mother’s (Leslie Mann) comedic timing and wit that shines here. Gelman is Mickey’s boss, with whom she indulges in an affair that confronts the act of love without love, of love as a weapon, and in doing so illuminates many of Mickey’s disturbing fears, fears about love and acceptance and sexuality that we all have. Kenney-Silver plays a future version of Mickey, her neighbor Syd, a woman who has endured love and settled in it. Gus’ apartment is often filled with a ragtag collection of his friends who get together to sing non-existent theme songs to films without theme songs. It’s a representation of the silliness of love, of the kinds of strangeness in us all that a prospective partner needs to accept, or at least tolerate, in order for love to be completely realized.

There’s a true awkwardness to the interactions between characters in ‘Love’ that is absent from these types of romantic narratives. The absence of the time constraints of traditional television promotes the natural, organic feel of the show. And in that manner, the show becomes a living treatise on love itself, and examination of an emotion that is attached to nearly everything on television but rarely with the subtlety and deft touch that Apatow et al. have used in creating the universe of ‘Love’.

There’s a quiet, beautiful moment in Love’s second episode when Bertie and Gus carry a chest-of-drawers into Mickey’s house. The two agree—having just met her—that Mickey is the best. She’s cool, right? So cool. But a little scary, right? She is a bit scary. But so cool. At its best, this is the very essence of love; fear infused with the divine. The same can be said of the series; it excels in moments of simple truth, allowing subtlety to carry the exploration of emotion.

Mike Spry is a writer, editor, and columnist who has written for The Toronto Star, Maisonneuve, and The Smoking Jacket, among others, and contributes to MTV’s PLAY with AJHe is the author of the poetry collection JACK (Snare Books, 2008) and Bourbon & Eventide (Invisible Publishing, 2014), the short story collection Distillery Songs (Insomniac Press, 2011), and the co-author of Cheap Throat: The Diary of a Locked-Out Hockey Player (Found Press, 2013). Follow him on Twitter @mdspry.

Watch: Spike Lee’s ‘Chi-Raq’: The Blossoms of Violence

Watch: Spike Lee’s ‘Chi-Raq’: The Blossoms of Violence

How many people do you know who’ve been shot? This was a question that occurred to me as I watched Nelson Carvajal’s latest, a video essay on Spike Lee’s recent cinematic leap into rhymed verse ‘Chi-Raq,’ a film whose eccentricity grows on you. Carvajal approaches the film from an up-close perspective, that of a Chicago resident who has, in fact, known many people who’ve been shot, in Chicago, which is becoming one of the country’s most violent cities. Carvajal does not do voice-over much–this may be his first video essay with voiceover, if my scholarship serves–and he has chosen a nice place to deploy the technique. Where better, indeed, than in a piece about this film, which addresses the matter of gun violence head-on in a way which doesn’t seem head-on at all? The presence of the editor here makes the essay’s central argument, which is that critics back away from ‘Chi-Raq’ because they can’t handle the reality it depicts, quite convincing. After all, neither the quality of the film’s direction nor the brutality of the state of affairs the film satirizes can really be questioned. Can they?

Watch: Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ Is All About Power Struggles and Blocking

Watch: Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ Is All About Power Struggles and Blocking

Any good story ultimately involves a power struggle of some sort, whether it be between two characters or between a character and his or her own mind. Character X wants something Character Y has: since the story of Cain and Abel, this is the most basic plot vector there is. In the scene from Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ shrewdly and economically analyzed here by YouTube’s Evan Puschak, aka ‘The NerdWriter," Gavin Elster wants Scottie Ferguson to take his questionable case very much, but Scottie is reluctant. The conversation we witness between the two of them is all about power: who has it, who wants it, who takes it away, how it can float between two individuals like a cloud. And that power play is show through blocking, though the way the two men occupy the space they share: who stands. Who sits. Who’s in the foreground. Who takes up more screen territory. If you turned the sound off on this scene, you’d be able to tell what was happening with only the slightest bit of extrapolation. And that is the nature of true drama, as we see it on film.

Watch: Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s ‘Amélie’ Depends on Symmetry for Its Curious Power

Watch: Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s ‘Amélie’ Depends on Symmetry for Its Curious Power

Interestingly enough, restraint may be the defining characteristic of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s ‘Amélie.’ Regardless of how many surreal leaps and gestures occur within this story of a whimsical Parisian, the film never leaves the realm of what can be easily imagined. Some might see this as a flaw; I tend to see it as a deliberate aesthetic choice, backed up by the film’s cinematography, which, as this new video piece by "Lessa" shows, skews symmetrical. The center of the viewer’s vision will never be too far away from the center of the lens, a perfect technique for a stroll into the center of the imagination.

