Steve McQueen: “I Want to Be Useful”
“I don’t think slavery has been taboo at all,” Steve McQueen says, having just noted that his film 12 Years a Slave is one of less than two dozen to address this painful part of US history. “[Racism has] actually been very visible and obvious—the elephant in the room.” In a Q&A with Rob Nelson, McQueen discusses slavery, art, and how he sees Solomon Northup’s 1853 book as “the Anne Frank diary of America.”
Steve McQueen’s Truth and Beauty
Addressing criticisms that Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave prizes beauty over human emotion, Rob Nelson asks: “Doesn’t commercial art by its very nature put an ornate frame around whatever it observes? What does it mean to say that the subject of slavery defies the sort of representation that invites a wide audience? Why shouldn’t the ‘fastidiously composed image’ be used to help reveal messy truths?”
Buckminster Fuller: A Design Science Evangelist in Minnesota
Earning a standing ovation from a crowd of 5,000, Buckminster Fuller spoke at the University of Minnesota one Monday in 1973 on the role of design scientists in civic problem solving. But the 90-minute talk wasn’t the revolutionary thinker’s first trip here. As Mason Riddle learns, his many visits between 1953 and 1981 involved him in projects, exhibitions, and the inaugural Earth Day observation.
Station to Station: Doug Aitken’s Polyphonic Culture Train
“Human beings need a starting point.” The motto for The Source, Doug Aitken’s video series on creativity’s origins, could easily be the slogan for Station to Station, the art train he’s taking across the US this month. While the trip has its concrete elements—a starting point, an ending point, some really heavy train cars—he sees it as entirely open-ended: whatever happens along the way is anybody’s guess.
Pathway to the Spectacular Now
When Billy Rosenberg read The Spectacular Now, he knew it should be made into a film: “Tim Tharp’s novel reminded me of Ferris Bueller, Say Anything, a little bit of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye.” But the path of turning the book into a movie was as circuitous as the Minnesota native’s own journey from the Twin Cities to LA and back for a visit to the Walker to help introduce the film.
Noah Baumbach: Visibly Human
In his films, Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Kicking and Screaming) punctuates “cruelty with tenderness, always taking pains to make sure his characters remain visibly human,” writes Village Voice critic Scott Foundas, who interviews Baumbach at the Walker April 5. Here he reflects on Baumbach works that tend to focus on issues of “intellectual one-upmanship and questionable parenting.”
Handmade Spirits: Chris Sullivan’s Ethereal Animated Worlds
Fifteen years in the making, Chris Sullivan’s painstakingly hand-crafted film Consuming Spirits peers into twin ethereal realms, lurking familial ghosts and the inebriating spirits that haunt its characters’ lives. But while the themes are otherworldly, Sullivan stays grounded in the concrete as his film’s animator, screenwriter, director, editor, composer, and actor, as Kathie Smith discovers.
A Poetic Archaeology of Cinema: The Films of Bill Morrison
In Bill Morrison’s films, time appears as both a historical process and as an autonomous, existential force to which all matter falls prey. Whether treating the march of time as fodder for a narrative of human events or as an irreversible process of flux and decay, he utilizes traces of found footage from our cinematic past, attempting to grapple with the ambiguous concept of “time” itself.
A Year in Close-Up: Still Dots and the Blue Velvet Project
Matt Levine & Jeremy Meckler
November 29 was a momentous day: After one year and 102 blog posts, Still Dots was complete. Since December 13, 2011, we’d been pulling one frame for every 62 seconds of screen time in Carol Reed’s The Third Man and writing a biweekly analysis of it. With more than 125,000 words behind us, we reflect on what this micro-analysis taught us—and how it might suggest a new kind of film criticism.