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Daily Reads: Eddie Murphy’s Breakthrough, ‘Empire’s’ Revolution and More

Daily Reads: Eddie Murphy's Breakthrough, 'Empire's' Revolution and More

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

1. Eddie Murphy’s Breakthrough. For the first 24 minutes, Walter Hill’s “48 Hrs.” is another tense thriller from the great action director. Then Eddie Murphy shows up and the whole movie changes. Keith Phipps of The Dissolve writes:

In “48 Hrs.’” most famous scene, Murphy takes control of a bar full of rednecks using little but attitude. “You said ‘Bullshit and experience is all it takes,’ right?” Reggie says to Jack—who’s previously used those terms to describe all a cop needs to succeed at the job—before heading into Torchy’s (a recurring location, at least in name, in Hill’s films). Once inside, he’s sneered at, condescended to, and harassed. Then the bullshit and experience kicks in, and Reggie draws on every hard-ass cop he’s dealt with in the past, or seen in movies, to stare down a crowd of racist hard-cases. Not everyone could have pulled that scene off. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anyone else pulling it off in 1982. Reggie doesn’t look the part of a tough guy. And in truth, he isn’t one. He’s just extremely good at playing the tough guy when the moment requires it, weaving humor and a touch of madness into the performance, and unnerving everyone around him. Then, as a finishing touch, he lets the toughness melt away and the fear show once he doesn’t have to play the part anymore. Read more.

2. True Crime Docs. If “The Jinx” whetted your appetite for true crime docs, Mother Jones’ Edwin Rios has five recommendations, including the “Paradise Lost” trilogy:

In this three-part series, renowned filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky focus on the infamous case of the “West Memphis Three,” a trio of teenagers who were convicted of the brutal triple homicide in 1993 of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The three men were later freed after 18 years in prisonRead more.

3. The Great Forgotten Sci-Fi Filmmaker. When tasked to name great sci-fi filmmakers, plenty will name Stanley Kubrick or Ridley Scott, but how many know Piotr Szulkin? RogerEbert.com’s Michal Oleszczyk highlights Szulkin’s career:

It was “Golem” (1979), however, that became the director’s feature debut. Opening simultaneously with Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” and not entirely dissimilar in its claustrophobic feel and sepia-tinted palette (courtesy of brilliant cinematographer Zygmunt Samosiuk), the film was based in equal measure on the titular Jewish legend, its Gustav Meyrink’s 1914 reworking and the collected work of Franz Kafka. Set in a futuristic world of omnipotent TV-propaganda and semi-Dickensian decay, the film proved to be a wickedly funny maze of mistaken identities, false tropes and Eastern European gloom that presages Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” by a good half decade. Read more.

4. Vera Chytilova’s Film Posters. Many marvel at the oddness of Polish film posters, but their Czech counterparts are equally inventive, and in the case of the posters for Vera Chytilova’s films (“Daisies,” “The Fruit of Paradise”), perfectly matched with their avant-garde content. Sight & Sound’s Isabel Stevens writes:

The period also saw an unusually large contingent of female film poster artists working in Czechoslavakia – among them Olga Polácková-VylealováClara Istlerová and Eva Galova Vodrazkova. One name in both camps was Surrealist artist and poet Eva Švankmajerová, who painted the above delirious design for Chytilová’s Adam and Eve fable “The Fruit of Paradise.” (Švankmajerová was also Jan Švankmajer’s wife, collaborator and his film poster designer of choice.) Indeed the dreamy hand-drawn title design for The Fruit of Paradise looks like it might be Švankmajerová’s work too – the loopy vegetative typography is identical to that on her poster. Read more.

5. “Empire,” Blackness and Homophobia. “Empire” isn’t just a great show, but a groundbreaking one in terms of how race, queerness and women are portrayed on TV. BuzzFeed’s Kelley L. Carter, Ira Madison III and Saeed Jones discuss the show:

Saeed Jones: Something I’ve been thinking about regarding colorism on “Empire” is how whiteness is perceived by the many of the Lyons as evil. Lucious (Terrence Howard) cited Andre (Trai Byers) marrying Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), a white woman, as one of the reasons he knew he couldn’t really trust his son. “I knew the moment you brought her into my house,” he says. Her very inclusion in the family is perceived as a betrayal. I bring this up because I wonder if it connects to how colorism functions on the show. Despite the show’s contemporary setting, Anika’s character is surprisingly retrograde: She is the “evil mulatto” who can’t be trusted because her identity itself — her father is white, her mother is black — is constructed as a racial betrayal. Her final betrayal is when she literally leaves Lucious to work with a white man — Lucious’ longtime rival Billy Baretti (Judd Nelson). Read more.

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