Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential news stories and critical pieces to you.
1. The Sneaky Power of Amy Schumer. Judd Apatow’s new film “Trainwreck” starring Amy Schumer opens in theaters next Friday. Though she’s already on the rise, “Trainwreck” is supposed to send Schumer into the stratosphere of fame and make her a household name. The New York Times’ Melena Ryzik profiles Schumer ahead of her new film.
By giving selfies and boy bands the same political and comic weight as rape and reproductive rights, Ms. Schumer, 34, has emerged as a feminist hero, able to transform from the butt of her own jokes to a savvy debunker of double standards. Equal parts naughty cheerleader, self-deprecating Everywoman and fearless truth-teller, Ms. Schumer connects with women and men alike, all while she lampoons them and the media’s lopsided portrayals. To Michele Schreiber, who teaches film and media at Emory University, Ms. Schumer’s comedy is “perfectly suited to a changing cultural landscape in which the word ‘feminism’ is slowly losing its negative connotations,” she said, adding that Ms. Schumer “dispels the most persistent point about feminists, which is that feminists can’t take a joke.” But striking a balance between political and funny is still “very, very challenging,” she said. That Ms. Schumer pulls it off “makes her kind of sneakily, incredibly powerful.”
2. 10 Ways to Save 35mm.The Close-Up Film Festival’s Damien Sanville talks to Little White Lies about how to keep the medium of film alive, which Sophie Monks Kaufman boils down to a 10-point plan.
“What would be the point of going to see a Turner — a beautiful picture of a Turner. It’s exactly the same. DCP is extraordinary in terms of the technology and the quality but it’s comparing an oil panting with a fantastic picture of the painting for simple reasons that – I’m not going to go extensively into the descriptions why – but one of the most important examples is: with film the blacks are created by the obstruction of light, whereas in digital the blacks are created by light going through a spectrum of colours so black is still made of light. Another thing is that film, as you know, is made of 24 frames per second which means that you have a little strip of black in between each image. You can’t perceive it, it’s not possible – but it creates rhythm, it creates an imperceptible rhythm which is lost with digital. There’s no frames as such. There’s a beam light and that’s that.
“So there’s all these elements that makes film, film: its texture, how it feels, its fabric and this can be only experienced once one is watching the film. People coming here watching the John Cassavetes films were absolutely amazed by the fact that it was 35mm, and they could tell. There is this myth as well when you talk to anyone in general, they’re going to say, ‘Well, I couldn’t tell the difference between DCP or digital and 35’ it’s like, ‘Yeah, you could.’ If we were to screen the two films side-by-side it would be so obvious it would be almost like watching a colour film versus a black and white film. There’s this obviousness or contrast. It’s a complete different medium all together. I think that is being gradually lost in terms of the understanding because people are just used to seeing DCP. Most cinemas if not all cinemas now are equipped with DCP.”
3. On Hypermasculinity: The Objectification of Men in “Magic Mike XXL”. “Magic Mike XXL” is still raking in profits at the box office riding a wave of critical acclaim that highlights its focus on female pleasure. In fact, one can argue that male objectification is one of the major reasons for its big appeal. Movie Mezzanine’s Fariha Roisin explores this exhilarating objectification in “Magic Mike XXL.”
This lack of affectation is Channing Tatum’s most compelling quality. It’s reminiscent of Matthew McConaughey before his recent “McConaissance,” like Matt Damon’s parody of him on “The Letterman Show” — the carefree alright alright alright, an innocence hinged on good American values. Like pre-McConaissance McConaughey, Tatum seems comfortable by being watched — though not necessarily by performing, at least not always. He knows he’s an entertainer, and he expresses as much, but he has no interest, it seems, in being a personality. That’s why he expects that gaze — maybe he even welcomes it — but only until he stops performing. Afterwards, he’s no longer a character of his own cherished cultivation, and therefore not for your consumption. Tatum is a man who seems to want a wife and a job; those are appurtenances of human life that he requires, and his interest in film seems to be purely accidental. He seems to lack the acuity of film language, but there’s an eagerness and a Protestant-like work ethic that shines. In fact, as he sits by the sheets of paper of his furniture designs, or by his DIY costumes for his stripper-convention in “XXL,” there’s a continuity of hardworking blue-collar appeal. Let’s not forget that “Magic Mike” is loosely based on his life as a stripper. This, his severity of work ethic, is what proves to be worthy of our fascination and seduction. His sexuality is based on how hard he’d work for you. As I walked out of the screening of the film, I couldn’t help but say, “Channing Tatum is such a ride or die!”
