The Best 100 Movies of the 21st Century (So Far) Named by 177 Film Critics

Mulholland Drive Cover

When prompted to think of the cinematic peaks of the 20th century, or of specific decades like the 1930s, the 1970s, or the 1990s, we can usually thread up specific examples in the projector of our mind right away. Grand Illusion and Gone with the Wind! Taxi Driver and The GodfatherPulp Fiction and Fargo! But in this century it gets trickier. This probably doesn’t have to do with a precipitous drop in the quality of cinema itself, nor with a lack of films to consider — indeed, the 2000s and 2010s so far have burdened cinephiles with more critically-acclaimed pictures than they can get around to seeing.

The relative recency of the movies of the 21st century presents something of a challenge, since the zeitgeist hasn’t had quite enough time to digest most of them. And what now constitutes the “zeitgeist,” anyway? We live in a postmodern time, we often read, and that usually seems to mean that a greater variety of aesthetic sensibilities, historical periods, and world cultures now coexist for us on an essentially level playing field than ever before. The experience of the modern moviegoer reflects this condition, as does the BBC’s list of the 21st century’s 100 greatest films (so far), the top ten of which follow:

  1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
  2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
  3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
  4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
  5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
  6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
  7. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
  8. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Edward Yang, 2000)
  9. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
  10. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)

To produce the list, the BBC surveyed 177 critics “from every continent except Antarctica. Some are newspaper or magazine reviewers, others write primarily for websites; academics and cinema curators are well-represented too.” They note that they include the year 2000, though not technically part of the century, since “not only did we all celebrate the turn of the millennium on 31 December 1999, but the year 2000 was a landmark in global cinema, and, in particular, saw the emergence of new classics from Asia like nothing we had ever seen before,” not just Yi Yi and In the Mood for Love but Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon a bit down the list.


France, though a country closely associated with mid-20th-century cinema, makes an admirable showing here with the likes of Agnès Varda’s The Gleaners & I, Michael Haneke’s Caché, Claire Denis’ White Material, and Jean-Luc Godard’s voyage into 3D, Goodbye to Language. Some films shamefully overlooked at their initial release, like Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret and Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, appear here as perhaps a prelude to their rightful rediscovery. We can tell which auteurs have defined the cinematic century so far by the presence of more than one of their works: the late Abbas Kiarostami‘s Ten and Certified Copy both appear, as do three films by Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul and six by those still-ambitious once-wunderkinds of American cinema, the Andersons Wes and Paul Thomas.

Most of these movies exploit, to a deeper extent than the critically acclaimed pictures of decades previous, the creation of dreamlike experiences possible in film. None do it more vividly, perhaps, than the occupier of the top spot, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. The selection will surprise some readers, and others not at all. What makes that particular movie so good? Conveniently, the BBC provides on the sidebar a link to an article by Luke Buckmaster explaining just that.

Buckmaster compares Mulholland Drive to Citizen Kane, “writer/director Orson Welles’ esteemed 1941 feature film debut – BBC Culture’s critics poll of the 100 greatest American films last year put Kane at number one. If Kane can be viewed as an essay on the nuts and bolts of film-making – a masterclass in technical processes, from montage to deep focus, dissolves and the manipulation of mise en scèneMulholland Drive’s appeal is more thematic and conceptual. It is less a demonstration of how great cinema is achieved than what great cinema can achieve, its capacity for ideas seemingly endless.” May the remaining 84 years of the 21st century find that capacity more endless still.

See the BBC’s complete list here.

Related Content:

1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

The 10 Greatest Films of All Time According to 846 Film Critics

The 10 Greatest Films of All Time According to 358 Filmmakers

120 Artists Pick Their Top 10 Films in the Criterion Collection

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Star Trek Postage Stamps Coming Soon: Celebrating 50 Years of Exploring the Final Frontier

star-trek-stamps

The original Star Trek TV series took to the airwaves nearly 5o years ago–on September 8, 1966. Poor ratings meant that the show didn’t last very long (only three years). But everything changed once the show went into syndication. It achieved cult status. And a franchise was born. The original Star Trek has now spawned five additional tv series, 13 feature films, and a number of fan-made sequels.