KICKING TELEVISION: O.J. Simpson v. The People

KICKING TELEVISION: O.J. Simpson v. The People

A friend of mine recently posted a photo of himself on Instagram with a C-list celebrity who was visiting my hometown. It really shouldn’t have annoyed me—though it did. I mean, what do I care what people do on social media? I’m sure people are perturbed when I post links to my columns or openly question the integrity of bourbon lemonade. At least they’re not posting photos of cats or newborns or newborns with cats, right? But, when I took a moment to calm myself, I realized what frustrates me about our cultural obsession with celebrity is not the celebs themselves, but the pathological need to attach ourselves to them, no matter their character or accomplishments.

My distaste for fame-driven obsessive addictive disorder is not new. I’ve never understood People magazine or Entertainment Tonight or TMZ or Brody Jenner. For a while I had a weekly column for the Playboy offshoot The Smoking Jacket, for which I spent most of my virtual inches mocking the Kardashians and Hiltons. Perhaps somewhere in my sympathetic mind, I can accept obsessions with musicians or actors or whatever Ryan Seacrest is, but the celebrity afforded to spoiled, privileged, talentless, walking selfies angers me to no end. The Kardashian/Jenner cartel is the worst of the offenders. The beginnings of our allowance of celeb contributions to the cultural discourse can be traced to the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Our celeb culture, as it is today, is the fault of the OJ Simpson trial.

In some alternate universe, this column would be about NBC’s Frogmen being renewed for its twenty-second season. The O.J. Simpson vehicle, about an elite team of Navy SEALs freelancing out of a Malibu surf shop, would no doubt be celebrating its Law & Order-esque longevity with special crossover episodes with NBC’s other hit dramas The Blacklist and, well, The Blacklist, and guest star arcs from Al Cowlings and Caitlin Jenner. Matt Lauer would sit down with Juice and ask about how Orenthal James was able to escape the mean streets of San Francisco for NFL and Hollywood stardom, about growing up with rickets, about his father’s sexuality and gender, and his death from AIDS. In this alternate universe, racism is a forgotten nightmare, the gender gap is but a sliver, policing is done with hugs, and Scott Disick works at a Taco Bell in Encino.

Simpson was, and is, the product of our obsession with contrived royalty, our elevation of athletes, and our malignant, wilful ignorance of sexism. I’m amazed it took this long for his story to find its way to television. FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson revisits the trial of the century, the spectacle that was everything for 15 months in the mid-nineties. Its accuracy is debatable. Its realization is flawed. Its performances are heavy-handed. It stars everybody. But despite its faults, it provokes a discussion of what the Simpson trial came to represent, how it changed the manner in which our culture disseminates “news,” and how we are dangerously obsessed with celebrity and stardom.

On June 17th, 1994, someone’s parents were away. I was in my second to last year of high school. We moved in for the weekend to drink beer and be young. That night, a Friday, Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Houston Rockets and the New York Knicks played on a muted television in the corner of the family room while we listened to music too loud and ignored the neighbors’ warnings. People came by. At some point, someone pointed at the TV. There was a white SUV racing slowly along a highway. We would have thought nothing of it, if it hadn’t interrupted a live sporting event. We turned on the sound. And, like much of the rest of North America, we watched Al Cowlings plodding along in the now infamous white Bronco, O.J. Simpson hiding in the back with a gun, chased by what seemed like the entire LA police force. It was odd. It was surreal. It was narrated by Tom Brokaw. We had no idea what would come next, that what would follow would define the late 90s, and change the way we, as a culture, fed on celebrity.

My memory of the year that followed is confused by time and media saturation. I recall watching most of the trial, as CNN played it and nothing but it all day. I remember watching much of it from the campus pub at Carleton University or in a friend’s apartment, as we skipped our first-year university classes, got high, ate pizza, and marveled at the spectacle of celebrity and the judicial system. The trial became a show unto itself, a dramedy set in the L.A. world of glitz and celebrity, drugs and debauchery, money and mayhem.

People who were not celebrities, who lived not for the spotlight nor were given to accomplishment deserving of that spotlight, were suddenly household names. Lance Ito, Mark Furhman, Roberts Shapiro and Kardashian, Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden, Johnnie Cochran et al. Kato Kaelin was a homeless surfer. Greta Van Susteren was simply a lawyer who answered a CNN producer’s phone call one morning. Suddenly they were household names. They were given a voice. The cast of characters was endless, and it seemed odd even then that I would know the names of these people, let alone the intimate minutiae of their lives, let alone spend every day with them, or CNN.

