Cinemalinks: Weekly Reads

Oscar champ: The fake baby in American Sniper
This week’s round-up includes takeaways from the highs and lows of last week’s Oscar nominations, news of Mommy’s upcoming USA release (opens in NY and LA on Friday), and the most hilarious fake baby that the Interweb has ever seen.

By Max O’Connell, Criticwire

Okay, it probably seems lame to open a round-up with a link to another round-up, but the controversy surrounding American Sniper is too ridiculous to ignore. Everyone’s weighing in on the film from Seth Rogen to Sarah Palin, but the real controversy isn’t whether Clint Eastwood’s film lets America off the hook for an unjustified war, it’s the furor over the hilarious fake babies used in the film. This round-up highlights the silly gaffe, complete with Tweets, GIFs, and clips (the latter of which Warner Bros. is furiously pulling down as fast as it can):

For all of the highly negative and highly positive reactions, though, one thing's for sure: "American Sniper's" fake baby is really, really bad… Now that the film is in wide release, though, more people have a chance to see it in all of its glory. This week saw at least five non-review pieces mocking the plastic doll that Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller cradle during some of the domestic scenes in the film (sometimes moving the baby's arm for it).” 

By Dan Klois, Slate

Perhaps the most bittersweet occurrence of the Oscar nominations is that well-deserved nomination for Laura Dern while her movie Wild, the best film of the year, finds itself absent outside the acting categories. This omission is disappointing if one considers that Oscar voters pulled great support for Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club and nominated for Picture, Screenplay and Editing, even though it’s a lesser film on those fronts. Should it be disappointing, though? Dan Klois looks at the absence of Wild in light of the success of Dallas Buyers Club last year:

What’s the difference? Well, Wild has sold more tickets. Wild is more artfully made—a more confident piece of filmmaking, one that finds an ingenious cinematic method to tell its intricate, emotional story. But the chief difference, of course, is that Wild is about a woman’s journey, not a man’s.

By Sam Adams, Criticwire

By Tim Gray, Variety

The immediate controversy of Oscar morning was the alleged whitewashing of the nominees with the acting nominees being 100% Caucasian and with few visible minorities elsewhere on the ballot. Thankfully, though, the knee-jerk (though justified) reaction of #OscarsSoWhite is prompting writers in the field to use the omission of Selma from the Best Director and Best Actor categories to start the larger conversation that needs to be had regarding the overall lack of diversity in film more broadly and on the increasingly mucky politics of the Oscar race in such a competitive and loud year:

Gray: The nominations are a clue to something, but it isn’t AMPAS bigotry. The Academy reflects the industry and the AMPAS honchos have been working hard to diversify membership and to work on diversification within executive and creative ranks. It all starts with the hiring… Anger over the nominations is insulting to people who were nominated; everyone on the Jan. 15 list deserves to be there. Sadly, others also deserved to be there. They didn’t make the top five, but that doesn’t mean no one voted for them.

Adams: Yes, it's unfortunate that Ava DuVernay was overlooked by the Academy's directors branch, ensuring that for the 87th Academy Awards, the slate of Best Directors will be exclusively male and largely if not entirely white…  But the more profound issue, and the reason this has been the case for more than 80 of the Oscars' 87 years, is the films they're choosing from in the first place. 
Jessica Chastain said it pretty darn well, too:

-Eric Eidelstein, Indiewire

If one needs yet another reason to love Jessica Chastain, she’s doing a new movie with Canada’s Xavier Dolan. A recent interview with Dolan prompted news that she counts the director as her “spirit animal”:

At a recent screening of "A Most Violent Year," Jessica Chastain's new movie, she mentioned that you are her spirit animal.
She did? 
Yeah. She was speaking about you representing underrepresented people in film.
I've been meaning to ask, and I can't believe I haven't looked it up already, but what exactly is a spirit animal?

By Alex Billington, FirstShowing.Net

Mommy opens in the USA this week, so there are oodles of coverage of Canada’s best film of 2014 to choose from, but I like this lengthy reflection on Dolan’s ability to harness emotion through form and style the best. Billington, one of the film’s biggest champions since Cannes, situates a pivotal moment from Mommy within the personal experience of watching the film and within the larger context of film history with which Dolan’s approach to film form is in dialogue.

“At first, the aspect ratio seems constraining, limiting, which is exactly how Diane feels when we're first getting introduced to her and her crazy child is thrown into her arms. Eventually, we find some comfort in it, as Turpin fills up the frame and brings such beauty to every shot. Soon we forget that it's even that limiting, embracing fully the progression of the story (and the characters). Then the big moment happens after ups and downs; but it's on their way up, when there is some hope, that the frame opens. When I saw this for the first time, I gasped…”

By the team at Thompson on Hollywood

Another week brings another debate about the relevancy of film critics, but this one’s actually quite good. There’s no denying that things are changing, and I think ToH member Ryan Lattanzio nails it best with this point:

“First, the problem I have with some, not all, critics is that many of them are writing for each other rather than for their readers, which should be their goal. And the insidery Twitter echo chamber doesn't help me reconcile these feelings any more than reading an obscurantist review that pedantically exhibits less cinephilia than love of the writer who is writing.”

By Linda Barnard, Toronto Star

Finally, the locally produced doc Muneeza in the Middle screens tonight on CBC docs. Surprisingly enough, The Ottawa Citizen surpisingly found room for local content in its pages--a rarity, especially as concerns their film coverage--but Linda Barnard’s interview with Muzeeza Sheik in the Toronto Star is also worth a read:

“I think this (documentary) is really just about my personal journey, but there’s an element of the film that represents diversity in the community right now and, if you turn on the radio or TV, respectfully, I think there’s a lot of hate proliferated toward the Muslim community right now,” Sheikh said.

“This is the time to get some dialogue going about how diverse our community really is.”

Muneeza in the Middle screens on CBC Docs tonight at 9:00 pm

Any recommendations for further reading?