Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential news stories and critical pieces to you.
1. A History of Walt Disney’s Original Community of Tomorrow. Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland” comes into theaters this Friday. The film was heavily influenced by Walt Disney’s philosophy of utopia and his original vision for EPCOT. Esquire’s Matt Patches explores the history of Disney’s original Community of Tomorrow.
After opening Disneyland in July 1955 in Anaheim, California, the visionary conceived of a city that would bring his patented magic to life. Of course, that was easier said than done, the defining characteristic of most Disney projects. But logistics didn’t faze him. He was a student of aesthetic, technology, and workflow. Whatever he couldn’t crack himself, he threw to his elite Imagineers. This wasn’t Walt Disney’s first folly. When Hollywood pundits told him that “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” wouldn’t work as the company’s first feature-length animated film, he produced it anyway. And when he mounted Disneyland, critics said the same. So why not build the perfect city? He nearly did. But when Disney peered into the future, he failed to see his own timeline. On October 26, 1966, Walt and Marty Sklar, principal creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, produced a film detailing their plans for “EPCOT.” Two months later, Walt died of acute circulatory collapse due to lung cancer. In 1966, Walt Disney Productions had the land, the manpower, the designs and the dream to build the Community of Tomorrow. All that was missing was Walt, the last line of defense against reality.
2. “Mad Max: Fury Road” and the Pleasure of Smart Contrarians. “Mad Max” is one of the few films released this year with an almost unanimous consensus over its quality. But is that a good thing. In fact, isn’t consensus the opposite of discourse? The Washington Post’s Sonny Bunch explains why he relishes the contrarian’s perspective on “Mad Max” and in general.
What’s the point of film criticism if it boils down to finding the most aggressively gross bodily function to describe excitement? Even (perhaps especially) with popular, acclaimed films a conversation is preferable to a praise chorus. I love flipping through old collections of film criticism, many of which can be obtained from Amazon or AbeBooks for a dollar or two, to find points of disagreement published before consensus takes hold. It’s fun reading John Simon take a shiv to “The Godfather” or Stanley Kauffman explaining why he doesn’t care for Stanley Kramer’s “On the Beach” or “Judgment at Nuremberg” — not because they’re right, necessarily, but because critical consensus is boring. There are only so many ways to say something is great. And we often learn more from those we disagree with than those we consider comrades in arms.
3. A Personal Take on “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Speaking of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” it’s easily to overlook how much the film does well because a lot of it is what it doesn’t do. For example, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is an amputee, but the film never so much as mentions this fact or conjures a hokey backstory to explain it. On her blog, Laura, a fetal amputee herself, wrote about what it was like seeing Imperator Furiosa on screen kicking so much ass.
I am just about the biggest advocate for “representation matters” there is, but as a white woman I never really felt it applied to me all that much. Watching “Fury Road,” I realized how wrong I was. I’ve been this way my entire life and I’ve never felt “handicapped.” I’m disabled, yes – there’s shit I just can’t do, but an invalid I am not. For the most part I’ve always approached life with a “figure out how to do it and just get it done” attitude; I am loathe to admit I can’t do anything and I never give up without exhausting all the possibilities available to me. Watching “Fury Road,” I felt like I was watching my own struggle brought to life (albeit in a very fantastical setting), and I don’t think I ever realized how truly profound that could be for me. Watch Furiosa load a shotgun. Watch Furiosa punch Max in the face, with her nubbins. Watch Furiosa drive a semi tractor trailer. Watch Furiosa fire a long shot, using Max’s shoulder to stabilize the gun barrel, as an alternative to using two hands! Watch Furiosa do anything you can do, but better, and with half the number of fingers. The effortless manner in which this film has presented a character’s disability is incredible. I literally could not ask for anything more. It’s ubiquitous. No big deal. Her body is never a plot point. It is simply allowed to be.
4. Why David Letterman and Bill Murray Are Meant for Each Other. Last night, David Letterman ended his thirty-plus Late Night career. On the first episode of Late Night with David Letterman, Bill Murray was his first guest. On the penultimate episode of Late Show with David Letterman, Bill Murray was his guest again. In between, Murray and Letterman crossed paths numerous times, exchanging witticisms and sarcastic barbs. Time’s James Poniewozik analyzes why the two legends are made for each other.
But to see Murray and Letterman as mere smirkers sold them both short. Murray’s comedy had a well of emotion; Letterman’s “irony” was in fact a passionate response against phoniness. And as their careers went on, they each became that rare kind of performer: the comic who matures and learns to express a kind of wisdom without overturning the schmaltz barrel. Murray kept making funny movies, but as he aged and greyed, he tapped into the melancholy that is often the silent partner of comedy, working with directors, like Sofia Coppola and Wes Anderson, who knew how to bring that out in them.
5. The End of “Late Night With David Letterman.” The Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara reviews Dave’s final show.
I love Dave the way you love certain passages from your favorite book or the smell of turkey cooking on Thanksgiving day, the way you love the bend in the road that means you’re almost home. And I will never feel this way again. Dave is gone, he is gone and it is impossible to imagine a balance of opposing forces to match his sardonic compassion, his stalwart self-deprecation. What other host would begin a finale with five presidents announcing that “our long national nightmare is over”
Tweet of the Day:
There’s something about seeing the end of a very long-running TV show when you remember the beginning that really reminds you of, um, death.
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) May 21, 2015