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Daily Reads: The ACLU Investigates Sexism in Hollywood, The End of Network TV (Again), and More

Daily Reads: The ACLU Investigates Sexism in Hollywood, The End of Network TV (Again), and More

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

1. The ACLU Investigates Hollywood Studios for Unfair Hiring Practices. Over the last dozen years, “only 4 percent of the top-grossing films of the last dozen years” were directed by women. It’s no wonder that the ACLU has filed an official investigation into Hollywood for intentional gender discrimination. The New York Times’ Cara Buckley reports the story.

The letters cited numerous examples of bias: for instance, a University of Southern California study found that of the top-grossing 100 films from 2013 and 2014, just 1.9 percent were directed by women. A Directors Guild of America analysis of 220 television shows consisting of 3,500 episodes broadcast in 2013 and 2014 found that 14 percent were directed by women. A third of all shows had no female director at all. Propelling this paucity, the A.C.L.U. said, is an industrywide boys’ network in which gender discrimination is often on overt display. The organization collected stories from 50 female directors who reported being told by executives that a show was not “woman friendly”; learning that producers had repeatedly told agents to “not send women” for prospective jobs; or being informed at a meeting for a television job that “we already hired a woman this season.”

2. The Last Gasp of Broadcast Network Dominance. Fox and CBS announced the cancellations of its respective flagship programs: “American Idol” and “CSI:,” two shows that routinely illustrated the networks’ power to effortlessly draw in huge ratings week after week. Alas, that is the past. The Atlantic’s David Sims explores network programming and what they’ve learned over the past season.

For more than a decade now, network television has been dominated by CBS’s ironclad lineups of multi-camera sitcoms (“Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory”, “2 Broke Girls”) and franchised crime dramas (the “CSI,” “NCIS,” “Criminal Minds,” and their ilk). Critical acclaim was rarely given but hardly needed: The much-coveted demographic of 18-to-49-year-old viewers didn’t watch in quite as high ratios, but overall viewer quantity trumped that concern. But the rust may finally be showing: “CSI” is dead except for the much-derided “CSI: Cyber,” which debuted this year, and two “NCIS” spinoffs may not be enough to prop up an entire schedule.

3. The Complete History of Comic Book Movies: “Superman and the Mole-Men”. Over at ScreenCrush, Matt Singer is watching every single comic book movie in chronological order and writing about it. This week? The 1950’s “Superman” serial “Superman and the Mole-Men,” starring George Reeves.

What Reeves lacks in muscles, he makes up for with moral strength. And maybe that’s part of his appeal as Superman. It’s easy for Henry Cavill to beat guys up; just look at him! His arm muscles are bigger than my waist. Subliminally, his body projects the idea that his kind of heroism is unattainable to an ordinary person. Reeves, on the other hand, doesn’t look like an immortal; he looks like a middle-aged guy wearing pajamas (and possibly a girdle). His average physique and air of vulnerability are kind of inspiring. If this guy can stand up to an angry mob, we think to ourselves, maybe we can be brave too.

4. How Tom Hardy Became Hollywood’s Biggest Badass. This Friday marks the release of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the fourth film in the “Mad Max” franchise and the first in 30 years. Replacing Mel Gibson in the titular role is Tom Hardy, a versatile actor who slipped into roles in multiple genres. But now, he’ll soon become America’s biggest badass. The Daily Beast’s Nick Schager takes a look at his storied career up until this very moment.

It was 2008’s “Bronson,” however, that first truly suggested — by which I mean completely, unconditionally confirmed — that Hardy was the perfect actor to portray men with whom one did not want to mess. Nicolas Winding Refn’s blistering biopic recounts the real-life story of British convict Michael Gordon Peterson, who was better known as Charles Bronson thanks to his penchant for being the baddest (and scariest) man around. With a shaved head, a mustache, and a 42-pounds-heavier physique marked not only by bulging muscles but also by the fact that it’s often coated in grime and blood, Hardy is a jaw-dropping revelation in Bronson. With transfixing intensity, he embodies Bronson, who spent much of his adult life in solitary confinement thanks to a fondness for picking fights in prison just for the hell of it, as an unhinged animal. Like a character from a Stanley Kubrick film (Kubrick being the stylistic influence that weighs most heavily on “Bronson”), his criminal is someone whose inherently feral instincts cannot be tamed by civilization. A modern-day variation on “A Clockwork Orange’s” ultraviolence-loving droog Alex, Hardy’s Bronson is impervious to societal domestication, and the way that Hardy stalks around the screen, fuming with rage that inevitably explodes in brutality, showed that fearsomeness was almost a natural state of being for the actor, at least on screen.

5. Can “Wayward Pines” Be M. Night Shyamalan’s “Twin Peaks”? This Thursday, “Wayward Pines,” a 10-episode “event series” premieres on Fox, apparently complete with every spooky Shaymalan-esque spooky trick and motif in the book. Grantland’s Steven Hyden watched half the series and wonders if it could be M. Night’s break back into the good graces of the public, his “Twin Peaks” if you will.

The pleasure of watching “Wayward Pines’s” first five episodes is similar to that of a long-winded joke that wanders far afield before arriving at a punch line. New plot threads come and go like city buses. Characters you think will be essential are suddenly killed off and replaced by new characters you can’t get a read on. Something amazing and preposterous will happen in one scene, and then go seemingly unacknowledged in the next. Not everyone finds this sort of thing pleasurable: As a real-time barometer of audience reactions, social media shows that some people hate even a moment of ambiguity in their entertainment. At least “Pines,” unlike Shyamalan’s films, is briskly paced. It’s not always comprehensible, at least not immediately, but “Wayward Pines” is compulsive viewing regardless.

6. How “Jane The Virgin” Is Redefining TV Narration. “Jane The Virgin” just aired its first-season finale to much praise and fanfare. Vulture’s Libby Hill talks to Anthony Mendez, the show’s narrator, to discuss diversifying the voices we hear on television.

As amazing as diversification of actors is, it’s amazing to have diversification of voice actors to really round out the work.

It’s funny, I’ll tell you a little full-circle story here. When I first started, that was what everybody was telling me. “You sound Latino. You sound black. You [sound] like you’re from the streets, yet you sound college-educated.” My coach, ten years ago, who I trained with and is my friend, told me, “Learn how to do a straight read, but hold onto those accents because at some point everybody’s going to begin to embrace them.” She was 100 percent right. So much so that when Ben Silverman [executive producer of Jane the Virgin] became the chief over at NBC ages ago, I literally tried to send him an email, “Hey, I’m a new guy. I know that I have an accent but I think it would be good for the network to hire somebody who has an accent to do promos.” It’s so funny, I never got a reply, of course, but this many years later and I’m working for him.

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