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Daily Reads: The Problem with ‘Forrest Gump,’ the Lowdown on Malick’s Latest and More

Daily Reads: The Problem with 'Forrest Gump,' the Lowdown on Malick's Latest and More

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

1. The Lowdown on Malick’s Latest. All of the sudden, Terrence “I take decades between films” Malick got really prolific (a friend’s joke: “He picked a really weird time to discover cocaine”). Yet it’s been a few years since Malick announced he was shooting two movies simultaneously, along with his long-awaited “Voyage of Time,” and none of them have release dates or more than vague plot descriptions. What do we know about them? The Hollywood Reporter’s Chris O’Falt combs through various interviews to figure it out.

Will “Knight of Cups” screen this year?

It has been two years since production wrapped on “Knight,” which is not an especially long postproduction for Malick…earlier this summer, the film’s Italian distributor Ernesto Grassi stated that “Knight” would come out in limited release in the U.S. later this year. Possibly the biggest sign that “Knight” is nearing the finish line has come from the cast…it was very revealing that in spring 2014, “Knight of Cups'” supporting actors [Joe] Manganiello, [Antonio] Banderas and [Isabel] Lucas giddily reported they had made “Knight’s” final cut. Banderas was even given set photos to approve, while Lucas said she was called in for an ADR session. Feeding the flame, Film Nation gave THR the first official photos from the film and revealed footage to foreign investors during Cannes. Read more.

2. How Your Brain Edits What You See. Scientists are studying cinema to discover how they reflect the nature of human perception, and Wired is running a series on it. The current installment looks at how our brains edit what we see, something neuroscientist Jeffrey Zacks recently appeared at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences with famed editor Walter Murch to talk about. In one experiment, Zacks asked subjects to watch a home movie of a man washing dishes and press a button whenever one “meaningful unit of activity had ended and another had begun.” Some of the subjects found the instructions strange, but most of them pressed the button at roughly the same times.

To Zacks that suggests that we intuitively and automatically break our visual stream into discrete scenes, and that our brains do this in a remarkably consistent way. He thinks this is a manifestation of our brains never-ending effort to predict the future. We have a mental model of what’s happening that we use to predict what’s likely to happen next. “You do this because it’s super adaptive,” Zacks said. “If you can anticipate what’s coming up in a few seconds you can react adaptively.” But whenever the action changes—when the stoplight turns from red to green, say, or when your boss suddenly appears at your desk—you have to update your mental model to reflect what’s happening now. Read more.

3. The Magnificent Hubleys. The Hubley family’s influence over animation is incalculable, starting with animator John Hubley, who worked on the fight scene in “Bambi.” But the Hubleys would develop their own unique style of animation through shorts like “The Adventures of An*,” which looked at how society beats down a child’s imagination. Hubley’s children followed him to make remarkable films of their own. Matthew Dessem chronicles the family’s work in The Dissolve.

The films each have their own look, but they share a certain hand-drawn aesthetic that suits the material well—although it must have taken a great deal of careful planning to create films that look so casual. In a similar fashion, the films sound as though the Hubleys simply left a tape recorder running while their children played, but were actually made in a recording studio, with parental prompting. Read more.

4. Sex and Sin in Pre-Code Movies. 
Classic movies are often thought of as having to dance around sexuality, but there were a number of racy, violent movies made before the production code came into being in 1934. Throughout September, Turner Classic Movies is showing pre-Code films every Friday, and Cinephiled’s Sean Axmaker has the lowdown on a number of early cinema greats, from the sexy jungle-set romance “Red Dust” starring Clark Gable and Jean Harlow to Tod Browning’s “Freaks,” still deeply unsettling today.

“Wild Boys of the Road” (1933), also from William Wellman, chronicles the plight of kids who became a homeless army riding the rails around the country during the depths of the Depression. As the film opens, they’re just fun-loving jazz-age teens with a junky jalopy, but anxiety of unemployment and poverty hangs over their home lives so they hit the rails to look for work, meet Sally (Dorothy Coonan, later Mrs. Wellman), who dresses as a boy to avoid predators, and find themselves driven out of every railyard, city, and shantytown they try to make home. What they endure is harrowing: rape, dismemberment, riots, starvation, and a world that would rather turn its back on the kids and send them along to the next stop. It’s a blast of anger and outrage and exasperation sprung from the immediacy of the Depression. Wellman doesn’t flinch from the ordeal, but for every predator is a sympathetic adult, even some of those on the other end of the fire hose that blasts their Hooverville Junior into splinters and sends the kids fleeing to the railcars, looking to the next stop for work, a meal, or just a place to rest. Read more.

5. We Need to Talk About “Forrest Gump.” 
Twenty years after its release and subsequent triumph at the Oscars, “Forrest Gump” has a vocal group of detractors (this writer included), but it struck a chord at the time and still resonates with some moviegoers. Amy Nicholson of LA Weekly, however, finds its depiction of the times highly problematic, from Forrest’s not-so-charming ignorance to the film’s undercutting of his loved ones’ tragedy, from Lt. Dan’s guilt and anger to Jenny’s exploitation by a generation of men. It’s a film of its time, but maybe that time wasn’t so great.

It’s understandable that, in the Clinton era, Americans were tired of being bludgeoned by the grand truth that war is hell. The older generations knew that too well, and the young had grown up in a time where war didn’t seem that bad. Our troops might pop over to Grenada or Panama or Iraq, but we expected them to come home victorious and intact. As Forrest shrugged, these deployments were simply trips to “a whole other country.” Now that we’re once again welcoming home traumatized veterans, “Forrest Gump’s” blithe solution that ignorance is bliss rankles. Read more.

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