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Daily Reads: ‘Mad Men’ Writers on Their Bests Scenes; ‘Fury Road’s Apocalyptic Gospel, and More

Daily Reads: 'Mad Men' Writers on Their Bests Scenes; 'Fury Road's Apocalyptic Gospel, and More

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

1. How the Marvel Cinematic Universe Has Transformed the Comics. MCU has transformed a lot of things since its complete takeover of all things cinema, but one aspect that’s never discussed is how it has affected the medium that spawned it. i09’s James Whitbrook explores how the Marvel films have impacted comic books.

The “X-Men” were not the only characters to get a movie-influenced costume change. Although his movie costume was inspired by the Marvel Ultimate Universe’s interpretation of the character, following Hawkeye’s first proper appearance in 2012’s “The Avengers,” the main comic’s Hawkeye ditched his long-used purple mask and replaced it with a modern, sunglasses-toting look for Matt Fraction and David Aja’s “Hawkeye” the same year. But perhaps the most egregious and obvious instance would be Star-Lord. Following the release of “Guardians of the Galaxy” last year, ditched his comic book look whole hog and started using the movie’s leather duster, mask and element guns full time in his standalone series “Legendary Star-Lord.”

2. Stop Trying to Solve TV Shows. In recent years, our culture has become obsessed with trying to “solve” ambiguity in TV, like it’s a riddle with a definitive answer. But people don’t readily accept mysteries without answers as a part of everyday life, even though it’s built into the fabric. The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg argues in a video that it’s time for this to end.

“Game of Thrones” has both long-running secrets, like the mysteries of Jon Snow’s (Kit Harrington) parentage, and stories that advance week by week. In a show that’s constructed that way, speculating over those mysteries is part of the point. But it seems a shame to let that speculation take over all the other pleasures that a show as big and rich as “Game of Thrones” or “Mad Men” affords us. And as I’ve found with shows like “True Detective,” which as I confess in the video above, lead me down some serious rabbit holes, this sort of sleuthing can lead us to convince ourselves that the shows we’re watching are better or more meaningful than they actually are.

3. What “Mad Max’s” Apocalyptic Hellscape Tells Us About Religion and Politics. Mad Max: Fury Road” has garnered widespread critical acclaim, though not necessarily popular acclaim, for Miller’s filmmaking, but it can also (obviously) speak to us about things beyond film. Alissa Wilkinson contends that “Mad Max” tells us a lot about religion’s place in today’s society.

So if “Mad Max” is any indication, those who believe in institutions, like those who feel called to build churches, are fighting an uphill battle in convincing many young Americans that they aren’t merely out to impose another kind of agenda upon them. But Max’s actions point toward what appeals to those who are searching for meaning: rescuing the oppressed, paying attention to the needy, delivering water to the thirsty, all without seeking public acclaim.”Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them,” Jesus says in Matthew’s gospel. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place,” the prophet Jeremiah writes. Maybe the filmmakers and the prophets have a lot in common.

4. Nick Pinkerton on Truck Film History. Nick Pinkerton’s Bombast column for Film Comment is one of the most reliable places for passionate, articulate film criticism. In last week’s column, Pinkerton discusses the history of the trucker film in honor of the new “Mad Max.”

Before you can have a trucking genre you must first, of course, have a trucking industry. It started in the years after World War I and spread as fast as paved roads, though it didn’t immediately capture the public imagination. Perhaps the archetypal “truck” image of the Depression years — the converted 1926 Hudson “Super Six” hauling all of the California-bound Joad family’s worldly belongings in John Ford’s “Grapes of Wrath” (40) — was one that denoted blight rather than commerce. That getting to California was only half the battle was a well-known fact to Albert Isaac Bezzerides, aka A.I. or “Buzz,” who’d emigrated from the Ottoman Empire to the Sunshine State with his family as a child, and worked with his father driving a truck in the San Joaquin Valley. If there is a single original auteur of the American trucking film, it is certainly Bezzerides, and its first masterpiece is Raoul Walsh’s “They Drive by Night,” released by Warner Brothers in the summer of 1940, and based on Bezzerides’ 1938 novel “The Long Haul.” The film, starring George Raft and Humphrey Bogart as brothers and beleaguered independent truckers, drew on Bezzerides direct experience of cutthroat practices within the industry. During the 1930s, most industrial manufacturers of any size owned their own trucks and employed their own drivers, leaving only piecemeal work for agricultural concerns to independent drivers, hauling produce and livestock to market, forced to accept work on impossible, physically ruinous terms in order to keep a competitive edge, and getting ripped off from every angle. “The Long Haul” was Bezzerides’ ticket into the screenwriting racket, and he would later adapt another of his trucking novels, 1949’s “Thieves’ Market” into the screenplay for Jules Dassin’s “Thieves’ Highway,” released the same year. “They were based on things I’d seen with my father or on my own,” Bezzerides said of his novels. “I worked with my father, trucking, going to the market to buy produce. There was corruption and they’d try to screw you. When he was selling grapes, the packing house would screw him on the price and then sell to New York for an expensive price. When I was trucking I wouldn’t allow it. A guy tried to rob me in such a blatant way I picked up a two-by-four and I was going to kill him.”

5. Six “Mad Men” Writers on the Best Scene They Wrote. 
The “Mad Men” series finale aired just last night and we’re all still mulling it over, grappling with all of our various disparate interpretations. Before we jump into our opinions, why don’t we hear from “Mad Men” writers on the best scene they wrote during their time within Matthew Weiner’s world.

“The Better Half,” season six, episode nine

“One of my favorites is the Don and Betty scene from ‘The Better Half.’ They’re visiting Bobby at his sleep away camp and wind up sleeping together, even though each of them is remarried. Afterwards, they have this candid conversation. It’s the first time Don and Betty are truly honest with each other, and Betty has the control here. She’s different, and Don isn’t. I love that this scene changes their relationship and finally reveals what was underneath all along.” —Erin Levy

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