To celebrate 50 years of Star Trek, the US Postal Service has decided to release a commemorative set of stamps inspired by the original show. The four stamps (shown above) depict the following:

  • The Starship Enterprise inside the outline of a Starfleet insignia against a gold background.
  • The silhouette of a crewman in a transporter against a red background.
  • The silhouette of the Enterprise from above against a green background.
  • The Enterprise inside the outline of the Vulcan salute (Spock’s iconic hand gesture) against a blue background.

The stamps will be officially available on September 2, though they can be pre-ordered here.

via Kottke

Related Content:

Watch Star Trek Continues: The Critically-Acclaimed, Fan-Made Sequel to the Original TV Series

How Isaac Asimov Went from Star Trek Critic to Star TrekFan & Advisor

Nichelle Nichols Explains How Martin Luther King Convinced Her to Stay on Star Trek

The Complete Star Wars “Filmumentary”: A 6-Hour, Fan-Made Star Wars Documentary, with Behind-the-Scenes Footage & Commentary

Hardware Wars: The Mother of All Star Wars Fan Films (and the Most Profitable Short Film Ever Made)

Star Wars Uncut: The Epic Fan Film

Penn Jillette Makes the Philosophical & Pragmatic Case for Libertarianism

For an anarchist like Noam Chomsky, libertarianism as it’s understood in the U.S. is a corruption of the term. Throughout their political history, Chomsky argues, “real” Libertarians have been anti-Capitalist—and he includes under this heading such classical liberals as Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson, as well as modern anarcho-socialists like himself. Modern U.S. Libertarians like Ron and Rand Paul, Milton Friedman, and Robert Nozick have all meant something very different by the term, and certainly haven’t agreed on what that is. So what exactly is Libertarianism?

Given popular misconceptions—and some less than stellar public relations moments—one perhaps gets a clearest idea of what American Libertarianism is by reading about what it isn’t, as in this essay from one of its most contrarian theorists, Murray Rothbard. Or we can spend a few minutes with that voluble comedic magician Penn Jillette, a well-known face of Libertarian and atheist thought for many years. Jillette’s thesis in his eighteen-minute Big Think video above comes down to this: “we think you should take as little from other people by force as possible and you should be able to do whatever you think is right.” Libertarianism, Jillette elaborates, “is the strongest sense of ‘please, do what you want, try not to hurt me.”

The concept he refers to is one Isaiah Berlin wrote of as “negative liberty,” or the principle of noninterference, a staple of all Libertarian thought. The heavy stress on individual rights has come in for critique as naïve, but as Rothbard notes, “no individualist denies that people are influencing each other all the time.” Libertarian thinkers have wrestled with the conflict (if not contradiction) between maximal individual freedom and freedom from harm. Robert Nozick, for example, extended his discussion beyond our responsibilities to each other to a moral case study of our duties toward animals. Responsibility stands as a key term in Jillette’s articulation of Libertarianism—a sine qua non of a Libertarian society.

But is there such a thing as a functioning Libertarian society? Or does Jillette describe an unrealizable utopia that depends not only on most people acting responsibly, but also on most people acting rationally? As he himself says, “Libertarianism is taking a right on money, your first left on sex, and looking for utopia straight ahead.” This language aside, he doesn’t seem to operate under the illusion that people always make the best choices for themselves or their families. As part of his argument, however, he admits he isn’t qualified or desirous to make those choices for other people when he can often barely discern the right course of action for himself. As it generally does, this course of reasoning brings us to the problem of taxation in Libertarian thought.

