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Daily Reads: Stop Making So Many Biopics, and Bradley Cooper as America’s Favorite Leading Man

Daily Reads: Stop Making So Many Biopics, and Bradley Cooper as America's Favorite Leading Man

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

1. Stop Making So Many Biopics. While many critics dread seeing Great Man biopics, Bilge Ebiri of Vulture likes them. But he wishes there weren’t so damn many of them.

Biopics are endemic to Hollywood. But now they’ve become epidemic. It’s hard to sort out the biopics opening in a given week, let alone a year. And when put together, a kind of sameness starts to emerge. Biopics often have their own rhythm — a certain and-then, and-then, and-then quality — and they turn on a kind of predictability. We know, for example, that very often they’re leading to a big speech, or a big historical denouement, with obligatory nods to other historical or biographical details along the way, even if those details are irrelevant to the ostensible plot. Many of our biopics — even the good ones — now feel strangely like entries in a broad, vague franchise: this year’s variation on the brilliant scientist, or the famous musician, or the military hero, or the political figure. Read more.

2. What Qualifies as “Best Editing?” What makes for great editing? Glenn Kenny spoke with “Birdman” and frequent Soderbergh editor Cory Bayes about what qualifies.

“Boyhood” embodies a different demand: director Richard Linklater wanted to craft a seamless narrative despite the movie being shot in short spurts over a 12-year period. “That’s a real challenge, and Adair met it,” says Bayes. In certain parts of “Boyhood,” a kind of purposeful disorientation is key; a scene will begin in what the viewer thinks is one time period, but then actor Ellar Coltrane will enter the scene visually changed, and the viewer rearranges his or her expectations of the scene. It’s a cinematic trick that actually demonstrates the movie’s philosophy about moments having their way with us. Read more.

3. Sienna Miller and the Rise of the Reactress. Sienna Miller had roles in two major Oscar contenders (“American Sniper” and “Foxcatcher”), but her role is largely reactive. Gabrielle Moss of Slate writes that this isn’t unique to Miller:

This problem isn’t Sienna-specific. Keira Knightley got a Best Supporting Actress nod for her role in “The Imitation Game;” she plays a genius mathematician who isn’t too busy to spend almost all of her time soothing the fevered soul of Benedict Cumberbatch’s way more genius mathematician. Even Emma Stone’s character in “Birdman” is mostly a way to signal the inattention and selfishness of Michael Keaton’s Riggan Thomson—she has all the requiste damaged tough-chick traits, the tattoos and the chain-smoking, but nothing she does feels particularly surprising. The last moment of the film is, quite literally, a shot of her reacting to her dad. Read more.

4. The Trailer is Not the Movie. Many are quick to judge a movie based on the trailer. Nathan Rabin of The Dissolve writes that we should cut that out:

Judging a movie by its trailer, however, is the cinematic equivalent of judging a gift by the box it came in. For various reasons, often having to do with commerce, trailers have a tendency to misrepresent the films they’re advertising. This takes on many forms. A misleading trailer might misrepresent the tone of a film, or its plot or even its genre. To cite a particularly egregious, if obscure example, a trailer for the forgotten Frank-Whaley-starring and directorial vehicle “The Jimmy Show” made it look like an upbeat, quirky comedy about a lovable nut chasing his dreams instead of a deeply depressing, resolutely non-commercial drama about a suicidal failure. Read more.

5. How Bradley Cooper Became America’s Favorite Leading Man. Once the dudebro from “The Hangover” and “Wedding Crashers,” Bradley Cooper has become a multiple Oscar-nominee. Robbie Collin of The Telegraph writes about his rise to the status of America’s favorite leading man.

Kyle  spends long sections of the film lying on rooftops, staring down his rifle’s telescopic sights. He’s a classic lone gunman in the grand Eastwood style, and the moments when we get to know him tend to be silent. There’s a scene that takes place at Kyle’s home in Texas after a particularly gruelling tour of duty, in which he’s staring at the blank television screen that years earlier had shown him the 1998 US Embassy bombings that had inspired him to enlist. He’s willing it to flicker to life again and show him some new terrorist atrocity that will refill his waning reserves of moral certitude.These are not emotions that Cooper has tackled on screen before, but to express them he deploys the same skills he’s been cultivating for the past 10 years, and were just as invaluable in his early comic work. His most effective weapon is that face: since it’s obviously too good to be true, it’s ideal for projecting a false front. Cooper can make a smile mean absolutely anything. Read more.

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