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Wednesday
Oct262011

Super Hulk ?

Is it just me or does this look more like Henry Cavill as Bruce Banner than Henry Cavill as Clark Kent?

click the image for many more

I mean torn pants and raggedy ass face is so much more like Bruce After Mean-Green Bender than Clark After Super Adventure. This picture is supposedly from the set of Zach Snyder's Man of Steel (2013) but given the recent news about Joss Whedon's secret filming of Much Ado About Nothing during the whole Avengers year, I've decided to believe that they've made a third Hulk picture whilst making a sixth Superman picture. Or maybe Superman fights The Hulk during Man of Steel and Cavill plays both roles on account of some nefarious  Mr. Mxyzptlk shenanigans? Marvel/DC Crossover alert!!!

more 'on the set'

Wednesday
Oct262011

"Shame" on the Ratings System?

Anyone familiar with the basic history of the MPAA ratings board could have predicted it before seeing the movie. Anyone familiar with the concept and players of Shame, Steve McQueen's NYC-based drama about a sex addict (Michael Fassbender) and his self-destructive sister (Carey Mulligan) could have predicted its eventual NC-17 rating without seeing it. It's official now. I predicted this was coming the moment I first heard they were making the movie -- McQueen's previous picture Hunger didn't pull any punches so why would he, uh, pull any thrusting? -- but this shot of Michael Fassbender, naked, haunted and corpselike in his own bed -- I believe it is the film's first shot though perhaps my memory is tricking me? - confirmed it for me.

You see, it's always about the power of the images and what they suggest. Sexually, I mean. Show the ratings board any brutality and they won't flinch... or at least they haven't much at all since Natural Born Killers (1994) which initally received an NC-17 for its violent content. (If I recall correctly, Oliver Stone only had to edit out a comic point-of-view shot through a gaping gun shot wound to get the R)

The MPAA, those watchdogs of American consumerism will always allow you the freedom to be a bad parent and take your kids to see nightmarish violence. How many beheadings have we seen in recent R rated films? Every week on The Walking Dead (basic cable, no parental supervision required) you can see multiple face stabbings, beheadings, shootings, and limbs torn asunder. How many torture porn movies have bad parents been allowed to haul their young'uns too? But show the ratings board any "strong" sexuality and America's ancient puritanic DNA will start their blood boiling.

Which is not to say that I don't approve of Shame's official NC-17 rating. I think it's an appropriate rating. There's no reason why someone under 17, unless they were unusually mature for their age or suffering from their own addiction (the Oscar kind. We've all been there: "i must see all films with Oscar buzz!") would have an intense desire to see it or would get much out of it.  The problem lies not in the NC-17 rating itself; it's perfectly acceptable, even worthwhile, to have an "adult's only" rating. The problem is in the MPAA's puritanism about the rating, the way they wield it, and in American puritanism surrounding sexuality in general.

Here, from the MPAA's own site are the official descriptions of what constitutes R and NC-17 ratings.

Note that the NC-17...

does not mean "obscene or pornographic".... and should not be construed as a negative judgment."

and that it says that the rating...

can be based on violence, sex, abberational behavior or drug abuse"

When was the last time a movie was ever given an NC-17 rating for anything other than sex?

Abberational behavior, as the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated made clear, is a catch-all phrase that basically also means "sex" but particularly of the homosexual persuasion or of that other grotesque affront to patriarchal cultural values: a woman's pleasure. That must see documentary made a very compelling case that for a film to win an R rating, a woman must NOT be seen enjoying herself too much. Closeups of a woman's face in an orgasmic state (no nudity possible in those shots unless she's got really strange anatomy) have often led to NC-17 ratings. This is especially true if the man is in a subservient position (note the frequency of NC-17 decisions where cunninlingus is involved  -- hi Blue Valentine!. Edit out a woman's face -- or, better yet, chop off her head in the first place-- and you'll never have to worry about an NC-17. 

Enter Shame. It's an interesting case because even if Steve McQueen were willing to edit down to an "R" there is no pleasure that could be edited out. The film is about sexual addiction and most movies about addiction skimp on the pleasure principle. I suppose you'd have to remove the "aberrational" behavior from Shame for an R. And given how loosely the MPAA defines that, it would become a short film... or at the very least a much shorter film since you'd have to edit out the entire darkly operatic sexual abandonment finale and probably all shots of Michael Fassbender's ginormous wang.

When NC-17s were first given filmmakers complained that it meant that there film wouldn't be seen. Many newspapers refused to run ads (punitive) and many theater chains refused to exhibit them (punitive) which is a shame considering the rating...

should not be construed as a negative judgment."

But again... the problem is not the rating, which is a perfectly valid one in this movies case. It's that that other ratings mean so little and this rating means only sex.

