Martin Scorsese wrote a passionate essay published in Harper’s Magazine this month, critiquing streaming services as catalysts of the downfall of cinema as an art form. His piece acts as much as an ode to the creators, whose works he grew up watching, as it does a farewell to the medium he loves, as it succumbs further to the grip of the invisible hand amidst the pandemic. As one of the great moviemakers of our time (broadly speaking), the Wolf of Wall Street director makes several valid points. But although he specifically curses streaming platforms, I believe tech’s larger impact on society should shoulder much of the blame.
Toward the end of a several-day hiatus from writing, I visited a bookstore for the sole purpose of perusing. I was shocked to see that “self-help” had become a section of its own, donning a few eight-foot high columns. Authors promoted anything from traditional Buddhist concepts to successful wall-street financial maneuvers to better the reader’s everyday life. I picked up and flipped through The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, whom I was already somewhat familiar with, when it dawned on me. I just need to write this piece. I don’t need to actually give a “F*ck”. Motivated by a Nike-esque “just do it” mentality, I embraced the ethos of the self-help genre.
Why exactly was Christopher Nolan lobbying Warner Bros to release his new film Tenet to theatres in the middle of a pandemic, when cinemas around the world are operating at a sharply reduced capacity, if not entirely closed? That’s a conundrum only rivalled in convolution by the film’s plot. Nolan still got it done, and the film is the first blockbuster to reach the silver screens since March. But for all the confidence the Dunkirk director seems to have in his most recent work, there is little in the 150-minute film to back it up.
On January 17th, Marshall Mathers — aka Eminem — quietly released his 10th major-label album, entitled Music to Be Murdered By. The title and cover image are a nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s eponymous work from 1958, and the “Alfred” interlude and outro are the famed director’s orated introduction and closing from his own album. But Eminem didn’t use the theme to make a concept album. Instead, with production by Dr. Dre, Tay Keith, and D.A. Doman, among others, the 64-minute album has Eminem performing a balancing act that invokes his crude alter ego — Slim Shady — with rabid foolishness. It has him rapping alongside younger artists such as Juice WRLD (in his first posthumous musical appearance) and Young M.A, all while still trying to provoke nostalgia by emulating his D12-era self and sharing the scene with established rappers like Black Thought and Royce Da 5’9”. Unfortunately, for a body of work that takes its title from the so-called “King of Suspense,” the album leaves the listener largely unmoved.
Climate disasters, endless Middle Eastern conflicts, nationalist uprisings, xenophobia, and government surveillance. Most societies today are combatting at least one of these predicaments. The increased speed at which information travels has made people aware of problems that should not be persisting in a progressive social order. Aside from being a unifier of sorts and an aid to the consolidation of voices, mass communication may have contributed to widespread cynicism, making us distrustful of the principles and norms around us.