4. “The Third Man” at Cannes in 1949. One of the A.V. Club’s best features is Palme Thursday, film editor’s A.A. Dowd’s monthly exploration of Palme D’Or winners. In honor of “The Third Man’s” re-release in theaters, A.A. Dowd examines the film and the reasons why it appealed to the Cannes Jury.
Viewing the tumultuous aftermath of World War II through the microcosm of a corrupted friendship, “The Third Man” might have resonated with the all-French jury of 1949. Cannes, which was originally conceived as a response to the Axis propaganda of the Venice Film Festival, suffered a false start a decade earlier when — on the first (and only) day of the aborted first festival — Germany invaded Poland. That’s a roundabout way of saying that the war looms large over both “The Third Man” and the fest that awarded it Grand Prize (six years before the introduction of the Palme D’Or). Or maybe the deciders just knew a masterpiece when they saw one. More than half-a-century later, and outside of the shadow (a word you’ll encounter again in this piece) of WWII, Reed’s movie still stands as one of the most convincing arguments for cinema as a fundamentally collaborative medium. It’s a collision of artistic visionaries, the kind that might start quarrels between hardcore auteurists. Does the film belong most to Reed, or to its other English creator, the novelist-turned-screenwriter Graham Greene? Is it an Orson Welles film at heart, never mind that — contrary to enduring myth — he didn’t direct a frame of it? Or does Aussie cinematographer Robert Krasker, the man responsible for all those striking Dutch angles and the film’s peerless interplay of light and dark, deserve his name before the title? Hell, one could even make a case that composer Anton Karas is the true star of “The Third Man;” it’s impossible to imagine the movie without his infectious zither score, which became a chart-topping hit the world over.
5. The Tree of Knowledge: On The Films of Aleksei German. Aleksei German’s critically acclaimed new film “Hard To Be A God” recently hit Netflix. German was a Soviet and Russian filmmaker whose films had a large influence on Russian filmmakers, even though he’s still relatively unknown in the West. On his blog, Scout Tafoya analyzes German’s filmography and his myriad accomplishments.
Whether or not the Brothers Strugatsky ever actually said that German was the only man for the job of adapting “Hard To Be A God,” the fact remains that few directors endured the whips and scorns of a government that seemed to actively resent his existence. This made him uniquely qualified to tell the story of a civilization stuck in the dark ages. Tossing out just about everything except what felt true to the central conceit – mainly the drunken antihero’s perpetual snit as he drifts around a world he’s not allowed to change – German hasn’t so much made a movie as engineered a case of Stendhal Syndrome. There is no way to avoid being sucked into the slithering bowels of this film. It lassos you and drags you across 3 hours of mud and every sort of sec-and-excretion. On paper it’s worth mentioning that the film is set in the future, and the protagonist is a scientist sent from earth to monitor alien life on a planet where educating yourself is a criminal act. In reality, the film is about earth right now and the abhorrent way we treat artists and intellectuals. How we stamped out revolution, egalitarianism and positive invention. How we no longer put our energy into bringing people together, just pointing out our differences and allowing xenophobes to commit crimes based on imaginary imbalances of character. It’s a planet where everyone has abandoned reason and replaced it with a dimwitted equality and to stand apart from the public is to risk random, horrifying execution.
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