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Daily Reads: The Spectacle of the Sony Hack, How Sony Lost the Battle of ‘The Interview’ and More

Daily Reads: The Spectacle of the Sony Hack, How Sony Lost the Battle of 'The Interview' and More

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

1. The Spectacle of the Sony Hack. The Sony Hack has people all over social media taking a certain amount of schadenfreude at Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal’s expense, not to mention fascination at all of the information that’s leaked. But Grantland’s Tom Carson thinks that we should also understand why so many Sony employees fear for their safety.

The hack encompasses all sorts of confidential information about them — Social Security numbers, addresses, medical records, and the like, not just cutesy stuff like Tom Hanks’s favorite hotel aliases — and they got warned way back in early December that “Your family will be in danger” unless “[you] make your company behave wisely.” Presumably, that meant getting Sony to put the kibosh on The Interview. Once we get over our fit of the giggles — from which I haven’t been immune — we’ll have to recognize that we’ve been relishing the ancillary fallout from what may well qualify as an act of terrorism: the cyber-age sequel to the 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his Ayatollah Khomeini–mocking novel “The Satanic Verses.” Read more.

2. “The Wolf of Wall Street,” One Year Later. “The Wolf of Wall Street” was one of Martin Scorsese’s most divisive and controversial films, with many questioning whether or not it took a hard enough line against Jordan Belfort and his cronies. How does it look a year later? Better than ever, says The Dissolve’s Scott Tobias.

Whatever sympathy Scorsese extends to Belfort and his rogue operation in Long Island is rooted in the same hypocrisy: Belfort has taken Hanna’s (and by extension, Wall Street’s) ethos to heart, by moving his client’s money from their pocket to his. The only difference is that his methods are cruder and less savory, and his merry band of bridge-and-tunnel “degenerates” are not the Manhattan sophisticates who put a clean face on a dirty business. Scorsese doesn’t have to make the connection between the penny-stock fortune the Strattonites amass and the “complex financial instruments” that some Wall Street poindexters used to blow up the economy in 2008. He trusts we’ll make it just fine on our own. As I wrote in my review, “If [Belfort’s] yacht sailed under the bull-etched flag of Merrill Lynch, rather than a skull and crossbones, his story might have ended differently.” Read more.

3. “Crash” is the Most Loathsome Best Picture Winner. “Crash” has been beaten up plenty since its shocking Best Picture win over “Brokeback Mountain.” Has it had enough? Answer from The Awl’s Mallory Ortberg and Anne Helen Petersen: nope, it deserves more hate.

Anne Helen: It’s a neoliberal shitshow. Its moral being: if individuals stop being racist or, more specifically, stop committing egregiously racist acts, like acts that even your five-year-old cousin can identify as racist, then VOILA, racism is gone. And then there’s certainly no need for systemic change, or consideration of how systemic inequity has perpetuated racism between individuals.

Mallory: Right! It’s “being racist” versus “doing something racist.” Jay Smooth did a better job explaining this in three minutes than “Crash” did in however long “Crash” was. “Crash” is your friend’s grandmother whose family is really proud that she doesn’t say “colored” anymore. I mean, it is great that she doesn’t say “colored” anymore; I don’t want to take away from that. She’s 83 years old and grew up in Georgia. That’s not nothing. But it also very much isn’t everything. Read more.

4. “Jane the Virgin” as TV’s Most Progressive Show. This year brought a number of great new shows, from “Transparent” to “Black-ish,” but few more heartening than “Jane the Virgin.” Jamie Bernstein of Skepchick believes it might be the most progressive show on television.

“Jane the Virgin’s” handling of the question of abortion in the first episode was one of the most honest depictions I’ve seen on television regarding abortion in which the character decides not to have one (though admittedly the bar is low). Jane and her family, especially her abuela, are quite religious. Abuela Alba does not want Jane to have an abortion though Jane’s mother disagrees. Xiomara knows from experience how much having a baby can upend a person’s life and she doesn’t want Jane to end up like her. Complicating her thought process, Jane knows that her mother considered abortion when she was pregnant with her. She believes that she was only born because abuela talked Xo out of having an abortion. She only learns at the end of the episode that in fact, abuela wanted Xo to get an abortion when she was a pregnant teenager but Xo chose not to get one. In other words, even though Jane’s abuela is Catholic and religious and always considered herself anti-abortion, when her own teenage daughter’s future life was at stake, she was not only willing to consider abortion for the sake of her daughter’s future, but also encouraged it. In the end though, it was up to her daughter and now her granddaughter to decide for herself. Read more.

5. The 10 Best Alexandre Desplat Scores. Composer Alexandre Desplat is one of the most in-demand composers working today, with five film scores bearing his name being released this year alone. David Ehrlich of Time Out New York chose his ten best.

Even divorced from the setting of the film for which it was commissioned, Desplat’s score for “Birth” has the feel of a chilly afternoon somewhere north of 66th St. These pieces are some of the composer’s most luxurious work—so garlanded with deep drums and dancing flutes that they genuinely begin to take on the feel of the wealthy characters onscreen. The recurring theme is a touch off-kilter, the perfect disequilibrium for a movie about an affluent Manhattan widow (Nicole Kidman) who starts to believe that her dead husband has been reincarnated in the body of a young boy. It’s the kind of stuff you dream of hearing at the philharmonic, on a good day.

6. How Sony Lost the Battle of “The Interview.” It’s more than understandable that Sony might be afraid of what might have happened had they gone ahead and released “The Interview” on December 25. But Ty Burr of The Boston Globe thinks that they might be setting a dangerous precedent.

But there’s a freedom of expression aspect to this situation, in that the hacker group has now successfully shut down moviegoers’ ability to choose whether or not to see the film for themselves. Rogen, Franco, and Sony have the right to make as lame and inadvisable a movie as they want; it should still be allowed to be seen. The standard litmus test of unacceptable speech is the cliché of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater. “The Interview” isn’t doing that. The hackers are — almost literally. Read more.

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