“Avengers: Age of Ultron”: Do Less

Avengers

Age of Ultron is a fine title, but I might have called the Avengers sequel Age of A Lot. There’s a lot happening in this movie. A lot of characters, a lot of intersecting storylines, a lot of pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo, a lot of special effects, a lot of action, a lot of incident, a lot of a lot. Meanwhile, in short supply: imagination, variation, respite.

I enjoyed watching it, but I haven’t really enjoyed thinking about it afterwards. Mostly because I’m not sure my brain can handle the convoluted machinations that drive nearly every scene of this ultra- (ultron?)-long, ultra-confusing behemoth. It doesn’t need a little less talk and a lot more action – it needs a little less of all of the above.

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Revive a Show at Your Own Peril

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Fox canceled The Mindy Project last week, just in time for its upfront presentation to advertisers on Monday. It took less than a week for the other shoe to drop. Hulu announced today that the show will return on its streaming service for a whopping 26 episodes – twice the number it likely would have gotten had Fox renewed it.

Fans of The Mindy Project likely have reason to rejoice. Especially given that the show has been a work in progress from the start, the assurance of more than two dozens episodes gives showrunner and star Mindy Kaling more creative freedom than she might have had under the authority of a broadcast network. Reviews of the show’s third season were the show’s most positive yet, and a fourth promises more of the same appealing qualities that solidified the show’s fanbase.

And yet, something about this news rubs me the wrong way – not the Mindy Project part, but the idea of un-canceling a TV show. For a while, the phenomenon of un-cancellation was a novelty reserved for the most unusual circumstances – Arrested Development on Netflix, Community on Yahoo. Netflix’s decision to pick up a fourth season of AMC’s flailing drama The Killing was one of the opening salvos in what has been twelve months of enthusiastic press releases and nostalgic listicles touting the returns of long-dead and not-so-long-dead shows.

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There’s No Such Thing as “Diverse Superhero Movies”

Ava

Photo by Mariemaye, Wikimedia Commons

The Wrap reported last night that Marvel is eyeing Ava DuVernay (late of Selma, one of last year’s eight Oscar-nominated Best Pictures) to direct one of its “diverse superhero movies,” either Black Panther or Captain Marvel. Here are some thoughts, exasperated and intrigued alike, about this news.

Ban the phrase “diverse superhero movies” immediately.

To invoke a graduation speech cliche, the dictionary defines the adjective “diverse” as “including representatives from more than one social, cultural, or economic group, especially members of ethnic or religious minority groups.” “Diverse” is not a stand-in for “nonwhite.” Genuine diversity encompasses a variety of groups or ideas. Marvel’s terminology classifies movies with nonwhite, nonmale leads as diverse. It’s great that Marvel wants to make movies about nonwhite, nonmale superheroes. It’d be even better if they acknowledged that diversity describes a particular collective body of work, not a halfhearted nod to institutionally disenfranchised minorities.

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“Idol” Will Idle No More

Idol

It’s hard to know quite how to react to today’s news that American Idol will end its historic run on Fox next season after fifteen years on television. For at least ten of those years, the show tapped into the white hot center of the country’s pop culture conversation and dominated the ratings in every monetizable demographic.

But somewhere between the coronation of Phillip Phillips and the coronation of Candice Glover, the bloom started to wilt. Perhaps it was earlier than that, perhaps a little later. But the decay is undeniable, evident in the morning-after ratings reports, in the dwindling amount of online chatter, in the increasingly lackluster roster of superstars willing to devote time to the show.

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“Mad Men”: All-“Time” Great

Michael Yarish/AMC

 

Relatively few Americans are watching the final season of Mad Men as it airs live. Unlike with Breaking Bad, AMC’s other prestige drama that ended on a bifurcated episode order, the availability of Mad Men on streaming hasn’t brought the show any closer to the phenomenon status of Game of Thrones or the megablockbuster spoils of The Walking Dead. It seems the slow pace, narrative digressions, literary allusions and absence of obvious narrative momentum aren’t driving people to furiously binge-watch and catch up as they did, urgently, for the end of Breaking Bad.

The show has few, if any, loose plot threads to tie up, and its characters hardly appear close to the happy endings some viewers might be expecting. But with the instant-classic episode “Time & Life” (which aired on April 27; yes, I’m behind), creator Matthew Weiner proved once again that he is singular among television writers for creating drama out of circumstances that seem to have passed their expiration date.

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