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Daily Reads: 10 Best ‘Mad Men’ Episodes, Why Rachel McAdams Was Never a Star, and More

Daily Reads: 10 Best 'Mad Men' Episodes, Why Rachel McAdams Was Never a Star, and More

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

1. The Greatest Car Movies. With “Furious 7” on the way, you may want to marathon a bunch of car movies that don’t have the words “fast” or “furious” in the title. Bilge Ebiri of Vulture has you covered, including a slightly less-intuitive number 1:

“Taxi Driver.” No complaining. It totally is a car movie. Sure, Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece is not a gearhead classic; you won’t find car nuts fetishizing it or anything like that. But this study of loneliness, madness, and violence is all about the way cabbie Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) drifts through the city — the dank, smoky streets forming a vision of Hell as they glide past his windshield. In the way it creates a seemingly impermeable border between Travis and the world, and in the way that the figures who step into his cab, each in their own way, penetrate his sense of identity, this is not just a car movie; it’s the ultimate car movie. Read more.

2. Why Rachel McAdams Never Became a Star. Rachel McAdams is a fine actress who seemed primed to become a huge star, but it never happened. Scott Mendelson of Forbes explains why:

Her relative lack of mainstream starring vehicles is mostly due to the fact that so few female-centric star vehicles get made in Hollywood anymore. There are few female-centric films that get made in Hollywood, especially the kind of somewhat melodramatic dramas or thrillers that used to give someone like Ashley Judd a career. The kind of mainstream films, be they romantic comedies, family melodramas, and everything in-between, that once starred Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock are all-but-extinct in modern Hollywood. The Hollywood of the 1990′s had room for Meg Ryan vehicles, Sandra Bullock vehicles, and Julia Roberts vehicles with room to spare. They were romantic comedies like “French Kiss,” family melodramas like “Something to Talk About,” or even supernatural comedies like “Practical Magic.” Those films don’t get made anymore, to the point where now even something like a female-driven romantic comedy like Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck” is considered a “big deal.” Read more.

3. Patton Oswalt and Outrage Culture. Patton Oswalt went on a 53-tweet rant about how comedians are treated in 2015. It split people between “masterful” and “frustrating as fuck,” and Zack Handlen falls decidedly in the latter camp:

But that doesn’t mean those tweets he posted should be ignored—no pitchforks please, but does every situation have to binary? Is there something wrong with our brains that we’re either setting the mansion on fire or praising the mad doctor for his orphan recycling program; are we incapable of finding way between excoriation and furious defense? This isn’t about punishing anyone, I don’t think. It’s about exposing cultural perspectives both here and abroad that deserve to be exposed for the bullshit they are; it’s about trying to actually realize why, say, making a casual joke about fat women is a shitty thing to do, because it’s cruel in a thoughtless way that makes life worse for people without offering anything else in return. Maybe the best response to “outrage culture” is to be patient, and wait for the cacophony to die down, and then ask around. Maybe “outrage culture” is just the natural evolution of a society that finally has the platforms necessary to allow all to have a voice. Maybe we’re not falling apart so much as tuning up. Read more.

4. Pro-“Fast & Furious” vs. Anti-“F&F”. Salt Lake City Weekly’s Danny Bowes is a big supporter of the “Fast & Furious” franchise. His colleague Scott Renshaw, not so much (#TeamRenshaw, sorry Danny!). They hash it out:

S.R.: The cast-dynamic thing makes sense to me, and there was an inspired quality to pulling all the characters together so relatively late in the series. My problem has been that, as action movies, I think they’ve often been terribly made. Lin, in particular, had no idea how to edit an action sequence so that it made a lick of sense. As they got more over the top — “Hey, let’s drag a safe around Brazil, or chase a tank!” — these movies were all about fun concepts with nobody in charge who could execute them.

D.B.: This is where I struggle to say anything other than, “I disagree,” and where in so struggling, I say stuff like, “the way Lin constructs action sequences may not make perfect linear or geographic sense, but it makes total emotional sense,” and point back to the sublime sequence in “Tokyo Drift” where Lucas Black has at long last learned how to drift, and he and the rest of Sung Kang’s gang drift down the mountain. That sequence is the Rosetta Stone for the entire series in terms of both the previously mentioned tone and the way that the whole of a given action sequence in these movies may be more than the sum of its component parts. Read more.

5. The Most Progressive Christian on TV. Jeff Jensen of Entertainment Weekly picks Paige Jennings of “The Americans” as TV’s most progressive Christian:

What I appreciate about Paige’s representation of faith is that it reminds us—or maybe informs us—that conservative Christianity wasn’t the only Christian game in town during the ’80s, just as it isn’t today. According to the producers of “The Americans,” they drew from progressive strands of Protestant, mainline churches of the period to portray Paige’s faith. As such, she rebuts and rebukes the decade’s dominant cultural narrative about Christianity. But she also rebuts and rebukes her non-religious parents, who represent a different cultural narrative of the Reagan era: the lapsed ’60s idealist-turned-disillusioned, materialistic yuppie. She critiques the religious and secular cultures of her time, at the same time. Read more.

6. 10 Great Mad Men Episodes. Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter picks his favorite “Mad Men” episodes (so far):

“The Wheel” (Season 1, Episode 13). The inaugural season’s brilliant finale — in which Don dreams up the Kodak presentation that leaves not a dry eye in the pitch room as his marriage to Betty wobbles seriously — put an exclamation mark on the arrival of what would become one of TV’s all-time great dramas. It’s the episode that most perfectly, seamlessly encapsulates both the protagonist’s inner life and the world of advertising he thrives on and suffers in. Read more.

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