Jillette’s appeal seems commonsensical and pragmatic, and after his general pitch, he launches into a critique of corporate capitalism that could come right out of a Chomsky talk—in some small part, that is. Jillette believes that, absent most government interference, we would have such a thing as a “true free market” in which everyone could compete fairly and without coercion. This is a position even Nozick softened on many years after his classic Anarchy, State, and Utopia, calling it “seriously inadequate” and admitting that many democratic institutions Libertarians want to abolish preserve “our equal human dignity, our autonomy and powers of self-direction.”

Whatever we make of Jillette’s laissez faire ideology, his critiques of government speak to Libertarians on either side of the economics divide. He makes an incisive case against Clinton, then tears into Trump’s willingness to “give easy answers.” Holding up career politicians Bernie Sanders and Gary Johnson as “paragons” may seem a bit much, given Jillette’s forceful argument for a healthy and thoroughgoing mistrust of government. As he says in the earlier Big Think interview above, “part of the joy and the wonder and the brilliance of the ideas of the United States of America that whoever’s in power is questioned and beat up.”

He does not, of course, mean that last part in any literal sense. While Libertarianism has perhaps been tarred by association with an increasingly violent right, it would be a mistake to lump Jillette in with certain political opportunists who at one time or another have used the term to describe themselves. His commitment to anti-war and drug legalization policies is unwavering, and he makes a strong, well-reasoned case for his politics. It’s one worth hearing out whether you agree or not in the end.

Related Content:

6 Political Theorists Introduced in Animated “School of Life” Videos: Marx, Smith, Rawls & More

A Theory of Justice, the Musical Imagines Philosopher John Rawls as a Time-Traveling Adventurer

Noam Chomsky on Whether the Rise of Trump Resembles the Rise of Fascism in 1930s Germany

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Enchanting Opera Performances of Klaus Nomi

After making one of the grandest entrances in music history on the stages of East Village clubs, the BBC’s The Old Grey Whistle Test, and Saturday Night Live, theatrical German new wave space alien Klaus Nomi died alone in 1983, a victim of the “first beachhead of the AIDS epidemic.” The disease frightened Nomi’s friends away—no one knew anything about what was then called “gay cancer” but that it was deadly. Soon afterward, the immensely talented singer’s reputation declined. Writer Rupert Smith pronounced Nomi “largely forgotten” in a 1994 issue of Attitude magazine, and made a case for renewed attention. “Nomi,” wrote Smith, “remains rock music’s queerest exponent, who outshone the many acts following in his wake.”

But Nomi has since received his due, in a moment of revival that has extended over several years, thanks in part to many of those later acts. In his own day, writes LD Beghtol at The Village Voice, “the underground punk-opera singer was mostly unknown beyond his small circle of friends and fans.” Nomi was “queer in multiple senses of the word and stood well apart from his fellow East Village bohos. And he possessed an undeniable gift, a voice that surged up from a husky Weimar croon into the falsetto stratosphere. Operatic countertenors, though, were hopelessly déclassé. His professional options were few.” It’s also the case that Nomi’s opera experience wouldn’t have taken him very far. “As young Klaus Sperber,” writes Smith, “he had worked front-of-house at the Berlin Opera in the late Sixties, and would entertain colleagues with his renditions of the great arias as they swept up after performances.”

But with or without the résumé, Nomi had the voice—one audiences could hardly believe came from the strange, diminutive cabaret character with heavy makeup and tri-cornered receding hairline. At the top of the post, see Nomi’s 1978 debut at New Wave Vaudeville, a four-night revue at Irving Plaza. “Nomi,” Smith tells us, “was a smash.” Skip ahead to 2:14 to see Nomi’s musical director Kristian Hoffman introduce his performance of “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” (“My heart opens to your voice”) from Camille Saint-Saëns’ 1877 opera Samson et Dalila. (See a full performance of the aria, in murky color, in the video further down.) After every subsequent performance, Hoffman says, the cabaret’s MC had to assure audiences that Nomi’s voice was “not an electrical recording.”

