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Daily Reads: Good Reasons for Jessica Williams to Not Want Jon Stewart’s ‘Daily Show’ Job, the Sad Fate of the First Black Oscar Winner, and more

Daily Reads: Good Reasons for Jessica Williams to Not Want Jon Stewart's 'Daily Show' Job, the Sad Fate of the First Black Oscar Winner, and more

Jessica Williams

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

1. Jessica Williams’ Good Reasons. Jessica Williams took her name off the list of possible “The Daily Show” hosts, and she was frustrated when others claimed to have a better idea of what she should do than her. Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post wrote about why Williams has reasons not to want to take the job.

Williams has appeared in 97 episodes of “The Daily Show” since her debut in 2012. That’s certainly a regular commitment, but it’s not close to the anchor’s pace. And it’s left her with time to do a stint on “Girls” as one of Hannah Horvath’s (Lena Dunham) co-workers at a sponsored content project at GQ and to appear in movies like “Tap Shoes & Violins” and “People, Places, Things.” At 25, preserving some flexibility to pursue multiple potential career paths might make more sense for Williams than locking herself into the fake news business. Read more.

2. The Rise of Feelings Journalism. When Williams said she was extremely underqualified for the job, Esther Bloom of The Billfold wrote an article assuming that Williams needed a big “Lean In” to be convinced otherwise; Williams and others weren’t pleased. The New Republic’s Phoebe Maltz Bovy wrote about how Bloom’s piece is the latest example of an insidious trend, “Feelings Journalism.”

It involves a writer making an argument based on what they imagine someone else is thinking, what they feel may be another person’s feelings. The realm of fact, of reporting, has been left behind. This is especially tricky when a white writer projects onto a black one. In an xoJane piece last year, “It Happened To Me: There Are No Black People In My Yoga Classes And I’m Suddenly Feeling Uncomfortable With It,” Jen Caron described the myriad emotions she felt an overweight black woman in her yoga class might be feeling: “Over the course of the next hour, I watched as her despair turned into resentment and then contempt. I felt it all directed toward me and my body.” Gawker pounced, but it felt almost too easy. Looking back on this now, a line from “Broad City” comes to mind: “Sometimes, you’re so anti-racist that you’re actually really racist.” Read more.

3. The Proper Way to Watch Michael BayWhen Javi Grillo-Marxuach was a kid, he was outraged when his father was less than thrilled by “Star Wars” because he grew up watching “Flash Gordon,” but he’s grown to understand that disconnect. Grillo-Marxuach talks about the joys of growing jaded, and about his father’s advice about the proper way to watch “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

“A GREAT film.” 

“What are you talking about, papi?” I replied, “Are you sure you heard me right?” 

“I did… and I have seen that film: in IMAX.” 

“And you weren’t horrified by the endless onslaught of cliched images, the frenetic ADD cutting, the horrible stereotypes, and the interminable action sequences?” 

“I did not look at the screen once,” my father explained, “I spent my time in the theater turned away: watching the delighted faces of my grandchildren.” Read more.

4. R.I.P. Gilberto Perez. The scholar and critic Gilberto Perez passed away recently at 72, and film blogger Girish Shambu paid tribute to Perez.

Perez’s book begins with a touching account of childhood cinephilia. He describes the experience of going to the movies in his native Havana, often with his father, his most frequent movie-going companion. The films he saw formed a truly broad and international mix that included but went well beyond Hollywood. He writes: “With negligibly few exceptions, the movies were all foreign, which is to say that none of them were: they all took place in the spellbinding elsewhere of the screen.” By “foreign” he means “non-Cuban,” but there is a wonderful ambiguity about the way he views these films: they are simultaneously close (taking place on the movie screens of Havana with which he was on such intimate terms) and distant (unfolding in foreign places and spaces, the screen itself being such an alien space of “elsewhere”). Read more.
5. The Oscars’ First Black Winner. Hattie McDaniel won Best Supporting Actress for “Gone with the Wind,” but the win didn’t boost her career to play roles other than “maid.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Seth Abramovitch wrote about this and other wrongs to McDaniel.

But Hollywood’s highest honor couldn’t stave off the indignities that greeted McDaniel at every turn. White Hollywood pigeonholed her as the sassy Mammy archetype, with 74 confirmable domestic roles out of the IMDb list of 94 (“I’d rather play a maid than be a maid,” was her go-to response). The NAACP disowned her for perpetuating negative stereotypes. Even after death, her Oscar, which she left to Howard University, was deemed valueless by appraisers and later went missing from the school — and has remained so for more than 40 years. Her final wish — to be buried in Hollywood Cemetery — was denied because of the color of her skin. Read more.

6. A.O. Scott Evaluates the Oscars. A.O. Scott spoke with The Harvard Gazette’s Colleen Walsh to make his Oscar picks, explain Hollywood trends and point out what they’re missing:

I think the thing about the Oscars is that it’s always about the story that the academy wants to tell partly about itself. What does the American film industry want to say about itself? And there are different stories that it likes to tell. Sometimes the story is that we are going to embrace something that was very popular, which might be “Gladiator” or might be “Argo.” Sometimes it’s, “We’re going to embrace something that is important and topical and socially relevant,” like “12 Years a Slave” or “The Hurt Locker.” And I think that this may be the compelling narrative this time, the thing that looks fresh and that tells a story about there still being great possibility and novelty left in movies. I think “Boyhood” kind of tells that story. It’s a very accessible and emotionally satisfying story, but it’s also something new. It’s an experiment. Read more.

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