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Daily Reads: Michael Mann’s Obsessive Characters, The Story of ‘Selma’s Screener Problem and More

Daily Reads: Michael Mann's Obsessive Characters, The Story of 'Selma's Screener Problem and More

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

1. Michael Mann’s Obsessive Characters. Michael Mann’s characters are all consummate professionals, but there’s something else driving them: pursuit. Sean Burns of RogerEbert.com writes about Mann’s obsessive characters. Here, he talks about “Manhunter”:

It is only when Will Graham sends his family away and embraces the madness and ugliness inside him that he is finally able crack the case. His second person exclamations chillingly switch to the first—with “you” becoming “I” the scariest part of a generally terrifying movie. Graham casts off all that is good in his life to chase down the darkness, until at last seated alone at an airport bar he comes to a reckoning: “It’s just me and you now, sport.” Read more.

2. The Best Michael Mann Scenes. Of course, all Mann fans have their favorite Michael Mann scenes. For Esquire, Nick Schager picks his top ten:

The first onscreen meeting between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro is the centerpiece of “Heat,” Mann’s 1995 epic about a cop (Pacino) on the trail of a master thief (De Niro). Their face-to-face showdown in a diner is a quiet confrontation between kindred spirits unwilling to back down from their guiding ethos, or each other. Still as electric as any moment in Mann’s films, it encapsulates the director’s preoccupation with solitary men of action who know who they are, and what they can (and can’t) do. Read more.

3. Why Britain Loves Middlebrow Cinema. Bleh, “The Theory of Everything.” Ugh, “The Imitation Game.” Why does Britain export and exalt so many middle-of-the-road movies? David Jenkins of Little White Lies explains:

On the occasion of the death of beloved Brit polymath Richard Attenborough, exaltations were directed primarily towards his preternatural abilities as a titan of the showbiz industry glad-handing circuit rather than a, frankly, variable output as a film director…Yet taken as a single amorphous chunk, Attenborough’s directorial output sets out the hazy ley lines for much popular British cinema that ensued. One may trace his artistic forebears back to directors such as David Lean, but Attenborough’s knee-jerk impulse was always to retain an eye on his films’ commercial prospects. Read more.

4. Why 2014’s 35mm Films Were Shot That Way. Last year saw 39 films that were shot substantially on 35mm film. Filmmaker Magazine’s Vadim Rizov spoke with the directors and cinematographers behind those movies about why they chose to shoot on film.

Having shot “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan” (primarily) in 16mm, Darren Aronofsky kept the celluloid faith with “Noah.” “People assume it’s all digital because of the VFX,” he explained, but “there wasn’t any pressure to shoot digital.” Like Pfister, increased expense wasn’t a tipping point factor: “The studio didn’t care, except about the final cost, and it was actually still cheaper to do a film this big on film.” It does raise difficulties though: not just the decline in labs that process film, but “even finding a loader for the camera department was really hard as most of them have moved on to digital.” Read more.

5. The Story Behind “Everything Is Awesome.” The Lego Movie” might have missed for Best Animated Film, but its theme “Everything Is Awesome” still managed a Best Original Song nomination and a special award for That Damn Song That Keeps Invading My Brain. GQ’s John Jannuzzi talked to songwriter Shawn Patterson about the tune’s history.

When you actually wrote it, you were going through a divorce, right?
Yeah, I was going through a very difficult divorce. It was just hard going from married with three kids to single co-parent, writing and working as much as I do. It wasn’t an easy divorce by any stretch—there was a lot of difficulty and darkness going on. Music for me personally has been a place that I hide in. My entire life, no matter what pain or trauma has gone on, I go there and I close the door and it’s safe for me. And it’s always been that way. So when the divorce went down, I buried myself in this song and let myself go in the subtext. I was becoming Emmet and writing for his world and all that stuff. I don’t doubt there was a constant struggle to hold back any potential bitterness, like everybody does when you go through a tough breakup. But I was writing this incredibly upbeat song while this hideous divorce is going on. As the lyricist in this, there’s a push and a pull between how dark am I gonna go, how bright am I gonna go, so it was a bit of an inner struggle. But a good one. I’m almost grateful for it, because I don’t know if the song would’ve had that balance. Read more.

6. The Story of “Selma’s” Screener Problem. As everyone asked when they saw “Selma’s” paltry showing at the Oscar nominations this morning: what the hell happened? David Poland of Movie City News and Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter tried to sort it out:

Feinberg: Some may be wondering what the difference is between DuVernay’s “Selma” and Eastwood’s “American Sniper”, since the two films premiered back-to-back on Nov. 11 at AFI Fest. The answer is simple: that night, the “Selma” that was screened was, unlike the “American Sniper” that was screened, an unfinished cut. In fact, the film would not be locked until just before its Dec. 25 limited release, prior to which screeners couldn’t begin to be manufactured. Voting to determine the DGA nominees had already been open for more than three weeks. Read more.

Poland: In the case of a movie like “Selma,” which has missed out on some expected guild nominations, the DVD issue can make for good cover. And indeed, “Selma” may have suffered from ego rage in some groups. The film was screened on November 11 for the first time. It was not quite done. Team DuVernay didn’t have their finished product until Thanksgiving week… when all the DVD production houses are closed for 5 days or more. That meant it got to the replicator on December 1. SAG Nominating Committee started voting on November 19 and finished on December 8. DVDs literally could not be sent in time. Read more.

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