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Daily Reads: Toxic Masculinity in ‘Justified,’ Will Smith as a Boundary-Pusher and More

Daily Reads: Toxic Masculinity in 'Justified,' Will Smith as a Boundary-Pusher and More

Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential news
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1. Toxic Masculinity in “Justified.” Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz calls “The Hunt” one of “Justified’s” best episodes, in no small part due to the episode’s look at toxic masculinity.

It’s all very complicated and messy, and the script doesn’t shy away from that. Boyd truly loves Ava, and Ava truly loves Boyd. But she’s been selling him down the river for weeks now (with excellent reason, as she explains during that final scene; he was not supportive of her when she went to jail for him). And he’s always had a cold, controlling, abusive side that contrasts with his genuine sweetness and romantic spirit. Read more.

2. “SNL” in the Social Media Era. “Saturday Night Live” has tried to respond to social media reactions to the show, but its success has been highly variable. Erik Voss of Splitsider talks about “SNL’s” inability to win on Twitter.

Online feedback weighs even more heavily on the show’s newcomers, whose survival depends on their bits making a lasting impression with viewers. In his first two seasons, Killam would see screen time algorithms and gawk at how “horrible” he was. “It’s a dangerous pitfall,” he says. “With a forty-year history, there’s so much to compare yourself to. The shadow grows longer and darker the longer the show goes on.” This may shed light on why “SNL” bristles at criticism more than other recapped and tweeted-at shows do. Most comedians working in television gradually learn the PR ropes in relatively low-stakes gigs…For new talent on “SNL,” however, that transition occurs in a fraction of the time, and in a hotter spotlight. Barely a week passes between reading their names in a press release and hearing them announced by Darrell Hammond before they’re thrust into representing a 40-year-old brand with the medium’s most opinionated fanbase. “People will always have an opinion,” says Vanessa Bayer. “When people think about SNL, they feel a lot of ownership over it. It’s like a sports team.” Read more.

3. Cartoony Genius in “Artists and Models.” Jerry Lewis: genius or annoying clown (or both)? Scott Tobias and Tasha Robinson of The Dissolve discuss Frank Tashlin’s gloriously cartoonish “Artists and Models.”

Robinson: Another thing that worked for me was the sense of watching a live-action cartoon. Director Frank Tashlin had a long history in animation—Noel’s going to dig into that on Thursday, so I won’t steal his thunder here—and “Artists And Models” has plenty of gags that feel like they were ported over from a Warner Bros. cartoon, like the water cooler that boils over when Bessie pushes Eugene into it and smooches him, or the dickie yanking Eugene’s boxer shorts out of his pants, or even the “Rear Window” reference joke. Lewis seems to be trying to be a Tex Avery cartoon character—I get the impression that he was probably sometimes disappointed that he couldn’t pop his eyes out six inches from his face, or dangle a drooling tongue out at Eva Gabor, then speed-scroll it up and spin it like a snapping window blind. Read more.

4. A Film-Themed Flower Show. Philadelphia Daily News film critic Gary Thompson was given a unique challenge to cover a film-themed flower show.

Carnations and other flowers comprise the rolling magic carpet for Jasmine (“Aladdin”) and an archery target for Merida (“Brave”). They provide the color inside suspended glass spheres meant to suggest undersea bubbles, a clever nod to Ariel and “The Little Mermaid.” The flower show this year includes many elaborate references to Disney and Pixar characters. You will, of course, find floral fealty to “Frozen,” including one impressively large, white-rose rendering of the staircase leading to Elsa’s ice castle. Read more.

5. New Era of Multicultural TV? Is the new wave of minority-driven shows like “Empire,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” “Black-ish” and more a sign of a new era of multicultural television? Flavorwire’s Pilot Viruet tries to sort it out:

Naturally, there’s been a lot of praise for the diversity of this season’s TV narratives — even if that praise fails to take into account what a small percentage of programming these shows actually comprise. But this isn’t the first time a “boom” in diversity has occurred on television. Robin R. Means Coleman, an associate professor and the author of “African American Viewers and the Black Situation Comedy,” is quick to dismiss the notion that this is a groundbreaking year for minority-focused narratives, explaining that representation on TV is follows a cyclical pattern. “About every 20 years, there is a surge in representations of blacks on television,” Coleman says. “In the ‘70s, there was a particular surge of blacks and black situation comedies: everything from ‘Good Times’ and ‘The Jeffersons’ and ‘Sanford and Son’ — those kind of representations were being offered up.” Read more.

6. Will Smith: Boundary-Pusher. In “Focus,” Will Smith returns to the con man type he played in “Six Degrees of Separation,” and there’s a major difference: his character’s race is far less of a factor. Reel Change’s Noah Gittell writes:

After “Six Degrees,” he carefully, incrementally distanced himself from the Fresh Prince ethos, the streetwise outsider who shakes up the white establishment. He continued to rely on it for the early studio films that established him as global star, such as “Independence Day” and “Men in Black.” But then came a series of movies in which he asked viewers to accept him as a star without any white characters to represent the audience perspective. There was “Hitch,” a traditional rom-com in which his character engaged in a biracial relationship with an Hispanic (Eva Mendes); “Hancock,” which is probably only the second studio film ever featuring a black superhero (after Blade and not counting “Shazam”); and “I Am Legend, “in which Smith nearly matches Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” by anchoring the film’s first hour completely solo (except for a dog). Smith’s outsider spirit was still present in these films – viewers have a hard time when movie stars abandon their personas completely – but it is never tied to his race. Read more.

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