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Daily Reads: Viola Davis on the Best Roles for African-American Actresses, a People's History of Tattooine and More

Criticwire By Max O'Connell | Criticwire July 18, 2014 at 9:52AM

Plus: Why the best Christian movies are made by "miserable sinners" and how "The Last Kiss" retroactively killed "Garden State."
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Viola Davis in 'How to Get Away with Murder'
Viola Davis in 'How to Get Away with Murder'
Criticwire's Daily Reads 

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

1. Viola Davis on Why TV is the Best Place for African-American Actresses. With three Tonys, two Drama Desk Awards and a pair of Oscar nominations, Viola Davis is among the most respected actresses of her generation, but she's not getting the roles in movies that she should, and she's switched from film to television with her lead role in the ABC series "How to Get Away with Murder." Speaking at the TCA press tour, Davis said that television gives black women roles that they might not receive otherwise. Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post has the story:

“I have gotten so many wonderful film roles, but I’ve gotten even more film roles where I haven’t been the show,” Viola Davis said at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles. “It’s like I’ve been invited to a really fabulous party only to hold up the wall. I wanted to be the show.” Read more.

2. The Brief Film Career of a Jazz Legend. Film critic Glenn Kenny wrote on his blog Some Came Running about the death of jazz bassist Charlie Haden. Kenny devoted some time to Haden's appearance in Richard Quine's 1965 film "Synanon," inspired by and set at the rehab facility of the same name where Haden just happened to be recovering at during filming.  The role is small and obscure enough that it isn't even listen on IMDb. On top of Kenny's indispensable work, the comment section features a detailed entry from critic Kent Jones.

In any event, Quine liked his manner, and wanted him to participate in the shoot, and apparently this was something residents were encouraged to do. So, Haden would be in the house band that played in certain scenes in the film. One problem: the ordinarily astute Quine didn't like the way Haden looked playing his actual instrument, the bass. So he put him behind a drum kit. 

Read more.

3. A People's History of Tattooine. Any fans of Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States," about America's major events as told from the perspective of common people rather than major figures, ought to get a kick out of "A People's History of Tattooine." The Storify project started by the New York Times's Jacob Harris and writer/reporter Jacob Harris suggests that maybe "Mos Eisley wasn’t really that wretched and it was just Obi Wan being racist again."

Carmody: "What do you mean these blaster marks are too precise to be made by Sand People? Who talks like that?"

Harris: "Also Sand People is not the preferred nomenclature."

Carmody: "They have a rich cultural history that's led them to survive and thrive under spectacularly awful conditions." Read more.


4. How "The Last Kiss" Retroactively Killed "Garden State." Zach Braff's new film "Wish I Was Here" has been met mostly with scorn, which isn't a surprise given the way his directorial debut "Garden State" has gone from indie breakout to critical whipping boy in many circles. There's likely plenty of people who hated "Garden State" on viewing one (*raises hand from keyboard*), but ScreenCrush's Mike Ryan argues that it was the Braff-starring (but not Braff-directed, as many believe) "The Last Kiss" that turned people against the actor.

Braff’s self-seriousness in "The Last Kiss" made us subconsciously reassess "Garden State." It made Braff seem pompous. And maybe Braff is pompous; maybe he’s not — I have no idea — but it was unfair to blame "The Last Kiss" for ever feeling that way. For Braff, it was just the wrong role at the wrong time. Read more.


5. "Miserable Sinners" Make the Best Christian Movies. In most cases, the term "Christian movie" conjures up pictures of the abysmal likes of "Fireproof" or "God's Not Dead," but Christianity Today's Alissa Wilkinson believes John Michael McDonagh's "Calvary" is the most Christian film she's seen in years precisely because it's made about, and by, "miserable sinners" who empathize with and understand the troubled individuals on the screen.

Maybe you're not a recovering alcoholic; maybe you've never been unfaithful to spouse or friends or whatever; maybe you've never murdered anyone or cheated on a test; maybe you have lived a pretty clean life. But if you are a Christian, the noun kind, then you know you're a mess, one that has to not just lean but grasp, wildly, for something greater than you or you'll come apart at the seams. And if you're an artist, you don't start from ideas—you start there. Read more.

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