Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential news stories and critical pieces to you.
1. Why 1980 Was the Best Year in Movie History. All this week, HitFix writers are debating the greatest film year of the past half century. To kick things off, Richard Rushfield argues that 1980 was the best movie year using his own inclusive methodology.
I hold that the period from 1978 – 1981 was the era in which the artistic and the commercial, the popular and the idiosyncratic came as close to overlapping as they ever could – as they ever would again. It reminds one of the brief period in the late 1930’s when for a moment, jazz music was the most popular genre in America. In that moment, the jazz artists had learned and integrated the tools of popular dance tunes, and both elevated them to something greater, while making jazz the more accessible. It could only last a moment and the soul of jazz would turn away from mere dance music to something more personal and less accessible, but while it lasted it was a golden era.
2. Oscar Isaac’s Dancing “Ex Machina” GIF and How Marketing Warps Movies. There’s a scene in “Ex Machina” when Oscar Isaac dances to disco and, of course, the Internet has taken it and made it viral. Grantland’s Kevin Lincoln thinks that this type of entertainment extraction negative affects the filmgoing experience.
When we strip-mine our entertainment for parts, we risk hamstringing what makes the whole experience remarkable: this capacity to transport us emotionally and psychologically to destinations we couldn’t anticipate. Encountering that scene within “Ex Machina,” it’s a masterpiece of unpredictable filmmaking. Encountering it outside of “Ex Machina,” it’s a viral video. There’s nothing wrong with viral videos. They’re just a poor substitute for art.
3. Why “Furious Seven” Is Different From Other Box-Office Smashes. “Furious Seven” is the fifth-highest grossing release of all time worldwide. But how is it any different from the other big box-office hits? The LA Times’ Steven Zeitchik explores why “Furious 7” stands out from the pack.
One of Hollywood’s biggest problems in growing properties these days is sameness — viewers feel like they’ve seen it before, so a title has a hard time expanding its base beyond those who already like it. Yet whether it’s the upped ante in the stunts, the fact that the stunts are more visceral and physical than their effects-driven counterparts or perhaps simply the atypical combination of action and sentiment, people feel they haven’t seen it before, and “Furious Seven” has been able to find a way around that pitfall.
4. “Game of Thrones” Is Making Some Big Changes to George R.R. Martin’s Books. “Game of Thrones” is finally diverging from George R.R. Martin’s original series of novels. EW’s Hillary Busis and Darren Franich debate the changes from page-to-screen and try to predict where it’s all headed.
I know that sometimes I can be a real Khal Killjoy with regard to book-to-TV changes. (“What about Quentyn?” he asked, a single tear falling down his face.) But this was my favorite episode since the Purple Wedding. Call me a sucker for nightmarish nuptials, because I am Team Samsay. He’s a psychopath who wants to be a real boy; she’s a onetime innocent with vengeance on her mind. I like this for a few different reasons. It gets a Stark back in Winterfell. It twists Sansa’s dynamic from King’s Landing. There, she had to stay on a sociopath’s good side in order to survive; now she’s SORT OF doing the same thing, but (arguably) with more agency. And it further twists our family loyalties — in the long term, does this make Arya and Sansa enemies?
5. An Ode to the Lost World of the Film Projection Booth. The shift from film to digital has unfortunately rendered the 35mm projection booth antiquated. Wired’s Bryan Gardiner reports on aspiring filmmaker Taylor Umphenour’s project to documenting and cataloguing a lost medium.
“For a piece of equipment to run daily, several times a day, for three quarters of a century, [it] speaks to the craftsmanship and incredible attention to detail invested by the designers of these machines,” Umphenour says. “To me, the film projectors are like a wondrous magic trick: thread them with a celluloid ribbon, strike the carbon arc, open the douser, and the stuff of dreams pours out.”
Tweet(s) of the Day:
“Elevating popular taste & popularizing elevated films”: The late Richard Corliss’s aim at Film Comment. Simple, not easy. But crucial.
— Michael Phillips (@phillipstribune) April 27, 2015
— Danny Bowes (@bybowes) April 25, 2015