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Daily Reads: Why Movies Can’t Get Basketball Right, ‘Get Hard’s Impotence, and More

Daily Reads: Why Movies Can't Get Basketball Right, 'Get Hard's Impotence, and More

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1. Movies Rarely Get Basketball Right. Basketball fans who are also cinephiles might watch “White Men Can’t Jump” or “Hoosiers” during March Madness, but they won’t find many movies that get the sport. Scott Renshaw of Salt Lake City Weekly writes:

It’s obvious that, on a level of fundamental theatrics, baseball and boxing both lend themselves better to cinema. The mano-a-mano confrontation of a boxing match is easy to capture. And while there are matters like positioning outfielders, making double-switches and sending base-runners that can have an impact on a baseball game, the central drama is between a pitcher and a batter. Two-shot, close-up, reverse. Basketball movies tend to assume that the same truth holds — that you can reduce the game to the guy with the ball and the guy trying to guard him. This is easy to understand, especially since the NBA was drifting in that one-on-one direction for most of the last two decades. But if you watch most basketball movies, you’d think the editor has never watched a game in his or her life. It’s a chaos of cuts that never allows the flow of a game to unfold. Ball through hoop, cut to scoreboard. Read more.

2. One-and-Done Franchise Filmmakers. With Sam Taylor-Johnson leaving the “Fifty Shades” franchise, Jason Bailey of Flavorwire took a look at the history of one-and-done franchise filmmakers.

Catherine Hardwicke, “Twilight.” Hiring “Thirteen” and “Lords of Dogtown” director Hardwicke to helm the first film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s books must’ve seemed like a good idea — female director, strong voice, keen sense of style. But even Hardwicke couldn’t make a good movie out of that mush, although she certainly made a successful one (it grossed over $400 million worldwide), and the film’s poor quality wasn’t cited for her exit. The official story was, again, a quicker turnaround than she required; the studio’s official statement noted, “Summit’s targeted end of 2009 or early 2010 release of the film, ‘New Moon,’ does not work with Ms. Hardwicke’s required prep time to bring her vision of the film to the big screen.” But, of course, Nikki Finke dug up a bunch of people who said Hardwicke had been “difficult” on the set, and Summit CEO Rob Friedman told Finke they were parting ways with Hardwicke because “our visions are different.” The director later told Entertainment Weekly as much: “I felt more inspired by the first book — the way Stephenie captured intense feelings of yearning… I didn’t feel excited about the second book.” Read more.

3. An Oral History of “Newsradio.” Ashley Burns and Chloe Schildhause of Uproxx get an oral history of the great 90s sitcom “Newsradio”:

DAVE FOLEY: When I read the pilot, it was one of the funniest scripts I had ever read, and amazingly, it stayed funny all the way through making it. A lot of times you have a really great pilot script, by the time you’ve gone through all of the different levels of notes and people’s concerns and fears, by the time you get around to shooting it, it can be terrible. This one changed a lot, but it just seemed like a really funny show. It was really smart and one of the things I liked about the script was you’d be hard-pressed to read the pilot script and find a single joke in the dialogue. All the laughs came out of characters actually talking to each other and interacting. Read more.

4. The Racial and Sexual Impotence of “Get Hard.” Plenty of writers slammed the new comedy “Get Hard,” but few as indelibly as Wesley Morris of Grantland:

The writing doesn’t think much of Darnell. Compared with James, he has no talent or skill. (He’s not even a good impostor ex-convict.) We learn about James’s educational background and peers; it’s for laughs, but it’s still information that tells you who this guy is. Despite his being framed and convicted, James has a way with math and money. We see him apply it. What, ultimately, is Darnell good at? Ferrell and Hart share this movie, but the writing for them is hardly equal. I don’t know what Hart is supposed to be playing. He’s just the industry’s idea of A Black Person. Just about all the nonwhite workers we see work for James. Darnell’s wife, Rita, is a nurse, but the only time we hear about her work is after James gets himself a gross boo-boo. The movie is actually presenting Darnell as the ambitionless peon James presumes him to be. By the time he takes James to see his ex-con, gangsta cousin, Russell (T.I.), for a possible ride-along drive-by, Darnell seems smart only compared to the dummies in Russell’s crew. The one crime-free black male has to pretend to be bad to prevent a good white guy from having worse things happen to him — and all for our entertainment. Read more.

5. Helping White Actors, Hurting Actors of Color. Deadline’s idiotic “diversity is taking away from white actors” article was roundly criticized, but Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post looks at how Hollywood has long helped white performers while hurting actors of color.

Casting processes didn’t just determine which roles actors of different races could compete for it. It proscribed what they had to look like if they wanted to compete. “Child star Eugene Jackson also recalled that the studios preferred black kids ‘with a dark complexion, big lips, and kinky hair,'” Bogle writes. Occasionally, lighter-skinned black actors were made up to meet industry standards, including in cases where white executives worried they might be mistaken for white. “But otherwise, lighter performers need not apply. Only when spotlighting certain glamorous, sexy African American female stars would the movie companies seek lighter performers.” As Jill Watts explains in her excellent biography of Hattie McDaniel, “Light-skinned African Americans were literally labeled ‘off-types’ in the files of Central Casting.” Read more.

6. The Rise of Christian Film. Corey Atad of Movie Mezzanine dives into the popularity of recent films pitched directly to evangelical Christians.

“A lot of ‘God’s Not Dead’s’ success was no doubt an explosion,” Scott explains. There has to be more to the story, though. Resonating with the audience is key for any film, but it’s absolutely crucial to the niche Evangelical Christian market, for which the values and messages of a film are easily as important as its story. Scott says Pure Flix has honed in on exactly what gets its key demographic of church-going Evangelical Christians fired up, learning from the successes and failures of over 80 film releases. That learning process no doubt continues right through their release of “Do You Believe?,” which opened in more theaters than “God’s Not Dead” the year before, but to less than half that film’s opening weekend gross. Read more.

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