Nomi’s voice and presence attracted the attention of stars like David Bowie, who hired him as a backup singer for that SNL appearance in 1979 after he appeared on the cult New York public access show TV Party. Glenn O’Brien’s introduction of Nomi as “one of the finest pastry chefs in New York,” above, is only partly tongue in cheek; that was indeed the singer’s day job. But in character, he wielded his otherworldly falsetto like a raygun. “Every song,” writes Pitchfork in an appreciation, “included dramatic multiple shifts in octave, where Klaus would rise to extreme highs and lows, handling both effortlessly. He would jerk his hands into karate chops with each changing note, widening his eyes every time he skirted into higher octaves.”

Nomi’s brand of opera-infused synth-pop and retro-futurist, shiny-suited cabaret act—the “Klaus Nomi Show” as it was called—brought him notoriety in the New York art scene during his lifetime, and have since made him a star, decades after his tragic death. As gratifying as that may be for longtime fans of Nomi’s work, we should also remember that Nomi’s devotion to opera was no mere gimmick, but a lifelong passion and undeniable talent. As we noted in an earlier post, in Nomi’s last performance before his death—in a small 1982 European tour—he sang the aria “Cold Genius” from Henry Purcell’s 1691 opera King Arthur or, The British Worthy, a performance, wrote Matthias Rascher, “certainly one of the most memorable in operatic history.” Perhaps we might call it one of the most memorable moments in pop music history as well.

Related Content:

Klaus Nomi: Watch the Final, Brilliant Performance of a Dying Man

David Bowie and Klaus Nomi’s Hypnotic Performance on SNL (1979)

Klaus Nomi’s Ad for Jägermeister (Circa 1980)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Gets an Epic, Instrumental Soundtrack from the Indie Band Joan of Arc

The legacy of the silent film era is always with us, even as we move further and further away from film and closer to computer art. Not only do the compositions, costuming, and camerawork of golden age classics like Metropolis, Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and others continue to inform current directors’ work, CGI and otherwise, but these films have spawned their own prestigious form of music. In recent decades scores for classic silents have become the special provenance of avant-garde and experimental composers. The pairing makes sense. These are movies that raised the stakes for their medium and established the first generation of cinematic auteurs—Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau, D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and, of course, Carl Dreyer, the Danish director of 1928’s profoundly intense The Passion of Joan of Arc.

As with all of the acknowledged classics of the era, Dreyer’s masterpiece has received many contemporary musical treatments in the past few decades, including an original operetta by Richard Einhorn (on the Criterion Collection edition) and many more classical and modernist scores. But it has also been part of a parallel trend—of indie rock musicians like Dengue Fever, Yo La Tengo, Sparklehorse, and Dean and Britta scoring classic silent films. First, Australians Nick Cave and The Dirty Three came together in 1995 to play a live soundtrack for Joan of Arc in London. Then Cat Power accompanied the film in 1999 for several dates. In 2011, for one night only, Chicago indie stalwarts Joan of Arc performed their 80-minute instrumental score for a packed screening at the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival. Hear it, along with the film, above. (A copy can be purchased online here.) It was an “unexpected turn for the band,” their label Joyful Noise notes, given that they had just “released their most conventionally ‘rocking’ album in years, ‘Life Like.’”


Associated with singer and sole permanent member Tim Kinsella’s raspy yelps and warped songcraft, the band here takes a post-rock direction, loud and dirge-like. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it does, writes Joyful Noise, offer a “dark, flowering sonic counterpart to the film’s grim subject matter (which is a rather haunting depiction of savage religious persecution).” Dreyer’s film is indeed a grim work of art, but it is not any less beautiful for its oppressive narrative. As running titles in the Joan of Arc-scored film’s intro inform us, like its protagonist, “The Passion of Joan of Arc was the victim of several ordeals,” including censorship upon release and the loss of the original negative and a re-edited copy to fire. Likewise for the film’s actress, the great Renee Maria Falconetti, “the performance was an ordeal,” as Roger Ebert points out, with legends telling “of Dreyer forcing her to kneel painfully on stone and then wipe all expression from her face.”

