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How Kids Change the Way Critics Watch Movies, Why It’s Hard to Fight for Gender Equality in Hollywood and More

How Kids Change the Way Critics Watch Movies, Why It's Hard to Fight for Gender Equality in Hollywood and More

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

1. Watching Movies with Your Kids. Parents inevitably try to share their favorite entertainments with their children. But Dana Stevens of Slate writes about how watching films with her daughter has changed her attitude about how films should be viewed.

 I’d long presumed films should be watched from beginning to end; she’s happy to keep returning to one beloved scene, or watch a musical song by song, skipping all the dialogue in between, or watch the first half-hour of “101 Dalmatians” 10 nights in a row. (In her defense, that is a killer half-hour.) I consider seeing a movie in the theater and then talking about it over dessert to be the ideal outing; she professes to find theatrical projection unbearably loud, so if I really want her to see something on the big screen (as with The Lego Movie), I have to drag her, using the dessert part as bait. I’ve always sought out cinematic novelty as a viewer, so my instinct as a parent is to continue expanding the list of movies we can watch together. But as a film-watcher the normally sensation-seeking P. is a homebody, preferring the cyclical repetition of a dozen or so favorites to the introduction of new titles. I collect movies, sort them, interrogate them for their meaning and artistic value. She ransacks them for pleasure, inspiration, and what a standup comic would call “material.” Read more.

2. David Simon’s Newest Show. It took time for “The Wire” to catch on (i.e. when it hit DVD), and David Simon doesn’t think people will watch his new miniseries “Show Me a Hero.” But he doesn’t much care what viewers think is “cool” about his shows, and he’s not afraid to say so. Grantland’s Amos Barshad profiled him:

“What interests me is when people argue about the themes and stances and politics of the story. When the thing gets off the entertainment pages and people start arguing about it in terms of parsing policy, I’m very gratified and very interested. That’s sort of worth the time. That’s why you spend five, six years working on something. I’m not sure that’s me telling you how to watch ‘The Wire’ other than me telling you how I value the thing. If you don’t wanna hear me say what I value, don’t ask me the question. Is Omar cooler than Stringer? I don’t … leave me out of it. To hear people debating what season they love the most … it’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. You cannot make me give a fuck. It’s not fair to say to me, ‘I don’t like the way you killed Omar.’ Get in line. Get in line. I don’t give a fuck.” Read more.

3. Why It’s Hard to Fight for Gender Equality in Hollywood. “When we say we want Hollywood to avoid gender and racial bias, what do we mean by that?” So asks Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post, suggesting that there needs to be a real program in place to fight for social change in media.

Just because it’s hard to hold people accountable for their staffs doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. But what should the ask be? Should the employees of every show or movie be balanced by gender (and race)? Is it okay for television showrunners who are trying to look at a particular set of experiences to seek writers with specific insight into those circumstances? Or should we be asking for networks and production companies to try to mirror the population of the U.S. across all of their projects? Read more.

4. Holy Xenophobia, Batman! Matt Singer of ScreenCrush is profiling the history of comic book movies, and the third part of his series looks at 1943’s “Batman,” the Dark Knight’s first appearance on the big screen.

Most Dated Moment: The antagonist of the serial, Dr. Daka, has a hideout in a part of Gotham City called “Little Tokyo.” There’s a lot about Daka and the Japanese characters in general that’s pretty dated (which is a nice way of saying it’s despicably racist), but the single most disgusting moment comes when the film’s narrator introduces Little Tokyo and explains that “since a wise government rounded up the shifty-eyed Japs, it has become virtually a ghost street.” Holy inexcusable xenophobia, Batman. Read more.

5. “The Act of Killing” Takedown. When Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing” was released last year, it was hailed as one of the best documentaries in recent year. But not everyone took well to its depiction of an unrepentant participant in a genocide, and Incite’s Colin Beckett believes the film does the opposite of what its fans claim.

It is difficult to say why Oppenheimer paints the 1965-66 mass killings as some kind of hysterical Red Scare rather than a genocide carried out to permanently shift the balance of the country’s social forces, as even the most superficial political analysis would identify it to be. Does he feel that communists don’t make sympathetic victims? Has he been so deeply conditioned by the liberal account of American red scares that he cannot believe that powerful communist parties existed outside of the U.S.S.R. and its satellites? Whatever his reasons, the effect is to foreclose from the outset any truly political understanding of the history the film addresses. Read more.

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