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Daily Reads: ‘Wonder Woman’ and the State of Female Directors in Hollywood, A Grimdark ‘Daredevil,’ and More

Daily Reads: 'Wonder Woman' and the State of Female Directors in Hollywood, A Grimdark 'Daredevil,' and More

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

1. Michelle MacLaren, “Wonder Woman,” and the State of Female Directors in Hollywood. Michelle MacLaren leaving Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman” production over “creative differences” left a bitter taste in the mouths of many fans. Grantland’s Mark Harris unpacks this development and what it says about female directors and Hollywood movies.

To translate all of that into English: Since studio development executives are now asked to be property managers rather than movie developers, not many of them are capable of sitting down and talking about what a story should be. And none of them wants to risk his neck by committing early to the wrong choice. So, like many modern-day blockbusters, Wonder Woman will be developed via the monkeys-at-typewriters approach: Let’s have a bunch of different people write different Wonder Woman scripts, pick the parts that we sort of like better than the others, proceed to humiliate the “winning” writers by asking them to interpolate the stuff from the “losing” scripts that we also kind of liked, let the WGA work out the credits and mop up the blood and tears, sew everything together, and sell the resulting Frankenmovie to an audience we will have programmed (via an incessant drumbeat of teasers, trailers, and post-credit sequences) to show up for whatever this thing turns out to be. That certainly sounds like every writer and director’s dream.

2. Can Kathleen Kennedy Use “Star Wars” to Change Hollywood? Hollywood has always suffered from a dearth of women directors. The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg wonders if Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy could be the person to change the tide.

We’re months, and in some cases years, away from knowing how these casting decisions will pan out. In the early going, at least, it’s exciting to see Kennedy’s slate of movies give a new generation of actresses a chance to stretch beyond what audiences already know of them, as with Nyong’o and Jones, or, in the case of Christie, to continue building their credentials as action stars. George Lucas may have set “Star Wars” “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,” but one of the most exciting things about watching the original trilogy for the first time was the way it made Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) an equal without suggesting that she was either an anomaly or a pioneer. Kennedy has an opportunity to set a new standard for how Hollywood does business in a similarly matter-of-fact way. She’s got the reins to a giant franchise. Let’s hope the Force is strong in her, too.

3. What Dogme 95 Did For Women Directors. Though Hollywood may be allergic to women directors, the same can’t be true for other film movements in other areas of the world. The Dissolve’s Judy Berman examines how the Dogme 95 movement gave many women the opportunity to direct their own stories.

For Dogme as well as for punk, the minimal aesthetic lent itself to a DIY ethos. In an interview for Richard Kelly’s 2000 document of the movement’s early years, “The Name Of This Book Is Dogme95,” von Trier enthused about the potential for directors in nations without established film industries to “look at Dogme and think, ‘If that’s a film, then we can make films too.’ Instead of just thinking, ‘Oh, if it doesn’t look like Star Wars, then we can’t make a film.'” Dogme never officially spread to developing nations, but it did find adherents on four continents. And at home in Denmark, its democratizing imperative made it an ideal platform for female filmmakers, the same way punk’s rejection of rock ‘n’ roll’s boys’-club elitism brought an influx of women into music 20 years earlier.

4. “Daredevil” Wants to Be a Gritty Crime Drama, But It’s Just Another Grimdark Superhero Story. “Daredevil,” Marvel’s new Netflix series, has garnered some acclaim for its style and was just renewed for a second season. In light of its success, Maclean’s Jaime Weinman looks at “Daredevil” and the trend of “grimdark” superhero stories.

Movies like the Christopher Nolan “Batman” series have had their share of nods to this style, but the PG-13 rating and enormous budget got in the way. Here, the style is much purer. In “Daredevil,” as in grimdark superhero comics, the lighting is often dark even when it logically shouldn’t be, and when it isn’t dark, it’s hard and cold and flinty. Fights are messy and exhausting, to contrast with the usual fun-filled fighting. When the hero emerges from a fight, he’s in pain and needs medical care. And violence is bloody and brutal, involving heads being bashed in or impaled, not the traditional laser gun and piranha kind of death. The idea, at all times, is to suggest that this is really a crime drama that just happens to revolve around a man with superpowers — a super hero story. It’s not as cynical as a real crime drama tends to be — the main character is usually a hero, after all, not an anti-hero, so there’s usually a clearer dividing line between good and evil, innocent and guilty, than in an HBO show. Daredevil is about a good man, son of another good man, who wears a mask and uses his power to help people; a grimdark superhero story is still a superhero story. It just looks and acts like it isn’t one.

5. How a First Edition of “The Iliad” Ended Up In “The Boy Next Door.” Remember when “The Boy Next Door” claimed that a first edition of the “Iliad” could conceivably be bought at a garage sale? Buzzfeed’s Jarett Wieselman talks to director Rob Cohen about how that bit ended up in the movie.

“The Boy Next Door” director Rob Cohen told BuzzFeed News he added the scene during normal script rewrites. “I wanted [Noah] to have a reason to come see [Claire] when [her family] went on the camping trip,” he said during a recent phone interview. “He had to find a reason and my reasoning was he went to a first edition bookstore, bought her the first edition, and told her it was from a garage sale so she wouldn’t be uncomfortable that he bought her an expensive gift. It gave them a chance to be together alone for the first time where if anything was going to happen, it could happen.”

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