Friday, January 16, 2015

Staff Picks: Jack Nicholson, National Magazine Awards, Memory Hole and more

Posted By , , , , and on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 at 3:56 PM

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Arkansas Times Recommends is a weekly series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.

This year's finalists for National Magazine Awards were announced earlier this week. I recommend scanning the list and reading the nominees that are available for free on the Internet. A special plug for friends of the Times whose work, or at least work on which they assisted, was honored: The Oxford American for Chris Offutt's cooking column; Virginia Quarterly Review, where former Arkie (and OA editor) Paul Reyes is deputy editor, for reporting, essay, fiction and a general category, and the New York Times Magazine for John Jeremiah Sullivan's masterful feature "The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie," which was researched by and features Caitlin Love, an editor at the Oxford American who sometimes contributes to Arkansas Times Recommends. — Lindsey Millar

"Selma." Great cast. Great story. Great archival footage. Great parallels, intended or not, with today's great civil rights movement for gay people. — Max Brantley

Huge thanks to everyone who came out to our "Chinatown" screening last night. That was great! As a follow-up, here is one of my favorite scenes from "The Last Detail," the other great Jack Nicholson film written by Robert Towne. This one was directed by Hal Ashby, best known for "Harold and Maude" and "Being There." Nicholson plays a petty officer in the Navy named "Badass" Buddusky who, along with his friend "Mule," is enlisted to deliver a third sailor, a young Randy Quaid, to a naval prison in Portsmouth. It's a modest and pretty odd film. "I did it in that movie," Nicholson said later, "that was my best role." I saw it several years ago but even now I sometimes find myself thinking, "I am the motherfucking shore patrol." — Will Stephenson

My junior year in college, I took a religion class devoted to exploring the concept of monsters (this is both an argument for and against going to college at all) and learned the German word unheimlich, which translates roughly to “uncanny” but literally means “not homely,” as in “alien to the home.” The point there is that the evocation of monstrosity is intrinsically bound to our notion of what is wholesome, familiar, comforting, of the home and hearth. Monsters are defined by their violation of the domestic order: this, to take one example among many in the world of modern horror movies, is why both haunted houses and creepy little kids have such staying power.

I think this is why Memory Hole, which a friend introduced me to recently, is so nicely unsettling. (Note: Not NSFW by traditional censorship standards exactly, but, well, exercise caution.) The site gives no explanation for its existence — of course — but I’m going to assume that the videos it draws from are just what they appear to be: the fruits of endless culled family VHS tapes, minced apart, decontextualized and sewn back together with dread-inducing music and scraps of semiotic fabric drawn from all the endless detritus the internet has to offer. Unnervingly coated with the sense of domestic warmth that such super low-fi footage evokes (at least for those of us who grew up with a camcorder in the house) it approximates the feeling of having just woken up from a jarring and inexpressible dream, of half-glimpsing something inexplicable through a neighbor’s blinds. That, but also funnier. Anyway, here’s the Memory Hole; hop on in — Benji Hardy

To be ultra relaxed, I recommend watching one of these three very soothing videos: listen and swoon to Jenny Slate’s impossibly sweet voice as Marcel the Shell with Shoes On; listen to this Crystal bowl meditation; or watch the coolest part of the destruction of the old Arkansas Times parking lot. — Bryan Moats

The state Game and Fish commission turns 100 this year. They made this video, heavy on the hook and bullets aspect, but what do you expect? — Leslie Newell Peacock

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