Stuff I’ve Been Reading

— Wonderful interview with director Hou Hsiao-Hsien on his film “The Assassin” (in theaters now. I loved it.). He says:

I’m 68 and I’m running out of time. I started reading martial arts novels when I was in elementary school, the fifth grade, but it wasn’t until my first year of college that I began reading these short stories from the Tang Dynasty, written by people from the Tang Dynasty and published at that time. I found them quite fascinating. The short story “Nie Yinniang,” especially, stuck in my head. I kept thinking that at some point I would like to make a film based on “Nie Yinniang.” As you know, I haven’t made a film in a while because I was serving as the president of the Taipei Film Festival as well as the Golden Horse Awards. That took five years of my life. I’m not getting any younger and realized that now would be the time to make this movie.

Kim Morgan’s gorgeous piece on Angelina Jolie’s By the Sea, which is being panned left and right, totally unfairly (I, for one, cannot get it out of my head.) Kim digs deep into the film. Don’t miss it.

Extraordinary article by Adrian Chen in The New Yorker about how a young woman broke out of a family cult (the Westboro Baptist Church). It’s a long article. To be read in full. It made me tear up. Her “conversion” came through interactions on Twitter which made other people seem real and not evil, plus a moment having to do with the death of Brittany Murphy, which should shut people up forever who sneer at those who grieve celebrity deaths. Her emotion about that event is what helped her realize her mind was her own. Incredible article.

My friend Odie Henderson’s review of Creed. The movie made me cry (maybe 7 or 8 times, so basically I cried all the way through), Odie’s review made me cry, so basically I’ve been making a spectacle of myself all over town. The accolades, though, are well-deserved. One of the best films of 2015. And you know I’m honing down my list now.

My pal Miriam Bale interviewed director Todd Haynes about the cinematic influences for the gorgeous Carol out in theaters now. (I I loved the film.) I love how Miram and Haynes discuss the “artifice”, and how it used to BE cinema, and how it is also “natural” in that context. (Speaking of which, that is what critics panning By the Sea don’t seem to get.)

— Just starting Peter Guralnick’s Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll. I’m so looking forward to it I’m almost NERVOUS about it.

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9 Responses to Stuff I’ve Been Reading

  1. Tracey K says:

    I am so anxious for the Sam Phillips bio too, but I’ve often wondered why Elvis and Sam didn’t stay better friends. I’ve read in some Elvis biographies that he simply felt Sam was part of his ‘past” and Elvis wanted to leave those lean, hungry, uncertain times behind him.

    • sheila says:

      Reading it now – it’s so good!!

      I’m currently in the Howlin’ Wolf chapter – so so inspirational, and when Phillips’ vision started coming together.

      Pre-Elvis, of course, which changed everything.

      Guralnick is so good.

  2. alli says:

    That piece on Megan Phelps-Roper is so so good. The value of social media and how we can shrink the world and really connect with people we would never otherwise engage with. Really enjoyed that one.

    • sheila says:

      Alli – I so agree – such a positive story about social media. It can connect you to an entire world outside your limited world-view and that seemed to happen with her. I am so glad she got out – and how moving that her “words with friends” buddy waited for her – and now they’re together. So touching!

  3. Fiddlin Bill says:

    Re the New Yorker article on Megan Phelps-Roper–I read it just as the Paris massacres and their shock waves were occurring. That Phelps-Roper could have a kind of conversion struck me as hopeful, a light in the blackness. Zelots can sometimes find their own way out of their zelotry.

    • sheila says:

      It reminds me a lot of Tory Christman’s story about breaking out of Scientology after 30 years. It came about because of
      1. technology – connecting her to the world of people outside the cult
      2. The kindness her former enemies (Scientology critics) showed towards her. They were like, “We will be here for you when you choose to get free.” They kept their word.

      • sheila says:

        Tory Christman has a Youtube channel where she tells her story – she has become one of the most outspoken critics of Scientology. Her Youtube name is “torymagoo44” and I highly recommend checking her out.

  4. Desirae says:

    Ah, I’m so glad Kim Morgan wrote about By the Sea. I may go see it this weekend. “And it does hurt — her body beautifully in repose, a beguiling mixture of painfully thin hunger and vulnerability and yet a powerful body, a center of strength that carries itself along the ocean, skinny legs pushing forward this exquisite head and face, eyes and lips so full and wide it almost seems impossible.” What a strange and gorgeous sentence. I swear KM has something of the outsider artist about her – I’ve never come across a writing style quite like hers. She seems to have developed it free of all influence. And yet she’s so knowledgeable about film; she thinks like a scholar and writes with the originality of a monk living in isolation.

    There are too many good movies out right now, honestly. I want to see Creed… I want to see Carol… I want to see James White…

    I swear I read about Megan Phelps-Roper once before, but she hadn’t left the cult yet. It was about her becoming friends with, I think, a gay DJ who used to stop by the house and debate religion with Shirley. But now I can’t find the article so who knows. That’s a remarkable story, anyway.

    • sheila says:

      Desirae – I know, Kim’s stuff is so good and so unique! We had been bonding about the movie so I’m so glad she wrote about it too. I saw a colleague of mine on who had seen the film at AFI Fest said something in her review like: “It’s a very beautiful film, but the beauty is part of the problem.”

      Clearly I disagree.

      Beauty is never a problem. And especially not here!

      In re: Phelps: I had not heard that story about the gay DJ. I also hadn’t realized that a group promoting tolerance bought the property across from the Westboro Church – hoping to show that all of Westboro isn’t like that, but also – maybe – to show the people across the street what tolerance looks like.

      Again, it reminds me a little bit of the Anonymous/Scientology critics protests across from various Orgs. The Anonymous group plus the critics were very well-organized and well-trained – no violence, the whole point was to hopefully engage in dialogue with Scientologists who might be open to getting out. Or maybe all of their signs held up would begin the crack that would make the whole thing topple. There were clearly many confrontations – but a lot of the video footage is just of protestors trying to talk to these cult members – and saying stuff like: “Just go on the Internet – look it up for yourself” (since the cult members refuse to look on the Internet – even Paul Haggis had refused to look up any complaints against the Church until he himself became disaffected – and when he finally did some Googling he was shocked at all that he didn’t know.)

      So it’s an amazing story of Megan – because these people – who hated her views – also, for many reasons, kind of liked her and were rooting for her to see the light and get out.

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