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Daily Reads: Why DC and Warner Bros. Can’t Keep Up With Marvel, a History of ‘Mad Men’s’ F-Bombs, and More

Daily Reads: Why DC and Warner Bros. Can't Keep Up With Marvel, a History of 'Mad Men's' F-Bombs, and More

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

1. Why DC and Warner Bros. Are Having Trouble Following Marvel’s Lead. Over the past seven years, Marvel Studios have created a successful media franchise by banking on their fictional interconnected universe. So how come Warner Bros. is having so much trouble doing the same thing with its planned DC franchise? The Hollywood Reporter’s Kim Masters reports on the creative and organizational problems within Warner Studios as they ready their own franchise.

In the early going, some in Hollywood are questioning whether Warners has acted too much in haste without having fleshed out the world on which so much hinges. Grumbling among talent reps came especially in response to the studio’s strategy of hiring five writers to compete for a job on “Wonder Woman,” which has a June 2017 release date. On “Aquaman,” set for 2018, sources say Warners commissioned scripts from three writers, one of whom followed the studio’s direction only to be told the rules governing the universe had changed and his work no longer was usable. Another writer has been on hold for the film for months as the studio works to define its vision. “They just haven’t been thorough about their whole world and how each character fits and how to get the most out of each writer’s time by giving them direction,” says a rep with knowledge of the process. “Obviously, Marvel’s very good at that.”

2. Stop Calling Everything a “Reboot”. Though it may seem like Hollywood is only developing reboots nowadays, that may just be because we’re mislabeling everything as a “reboot”. Or are we? Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey examines the misuse and the malleability of “reboot” and what it says about the film industry.

I’m not usually one for referencing and quoting from Wikipedia, but we’re in the realm of pop culture rather than dictionary definition, so that’ll have to do. To wit: “In serial fiction, to reboot means to discard all continuity in an established series to recreate its characters, timeline, and backstory from the beginning.” This lines up pretty squarely with the definition as I understood it back when the phrase first started getting bandied about in relation to franchise cinema — by my memory, around 2008, when Universal decided to pretend like “Hulk” didn’t happen and gave us “The Incredible Hulk.” And in the years that followed, “rebooting” became part of the blockbuster franchise playbook; the cynical among us started to think it was just how they did business, rushing out subpar blockbusters with less regard to quality than making their locked-in summer premiere dates, knowing that they could always just wipe the Etch-A-Sketch clean with a reboot.

3. A History of “Mad Men’s” F-Bombs. Over the course of the series, “Mad Men” subtly explores how American culture became more vulgar during the 1960’s, often through well-placed F-bombs. Over at the LA Review of Books, Phillip Maciak traces the history of cursing on “Mad Men.”

After Peggy accuses a child-actor’s mother of abandonment for leaving her child at the Sterling Cooper office, the woman leaves, Peggy plops down on the couch and says, “Fuck her.” To some extent or another, it’s like the others, a linguistic expression of difference and resistance. It’s a swaddling blanket. But it’s also, to some extent, self-directed. Abandonment is her curse, her original sin, and here it doesn’t necessarily emphasize difference so much as it reveals a kinship. Peggy is, in some way, like that woman. This is the crux of her conversation with Stan later. They made different choices, but they aren’t fundamentally separate. To judge her is to judge oneself is to judge every woman working at that agency or anywhere else. Fuck her? Fuck me.

4. The Story Behind Those Giant Wine Glasses in Amy Schumer’s “Friday Night Lights” Parody. Though “Inside Amy Schumer’s” parody of “Friday Night Lights” lampooned rape culture and featured Josh Charles in the Coach Taylor role, the giant wine glasses Schumer-as-Tami-Taylor were carrying stole the sketch. Yahoo TV’s Mandi Bierly reaches out to the production team to find out more about that hilarious prop.

It took over three weeks just for it to be shipped to New York. Once here, it took up ample real estate in the office and clogged up the entire center aisle of the truck. Then there was the matter of having the giant prop function as a practical wine glass — it was meant to be used as a display centerpiece for wine bottles and beers on ice, not to be actually drunk out of. We could only fill it with about 4 gallons of watered-down white grape juice before it became unmanageable. It probably weighed 40 pounds in the end — almost too heavy for Amy to lift on her own, but we did manage to get a few takes of her chugging it.

5. David Bordwell on Richard Corliss. 
Last week, veteran film critic Richard Corliss tragically past away at the age of 71. This week, David Bordwell pays tribute to Corliss and his permanent effect on film culture.

With Richard’s death we lose not only an effervescent critic. Under his stewardship of Film Comment (1970-1990) he helped found modern American film culture. Richard T. Jameson has eloquently recalled the Corliss era, when a magazine that had been committed to documentary and censorship debates became the paradigm of new ways of thinking about American and European film. Like Movie in England, it championed auteurism, and so it attracted great critics like Andrew Sarris, Robin Wood, and Raymond Durgnat. Yet Richard’s wide-ranging curiosity made Film Comment more pluralistic than its UK counterpart. It published reference-quality issues on animation, cinematographers, and set designers. In the days before the Net and specialized film books, cinephiles treasured these plump special numbers. The magazine ran historical and retrospective essays as well; refreshingly, not every piece was pegged to current releases. Richard gave us a new model of film magazines: richly designed, provocative (Durgnat especially), and sending the signal that everything cinematic could be studied.

6. Robert Greene on Docs and Performance. Non-fiction performances have accumulated more cultural currency in the past couple years, which means it’s crucial to be able to “read” those performances effectively. Over at BFI, Robert Greene argues for more media and documentary literacy as an issue of citizenship.

If all the world’s a stage, and if we’re all constantly recording ourselves and each other on that stage, then it might be said that we’ve become nonfiction characters in a kind of strange, endless live-stream performance documentary. With all the complexities embedded in the rendering of nonfictions, it becomes troublesome when our media and legal institutions get overly enamoured with, and wrapped in reproducing, the permanent state of ‘fictionalizing reality’ that constitutes the form. I’ve written before about my desire for viewers of documentaries to better understand the volatile, intricate nature of nonfiction performance, but when put in this sort of Orwellian context, this interest can be seen as having to do with something more consequential and more frightening than a relatively straightforward question of aesthetics.

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