Each week I'm alarmed to see on TV what you could only see in R rated movies in the 80s. The Walking Dead and just about every procedural would have (easily) been rated R for violence just 30 years ago. Now we ingest violence like oxygen. If the R means nothing... why does the NC-17 still have such stigma? Why is American culture still so mortified by things it sees in the mirror every day and enjoys using regularly (I've never seen you naked but I'm guessing you have either a penis or a vagina, and that you've occasionally used / enjoyed it) and still so wildly accepting of something that most of us would never ever want anyone we love to encounter in real life (beheadings, massacres, shootings)? Even more troubling, why are we so flippant about bombarding young children with violence and so terrified that they might catch a glimpse of the sexuality that awaits them when they themselves become adults? 

You can ask these questions until you turn blue and there are never any suitable answers... or at least no forthcoming solutions. Perhaps we're just self-destructive as a species, in love with things that only harm us and afraid of things that can actually bring us joy.

I think we owe it to Steve McQueen and future filmmakers to pay for Shame in the theaters. And I hope the Academy voters realize they owe it to future filmmakers to give NC-17 a real fighting chance. Artists need to have the option of creating art for other adults and adults need art that is specifically for them. Man cannot live on Disney alone. And contrary to the handwringing doomsday scenarios of all articles on the NC-17 rating, it isn't actually the kiss of death financially. Several films released with NC-17 or as "unrated" have done fairly well for themselves given the narrow arthouse margins they were already going to be working within.

Some stats to send you on your violence-loving, sex-hating way. (sorry to confuse you with the MPAA and John Q Public.)

Top Grossing NC-17 Films in US Release
1. Showgirls (1995) $20 million
2. Henry & June (1990) $11 million 
3. The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover (1990) $7.7
4. Bad Education (2004) $5.2 million  
5. Lust Caution (2007) $4.6  

Oscar Nominations For NC-17 Films
Henry & June (1990) best cinematography

and yes... I believe that's it. Just one nomination for all NC-17 films. Does Oscar disrespect the rating even more than the MPAA? Can Shame be the game changer the industry and the Oscars need when it comes to filmmaking for adults?

 

Wednesday
Oct262011

"the human head weighs 8 lbs"

<--- Blog Stage Awwww, tiny cute person Jonathan Lipnicki (Jerry Maguire) is all grown up. Just celebrated his 21st birthday.
Empire file this one under: extremely odd news. Seems that Lynne Ramsay of Morvern Callar and We Need To Talk About Kevin is planning a sci-fi film inspired by Moby Dick. Of all things.
i09 ZOMG! Y'all know about my strange "Dazzler" fetish from all of those Red Carpet convos where the mutant superhero x-woman disco star kept coming up. Now an artist has reimagined her as a man.

Clutch Magazine
Occupy Hollywood
Aint It Cool Looks like it's more crime dramas for director Ben Affleck rather than another filmed version of Stephen King's The Stand.
Fashion Telegraph a clothing line based on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? Make it stop! I think Joanna at Pajiba said it best when she said... 

I’ve always wanted to dress as a mentally unstable, violent victim of abuse."

Animation Kung Fu Panda becomes an animated TV series next month. 
Self Styled Siren on James Wolcott, Pauline Kael and critic wars
Indie Wire has a list of the Cinema Eye nominees, honoring documentary filmmaking the top category goes like so.

The Arbor (Clio Barnard)
Senna (Asif Kapadia)
Project NIM (James Marsh)
Position Among the Stars (Leonard Retel Heimrich)
Nostalgia For the Light (Patricio Guzmán) 
The Interrupters (Steve James) 

 I keep meaning to write about The Arbor. So fascinatingly heavy and interesting.

Even the Blind Film Critic knows that Tom Cruise isn't quite right visually to play "Jack Reacher", his upcoming franchise role...

In Ye Olden Times when Tom Cruise used to get cast in roles he wasn't right for -- hi, Lestat! -- it could easily be blamed on his #1 position in Hollywood's star structure. But what's the excuse now? Hmmmm...

 

Wednesday
Oct262011

Centennial: Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia's voice heals the blind in "St Louis Blues"Mahalia Jackson was born 100 years ago on this very day in 1911 New Orleans as Mahala Jackson (she added the "i" sometime in the early 1930s). After a troubled childhood she moved to Chicago where her music career began in earnest. Despite never recording any secular music -- she refused to -- international fame hit in the late 1940s and she's been virtually canonized sense. Though she's never had a biopic (why not?) her history is closely tied with the story of Black America. She was part of The Great Migration in the 1930s. She was the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall and became famous all over the world. She sang at the March on Washington in 1963 and later at Martin Luther King Jr's funeral. (When she died in 1972, Aretha Franklin returned the favor and sang at hers.)  

As is true with most music icons, there are film connections. Spike Lee's Jungle Fever uses her music prominently and she also appears in archival footage in his documentary Four Little Girls.  Though she wasn't an actress per se, she did appear in films as a singer. You can watch her performance in the musical St Louis Blues (1958) on Netflix Instant Watch currently. (It's a treasure trove of famous African American celebrities: Nat "King Cole, Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, etcetera). Two-thirds of the way through the film, her voice actually heals a blind man! You have to have a voice like Mahalia's to get away with that even within a spiritually-minded melodrama.

