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Daily Reads: ‘Selma’ is More Than Fair to LBJ, An Iraq War Vet on the Good and Bad of ‘American Sniper’ and More

Daily Reads: 'Selma' is More Than Fair to LBJ, An Iraq War Vet on the Good and Bad of 'American Sniper' and More

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

1. “Selma” Is More Than Fair to LBJ. Is “Selma” too hard on Lyndon B. Johnson, as many have suggested? The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson says no.

Califano, though, misrepresents “Selma” the movie and Selma the history. The movie does not, for example, portray L.B.J. as “only reluctantly behind” the Voting Rights Act, which would indeed be a gross distortion. (See Robert Caro’s work for the best analysis of Johnson’s stealthy passion for the cause of equality.) It does portray him as disagreeing with King about the timing of the bill—which, to be fair, he did. On other points, though, Califano is simply rewriting history. Read more.

2. Kirsten Gillibrand Talks “The Hunting Ground.” The new documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which premiered at Sundance, looks at the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. Vulture’s Katie Van Syckle spoke with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who makes an appearance in the film.

This is an issue that campuses are struggling with across the whole country. If you listen to the survivors, this is an issue that hasn’t gone away. There is enormous prevalence. And survivors have a right to be heard and to be able to tell their stories and to be able to get justice and to have a reform in the system so that the incentives aren’t to shove this under the rug. Schools have no incentive to report these incidents of sexual assault and rape. The survey done by the Senate showed that 40 percent of schools had never reported any rapes. Obviously they are not reporting, and so we have to have an ability to flip the incentives to hold schools accountable and to incentivize them to not only report but to meet their Title IX requirements. We also have to be able to have online surveys where all students can report whether or not they feel safe in a confidential way and what has happened to them. Read more.

3. The Evolution of Rap Fashion in “Fresh Dressed. Another documentary playing at Sundance, “Fresh Dressed,” takes a look at the evolution of fashion in hip hop. Rolling Stone’s Phoebe Reilly spoke with director Sacha Jenkins about the film.

Are you skeptical or critical of luxury brands that might have ignored or disassociated themselves from hip-hop artists in the very beginning because they weren’t the target customers then?

Can you really be mad at Ralph Lauren if he is just really great at focusing in on his audience, and his audience is technically an aspirational white lifestyle? He was a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx. A lot of the imagery around the stuff that he created — those worlds weren’t necessarily open to him. This is capitalist America. Black people and Latino people will spend money they don’t have on expensive items, just like white Americans do. That said, I don’t expect brands to change what they’re doing to pander to people. Louis and Gucci and Prada — they just stick to their script. Their script caters to a very specific audience. Just like Rocawear and Sean John catered to a very specific audience. Read more.

4. Is “Better Call Saul” a “Frasier” or a “Joey”? “Better Call Saul” finally has some viewers, but is this “Breaking Bad” spinoff worthy of its predecessor? Digital Spy’s Bruce Fretts writes about it and Vince Gilligan’s other new show, “Battle Creek.”

So perhaps a better title for this show would be “Breaking Goodman.” Or “Making Goodman.” In any case, it’s hard to keep a Goodman down, and Odenkirk’s work remains highly entertaining. He’s matched in quality by Michael McKean as his mysteriously ill brother and Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmentraut. When we meet Saul’s future fixer Mike, he’s a courthouse parking-lot attendant who’s a stickler for validation stickers – “You’re like a troll under a bridge!” Saul groans. Read more.

5. An Iraq War Vet on What “American Sniper” Gets Right.. and What’s Wrong with That. For all of its changes, “American Sniper” gets a lot of the particulars right about being in the middle of combat in Iraq. But in an article for Vulture, Iraq War veteran Brian Turner writes that this doesn’t make it the Iraq War movie we need.

This isn’t the defining film of the Iraq War. After nearly a quarter century of war and occupation in Iraq, we still haven’t seen that film. I’m beginning to think we’re incapable as a nation of producing a film of that magnitude, one that would explore the civilian experience of war, one that might begin to approach so vast and profound a repository of knowledge. I’m more and more certain that, if such a film film ever arrives, it’ll be made by Iraqi filmmakers a decade or more from now, and it’ll be little known or viewed, if at all, on our shores. The children of Iraq have far more to teach me about the war I fought in than any film I’ve yet seen — and I hope some of those children have the courage and opportunity to share their lessons onscreen. If this film I can only vaguely imagine is ever made, it certainly won’t gross $100 million on its opening weekend. Read more.

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