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Daily Reads: Death of the Summer Movie, ‘The Good Wife’ as TV’s Most Underrated Show and More

Daily Reads: Death of the Summer Movie, 'The Good Wife' as TV's Most Underrated Show and More

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

1. The Death of the Summer Movie. In terms of box office, this was a brutal summer, with blockbusters earning 15% less than they did last year. That’s the steepest year-to-year drop in three decades, even with some pretty solid releases like “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Robbie Collin of The Telegraph writes about the best bet for Hollywood to avoid the implosion Steven Spielberg suggested was on the way.

Quite what it might change into isn’t clear. Spielberg suggested variable ticket prices depending on a film’s budget, and Lucas offered the possibility of Broadway-length runs, sustained by Broadway-priced tickets. Perhaps in the short term, if Hollywood really is concerned, it might try letting us consume their produce not all at once, in a greasy-lipped binge, but as part of a balanced cultural diet. It worked before 1975. It might just work again now. Read more.

2. Why Hollywood’s Mentality Threatens Its Survival. Speaking of the pending implosion, Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times sees another issue that’s hurting Hollywood today. Where the system once churned out a variety of movies that would appeal to different age groups and personalities, their biggest budgets are now focused exclusively on teenagers. Turan writes about the effects of focusing only on one big thing.

One of the side effects of Hollywood’s hedgehog mentality is that it has the potential of leading to situations like this summer’s box office meltdown, where, according to front-page pieces in this newspaper and elsewhere, the movie industry suffered its worst May-to-Labor Day season since 1997. Though pundits across the board claimed, like Captain Renault in “Casablanca,” to be shocked by this turn of events, they shouldn’t be. Like Ireland before the potato famine, any one-crop economy runs the risk of having no backup plan should everything start to go south. And with fickle young people deciding they had better things to do with their spare time, this is what is starting to happen. Read more.

3. Adam Wingard and Dan Stevens on “The Guest” and Politics. Tasha Robinson of The Dissolve spoke with director Adam Wingard, writer Simon Barrett and actor Dan Stevens about their new horror film “The Guest,” which has garnered favorable comparisons to John Carpenter and “The Night of the Hunter.” Wingard and Stevens talk about the making of the film, but they also get into “The Guest’s” commentary on the military-industrial complex, with Wingard citing the movie he didn’t want to emulate.

Barrett: We wanted this to be an element, but it should never get in the way of the story, the characters and their arc, or the entertainment value of the film itself. It should always be there if you want it. And if you don’t want it, you can ignore it. And I think that probably speaks to the way we like to communicate our philosophical ideas.

Wingard: Indoctrination through entertainment. I mean, “Forrest Gump” is a conservative propaganda movie, but it’s effective because it’s entertaining. It has a sweet nature, but if you break down that movie, it’s fucked-up. [Laughs.]

Barrett: All the liberal activists in that film either get AIDS or are portrayed as horrible human beings and unhappy ones.

Wingard: It’s America’s “Triumph Of The Will.”

Barrett: Yeah, we were talking about this the other day. Simon was comparing it with “Being There,” which has a very similar storyline, but isn’t nearly as on-the-nose. Anyway, we just don’t want to make “Forrest Gump.” Read more.

4. “Jane the Virgin” Aims Beyond Ethnicity. The CW’s new show “Jane the Virgin” has a unique premise – a Latin-American woman practices abstinence but is artificially-inseminated with her boss’s child through a series of circumstances. But the show has earned early praise for being a realistic portrayal of a multigenerational, bilingual, matriarchal household, and for being a show about Hispanic people that isn’t solely focused on ethnicity. Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times reports.

To [lead actress Gina] Rodriguez, a daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants who was raised in Chicago, the pilot of “Jane the Virgin” presented what she called the “most authentic, genuine representation” of a Hispanic family she had seen on television, whose cultural traits are apparent without being blatant. “For once, I was reading a script where they weren’t talking about my ethnicity,” she said in a recent interview. “They weren’t putting a Puerto Rican flag on my shoulder. They weren’t putting a taco in my hand.” Read more.

5. Why We Could Use More “Angry Black Women.” Last week New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley came under fire for referring to “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” creator Shonda Rhimes and her lead black female characters as “angry black women.” Aside from being offensively tone-deaf, the article was startlingly inaccurate, given that none of Rhimes’ characters are particularly angry. But Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post writes about great black female TV characters who were often angry, and how that often served their characters rather than turning them into the stereotypes of Stanley’s article.

Or what about the slow burn of Claudette Wyms (C.C.H. Pounder) in “The Shield”? Claudette is a principled and talented cop who works in a corrupt district, defined by a team of corrupt, mostly white male detectives who view their shields as a license to behave however they wish. Claudette has to work alongside Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), a man she despises. Her promotion to captain is thwarted by a superior with political ambitions. But her anger runs cold, instead of hot. It fuels Claudette rather than destroying her. And at the end of “The Shield,” she wins. Read more.

6. “The Good Wife” is TV’s Most Underrated Show. “Mad Men” has more Emmys and “Game of Thrones” has more viewers, but CBS’s “The Good Wife” is something remarkable itself. Vogue’s Patricia Garcia wrote about why the show is more than just a series about a woman caring for her husband.

It’s unapologetically feminist. The beginning of the series kicks off after Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) is left alone to deal with the aftermath of her husband’s (Chris Noth) sex and corruption scandal. And although she initially stands by his side à la Silda Spitzer and Huma Abedin, what comes later is a revelation. After years of leaning out, she goes back to work at a law firm where a woman, Diane Lockhart (played by the elegant Christine Baranski), is a partner. Alicia then climbs her way up the ladder, and later, not content with being offered a partnership at the firm, goes off and starts her own practice…Diane never once wonders about the family she sacrificed for her career—she’s too busy winning cases and looking impeccable while doing so. No wonder Gloria Steinem is making a cameo in this upcoming new season. Read more.

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