Known “only in mutilated copies” for over half a century, the 1985 restoration above comes from an original Danish copy discovered “complete and in very good condition” at a Norwegian mental institution in 1981. It is a curious story. Scholars have often speculated that the historical Joan of Arc was schizophrenic or that she suffered from “one of numerous neurological and psychiatric conditions that trigger hallucinations or delusions.” Falconetti’s performance of Joan is ambiguous, suggesting on the one hand, a “faith that seemed to stay any suggestion of irritation,” as one contemporary reviewer wrote, and on the other, the dazed, faraway look of a person in the throes of mental illness. And the film’s warped perspectives and extreme close-ups and angles suggest a kind of disturbance, of the corrupt, superstitious social order that interrogates and executes Joan, and also of Joan’s mind as she confronts her implacable judges. Joan of Arc’s pulsing, atmospheric soundtrack, draws out this very tension, written in Falconetti’s every exquisite expression.

This version of Dreyer’s Joan of Arc will be added to our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.. Another version, without any sound whatsoever, can be found above.

Related Content:  

Watch the German Expressionist Film, The Golem, with a Soundtrack by The Pixies’ Black Francis

Watch Online The Passion of Joan of Arc by Carl Theodor Dreyer (1928) 

The 10 Greatest Films of All Time According to 358 Filmmakers

Watch 10 Classic German Expressionist Films: From Fritz Lang’s M to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Accidental Origin of the Hit Song ‘American Woman’: Randy Bachman Tells the Story

In one of our favorite old posts, guitarist Randy Bachman did us a favor when he mercifully demystified the opening chord of The Beatles’ ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ Mystery finally solved.

Today, he returns and brings us inside the making of another classic song–“American Woman,” which Bachman co-wrote as a member of The Guess Who in 1970. In the clip above, the musician reflects on his “antiwar protest song” and its memorable riff. You know it. It goes dum dum dadada dada dada dada dum dum dadada dada da dum. The riff came about by accident, the happy byproduct of a broken guitar string and some spur of the moment improvisation. I’ll let Randy tell you the rest of the story.

Related Content:

Guitarist Randy Bachman Demystifies the Opening Chord of The Beatles’ ‘A Hard Day’s Night’

Producer Tony Visconti Breaks Down the Making of David Bowie’s Classic “Heroes,” Track by Track

Enter Brian Wilson’s Creative Process While Making The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds 50 Years Ago: A Fly-on-the Wall View

A 12-Hour Eastern Spirituality Playlist: Features Lectures & Readings by Joseph Campbell, Christopher Isherwood, the Dalai Lama & Others

800px-Bhagavata_Gita_Bishnupur_Arnab_Dutta_2011

Krishna teaching Arjuna, from the Bhagavata Gita, by Arnab Dutta, via Wikimedia Commons

Opening with 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s quote, “The East is a career,” Edward Said’s Orientalism traced the lineage of “the Orient” as “almost a European invention.” Through discourses scientific, political, philosophical, cultural, and otherwise, European thinkers, artists, and statesmen, Said contended, “accepted the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate theories, epics, novels, social descriptions and political accounts.” But at the root of a long academic tradition of comparative analyses of “East” and “West,”—a relationship of dominance—there lay the recognition, however dim, that “The Orient is not only adjacent to Europe; it is also… the source of its civilizations and languages.”

The cultural debts that Europe owed its colonies were not the kind of thing most politicians liked to discuss, but many European and U.S. writers and scholars fascinated with the East have long recognized religious and philosophical continuities between the two hemispheres. The number of conversations between so-called Western and Eastern traditions only increased as the 20th century wore on and European Empires crumbled, giving rise mid-century to a whole society of comparative East/West religionists and writers: D.T. Suzuki, Alan Watts, Herman Hesse, Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg…. Although many Western scholars’ pronouncements may have overgeneralized or distorted, interest in a dialogue has only grown since the 50s and 60s, and sympathetic presentations of Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and other “Eastern religions” proliferated.


