Sarah Mesle and I are back again, this time writing about Super Bowl 50 as a television spectacle.
“At the same time, maybe the best, or most responsible emblem, for the contemporary NFL isn’t the undeterrable hero, shaking off tacklers, bouncing up after a hit with a smile and a dab. Maybe Peyton Manning, the battered sack of bones crawling his way toward one final bittersweet victory like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, best represents our compromised, blood and mud spatted NFL. And just as Leo will inevitably pull down the Oscar for which everyone will tell you he is due, we’re here talking about Peyton going out on top. Chicken parm, you taste so good!”
Sarah Mesle and I wrote for Dear Television about FX’s new American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson, which is really extraordinarily good TV:
“The OJ trial is the adolescence of our media culture. The Kardashian kids may be a tangential part of this grand drama, but their presence brings it into our present in a real way. Of all of these famous characters, these budding selfie artists are the ones we still know. Their spectatorship of these events — even for contemporary viewers who aren’t as neatly in the demographical bullseye as I am — transforms in a gnarly way into our spectatorship, present and past. Some people have called out these scenes for the way in which they score cheap points off of that family. But I don’t think it’s really about them; I think it’s about us. Their foibles are ours magnified, their experience of this history is ours, more intense, but no less mediated. In this limited circumstance, are we not Kardashians, too?”
“Are We Not Kardashians?”
After a bit of a hiatus, I’m back writing for Dear Television at the Los Angeles Review of Books, this time with Sarah Mesle on the return of The X-Files.
“Our Lady of Sorrows”
I’m heading to MLA in Austin, TX this weekend to chair and present on a panel entitled, “Long-Form: Varieties of Cinematic Time” with Mark Goble and Jessica Hurley. I’ll be talking about Cecil B. DeMille, Bruce Barton, D.W. Griffith, Lois Weber, W.E.B. Du Bois, and dissolves that transition thousands of years. Here are the details, if you’re in the market:
Long-Form: Varieties of Cinematic Time
5:15 – 6:30 PM / 205, JW Marriott
1. “Cycles and Squares: Early Cinema’s Historical Frames,” Me
2. “Cinema in 1968 until the End of Time,”Mark Goble, Univ. of California, Berkeley
3. “Slow Motion and the End of Time: Melancholia,” Jessica Hurley, Univ. of Chicago
Really honored that two of my essays—on Mr. Robot and on the premiere of Mad Men—were among the Los Angeles Review of Books‘ most read in 2015!
“LARB Most Read 2015”
A while ago, Lili Loofbourow and I curated a collection of essays for PMLA on academia, criticism, and the internet age called “The Semipublic Intellectual.” It features work from a murderer’s row of scholars I admire, including Hua Hsu, Natalia Cecire, Evan Kindley, Michael Berube, Sharon Marcus, and Salamishah Tillet. In honor of Open Access Week, PMLA has graciously posted the whole conversation on MLA Commons. Here’s some of what Lili and I had to say, by way of introduction:
“This is not an unmixed blessing. Scholarly culture is not particularly suited to intense, rapid debate, and this shows in the pace and tone of our professional disagreements. Wary of informal public modes of intellectual engagement, we as academic critics gravitate toward more intimate models, where disagreements either stay politely off the record or are published so long after the text to which they respond that only the determined can follow the conversation. The snail’s pace of this process makes prolonged engagements difficult to conduct and even harder to track. We have been failing to witness our own arguments.”
“The Semipublic Intellectual: Academia, Criticism, and the Internet Age”
Last week, I wrote a short piece about cringeworthy TV and the dazzling return of HBO’s The Leftovers for The New Republic.
“The first episodes of this new season are narratively jarring (the season opener begins in what seems to be pre-historic times, and we don’t see a recognizable face until almost halfway through the episode), they’re shot through with disturbing and surreal images of violence, but, more than that, they play with our anticipation of cringeworthy shocks. A suspicious pie gets passed around multiple kitchen counters like Chekhov’s gun, a man spends an almost unbearable amount of time with his hand down a garbage disposal, our protagonist spends an even longer time with his face pressed up to a malfunctioning gas burner waiting for his cigarette to light or his face to burn off—so far, none of these moments deliver the bloody coup de grace, but we dwell in expectation of it. Traumatized by the first season, we shudder at every perceived threat, real or imaginary.”
“Post-Cringe: The Leftovers and the Rise of Endurance TV”