The People v. O.J. Simpson willfully subscribes to the injustice of celebrity worship. The series celebrates the virtues of fame, evidenced in allowing Kris Jenner and the Kardashian brood an unwarranted part of the narrative. Perhaps this is some sort of high satire of the culture that was born of the Simpson trial, but I refuse to give the series that much credit. The series had an opportunity to take the “trial of the century” and use it as a platform to discuss what it meant in terms of media, race, celebrity, justice, and the American dream. The series is guilty of a first-year creative writing class crime: telling and not showing. It concerns itself with grand monologues, that reveal character and narrative. Perhaps in the mid-nineties California lawyers were known for their soliloquies, but it comes across as false and lazy writing, like a voiceover in place of exposition. The People v. O.J. Simpson is also given to contrived moments, like in episode 5 when during opening statements co-prosecutor Bill Hodgman has a heart attack, which never happened. Why embellish what’s already shocking?

An entire episode, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” which concerns itself with Clark’s aesthetic and her challenges as a woman in a male-dominated environment, misses a chance to indict a culture that treats workingwomen as second class citizens. In a disproportionate number of scenes, she’s crying or swooning over Sterling K. Brown’s Christopher Darden, which I suppose is intended to elicit sympathy and enrich her character but instead comes across as a sexist depiction of an accomplished and intelligent woman. Sarah Paulson’s performance as Clark does its best with the material she’s given, but The People v. O.J. Simpson’s writers are intent on blaming Clark’s incompetence on gender. The focus is on her fragile character (which doesn’t seem believable), her struggles as a single mother in the midst of a custody battle, and her crush on Darden. And her hair. Six episodes in and we’re on her third hair style, and while Clark’s hair was certainly tabloid fodder during the trial, a more ambitious series would have moved past what we already knew from watching CNN and lingering in the grocery store checkout aisle. Don’t attach gender to the conversation; attack the media that continues to unnecessarily and offensively make that attachment.

The obstacles the series gives to Clark are all domestic, while Darden gets intellectual challenges. A perfect juxtaposition is in how they’re challenged as attorneys. Clark asks for a recess to go home to her children; Darden asks for Simpson to try on the infamous glove for the jury, which hurt the prosecution and gave birth to the trial’s catch phrase, Cochran’s: “If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit.” There’s no way that in 1994, Marcia Clark, as a woman, was able to rise to her level of prominence in her vocation by being as fragile as the series suggests.

Clark’s true challenge was the insurmountable obstacle she faced in Simpson’s “Dream Team” of attorneys, the power of his celebrity, and the impossible spectacle that their union produced. The series is guilty of what its real-life characters were guilty of during the trial and the era, and what we’re still guilty of today: reducing women to elements of aesthetic and gender. Clark is more than a woman with a law degree. The series uses her chain smoking and drinking to make her “one of the boys”, but these are easy devices. It questions the media that would comment on her conservative attire, but celebrates that same media in giving narrative attention to the Kardashians. The contradictions get in the way of the performances, and what’s left is a disappointing dissemination of an important moment in our cultural evolution.

The flaws in the series are all tied to its inability to indict celebrity, a root cause of the prosecution’s own failures, as if it’s nervous to offend. In casting the series with well-known actors, The People v. O. J. Simpson becomes its own victim of celebrity. Prominent performers are given to camp performances as if in some form of self-parody. John Travolta (Robert Shapiro) eats scenes like a termite infestation. David Schwimmer (Robert Kardashian) says “Juice” so many times I fear an undead Michael Keaton’s going to appear on a sandworm. Nathan Lane (F. Lee Bailey) looks ready to burst into Albert Goldman. Writing that makes Dan Brown sound like Emily Dickinson does not help the performers. It’s difficult to endure Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s O.J. blurting out, “Oh my god, Nicole has been killed? Oh my god, is she dead?” or Schwimmer delivering “OJ, come on, please, do not kill yourself in Kimmy’s bedroom” without weeping for the future of the written word. Courtney B. Vance’s monologues make Joe Morton’s Scandal performance seem subdued. Connie Britton has an all too brief appearance as Faye Resnick, whose lingering celebrity as a result of her exploiting her friendship with Brown Simpson has given her a career. Britton’s Resnick would have been an interesting lens through which to filter the story and our celebrity obsession, but instead, the The People v. O.J. Simpson wonders if Kimmy’s ok.

