Scorsese's Silence and Batman: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Liam Neeson in a still from Martin Scorsese's latest film, Silence (Paramount )

Martin Scorsese’s Strained Silence
Anthony Lane | The New Yorker
“Is Scorsese the man for the interior? Is Silence fit to stand beside Robert Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest, or Bergman’s Winter Light? It remains to be seen whether moviegoers who thrilled to the kinetic flourishes of GoodFellas and Casino will tolerate, or even recognize, a Scorsese hero who refuses to strike back. The agon of the central character, self-besieged or plagued by circumstance, runs through the history of the director’s films, as does the suspicion that man’s brutality to man may have a penitential purpose.”

Being Annette Bening
Dana Stevens | Slate
“Bening has long been one of the rare performers who can alchemize base metals into precious ones. Some of her finest performances come in movies that couldn’t entirely be said to deserve them, and if her presence can elevate mediocre material, it can lift good scripts into the stratosphere. 20th Century Women has its flaws—as with Mills’ last film, Beginners, the characters’ criss-crossing emotional journeys can seem too swiftly and too neatly resolved to make for engaging drama. But Bening, playing an eccentric ’70s-era feminist closely based on the writer-director’s own mother, provides the story with an emotional core dense enough to exert its own gravity.”

What Separates Casey Affleck From Nate Parker
Anne Helen Petersen | Buzzfeed
“Nate Parker wasn’t just his film’s male star: He was its auteur. Hollywood loves auteurs, yet it has a dearth of black ones. Parker was a godsend, as he wanted to tell the story of Nat Turner so much that he’d halted his acting career to make it at all costs. His face was on the poster. He was Birth of a Nation; Birth of a Nation was him. When it became essential to decry Parker, it also became essential to decry—and even boycott—his film. Affleck is the star of Manchester by the Sea, and the recipient of much of its praise, but certainly not all of it.”

How Batman Helps Me Survive My Mental Illness
Abraham Riesman | Vulture
“Herein lies the unique conceptual framework that Batman tales offer. Bipolar II-induced depression is chronic. I've been ill for as long as I can remember, and probably always will be. I have plenty of good days, when life seems delicious and my tasks seem surmountable, but over and over again, I have the bad days, ones where the voices in my head—my own supervillains—tell me to give in to chaos. They’re recurring characters. Sometimes, I’m fighting one; other times, a few of them team up. I push back as much as I can: I go to therapy, I meditate, I medicate. The antagonists go away for a while. But they never permanently disappear.”

The Rise of Science Fiction From Pulp Mags to Cyberpunk
Jeff VanderMeer | Electric Literature
“We hesitate to invoke the slippery and preternatural word influence, because influence appears and disappears and reappears, sidles in and has many mysterious ways. It can be as simple yet profound as reading a text as a child and forgetting it, only to have it well up from the subconscious years later, or it can be a clear and all-consuming passion. At best we can only say that someone cannot be influenced by something not yet written or, in some cases, not yet translated.”

Does Westworld Tell a Truer Story Than a Novel Can?
Stuart Kelly | The Guardian
“Literature is one of our first attempts at simulating reality, and its characters offer necessarily simplified versions of the messy business of being a human. Philosophers, psychoanalysts, and neuroscientists have all called into question these notions that we cherish—will, self, choice, desire, recollection—but the novel has failed to keep up with these insights. I know myself that I do not know myself, that what I want is not what I choose to want, that the ‘me’ that was 11 is barely recognizable as the ‘me’ that is 44.”

The Accidental Social-Media Artist Who Can’t Stop Falling
Philippa Snow | Hyperallergic
“My favorite of her videos is one where she falls amid absolute carnage in In-N-Out Burger. I don’t know if it’s the spooky tint of fast-food restaurant lighting, but her hair looks acid yellow. That her T-shirt’s tomato red can’t be an accident (being English, I was forced to use Google in order to ascertain that, yes, the colors of In-N-Out’s logo are yellow and red, the same as McDonald’s—and like ketchup and mustard, the fact of which only just hit me). I appreciate that she chose a fast-food chain with no clown, if only because some gestures are simply too obvious to be symbolic: goofier, even, than pratfalls.”

Why Can’t They Make a Good Video-Game Movie?
Jason Concepcion | The Ringer
“The difficulty stems from the interactivity of games. A video game’s story is created, in large part, by the player, not the writer or level designer. Left 4 and Dead 1 and 2 are among my favorite games ever. The plot amounts to little more than a series of setups — four player-controlled characters must cooperate to travel through various urban and suburban environments infested with zombies. And yet, I have had experiences in that game — running for the transport chopper as a teammate was attacked by a boss zombie, hearing him scream ‘DON’T LEAVE ME!’ with real desperation in his voice — that felt like peering into a person’s soul. By translating that experience to the screen, you necessarily lose that interactive fourth dimension.”