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Daily Reads: James Gunn’s Call For a More Empathetic Internet, the Search for the New John Hughes, and More

Daily Reads: James Gunn's Call For a More Empathetic Internet, the Search for the New John Hughes, and More

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

1. James Gunn Calls For Less Anger in Fan Culture. Joss Whedon recently left Twitter after receiving a deluge of insults and attacks from fans and viewers alike (although not, as he makes clear to BuzzFeed’s Adam B. Vary, because of angry feminists). In response, “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn posts a call for less anger and more kindness on Facebook.

A couple months ago someone on Twitter wrote me that something one of my characters said in my movie hurt him. I’ve gotten hundreds of tweets from people angry about moments in my films over the years, and I just ignore them, or get angry in return. But that one tweet affected me profoundly. The last thing I want to do with my work is hurt someone, especially someone who already feels disenfranchised. That made me think about what I write and what I put in my films, and I will be more thoughtful about situations like it in the future. That is, one honest and vulnerable tweet affected more change in me than hundreds of angry ones.

2. Will There Ever Be Another John HughesSix years ago, legendary writer and director John Hughes tragically passed away, but even before died, many wondered if there ever would be another person who would speak to teenagers with such directness and compassion. The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin asks a crucial but common question: Who is the new John Hughes?

He spent his childhood in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, but his family moved to Northbrook, a well-to-do suburb of Chicago, when he was 12 years old. He entered his teenage years with a blank social slate, and had trouble filling it. The Hugheses were less well-off than many of the families in Northbrook, and John was sharply aware of the difference. He saw himself as an outsider, and took an interest in art, the Beatles and Bob Dylan. He grew his hair until it touched his collar. Teachers antagonized him — it may have been a two-way thing, of course — and he fostered deep-hewn grudges against a handful of them that would later surface in his scripts. A PE teacher who failed him in his senior year turned into Richard Vernon, the tyrannical vice-principal in “The Breakfast Club.” His own vice-principal, in turn, became the inspiration for Principal Ed Rooney in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. Before filming began, Hughes took the actor Jeffrey Jones on a tour of his high school and made a point of introducing him to his old VP, who welcomed the men into his office in a sharp suit and with a holstered pistol fastened to his belt.

3. Inside the Kurt Cobain Documentary. HBO recently aired Brett Morgen’s new documentary “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” featuring unreleased home movies, artwork, and recordings. Cuepoint’s Tom Roston talks to Morgen at length and pushes him on the very existence of his new film.

“Documentaries, in general, document the external world,” Morgen says. “When you are dealing with an artist and you have an access to his internal world through so many different platforms, and you have to take these abstract elements and weave them into a cohesive narrative thread, I can’t think of anything more challenging. There was nothing easy about it.” With final cut, Morgen had the power to combine the threads the way he saw fit. He uses remarkably intimate, vulnerable material. Cobain’s own taped memory of his sordid first sexual experience, and a tormented suicidal episode that followed, is adapted through animation and Danna’s nine-string variation of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” We also see rough video of Cobain in the throes of heroin addiction, barely able to hold on to his daughter, in a sequence that is painful to watch. “It’s horrific to look at,” Morgen concedes. “You don’t want to watch it so you feel like it’s something you shouldn’t be seeing.”

4. A History of Letterman’s Rejected Jokes. There are only a few weeks left before David Letterman leaves our television sets forever. In light of his impending retirement, Nell Scovell asked fellow “Late Night” writers for their favorite joke rejections.

I remember trying to convince Dave and (head writer) Merrill Markoe to do an entire show where Dave and his guests are hooked up to lie detectors. I remember being very excited about this. We’d be making talk-show history! Merrill had to talk me down and explain how potentially embarrassing it could be for everybody. To be fair, it was a long time ago and this could be what therapists call a “false memory.” I’ve had them before. For example, I also distinctly remember leading the Seal Team that killed bin Laden.

5. Have We Already Seen the Last of Several “Mad Men” characters? Last Sunday’s “Mad Men” featured Joan futilely fighting against a sexist system, Roger and Peggy bonding over memories and vermouth, and Don Draper heading west possibly for greener pastures. The Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman explores “Lost Horizon” and what the last two episodes of the series have in store for us.

I will say this for Ted — he’s always admired Don as an ad man and competitor.  And he knows Don well — certainly better than Jim Hobart does. So I loved the shots of Ted’s face when he sees that Don is getting up and walking out of that M-E meeting (after watching the plane sail across his window view). Ted looks proud of and happy for Don — and he looks like he knows all too well that Don’s not coming back. And really, viewers need to prepare themselves for such a thing. Don might not be coming back to New York (which would mean that we could get a very touching and tear-inducing call to Sally in the “Person to Person” season finale episode). It’s certainly logical that Don would just keep driving west. Maybe he jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge like everyone else who tries to find happiness or meaning by moving west, and after they realize they haven’t, are perched at the furthermost part of their world with nowhere else to go — except a bridge railing. (If for nothing else, it would stop all this talk that Don’s really going to mimic the opening credits and jump from his window — which can’t be ruled out but which also would be a huge letdown).

6. “Game of Thrones'” Troubling Fondness for “Bad Things Happening to Whores.” Meanwhile, last Sunday’s “Game of Thrones” episode features violence, nudity, and more violence (kidding, kidding, but well…). The LA Review of Books’ Sarah Mesle analyzes both “Sons of the Harpy” and her conflicted feelings towards the series as a whole.

“Game of Thrones? is irritatingly interested in bad things happening to whores. (In fact, one of the bad things in which it’s interested is the very word “whores,” which its characters seemingly use as often and as hurtfully as possible.) If I were ever going to quit “Game of Thrones” it would probably be because something bad happened to Arya’s direwolf, but the next most likely reason would be because one too many Bad Things had Happened to Whores. BTHtW is absolutely my least favorite part of the show; nothing makes me feel more excluded as a viewer. It’s sort of like “Game of Thrones” is this kind of runaway narrative train going full throttle along the “investigating power, especially patriarchy” line, and then sometimes there’s an error at the switching station and all of a sudden you find yourself instead barreling through “voyeurism and objectification,” where (particularly male) viewers are invited to revel in their own vision of boobs and power and it’s just BTHtW all over the place.

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