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Daily Reads: The Politics of ‘Star Wars,’ The Modern Families of ‘Black-ish’ and ‘Transparent,’ and More

Daily Reads: The Politics of 'Star Wars,' The Modern Families of 'Black-ish' and 'Transparent,' and More

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

1. The Politics of “Star Wars.” The new “Star Wars” trailer has plenty of fans debating minutiae of technology and Imperial makeup (some in a transparently racist fashion), but Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post is as intrigued by John Boyega as a terrified man in stormtrooper getup and what he might be up to. To Rosenberg, politics in “Star Wars” is always personal.

Palpatine pursues democratic power and then dictatorship because of his own belief in his abilities, and because his private devotion to the Sith, which in George Lucas’s films is essentially a cultic religion. Darth Vader has a similar absolute faith in the Emperor’s power. His opposition to the Rebellion is rooted not in a political program or philosophical differences, but in a distaste for disorder and anything that challenges Palpatine’s reign. Read more.

2. The New Age of Cultural Manias. Earlier this year, America was obsessed with “True Detective.” They’ve since replaced it with “Too Many Cooks” and “Serial.” Slate’s Willa Paskin thinks that it’s gone beyond being obsessed with these works – we’re becoming obsessed with obsession.

As with nearly every aspect of contemporary life, the Internet has a lot to do with it. The Internet’s default mode is obsession. Nothing worth thinking or talking or writing about—nothing not worth thinking or talking or writing about, for that matter—gets thought or talked or written about in moderation. At the start, products like “Serial” or “True Detective” feel as though they are made inescapable not by their obvious and overwhelming clickiness—like, say, pictures of Kim Kardashian’s derriere —but by the force of good taste. There are things on the Internet that happen to us, but these are things that, initially, feel as though we made “happen.” Read more.

3. “Black-ish” and “Transparent” as Modern Families. Two of the year’s best shows, “Black-ish” and “Transparent,” both dealt with families struggling with identity and coming out the other side looking OK. Sonia Saraiya of Salon wrote about why the two series remade the idea of a “modern family.”

It’s a family in a very different place from the Johnsons in “Black-ish.” The Pfeffermans are, at the beginning of the series, estranged from each other in quiet, unknowable ways. Like so many fantastic prestige dramas, Soloway interrogates each character’s inner life, uncovering their hidden desires, excavating their secrets. But she doesn’t deny them a happy (albeit complex) family life, either. Their affection for each other is a contradictory kind of affirmation: You are not alone, even though we’re the people that so often make you feel alone. It’s an intensely bittersweet notion of family that rings truer to me than most others on television — that understanding that while the Pfeffermans don’t always understand each other, and will likely have many more fights, they will still come home to laugh over dinner with each other. Read more.

4. The Cinephile Gift Guide. The holidays are here again, and you’re stuck on what to get your cinephile loved one for Christmas/Hanukkah/whatever. Fear not, for Little White Lies’ Adam Woodward is here with the top ten gifts for film lovers.

“Under the Skin” Original Soundtrack by Mica Levi. Our favorite soundtracks of the year from one of our favorite films of the year, Mica Levi’s haunting orchestral score from Jonathan Glazer’s erotically charged sci-fi “Under the Skin” is now available on CD and 12″ vinyl. Ideal for fans of film and contemporary classical music. Order from banquetrecords.comRead more.

5. Game Changers in Editing. In 2011, Paul Schrader taught a course at Columbia University, “Films That Changed Filmmaking,” and he’s turned the course into a series of articles for Film Comment on technology’s influence on cinema. Here’s his third article, on the art of editing.

The Odessa Steps scene was a game changer. When they saw Battleship Potemkin in Los Angeles, they were stunned by the way Eisenstein was able to create momentum, to pull out an emotion, to stretch out time (how many steps were there?). And this was before the Moviola. The most famous scene in the history of editing was made on a light box. It’s not that different from what Tony Scott did decades later. Eisenstein planned everything in advance down to the millisecond whereas Scott would shoot enormous quantities of footage and assemble the scenes later. But they both use multiple shots with intensive changes of angle and perspective. Read more.

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