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Daily Reads: The Absurdity of the ‘Selma’ Backlash, Why Trailers Feel Longer Than Ever Now and More

Daily Reads: The Absurdity of the 'Selma' Backlash, Why Trailers Feel Longer Than Ever Now and More

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

1. Why Trailers Feel Longer Than Ever. In-theater movie trailers feel longer than ever, but the average of 10-15 minutes isn’t actually much longer than it was in the past. Katie Kilkenny of The Atlantic explains why they’ve grown so much more exhausting.

The origins of trailer fatigue can be sourced back to the 1970s, when theaters began to show single films for longer periods  (this was a transitional era of “art cinema” and Roadshow movies but also “Jaws,” the first summer blockbuster) and cut down on advertising so as to spotlight the movies itself. By the time multiplexes arrived in the 1980s and trailers proliferated to fill the advertising demand across all their screens, moviegoers had become attached to the one-big-show model. The 15 minutes of previews stopped being perceived as free extra entertainment. It started becoming a nuisance. Read more.

2. Survival in “Interstellar.” Like all of Christopher Nolan’s films, “Interstellar” wrestles with Big Ideas, but what exactly is the big idea beneath all of the space exposition? Bilge Ebiri writes on his blog They Live By Night that it’s a film about survival.

Survival is what pushes NASA to mount a decades-long secret project to send humans into another galaxy, with no idea what they’ll find. But survival is also why textbooks have been changed to reflect the nonsensical claim that the Apollo missions were just a hoax to help bankrupt the Soviets; the idea is echoed later, more benignly, on the spaceship Endurance, when Coop tells a frightened and claustrophobic Romilly (David Gyasi) that “some of the finest solo yachtsmen in the world don’t know how to swim.” When you can’t escape, you persist. Read more.

3. The White Privilege Cop Show. There are so many negative feelings towards cops after the past year’s abuse of power, but you wouldn’t know it watching CBS’s “Blue Bloods.” Slate’s Laura Hudson wrote about how the show caters to white privilege.

In one recent episode, Detective Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg) chases a black suspect through an apartment building—but while Danny’s holding him at gunpoint, the suspect throws himself out a third-story window, and then lies writhing on the ground below, screaming police brutality. As a crowd of angry black citizens gathers, we pan up to Danny’s confused face and presumably feel sympathy for the cop unfairly framed by the lying black suspect. Later, things get worse for Danny, when a prominent black minister and community leader bribes a family of illegal immigrants with a new apartment so that their child—an eyewitness—will give false testimony against the officer. Things sure are tough for cops with all these black people out to get them! Read more.

4. R.I.P. Luise Rainer. Two-time best actress winnner Luise Rainer has died at 104. In memory, Farran Nehme Smith reposted her profile on Rainer, a thoughtful consideration on her brief but remarkable career. Here she talks about how the Austrian-born Rainer’s Oscar-winning role as a Chinese peasant in “The Good Earth” is far less uncomfortable than it could have been.

Rainer’s method of conveying Chinese-ness relies less on broad strokes and indication than Muni’s. Her makeup is minimal, leaving her eyes unhampered for the camera. The stoic Olan, deeply in love with her selfish husband, is given sparse dialogue. And so Rainer’s performance has effects similar to the best silent acting, with emotion conveyed by the flicker of an eyelid or the position of a hand. Her greatest moments come during the long, agonizing famine scenes. Her character is often derided as a doormat, but look at the scene where Olan gives birth as the family is starving. There is a brief cry, then silence. Rainer appears and tell Muni their child is dead. “But I heard a cry …” Muni begins. “The child is dead,” replies Rainer, with an intensity that silences her husband in mid-sentence. Read more.

5. The Absurdity of the “Selma” Backlash. Lyndon B. Johnson’s former aides are upset that the president isn’t the hero of the Voting Rights Act instead of Martin Luther King, Jr. You probably don’t need to be told why that’s ridiculous, but Vox’s Matthew Yglesias articulates it perfectly.

“Selma” doesn’t offer a hostile portrayal of Johnson. What it does is tell a story in which King and his collaborators are the key actors, and Johnson is a bit of a bystander. His notion of doing the War on Poverty first and voting rights second isn’t obviously wrongheaded or pernicious, but King doesn’t agree with it. King and his collaborators choose the place and the time of the battle, Johnson tries a couple of times to talk them out of it, he fails, and ultimately he swings around to King’s viewpoint. It’s a different kind of story from, say, “The Help” or Lincoln” where the subject is the rights of black people but the protagonist is a white person. Read more.

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