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Daily Reads: When Will Black Superheroes Save the World? Letting Robin Williams’ Halo Fade, and More

Daily Reads: When Will Black Superheroes Save the World? Letting Robin Williams' Halo Fade, and More

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

1. Will Film’s Black Superheroes Get to Save the World? Will Chadwick Boseman get a chance to save the world in”Black Panther?” Black heroes on film usually only get to protect their neighborhood, as opposed to the white heroes. The Atlantic’s Daniel D. Snyder looks at this history.

Even “Blade,” perhaps the pinnacle of black superhero movies in terms of sheer quality, is characterized by a distinctly urban quality. While his contemporaries soar into cosmic vistas, Snipes’s Blade is confined to streets, alleyways, and subway tunnels. The film plays like a strange vampiric tribute to the blaxploitation films of the ‘70s, with vampirism as the poison of the streets. While later movies would make vampirism into an enviable condition of inherent beauty, Blade treats it as a condition akin to a disease or drug addiction. Blade’s mother is bitten when he is in the womb, killing her (so he believes) and cursing him with his own addiction as if he’s a vampiric crack baby. His story, like his predecessors, becomes one of personal vengeance against the purveyors of the disease that ruined him. Read more.

2. Beyonce’s “7/11” Video: The Future of Digital Cinema. Christopher Nolan might be making a case for film over digital with “Interstellar,” but the latest argument for the latter comes not from a director, but the biggest pop star in the world. Phillip Maciak of Slate wrote about why Beyonce’s “7/11” video is the future of digital cinema.

Loopability is the “7/11” video’s primary aesthetic characteristic. The viewer-response culture of Twitter is always on the lookout for moments that can become GIFs or Vines, and, by Saturday morning, MTV had already posted, “The 27 Most Mind-Blowing GIFs from Beyoncé’s New ‘7/11’ Video.” But “7/11” is already made of GIFs; it Vines itself. When she claps on the balcony or twerks on the chair in the bathroom, the looped image comes built into the texture of the video. “7/11” is a series of pre-manipulated moments, moves and visual non sequiturs that you immediately want to see again in part because you’ve already seen them rewound and repeated before your eyes. If you’ve watched “7/11” once, you’ve watched it at least twice. Read more.

3. Letting the Posthumous Halo Fade. The death of Robin Williams had many rush to hail him as a genius performer and cite the legion of classics he made. But there can be a danger in simplifying artists by ignoring the fact that they were also capable of making crap. Nathan Rabin of The Dissolve looked back on what’s likely the worst film either Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman made, “Patch Adams,” and found an odd comfort in it.

It was somehow freeing being able to see Williams and Hoffman in utter garbage, in a film guaranteed to knock the halo off the loftiest acting angel. Williams was no longer a paper saint. He was just an actor who had made some really deplorable films in exchange for great deals of money, and that’s okay. There’s no crime in that—it’s what actors do. Even actors as beloved as Robin Williams. Read more.

4. The Troubling Gay Subtext of “Foxcatcher.” Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” has been met with positive reviews, but some critics have questioned whether the film’s homoeroticism is actually homophobic. J. Bryan Lowder of Slate investigates. 

Miller spends most of his film rhapsodizing on the troubled relationship between du Pont and his new toy Mark, an (over)grown man with the injured-yet-credulous soul of an abused puppy. If I made supercuts, I’d make one of the many minutes of tape in which Carell gazes luridly over his prosthetic nose at Tatum’s physique from some darkened corner or couch, and I’d punctuate it with actual lines from the film like “you look good—strong, fit,” and “excellent bed—good mattress, firm.” And if I were forced to spell out the tortured metaphor that Miller insists on advancing throughout the movie, I’d explain that Mark is a fine specimen of man-flesh that du Pont really, really wants to ride. Read more.

5. TV Sex Getting Smarter and Hotter. Television has gotten more and more adventurous in depicting sex, from straight to gay, married to adulterous, and what it says about relationships. It’s also getting hotter, says The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg.

Even couples deep into marriage have sex lives that grow and change. And “The Americans,” an FX series about a honey-trapping pair of Cold War-era KGB spies who live in the Washington suburbs with their two children, offers one of the most piercing and tender explorations of marital sex anywhere on television. Two scenes in the show’s second season stand out. In one, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Phillip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) are engaged in simultaneous oral sex when their teenage daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor), walks in on them. For Paige, it is a shocking introduction to the idea that her parents are sensual beings who very much desire each other. Read more. 

6. We Need to Keep “The Cosby Show.” It’s easy to see why plenty of people might have trouble separating Bill Cosby the possible rapist from Bill Cosby the entertainer and decide to throw out his art altogether. A number of intelligent pieces from the weekend discussed whether or not that was the right decision, from Todd VanDerWerff of Vox to James Poniewozik of Time to Mike Ryan of ScreenCrush. Here’s Flavorwire Pilot Viruet on TV Land pulling “The Cosby Show”:

It remains a groundbreaking and essential part of television history, particularly when it comes to the portrayal (and the very existence!) of black families in the media, which hinged on Cosby’s famous demand that the show make absolutely sure to paint blacks in a positive light, even if that meant taking the emphasis away from the family’s race. “The Cosby Show” may have been about a family that happened to be black, rather than about a black family, but that doesn’t negate the huge strides the show made. Most importantly, it doesn’t negate the fact that for many people, myself included, this was one of the first times I was seeing myself — my family, my skin, my hair — represented on television in a way that actually made me feel good. Read more.

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