The show is all spectacle and very little substance. Perhaps that’s its intent, to mimic the absurdity of its source material, but a story that is such a part of the fabric of our culture, it would have been far more interesting and appealing in the hands of, say, Noah Hawley (Fargo) than Ryan Murphy (GleeAmerican Horror Story), who’s a producer on the series and directed several episodes. Murphy’s style, which has its proponents, is one of exhibition over exposition, which works in musicals and horror stories, but not so well when the purpose of a series is to critically explore a crucial moment in American history.

But, like the trial itself, I can’t stop watching. It has made me guilty of the crimes I condemn. I’ve become obsessed with the series’ glorification of everything I hate, by circumstance rather than design. And in revisiting the trial, I’m left to revisit myself by way of nostalgia. Did I really waste that much of my life watching this train wreck of injustice? Is this why I got kicked out of university the first time? Is it weird that I know that Evan Handler was in Frogmen AND The People v. O.J. Simpson?

It’s possible that the series could redeem itself in its final episodes, just as it’s possible Travolta’s hair will grow back. The series could have been an interesting conversation about obsession, about the failings of contemporary journalism, about racism, about sexism, about corruption, about the incompetence of the legal system, about how in twenty-two years very little has changed besides haircuts and technology. Instead, it comes across as a prequel to Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Mike Spry is a writer, editor, and columnist who has written for The Toronto Star, Maisonneuve, and The Smoking Jacket, among others, and contributes to MTV’s PLAY with AJHe is the author of the poetry collection JACK (Snare Books, 2008) and Bourbon & Eventide (Invisible Publishing, 2014), the short story collection Distillery Songs (Insomniac Press, 2011), and the co-author of Cheap Throat: The Diary of a Locked-Out Hockey Player (Found Press, 2013). Follow him on Twitter @mdspry.

Watch: Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ is a Game of Perspectives

Watch: Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ is a Game of Perspectives

Consider this story: a woman steals some money, runs away with it, goes to a small motel, is murdered by the proprietor. Moderately interesting by itself, possibly with some potential for suspense–but this is not necessarily a gripping tale, especially when you add on an extra storyline: the woman’s sister comes after her, followed by a private detective, both of whom are murdered. Again, it’s interesting: if you saw it in the newspaper, you might "tsk" at it and then move on. And then, even if you add on the eccentric twist–the murderer dresses up as his mother–you still have a bare bones story. Of course he was a psychopath: look what he did! Alfred Hitchcock turned ‘Psycho’ into a classic by using this skeleton story to construct a madhouse of a tale, something like a cross between a house of mirrors, a surrealist novel, and a collage of tabloid headlines. One of his primary lines of attack, as shown in this brilliant video essay by Julian Palmer, was to constantly shift the perspective from which the story is told, so that viewers’ sympathies are perpetually changing, at times moving into uncomfortable territory as we find ourselves looking at the world through the eyes of Norman Bates, of all people. In a sense, the suspense becomes less about the murder, or its investigation, than about what we, as viewers, will discover about ourselves and our sympathies next.

ARIELLE BERNSTEIN: The Imperfect Male Artist: From Pablo Picasso to Kanye West, We’re Still Fascinated by Jerks

ARIELLE BERNSTEIN: The Imperfect Male Artist: From Pablo Picasso to Kanye West

Soon after David Bowie’s death, many bloggers expressed unease at valorizing a man who slept with 15-year olds, pointing out that Bowie was yet another
“problematic fave,” the go-to internet term that can be used to describe
anything from a mild social gaffe to a history of sexual assault. Like
clockwork, Bowie defenders asserted that the 70s were a different time and place and that the “baby groupies” who Bowie slept with don’t express that what they experienced was rape at all.

Like most Internet Wars, the focus quickly became about the individual—whether we should herald Bowie for his tremendous legacy, or condemn him as a rapist. Both Erin Keane at Salon and Jia Tolentino at Jezebel stressed a more nuanced look at the complicated issue of separating art from artist, while in his essay, “Celebrity deaths and the ‘problematic fave’: Enough with the moral tug-of-war between “hero” and “villain” legacies,” Arthur Chu fell back on a stand-by argument about bad men who make good art:

“So yes, in a way I am saying that if you’re a fan of the awesome feminist triumph that is 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road,” then you owe something to the horrific abusive racist bigot Mel Gibson. You don’t have to like him or “forgive” him, but if he hadn’t been there–and I’m not just arguing in terms of acting talent but in terms of all his deep and wide-ranging flaws–then a great work of art might not exist.”

Chu’s argument, that bad behavior, though not exactly excusable, is often inextricably wed to the production of art is deeply embedded in our culture. The idea that artists in particular must be permitted to be “bad”—that the artist must, in some ways, be allowed to be overly dramatic or reckless, or self-injuring, or obsessed with alcohol or drugs or sex, in order to be a creative powerhouse, is a mainstay in popular discourse.

