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Daily Reads: The Subtle Cinematic Style of ‘The Wire,’ ‘The Interview’ as a Landmark of Digital Distribution and More

Daily Reads: The Subtle Cinematic Style of 'The Wire,' 'The Interview' as a Landmark of Digital Distribution and More

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

1. The Subtle Cinematic Style of ‘The Wire.’ “The Wire” is coming back to television, and with it comes new considerations of why “The Wire” is awesome. Slate republished David Haglund’s analysis of “The Wire’s” remarkable, subtle cinematic style.

The primary influence on the show’s look is documentary filmmaking, particularly the work of Frederick Wiseman, Lavik says. In conversation scenes, for instance, the camera will often not switch to a speaker until that character has begun talking, as though the cameraman does not know in advance who will speak when. And the camera often “sneaks up” on a scene, creating the impression that we are eavesdropping on something actually taking place. Read more.

2. Refusing to Make a Top Ten List. Plenty of critics make lists of their favorite films or TV shows, but Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker refuses to rank a top ten when taking on the best of the year. 

The truth is, this is an oddly difficult year to boil down. Everything is in flux, in the best way: the TV seasons have dissolved, and so has the distinction between comedy and drama. Directors have begun to flood a medium that used to be run by writers. New variations on television keep pouring through odd outlets, from Netflix and Amazon and probably, soon, your coffee maker. Online TV is blossoming for real. Read more.

3. This Year in Sex on TV. This was a strong year in television, but Willa Paskin of Slate thinks that it was also a particularly great year for sex on television.

“The Americans” used sex better than any show I can think of from this year or any year: namely, as an entrée into the deep recesses of character. I already mentioned an oral sex scene from that show, a 69 that took place between double agents Philip and Elizabeth Jennings in their marital bed that was inadvertently witnessed by their teenage daughter. It was simultaneously shocking and totally romantic, proof that there really is a classy way to do almost anything on television. Read more.

4. The Year’s Best Scenes. Many have cited scenes from “Whiplash,” “Under the Skin” and “Boyhood” as the best of the year, but Tim Grierson and Will Leitch of Deadspin have a pair of less obvious picks. While Grierson writes up “The Raid 2,” Leitch talks about a great farewell to a great actor in “A Most Wanted Man”:

I’m certain that the final scenes of “A Most Wanted Man” would have been tragic and sad even had Hoffman not died of a drug overdose a year after filming. But in that context, they’re devastating. Hoffman’s Günther Bachmann, head of a secret German spy ring investigating a local Muslim community in the first couple of years after September 11, has spent of the movie slowly, methodically trying to piece together every tidbit of a labyrinthine terror plot that might not even exist. Gunther is not some eager new kid: He is a weary, mostly beaten-down man who has no illusions about the work he does, who knows that in his business, the most brilliant spycraft can all be undermined and destroyed by spineless bureaucrats. Even his small victories feel like defeats: He knows how all this ends. Read more.

5. ‘The Interview’: A Landmark of Digital Distribution. “The Interview” might have become the most controversial movie of 2014 because of its plot about the attempted assassination of Kim Jong Un, but it’s legacy might lie elsewhere. Brian Stelter of CNN writes about how the film’s success on iTunes and other streaming services is a landmark moment for digital distribution.

To put the sales figures so far in context, the movie’s budget was about $44 million, and that does not include any of the marketing costs. In other words, Sony still has a long way to recoup its costs. But it determined that announcing the online sales figures would bolster its decision to release the movie online and would generate further interest in renting…The results may be a glimpse of Hollywood’s future. Studios aren’t going to abandon theaters en masse — far from it. Studios and theater chains generally have a mutually beneficial relationship. But analysts say that digital distribution will gradually, almost inevitably, become more important to the studios over time. Read more.

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