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Daily Reads: The Cult of Christopher Nolan, Black Hair on Film and More

Daily Reads: The Cult of Christopher Nolan, Black Hair on Film and More

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

1. The Cult of Nolan. Christopher Nolan’s films tend to get pretty good reviews, but whenever a critic breaks from consensus and pans one of his movies, they’re met with intense backlash (and even threats) from the director’s fans. Matt Singer of ScreenCrush wrote about why Nolan fans are so intense.

Perhaps the situation has less to do with the fact that Nolan made a great Batman movie than the kind of Batman movie he made—and the kinds of movies he’s made throughout his entire career. Looking over Nolan’s filmography you see the same archetypal protagonist reappear again and again: the moody loner who is laser-focused on his mission. That’s Leonard from ‘Memento,’ hell-bent on finding the man who killed his wife, even though he can’t remember who did it (or anything else)…And that’s definitely Bruce Wayne of the Batman franchise, on a one-man war to rid Gotham City of crime. Nolan’s movies include other ideas and themes, but his most common focus, and the most strongest emotion in his work, is all-consuming obsession. Read more.

2. “Beyond the Lights” and Black Women’s Hair on Film. “Beyond the Lights” is one of the surprise hits of the fall, but it’s also the third film this year to use black women’s hair as a way to symbolize social isolation as it pertains to race. Alison Willmore of BuzzFeed wrote about this phenomena in “Beyond the Lights,” “Dear White People,” and “Belle.”

 Belle is caught in a social purgatory thanks to her aristocratic inheritance and the color of her skin, but it’s her hair that serves as a sign of how isolated she’s been from that aspect of her identity. On a trip to London, Belle is caught struggling to get a comb through it by Mabel (Bethan Mary-James), the black servant working in the house, who gently tells her, “You must start from the ends, miss,” and sits the young woman in front of a mirror in order to show her how. Read more.

3. No Thanks to Children in Peril Stories. Everyone some pet peeve subject that, even when done well, just isn’t going to sit well with them. For James Poniewozik of Time, it’s children in peril, which is well-handled in the new series “The Missing” but which he wouldn’t watch if he wasn’t on the clock. Here’s his view on how to handle that:

It’s easy to say this and sound sanctimonious. But this isn’t a moral judgment. My squeamishness doesn’t make me a more sensitive soul or a kinder person or a better parent than anyone else. And though I hate shows that use the child-in-peril for easy dramatic stakes, this isn’t a moral judgment on “The Missing.” This show isn’t cheaply exploitative; just the opposite, it’s highly conscious of what losing a child does to a parent, how it never stops doing damage, even after years. “The Missing” is well aware of the consequences of its central crime, which is the right thing for the story but all the tougher to take. Read more.

4. Frederick Wiseman’s Favorites. Cinema Verite master Frederick Wiseman is one of the greatest documentarians of all time, so surely he has some idea of what the greatest documentaries ever made are. Sam Fragoso of Fandor talked to Wiseman, who picked “Mooney vs. Fowle,” “Gates of Heaven,” “Hotel Terminus,” and…”Duck Soup?”

I’m of the opinion that “Duck Soup” is a documentary, but I’m not sure how widely shared that is. If you want to understand how government or large institutions work, see “Duck Soup.” Read more.

5. Was “Interstellar” Better On Film? “Interstellar” was released on six different formats, and for most it meant seeing which were available in their area and, when they had a choice, deciding whether or not it was worth it to see on, say, 35mm or 70mm DCP. Jim Hemphill, the director of “The Trouble with the Truth,” checked out all six formats, and he wrote about what was worth seeing over at The Talkhouse. Here’s his experience in 35mm.

The movie looked and sounded terrific there — for about 18 minutes. Then came the reel change, and the picture suddenly slipped slightly out of frame, meaning that every time there was a cut, a distracting splice line from the negative would appear at the top of the screen. To make matters worse, the focus went slightly soft at the reel change. I complained about both of these issues a couple of times to theatre staff, then gave up when nothing changed — meaning that I and everyone else in the theatre watched about half of “Interstellar” out of focus and out of frame, since every other reel was screwed up. Read more.

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