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Daily Reads: Where to Start with ‘The Sopranos,’ The Legacy of ‘The Little Mermaid” and More

Daily Reads: Where to Start with 'The Sopranos,' The Legacy of 'The Little Mermaid" and More

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

1. Where to Start with “The Sopranos.” “The Sopranos” is finally on Blu-Ray, but if you’re not sure if you want to dive in and want one episode to sample, which should you choose? Many might pick Season 1’s “College,” but Todd VanDerWerff of Vox has another episode in mind, Season 2’s “The Happy Wanderer.”

The thing about Tony’s evil is that it’s not always flashy. It doesn’t always involve murder or terrorizing others. Sometimes, it’s just about the sheer mundanity of becoming friends with the wrong person, who knows exactly how to exploit your weaknesses for his own personal gain. (In the case of Patrick’s character, that’s a gambling addiction.) Not all of us are friends with mob bosses, but we’ve all had that cancerous person in our lives. One of the show’s major arguments was that people only tangentially involved with Tony could have their lives ruined; imagine how poorly it goes to actively try to get involved with him. Read more.

2. Katharine Heigl and “Likability.” Katharine Heigl has a damaged reputation after years of insulting the people who helped her get started, killing any “likability” she had. But the new series “State of Affairs” actively plays with her reputation, something Slate’s Willa Paskin says bodes well for the series.

It’s promising because it calls into question Charlie’s competence. Throughout the episode, “State of Affairs” circles very gently around the question of her (and Heigl’s) likeability. Yes, Charlie is the kind of person who would size up a new colleague and say, “You’re very handsome. And old.” And another colleague refers to her as a PITA: a pain in the ass. But she’s still played by Heigl, and despite her poor choice of projects and off-screen reputation, Heigl has always been appealing on screen: She’s sharp, she’s funny, she’s wounded in unalienating ways. But the pilot’s big reveal suggests Charlie’s got flaws we haven’t seen yet, and if she does, maybe—just maybe—”State of Affairs” will be more than it seems, too. Read more.

3. Lars Ulrich and Damien Chazelle on “Whiplash.” Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” got rave reviews for Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons’ performances, but it impressed Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich for its accuracy in depicting drumming on screen. Ulrich and Chazelle talked about the film at the Mill Valley Film Festival, and the conversation was reported by EatDrinkFilms.

Lars Ulrich: “Whiplash” sets the bar at a whole new level in terms of being in sync with the music—the authenticity. How many times do we go see music films and it’s clear that the person who is editing has no fucking clue what’s going on musically? For some of us, it’s kind of a pet peeve. We’ve talked about how many different ways you can shoot a drum kit, and how many different ways you can shoot a drummer, the way the film is edited, the dynamics. Read more.

4. “Tango and Cash” at 25. The Sylvester Stallone/Kurt Russell buddy-cop movie “Tango and Cash” just turned 25, and while it’s far from the best movie either have made, it’s pretty close to being the goofiest. Jason Bailey of Flavorwire wrote about the film’s homoeroticism, the poor attempt to rehabilitate Stallone as more than a brute, and an all-around great bad movie.

Our titular heroes are LA’s two best cops, crosstown rivals perpetually battling for headlines while putting the skids on the dirty drug dealings of super-villain Yves Peret (Jack Palance). Peret decides the best way to get the pair out of his way is to frame them for a murder and send them to prison, where he’ll presumably have them killed. He illustrates all of this with the help of two mice, each named after our heroes, which he places in a giant, complicated maze after taking long, strange sniffs of each of them. (Presumably, based on both Palance’s behavior and the film itself, they’re each soaked in cocaine.) Read more.

5. Bill Cosby’s Routine About Drugging Women’s Drinks. The recent resurgence of sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby have brought the comedian under increased scrutiny. The Village Voice’s Alan Scherstuhl found a bit off of Cosby’s album “It’s True! It’s True!” about drugging women’s drinks, and the joke takes on uncomfortable new dimensions now in light of the recent news.

Even when I heard this bit as a kid, I wondered: Why would famous TV stars need a drug to get women interested in them? Why is sex something to lie and cheat and scheme to get, rather than something to share? Hearing it now, it’s positively chilling, especially the crowd’s easy laughter, which suggests that Cosby was able to put over his fantasy of women stripped of their ability to say no as something near universal. Boys will be boys, hahaha, and then refuse ever to speak of it once they become rich and powerful men. Read more.

6. “The Little Mermaid’s” Legacy. “The Little Mermaid” started Disney’s second golden age, and it turns 25 this week. ScreenCrush’s Kate Erbland talked about the film’s influence over other films that lightened famous fairytales by Hans Christian Andersen.

In Andersen’s original telling of ‘The Little Mermaid,’ the Sea Witch does indeed give the mermaid her legs, but she doesn’t steal her voice to masquerade as a rival—the prince just happens to find one on his own. She’s another princess, and a nice one at that, so when the mermaid’s beloved prince marries her instead of his fish-princess, she’s devastated. Sadly, she can’t just return to the sea, she either has to kill the prince to get back her scales or throw herself into the ocean in despair. She doesn’t kill the prince, and she dies in horrible pain. Fun for the whole family! Read more.

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