Is the Western dead?

14 minutes

Steve is undocumented

10 minutes

You and the thing that you love

12 minutes

Should computers run the world?

36 minutes

The artefact artist

23 minutes

How Westerns captured the American psyche and eventually bit the dust

A staple of American cinema since the release of the silent film The Great Train Robbery in 1903, the Western arguably became its defining genre with the release of Stagecoach in 1939 – the first of nine Western collaborations between the iconic duo of director John Ford and actor John Wayne. For the next several decades, Westerns evolved with the times, embracing an American mythos of freedom and opportunity before filmmakers such as Sergio Leone began using the language of the genre to reflect the more cynical mood of the Vietnam era. Part of a film-analysis series from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, this video essay by the US film critic Dave Kehr discusses how the Western helped to define the language of American film until modern filmmakers began adopting Western signifiers for shorthand, self-reference and parody, leaving the genre itself more or less in the dust.

Commentary: Dave Kehr

Website: The Museum of Modern Art

Meet the British bouncer in LA on an expired visa who has no time for immigrants

Steve is a former weightlifter who still keeps up with quite a few hobbies: fitness, heavy metal music, clay sculpture, bikes, motorcycles, and lots and lots of weapons. He works as a bouncer outside a Los Angeles nightclub, making small talk with the (often over-served) young patrons, and throwing out troublemakers. And, as he’ll tell anyone who’ll listen, he hates what immigration is doing to the country – despite being a Brit who’s overstayed his own US visa by 25 years. Steve Is Undocumented captures him at a moment of transition, preparing for a move back to England with his wife, who is pregnant with twins. With their stylish and often wry profile, the directors Michael Barth and Kauai Moliterno build a complex portrait in just 10 minutes, capturing the many intricacies and blaring hypocrisies of Steve’s life and worldview.

Directors: Michael Barth, Kauai Moliterno

Producer: Nathan Truesdell

After losing his sight, a skateboarder takes an unexpected path to realising his dreams

Nick Mullins fell in love with skateboarding as a teenager and, rather quickly, became quite skilled. As one of the best young skateboarders in the Detroit area, he was putting together a video to catch the attention of sponsors, when, after taking a rough but mostly innocuous fall, he scraped the side of his body and contracted a staph infection. He would barely escape with his life, and after waking up from a medically induced coma, realised he had gone blind. Believing he had no prospects – in skating or in life – he fell into a deep depression. The short documentary You and the Thing That You Love retells how Mullins would eventually realise his dreams, albeit by taking a very much unanticipated path. Capturing Mullins’s story with kinetic style, the US filmmaker Nicholas Maher avoids cliché to create a standout portrait of perseverance and love of craft – and one that can be savoured even if you don’t know your ‘blunts’ from your ‘fakies’.

Director: Nicholas Maher

Algorithms are sensitive. People are specific. We should exploit their respective strengths

The capabilities of algorithms and human brainpower overlap, intersect and contrast in a multitude of ways, argues Hannah Fry, an associate professor in the mathematics of cities at University College London, in this lecture at the Royal Institution from 2018. And, says Fry, planning for an efficient, ethical future demands that we carefully consider the respective strengths of each without stereotyping either as inherently good or bad, while always keeping their real-world consequences in mind. Borrowing from her book Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms (2018), Fry’s presentation synthesises fascinating studies, entertaining anecdotes and her own personal experiences to build a compelling argument for how we ought to think about algorithms if we’d like them to amplify – and not erode – our humanity.

New York’s 300-year-old trash becomes treasure in the hands of an urban archaeologist

Scott Jordan’s two-bedroom apartment in Queens, New York is filled with thousands of local artefacts, many of which date back centuries. Populating his shelves and drawers are glass bottles, porcelain dolls, pottery and even a gun from the Revolutionary War – all of them once buried far beneath New Yorkers’ feet, and many of which he’s repurposed to create original art. This small museum of recovered treasures comes from years of playing in the dirt and digging out landfills, cisterns and privies by hand. In The Artefact Artist, the US director Russ Kendall explores the buried history of cities, and how Jordan finds meaning and community in the process of searching for, discovering, and transforming objects others have left for trash.

Director: Russ Kendall

Website: The Artefact Artist

How Westerns captured the American psyche and eventually bit the dust

A staple of American cinema since the release of the silent film The Great Train Robbery in 1903, the Western arguably became its defining genre with the release of Stagecoach in 1939 – the first of nine Western collaborations between the iconic duo of director John Ford and actor John Wayne. For the next several decades, Westerns evolved with the times, embracing an American mythos of freedom and opportunity before filmmakers such as Sergio Leone began using the language of the genre to reflect the more cynical mood of the Vietnam era. Part of a film-analysis series from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, this video essay by the US film critic Dave Kehr discusses how the Western helped to define the language of American film until modern filmmakers began adopting Western signifiers for shorthand, self-reference and parody, leaving the genre itself more or less in the dust.

Commentary: Dave Kehr

Website: The Museum of Modern Art

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