A Video of “Sketchy Santas” Confirms That Certain Christmas Traditions Are Weird
Allowing your child to sit on the lap of an old man—often a complete stranger—so that he or she can ask for gifts is kind of a weird tradition. Sometimes it can be cute, but more often than not, it can be really uncomfortable, to say the least.
And that’s what the Sketchy Santas page once fed off of, featuring photos of random Santas looking, well, sketchy. Though the original site has not been updated in some time, Atlantic editor Derek Thompson recently tweeted this great video from a few years back that is worth revisiting on this late holiday-season Friday afternoon.
Created by Coty Gonzales, the video compiles many of the photos from the site and scores them to a hilariously awful rendition of “O Holy Night.” Gonzales credited the singer as “amzing yet unknown,” but several years back Fred McKinnon published a six-part story recounting the origins of the recording (and his own efforts to track them down).
You Really Should See the New Mandela Movie
Though it has already broken box-office records in South Africa, the new biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom has gotten mostly middling reviews, or worse. Scott Tobias of the Dissolve wrote that this “dull, glossy, and uncomplicated film” provides “a lesson in how not to make a historical biopic.” Writing in Variety, Scott Foundas called it “stolidly reverential, shackled to the most dire conventions of the mythmaking biopic, and very much a white man’s view of the ‘dark’ continent.” Even the closest it got to a rave, from Stephen Holden of the New York Times, focused mainly on the film’s universally praised pair of central performances: Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela and Naomie Harris as his second wife, Winnie.
But a day after the great man’s death at age 95, there’s a case to be made that, for people newly interested in Mandela’s life and times, you could do worse than Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. (Much worse.) Yes, the film makes the obtuse error of trying to cram his entire extraordinary life—and by extension South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement and its revolutionary transition to majority rule, both of which have become nearly synonymous with Mandela—into a feature-length running time. And yes, it commits all manner of petty biopic crimes, from entombing its star in old-age makeup to blasting Bono over the credits.
Where the film is strongest, though, is in its depiction of Mandela’s early adult life and the years immediately preceding his imprisonment on Robben Island.
The Secrets of the Sound of The Wire
When sound editing is done right, that usually means the viewer will never notice it. This is especially true of shows that value realism, like The Wire.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to notice. In a recent thread on Reddit, Jennifer Ralston, who served as the supervising sound editor for most of The Wire’s five-season run, broke down some of the easy-to-miss emotional cues and subtextual motifs that she and her team incorporated into the soundscape of show.
David Simon didn’t want to manipulate the audience with a score, she explained. “He’s the guy who, if he did write a sit-com, would not allow a studio audience or laugh track,” she wrote. So Ralston’s job was to work mood and meaning into the show’s background noise and atmospherics, in a way almost no one would consciously notice. She gave several examples of how she and her team slipped in these hidden touches, which we’re presenting alongside clips of the scenes below.
Behind the Helmets: The Story of Daft Punk’s Headgear
Despite their ever-increasing popularity, French electronic duo Daft Punk has managed to appear in public almost exclusively in their distinctive, futuristic helmets, a key element of their robot personae. The intricately designed headgear is profiled in a new documentary, “Behind the Helmets,” which explores the inspiration for the disguises created for Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter.
It’s a quick watch that nevertheless goes in depth enough to demonstrate just how much effort goes into concealing their identities, and fans will certainly appreciate its various tidbits about the duo.
The Sound of Music Live Was Borderline Unprofessional. Also: Terrific.
NBC’s live version of The Sound of Music, which aired for three long hours last night, began slow and beautiful, with nuns singing hymns in a stage set abbey. Based on the stage musical—and not the Julie Andrews movie adaptation beloved and memorized by millions (myself included)—the opening took me by surprise, and not just because I was expecting to see Carrie Underwood whirling around in a meadow while belting out “The Hills Are Alive.” (She did scurry around a wood doing that, one scene later.) It was just so anti-spectacular, so stately and calm, patient and slow. The rhythm did something to my brain, tapping into old, creaky pleasure circuits, ones I almost wore out as a kid watching musicals—and especially Mary Martin’s Peter Pan—on VHS, but haven’t used for years.
The Media Have Always Misunderstood Nigella Lawson
For the past few weeks, British tabloids have tirelessly covered the trial of two assistants accused of embezzling money from their bosses. On the surface, this topic doesn’t necessarily seem worthy of a media circus—unscrupulous workers steal from their employers every day. What makes this trial different is that the assistants worked for Nigella Lawson, the cookbook author and television personality, and Charles Saatchi, Lawson’s ex-husband, who was photographed choking Lawson earlier this year. (The couple divorced shortly after the photographs were made public.)
The story is undoubtedly salacious (albeit complicated).
“It Is Music and Dancing That Makes Me at Peace With the World”
In the 1980s, a number of musicians raised their voices to call for the freedom of Nelson Mandela. (The fight against apartheid, as the documentary Amandla! highlighted, was waged partly with music.) The most famous of these protest songs, in the U.S. at least, is probably 1984’s “(Free) Nelson Mandela” by the Specials, which reached no. 9 on the U.K. charts and helped to make Mandela’s cause more widely known in Great Britain and elsewhere.
Watch a New Concert Film From Nine Inch Nails
After their music, these might be the two things Nine Inch Nails are known for most: Giving away material for free, and touring with light shows that put other bands to shame. Today, they’re showing off a little bit of both. If you missed their 2013 Tension tour, you can now watch an 80-minute concert documentary filmed at their Nov. 8 show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
In addition to showing off their latest mind-boggling light show (it really builds as it goes), the film also features live versions of several songs revamped for the tour.
When Dylan Read From “The Waste Land”
Josh Jones at Open Culture flags this fan-made video featuring a snippet of Bob Dylan’s dearly departed Theme Time Radio Hour (2006–09). Dylan introduces T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” by saying it “commemorated the death of Abraham Lincoln.” Jones sees this as Dylan noting Eliot’s debt to Walt Whitman, specifically “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” which does actually meditate on the death of Lincoln.
How Does Inside Llewyn Davis Compare to the Coens’ Best Movies?
Rewatching all the Coen brothers’ movies a couple years ago, I was impressed—though not surprised—by the stylistic unity of their work, evident in ways both large and small. Most of their movies are about men with little power who are buffeted by bad luck, worse enemies, and terrible decision-making. And 12 of their 15 films feature scenes of powerful men sitting behind big desks.
Make that 13 of 16: Inside Llewyn Davis is unquestionably a Coen brothers work, as anyone who’s seen just the trailer can tell.