Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential news stories and critical pieces to you.
1. “Full House” and the Corrosive Power of Nostalgia. Netflix is rebooting the TGIF family sitcom “Full House.” Time’s James Poniewozik examines reboots and the dangers of nostalgia.
A good, original family sitcom might appeal to what “Full House” fans are missing, and it might recapture some of them. But there’s one thing it will never have that “Full House” did: you, in your Ninja Turtles pajamas, happy and laughing with your whole life ahead of you. That’s nostalgia. That’s nothing new. What’s new is having the outlets and the resources to enable it. The reboot craze is a new iteration of the old impulse to program what focus groups say they want to see. And increasingly, as more past TV is available on streaming, what they want to see is their own past.
2. How the Children of the 70’s Killed the Movies. The recent glut of superhero films has Intelligent Life’s Tom Shone wondering, “Who’s to blame for killing the movies?” His answer? Him and all his childhood friends.
Today I look at the abundance of merchandise and movies aimed at kids like me with wonder and confusion, like Hiep Thi Le registering the vastness of an American supermarket in Oliver Stone’s “Heaven and Earth.” A form tilted towards underdogs has become the plaything of bullies — soft-power workouts for the couch-potato dauphins of the world’s last remaining military colossus. Today’s comic-book movies are dreams of power with their roots in weakling wish fulfilment all but eliminated: the civilian alter-egos of the Avengers and the X-Men barely get a look-in, while the mortals with whom they once enjoyed romantic dalliances are similarly banished from the summer’s high-impact smasheroos and demolition derbies. The form has entered its decadent phase of superhero-on-superhero violence and synergistic mash-up. These guys mix only with other superheroes, like a-list celebrities, or royals.
3. “It Follows” and the Transgressive Pleasure of the Horror Movie. Why do we seek out the feeling of fear? Slate’s Leslie Jamison meditates on “It Follows” and chasing the terror, even when it’s right behind you.
They are still somehow innocent, these kids, and they are fighting with the weapons of their innocence; and of course the premise of the film is in some way about innocence, and falling-from-grace-via-sex-in-a-station-wagon, but part of what I love about the movie is the way it coaxes and then complicates various metaphorical interpretations of its premise. Getting followed comes from sex, sure; but the only solution is more of it. In fact, the best solution is sex with someone else who will have a lot of sex—in fact, you want to seek out a slut who only sleeps with other sluts who only sleep with other sluts, preferably globe-trotting sluts; a train of infinite and never-ending and very frequent sex is the only way to stop this thing once you’ve got it. Immediately the mind starts calculating, backseat sex-strategizing: You’ve got to fuck someone with so much game, or superhuman strength, someone who could actually kill this thing; you’ve got to fuck a sumo wrestler or an MMA fighter; you’ve got to fly across the world and fuck a prostitute and fly back home. At first Jay doesn’t even fuck anyone. Then she does. Then she regrets it. Then she does it again. All this feels less about culpability, the sexual engine of so many horror stories, and more about powerlessness; it’s certainly not about losing her virginity—one senses that happened years ago, in someone’s mother’s minivan.
4. Mad Men’s “The Forecast” Through the Peanut Butter-Smeared Lens of Peter Pan. Last week’s “Mad Men” featured a Peter Pan brand of peanut butter. Capital New York’s Starlee Kine analyzes the episode through the lens of that old tale.
Don has grown bored. His whole life has been a dream and now he’s in need of new material. But no one’s fictions are as creative as his. Just give me the broad strokes, he tells Peggy’s team. He can fill in the blanks in his sleep. Just bring in a bar of soap, he tells the copywriter, tell them it’s to wash your mouth out or something. He trails off, too uninspired to finish the pitch. You’re so much better at painting a picture, Ted tells Don, too rich to bother to compete with him. The only fights still happening are between the employees who still have to work for a living. Pete walks around, so drunk on power he’s fallen into a stupor. He’s switched from fighting to firing. All that’s left is to ponder the big question: in the future will I be here at all? Captain Hook claws Peter and leaves him to die, stranded on a rock, the tide rising. Peter isn’t afraid. What’s death but the next “awfully big adventure?” Then a bird offers her nest to him as a boat and he sails home. Sometimes freedom comes in the form of sanctuary.
5. When Binge-Watching Turns to Purge-Watching. The age of binge-watching is upon us all, but what happens when innocent binging turns into nasty purging? Vulture’s Adam Sternbergh looks at why people often watch a whole season of a show they don’t like in one sitting.
Yet too often I find myself binge-watching for other less noble and less enjoyable reasons — much in the way that, say, the concept of binge-eating doesn’t exactly conjure culinary discernment or unmitigated enjoyment. I’m binge-watching to simply get a show off my plate — I’m purge-watching, basically. (Purging being another term with unfortunate food associations.) For some reason, it’s very easy to quit a weekly show mid-season, or even after one less-than-enticing episode. But because there’s always one more “Daredevil” to devour, I feel compelled to consume them all. I found it very easy to part ways with “Gotham” after sampling the pilot, and haven’t looked back. Did Gotham get better? Maybe — but I don’t really mind missing out on a pretty good show. The dilemma of the cornucopic modern TV age is not that you won’t see a pretty good show you might enjoy; it’s that you’ll waste too much time watching a pretty bad show that you don’t enjoy — which is precisely the temptation that binge-watching presents.
6. Spinsters in Hollywood. There are very few films that feature happily-single women by the film’s end. Word and Film’s Lisa Rosman examines the rare films that have female characters who chose to live independently.
We need only to look at cinema to realize how far we are from a world in which, as Bolick puts it, a woman is “free to consider the long scope of her life as her distinct self.” Put simply, women in films are never contentedly unattached. They may be single — but tragically or darkly comically so, as if they’re suffering from a condition that requires treatment. And make no mistake: that treatment is almost always a relationship. Hollywood is built upon the twin tenets of big guns and big love, and it’s generally uncomfortable with ambiguity, especially when it comes to single ladies. Happy endings — the glamorous finality of “Jack shall have his Jill” — are what the movie doctor ordered. Unattached women are either Bridget Jones types — not-so-hot messes who must be rescued by modern Mr. Darcys — or dangerously untamed women who must die, as Glenn Close does in “Fatal Attraction” and Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon do in “Thelma and Louise.” Far, far less common are films that conclude with women who are joyously, consciously unattached — not as a last-ditch solution to a toxic romance (“Heathers”) or a love triangle (“St Elmo’s Fire,” “Broadcast News”) but as an active choice to live independently.
Tweet of the Day:
I hate saying “we’ve always known” when someone comes out because you shouldn’t judge a person’s journey. But Iceman girl we all knew…
— Jonathan Lisecki (@jonnynyc) April 21, 2015
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