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Daily Reads: ‘The Blair Witch Project’ Beyond the Hype, What Marvel Needs to Do to Be Truly Diverse and More

Daily Reads: 'The Blair Witch Project' Beyond the Hype, What Marvel Needs to Do to Be Truly Diverse and More

Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential
news stories and critical pieces to you.

1. “The Blair Witch Project” Beyond the Hype. 15 Years after its release, “The Blair Witch” is still a polarizing movie, hated by many for being “boring” or having annoying characters. But The Dissolve’s Mike D’Angelo argues that the film is less a horror movie and more a nerve-wracking view of hell as other people, Sartre’s “No Exit” in found-footage form, and a film that blurs the lines between the characters’ fear and exhaustion and the real fear and exhaustion of the actors.

The film’s most crucial scene isn’t Heather’s snot-nosed, half-faced apology, though that remains its most memorable…It’s the moment when Josh takes Heather’s camera and points it at her, shouting while she struggles to maintain her composure…Josh’s repetition of the phrase “There’s no one here to help you” turns into an abusive incantation that reflects their actual circumstances (in which the directors are nowhere to be found), and it’s not entirely clear whether he’s talking to “Heather” or to Heather, or which one of those two individuals is genuinely crying in response. More frightening movies than “The Blair Witch Project” are relatively easy to find. Horror movies this psychologically traumatic are in short supply. Read more.

2. The Fight Against TV’s “Smooth Motion.” Motion-smoothing was created to reduce blurs on HDTV, but it’s the bane of every film fanatic who sees it turning their favorite movies into telenovela-level visual experiences. At Filmmaker Magazine, “Frozen River” cinematographer Reed Morano draws attention to how the effect destroys the efforts of the filmmaker and DP, and why cinephiles should sign a petition against it.

I remember the first time I saw my work affected by motion interpolation. A friend of mine had gotten a new HDTV and he called me in to the living room, he was watching my film on DVD, “Frozen River.” Well, I was shocked to see the film on the TV when I came in the room — the 24 fps effect had been totally wiped out, and it looked like I was watching an episode of “General Hospital.” It was so disheartening to see that cinematic look I had put everything into completely eradicated — all my work ruined by the default setting of a television manufacturer. Ever since then, I’ve made it my mission to turn this feature off every TV I see. It’s not fair to the artist or the viewer. Read more.

3. “John Wick” Restores Faith in Violent Movies. The new Keanu Reeves action flick “John Wick” got surprisingly strong reviews, even though it deals with fairly familiar revenge territory. The Village Voice’s Stephanie Zacharek writes about how the film restored her faith in violent movies by lending the reins to directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, veteran stuntmen who “know how to move.”

Even in its most savage moments, John Wick revels in the glory of human movement. I wouldn’t call the action sequences precise…but I would call it specific, planned and executed in a way that the camera can easily follow. Every lunge, every rapid-fire spin, every kick to the ribs, every last-ditch swerve to dodge a bullet has a reason for existing — each is a small event, leading to another and yet another, with perhaps just a few ticks of a second in between. It’s always possible to tell who’s coming from where, even if you can’t see the specific “who” in question: In one gruesomely witty sequence, set in a men’s spa, we see a victim-to-be blithely grooming himself in a mirror, even as another guy, reflected in another mirror, meets his maker. The movie takes visible pride in its own craftsmanship. It’s a look-at-me picture that actually gives us something to look at. Read more.

4. Most “Subversive” Culture Isn’t Subversive. The new TV adaptation of the “Archie” comics is being billed as “subversive,” but that might not be anything more than a buzzword along the liens of “gritty” and “dark.” The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg argues that most works billing themselves as “subversive” are actually meeting all expectations, and that telling something in a straightforward way might be the greatest challenge now.

In fact, telling a story straight, but with depth and perceptiveness, seems to be the greatest challenge pop culture can set for itself these days. Can you persuade us to believe in a superhero who is actually a truly good man, rather than a reluctant playboy or a mortal who quickly stoops to killing? “The Flash” is trying. Can you take a courtroom drama to deep and unexpected places while preserving the fundamental clash of opposing counsel, presided over by a judge? “The Good Wife” provides thrilling proof that you can. Read more.

5. How Marvel’s New Movies Can Truly Be Diverse. Rosenberg also responded to the news that Marvel’s ten billion new projects would include “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel,” films that would finally star a black superhero and a female superhero, respectively. Rosenberg sees a sameness that dogs all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe projects, and while putting a black or female hero in that context might be fine, it might be better to change up the style of the film for those heroes as well.

We have had a period “Captain America” movie, so why not a period movie about Black Panther rejecting Western help to protect his kingdom of Wakanda from the Nazis, a subject handled nicely in animated form? And if Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) can learn that it is more virtuous to be self-sacrificing than to show off, it would be fascinating to watch Carol Danvers use her abilities to control heat and gravity to ends other than simply making things explode. What if superheroes could build things instead of just destroy them? Read more.

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