Reviews

Pictures at a Restoration

Pictures at a Restoration

On Pete Souza’s Obama

Once safely out of office, he acknowledged that “millions of Americans” had been “spooked by a black man in the White House.” An undeniable truth, but one that was miles away from the embrocations he had offered the country when he launched his national career by declaring that “there is not a black America and a white America.” That kind of thing sounds like denialism to some, a postracial utopia to others, and then, in certain places, like a threat.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Defeat

Salt, Fat, Acid, Defeat

The restaurant before and after Covid

Pandemic-era restaurant culture extends and amplifies forces that were already apparent under the old regime: the numbing frictionlessness of delivery food, the retreat into private spaces, the appification of everything. By raising the cost of staying afloat online, Grubhub and Yelp have contributed more to the demise of Covid-era restaurants than their survival. Delivery workers’ bodies are now deemed essential, but their paychecks remain as murderously trivial as ever.

Fire in the Hold

Fire in the Hold

On Afropessimism

Inasmuch as the end of the world already feels imminent — we are, after all, staring down mass racial injustice, environmental catastrophe, and a global pandemic — vague gestures toward a radical restructuring of society without even a basic blueprint feel, if not incomplete, indicative of a failure of imagination.

Electric Cars: An Update

Electric Cars: An Update

Doors rattle, touchscreens melt

Which automaker “had to his credit,” in the words of Michigan senator Arthur Vandenberg, “more erratic interviews, more dubious quotations, more blandly boasted ignorance of American history, more political nonsense and more dangerous propaganda than any other dependable citizen that we have known”? Well, Henry Ford. But also, a hundred years later, Elon Musk.

Adrift

On Amit Chaudhuri

Chaudhuri’s attachment to a middle-class cultural moment limits his novels’ social scope; but it also suggests a certain feeling for collective life, famously foreign to modernism. For, as his early novels make clear, Chaudhuri’s writing emerged out of a modernist world; the sense of shared imaginative space in the middle-class Calcutta of his childhood allowed Chaudhuri early on to lose patience with modernism’s asocial obsessions, replacing alienation with affirmation, atomized angst with a troubled but real impression of community.

Dreams Are Lost Memories

Dreams Are Lost Memories

There is fatalism and then there is stoicism

Domino takes place in Copenhagen, where police detectives speak English and used to be in Game of Thrones. The director seems to have contempt for both his leads. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, playing a not-bright cop who sets the plot in motion by forgetting his gun one morning, has a second-choice feel. Carice van Houten, who exists in Domino like she’s waiting for each take to end so she can go outside and smoke, resembles Noomi Rapace in De Palma’s earlier film Passion, but why? In the past, the resemblance would have been evidence of directorial obsession. Here, it’s probably a coincidence.