2.22.2009 New York Times Digest

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1. “Beyond the Oscar Spectacle, Hollywood Is Grumbling”

“It wasn’t so much about admiration for the picture itself, though there was plenty of that. Insiders read the snub more as a rejection by the academy, once comfortably regarded as an adjunct of the industry that created it, of what the inner circle does best: Build complex, monumental films that move millions.”

2. “The Ram vs. Tito Santana”

“I loved Mr. Rourke’s performance, which has made him a front-runner for the best actor Oscar tonight. But it made me wonder. Is this how big-time wrestlers wind up in middle age?”

3. “Credit Where Credits Are Due”

“There’s an Oscar for pretty much every aspect of filmmaking, except one: the title sequences.”

4. “Hey, Laaaaady! It’s the King of Comedy”

“Though he remains important to academics and cinéastes, like the director Martin Scorsese, who cast him in the 1983 satire The King of Comedy, his reputation as a major auteur has faded. His influence on comedy may be obvious, evidenced both in the frenzied physicality of Jim Carrey and in the comedy of mortification of Larry David and Ben Stiller. (Directors who use video assist, which allows them instantly to watch what they’ve just shot, owe him too: Mr. Lewis invented the technology.) But his impact reaches beyond comedy because of how he pushed against the very systems — studio and cultural — in which he became a star.”

5. “Thinkers in Transit, Philosophy in Motion”

“Then it occurred to her that her talking heads should walk and talk. She had just read Wanderlust, a discursive study of the history of walking by Rebecca Solnit, and was reminded of the figure of the peripatetic philosopher, from Aristotle (who paced the Lyceum while teaching) to Kierkegaard (a proponent of thinking while walking, which he frequently did in the Copenhagen streets) to Walter Benjamin (the embodiment of the Paris flâneur). She realized that putting her subjects in motion would elicit a different kind of interview than if they were seated behind their desks in offices. This conceit became a guiding principle for a film that would attempt to take philosophy out of the ivory tower and affirm its place in the flux of everyday life.”

6. “The Kid Stays in Pictures”

“I auditioned 18 times for that movie. I’d been accepted to U.S.C., but I had also taken classes at Lee Strasberg’s acting studio. I hated acting class so much. I was surrounded by people with résumés and photos. They knew what they wanted. I wasn’t sure about acting until I was cast in He Got Game. That made me serious. I committed — said no to U.S.C. — and then I didn’t get another job for a year after that.”

7. “The Big Test Before College? The Financial Aid Form”

“‘You basically have to have a Ph.D. to figure that thing out.’”

8. “When Consumers Cut Back: A Lesson From Japan”

“Although the family has a comfortable nest egg, Hiroko Takigasaki carefully rations her vegetables. When she goes through too many in a given week, she reverts to her cost-saving standby: cabbage stew.”

9. “A Primate Family Picnic It’s Not”

“The case of poor Travis, the 14-year-old chimpanzee who was shot to death last week by the police in Stamford, Conn., raises a number of vexing questions about human-chimpanzee interaction in general, and about the consequences of our studying, or even living with, other primates.”

10. “On the Beach”

“Most people don’t go there for intellectual enrichment; they go for the sex, dope and parties.”

11. “Can’t. Stop. Writing.”

“I sometimes imagine an alternative universe in which Thomas Pynchon has been a book-a-year man since 1963 and is about to publish his 46th Herbert Stencil adventure. Mightn’t we all, Pynchon included, be a lot happier with that prolific, mystique-free arrangement?”

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