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Daily Reads: When Time Michael Keaton Was a Superhero, Why GamerGate’s Not Just for Gamers, and More

Daily Reads: When Time Michael Keaton Was a Superhero, Why GamerGate's Not Just for Gamers, and More

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

1. What’s Exhilarating and Frustrating About “Birdman.” In terms of anticipation, at least, “Birdman” is probably the movie of the moment. But while the film has wowed many, it has also turned a number of people off with its conviction of its own greatness. Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair gets into what makes the film both thrilling and somewhat frustrating.

As it loops and swoops and wanders, “Birdman,” which is shot to (mostly) look like one continuous take, pecks at themes of aging, ego, and artistic value vs. commercial viability. It’s heady stuff, but much of it is hoary, too. We’ve seen plenty of tortured stars who want to be artists, and artists who want to be stars, on film and stage before, and while “Birdman” takes this old trope and sends it bouncing around at fascinatingly odd angles, I’m not sure it really says anything new by the end. Read more.

2. The Last Time Michael Keaton Was a Superhero. Notably, “Birdman” casts former superhero vying for an artistic comeback Michael Keaton as a former superhero vying for an artistic comeback. Keaton’s initial casting in “Batman” raised a lot of eyebrows for its unconventionality before being embraced by a generation, but how was it received by critics at the time? Vulture’s Sean Fitz-Gerald collected some of the more notable “Batman” reviews, both positive and negative.

Vincent Canby: 
Nobody could do anything with this ridiculous conceit, but asking Mr. Keaton, one of our most volatile actors, to play Bruce Wayne/Batman is like asking him to put on an ape suit and play the title role in “King Kong” … As Bruce Wayne, Mr. Keaton is modest and straight-faced, as any number of other actors might be given the circumstances and the paycheck.” Read more.

3. The Tools That Made “Citizenfour” Possible. The new Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour” came seemingly out of nowhere to play to rapturous reviews at NYFF. Director Laura Poitras (also the journalist behind the publication of the NSA leak) acknowledged the software that made the film possible in the film’s end credits, and with reason. Wired talked to Poitras about the technology that made both her reporting and her filming possible.

In January, Snowden contacted Poitras via anonymous email and began to describe the contents of the leak he planned to give her. Poitras says she quickly realized that “this was going to be a game-changer.” She asked her anonymous source to meet her for a more secure face-to-face conversation. But Snowden insisted that meeting in person was impossible, in part because he wished to remain anonymous even to Poitras herself. So they were left with fragile online communications. “If I wasn’t already up to speed with using encryption, this leak might never have happened,” she says. “It was necessary.” Read more.

4. The Details “Citizenfour” Omits. Most critics have called “Citizenfour” a powerful, comprehensive look at the Snowden case. But while Poitras and Snowden have done a lot of good, they’ve also omitted certain details from the story. Slate’s Fred Kaplan explains.

Judging from Snowden-derived stories in the Guardian and the Washington Post, some of these documents also detail NSA intercepts of email and cellphone conversations by Taliban fighters in Pakistan; assessments of CIA assets in several foreign countries; and surveillance of cellphone calls “worldwide” that (in the Post’s words) allows the NSA “to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect”…Whatever you think about foreign intelligence operations, the NSA’s core mission isto intercept communications of foreign governments and agents. If Snowden and company wanted to take down an intelligence agency, they should say so. But that has nothing to do with whistleblowing or constitutional rights. Read more.

5. “Homeland’s” Offensive Depiction of Islamabad. Showtime’s popular series “Homeland” is wildly entertaining, but it isn’t always accurate in its depiction of Middle Eastern nations. It’s depiction of the Pakistani capitol Islamabad in particular is troubling, something that The Week’ Fatima Shakeel writes would be laughable in its inaccuracies if it weren’t so irresponsible.

It’s troubling not just because it appears to dehumanize this frothing Pakistani mob, but because the violence and rage shown are largely uncharacteristic of Pakistani people, particularly in Islamabad. Perhaps “Homeland” should have drawn inspiration from the tens of thousands of anti-government protesters who have been peacefully gathered outside the parliament building in Islamabad for the past two months, listening to speeches and singing along to live music. This is a community that gathers together every year in a candlelight vigil for the assassinated politician who died taking a stand for a Christian woman accused of blasphemy. And no protest would take place at the gates of the U.S. embassy; the building is such a fortress, nestled deep within Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave, that I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. Read more.

6. You Don’t Need to Care About Video Games to Care About GamerGate. GamerGate has quickly become one of the most controversial movements to spring up online in recent memory, and not without reason. While many of the supporters claim that the movement is ultimately about ethics in the video game industry and that the misogynistic attacks are just the worst members of the group, those voices have been far louder and their venom towards women far more poisonous than any other criticisms to come out of the story. Vulture’s Jennifer Vineyard wrote about why you don’t have to care about video games in order to care about GamerGate.

The harassment campaigns have been directed at women who criticize the gaming community and take the form of sexually violent tweets, emails, and threats. At least some of them were organized on sites that tend to be hubs of the gamer community, including 4chan, 8chan, Wizardchan, and Reddit. The harassers began targeting both the women and companies they work or write for via boycotts and pressure on advertisers. Brianna Wu, an outspoken game developer at Giant Spacekat, spoke to Vulture at New York Comic-Con after she was forced to leave her home following rape and death threats directed at her and castration threats directed at her husband. She said female gaming journalists who criticize the industry for being misogynist are being forced out by these efforts: “They’re literally trying to bully women out of this industry, one by one.” Read more.

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