From this atmosphere emerged the work of Joseph Campbell, famous for The Hero with a Thousand Faces, published in 1949, a work of comparative religion that adopted a philological approach to myth like that of Campbell’s own hero, Nietzsche. Campbell may have seen East and West as distinct cultural entities—titling one lecture “The Eastern Way” and another “The Western Quest”—but his theory did not allow for a strict cultural hierarchy. In his many recorded lectures, Campbell stresses the similarities and common origins of world traditions, which inhabit, he says, a “single constellation.” We have a few of those talks in full in the 12 hour Spotify playlist on Eastern Spirituality above, including lectures on “Imagery of Rebirth Yoga” and “Hinduism,” delivered in the late sixties.

We also have Christopher Isherwood reading selections from his translation with Swami Prabhavananda of the Bhagavad-Gita. Isherwood’s famed embrace of Vedanta did much to foster inter-religious dialogue, and he left behind a “tremendous cache of self-revelatory works,” writes American Vedantist, “including essays, lectures, novels, his diaries, and the autobiographical My Guru and His Disciple.” Next to Campbell and Isherwood, we have Tibetan Buddhist authority the Dalai Lama giving an introductory lecture on Buddhism and a talk on “Cultivating Happiness.” Rounding out the playlist is another introduction to Buddhism by Emma Hignett, a reading of the Tao te Ching, and a reading by Robert Hamilton of his fascinating comparative study of world religions, Caduceus.

While each of us could, of course, take it upon ourselves to learn Sanskrit, or Pali, or Chinese, translate ancient religious literature and draw our own conclusions, we can also partake of the work of scholars and writers who have invested deeply in their subject, personally and professionally, and returned with a great deal of wisdom about global spiritual traditions. The lectures on this playlist (if you need Spotify’s free software, download it here) offer an excellent sampling of that wisdom and scholarship. You’ll find much more on our site in work by Jorge Luis Borges, Alan Watts, Robert Thurman, the Dalai Lama, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Leonard Cohen, and many more.

Related Content:

Free Online Religion Courses

Martin Heidegger Talks Philosophy with a Buddhist Monk on German Television (1963)

The Wisdom of Alan Watts in Four Thought-Provoking Animations

The Dalai Lama’s Introduction to Buddhism

48 Hours of Joseph Campbell Lectures Free Online: The Power of Myth & Storytelling

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

The History of Photography in Five Animated Minutes: From Camera Obscura to Camera Phone

We find ourselves, still early in the 21st century, in an unprecedented era in the history of photography. The consumers of the developed world have, of course, had access to cameras of their own for decades and decades, but now almost each and every one of us walks around with a camera in our pocket. When a particular landscape, building, animal, human being, or other sight strikes our fancy, we capture it without a moment’s hesitation — and, often, without having given a moment’s thought to the technological and artistic history of the discipline we are, if for little more than an instant, practicing.

Most of us, knowing ourselves to be no Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, or Diane Arbus, would hesitate to describe the snaps with which we document and share our daily lives as “photography.” But in taking any picture, no matter how mundane or even silly, we place ourselves in the stream of a tradition. But we can gain an understanding of that tradition, at least in broad strokes, from “The History of Photography in Five Minutes,” the Cooperative of Photography video above which, in the words of its narrator, offers an insight into — brace yourself for this and other puns —  “how photography has developed.”


Beginning with the camera obscura, the reflection and tracing devices that date back to antiquity (later described and used by Leonardo da Vinci), the video moves swiftly from milestone to photographic milestone, including the first photograph, a “heliograph” taken in 1826; Louis Daguerre’s invention of “the first practical photographic process” in 1833; the first selfie, taken in 1839; the emergence of mobile photo studios in the 1850s; Eadweard Muybridge’s motion-photography studies of the 1870s; Kodak’s production of the first roll-film consumer camera in 1888; the game-changing Leica I hitting the market in 1925; the first single-lens reflex in 1949; the first digital camera in 1975; and, opening our own era, the first camera phone in 2000.

