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Daily Reads: A Year With No Best Actress, TV Eats Its Own Tail and More

Daily Reads: A Year With No Best Actress, TV Eats Its Own Tail and More

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

1. Television Sacrifices Its Golden Age. “The Evil Dead” will be a miniseries. There’s going to be a “The Six Million Dollar Man” remake. “Twin Peaks” is coming back. Jason Bailey of Flavorwire sees these developments as a sign that pop culture is a closed loop, and that television is making the same mistakes that movies are making.

The most exciting shows on television, the ones that sparked all this “Golden Age” talk and recap culture, share the common denominator of freshness and unfamiliarity…Alas…those aren’t the shows that get “ratings”; those are three-camera laugh-trackers and police procedurals, so the networks scramble for shows based on things you already like and people you already know, even though such seemingly “sure things” are failing left and right. And while it’d be nice to think that the premium services don’t have to pander like that, Starz is now the fourth such network to reanimate a corpse (after Netflix’s “Arrested Development,” HBO’s “The Comeback,” and Showtime’s “Twin Peaks”) in the hopes of nabbing new subscribers. Read more.

2. Why It’s Hard to Win Back Viewers. FX’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” made it to season 2, but it might have tested too many viewers’ patience to make it much longer. Jason Lynch of Adweek gets into why it’s often hard to win back viewers once they’ve been burned.

The problem, FX Networks CEO John Landgraf tells Adweek, is that viewers simply have too many other options to be patient. “There will be about 350 scripted original series this year aired on linear and nonlinear services in the U.S. That’s really an unprecedented volume,” said Landgraf, whose team compiles a list of every season of scripted and unscripted series that airs. Last year’s total: 1,400 original seasons of material, with 2014’s tally looking to be even higher. “And so I think that consumers just have too many options,” Landgraf said. “Why should you ever watch anything other than something that’s the equivalent of a four-star movie or a four-star television show?” Read more.

3. Christopher Nolan and Film Noir. Christopher Nolan often plays consciously with noir concepts in his films, but not always to noir’s harsh conclusions. The Critical Press republished Peter Labuza’s argument that Nolan’s least noir-influenced film is the one that comes closest to noir’s ideas.

“The Prestige” is Nolan’s only film that tonally confronts the frightening existential questions at the center of such a tradition. “The Prestige’s” structure is the most curious of all in how Nolan deals with the idea of an unreliable narrator in film noir. The original novel by Christopher Priest was written in a series of diary entries. Nolan takes that idea and shows both Angier and Borden stealing and then reading each other’s diaries at parts of the narrative, leading us into long elaborate flashbacks. However, at the end of each of these, the writer reveals to the reader that he has been purposefully given the diary and tricked into reading it.  This means the entirety of the narrative is not only subjective, but also delivered by a narrator with the intention to trick. Read more.

4. “Pinocchio” as the Standard-Bearer in Animation. Disney’s “Pinocchio” was a financial disappointment compared to “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” but it may be the company’s creative apex. The Dissolve’s Genevieve Koski writes about how the film set the standard for feature animation.

Bring up “Pinocchio” with animation buffs, and they’ll likely gush about the effects animation. From the Blue Fairy’s twinkling wand and flickering candles to the awe-inspiring water effects in the climactic Monstro chase, “Pinocchio” is filled with hand-drawn effects that had never even been attempted before, much less executed with such aplomb. Even something as simple as Figaro’s whiskers and shading, done with white chalk flourishes atop the painted cels, represent a forward-thinking approach to the fine-tuned details that bring animation to life. Read more.

5. A Year Without a Best Actress. Hollywood doesn’t write as many movies about women as they do about men, so the Oscars’ Best Actress field tends to be thinner than its Best Actor lineup. But this year is even weaker than usual, and The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg wrote about how the Academy may have to draw upon smaller movies or promote supporting performances into the lead categories in order to have a full lineup.

Patricia Arquette’s turn as a single mother in “Boyhood,” would probably be my top choice for that sort of promotion. It is true that the movie is closely trained on Ellar Coltrane, who grows up under director Richard Linklater’s lens (“Boyhood” was filmed several days a year over a period of twelve years). But Arquette’s transformation into the person she was supposed to become before divorce and sole responsibility for child-rearing sent her on the scenic route to economic stability and professional satisfaction is a marvel to watch. Read more.

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