Mahalia's most indelible contribution to cinema came a year later. The Douglas Sirk classic Imitation of Life (1959) halts in its gorgeous colorful tracks to listen to Mahalia's soulful wail to the heavens. "Trouble of the World", indeed.

Her voice is so emotionally acute that even Ice Queen Supreme Lana Turner couldn't help but be visibly shaken by it.

 

Wednesday
Oct262011

Oscar Horrors: Makeup for the Recently Deceased

Daily Oscar Horrors until Halloween!

HERE LIES...Beetlejuice which heard its name repeated just once at the 1988 Oscars when it won Robert Short, Steve LaPorte and Ve Neill the award for Best Achievement in Makeup, banishing Scrooged and Coming to America to play with the sandworms.

Michael C. here. As a child of the Eighties I spent my formative years inundated with every variety of gore, slasher, and massacre Hollywood could throw at me, and yet it was this zany ghost story, more comedy than horror, that succeeded in getting under my skin where so many so many escaped mental patients failed. Such is the ability of a little twisted imagination to triumph over buckets of blood. There was just something about the sight of Alec Baldwin popping eyeballs on his fingers like so many olives that never failed to creep my seven-year old self out. Tim Burton knows - or at least used to know - that there is excitement in skirting the line between enjoyably goofy and genuinely unsettling. (See also: Large Marge)

There are many moments in Beetlejuice for the makeup team to show off. There is the rotting of Baldwin and Davis during the exorcism, the general moldiness of the title character and the hilariously slow-on-the-uptake football team ("Coach, I don't think we survived the crash.")

Best Most Fun Achievements in MakeUp

A big reason I harbor such affection for this work is that it never for a second attempts anything approaching realism. The makeup team aims instead for the more admirable goal of being fun. Keaton's look as Beetlejuice, for example, is so unapologetically theatrical with his fright wig hair and the dark circles around his eyes that he wouldn't be out of place in a silent movie. 

But this is to the film's credit, and why the Oscar was justly awarded. The creative character design of Beetlejuice is still fondly remembered while thousands of more technically impressive ghoulies have blended together into a late-night cable blur.

Oh, and I can't be the only one who has always wanted to see this from Adam and Barbara's point of view, right?

 

Beetlejuice costume ideas for Halloween
Makeup and Hair posts 
"80s Oscars" articles
Previously on Oscar Horrors


Wednesday
Oct262011

John Hawkes "Marcy's Song"

What is it about singing actors?
I can never get enough. 

Related: Best Supporting Actor

Tuesday
Oct252011

Top Ten: Actress Centerfolds

Given the recent cancellation of The Playboy Club which we mourned mainly because Laura Benanti deserves to be famous.... Given James Franco's Flaunting and pants-dropping... Given the waves the oft-naked Shame has been causing at festivals ... Given disgraced actress Lindsay Lohan's newly announced decision to pose for "Playboy" for a million bucks (only a million? I hope she realizes she used to make more than that for acting) today feels like the unofficial Mandatory Day of Nude Celebrity Appreciation. [Disclaimer: I type this fully clothed.]

So let's celebrate the movie actresses who have gone before Lindsay!

Oh sure, sure. The common wisdom is that this is La Lohan's new rock bottom and we shouldn't be celebrating but -- please -- actresses take off their clothes all the time for totally worthwhile purposes (Acting!) and the only thing that's shameful about the human body is that we're ashamed of it. Plus, it's worth noting that actresses have won Oscars AFTER doing this so this isn't rock bottom so much as a lame opportunity to have just said "Lindsay Lohan" and "Oscars" in the same sentence!

If anything this might be her first smart move in years. But only time and Lindsay herself will be able to confirm that.

TOP TEN PLAYBOY ACTRESS PICTORIALS

#10 MARILYN MONROE 1953
#09 SANDRA BERNHARD 1992
I thought I'd kick off with this perverse double bill, and I have a reason. Marilyn Monroe was on the first cover of Playboy in 1953 the year of her definitive ascent (Niagara, How To Marry A Millionaire) but she didn't actually pose for the magazine. The famous nude was shot years prior to her stardom, in 1949 to be exact. Sandra, one of Hollywood's most consistent provocateurs, posed purposefully for reasons of her own 40 years later. We won't deign to speak for her as to why but it did carry a certain exegetic charge as an imagined passive/aggressive (aggressive/aggresive?) response to ex-friend Madonna's "Sex" book which also debuted that year. All of which is to say these are the two poles between which the general truth of nude photospreads lies: first what Playboy imagined itself to be with women as commodity specifically for male pleasure (again, Marilyn wasn't actually involved) and second what Playboy pictorials often become with women as entrepeneurs of their own career/bodies and the pleasure of men of secondary, tertiary, or even no concern at all.

Not to get all fancy about T&A. 

NSFW Beauties after the jump: Julie, Charlize, Drew, Kim and more...

Click to read more ...