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Daily Reads: The Epic Uncool of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Career, How Scarlett Johansson Subverts Her Good Looks and More

Daily Reads: The Epic Uncool of Philip Seymour Hoffman's Career, How Scarlett Johansson Subverts Her Good Looks and More

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

1. The Epic Uncool of Philip Seymour HoffmanPhilip Seymour Hoffman left us too soon, but he left behind the best filmography of any actor of the past two decades. The Dissolve’s Nathan Rabin dives into his remarkable, all-too-brief career:

In 2000, Cameron Crowe paid Hoffman the honor of casting him as his mentor, —and a popular candidate for the greatest rock writer of all time—Lester Bangs in the semi-autobiographical “Almost Famous.” Hoffman plays Bangs as a chain-smoking, righteously contrarian guru of the uncool, and an unlikely paragon of hard-won underdog wisdom. Hoffman’s dialogue has the ring of poetry. He’s the mentor everyone wants and nobody gets, and Hoffman delivers a performance that matches Crowe’s famous love and generosity toward his inveterately flawed dreamers. Read more.

2. The Cord Cutter’s Best Friend Has Problems. 
Sling TV allows streaming of live TV on smartphones and tablets, but is it ready to replace television yet? Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff says “not so fast”:

Sling TV, like conventional DVRs, offers buttons to jump backwards and skip commercials. But it lacks the killer feature of the DVR, in that you can’t record programs using Sling TV just yet. Without that, you’re once again stuck trying to watch things live, which would seem to be the opposite of what cord cutters are looking for. That wouldn’t be a problem if the networks on Sling TV were well-represented on, say, Hulu, but they’re often not. That leaves a gap between watching live and waiting for seasons to hit streaming services. Sling doesn’t yet have a solution to fill that gap. Read more.

3. Would “Girls” Be Better as The Adam and Jessa Show? At this point, Marnie, Hannah and Shoshanna are testing the patience of “Girls” fans, but Adam Driver and Jemima Kirke remain delightful. The Atlantic’s Megan Garber, Joe Reid and David Sims talk about how Adam and Jessa are the best parts of the show’s fourth season.

Adam Driver and Jemima Kirke are so far and away the best actors on this show, so pairing Adam and Jessa for any length of time would feel like a gift in any episode, much less one that foists this much Shoshanna on us. It’s fun to watch as Adam and Jessa, these two complete bundles of pure chaos, seem to calm one another. Or at least are able to be more honest with each other than with other characters. When Jessa admitted that she needs Adam’s friendship at the end of the episode, it was a genuinely affecting moment. Read more.

4. How Scarlett Johansson Subverts Her Good Looks. Scarlett Johansson is one of the great movie stars of our time, but she works hard to be more than just a good-looking star. Lisa Rosman of Word & Film writes about how Johansson plays against type.

When it was first announced that the gorgeous blond was replacing Samantha Morton as the computer operating system in Spike Jonze’s “Her” (2013), eyebrows were raised. But with her warm voice and emotional accessibility, Johansson proved once and for all that her sexual appeal wasn’t just skin deep. In fact, with her and Pheonix’s chemistry at its forefront, this “slightly futuristic” love story manages to tackle the limited utility of our physical bodies amid an ever-evolving technology, the finite and infinite forms of all relationships (even to ourselves), and the possibility that intelligent consciousness and love are in no way confined to the scope of a human life. You know: just another day at work. Read more.

5. Sundance Exploitation Blues. Dope” is a breakout hit at Sundance, but the film’s depiction of black teenagers hasn’t sat well with everyone. Wesley Morris of Grantland writes about how the film shows the limited ways Sundance audiences will watch black characters.

So the movie permits itself to make the geek a gangsta because it’s an expedient route to a distribution deal. Indeed, after four days, this movie has been the most hotly auctioned film of the festival. I don’t know whether Open Road and Sony Pictures, who’ve acquired “Dope,” went for it because it feels, to them, authentically black or because the blackness is familiar to the world’s marketplaces. Once my disgust hit its limit Saturday night, I turned around for a look at the women behind me. They were rapt and content-looking. I didn’t need to see them in order to know that. I could hear their laughter and gasps. Famuyiwa had them eating out of his hand. More power to him. But he’s feeding them black shit white people like. Read more.

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