Oprah and Ingrid Goes West: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Oprah Winfrey
Andy Kropa / Invision / AP

Oprah Winfrey Is On a Roll (Again)
Jonathan Van Meter | Vogue
“Perhaps the main reason Oprah has returned to film acting is not just the recent uptick in the availability of actual roles for black women over 60, but also that she is being asked to return. … She has had a profound influence on our culture, not to mention our politics, given that many feel Barack Obama might not have made it across the finish line without her tireless support for him during his first presidential campaign, in 2007.”

Against Instagram
Josephine Livingstone | New Republic
“In exchange for knowing everything about us and monetizing our friendships, Facebook builds a shadowy and superpowerful corporate empire that may well propel its founder into the White House one day. So, Ingrid Goes West portrays Taylor Sloane as a narcissistic and shallow young woman whose life is filled with low-grade human connections. But it also points out that ‘Instagram Influencer’ is not a novel form. It’s that classic thing, the Sell Out.”

What the Departure of the Times’s Michiko Kakutani’s Means for Books Coverage
Boris Kachka | New York
“It’s usually overreaching to call any critic’s departure the end of an era, and Kakutani’s writing career isn’t over at all. … But an era really has ended. As chief book critic, Kakutani was inimitable and irreplaceable. (In fact the ‘chief critic’ position won’t be replaced.) She was the ‘voice of God,’ as one writer put it to me. … And as she grew into the job, she became more legend than human, less knowable the more we got to know her.”

Miyazaki, Lynch, Soderbergh—Why Are So Many Directors Un-Retiring?
Phil Hoad | The Guardian
“Miyazaki’s decision is symptomatic of times in which boundaries of old age have become fuzzy, and many people are motivated to continue working. Blithely announcing and then canceling retirement is currently all the rage in the wider film world—even among younger directors. … But it’s hard not to suspect that the old retirement hokey-cokey—in, out, in, out—is at least partly driven by PR reasoning.”

Her #OscarsSoWhite Campaign Changed How Hollywood Deals With Race. Now She’s Taking On HBO.
Sonia Rao | The Washington Post
“Since she cheekily tweeted ‘#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair’ in response to an all-white slate of Academy Award acting nominees in 2015, [April] Reign has been at the epicenter of the online conversation about representation in Hollywood. Her viral hashtag transformed the way we talk about entertainment, and she’s now using another to try to take down the Game of Thrones creators’ next TV show—all from her home office in Ellicott City, Maryland.”

In a Body-Positive Moment, Why Does Hollywood Remain Out of Step?
Brooks Barnes | The New York Times
“[Danielle] Macdonald must avoid a cycle that plays out over and over in moviedom. … A plus-size actress, almost always an unknown, lands the central role in a film and delivers a knockout performance. She is held up by producers and the entertainment news media as refreshing, long overdue evidence that Hollywood’s insistence on microscopic waistlines is ending. And then she is slowly but surely pushed into bit parts, many of which are defined by weight.”

The Books We Don’t Understand
Tim Parks | The New York Review of Books
“Once we have been hooked, then so long as the narrative moves along and intrigues us we won’t have too much trouble dealing with things that don’t make sense to us. On the contrary, any early perplexities will come across as exotic, part of the fascination. But eventually, with some novels at least, we will balk. After a hundred or two hundred pages, we will start to feel that this just doesn’t add up.”

Can Rotten Tomatoes Crush a Movie at the Box Office?
Sean Fennessey | The Ringer
“Rotten Tomatoes … finds itself trapped in a valley between its purpose and its power. To serve the fans with the insights of critics by way of the corporate stewardship of the very things being criticized feels like a tautological exercise. Instead, it’s a business plan—a growing business plan. As the film industry shrinks and reshapes itself, Rotten Tomatoes builds more loyalty and a bigger audience, and strikes more fear, founded or not.”

True Crime Gets Pretty
Laura Miller | Slate
“The authors of these new true crime/memoir hybrids … put themselves at the center of the story. … Each has a personal connection to the crime, or attempts to persuade her readers that it speaks to her inner life in some irresistible way. But they are writers and memoirists first. … They spend less time describing how they tracked down facts or pored over forensic reports than they do scrutinizing their own feelings, turning them over and over like heirlooms.”