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Daily Reads: The Cheapening of Independent Film, ‘The Comeback’s’ Comeback and More

Daily Reads: The Cheapening of Independent Film, 'The Comeback's' Comeback and More

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

1. The Cheapening of Independent Film. The forgettable musical-comedy “One Chance” doesn’t seem like something worthy of a critical piece at first glance, but its treatment by the Weinstein Company (bumped from several release dates, then dumped onto Yahoo!’s streaming service Yahoo! Screen) suggests something terrible for independent films in the future where few make it to the big screen. The Dissolve’s Scott Tobias explains:

Moviegoers aren’t always aware what specific titles are available before, during, or after their theatrical runs, but on balance, there is an awareness that many can be seen early on video, and the rest will follow shortly. So the next thought is, “Meh. I can just watch this at home.” That’s true of “One Chance.” And that’s also true of terrific bigger movies like “The Guest” or “Whiplash,” which unfortunately pay the price of devaluation despite first being exclusive to theaters. Read more.

2. Why Your Favorite Shows Aren’t on DVD. After years of being caught in limbo, “The Wonder Years” and “WKRP in Cincinnati” are available on home media. Still, there are plenty of other series like “Malcolm in the Middle” missing because of the music rights issues that held up those earlier shows. Todd VanDerWerff explains why this has become an issue on DVD and not the shows’ initial broadcasts.

US copyright law is Byzantine and strange, but it does usually protect artists in situations like this, and this sort of ancillary use of a song was a good way for an artist to make a little extra cash without diluting the overall value of their product — particularly if the show was as good as “WKRP” and “Wonder Years” were. Where that copyright law often causes problems is when it treats snippets or samples of works like the entirety of the work, or when it deals with older songs. Copyright, which once expired after a little over half a century, now effectively could be extended until eternity by rights holders. Read more.

3. The Royals as the Fall TV Season’s Best Characters. The fall TV season is coming to a close, and few TV characters were more compelling than…the Kansas City Royals? That’s what Noel Murray of The A.V. Club thinks, and he writes about why there are both upsides and downsides to treating sports stars as TV characters.

ESPN recently aired a “30 For 30” episode about Brian Bosworth, the former University Of Oklahoma and Seattle Seahawks linebacker who became one of the best-known football players in the country in the late 1980s because of the things he did to self-promote. He sported crazy hairstyles, wrote messages on his uniform, insulted his opponents, and generally acted like a pro-wrestling villain. All of this encourages a potentially harmful blurring of the lines between reality and fiction. It’s one thing for TV audiences to boo a catty Real Housewife or a snotty “Survivor” castaway, but when sports fans start excusing antisocial behavior because it makes an athlete more fun to watch—or worse, when voters and journalists start to see a politician’s worst traits as merely “colorful”—there’s little to no incentive for correction. Read more.

4. The Music of “Transparent.” One of the things that made “Transparent” one of the most moving TV shows of the fall season was that few other shows got as much mileage out of a well-placed song. Wondering Sound took a look at the best “Transparent” music moments. Here’s Laura Leebove on the first episode’s use of Jim Croce’s “Operator.”

Since the band Josh is managing, Glitterish, is comprised of young, wispy blonde sisters and not a curly-haired man with a big schnozz, he brings the song to Kaya (while they’re in bed, because he’s sleeping with a member of the band’s he’s managing and that’s what he thinks about during sex — she is not impressed). Later the girls are on a picnic blanket dressed like ’60s flower children as Margaux strums an acoustic guitar and sings “Operator,” with Kaya harmonizing. Josh is using a song from his past, when life was much simpler, to try to move his career forward. Read more.

5. “The Comeback’s” Comeback. Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King’s terrific series “The Comeback” only lasted one season on HBO back in 2005, when its roughness was too much for some to bear. But now the world is more used to that kind of roughness, and “The Comeback” is coming back for a belated second season. BuzzFeed’s Kate Aurthur profiled the show’s rise, fall, and return.

On top of everything else, “The Comeback” was swept up in a backlash against a confluence of inside-Hollywood shows. HBO alone had too many: There was Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” a hit; “Entourage,” which was beginning to get traction with viewers; “Unscripted” (canceled after one season); and Ricky Gervais’ “Extras,” which premiered in the middle of “The Comeback’s” run. Earlier in 2005, Showtime had gotten in on this trend, too, with Kirstie Alley’s semi-autobiographical “Fat Actress” (a flop). Even Bravo was in the game that year, with Kathy Griffin’s reality-ish “My Life on the D-List.” Read more.

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