Daily Reads: ‘Citizenfour’ Deserves a Best Picture Nomination, ‘Mockingjay’s’ Male Damsel in Distress and More

Daily Reads: 'Citizenfour' Deserves a Best Picture Nomination, 'Mockingjay's' Male Damsel in Distress and More
Daily Reads: 'Citizenfour' Deserves Best Picture Nomination, 'Mockingjay's' Male Damsel Distress and More

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

1. “Citizenfour” for Best Picture. The Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour” seems like a near certain bet for a Best Documentary nomination at the Oscars, but Brent Lang of Variety believes it deserves more. Here, he makes a case for it as a Best Picture candidate.

Nothing can match “Citizenfour” for its capacity to inspire passionate and needed debate on the modern surveillance state, the balance between national security and privacy, and the role of the media as a government watchdog. Even if viewers deplore Snowden as a traitor, they come away from Poitras’ film with a deeper understanding of what makes him tick. It’s also masterfully shot by Poitras. Her camera glides over cellphones and lingers besides computer screens as a persistent electronic whirr resounds in the backdrop creating a collage of paranoia. Read more.

2. Why it’s Good to Scare Children. Plenty joked before its release that the bear in “Paddington” looked creepy, but now the film has been rated PG in Britain likely because it is often scary. Wendy Ide of Motherland wrote that this shouldn’t dissuade parents from bringing their kids, and that it’s good to scare children.

Although the BBFC is perhaps right to draw people’s attention to the fact that our beloved bear is threatened by all kinds of nasty, stabby surgical implements, I suspect they have over-estimated the lasting damage the scene will have on the collective kiddy psyche. It’s scary, sure. But it’s scary in a safe, contained environment. It’s a fear that is defeated by good old British pluck and enterprise, plus – hooray – Julie Walters, absolutely shit-faced on gin. And, ultimately, one of the main points of art is to test boundaries and introduce difficult ideas that are easier to process in the arena of the cinema, the gallery, the book or whatever, than they are in a straight up, real-life confrontation. The trick, with art aimed at children, is to scare them without traumatising them. And, crucially, to allow the child to feel like they have processed and overcome the fear, by themselves. After all, how are children meant to deal with fear if they have no experience of it? Read more.

3. It’s Time to Give Kung Fu Movies Respect. The Golden Age of Kung Fu Films brought plenty of riches to genre fans, but it still hasn’t gotten its due from a number of mainstream critics and audiences, and British fans don’t even have DVDs to turn to for most of them. The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin thinks that needs to be corrected ASAP.

If you haven’t seen a real Hong Kong martial arts film before – either the better-known, unarmed variety, or more fantastical wuxia, in which sword-fighters bound through bamboo forests – find a clip on YouTube. Even through the pixelation, the artistry is apparent. The storylines are no great shakes, but no one ever sensibly complained that the plot of Top Hat was thinner than acetone. What matters is the grace and dynamism of the action – and Hong Kong cinema has early Hollywood’s output matched on that account. Read more.

4. Bill Cosby and the Fall of an Icon. The world is still trying the process the very real possibility that Bill Cosby is a rapist, which somehow feels more difficult and personal than accusations against other great artists. Wesley Morris and Rembert Browne of Grantland tried to suss out why.

This is where, for me, the crux of the situation — this Cosby shit, to quote a disgusted colleague of ours, Rem — differs from, say, the case of a Roman Polanski or Woody Allen or R. Kelly. Polanski, Allen, and Kelly have given us art. Cosby gave America a vivid new way to see itself. I can — and do — applaud Netflix and TV Land and NBC for cutting (or suspending) their connections to Cosby. But I can’t suspend my connection to him. That’s where a lot us of are, made miserable by the possibility of this other truth, severing a cord we thought would endure forever. Read more.

5. “Mockingjay’s” Male Damsel in Distress. The “Hunger Games” films have been praised in the past for providing a strong, multi-dimensional female hero for moviegoers, but the new film, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I” goes further still. Alison Willmore of BuzzFeed writes about the film’s damsel in distress: Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta.

Peeta spends most of Mockingjay — Part 1 as a hostage of the Capitol, seen only in propaganda videos in which he’s interviewed by Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci). He looks gaunt and distressed, but also perfectly put together in his white suit, like a tiny bridegroom ready to be placed on top of a cake (Katniss, in contrast, is fitted out in stern black). It’s no Leia metal bikini, but he’s just as much a trophy, trying to pretend that he’s relaxed as he says whatever he’s been instructed to, as Katniss looks on in anguish and everyone else in District 13 boos. Peeta has become leverage against Katniss, a weakness, someone who leads her to make a deal in hopes she can secure his freedom. Read more.

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