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Daily Reads: The Best Horror Movies Since ‘The Shining,’ ‘Gravity’ Post-Hype, and More

Daily Reads: The Best Horror Movies Since 'The Shining,' 'Gravity' Post-Hype, and More

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

1. The 25 Best Horror Movies Since “The Shining.” Last year, Vulture published a list of the greatest horror films made since Stanley Kubrick’s seminal “The Shining,” and some disagreed with the classification of “Mulholland Drive” as horror. Now that Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri has made a case for the film as horror, and since Halloween is approaching, Vulture republished the list.

Audition: In a way, it’s not fair to even put this film on here, because it’s best to go into “Audition” without knowing anything about it…for a while, director Takashi Miike lulls us into thinking that we’re watching a drama, perhaps even a mild romantic comedy…But the fact that the movie goes for so long in that weirdly gentle, vaguely romantic register is both a brilliant stylistic gambit and a harrowingly effective  thematic device, because the movie is all about turning romantic cliches on their heads. It’s a cosmic, vengeful joke on male entitlement, and the fact that our avenging angel turns out to be so disturbed, so broken, so deeply fucked up is both profoundly disturbing and, well, kind of funny. Read more.

2. A Fresh Visit to “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” We’ve expressed our enthusiasm for the release of the full series of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” on Blu-Ray recently. Robert Lloyd of The Los Angeles Times adds that the show isn’t just great, it’s better than ever, as it’s finally been restored after losing image quality for years from its transfer from 16mm (the format it was shot in) to tape (the format it was edited and assembled on). 

It is as if the world has caught up now. The film transfer makes the show feel fantastically present, both in time and space. The set itself, with its wealth of detail and mad yet sophisticated color palette, becomes a kind of character. (You might even say it glows.) And that the handmade quality of the puppets and the animation is more readily apparent — the strings and the joints on the marionettes were always part of the point, this being Puppetland — makes them seem somehow more alive. Pee-wee is surrounded by sentience. Read more.

3. The Actor as Screen Object. Renee Zellweger’s appearance – and the subsequent scrutiny over her change in appearance – has a lot of people talking about the pressure for actresses and actors to stave off the aging process in Hollywood. Writing for The Washington Post, Ann Hornaday talks about how the incident is both timed to a number of films focusing on the media as a pitiless entity (“Birdman,” “Nightcrawler”) and the larger issue of how the screen turns actors into objects, and how to write about that responsibly.

Far more elegant, precise and useful — not to mention kind — is to write about physical appearance not in terms of fat or thin, pretty or ugly, but in expressiveness, grace, characterization and movement. An expansive, more compassionate lexicon helps…. So does celebrating filmmakers and performers who dare to challenge the most tyrannical expectations of the industry and the mass audience. The most recent case in point happens to come from Linklater…With his “Before” trilogy, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, and this past summer with “Boyhood,” starring Hawke and Patricia Arquette, he has allowed his actors to grow older without apology. Filmed over the course of 12 years, “Boyhood” invites the audience to watch, astonished, as Hawke and Arquette enter their mid-40s with all the recognizable ebbs and flows of the flesh, along with verve, vulnerability and hard-won wisdom. Read more.

4. The Trouble with “Laggies”. The new film “Laggies” follows an emotionally immature twentysomething woman (Keira Knightley) as she befriends and latches onto a teenager (Chloe Grace Moretz). It’s fertile ground, but director Lynn Shelton and screenwriter Andrea Seigel flub it, says Lisa Schwarzbaum. Writing for The New Republic, Schwarzbaum argues that the film doesn’t handle its “Woman-Child” idea seriously or believably.

There is this, for instance: Flustered by her boyfriend’s proposal of marriage (why? she has been with the guy for years), Megan says no, then she says yes, then she skedaddles again, this time hiding out for a week in Annika’s house while attempting to wind back the clock to a simpler age. That’s where she meets Annika’s fortysomething father, Craig (Sam Rockwell), an attorney, raising his daughter alone. (Why? Because Annika’s mother bailed on the family years ago. Why? Because women can’t be trusted to stick around, even for their little daughters.) Craig is amiably skeptical about the strange adult woman sleeping on the floor of his teen daughter’s bedroom. What does she want with Annika? Then he decides, Whatever. Read more.

5. Looking at “Gravity” Post-Hype. Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” seemed revolutionary on the big screen, where one could marvel at Emmanuel Lubezki’s long-takes and let the experience wash over. But how does it hold up a year later on the small screen? The Dissolve’s Matt Singer investigates:

“Gravity” still looks good on the small screen. But it doesn’t feel as good. Part of the reason Cuarón’s film became such a phenomenal hit was because it was designed as a theatrical event. …Even the best 3-D television on the planet (with the best 3-D Blu-ray player) couldn’t hope to re-create the sensation of watching “Gravity” in a giant movie theater; my fairly decent 2-D television and 2-D Blu-ray player certainly didn’t. In that context, “Gravity” is still a solid spectacle, but not an overwhelming one. Watching “Gravity” on television is maybe the best argument to date for the necessity of the theatrical experience. To use an incredibly awful metaphor, it brings what previously seemed like a masterpiece down to earth. Read more.

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