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Daily Reads: Diversity Growing on Television, ‘Black or White’ as An Early Pick for the Worst of 2015 and More

Daily Reads: Diversity Growing on Television, 'Black or White' as An Early Pick for the Worst of 2015 and More

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

1. “Black or White” is an Early Contender for Worst Picture. “Black or White” is one of the most racially patronizing and offensive films made about race in a long time, and Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post has it pegged as an early contender for the worst film of the year.

When Elliot hires Duvan (Mpho Koaho), an African immigrant, to tutor Eloise in math, Rowena is skeptical. “Got a little black math tutor, that’s going to do it?” she demands of Elliot. “Take care of that whole half of her soul?” But “Black or White” never really answers that question by exploring Eloise’s relationship with her tutor. Instead, the movie spends more time showing Duvan being bewildered by Eloise’s African American relatives in much the same way Elliot often is. Duvan is just another device for “Black or White” to set up a distinction between good black people and bad ones, as if those are actual categories that exist and not products of a racist imagination. Read more.

2. “Shameless” and the Financial Crisis. Very few TV shows have tackled the recent economic turmoil with any real acuity. Entertainment Weekly’s Julia Alexander writes that the Showtime series “Shameless” nails it.

“Shameless” has been one of only a handful of shows to not only discuss the poverty problem plaguing the country, but earnestly address the uncomfortable feeling of living in everlasting chaos that comes from living in economic inequality … while trying to masquerade as a more affluent person…After spending a year at school and befriending the ever-wealthy Amanda, Lip returns to the other side of the train tracks, and tries to pick up with his old buddies and neighbors where he left off. His trek from the land of fictitious wealth he experienced vicariously through Amanda is captured beautifully on his subway ride home. No words are spoken, but with each stop, more and more wealthy-looking types leave as more interesting characters step on. Lip glances around, for the first time acknowledging that he’s living two separate lives and forlornly remembering the year he had with Amanda. Read more.

3. Ten Films to Decode “Inherent Vice.” Did you find “Inherent Vice” a bit baffling? The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin has ten films that help show what Paul Thomas Anderson and company are getting at.

Night Moves.” 
Meet Harry Moseby: another Los Angeles PI who’s at sixes and sevens with the present. As played by Gene Hackman, he’s the fumbling lead of Arthur Penn’s 1975 noir thriller – not so much an anti-hero as a non-hero, who can’t even fathom his own failing marriage, let alone his cases. At the start of the film, he’s charged with tracking down a flirtatious teenage runaway, Delly Iverson (Melanie Griffith) – who would probably get along quite well with “Inherent Vice’s” Japonica Fenway (Sasha Pieterse). Both Doc and Moseby are men out of time: all that separates them is the extent of the lag. While Doc is a man of the Sixties, Moseby’s a hard-boiled Thirties-type, gliding through a world where the old rules no longer apply. Read more.

4. Analyzing the Budweiser Super Bowl Ad. Budweiser got a lot of attention for its anti-craft beer Super Bowl ad, something Paste Magazine’s Jim Vorel found hypocritical.

Budweiser is “proudly a macro beer” This is like that “reclaiming” of a negative word thing we’ve heard about before, yes? “Macro” being the opposite of “micro,” the term that was once applied to what are now typically referred to as craft brewers. But yeah, they’re proud to be big, because big obviously correlates to “best.” After all, McDonald’s makes the highest quality hamburgers in the world, right? Read more.

5. Changing Attitudes Towards Diversity in Television. This year’s Oscar nominees showed a frustrating lack of diversity in Hollywood, but the current run of major TV shows with minority leads shows things changing on the small screen. The Los Angeles Times’ Meredith Blake investigates:

“Empire” and shows like it not only are bringing more diverse faces to prime time, but also are harnessing the power of black viewers, a group long neglected by broadcast networks despite the fact that African Americans watch a disproportionate share of traditional television — an average of 201 hours a month in the third quarter of 2014, according to Nielsen. While all three series are broad-based hits attracting viewers of all races, they are also particularly popular with black audiences. “Empire” is most dramatically so: Nearly two-thirds of its viewers under 50 are African American. Read more.

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