1. “Ava DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo on the ’Divine Timing’ of Selma.” Variety’s Justin Chang interviews the director, actor, and producer.
“Striking a warm, down-to-earth tone as she rattles off historical names, dates and events with scholarly ease, DuVernay describes herself as having always been ’more of a Black Panthers/Malcolm X kind of girl,’ going back to her days growing up in Compton and pursuing African-American studies at UCLA. At the same time, she felt personally drawn to King and the Selma narrative (her father is from Montgomery and witnessed the marches), as well as the prospect of restoring something earthy and authentic to the civil rights movement, whose hallowed legacy, she felt, had been drained of much of its radicalism and vitality over the years. ’It’s so prestigious, and it’s so hard to touch and reach and feel,’ she explains. ’The heroism feels so elevated and unreachable, whereas the Panthers feel very grassroots.’”
2. “Goodbye to Awards Narratives: Why Critics Awards Shouldn’t Be ’Relevant.’” Oscars pundits slammed the National Society of Film Critics for their eccentric Best Picture choice. But what really makes critics irrelevant is sticking to the agreed-upon awards contenders.
“This particular set of detractors shares the unacknowledged, unchallenged assumption that it’s a critic’s job to be ’relevant,’ and that said relevance is determined by how closely her or his opinion synchs with the anointed candidates for Hollywood’s annual trophy derby. Choose freely among the handful of designated frontrunners, and you’re on steady ground; deviate, and you’re, as [Scott] Feinberg put it, ’in Botswana.’ (Is it warm there this time of year?) This notion is based on a perverse and willful misunderstanding of what criticism is, one that, sadly, critics groups’ tacit collusion in the Oscar race has played a part in furthering.”
3. “LBJ, MLK and Selma: Hollywood’s controversy and the search for historical truth.” Yes, the civil-rights drama isn’t quite fair to Johnson. But the film’s importance goes well beyond that issue.
“One insider reading of the backlash against Selma—put forward by Chris Hayes of MSNBC and Chris Bailey of Flavorwire, among others—is that it’s Hollywood business as usual, all part of the sharp elbows and backstage whispers of Oscar campaign season. While I have no doubt that rival studios and their publicists have quietly nudged the Selma stories along when and where they could, that’s a remarkably small-minded and cynical interpretation, even by insta-journalism standards. Are we really expected to believe that Lyndon Baines Johnson Library director Mark Updegrove, former Johnson White House aide Joseph Califano and Pulitzer-winning author Diane McWhorter—all of whom have castigated Selma for its depiction of LBJ—were put up to it by the producers of Unbroken or The Theory of Everything? Even legendary Oscar strategist Harvey Weinstein doesn’t have tentacles that long.”
4. “The real American Sniper was a hate-filled killer. Why are simplistic patriots treating him as a hero?” Clint Eastwood’s film about Navy Seal Chris Kyle has hit a raw nerve in America, with right wingers calling for the rape or death of anyone ungrateful enough to criticise his actions.
“The patriots go on, and on and on. They cannot believe what they are reading. They are rushing to the defence of not just Kyle, but their country, what their country means. They call for the rape or death of anyone ungrateful enough to criticise American hero Chris Kyle. Because Chris Kyle is good, and brown people are bad, and America is in danger, and Chris Kyle saved us. The attitude echoes what [Laura] Miller articulated about Kyle in her Salon piece: ’his steadfast imperviousness to any nuance, subtlety or ambiguity, and his lack of imagination and curiosity, seem particularly notable’.”
5. “Risky Business.” Wesley Morris, asks, “Why See a Remake of The Gambler When There Is a Better Version in A Most Violent Year?”
“[Mark] Wahlberg rushes through the speeches in these scenes like someone walking on hot coals. When you find out that Andre Braugher is playing the department head, you think, There’s an actor who can turn this water into wine. This is a movie that could have gotten away with its mediocre ambitions with the right star. But as good as Wahlberg can be, he’s wrong for bottoming out. You need to sense a self-revulsion or fear or a high, anything but Wahlberg’s lackadaisical approach. Wahlberg just seems petulant. There’s no stress to the performance, probably because there’s no stress to the movie (Monahan keeps the original movie’s thrown basketball game, and the stakes for it feel ever lower here). Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon and even Ben Affleck don’t mind looking desperate. Wahlberg puts off a kind of thuggy smugness that’s too cool for suffering. Only when Jessica Lange shows up as his tortured gorgon of a mother does his recessive character makes sense. She doesn’t leave any air in the room. Lange applies psychology to her work, sometimes too much. But she’s the only person who has been permitted to demonstrate any natural instincts, to do any thinking at all.”
Video of the Day: The trailer for Accidental Love (formerly Nailed), directed by Stephen Greene (a.k.a. David O. Russell):
Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org and to converse in the comments section.