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Daily Reads: Kristen Stewart as a Great American Cowboy, The Best- and Worst-Marketed Summer Movies and More

Criticwire By Max O'Connell | Criticwire August 26, 2014 at 9:33AM

Plus: why "Love Is Strange's" R rating isn't necessarily proof of homophobia, and the politics of "Night Moves."
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Kirsten Stewart in "Camp X-Ray."
IFC Films Kirsten Stewart in "Camp X-Ray."

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

1. Kristen Stewart as a Great American Cowboy. Kristen Stewart gave strong early performances in "Panic Room," "Into the Wild" and "Adventureland," and she's having a good year on the festival circuit with her acclaimed work in "Camp X-Ray" and "Clouds of Sils Maria," yet some won't let go of her involvement in "Twilight" and her limited range. Mallory Ortberg of The Toast writes about why that's a mistake, about how she was miscast as a romantic heroine but perfect as a soldier, using a walkthrough of the "Camp X-Ray" trailer as an excuse to sing the praises of Kristen Stewart.

Remember how everyone’s favorite part of Heath Ledger’s performance in "Brokeback Mountain" was his almost painful physical repression, his reluctance to express any emotion...Kristen Stewart is Heath Ledger, I assure you. She has the same handsome face, the same winsome, masculine smile, the same reluctance to make direct eye contact. For years, everyone in the world has misunderstood Kristen Stewart’s compressed emotional range. They thought it meant she was a limited actress; it means nothing of the kind. She is John Wayne being forced to play the Maureen O’Hara character. Give her a rail to lean against during a sunset, a military jacket, a toothpick to chew on, and something to squint her eyes against lazily in the distance, and her guardedness will be transformed from unsuccessful femininity to The Great American Male. Kristen Stewart is a goddamn cowboy. Read more.


2. "Love Is Strange" and the MPAA. 
Last week there was an outcry about the MPAA's inexplicable R-rating of "Love Is Strange," with many citing it as ultimate proof that the organization is homophobic. This week, Flavorwire's Jason Bailey argues that the MPAA is almost certainly homophobic, but that "Love Is Strange" isn't evidence of it. Bailey argues that while the MPAA is harder on gay films than straight ones, the "Love Is Strange" rating is a completely different kind of fuck-up.

But — and this is where it gets tricky — though that comparison is proof of the deeply silly standards of the “R” rating, it is not, in and of itself, proof of homophobia on the part of the MPAA. Because, you see, "Love is Strange" gets an R rating “for language.” According to (the rather laughably conservative) Movieguide.org, “the family guide to movies and entertainment,” the film features twelve obscenities, including ten “fuck”s. And that is the problem here — that the MPAA operates, and has operated for decades, under the twisted logic that hearing someone say “fuck” is just as potentially damaging to young viewers as seeing someone fuck, or getting their head blown off, or having their eye plucked out, or getting their breast sliced open. Read more.


3. "Outlander's" Strong Voice for Women in the 1700s. The new series "Outlander" is memorable for a number of reasons, but one is its unique place for women on television. The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg writes about how the show's protagonist, a WWII nurse sent back to 1700s Scotland, expresses herself in an oppressive atmosphere, and how, shockingly, people listen to her. She then contrasts that with how remarkable that is even in the modern era.

In one episode, Claire tartly questions the lord who holds her prisoner. “Is there ever a good reason for rape, Master MacKenzie?” she wants to know. “I beg your pardon,” the man tells her, chastened, “an unfortunate turn of phrase on my part.” In another, Claire protests to the wife of a local lawgiver when she learns that a boy who stole a loaf of bread may lose his hand, thereby winning him a lighter sentence. When Claire loses her temper at a tense dinner and mounts a spirited defense of Scottish independence, the British officers she is dining with are temporarily silenced. The right to speak your mind and the expectation that people will listen to, and even act on, what you say may not seem like an particularly exorbitant luxury. But many of the political struggles women face today involve our continuing struggle to be heard in a respectful and serious manner. Read more.


4. The Politics of "Night Moves." Kelly Reichardt's "Night Moves" is getting slammed in some areas for being politically retrograde, though Reichardt herself has argued that it's a film about "people, not politics." Allan Maccinis wrote about why the film's politics might not be so retrograde after all, but instead a reflection on the consequences of radicalism.

Instead, the film deals with a very difficult and important question when it comes to "blowing shit up," as the director phrases it. Such actions as Reichardt's characters engage in have a cost. They put people at risk, and they can have an even more disastrous effect on the lives of the people who undertake them, which needs to be seriously weighed...Reichardt's film - besides offering us glimpses of different slices of the environmentalist movement (and of course some very memorable images of the Pacific Northwest) - seems to me to be speaking in sympathy with exactly those audience members who might be tempted towards radicalism, and asking them to soberly reflect on - or at least locate themselves in - the scenario that plays out, which - nevermind the politics - is a reasonably realistic one, and therefore worth considering. I don't think she's saying anything very clear-cut about whether people should or should not engage in political action, but she's definitely providing a sobering consideration of what can happen, and inviting people to consider it without kidding themselves. Read more.


5. The Best- and Worst-Marketed Movies of the Summer. 
The summer movie season is just about over, and it's time to take stock not just of the best and worst movies of the past three or four months, but the ones that sold themselves best. Scott Mendelson of Forbes looked at the summer's high profile releases and processed why "Godzilla" was among the best-marketed while "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" was among the worst.

The Worst: "Edge of Tomorrow" (Time Warner Inc.)
I have real sympathy for those involved with this one...They had one of the best popcorn movies of the summer, one of the bigger movie stars around, and a trailer campaign that did its best to sell the core premise of the film without giving away all of its narrative surprises. But the tracking for this one came in below “acceptable” for the $175 million Tom Cruise sci-fi action flick, and the press preemptively declared the film as summer’s first flop. For a good three weeks, they just couldn’t move the needle, with Fox’s The Fault in Our Stars dominating the conversation and giving way to patronizing and/or sexist “Tom Cruise is gonna get beat by a girl!” headlines leading up to their mutual June 6th release date. For those in Warner’s PR department, I’d imagine it was like punching a wall. Having said all that, there were choices, different choices that Warner Bros. could have made. For one thing, they changed the title from the memorable "All You Need Is Kill" to the painfully generic "Edge of Tomorrow," which made less sense and was less explanatory about the premise than the original title. Read more.


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This article is related to: Daily Reads, Kristen Stewart, Love Is Strange, Camp X-Ray


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