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Daily Reads: Your Art Should Be Spoiled, How ‘Last Week Tonight’ Became More Than a ‘Daily Show’ Imitator

Daily Reads: Your Art Should Be Spoiled, How 'Last Week Tonight' Became More Than a 'Daily Show' Imitator

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

1. Your Art Should Be Spoiled. As recent studies have shown, fewer people mind spoilers now than in the past. Noah Berlatsky of The L.A. Review of Books further argues that worrying about spoilers detract from enjoying acting, dialogue, characterization, and staging, and that art should be spoiled.

When fans or viewers insist on spoiler-free criticism, they are privileging a certain approach to art — reverent, deferential, and committed to a consciously naïve pleasure of immersion. Critics like Linda Williams, Mark Twain, James Baldwin, and Laura Mulvey, though, insist that art offers other possible pleasures and displeasures. They also insist, in various ways, that criticism is itself a form of art. The call for “no spoilers” can, in that context, become a form of philistinism or censorship. Taking the spoiler from the criticism can spoil the criticism, when the aesthetic purpose of the criticism is to spoil (for example) “The Flash.” Read more.

2. How “Billy Liar” Lies. Pieces and features devoted entirely to declaring something overrated can often fall under lazy contrarianism, but The Guardian’s new series gets off to a thoughtful start. Peter Bradshaw writes about why the British New Wave classic “Billy Liar” lies at the end.

Now, there is nothing more tiresome than people objecting to “miserabilism” and I accept that Billy’s fantasies are at least partly an indication of his dysfunction, his anxiety, his very reluctance to go out and face the world…But throughout the film, until we reach that dreary ending, the fantasies had been sold to us as liberating, hilarious episodes — aspirational episodes. They show how Billy could imagine something other than the life he was living. They show he was defiant in spirit, and part of new working-class generation that wasn’t going to be kept in its place. Those fantasies were Billy’s rocket fuel — weren’t they? They were showing he was going places. Read more.

3. A Forgotten Action Hero. The 1984 spy thriller “Cloak and Dagger” was a cable mainstay after it was released, but it’s largely forgotten now. ScreenCrush’s Mike Ryan looks back at the film and the lost action hero of the 80s, Dabney Coleman, who plays both Henry Thomas’ father and Jack Flack, an action hero from Thomas’ imagination.

There always been something gruff about Coleman’s performances, but there’s also a strange warmth. These traits fit Jack Flack more perfectly than it seems like they should. After ‘9 to 5,’ Coleman made a career of being the prickly authority figure in movies like ‘Tootsie,’ ‘WarGames,’ and ‘The Man With One Red Shoe.’ After rewatching ‘Cloak and Dagger,’ it’s now kind of surprising Coleman didn’t do more roles that shows off his more tender side. He’s good as Jack Flack, but he’s surprisingly great as Davey’s father, Hal Osborne. Once Hal realizes that his son has been telling the truth, I found myself getting emotional—as in, I knew Hal would save the day because this is Dabney Coleman and you don’t fuck around with Dabney Coleman. Read more.

4. Why “The Newsroom” Fell Short. “The Newsroom” started its third and final season last night, and while many cited it as an improvement on past seasons, the show never really reaches its full potential. The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg writes that that’s because the show never really skewered media so much as it smugly led the way to show how things should have been.

Will’s sadness goes a long way to explaining why “The Newsroom,” unlike something like “Nightcrawler,” has never been particularly fun to watch or a particularly incisive critique of the media. It is a show about people who are doing what they think is the right thing and losing anyway. But instead of being tragic, they’re petty. And instead of innovating their way out of the mess, they are being grouchy that the grand old days are gone. Read more.

5. How “Last Week Tonight” Became More than “The Daily Show 2. “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” finished its first season Sunday night, wrapping up a hell of a run. Writing for HitFix, Alan Sepinwall talked about how the show avoided becoming a “Daily Show” clone and instead became its own beautiful thing.

They covered stories no other show would.  “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are TV news satires that also feature jokes about subjects that are in the news. “Last Week Tonight” became entirely the latter, and picked topics that are generally under-covered by American TV news — both the real and fake kinds…he also made a segment on net neutrality into compelling TV — and helped briefly crash the FCC’s website by inspiring his viewers to chime in with their own opinions on the subject — and even devoted a large chunk of his second episode ever to the death penalty, a decision even he couldn’t quite believe he had made as the segment was beginning. Read more.

6. Last Night’s “Futurama” References. “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” finally had their crossover episode, and while no one’s going to name it as a highlight for either show, it was pleasant (not the “Family Guy” crossover, in other words). Uproxx’s Josh Kurp went through and found every “Futurama” reference in the episode.

“You know, they look a little similar…” Read more.

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