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Daily Reads: Behind the ‘Birdman’ Surge, What ‘Boyhood’ Tells Us About Girlhood

Daily Reads: Behind the 'Birdman' Surge, What 'Boyhood' Tells Us About Girlhood

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

1. Behind the “Birdman” Surge. After losing out at the three major guild awards, “Boyhood” is no longer the odds-on Best Picture favorite. Mark Harris of Grantland tries to explain to “Birdman” surge.

This recent run of Best Picture winners is shrewd enough to know that a spoonful of self-deprecation makes the self-veneration go down much more easily. “The Artist” is a movie that says, my god, the changes in this business can chew you up and spit you out, but hang in there and somehow you’ll come through intact. “Argo” says that movie people can be hustlers and charlatans, but that sometimes folks who make up lies for a living can do a hell of a lot of good. “Birdman’s” smart, uniquely-right-for-this-moment variation on that is, “This has become a shitty business, but the flame that flickers inside all of us — the desire to create something good — is still lit.” The message of these movies isn’t “Aren’t we great?” but “Aren’t we a glorious mess?” Read more.

2. Horror’s Scariest Trend. What’s scarier in the modern horror movie, found footage or gore? According to The Dissolve’s Matt Barone, scarier still is the lack of black filmmakers in the genre.

The better question, though, is where’s the black horror filmmaker who’s able to make it? While women have made tremendous strides in the genre recently, from Ana Lily Amirpour’s vampire Western “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” to Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook,” the darkest color in horror right now remains blood-red. The problem is only underlined by Spike Lee’s new film, “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus.” He’s an iconic director with a long record of success, but his first foray into horror was only able to happen with Kickstarter’s crowd-funding help. Read more.

3. Applause vs. “Awful!” for “Knight of Cups.” Terrence Malick has a new film out at a major festival, which means that people either love it or booed it. Andrew Grant of Filmmaker Magazine writes about why it might turn out to be his most divisive film.

The depiction of women, who for the most part function as window dressing to Rick’s crisis, could turn out to be the film’s Achilles heel, and many words will no doubt be penned about objectification and the male gaze. Though contextually it fits with the self-centered hedonistic world that Rick is trying to escape, it remains problematic. Still, there’s so much to process here. Symbols to be decoded, ideas to be parsed, images to reflect upon…Read more.

4. The Ten Funniest Sex Scenes. From “Showgirls” to “Body of Evidence,” the movies are full of terrible, hilarious sex scenes. The Telegraph’s Tim Robey picks the ten funniest.

“Color of Night.” Just what the world was waiting for – a few fleeting and underwater glimpses of Bruce Willis’s circumcised todger. This crazy mess of a psychological thriller, which sank the once-fascinating career of Richard Rush, brings Willis and a disturbed patient (Jane March) together for a mid-film montage of world-beating botched intensity and batty editing. They flap around in a pool for a while, then up against a glass shower partition, then switch to a sauna. March mimes facial approval up against a random piece of exotic statuary. It’s hard to know where to look, but the statue’s probably the safest bet. Read more.

5. The Girls of “Girls” Wouldn’t Be Friends. The leads of “Girls” got back together last night, but the show never acknowledged how awkwardly they all fit together now. Margaret Lyons of Vulture writes that they wouldn’t be friends anymore.

Shoshanna was always the odd Girl out, and her continued removal from reality makes that even more pronounced. Her assessment of Marnie’s song, that it was the kind of song you’d hate but grow to enjoy, was vacantly nasty, like much of Shosh’s behavior this season. Wouldn’t Marnie be spending time with other musicians or suitably chichi creative types? What is it she thinks Shoshanna has to offer in terms of music criticism? If Jessa can’t stand the dopiness of people in her AA meetings, how is she putting up with Shoshanna? Jessa and Marnie don’t have anything in common anymore, and it’s hard to imagine what they get out of a continued simulation of a relationship. Read more.

6. What “Boyhood” Shows Us About Girlhood. “Boyhood” followed Ellar Coltrane’s increasingly independent Mason, Jr., but there lies a hidden story of how his sister Samantha (Loralei Linklater) loses her confidence. The Wall Street Journal’s Sharon Marcus and Anne Skomorowsky write about what “Boyhood” reveals about girlhood.

Pivotal scenes in which adults confront each of them offer a key. In one, Mason’s photography teacher accuses him of laziness and gutlessness. “Who do you want to be, Mason? What do you want to do?” When Mason responds vaguely that he wants to make art, his teacher demands, “What can you bring to it that nobody else can?” In an earlier scene, the mother confronts Samantha with a similar existential question after she has failed to pick Mason up after school: “Do you want to be a cooperative person, who is compassionate and helps people out? Or do you want to be a self-centered narcissist?” Mason’s teacher pressures him to think about how he can express his individuality; Samantha’s mother offers a false choice: either help others or be an unlikable person. The boy is asked to take himself way too seriously, while the girl is chastised for a single instance of having put herself first. Read more.

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