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Daily Reads: ‘House of Cards’ is Ridiculously Naive, The Importance of Being Spock and More

Daily Reads: 'House of Cards' is Ridiculously Naive, The Importance of Being Spock and More

Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential news
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1. “House of Cards” Is Ridiculously Naive. “House of Cards” considers itself a cynical, intelligent takedown of Washington politics. Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post says it ain’t so:

If “House of Cards” mistakes the Underwoods’ emotional decision-making for hard-headed manipulation, it’s also strangely inconsistent on the subject of political real talk. During Claire’s confirmation hearing, she actually appears surprised when senators object after she accuses them of grandstanding, assuming that they will prioritize her substantive answers over gaffes. In that moment, her view of the world makes Leslie Knope look as conniving as Lyndon Johnson. Read more.

2. The Awkward Art of Composing for Hollywood. Composers have a tough time in Hollywood, working with either vague instructions or temp tracks that push them to turn in generic scores. The New Yorker’s Alex Ross writes about this year’s Best Original Score nominees:

Desplat is an expert purveyor of wistfully churning post-minimalism, suitable for the evocation of a sepia-tinted past; in the past couple of years, he has also given us “The Monuments Men”, “Philomena,” and “Unbroken.” In 2011, Jóhann wrote majestically dark-toned music for Bill Morrison’s found-footage documentary “The Miners’ Hymns,” but “The Theory of Everything” is a more generic effort, parts of which could have been plopped into the parallel math-genius narrative of “The Imitation Game” without anyone noticing the difference. Read more.

3. Subterranean Hot Take Blues. Hot takes on Oscar candidates, festival favorites and other films abound, but we’re at a point where many of the writers either don’t bother seeing the films before publishing or make assumptions that other viewers are too dim to sort things out for themselves. Nick Pinkerton of Film Comment writes:

When paired with the visual literacy that allows for the reading of a film, the ability to place a movie within a larger social/ historical/ political context is something greatly to be valued in a critic, though very often what we see instead are writers who strew the ground with a pocketful of commonplaces (“good performances,” “beautifully shot”) while rushing on their way to the more pressing issue of assigning a utilitarian sociopolitical function to the work in question. Commentary which distills movies into their significance and funnels them into ideological decanters becomes a means through which writers point like-minded viewers towards works that will, purportedly, provide reinforcement to an already-established worldview. This, along with Recommended for You curation, takes us ever further from the credo espoused by that excellent critic, C.S. Lewis: “To love and admire anything outside yourself is to take one step away from utter spiritual ruin.” (Jean Renoir put it another way: “Man is a creature of habit, and the task of the artist is to try to break these habits.”) Read more.

4. The Most Suspenseful Awards Show. Most people can predict the winners by the time the Oscars roll around. Far more suspenseful is watching an awards show in a language you can’t understand, as The Atlantic’s Christopher Orr discovered watching the Icelandic equivalent to the Oscars:

The delightful part of attending an awards ceremony in an unfamiliar language (and mostly unfamiliar cultural setting) is that everything is suspenseful. “What award is this? Who’s that guy who just came on the stage? What are they talking about?” The Icelanders at my table were getting bored by the second hour—at least until the Edda-winning film editor accepted her award in a state of sublime inebriation. I was riveted throughout. (Not least, I confess, by the jib camera operator responsible for tracking shots over the audience, who frequently swung his boom so low that if anyone in attendance had stood up unexpectedly, the world would have been treated to the headline “Guest Decapitated at Icelandic Film Awards.”) Read more.

5. The Importance of Being Spock. Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Jensen writes about what made Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock great:

Half-Vulcan, half-human, Spock was alien, but in an aren’t-we-all-aliens-in-a-way kind of way. He was the science officer aboard the Enterprise, the voice of pitiless reason in Captain Kirk’s ear, and yet he was more than just a paragon of Enlightenment. The more the character gelled and settled, the more we got to know him, the more we came to understand that he possessed the full gamut of possibility, and he sought—fought—to reconcile the seemingly disparate parts of his identity—intellectual, emotional, spiritual, cultural, social—into a dynamic, integrated whole. He had his flaws. Pretentious. Proud. Wary of the very feelings he privately cherished. Workaholic. But what I loved about him was the commitment to mature and enhance all of hias diverse parts, to become more of himself. He was not a portrait of assimilation or conformity; he was all about nurturing and cultivating the best possible Spock, for his sake and for the benefit of his community. Read more.

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