What You Missed in January/February ’15

The highlight of my 2015 was giving a speech at the Smithsonian on the Oscars, but I did a little writing, too. In January and February, I reviewed some terrific independent films and shared my thoughts on the real star of Birdman, negative campaigns in Hollywood, the political controversy over American Sniper, and the feminism of Friends, which is now available in its entirety on Netflix. Enjoy!


What Clint Eastwood Didn’t Say with American Sniper (Film School Rejects)

“Perhaps the reason the film has inspired such passions on both sides is that it’s not really about war, which, now that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have mostly come to an end, is not a particularly controversial issue anymore. Rather, a close reading of American Sniper reveals a pointed comment about gun culture in America, and the sides that have been drawn over the film reflect our deep political divisions over that issue.”

Friends Wasn’t Just Great TV – It Was a Blueprint for Modern Relationships (Mic.com)

“Consider an anecdote from the shooting of the Friends pilot: In the original script, Monica was supposed to be dumped by a guy after sleeping with him on the first date, but the network executives worried that the audiences would not be able to relate to such behavior. They handed out survey cards to a test audience, asking if they considered Monica “A) a whore, B) a slut, C) a tramp or D) your dream date.” The audience chose the last option, which revealed a distinct generational shift between TV viewers and the network executives who had been calling the shots, and it paved the way for the show’s feminist victories.”

Why Some Negative Oscar Campaigns Work, And Some Fail (Film School Rejects)

“This year, fact-checkers also came out of the woodwork to question the veracity of other Oscar hopefuls such as Foxcatcher, The Theory of Everything, and American Sniper, but they had little impact. What was the difference? Selma was more susceptible to these negative campaigns for the same reasons it was a bold and brilliant film: because it addressed the difficult political realities of our time head-on.”

Why Edward Norton – Not Michael Keaton – Should Win the Birdman Oscar (Film School Rejects)

“Best of all, the Academy might see the role as Norton’s apologia or at least a meta-comment on his reputation within the business for being difficult to work with.  From American History X to The Incredible Hulk, he has driven directors crazy and made studio execs think twice before casting him in a prominent role. If wins this year, he must have mended a lot of fences, but playing a role that references and exaggerates that image is exactly the kind of winking attitude Hollywood usually goes for.”


Human Capital (Washington City Paper)

Selected Films from the Washington Jewish Festival (WCP)

Mommy (WCP)

Leviathan (WCP)

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