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Daily Reads: Why ‘Star Wars’ Took Off, Reckoning with the Cosby Allegations and More

Daily Reads: Why 'Star Wars' Took Off, Reckoning with the Cosby Allegations and More

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

1. Why “Star Wars” Took Off. In 1977, “Star Wars” became one of the biggest movies of all time. What did George Lucas’ film bring that viewers hadn’t seen before? Keith Phipps of The Dissolve writes that it’s a number of things:

Lucas borrowed well, and hired even better. He came up with a film-mad generation of filmmakers that included Steven Spielberg, John Milius, and Martin Scorsese, all friends and/or collaborators at various points in Lucas’ career. And then there was the slightly older Francis Ford Coppola, who served as a mentor and partner early in Lucas’ career. Like the others, Lucas borrowed freely. In “Star Wars,” he combines influences with a brilliant recklessness, refusing to make any distinction between Akira Kurosawa, John Ford, Fritz Lang, David Lean, old serials, and World War II movies, as he took them all to outer space. “Star Wars” doesn’t hide its influences so much as it melds them beautifully into a coherent universe. Read more.

2. Why Trailers Are Called “Trailers.” One of the most frequent questions Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey gets as a cinephile is why movie previews are referred to as “trailers.” He took this opportunity to explain:

…through the rest of the silent era and the early days of the talkies, “trailer” still accurately described the ads’ placement in the program; they ran after the main feature. But it’s not as counter-intuitive as it might seem now, because moviegoing was a very different experience in those days. Now, we show up at a set time, pay our admission, see a few commercials and a few trailers, watch the movie, and leave. In cinema’s early days, the program was not only bulkier — a double feature, cartoons, newsreels, short films, and trailers — but looser, running in a continuous loop from which patrons often came and went as they pleased. Read more.

3. “Lost” Interviews. It might have been frustrating, even occasionally terrible, but at its best “Lost” was among the most thrilling shows on television. Todd VanDerWerff of Vox writes that we’re not likely to see anything like it again, and he spoke to creator Damon Lindelof about ten key episodes. Here, they talk about the pilot.

But we ended up talking very little about mythology, and much more about the backstories of the characters, and the stories that would take place on the island, because Steve McPherson at that time had replaced Lloyd and Steve let it be known in no uncertain terms that this show was not going to be supernatural, and it wasn’t going to be weird. He wasn’t really interested in that, because when “Alias” did that, it lost viewership, and he and J.J. were already sparring over that stuff on “Alias.” He certainly didn’t want to engage in it on “Lost.” Read more.

4. Agnes Varda’s “Mur Murs.” French New Wave director Agnes Varda was struck by the street art she saw in Los Angeles in the early 80s, and her 1981 film “Mur Murs” documents much of it, creating an indelible snapshot of the city in the period. Writing for Cleo, Mallory Andrews talked about the film’s importance. 

Time has not been kind to “Mur Murs.” Having been recorded on video has unfortunately dated the film’s somewhat crude aesthetic. But what it lacks in visual quality, it more than makes up for in formal innovation. Many works are unsigned or anonymous, so Varda undertook on the gargantuan task of tracking down the artists. Throughout the film, still images of paintings are accompanied by a male voice whispering name of the person responsible, re-authoring each piece with a sort of aural artist’s signature. Though the murals range from crude graffiti, to surreal landscapes, to photorealistic portraiture, Varda uncovers what could be considered a verified art movement. Read more.

5. Reckoning with the Bill Cosby Allegations. The sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby are disturbing, not least because of his wholesome public persona and immense influence on stand-up and television. But it’s important to take the allegations seriously and reckon with them, and The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about his mistake not tackling them when he covered Cosby years ago.

The heart of the matter is this: A defender of Bill Cosby must, effectively, conjure a vast conspiracy, created to bring down one man, seemingly just out of spite. And people will do this work of conjuration, because it is hard to accept that people we love in one arena can commit great evil in another. It is hard to believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist because the belief doesn’t just indict Cosby, it indicts us. It damns us for drawing intimate conclusions about people based on pudding-pop commercials and popular TV shows. It destroys our ability to lean on icons for our morality. And it forces us back into a world where seemingly good men do unspeakably evil things, and this is just the chaos of human history. Read more.

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