The best things I’ve read lately (25/2/2015)

Belfast grapples with peace, coming in from the political wilderness and Birdman is dissected not least by Sesame Street.

If you’ve been reading my posts this week then you probably know that my reading has been dominated by the Oscars. The article that stood out was Tom Carson in the Atlantic making the case that Boyhood and not Birdman should have won best picture. I disagree with his conclusion but loved his argument:

Birdman vs. Boyhood is one of the rare Oscar tussles to define a tension that has been basic to movies ever since Georges Méliès and nickelodeon newsreels got busy doing their respective things. On one side, you’ve got your consciously extravagant showmen/impresarios/magicians, a camp whose ultimate hero (and martyr) will always be Orson Welles. On the other are the patient recorders of life who eschew virtuosity for virtuosity’s sake even when they’d be perfectly capable of itpatron saint, the Vittorio de Sica of Bicycle Thieves and Shoeshine, with Belgium’s Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne as the tradition’s latest avatars.

Welles himself pegged the difference. “In handling a camera, I feel I have no peer,” he said in 1960. “But what de Sica can do, that I can’t do. I ran his Shoeshine again recently, and the camera disappeared, the screen disappeared; it was just life…” Sue me for thinkingJust Life as an alternate title sums up Boyhood’s pretensions, as I Have No Peer would for Birdman’s.

Also in the Atlantic, Torie Rose Deghett visits Belfast and reports on how it is (or in many cases isn’t adjusting) to peace:

The much-visited walls remain because the city’s peace is still a process, and some residentscontinue to fear they would be attacked if the barriers came down. The largest of these, a structure of concrete topped with mesh and metal sheeting that rises 30 feet above Cupar Way, was erected to separate the Catholic-inhabited Clonard from Protestant-dominated Shankill following fiery clashes between those communities in August 1969. The wall was supposed to be temporary. Instead, it has simply grown in size, and dozens more have been constructed, some even since the end of the Troubles. According to the Belfast Interface Project, which researches the city’s divided communities, seven new barriers have been built since 2000—a testament to the enduring specter of sectarianism.

Katie Zavadski of New York magazine provides something I’ve been looking for for a while now: a collection of Andrew Sullivan’s best writings. She combines this with a potted history of blogging career, noting for example:

The interests of his blog were both general and personal, an eclectic mix that included Catholicism, pot, beards, beagles, and especially gay marriage, the case for which he started making years before anyone believed it remotely possible.

In amongst the posts she chooses is Sullivan’s thoughts on the morning the Supreme Court struck down the Orwellianly named Defense of Marriage Act:

“It is the most liberating feeling to hear your once near-solitary voice blend finally into a communal roar until it isn’t your voice at all any more. It’s the voice of justice.”

And returning to the Oscar theme my favourite video this week is Sesame Street paying tribute to Birdman:

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