And now our smartphones and their “insanely powerful cameras” onboard have turned photography into a “global passion” that “has truly brought the world closer together.” The proliferation of hastily taken, essentially uncomposed shots of our purchases, our food, and ourselves have given old-school photography enthusiasts plenty to complain about, but the era of accessible photography has only just begun. Most of us are still, in some sense, taking heliographs and daguerreotypes; just imagine how the next fifteen years will, er, expose our true photographic capabilities.

Related Content:

Ansel Adams Reveals His Creative Process in 1958 Documentary

How to Take Photographs Like Ansel Adams: The Master Explains The Art of “Visualization”

Henri Cartier-Bresson and the Decisive Moment

Alfred Stieglitz: The Eloquent Eye, a Revealing Look at “The Father of Modern Photography”

1972 Diane Arbus Documentary Interviews Those Who Knew the American Photographer Best

Getty Images Makes 35 Million Photos Free to Use Online

Hunter S. Thompson’s Advice for Aspiring Photographers: Skip the Fancy Equipment & Just Shoot

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Hidden Secrets in “Daydreaming,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s New Radiohead Music Video

Paul Thomas Anderson, as his fans will tell you, makes the kind of large-scale cinema nobody else does anymore: intense of emotion, involved of story, colorfully populated, wide of aspect ratio (and even, in the case of The Master, shot on 70-millimeter film), no superheroes asked, none given. Having displayed unwavering commitment to his visions from the very beginning, it makes sense that, on his latest music video, he would work with Radiohead, a band no less committed to their own. Radiohead fans know the ambitiousness of a Radiohead song or album when they hear it, but what makes the video Anderson directed for “Daydreaming,” their single released this past May, Andersonian?

“Like many great works of art, Radiohead’s latest music video makes you struggle for its inner meaning,” says Rishi Kaneria in his explanatory video “Radiohead: the Secrets of ‘Daydreaming.'” His narration describes the video’s ostensibly simple form: “an older, tired-looking Thom Yorke” — Radiohead’s singer and co-founder — “opening door after door, and like a ghost, walking through the background of seemingly random people’s lives,” all “a metaphor for the choices Thom has had to make in his life, of the doors he’s stepped through, while never quite knowing what’s on the other side. Because he can never go back, we see him constantly pushing forward, continually searching for meaning and an ultimate resting place. “


Kaneria keys in on details that only those with a thorough knowledge of the life and work of Yorke and his band could notice. In real life, Yorke had just split up with his partner of 23 years; in the video, he walks through 23 doors. In the video, he wears an outfit designed by Rick Owens; in real life, his partner was named Rachel Owens. (Well, Rachel Owen, but close enough.) The various rooms through which York passes contain women, usually mothers, even in a hospital ward. Can we consider that a reference to his recuperation from a “severe car crash in 1987, especially considering there’s a wheel on the wall”?

When Yorke’s character finally finds solace beside a fire in a cave, he speaks a backwards phrase to the camera which, reversed, sounds like, “Half of my life, half of my love.” 23 years, of course, constitutes just about half of the 47-year-old Yorke’s life — and, Kaneria notes, the number of years since the band began recording. The video also performs other exegeses numerical, lyrical, and visual, and zodiacal, everywhere finding references to Rachel as well as to Radiohead — song titles, album art, even the settings of past music videos — to the point that we see “how Thom’s personal life with Rachel is inescapably saturated and surrounded by all things Radiohead.”

Nobody ever called balancing the demands of domestic life and those of perhaps the biggest rock band in the world easy. Still, few recent works of art have illustrated this kind of struggle as vividly as the “Daydreaming” video, and Anderson, not just one of the most famous and respected filmmakers alive but a husband and a father to four children, surely knows something about it as well. So often compared to his cinema-redefining predecessors from Robert Altman to Stanley Kubrick, he must also know as well as Yorke does what it means to have your work subjected to such close scrutiny — and to want to create work that will repay that scrutiny.

