Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential news stories and critical pieces to you.
1. The Connection Between “The Shining” and “Planes: Fire and Rescue.” If there’s a movie more horrifying or maddening than Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic Rorschach test “The Shining,” then surely it’s the upcoming “Planes: Fire and Rescue.” Rodney Ascher, the director of the “The Shining” video essay/documentary “Room 237,” watched the latest in the “Planes” series with his son, who questioned why the planes don’t need people to fly them, and he mused on the post-human world that the Pixar and Pixar spin-off movies build to. One of the stray things he noticed, however, was the eerie similarity between one location in “Planes” and the Overlook of Kubrick’s film.
The last third of the film concerns a remote luxury hotel for cars and planes (“The Grand Fusel Lodge”) threatened by an approaching forest fire, and this place was eerily similar to the Overlook Hotel from “The Shining.” I’ve spent the better part of three years thinking about Kubrick’s movie and I’m trying to move on but, like many other of the Overlook’s guests, I just can’t seem to leave. Read more.
2. How Hollywood Stopped Ignoring Gay History. With the release of Ryan Murphy’s flawed but essential adaptation of “The Normal Heart,” not to mention the recent run of gay-themed movies from Hollywood, an long-ignored chapter of American history has been saved from the dustbin. Writing for The Dissolve, Saul Austerlitz talks about films like “Interior. Leather Bar,” “How to Survive a Plague,” and “Beginners” have recontextualized eras as being more than just a period for heteronormative lifestyles.
A persistent subtheme of the last decade of American film has been the effort to reinsert gayness into those stories, and genres, from which it had been excised. The perfectly calibrated Douglas Sirk melodrama of Todd Haynes’ 2002 film “Far From Heaven” was tweaked to allow for the insertion of Dennis Quaid’s closeted family man. Melodrama is about emotion amplified and exaggerated; under Haynes’ expert eye, it also became about those emotions that were denied, buried away until they became indistinguishable from their background. Read more.
3. Watching Woody Allen Post-Dylan Farrow. While the controversy over Woody Allen’s alleged abuse of adopted daughter Dylan Farrow has died down, it hasn’t disappeared, and that leaves a number of Woody fans unsure of how to separate the man from the artist. BuzzFeed’s Alison Willmore and Kate Aurthur talked about how even a “paper-thin trifle” like the new film “Magic in the Moonlight” plays uneasily now.
Alison Willmore: I found that my awareness of everything Allen’s been accused of actively overshadowed my ability to take in what was on screen on its own basis. “Magic in the Moonlight” is a weirdly innocuous and determinedly insubstantial thing to attach that kind of weight to…but that was part of the problem. I don’t think it’s a good movie, but I also just don’t want to watch a bubbly, escapist period romp from someone who’s just been involved in such an ugly, public battle over renewed claims he molested his 7-year-old daughter. Read more.
4. When Smart Ideas Meet Smart Action Filmmaking. It’s been an especially good year for blockbusters (roll call: “The Lego Movie,” “Godzilla,” “Edge of Tomorrow”), but the past few weeks in particular have seen some of the smartest action/sci-fi films in some time with “Snowpiercer” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Noel Murray of the Dissolve wrote about how these films match their ambitions by working as exciting, gripping films above all else.
“Snowpiercer” isn’t a great film because it has something to say; it’s a great film because even if it was thematically empty, it’d still be a marvel. From scene to scene, “Snowpiercer” is a weird, wild experience, with viscerally exciting action sequences and moments of eccentric humor. To me, the scene that best defines “Snowpiercer” isn’t any of the ones at the end, where Curtis learns the biggest secrets of the train, but rather the 10 minutes or so of the movie that take place in the school car, where a fanatical teacher — played with great gusto by Alison Pill — indoctrinates her students into the cult of Wilford. The school scene is essential not just because it reveals a little more about how a corrupt order is maintained, by programming children to believe the order is just, but because it’s so memorably strange and funny, with fantastic images of the teacher singing songs and using elaborate hand gestures to keep her students on the right track. Read more.
5. Fox: Tearing Down the Walls Between Networks and Studios. Fox has had a terrible television season, with even dependable programs like “American Idol” dipping in ratings, but they’ve got a plan to save the network by tearing down the wall between it and the studio. Vox’s Todd Van DerWerff, the great writer and explainer of all things TV, breaks down exactly what it is 20th Century Fox co-presidents Dana Walden and Gary Newman have in mind.
Fox is betting, like ABC, that being part of a larger corporate monolith is the best way to ride out a few years in the bottom half of the network rankings. The separation between first and last among the big four networks is smaller than ever before, and that means everybody is in the same boat, to some degree. If everyone’s ratings are abysmal, then the best way to fix that problem is make sure it just doesn’t matter. Read more.