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Daily Reads: A ‘Black or White’ Takedown, Oscar’s Biggest Documentary Snubs and More

Daily Reads: A 'Black or White' Takedown, Oscar's Biggest Documentary Snubs and More

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

1. Black or White” Takedown. Plenty of people have knocked the racist attitudes in “Black or White,” but few takedowns are more satisfying than Ijeoma Oluo’s in The Stranger.

This movie is two hours of black people walking up to white people and yelling “BLACK” and white people yelling “WHY YOU GOTTA MAKE IT ABOUT RACE” over and over again. In this movie, most young black men are the thugs you fear. But if you are a benevolent drunk white dude, you can see past that and understand that every violent crack-smoking black man is really just a sad kid who never learned how to read. White men who yell “street nigger” aren’t really racist, they just love boobs. And if we all just beat the living shit out of each other, we’ll realize that fighting is dumb, black men make horrible parents, and old drunk white dudes really are our best option. Read more.

2. How Technicolor Changed Storytelling. Technicolor turns 100 this year, and it changed the ways stories are told forever. Adrienne Lafrance explains how:

There’s some irony in the fact that colorizing film—ostensibly to make it look more like the real world—may have cemented the medium’s dreamy, escapist quality. The three-color process, in particular, created films punctuated by colors so electric they were surreal. That continued through the era in which Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Betty Grable, and others became superstars—an era that is still referred to as Hollywood’s golden age. “Technicolor had developed this very vibrant, saturated palette,” Layton told me. “When these films started getting more colorful, that’s what audiences reacted to. They loved this artificial, fantasy, over-the-top palette. And that’s the way color shifted. It’s idealized.” Read more.

3. “The Wolfpack” Raises Questions. The documentary “The Wolfpack” was one of the most talked-about films at Sundance, largely because it raises as many questions as it answers. BuzzFeed’s Adam B. Vary writes:

At several points in the film, there is a suggestion that there may have been some kind of greater abuse within the family — one of the brothers intimates a dark event in his past that he cannot set aside. That’s something about which Moselle, however, also declined to elaborate. “I just want to stay neutral with that subject,” she said. “They revealed what they want to reveal in the film. And I have to respect their private lives.” Read more.

4. The Thrilling and Boring of Sundance. Sundance tends to favor subject-driven documentaries rather than form-driven docs. Robert Greene, long a proponent of the latter, saw how the former could be both successful and dull at Sundance, and wrote about the best and worst of Sundance at Sight & Sound.

Two documentaries I saw left me in such a state of irritation that I only half-jokingly complained to a companion that maybe I just didn’t like movies anymore. The first, Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus’s Rashida Jones-produced feature “Hot Girls Wanted,” which aims to be the definitive portrait of the multi-billion-dollar amateur porn industry, is such a mess of poor choices and half-realised characterisation that its problems transcend the typical complaints about Sundance’s over-reliance on issue-driven fare. The lead characters (several young women making the sometimes-pained choice to participate in the business of having sex on camera for money, and their slacker dude agent who facilitates it all) are all compelling and have plenty to say about the contradictions inherent in their work, but the filmmakers simply aren’t nimble enough to handle the complexities of representation brought up by the subject. Read more.

5. The Biggest Oscar Documentary Snubs. “Life Itself” was a surprise omission in the Best Documentary category this year, but the Oscars have made more puzzling choices still. ScottFeinberg.com’s Anjelica Oswald picked the top 25 snubs, with another Steve James as the no-brainer number one pick:

“Hoop Dreams” (1994). Director Steve James’ documentary follows two inner-city Chicago residents through eight years of their life — from the start of high school through college — as they pursue their NBA dreams after being scouted to attend St. Joseph High School, a predominantly white high school with a renowned basketball program. When the documentary was shockingly snubbed by the Academy due to an unfair system, the public outrage led to nomination reform in the documentary voting process. Read more.

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