- Film audiences and critics are agreeing less and less (though they still mostly agree), and Lucas Shaw of Bloomberg looks at why (hint: One reason is critics have grown tired of Marvel films, while audiences have a higher tolerance for them):
It may seem as though critics typically pan the year’s biggest hits. But that is not the case. While audiences do tend to give blockbusters a higher score than critics, the average gap in their ratings is usually around 5 points. There has been at least one year where critics gave the biggest movies higher ratings than audiences. And there have been many years where the difference is negligible.
In 2022? It is not so much a gap as a chasm. Audiences have given the top 10 movies an average score more than 19 points higher than critics, by far the biggest difference this century. The only two of the year’s 10 biggest movies where audiences and critics are even close are “Top Gun: Maverick” and “The Batman.”
- Allison Meier writes about Andrew Wyeth’s funerary drawings for Art & Object (the photos are great):
Two decades before he was interred beneath a stark black granite tombstone in Cushing, Maine, the artist Andrew Wyeth imagined his own funeral. In about fifty drawings from the early 1990s known as the “Funeral Group,” he sketched family, friends, and neighbors gathered around a coffin containing his supine corpse. These people were not just his community but his muses, from his wife Betsy wearing a broad-brimmed hand leaning over his body to Helga Testorf at the head of the coffin. Her hair is in the same long braids as in the secretive intimate portraits Wyeth created in the 1970s and 80s that caused a scandal.
- Parjanya Christian Holtz has created a short documentary for the Washington Post about how Cuba’s investment in writers and artists came back to haunt its regime:
- John McEvoy, writing for DeclassifiedUK, explains how newly declassified files reveal that Shell and BP secretly provided £100,000s (equivalent to millions of pounds today) to the Information Research Department (IRD), Britain’s Cold War propaganda arm. The IRD used that money to launch propaganda operations in areas of “mutual interest,” which meant securing British access to oil around the world. Today, as we know, BP and Shell regularly sponsor cultural events.
The IRD thanked Shell and BP for their “handsome contributions”, and requested an additional £138,750 in secret funding for the period April 1960 to December 1961. Indeed, these were “handsome contributions,” amounting to roughly 8 percent of the IRD’s annual official budget, and valued at £2.25m today.
“The general pattern of ANA’s activities would continue to be the same though the Agency would concentrate in the forthcoming year on strengthening its news collecting”, an IRD memo noted. To this end, the IRD requested an additional £42,500 for ANA’s running costs, and £26,250 for Reuters’ wire service.
On top of its pre-existing operations, the IRD proposed using oil subsidies to fund a number of new ventures.
One such project was geared towards building up “sufficient influence with certain selected Libyan Trade Unionists” in order to “encourage a spirit of moderation into industrial demands”. This issue was seen as “of direct interest to the oil companies” such that the IRD could “anticipate their support”.
- This Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report examines Western aid to countries and this is shocking (fyi, ODA means “official development assistance”):
The report explains in more detail the troubling statistic:
Autocracies consume an increasing proportion of ODA flows, from 64% in 2010 to 79% in 2019. There are two reasons for this. First, the number of electoral autocracies increased from 52 to 57. Second, higher volumes of ODA were disbursed to closed autocracies, with the visible role of non-DAC members. Particularly striking is the 19-fold increase of humanitarian aid to closed autocracies over the ten-year period.
- Oh, boy:
- In the Dissenter, Kevin Gosztola writes about how the US Justice Department painted whistleblower Reality Winner as a terrorist sympathizer. The details are shocking:
FBI agents went through Winner’s notebooks and journals and found the thesis for a book on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ that she was inspired by Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses to write. The United States Justice Department weaponized that material to ensure she stayed behind bars while they prosecuted her as if she was some kind of spy …
Establishment news media like Bloomberg reported that Judge Epps said, “She seems to have a fascination with the Middle East and Islamic terrorism.” They mentioned that the judge said she had written: “It’s a Christlike vision to have a fundamentalist Islamic state,” when Winner absolutely did not.
- Mikhael Gorbachev died this week and most media coverage in the West has sung his praises, but Casey Michel, writing for the New Republic, has another take:
Even when it became clear that the USSR was on the verge of disappearance, Gorbachev refused to recognize reality. He clung on, holding out hope that one more day, or one more speech, could finally rally the population to his side. When the collapse finally arrived, Gorbachev ended up as a man without a country and without a purpose.
His post-Soviet career hardly helped. At home, Gorbachev was widely loathed for his role in overseeing Soviet disintegration. Abroad, he became a farcical figure, remembered not for his high-level achievements but instead for his Pizza Hut commercials. Gorbachev’s later years were somehow even worse. The former Soviet head repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, saying Putin was “right” to illegally annex Crimea. Putin, Gorbachev purred, “stopped the chaos” of the 1990s and “literally took everything on himself.”
- Journalist Mike Rothschild points out a common tactic used by QAnon supporters, namely denying their involvement publicly while celebrating it in their own channels:
- Ok, placing here for the art student in Kansas City joke:
- Does anyone remember the Diva Kid meme? Well, the original kid has grown up and he’s on TikTok!
Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.