So the Cut Xmas deccoes are down from the loft and in a pile in a corner of the office, waiting for one of us to finally crack, declare ‘sod it,’ invoke the spirit of Noddy Holder and start spreading festive cheer around the joint like a dirty protest at all things Covid. It’s been a hard year and the early start to Christmas is a definite sign we’re ready for it all to be over. This week’s issue doesn’t have a whiff of holly but trust us, it’s coming, and soon. Instead, enjoy film longreads on Orson Welles and Jerry Lewis, considerations on time travel and AI and how the Wotsit came to be.
Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.
Not long ago, writer Bisha K. Ali was sofa-surfing and wondering where the next pay cheque was coming from. Now, she’s the show runner on a hotly-anticipated Marvel series and riding high as she brings the first Muslim superhero to a wider audience. This is a great, inspirational story, and we’re really looking forward to her take on Ms. Marvel.
The Magnificent Ambersons should have been the film which truly cemented Orson Welles’ reputation as a master of cinema. Instead, studio meddling tore it to pieces and led him into a downward spiral from which he never really recovered. Cinephilia Beyond digs into the story behind the making of the movie, and how it’s still well worth a look in whatever version you find…
It’s a rare person that won’t cheerfully get their fingers caked in salty yellow dust at the offer of a bag of Wotsits or Cheez-its. The airy texture, the way they fizz to mush in the mouth, oh boy, there are few finer culinary experiences. The creation of the cheese curl has a fascinating history. It’s one of those delightfully fortuitous accidents like penicillin or gravity. Only cheesier.
When considering artificial intelligence, most writers tend to jam the gas hard towards lurid horror stories—the monster in the machine, considering its creators as obsolete and treating us as surplus to requirements. The fact is we don’t know how AI will look at the world. We simply don’t have the terms or reference points to form a relationship with a being which is building itself from the fragments we choose to feed it…
Some more on the reappearance in the SF news cycle of the great lost anthology, The Last Dangerous Visions. Author Jason Sanford looks into the way editor Harlan Ellison kept the book on a low simmer for decades and could never quite let it go.
If you’re interested, Christoper Priest’s essay on the subject is also well worth a look. He makes a beautifully analytic case as to why the book could never be published in the form Ellison imagined…
It’s tough to know what to make of this rediscovered portrait of Jerry Lewis by O’Connell Driscoll, first published in 1973 while the comedian was working on his unseen magnum opus, The Clown That Cried. It almost feels like fiction, a horrorshow of unbound but desperately fragile ego and monstrous ambition wrapped in a twitchy, paranoid bundle of nerves. But Driscoll’s strength was in the way he slid into the background and let his subject do all the talking. From a Stacks Reader overview of his work—
Driscoll’s stories were all about access. He was a purist in the mold of Lillian Ross. He didn’t offer analysis or exposition or as much as a dollop of biography. He didn’t ask questions. He just wrote what he saw and heard.
This is a long read but totally, totally worth it.
A recent interview with Michael J. Fox noted his agreement with the theory that Trump is a loosely fictionalised version of Biff Tannin, the boorish villain of the Back to The Future films. We offer further thoughts on the subject in another excellent piece from writer and pixie Laurie Penny. She looks at temporal paradox, dystopian fiction and darkest timelines in a winning piece of what we like to call speculative journalism.
Fan theories on TV and film franchises often lurch wildly into implausibility or collapse at the first hint of examination. They’re always fun, though. Our new favourite comes courtesy of Mel Magazine, who pitch us on the notion of the Star Trek universe being more than a little influenced by three Jewish B-Boys from Brooklyn…
There are a few songs finding constant rotation on the office stereogram in 2020–tunes which seem to sum up The Situation while not explicitly being about it. We’re thinking of Frank Turner’s Recovery, This Year by The Mountain Goats—and this week’s Exit Music, Hands Of Time. Written and performed by the brilliant Margo Price, it matches a lush Jimmy Webb/Glen Campbell arrangement to simple, direct song craft. The result is, to our minds, utterly beguiling. ‘Turn back the clock on the cruel hands of time’? Hell, yeah.
See you in seven, buckaroos.