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Daily Reads: IFC Rebrands, the Disappearing Indie Genre Film and More

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by Max O'Connell
July 15, 2014 9:45 AM
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'Blood Ties'
'Blood Ties'

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

1. IFC Rebrands. Once the home to indie hits and midnight movies, IFC has broken from its original identity as the Independent Film Channel and turned into the home for offbeat shows "Maron," "Comedy Bang! Bang!," and "Portlandia." After spending the past few years reshaping its focus, the network has undergone a rebranding, courtesy of New York design studio Gretel, including a new logo and marketing to better advertise its "Always On, Slightly Off" slogan. The video on Gretel's web site has a handful of neat films they've picked to advertise alongside their brand-defining shows, ("8 1/2," a Kubrick Double Feature of "The Shining" and "2001: A Space Odyssey"). It also showcases "The Hangover," which shows how much IFC has changed over the past few years.

I'm of two minds on IFC's shifting identity: on one hand, a world that provides a home for shows as eclectic as "Portlandia" and "Comedy Bang! Bang!" is always a good thing. On the other hand, I miss the IFC that first showed me "Drugstore Cowboy" and "Velvet Goldmine," which helped jumpstart my film education and get me interested in movies beyond blockbusters and mid-budget prestige fare. The "Film" part of IFC seems to be a bit less discriminating now, with movies like the terrible remake of "The Day of the Jackal" and the lesser Stallone vehicle "Lock Up" playing this week (couldn't you have at least sprung for "Demolition Man?"). Maybe I'm just being grumpy about what needs to pay the bills for  something as delightfully odd as "The Spoils of Babylon" to get made. Read the full story here.

2. New Leadership at Fox. Fox Television Group, the new entity combining the FOX network at 20th Century FOX TV, has found new leaders in 20th Century Fox TV heads Dana Walden and Gary Newman, who will be chairmen and CEOS. The two have helped develop hits line "Bones," "Family Guy," "Glee," and also some not terrible shows like "Modern Family" for ABC, "Homeland" for Showtime and "The Americans" for FX. Their experience in developing acclaimed shows for other networks and working with outside companies could be a major boon to FOX now that their former cash cow "American Idol" has dropped in popularity. Read the full story here.

3. The Rom-Com Time Warp. Apparently indie films aren't the only movies threatened by the seemingly endless barrage of special effects extravaganzas. Romance-comedies have largely died out, according to The Atlantic, partly due to the coveted teenage boy market won't sit still for "Jerry Maguire," and partially because of how data-driven dating of the digital age has reduced much of the mystery of romance. I can't help but wonder whether there's a decent romance-comedy waiting to be made about throwing away the metric-driven aspects of OK Cupid and accepting the intangible, or, conversely, about giving up on mystery for a more pragmatic love. Could the next rom-com classic feature Emma Stone torn between the man she met online who shares all of her interests and values (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the unpredictable, mysterious guy who's still got that certain something (Ryan Gosling)? Read the full story here.

Buffy

4. On the Ethics of Vampire Slaying. Writing about "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," io9's Greta Christina asks, if there's a spell to give a vampire a soul back, "Why don't they just keep doing the re-ensoulment spell – on all vampires?" She goes on to talk about how, if vampires' souls can be saved, the ethics of vampire slaying, the core of the show, comes into question. Christina's article is funny and rigorously considered, and it isn't so pedantic a concern that it could be simply dismissed with "because then you don't have a show." It serves as the ultimate example of a "Star Trek" lie detector or "Harry Potter" Time Turner. Writers, take heed: if your solution to an immediate problem is some magic whatsit that could, if used again, solve all future problems, find a different, more dramatic solution. Read the full story here.

5. Genre Films For Grown-Ups, Whither Thou? The Chicago Reader's Ben Sachs talks the marginalization of more thoughtful genre pieces in independent cinema. "The Immigrant" is the second film of James Gray's treated like an unwanted stepchild by Harvey Weinstein after 2000's "The Yards," and it's becoming par-the-course for films that don't conform exclusively to either prestige or genre conventions. Sachs writes about "Gambit" and "Blood Ties," but the same could be said for David Michod's "The Rover," which seemed to come and go at the blink of an eye, and that had A24, the distributor of last year's indie breakouts "The Bling Ring" and "Spring Breakers," behind it. Not all of these films are successful — I can only vouch for the Grays, and Sachs stresses that neither "Gambit" nor "Blood Ties" meet their lofty ambitions — but that they're not even getting the marketing or runs that'd allow them to be discovered speaks to the growing difficulty of straddling lines. Read the full story here.

6. "If It's Not for Everyone, It's Not for Anyone." Or: when writing a review, just argue for the work without hedging that "it's not for everyone" or "many will hate it." If it's worthy of consideration, then it's worth arguing for steadfastly. "The Counselor" was met with mostly hostile reception last year, yet the film's advocates (Manohla Dargis, Bilge Ebiri and Scott Tobias, to name a few) didn't apologize on behalf of the film for those who weren't going to go for it, even when acknowledging the film's shortcomings. More people gave the film a shot because of it – not enough to make it a hit, but enough to develop an already growing cult following. Make a case and stop wasting words. Read the full story here.


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