Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential news stories and critical pieces to you.
1. George Miller’s Post-Nuclear Families Bring His Filmography Together. George Miller’s strange, fascinating career has gone in many different directions, from “Mad Max” to “Lorenzo’s Oil” to the “Happy Feet” films. It’s difficult to see the connecting thread between these films, but Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri argues it’s the films’ post-nuclear families that brings them all together.
It’s understandable that a director as focused on families as Miller is would turn out to be an ideal director of kids’ films: Rebuilding families, and forging new ones, plays a key part in the “Happy Feet” films, as well as “Babe: Pig in the City” (1998). In the latter, the porcine protagonist — who already forms part of a unit with Farmer and Mrs. Hoggett — finds himself adrift in a big city and in a house full of other animals, including two chimps, one of whom gives birth to twins soon after the other animals arrive. The birth helps unify the bickering creatures and begins the process of turning them into something whose bonds run deeper. In the film’s climax, a breathtaking set piece reminiscent of the Thunderdome itself (the film might as well have been called Mad Max: Pig in the City), Mrs. Hoggett and several men wreak havoc by repeatedly chandelier-bungeeing into the posh crowd at a charity event as they fight over Babe. The scene ends, however, with everyone trying to save the twin baby chimps — a symbol, perhaps, of the fact that all throughout the film we’ve been watching a broader, more diverse family being born, one made up of chimpanzees, ducks, dogs, cats, humans, and others. By the end of the film, they’ve all moved to the Hoggetts’ farm and are living together in harmony.
2. Why Are People So Upset Over the Faked “Good Wife” Finale Scene? “The Good Wife” finale aired over a week ago, but people are still talking about that scene between Alicia and Kalinda. Actresses Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi haven’t played a scene together in two years, and that scene in the finale was no different. Though we didn’t really need one more scene between the two of them, people are still quite upset over the trickery employed by “The Good Wife,” but Slate’s June Thomas believes the uproar is unnecessary.
I’m frankly surprised that some viewers feel stung by the finale’s technical deception. I hope no one tells them that all those scenes of people driving around in cars involve no actual movement; that the show’s trials aren’t filmed in a real courtroom; or that the Chicago-set show is made in New York. Superhero movies aren’t the only dramas that use green-screen work, and it seems naive to grumble about it. I suspect that many of the complaints are a pretext to establish that the author is aware of the rumored feud between Margulies and Panjabi, but since no one — not even well-connected Ausiello — knows the cause of the hostilities, “The Good Wife” team deserves praise for keeping a lid on its personnel issues.
3. “Mad Men” and the Coke Jingle Theory. “Mad Men” ended last night with (Spoiler Alert) Don Draper doing yoga and smiling, seemingly deep in thought, but then it cuts to the famous “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” ad that closes the series. Naturally, this ending has spawned many interpretations, but one of the most common is: Did Don write the ad? That’s left up to us, but we do know who wrote the jingle in real life, and it wasn’t a tall white man. Tim Carmody wrote about Roquel “Billy” Davis, the African American advertising legend who co-wrote and produced the famous jingle.
We have a long tradition in the United States of erasing the creative work of black Americans, of suggesting that the inventions of black men and women either came from nowhere, came from no one in particular, or were in fact the creations of white people. We do this in our history, in our oral traditions, and even in our fiction. In “Back to the Future,” Marty McFly travels back in time and somehow manages to retroactively invent rock and roll. He does this by playing a version of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” which Chuck’s cousin Marvin (who happens to be in Marty’s backing band) relays to him over the telephone.
4. An Interview with the Real Life Ad Man Who Created the “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” Campaign. Speaking of that Coke commercial, the real-life ad man who devised the campaign was Bill Backer, formerly the creative director at McCann. Over at Slate, Laura Bennett interviewed Backer about his feelings on “Mad Men” and their use of his work.
How do you feel about the fact that Don Draper basically co-opted your achievement?
[Laughs.] I’m certainly not Don Draper. In my day, Don Draper really would’ve been more of a contact man than a creative guy. The creative people in my day didn’t dress as elegantly as Don Draper, and they didn’t have nearly as much daily client contact. We had people, they were called contact men, that did the work of talking to the clients. Then I would present the advertising. But I didn’t spend as much time wining and dining clients and wives and ex wives as Don Draper does. And neither did the other creative directors of my day. You’re too young to remember. But I definitely did not look like Don Draper or dress like Don Draper. Don is a martini-drinking suave character. Most of the creative directors had a little more ink stain on their hands. They did the actual writing and working. They were a different breed, I thought, than Don Draper.
5. The Hidden Triumphs of Late-Period Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new film “Maggie” came out a couple weeks ago, and much of the praise has focused on Ahh-nold himself. The Dissolve’s Scott Tobias explores Schwarzenegger’s post-politics film career and the hidden triumphs within.
But there’s a difference between an ’80s nostalgia tour and the genuine revival signaled by “The Last Stand,” Schwarzenegger’s first big starring vehicle after the governorship, and a woefully underrated one at that. Rather than riding along with a fossil like Stallone, Schwarzenegger teamed up with Kim Jee-woon, the talented, bold Korean genre stylist behind “A Tale Of Two Sisters; The Good, The Bad, The Weird;” and “I Saw The Devil.” Kim updates a Western premise for “The Last Stand,” which basically amounts to a lawman (Schwarzenegger) squaring off in a bloody showdown in a one-horse town, but not all the way to the present. Instead, the film consciously goes against the trends of the day by reviving the physical stunts and hard-R bloodletting of Schwarzenegger’s earliest work. Though the semi-major studio Lionsgate released it to the graveyard of mid-January, which is practically begging for the derision the film got in many corners, “Last Stand” shows how comfortable Schwarzenegger can be returning to the mid-1980s destruction of “Commando” and “Raw Deal” without having to resort to glib self-reference. If he must return to his roots, this was the way to do it.
Tweet of the Day:
GoT WRITERS ROOM
“Just spitballin’ here”
“What if instead of NOT having a rape this week,”
“We have a rape.”
“Oh, that’s smart.”
— Drew Magary (@drewmagary) May 18, 2015
Video of the Day: Eight years of “Next Week on Mad Men”