After all, many of the most challenging and talented artists we still today herald
are men who, in their personal lives, were outright jerks: from Pablo Picasso to
Kanye West, from Ernest Hemingway to Roman Polanski, we not only tolerate male “bad behavior,” we often see it as the necessary backdrop against which male artists create.

For all the talk of the current age of outrage culture—how it’s changing the face of online discourse or demanding that certain ideas should be censored—the reality is that we live in a culture that continues to praise macho artistic swagger. We tolerate Roman Polanski’s and Woody Allen’s sins, precisely because there seems to be a prevailing attitude that if they were different, better men, they might not be as actively creative. Likewise, we tacitly permit Kanye West’s wildly misogynistic tirades against his ex Amber Rose, as well as his odd ongoing feud with Taylor Swift, precisely because his brand of in-your-face bravado is seen as an element of his innovative albums.

Where do women fit into this culture? If in today’s world the male artist is still heralded for dangerous and destructive “risk-taking,” the female artist is generally heralded for being a role model. Artists like Beyoncé are required to not only produce work that is compelling and edgy, but to also appear effortlessly poised and perfect while doing it. If today’s female characters are allowed the latitude of being jerks like never before, the creators of series like “Transparent,” “Orange is the New Black,” and “Scandal” are also expected to be Hollywood’s moral compasses, ushering in a world of greater representation, better public policies, and feminist awakenings. The female artist who has “lifestyle problems” ranging from addiction (a la Britney Spears), to shoplifting (a la Winona Ryder) to violent behavior (a la Amy Winehouse) is seen in need of reformation, a “trainwreck” who must be saved. This is in stark contrast to Hollywood celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Bill Murray, whose colorful pasts, and even run-ins with the law, are seen as edgy and endearing, rather than deeply troubling.

The attitude where “male artists will be male artists” is an unsettling double
standard. In some cases, the tacit acceptance of male artists as likely to be a
bit rough around the edges is harmless, but in others, as is the case with
stars like Charlie Sheen and Woody Allen, the result is a long line of women
coming forward with claims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Moreover, the conversations we are having online tend to focus on demonizing individual men, rather than discussing a culture in which an artist like David Bowie traveled in a world where bedding 14-year old groupies was considered normal, or a world in which R. Kelly is laughed about rather than looked at with true disdain.

I think one reason Bowie fans felt so exhausted by the discourse surrounding his relationship with young female fans, is that it felt like a “gotcha” moment,
rather than a serious discussion about the ways that our culture permits,
excuses, or even pressures artists to behave in certain ways. It’s not fair to
expect celebrities to be “perfect” but it’s equally strange to see predatory or
abusive behavior as arguably normal. While some who protest the double standard are eager for the day that women are given equal opportunity to engage in the same antics that many male artists do, without judgment, I think a more revolutionary change would be to live in a world where kindness is seen as cooler than cockiness, and a world where we can distinguish between behaviors which are quirky and offbeat and those that really do hurt others.

Arielle Bernstein is a writer living in Washington, DC. She teaches writing at American University and also freelances. Her work has been published in The Millions, The Rumpus, St. Petersburg Review and The Ilanot Review. She has been listed four times as a finalist in Glimmer Train short story contestsShe is currently writing her first book.

Watch: ‘The Dark Knight’: Mapping Out the Action

Watch: ‘The Dark Knight’: Mapping Out the Action

As complex and, in a sense, limitless as Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight‘ might be, with its heady urbane mood, its panic-inducing sense of foreboding, and the presence of Heath Ledger in the role that may have driven him over the edge, there is also a pre-ordained quality to it that slows one down. You wouldn’t necessarily be curious where its characters go after they step off-screen; you wouldn’t wonder what they’re thinking; you probably wouldn’t speculate on their past lives. The world of the film is laid out within the limits of the screen. This partially due to the film’s previous life as a comic, a work in a form in which frame after frame after frame sends a louder and louder message: Look in here. Don’t look out there. All of the information you need is right here. Because the comic upon which this film is based is better than average, the film itself is superior; other films based around frames, not always so much. This brief but densely packed piece by "Glass Distortion" places the storyboards for ‘The Dark Knight’ up against the actual film for an examination of an especially fraught chase scene, a move which reminds us how carefully the film was deliberated. It’s hard to say if the film’s over-planning works in its favor, or if it’s merely a horse for the director to hang good performances on. Whatever the case, this 49-second piece will give you a unique and revitalizing look at the way movies can be made.