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Daily Reads: A Great Year for Animation, Spoil Everything for Yourself and More

Daily Reads: A Great Year for Animation, Spoil Everything for Yourself and More

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

1. Free Yourselves from Spoilers. Netflix recently published a survey suggesting that fewer people minded spoilers than in the past. In this vein, Vulture’s Adam Sternbergh suggests that spoiling everything for yourself is actually liberating, given how hard it is to stay away from spoilers a week, a month, or a year following a film or TV episode’s initial release.

Thanks to a climate in which pretty much everything is available to be watched any time we want to watch it — in other words, we’ve achieved total hedonic mastery of when, why, and how we watch — all that’s left to us is what. As in, what’s going to happen? Which is a primal question! It drives all storytelling. But it is not the primary pleasure of storytelling, any more than the primary pleasure of a well-chosen gift from a loved one is the fact that we don’t know what’s in the box before we unwrap it. Read more.

2. A Great Year for Animation“The LEGO Movie” aside, most major studio animated films this year have been disappointments. But Bilge Ebiri of Vulture insists that it’s been a great year for animation, the only issue being that most people haven’t seen the better films out there. Ebiri gets into some of the best of this year’s animated indie films.

Consider animator Signe Baumane’s absurdist “Rocks in My Pockets,” an intensely beautiful and upsetting film about suicide. The central image is that of the director’s grandmother at the age of 40, standing in the middle of a river in Latvia, failing to kill herself for lack of rocks to weigh her body down. Baumane uses that as a springboard to mull her own struggles with depression, tracing how the illness has made its way through her family. It’s exceedingly unpleasant stuff, but Baumane’s whimsical animations not only make it bearable, they give it a macabre charm. What emerges is an animated essay that conveys the unconveyable, and at times, even manages to make you laugh as it does so. Read more.

3. Dreamworks Animation Without Katzenberg. Dreamworks Animation co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg has kept tight control over most of the studio’s projects since its beginning. But Dreamworks Animation is facing a possible purchase by Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank Corp., and even if the deal doesn’t go through Katzenberg is planning for his eventual exit. Richard Verrier of The Los Angeles Times looks at what will happen when Katzenberg does finally leave the company.

Martin Kaplan, who worked with Katzenberg at Walt Disney Co. years ago, said Katzenberg appears to have put a succession team in place. “He has put together a cadre of administrators, artists and storytellers which has great bench strength,” said Kaplan, who is now a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “It’s as close to a turnkey operation as you could get.” Read more.

4. A Weirder World for Animation. Last one on animated movies, we promise: “The Boxtrolls” isn’t Laika’s best film, but with its $17.3 million opening on Friday, it’s their biggest opener. Its success is also a sign that there’s an audience for weirder animated films, and it’s growing. Rebecca Keegan of The Los Angeles Times investigates:

“If you’re spending those kind of budgets, you have to be calculatingly populist in your approach,” [animator Travis] Knight said. “It has to feel that every possible demographic will help you make that budget back. By keeping our budgets significantly lower than that, we can take more risks, tell stories that are more challenging. If we were spending $150 million on a film, we would have to make this same kind of choices, we’d have to appeal to everybody. But because our threshold of success is lower, we can take more risks.” Read more.

5. Kevin Smith: Self-Promoting Gasbag. Kevin Smith says “Tusk” gave him the money to make “Clerks 3,” and that it wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Dustin Rowles of Pajiba says that Kevin Smith is full of shit, given that he said just last year that “Clerks 3” was happening without a doubt. Rowles uses that, and a number of other examples of Kevin Smith bullshit, to illustrate how Smith is less a regular guy who managed to get a hell of a career and more a self-promoting gasbag whose salesmanship is starting to wane.

“Tusk” was a shit, pointless movie with no real arc. All it had was a gimmick: What does Justin Long look like as a walrus? Beyond that, “Tusk” was nothing. There was no humor. There was no substance. There was no twist. No big finale. There was no metaphor, no larger meaning. Kevin Smith had nothing to say, and he rambled on until the reveal. It was like a throwaway short story you read in one of those horror anthologies that collect the previously unpublished scrap heaps of semi-famous authors. But Kevin Smith sold it like it was the next coming of Black Jesus, and when you hype a movie like that and people actually end up seeing what’s on the screen, you become the Upworthy of film directors. I clicked on that for nothing. Read more.

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