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Daily Reads: The Fetishization of Film, Shonda Rhimes on ‘Angry Black Woman’ and More

Daily Reads: The Fetishization of Film, Shonda Rhimes on 'Angry Black Woman' and More

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

1. Shonda Rhimes on “Angry Black Woman.” With “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” both on air, Shonda Rhimes the most powerful showrunner on television, and support and serious critical writing about her work has only grown since Alessandra Stanley’s infamously tone-deaf New York Times article hit. Rhimes spoke to The Hollywood Reporter’s Lacey Rose about her shows and her response to Stanley’s piece

“Some really amazing articles were written that had the conversation that I’ve been trying to have for a very long time, which, coming from me, makes me sound like I’m just, ‘Rrrraw!’ ” she mimics a roar, her painted nails clawing the air. Her inbox has been deluged with notes from concerned friends and colleagues, many of whom called for the piece to be retracted. Rhimes would prefer it remain: “In this world in which we all feel we’re so full of gender equality and we’re a postracial [society] and Obama is president, it’s a very good reminder to see the casual racial bias and odd misogyny from a woman written in a paper that we all think of as being so liberal.” Read more.

2. Should We Pay Attention to TV Ratings? The Cancellation Bear, an anthropomorphized TV-prognosticating bear, was created years ago as a fun way to predict whether a show would be renewed or cancelled. But some, like Myles McNutt and Matt Zoller Seitz, see the account as less a fun way to look at the industry and more an insidious idea that pushes people to only care about shows that will last several seasons, even too many. David Sims of The Atlantic spoke to Seitz, McNutt, Todd VanDerWerff, and Cancellation Bear co-founder Bill Gorman about the matter.

The Bear may be a jokey account, but its implications are insidious, Seitz argues. “They should call it Pander Bear. Because it’s pandering to people who want to be on the winning side. There’s a specific strain in the American character that wants to root for the winning team… It’s contrary to every impulse that has made television more interesting in the last quarter-century, the artistic impulse.” Read more.

3. Stop the Pre-Release Freakouts. 
“Gone Girl” has a whole different third act from the book! Except that it doesn’t. “The Dark Knight Rises” was going to feature Ellen Page as Batgirl! Except it didn’t. Too many people freak out about rumors about films that haven’t even been made yet, and Tasha Robinson of The Dissolve thinks it’s time we all calm down.

But that’s one more reason to wait for the actual screen version before getting frothingly angry. There’s nothing wrong with speculation, or trading theories, ideas, wish lists, or worries. It’s fun to spend the ramp-up time while waiting for a movie by talking to other people with shared interests and possibly different perspectives. But the tone of the reactions is so often shrill and hysterical. And later, when all those rage-inducing pre-facts are demonstrably proved untrue by the film, that somehow never seems to blunt the next wave of unsubstantiated, unnecessary anger. The how dare they!!! never seems to get replaced with wait, never mind, they didn’t on anything like the same scale. Read more.

4. “Twin Peaks” as the Dawn of Television’s Ambition. The news that David Lynch is bringing “Twin Peaks” has people excited about the show again, but its impact on television has never faded. Writing for the L.A. Review of Books, Jonathan P. Eburne wrote about how “Twin Peaks” was the first full realization of television’s ambition, and how the final episode in particular showed how shows could end with unresolved threads (even if the cliffhanger wasn’t necessarily intentional).

In place of valedictory closure we find instead a cliffhanger: a contrivance every bit as manufactured, and every bit as foreign to the lives of the fictional characters, as the executive decision to axe the show. It is a transcendental gesture. While native to the serial form — cliffhangers are, after all, the soul of installment fiction — the ending breaks with the logic of its continuation. We are instead thrown back into the conundrums of the “Twin Peaks” universe itself. Instead of a continuing series, we have a closed circuit, a potentially infinite loop. This, for David Lynch, is art. Read more.

5. Music from “Transparent.” 
The new Amazon series “Transparent” is the best-reviewed new series of the fall, and among its many virtues is a pitch-perfect soundtrack, which ranges from Neil Young to Heart, Jim Croce to Deee-Lite. Zach Dionne of Flavorwire spoke to the show’s music supervisor, Bruce Gilbert, about how he chose the songs.

Neil Young – “Razor Love” (Episode 2, “The Letting Go”)

The scene: The song plays over the episode’s last five-and-change minutes, continuously, heartbreakingly.

Bruce GilbertThe last six-and-a-half minutes or whatever of the second episode of a half-hour show is all Neil Young, which, for a music supervisor, was a dream come true. And I’m not aware of any time “Razor Love” has been used. When I’ve worked at some studios and networks, the first thing out of an executive’s mouth can be, “Ooh, that’s gonna cost a lotta money.” And the first thing out of Joe Lewis, head of comedy at Amazon, was, “Oh my god, are we gonna get that song.” Read more.

6. The Fetishization of Film. 
Some directors, like Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, are film purists, so to speak. They believe that 35mm (or 70mm) film is the only way to shoot, and that the move to digital is a blight upon the medium; Tarantino even says he’ll retire before shooting on digital. But is their purist stance justified? Aaron Aradillas of RogerEbert.com argues that film is just what you use to make movies.

Tarantino’s “television in public” battle cry misses the whole point of what marks the difference between the two mediums. He seems to think it’s a matter of film vs. digital, when anyone knows television has been shot on both tape and film almost from its inception. The “flicker effect” of movies is only one small component of going to the movies. Going to the movies involves a group of strangers getting together and sharing the experience of looking up at the movies. Watching television is more solitary and has the viewer looking down or straight ahead. Movies are designed to overwhelm us with emotions. Most television is more cerebral, with a shelf life of seven days. And no matter how big a TV monitor you have you still can’t replicate the movie-going experience. Not because you’re watching a DVD, but because you’re not sharing the experience of looking up at the screen. Read more.

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