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Daily Reads: ‘Mad Men’s Finest Moment, Why James Wan DId ‘Furious Seven’ and More

Daily Reads: 'Mad Men's Finest Moment, Why James Wan DId 'Furious Seven' and More

Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential news
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1. “Mad Men’s” Emotional Apex. What’s “Mad Men’s” finest moment? Mike D’Angelo of The A.V. Club picks the final minutes of Season 5’s “The Other Woman”:

At the time, it was unclear whether Peggy had just been written off the show entirely (or so I glean from reading reviews that were filed right after the episode aired). That seemed unlikely, but not impossible, and several months passed after the end of season five before Weiner publicly confirmed that Moss would be returning for season six. In any case, as Peggy gathers a few belongings and heads for the elevator, it was hard to know whether to feel joy that she’d finally extricated herself from an intolerable situation, in which her talent was taken for granted, or to feel miserable that she was walking out of our lives. Read more.

2. 13 Actors Brought Back from the Dead. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. “Furious Seven” brings Paul Walker back from the dead for two hours. Greg Cwik of Vulture looked at other films that resurrected actors with varying degrees of success.

Bruce Lee in “Game of Death” (1978). Five years after Bruce Lee’s death, Robert Clouse, who directed Lee’s Enter the Dragon, was hired to finish the 1972 film “Game of Death,” for which Lee had shot around 100 minutes of footage before putting production on pause. Clouse flensed most of the scenes and spliced shots of Lee into new scenes, creating a bizarre bastard of a movie that makes no sense. Ultimately, less than 12 minutes of Lee’s original footage remain, and while Clouse was an esteemed filmmaker and the cast included several Oscar nominees; the inane efforts to have stunt doubles play Lee are painful to watch. The worst instance involves a cardboard cutout of Lee’s face being taped to a mirror while a double sits in front of the mirror, hiding behind the static mask. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t hideous. Read more.

3. “Mad Men’s” Feminism. “Mad Men” takes place in a key moment of feminist history, and The Los Angeles Times’ Meredith Blake spoke with Matthew Weiner and the women of “Mad Men” about the show’s feminist bent:

Contrary to other popular entertainment about the 1960s, “Mad Men” focuses not on activists or hippies but on members of Richard Nixon’s “silent majority.” Its characters, by and large, are not the type to sit in at lunch counters or burn their draft cards. Instead, they craft advertising campaigns for companies that make napalm and refuse to hire black employees. Likewise, there is a big difference between being a feminist show and being a show about feminists. “Mad Men” has always resisted becoming the latter, reluctant to use its women as emblems of any particular movement. Peggy and Joan are unwitting trailblazers, compelled to break barriers by circumstance as much as ideology, and the era’s suffocating gender expectations aren’t the only — or even the main — thing keeping Betty from finding happiness. “I always look at a character from the inside,” Weiner said, “so everyone, rightly or wrongly, is a person to begin with. And then they’re informed by their class, their childhood, their occupation, their gender, their race.” Read more.

4. Why Did James Wan Do “Furious Seven?” What’s the director of “Insidious” and “The Conjuring” doing directing “Furious Seven?” Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri investigates:

“I’ve always loved action movies,” he says. “The first films I fell in love with were ‘Star Wars’ and Steven Spielberg films.” Growing up in Perth, Australia, Wan had the kind of largely ordinary, suburban childhood depicted in those Spielberg films — the kind that is constantly threatened in his own horror movies. He discovered horror at a young age, but it was only one part of his cinematic upbringing. “The first two movies to open my eyes were ‘Poltergeist’ and ‘Snow White,’” he says. “They made me realize how strong, emotionally, movies could make me feel, how magical they were.” Read more.

5. Kanye West: Filmmaker. Kanye West is one of the great popular musicians of our time, but he’s also a fascinating filmmaker. Charles Bramesco of The Dissolve writes:

West has been the guiding creative force behind three short films. After he and Spike Jonze collaborated for the “Flashing Lights” video, they co-directed a 14-minute short called “We Were Once A Fairytale” in 2009, as an expanded version of the video for the “808s & Heartbreak” single “See You In My Nightmares.” A year later, West debuted “Runaway,” a 35-minute art film to accompany the release of his fifth studio record, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” His third project was no pedestrian movie; “Cruel Summer” was a 30-minute multi-screen cinematic experience that blew minds and eardrums at Cannes 2012. Each film is denser, darker, and more psychotically ambitious than the last—viewers can practically sense West’s boredom with the constraints of film as he evolves beyond character, dialogue, and the limits of a normal frame. The three shorts’ main point of connection is West himself, as each burrows a little deeper into his lavish, fuming id. Read more.

6. Religion at the Movies. For Easter, Matt Fagerholm of RogerEbert.com writes about religion in the movies, how Roger Ebert felt about religion, and five worthwhile Easter movie viewings:

“The Gospel According to St. Matthew” (1964). It’s rather unfortunate that this beautifully lensed, black-and-white Italian gem is less famous for its cinematic strengths and more for the notoriety of its director, Pier Paolo Pasolini, the controversial auteur whose identity as a gay socialist atheist made him an unlikely choice to helm a film on any biblical topic. Yet Pasolini was clearly moved by Christ’s story, and his film is visual poetry of the highest order. It may not be quite as gripping as other biblical films, but it rewards patient viewers with moments of exquisite beauty, such as when Christ miraculously heals a leper. Much of the film’s ancient locations, particularly Matera, were later revisited in “The Passion of the Christ.” Read more.

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