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Daily Reads: Getting Excited About a Female ‘Ghostbusters,’ How ‘American Sniper’ Showed That Film Critics Matter and More

Daily Reads: Getting Excited About a Female 'Ghostbusters,' How 'American Sniper' Showed That Film Critics Matter and More

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

1. Being Excited for a Female “Ghostbusters.” A “Ghostbusters” remake? No Bill Murray? Doesn’t sound like a great idea, but NPR’s Linda Holmes has reason to believe that it might turn out OK.

Just like Judd Apatow has his people who rotate through his comedies, Feig is developing a fondness for, and more importantly a director’s collaborative relationship with, Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, who worked together in “Bridesmaids” and will do so again here. McCarthy has made a boatload of money in comedy in the last handful of years, in “Bridesmaids” (for which she was nominated for an Oscar) and “The Heat,” which are both terrific, and in “Identity Thief,” which isn’t, really. (All that while holding down a network sitcom, “Mike & Molly.”) Wiig has been doing some very interesting stuff with her career post-“Saturday Night Live,” including turns in small movies like “The Skeleton Twins” and “Hateship Loveship,” but it’s been a while since she’s picked a straight-up live-action comedy that’s designed to serve her particular brand of humor — which, like McCarthy’s, is a fascinating combination of sweetness and gleeful embrace of grotesques. Read more.

2. Jessica Williams and “The Daily Show.” Jessica Williams is the youngest correspondent in the history of “The Daily Show,” and now she’s starring in the Sundance film “People, Places, Things.” Mike Ryan of Uproxx spoke with Williams (before she dashed out to see Lily Tomlin).

I got a lot of when I first started on the show, “Oh, a black woman is just on the show because Jon needed a black woman.”

People said that?

Yeah, like, “Who’s this fucking black lady doing the show now? Jon only hired her because of this.” I got a lot of that.

That’s a f*cked up thing to write.

Yeah, that’s a whole different realm. And you know, I’m just like, “I’m not going anywhere.” And now they know I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going to quit. So they just know I’m not going anywhere. Read more.

3. Why We Care About Anachronisms in Films. Does it really matter if a song from 1979 plays in a film set in 1978, or if a character in “Jimmy’s Hall” has a name that wouldn’t be popular in Ireland for years? Oliver Farry of The New Statesman writes that our desire for accuracy says more about us than it does about art.

Nor is it terribly important to strive for absolute historical accuracy. Does anyone really care that Cassius and Brutus mention a clock striking in “Julius Caesar”, even though Caesar died twelve centuries before the invention of the first mechanical clock? Does a reference to “popish tricks and ceremonies” by Aaron in “Titus Andronicus,” set in classical Rome, fatally compromise the play? Like most of his Renaissance contemporaries Shakespeare did not worry too much about anachronisms. Judging by the now well-established trend for staging and filming his plays in updated contexts (in recent years “Romeo and Juliet,” “Richard III” and “Coriolanus” have all got such treatment), neither do most Shakespeareans. Read more.

4. The Conservatism of Liberal Hollywood. Thom Andersen’s “Red Hollywood” looks at how eventually blacklisted communist writers played an integral part in the history of Hollywood’s popular films, and how their achievements have been downplayed over the years. In an interview with Colin Beckett of Guernica Magazine, Andersen spoke about the conservatism of liberal Hollywood.

Guernica: Why have so many mythologies about the blacklist lingered when many of their material supports have dropped away or been altered?

Thom Andersen: There’s no one alive today who defends the blacklist except for Richard Schickel [the American journalist and film critic who currently writes for Truthdig]. It’s an example of something I talked about in “Los Angeles Plays Itself” in relation to “L.A. Confidential” (1997): “History is written by the victors, but it’s written in crocodile tears.” We have a Malcolm X stamp, a Paul Robeson stamp, a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. We pay our respects to these people precisely so that we can continue policies which are completely antithetical to what they stood for. Read more.

5. Great TV Dramas Hate Teenage Girls. “The Good Wife” and “The Americans” both feature multi-dimensional female leads, so why do their characters raise such unlikable daughters? Decider’s Jenni Maier says it’s because TV hates teenage girls.

This isn’t about them their characters being teenage girls, it’s about the way they’re being written. How do I know this? Look no further than all of their token brothers: Henry Jennings, Zach Florrick, and Chris Brody, respectively. They’re likable, if completely forgettable, kids. No one’s sending them to church youth groups or scripting Bible fights or directing them to roll their eyes. They all have the same parents and the same upbringings, but they’re not making you want to change the channel every time they step into a room. And when they get plots, they get good ones. Read more.

6. “American Sniper” Shows That Film Critics Matter. While cultural commentators and political pundits got into shouting matches about “American Sniper,” a number of critics tried to look at the film as more than a political statement. Keith Phipps of The Dissolve argues that critics proved their value here.

Films mean something, and they deserve better than snap judgments and pre-determined, agenda-serving conclusions. None of the writers above, or the many others who’ve engaged with Eastwood’s film, have become the loudest voices in the conversation. But they’re necessary voices, and they’ll be the voices that last, the cooler heads that prevail long after the flames have faded. Read more.

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