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Daily Reads: Deckard as “Blade Runner’s” Villain, How ‘Wild’ Saved Reese Witherspoon and More

Daily Reads: Deckard as "Blade Runner's" Villain, How 'Wild' Saved Reese Witherspoon and More

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

1. Deckard is “Blade Runner’s” Villain. Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic “Blade Runner” is among the most beloved sci-fi films of all time, in part because of how it renders its antagonist, Rutger Hauer’s android Roy Batty, so humanely. But perhaps Batty isn’t the bad guy after all. RogerEbert.com’s Eric Haywood writes that the film’s protagonist, Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard, is the film’s true villain, and Roy is the hero.

Attempting to jump from one building to another, Deckard falls short and ends up dangling from the edge with one hand. Roy stands over him, watching as Deckard’s grip slowly slips. And as he finally lets go, knowing that he’s about to plunge to his death, what does Deckard do? He spits at Roy. That’s what he does with what he believes is his dying breath. I think I’d missed the spitting on all my previous viewings because the scene is dark and rainy, and it happens in a split-second. But this time, my antennae were up, and I was on the lookout for anything that might tell me something about Deckard that I hadn’t known before. And when I saw him spit at Roy, I said to myself, “Whoa…I fucking hate this guy.” Read more.

2. A Conversation About Joan Rivers. While the world hopes for Joan Rivers’ recovery, some reflect on what makes Rivers such a beloved personality. In an interview with Sheila O’Malley, Mitchell Fain spoke about Rivers as a queer icon, as someone willing to offend, and her trailblazing in the boys’ club of stand-up comedy.

Yes, she’s politically incorrect. Yes, she’s rude. Yes, she’s self-deprecating. Yes, she has had too much surgery. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I still love her. She’s a legend. She changed the game. She’s a trailblazer who’s still working at a certain level at her age. How many people of her generation have their own television show? Read more.

3. It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s “Birdman” Dissent. After four increasingly self-conscious, miserable films, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has let his freak flag fly with his bizarre showbiz satire “Birdman,” which has found near-universal acclaim in its early Venice and Telluride reviews. But not everyone is going for Inarritu’s latest, with Film Freak Central’s Walter Chaw writing that the film’s meta-commentary is masturbatory, its villains straw men, and its tone self-congratulatory. 

The case could also be made that if the film were truly as Pirandello-esque as it wants to be, it would have addressed its casual misogyny in casting every woman as hysterical or pregnant. Even Amy Ryan’s otherwise-sane ex-wife character hauls off and slaps someone late in the game. See, “Birdman” takes a stab at “Venus in Fur” early on when Shiner appears, knowing all of the play’s lines in something mulled over in deep, repetitive, self-conscious doyougetitdoyougetit detail, but it sure doesn’t have any idea of what to do with its proto-feminism once it gets there. Watts’s bonzer actress cries, “Why don’t I have any self-respect?” right before doing a lesbian smooch just like she did in her best role (“Mulholland Drive”), and boy, that was a long time ago. Again “Birdman,” about actors struggling to get their groove back, is ironic in every way, unintentional and otherwise. Read more.

4. The Art of Showrunners. With the elevation of television as a medium comes the elevation of the showrunner as the possible auteur of the work. Tara Bennett’s new book “Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show” interviews major showrunners like Joss Whedon and Terence Winter about the art of maintaining a TV show’s quality over the course of several seasons. Here’s Jane Espensen (“Caprica,” “Husbands”) on the difficulties of TV structure:

When I came up in TV, dramas were in four acts. “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” was four acts and that means there were three commercial breaks. Let’s picture a loaf of bread: the three cuts make four pieces of bread, and so you got used to structuring a story like that. There’ll be a big turning point right in the middle of the loaf that changes everything, so it’s not even going to be pumpernickel anymore when you come back to this loaf. Then it started changing, and we got to five acts, and then six acts, and now some shows are six acts and a teaser, or seven acts and a teaser. There’s this inflation because they want to put more commercial breaks in, so you end up having to turn your story more often. You [write] six pages and you stop for a commercial break. Now you need that next six-page chunk when you come back to feel a little different in flavor than the first six pages, or that act break will feel like it didn’t quite land. You end up having to make all these little turns in the story. The problem is you end up with a very shallow, twisty story. Read more.

5. How “Wild” Saved Reese WitherspoonReese Witherspoon’s post-Oscar career has been filled with high-profile disappointments (“Rendition,” “Devil’s Knot”) and comedies that wasted her talent (“This Means War,” “Four Christmases”), but “Wild” has her back in many critics’ hearts again. Witherspoon spoke to Kyle Buchanan of Vulture of how the film gave her a greater challenge than she’d had in some time.

In “Wild,” you play a character who’s addicted to heroin and sleeping around. We don’t often see you in projects like these.
You have to understand, for someone who’s been doing this for as long as I’ve been doing it, it’s like, “Oh my gosh, finally!” Finally, it’s so exciting to be honest about things. I developed it with my own money and an incredible producing partner, and then we went to the studios afterwards, because I did not want to hear, “We don’t want to see Reese doing that” or “We don’t want to include the sexual scenes.” Not that studios are bad — it’s just that sometimes when things go through too many filters and too many notes, they become distilled into something they weren’t from the beginning. Read more.

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