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Daily Reads: Why There’s No Right Age for ‘Aliens’ (or Any Other Movie), How to Save the Blockbuster

Daily Reads: Why There's No Right Age for 'Aliens' (or Any Other Movie), How to Save the Blockbuster

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

1. There’s No “Right Age” for a Movie. A number of commenters groused about Matt Zoller Seitz showing his 11-year-old son’s friends “Aliens.” But The Dissolve’s Tasha Robinson writes that there’s no right age to watch a movie:

Kids have different tolerances. Kids have different personalities. Kids have different tastes. I review a lot of animated movies, and I periodically get asked, “Is that thing you just watched safe for my child?” I always answer by trying to describe the movie’s parameters in terms of suspense, weirdness, or gore, because there is no possible yes-or-no answer to that question if I don’t know the child involved. Even here in the Pitchfork office, the question gets bandied around, and it’s hard to answer. One employee here has a 5-year-old whose favorite films are “Coraline” and “ParaNorman”—excellent features with some exceptionally spooky material that unnerves some adults. Another has a kid who was terrified at 2011’s “Winnie The Pooh,” because at one point, Tigger appears as a shadow in the woods—a memory that stuck with her for ages. Some kids enjoy being scared. (Look at the bestselling success of things like the Goosebumps series.) Some don’t, and for them, simple scares can metastasize into big anxieties. Read more.

2. That’s Entertainment! Vincente Minnelli’s great musical “The Band Wagon” is now on Blu-Ray, and Movie Morlocks’ R. Emmett Sweeney celebrates the film.

[Betty] Comden recalled that the original “Band Wagon,” “was a revue in the real sense of the word. There was no plot. There were just some wonderful performers and charming numbers, but it was not a musical that had any kind of linear story that you could base anything on. It was just a revue. Needless to say, we had our work cut out for us.” What they did, in collaboration with Minnelli, was to incorporate the real-life personalities behind the scenes into a boilerplate backstage musical. As Minnelli writes in his autobiography, “I Remember it Well,” he thought “It would be delicious to base the characters on actual people. Why not base his [Astaire’s] part on the Astaire of a few years back, who’d been in voluntary retirement? Why not develop the situation further by suggesting that fame had passed him by?” Read more.

3. Lina Lamont Dances for No One. Jean Hagen’s performance as Lina Lamont in “Singin’ in the Rain” is one of the best things about it, but is Lina more than a vapid airhead villainess? The Hairpin’s Charlotte Shane says yes.

It’s not until the director reveals Don will be playing opposite her in the next film that Lina begins to treat him warmly. “What a bitch,” the movie wants us to think, like each and every last one of us wouldn’t be pissed by a random guy bothering us on our lunch break. The implication is that Lina is Machiavellian and calculated when it comes to her time and attention. Oh heavens, anything but that! I love that in a dame; it’s a sign of knowing her own value and what she wants. Any woman as driven, canny, and uncompromising about her career as Lina proves to be, would be lauded in the 21st century. That it’s a component of this 1920s-era character makes it all the more impressive. Read more.

4. “House of Cards'” Claire and Frank Problem. “House of Cards'” finale irked Vulture’s Margaret Lyons, as it betrayed the dynamic that makes the show interesting:

While I hesitate to call any marriage between one man and one woman nontraditional, the Underwoods’ understanding of their relationship is different from most people’s, as far as I can tell. (Maybe all of you are just keeping tons of secrets?) They’ve both been pretty open with their affairs, and they’ve also both been strategic about deploying emotional intimacy as part of a larger plan. Claire arranged a threesome for them. Watching the two of them be evil and menacing — eh, okay. Watching the two of them be evil and menacing and then come home to each other and be all, “How was your evil, menacing day?” — now we’re cooking. Read more.

5. The Best Farrelly Bros. Scenes. The Farrelly Brothers are still the kinds of the gross-out comedy, and Esquire’s Jason Guerrasio spoke with them about their most memorable scenes.

If there’s a single image the Farrellys will be remembered for, it will be that of Cameron Diaz smiling with the front of her hair teased high in the air thanks to a substance you can’t buy at your local pharmacy. And the brothers know it…But the scene in which Mary Jensen (Diaz) mistakes Ted Stroehmann’s (Ben Stiller) ejaculation hanging from his ear for hair gel took a lot of persuading to pull off. First, the brothers say it took six months for Fox to finally greenlight the project because they insisted on shooting the scene. Then during shooting, Diaz got cold feet. “One of the hair-and-makeup girls was putting the gel in Cameron’s hair and she was like, ‘Hey guys, I don’t know, this could totally backfire,'” Bobby says. “She was rightfully concerned,” Peter adds. “If it doesn’t work it ruins the movie and her career is in jeopardy because she’s ‘cum head’ the rest of her life.” 

6. How to Save the Blockbuster. The movies made less money last year than in any year since 2006. The blockbuster is in decline, says The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee, and here’s a few ways to save it:

Stop Splitting. Last year’s biggest US hits were distinctive for various key reasons. The reigning champ was the third Hunger Games film, the latest in a refreshingly dour franchise that’s made over $2.3bn (£1.5bn) worldwide. But while the third chapter of a rare action series fronted by a female character might have come out on top, it was considerably down from Catching Fire’s total. Interest in the films, and star Jennifer Lawrence, is still feverish, but the decision to split the final book into two parts led to an A- CinemaScore from audiences that was down on the A grades handed to the first two and a series low of 68% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was the first time in a critically supported franchise that business needs overtook creative impulses – and audiences realized. Read more.

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