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Daily Reads: Why ‘Park and Recreation’ Was TV’s Most Politically Ambitious Show, Hold the Oscar Hot Takes and More

Daily Reads: Why 'Park and Recreation' Was TV's Most Politically Ambitious Show, Hold the Oscar Hot Takes and More

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

1. TV’s Most Politically Ambitious Show. “Parks and Recreation” has ended, but it leaves as the most politically ambitious show of the past several years. Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post writes:

As frustrating as the process could be, Leslie regularly recommitted to the idea that she would accomplish more by working with the people who stood in her way and bringing them on board. That way might take longer, and it might require more of Leslie and everyone else who advocates for change. But “Parks” constantly argued that Leslie would gain more by bringing even the most recalcitrant adversary on board if at all possible. She even rescued her longtime enemy, the cynical, obstructionist, self-interested city counselor and dentist Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser) from the clutches of the man-eating Tammy Two (Megan Mullally). Read more.

2. How Superhero Movies Lost Their Humanity. There are so many superhero movies that they’ve started to feel like assembly line products. The Daily Beast’s Sujay Kumar writes about what went wrong:

“You’ve sort of got very glib and cartoony in the worst,” said [“Spider-Man 2” co-writer Miles] Millar. “We used to hear the word ‘comicbooky,’ which is always a disparaging word. I think ultimately I look at these movies and guess what? They’re now comic-booky and I don’t think that’s a good thing.” “They’ve become pieces in a bigger machine,” said [Alfred] Gough. “And I think sometimes the movies can start to feel like wallpaper.” Read more.

3. Ruins and Reckoning in “25th Hour.” Spike Lee made the definitive American film about race relations with “Do the Right Thing,” and he made the definitive post-9/11 film with “25th Hour.” Scott Tobias of The Dissolve writes:

As it happens, 9/11 references take up a much smaller portion of “25th Hour” than it might seem: The bulk of it is relegated to the mournful opening-credits sequence, which assembles different views of the “Tribute In Light” art installation, set to Terence Blanchard’s score, before pulling back to reveal the ghostly spotlights where the Twin Towers once stood. Later, there’s a shot of the “Wanted: Dead Or Alive” tabloid cover with Osama bin Laden scotch-taped to a broker’s door, and a scene where two old friends peer down at Ground Zero from a high-rise apartment and argue over conflicting news reports of polluted air. Bin Laden and al-Qaeda are also folded into a bilious monologue that comprehensively disses every racial and class stereotype in the city—a callback to a famous montage in Lee’s “Do The Right Thing.” The aftermath of 9/11 is of fleeting, incidental concern to the day-in-the-life of “25th Hour,” but the tenor of life has shifted unmistakably, which is true of New York and of the country. Even unseen, it’s a presence. Read more.

4. Seven Thoughts on “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Fresh off a quartet of Oscar wins, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” has also received a new book from Matt Zoller Seitz. Zimbio’s J.J. Duncan spoke with Seitz about the film.

At first, it might seem like Agatha’s being given criminally short shrift in the script, but take another look. “I’ve read a number of otherwise positive reviews that say the relationship between Zero and Agatha is underwritten,” Seitz said in our interview. “It’s not underwritten. It’s omitted. It’s like Zero’s telling the Author, ‘I’m going to tell you everything about myself, but there’s a couple of things I’m going to hold onto and you can’t have them.'” Seitz continued: “It is entirely intentional that he doesn’t dwell on the death of Gustave, and he doesn’t dwell on the death of Agatha and the child. The death of Gustave gets six words: ‘In the end, they shot him.’ And the death of Agatha and the child is dispensed of, I believe, in three sentences with a joke.” Read more.

5. In Defense of “Birdman.” A lot of people beat up on “Birdman” after it won Best Picture, so Robbie Collin of The Telegraph came to its defense.

But to dismiss “Birdman” in this way is to wilfully ignore so much that’s great about it – not least the way it reimagines film as a kind of hyper-caffeinated theatrical performance that unfolds apparently live before our eyes, throwing out the familiar visual grammar of shots and cuts in a way that makes the experience of watching it feel completely, invigoratingly fresh. And don’t forget its considerable satirical bite, either. For a perfect example of where stardom is right now, watch the junket interview scene with Riggan Thompson in his dressing room, which sums up the showbiz zeitgeist just as punchily as Marcello Mastroianni’s adulatory press conference in Fellini’s “8½.” Read more.

6. Hold the #Hottakes. The Oscars inspired a lot of outrage, but maybe some of it was a bit overblown and knee-jerk. Matt Singer of ScreenCrush writes:

Look, if you were genuinely offended by something at the Academy Awards, more power to you. But perhaps a little bit of perspective is in order. Sean Penn made a dumb joke when his friend won an Oscar. Patricia Arquette, in the midst of perhaps the most exciting moment of her entire life, muddled her message (she later clarified her thoughts, at length, on Twitter). Oscar winners describe the time after they accept their award as a blur. (“I can’t remember it at all, I just remember it being a sort of frenzied blur,” is how Eddie Redmayne put it yesterday on British television.) Patricia Arquette’s heart was obviously in the right place; maybe we could cut the borderline delirious woman some slack on the fine points? Read more.

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