Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential news stories and critical pieces to you.
1. Why Robert Downey Jr’s Anti-Indie Film Stance Is More Complicated Than It Seems. During a chat with Entertainment Weekly Radio, Robert Downey Jr. said he wouldn’t make an independent film after a blockbuster despite being the progeny of one the best independent filmmakers. At Way Too Indie, Nathan Rabin explores the creative relationship between Robert Downey Sr. and Jr.
Press tours have a way of bringing out the worst in actors by subjecting them to the same asinine questions over and over again and making them feel like mercenaries out shilling their wares to whatever outlet is interested. So when Downey Jr. told Entertainment Weekly Radio that he’s reluctant to plunge into the world of independent film again because, in his estimation, “they’re exhausting and sometimes they suck and then you just go, ‘What was I thinking?'” part of me suspects he was channeling the sneering bluntness of Tony Stark. That’s what makes Downey Jr’s casting as Tony Stark/Iron Man so inspired. They’re both paradoxically men of almost superhuman resilience and strength who are paradoxically defined by their intense vulnerability. And, if that fifty million dollar paycheck and robot suit can make a man who has been through many a hell of his own devising, feel stronger and less vulnerable, than it’s understandable why he might prefer playing superheroes to the kinds of misfits bumming around the fringes you tend to find at Sundance.
2. “Mad Men’s” End as a Metaphor for the Myth of the ’60s and Itself. “Mad Men’s” ambiguous core naturally opens itself up to numerous interpretations about what it really means. EW’s Jeff Jensen has his own idea: “Mad Men” chronicles the rise and fall of the 1960’s and the rise and fall of its own success.
Pop culture tends to turn the ’60s into an American fall myth – from Camelot to Quagmire, from the Can Do! spirit of the Space Race to the Please, Stop! of Vietnam. “Mad Men” has followed suit in many ways. Here at the end, we see Sterling Cooper & Partners, our microcosm for American culture, as lost heroic agency. Their deflated members reflect that legacy. In Joan, we see the disillusioned. In Ken, we see the sell-out. In Don and Roger, we see the indicted Nixons who screwed a culture with a power-mongering blunder. “You were supposed to look out for us,” Peggy told Roger, who brokered the deal to McCann in a mad bid to remain relevant to and in control of his world.
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3. The Future of Slasher Movies. The original “Friday The 13th,” the first slasher film, is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, so The Dissolve’s Matt Barone examines the slasher film and explores the past and future of the genre.
Granted, the only way to remember “Friday The 13th” as a sneakily assaultive little creepshow, rather than a joke itself, is by re-watching it. This post-“Scream” generation of slasher-movie watchers understandably can’t separate the genre from the humor and wink-wink cheekiness inadvertently initiated by “Friday The 13th’s” inferior 1980s knockoffs, and knowingly subverted by Kevin Williamson’s brilliantly meta “Scream” script. Furthermore, the first “Scream,” released way back in 1996, is the last legitimately scary American-made slasher movie. The rest of this generation’s slice-and-dice flicks are unabashedly nostalgic, and steer away from frights with comedy (like Adam Green’s “Hatchet” series). Or they’re horror-comedies (like “Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon”). Or they were made with the one-note desire to elicit shallow, look-at-the-guts! cheers (“The Hills Run Red,” “Laid To Rest”). Or they’re reprehensibly misogynistic nightmares (“Muck”). And then there’s Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s 2014 remake of “The Town That Dreaded Sundown,” which is about 75 percent a great slasher movie, and 25 percent a frustrating climax that’s trying to be “Scream.”
4. A Celebration of TV’s Non-Moms. Mother’s Day was yesterday, which is fantastic for everyone except those who are child-free. In honor of those women who choose not to be moms, Lisa Rosman celebrates the storied history of TV non-moms.
The 1970s, that hotbed of ERA activism, may be the best decade to date for child-free women on television. Let’s start with that patron saint of career gals everywhere, Mary Richards of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Played by Moore, who until then had been known as Dick Van Dyke’s long-legged, longer-suffering wife on his eponymous TV show, Richards was a tam-o’-shanter-tossing beacon of female self-realization. The show began when her happily-ever-after ended with a fella and she was forced to – gasp – find a job. Over the years she focused on her friendships and blossoming TV career; she dated intermittently but was blissfully child-free through the series’ conclusion. “The Mary Tyler Moore” show also spawned Rhoda Morgenstern, the appealingly wry Valerie Harper character first introduced as MTM’s neighbor. A New York Jew with an impressive array of head scarfs, Rhoda bemoaned her lifestyle when living in Minneapolis with Mary but came into her own once she moved back to Manhattan (and got her own series). Though she was married for one season, she never had children of her own, and never seemed to mind. (A brief foray into stepmotherhood did not suit her.) And we must acknowledge Emily Hartley of “The Bob Newhart Show.” Played by the inimitable Suzanne Pleshette, she was the witheringly sarcastic yet supportive school-teacher wife of witheringly sarcastic yet supportive Chicago psychiatrist Robert (Newhart). The couple enjoyed that rarest of things in Hollywoodland: a mature, contentedly child-free marriage.
5. Top 10 Repeat Guests on Letterman. We only have a little over a week left before David Letterman retires to the desk in the sky. Last week, Letterman himself “estimated that there have been 105,000 guests on the different iterations of his talk shows.” Rolling Stone’s Tim Grierson counts down the Top 10 Repeat Guests on Letterman. Drum roll, please.
8. Robin Williams. The knock on Williams was that his inspired, high-energy talk-show segments started to become a crutch, merely an endless string of non-sequitur impersonations and undisciplined manic riffing. But especially since his suicide in 2014, it’s impossible not to view those appearances with far more sympathy, recognizing the self-loathing and sadness that fueled his nonstop motion. When Letterman returned to “Late Show” after heart surgery in 2000, Williams was his first guest, coming out dressed in scrubs and surgical mask. (“Aren’t you glad you didn’t see this at the surgery?” Williams joked to the host. “‘Hey, Dave! It’s me!!'”) Dave and Robin had known each other for 38 years when Williams died, first meeting at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. “It’s like nothing we had ever seen before, nothing we had ever imagined before,” Letterman would say after Williams’ passing about those early days of watching Robin’s stand-up sets. “We didn’t approach him because we were afraid of him, honest to god. You thought, ‘Holy crap, there goes my chance at show business.
Tweet of the Day:
My show has gone to a farm up in heaven…where as a show w/a Latino cast, will be expected to pick the crops of the farm for little money.
— Cristela Alonzo (@cristela9) May 8, 2015