The Anderson-Radiohead connection goes as least as far back as 2007’s There Will Be Blood, scored by the band’s guitarist Jonny Greenwood. Anderson commissioned Greenwood’s musical services again for his next two pictures, The Master, and Inherent Vice, and last year made a documentary called Junjun about Greenwood’s solo album of the same name. No matter how much of Kaneria’s presented revelation you believe, “Daydreaming” sits as suitably with the rest of Anderson’s filmography as it does in its treatment of an old theme: you can’t enjoy every kind of satisfaction — but from the lifelong battle to do so, mostly against oneself, emerges art.

Related Content:

Delight in Prince’s Extraordinarily Poignant Cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” & His Complete 2008 Coachella Set

How Paul Thomas Anderson Dropped Out of NYU Film School in 2 Days; Studied Literature with David Foster Wallace

Radiohead’s “Creep” Performed in a Vintage Jazz-Age Style

Michel Gondry’s Finest Music Videos for Björk, Radiohead & More: The Last of the Music Video Gods

Radiohead-Approved, Fan-Made Film of the Band at Roseland for 2011′s The King of Limbs Tour

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Gives Teenage Girls Endearing Advice About Boys (And Much More)

Radiohead: Making Videos Without Cameras (or Lights)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Prof. Brian Cox Has a Maddening Conversation with a Climate Science-Denying Politician

According to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, July 2016 was the warmest month ever recorded. 2016 will likely be the warmest year on record. And the decades ahead will only get worse, much worse.

And yet, notes physicist Lawrence Krauss in The New Yorker this weekend, we have the GOP’s Frankenstein trying to demagogue his way into the presidency by calling climate science into question. Krauss writes:

In May, for instance, while speaking to an audience of West Virginia coal miners, Trump complained that regulations designed to protect the ozone layer had compromised the quality of his hair spray. Those regulations, he continued, were misguided, because hair spray is used mainly indoors, and so can have no effect on the atmosphere outside….

Often, Trump is simply wrong about science, even though he should know better. Just as he was a persistent “birther” even after the evidence convincingly showed that President Obama was born in the United States, Trump now continues to propagate the notion that vaccines cause autism in spite of convincing and widely cited evidence to the contrary… In other cases, Trump treats scientific facts the way he treats other facts—he ignores or distorts them whenever it’s convenient. He has denied that climate change is real, calling it pseudoscience and advancing a conspiracy theory that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.”

And way across the pond, we have another politician, Australian Senator Malcolm Roberts, making his own kind of laughable claims. In a recent television broadcast, Roberts asks physicist Brian Cox for empirical proof that climate change exists. Cox offers evidence gathered by NASA, to which Roberts responds, NASA’s “data has been corrupted and manipulated.” Not good enough. If you regularly read our site, you know that this is not the first time that NASA has been accused of manipulating data. Conspiracy theorists have long accused NASA and Stanley Kubrick of faking the moon landing in 1969. Roberts bristles at being associated with these loons. But frankly it’s an apt comparison. And if anyone should be bothered by the comparison, it’s the moon landing conspiracists. However strange their theories might be, no one doubts that they’re heartfelt, genuine, and seemingly free from the hint of political and financial influence.

In the meantime, in a new video from NASA, you can see the Arctic ice levels retreating to one of the lowest levels in recorded history. Call the video “corrupted” and “manipulated” at your own peril.

Related Content:

Global Warming: A Free Course from UChicago Explains Climate Change

Michio Kaku & Noam Chomsky School Moon Landing and 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists

Carl Sagan Presents His “Baloney Detection Kit”: 8 Tools for Skeptical Thinking

Richard Feynman Creates a Simple Method for Telling Science From Pseudoscience (1966)

Sally Ride Warns Against Global Warming; Wonders If Technology Can Save Us From Ourselves


Quantcast