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Daily Reads: How a Terrible Movie Became an Oscar Sure Bet, Why ‘The Wire’ Seems Written for Today and More

Daily Reads: How a Terrible Movie Became an Oscar Sure Bet, Why 'The Wire' Seems Written for Today and More

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

1. How a Terrible Movie Became an Oscar Sure Bet. Cake” is, by most accounts, an awful movie, and yet Jennifer Aniston seems to be a shoo-in for Best Actress. Writing for Slate, David Ehrlich sorts out why:

“Cake” is not a reflection of a system in which films exist for awards more than awards exist for films—it’s a product of it. “Cake,” more brazenly than any other movie in recent memory, reveals that the Oscars are a sport, and—like all sports—they’re won by whoever wants it most (provided the player has deep pockets, as this league has no salary cap). And Cinelou and Jennifer Aniston really want it. Read more.

2. How ‘SNL’ Handles Outrage Culture. The world spent most of 2014 being outraged at something or another, and “Saturday Night Live” has become the go-to place to take social media outrage culture to task. Sonny Bunch of The Washington Post writes:

The snark here is pitch-perfect; I can actually remember some of the fake complaints being leveled against real shows in recent years. For instance, the “HUGGING? Why can’t a gay couple show REAL INTIMACY?” tweet is almost certainly a direct reference to the contretemps over “Modern Family’s” refusal through its first couple of seasons to show gay couple Cam and Mitchell kissing. Equally delicious is the inclusion at the end of the skit of complaints from (presumably older, whiter, straighter viewers) submitted via snail mail that cow the network into reverting to form. When I first wrote about this portion, I thought that it was a slight misstep. However, in retrospect, it only ramps up the satire. SNL is making a very explicit point here: Progressive Twitter mobs are the modern-day equivalent of the Parents Television Council. The cause and the mode of communication may have changed, but the tactics and temperament are largely the same. Read more.

3. Netflix’s Ratings Refusal: The Future of TV. Netflix still won’t release the numbers for how many people are watching “House of Cards” or “Orange Is the New Black.” Todd VanDerWerff of Vox writes that this is going to become a lot more common.

Consider, also, the fact that Netflix picked up A&E’s canceled series “Longmire,” along with AMC’s canceled series “The Killing.” Demographically, neither series made sense for their networks, Sarandos said. This probably means they skewed too old. But both shows had dedicated audiences, who are fairly likely to grab Netflix subscriptions just to watch new seasons. That, again, is a win for Netflix. But this also speaks to the danger of the Netflix way of thinking — or, really, the modern television way of thinking. Because when it comes right down to it, what Netflix and a lot of places (including many traditional cable networks) are saying is that the idea of a show is more valuable than the show itself. Read more.

4. Scarlett Johansson in “Ghost in the Shell.” The casting of Scarlett Johansson in the “Ghost in the Shell” remake has a lot of people up in arms, but are they overreacting? Forbes’ Scott Mendelson defends the casting while HitFix’s Donna Dickens asks, “What were they thinking?”

Mendelson: For a moment let’s put aside whether or not the world needs a live-action “Ghost in the Shell” movie and whether or not Rupert Sanders should be the guy to direct it. We have one very positive development perhaps negated or at least mitigated by one somewhat negative development. We have a female movie star getting the same kind of opportunities to headline a major action picture that is afforded to (usually white) male action stars (or often mostly unknown white male actors) as a matter of course. Scarlett Johansson getting a big-ticket leading role of this nature should not be taken for granted even while any number of male-centric would-be blockbusters are headlined by glorified unknowns every single year. Read more.

Dickens: Whatever the case, it’s disappointing to see Hollywood still so fearful of casting outside the box. Hell, it’s disappointing that casting non-white leads is considered “outside the box.” There are scads of Asian actresses who could play Kusanagi — from Rinko Kikuchi to Rila Fukushima to Ziyi Zhang to Bingbing Li and more — the list is not exactly short. So why does this keep happening? It comes down to money. Read more.

5. Why “The Wire” Seems Written for Today. “The Wire” is one of the most important shows of the past decade, but its relevance extends far beyond its initial release. Eric Deggans of NPR argues that it seems like it was written for today.

Another scene from the first season features a black police official, Lt. Cedric Daniels, berating a knucklehead officer who, in a fit of temper, struck an unarmed kid. While Daniels is reprimanding the young white officer, he’s also coaching him to spin his story to avoid official sanction. Real-life protests over the grand jury decision in Eric Garner’s death show concerns about this very issue — questioning whether law enforcement is capable of policing itself, and whether the justice system can be truly impartial when a police officer stands accused of assaulting or killing a black man. Read more.

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