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Daily Reads: Why the MPAA Rates All Gay Movies 'R,' Festivals Battle for Oscar Supremacy and More

Criticwire By Max O'Connell | Criticwire August 21, 2014 at 9:54AM

Plus: The Dissolve pays tribute to "Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide," and how to grieve on social media.
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John Lithgow and Alfred Molina in 'Love is Strange'
John Lithgow and Alfred Molina in 'Love is Strange'

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

1. Why the MPAA Goes "R" for Gay. The MPAA has never been the most gay-friendly organization, giving R ratings to mild farces like "The Birdcage" in the 90s or "G.B.F." more recently. "Love Is Strange," the new drama starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a couple who've been together for 40 years, has been rated R even though it has nothing explicit or overtly sexual about it. Stephen Whitty of NJ.com wrote about why the MPAA is so consistently harder on gay films than straight ones.

It's a simple human story. And it is very hard to imagine that — if it starred, say, Robert Duvall and Jane Fonda as a similar long-time couple suddenly facing homelessness — it would be lumped in with movies crammed full of queasily stylish sexism and sickening torture porn. Yes, "Love Is Strange" features some vulgar words, as do all the other R-rated films here. (In fact, the only reason given for the rating assigned "Love Is Strange" is "language.") But in other films, on other subjects, the MPAA has sometimes shown considerable leeway on language , depending on context. And even this film's few strong words aren't spoken with violence, nor do they approach the wall-to-wall obscenity of some crime movies. Read more.


2. Chinese Movie Theaters To Make Experience Worse. Texting in theaters is has been a problem for years, and apparently China has decided to stop fighting it. Evan Dickson of Collider reports that Chinese movie theaters will not only allow theatergoers to text, but they're also developing technology that will display the texts on the screen. 

“Bullet screens” will pop up over the movie you’re watching. It’s bad enough that you have to see the light from someone’s phone, but now you have to see their stupid thoughts onscreen? Don’t even try to justify this one to me as some kind of “eventuality.” It’s not. It doesn’t have to be. One of the best parts of going to the movies is being able to out away your phone. But apparently the epidemic is so bad there that theaters are feeling the need to lean into this cultural debacle. Read more.


3. The Best Movie Books. This week it was announced that the venerable review collection "Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide" will cease publication after this year's edition. The book was an essential guide for budding cinephiles in the pre-internet age. The Dissolve looked at Maltin's book and other guides they found formative in their youths. Here's Keith Phipps on J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum's "Midnight Movies."

First published in 1983, "Midnight Movies" surveys the field of midnight film culture at its height, just before the arrival of home video was about to push it further to the margins. Discussing "Eraserhead," "Night Of The Living Dead," the work of John Waters and others, it’s an invaluable and insightful look at cult film culture in its late-’60s and 1970s heyday. Rosenbaum and Hoberman offer smart readings of the films, but also provide a background into the conditions that led to their ascent, as well as who watched them and where. The chapter on "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," for instance, deftly blends criticism with cultural history. The scene itself has changed as midnight movies retreated to only the largest cities, adopted new cult objects and shed others, but "Midnight Movies" remains an invaluable, inspiring book. Read more.


4. Oscar Showdown: Telluride vs. Toronto. Fall Festival Season is upon us, and with it comes the race for Oscar pundits to rush to pick a Best Picture front-runner months ahead of the fact. Both the Toronto and Telluride film festivals feature major films vying for awards attention, but recently Telluride has stolen some of Toronto's thunder by premiering some of the same films just weeks earlier. Toronto has decided to get tough by giving preferential treatment to films that skip Telluride. Justin Chang of Variety wrote about the war between the festivals and how it's heated up over the past decade.

“If we are going to call something a world premiere, then it really should be the first time it’s screened in public,” he says. “And we can’t pretend anymore that if it has screened somewhere else, that it actually is a world premiere.” It probably didn’t bother Toronto too much that its new honesty policy allowed it to deal Telluride an unusual slap in the face. In unveiling its typically massive film slate, the Toronto press office opted for the first time to disclose the true premiere status of each entry, effectively spilling the beans (or some of them, anyway) on Telluride’s lineup, which is usually kept under wraps until just before its Labor Day weekend kickoff. Read more.

5. How to Grieve on Social Media. Whenever a celebrity dies, there's a rush of posts on social media grieving their passing, and not all of them are equally thoughtful. A few days ago saw the publication of Will Leitch's piece on how some rushes to eulogize are part of a mourning competition, or about making it about the mourner rather than the mourned. Kenneth Morefield of Christianity Today wrote about responsible mourning, how not to make it about you, and how to be tolerant of those who are more expressive than you are.

I know that seems counter to all this, but it’s important: don’t let the fear of the saying the wrong thing cause you to retreat from those who may just need and crave your loving presence more than your airtight explanations. Yes, you can share your own pain, disappointment, and even daily frustrations. That is what friends are for, even dying or grieving ones. Just do your best to make sure you keep in mind what is yours and what is theirs. 

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