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Daily Reads: How PT Anderson Saved (and Ruined) Adam Sandler, Why ‘The Hobbit’ Turned Out So Badly

Daily Reads: How PT Anderson Saved (and Ruined) Adam Sandler, Why 'The Hobbit' Turned Out So Badly

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

1. PTA and Adam Sandler“Inherent Vice” is an odd movie, but it can’t match “Punch-Drunk Love” as Paul Thomas Anderson’s strangest, an art-house Adam Sandler movie. Amos Barshad of Grantland writes about how their collaboration both saved and ruined Sandler.

Sandler can act. He always could, actually. But none of his dramatic performances can touch the singular extremes of “Punch-Drunk Love.” “Funny People” perhaps had a shot: There was latent potency in Sandler curdling his image for his old pal Judd Apatow, then working at the height of his powers. But it didn’t get there — not even close. Funnily enough, Sandler has said he based his take on Barry Egan in small part on “my friend Judd.” Was it fortuitous or not for Sandler to find Anderson so early? Did it lead to false assumptions — did Sandler think he could do that again in lesser hands? Or was it more nefarious? Did Anderson squeeze too hard? Did he empty Sandler out on the first go-round? Read more.

2. Bring Back the Movie Serial. Movie serials are a thing of the past, gone after the rise of television. But Adam Sternbergh of Vulture thinks it’s time to bring serials back.

Imagine if “True Detective,” which aired as eight one-hour episodes’ worth of cinema-quality entertainment, had instead been packaged as four two-hour installments of cinema-quality entertainment and released in theaters on the first Friday of every month.* And imagine if, for the first three weeks after each release, the only place you could see the new installment was in a movie theater. After that, each installment would be released to VOD (Katzenberg’s proposed three-week theatrical window), so that people could watch it at home if they desired, in preparation for the release of the next installment in theaters. Sure, many people would wait the extra time just to watch each installment at home — just as some people DVRed “True Detective” and watched it at their leisure, or waited for the whole series to hit DVD or HBO Go. But, presumably, many people would go to their local theater to see the new installment on opening night (or soon after) — especially if that enabled them to participate in exactly the kind of subsequent social-media conversation that spurs people currently to watch a show on the night that it airs. Read more.

3. An Altman Retrospective. The Museum of Modern Art is hosting a Robert Altman retrospective, with masterpieces like “Nashville,” “The Long Goodbye” and “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” playing. But Alan Scherstuhl of The Village Voice thinks that the less well-known “California Split” is just as deserving of your attention.

But the glory of “California Split” isn’t its downbeat ending. It’s the sense that Altman’s camera is just happening to observe life that would be lived even if he weren’t capturing it, just as his microphones seem to luck into incidental dramas. Before it pairs up Gould and Segal, the film studies busloads of poker players in a miserable ballroom something like the way an old nature film might: In their habitat, they scratch and carp. The leads catch the camera’s attention, it seems, simply because they’re the most dynamic — and predatory — in this pack. Read more.

4. The Messy Media Ethics Behind the Sony Hacks. Media outlets have spent the past few days reporting what Scott Rudin, Amy Pascal and other Sony executives and producers are saying to each other in their emails, from racist jokes about Barack Obama’s viewing preferences to slams against Angelina Jolie and Adam Sandler. But is there a difference between reporting and sharing hacked emails and sharing the hacked photos from the past year’s nude photo leaks? Anne Helen Petersen of BuzzFeed tries to sort out the messy media ethics at play.

I’m looking at these documents with the same eyes with which I pored over the collections of David O. Selznick, the greatest independent producer of classic Hollywood, or silent star Gloria Swanson, who preserved all correspondence, negotiations, contracts, letters to lawyers, and so much more from her 60-year career. Those collections, like those of United Artists and early Warner Bros., are housed at archives, where scholars travel to sift through them with white gloves, transforming stacks of musty telegraphs into works that function as our dominant understanding of the way the industry functioned, failed, and excelled. But those archives, like most archives, were donated. Some are stripped of incriminating materials, but archives are generally given to institutions with the understanding that they will be used to illuminate history. In that, they are the inverse of the Sony hack, in which a group of hackers used illegal means to indiscriminately release the contents of Sony’s internal server. Read more.

5. Why “The Hobbit” Turned Out So Badly.  “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” wraps up Peter Jackson’s long decade and a half largely spent in Middle Earth, and it’s ending things in a pretty weak fashion. Robbie Collin of The Telegraph talks about how Jackson ruined “The Hobbit.”

“The Battle of the Five Armies” runs for 144 minutes, during which time it covers the six final chapters, or 47 pages, of Tolkien’s book. At a storytelling rate of just over three minutes per page, this makes it the slowest-moving part of the trilogy by some margin, even though it’s also the shortest. The battle itself takes forever to start, and then takes forever to stop. Tolkien’s masterstroke was to boil it down to almost nothing at all, capturing the tragic grandeur of the scene in prose as tightly wound as haiku. Read more.

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