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Daily Reads: Stop Pitting ‘Broad City’ Against ‘Girls,’ How Political Pundits Warp ‘American Sniper,’ and more

Daily Reads: Stop Pitting 'Broad City' Against 'Girls,' How Political Pundits Warp 'American Sniper,' and more

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

1. “American Sniper” Isn’t Your Talking Point. Clint Eastwood’s latest film seems to have become the latest talking point in the American culture war. Jason Bailey of Flavorwire writes about why that’s a load of bull:

So we’ve got some kind of an Ignorance Inception on our hands here. But this furor, on the heels of not only the “Selma” “controversy” but the “Zero Dark Thirty” hubbub a couple of years back (one prompted by, look at that, a Guardian piece written by someone who hadn’t seen the movie), is a perfect reminder of why pundits and op-ed scribes should stay the hell away from movies: because great art, particularly great art about difficult subjects, colors in shades of gray, and punditry is about black or white, good or bad, picking a side and digging in. And that’s where Eastwood is difficult, because you can’t peg him and walk away; yes he’s a Republican, but a pro-environment, pro-choice, pro-marriage equality, pro-gun control Republican, and yes, he did that stupid shit with the chair at the RNC, but he also made an Oscar-winning movie about the right to die (in the year of Terri Schiavo, no less). Read more.

2. “American Sniper” as a Litmus Test for Patriotism. Still, “American Sniper” is one of the most widely debated films of the past year, and where one stands on it is seen by some as a litmus test for patriotism. Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune wrote about how the film seems to both view war as hell and celebrate violence, and how some combat veterans, like Phillips’ friend David Tucker, haven’t taken to the film.

“The whole movie,” he wrote, “felt like ‘the Glory of the Gun’ to me, especially (in the scene) when he is walking into the kitchen and pointing a revolver at his wife, which seems to show his children that guns are toys when he should be more respectful of them than anyone. I still don’t get the rationale of putting weapons into the hands of PTSD vets…There was no nuance, no introspection in the film. I had a number of Iraqis under my command and to smear them all as ‘savages’ is racist and to put the world into categories of good and evil is very simplistic…while I am glad I saw it to know what the conversation is about, I thought it was a simplistic portrayal of a complex situation.” Read more.

3. Stalker Movies and Mental Illness. The new Jennifer Lopez movie “The Boy Next Door” is the latest in Hollywood’s long history of stalker movies, from “Play Misty for Me” to “Fatal Attraction.” But Chris Eggertsen of HitFix writes that this stigmatizes mental illness.

Myth #5: People with mental illness are more likely to hurt others than themselves. In the original ending of “Fatal Attraction,” Glenn Close’s Alex slits her own throat – a climax that didn’t test well with audiences despite the fact that those suffering from mental illness are in fact more likely to self-harm than to harm others. The ensuing reshoots resulted in what Roger Ebert deemed the film’s “horror-movie conclusion,” which sees a deranged Alex attacking Dan (Michael Douglas) and his wife in their home before being shot to death. Close’s Oscar-nominated performance is admittedly excellent, but the re-shot ending turns her character into a monstrous, one-dimensional figure that plays on the stereotype of the mental illness sufferer as a deranged lunatic whose inner torment is expressed homicidally. Not only is suicide a more realistic outcome, they are also far more likely to become the victims of a violent crime themselves. Read more.

4. Why Indie Filmmakers Still Care if They’re on TV. With online streaming services widely available, do indie filmmakers need their films to be shown on television for them to be seen? Patricia Aufderheide of CMSI wrote about why it’s still beneficial for your film to be seen on TV.

Broadcast television reaches a larger and more representative population than other ways of accessing programming. Broadcast reaches almost every corner of the U.S. Fewer than 30% of American adults subscribe to the largest streaming service, Netflix, and Amazon Prime is about half that. Some groups within the broadcast audience are particularly high broadcast viewers. Nielsen reports, “In the third-quarter of 2014, Black viewers’ monthly time spent watching traditional television was the highest of any group, with these consumers logging an average of more than 201 hours per month.” Read more.

5. Don’t Pit “Broad City” Against “Girls.” “Broad City” and “Girls” have returned, and some have taken to comparing the two to see which one is superior. Lisa Rosman of Word & Film write about how that does a disservice to both shows.

Both are half-hour TV comedies about young women stumbling through New York City. But strike the “women” from that premise, and we’ve got the description of many of TV’s most successful sitcoms over the last fifty years, from “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” and “Will and Grace” to “Taxi” and even “I Love Lucy.” Rather than pitting them against each other, “Broad City” and Girls” deserve to be lauded for their individual merits. An either/or binary is a scarcity model that assumes only a limited number of females should be allowed to shine. And if there’s one thing these two shows do have in common, it’s that both deserve their moment in the sun. Read more.

6. Looking Forward to Sundance. Sundance is coming, so what’s worth seeing? Rolling Stone’s David Fear and Phoebe Reilly picked their 25 must-see movies at the festival.

“The D Train.” As the man responsible for organizing his 20-year high school reunion, sad-sack Dan Landesman (viva Jack Black!) just wants the respect and admiration of his peers. What better way to win everybody over than convincing the most popular guy in school (James Mardsen) to show up — even if that means lying, cheating, stealing and alienating loved ones? We love it when Black does cringe-comedy, and Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul’s warped tale seems like an opportunity for the star to go completely HAM in that direction. We will ride that train, people! Read more.

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