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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Entries in gender politics (71)

Tuesday
Jun032014

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Zorba the Greek (1964)

This week's 'Best Shot' film Zorba the Greek (1964) was a first-time watch for yours truly.  Oscar chose it for us since it won Walter Lassally's the Best Cinematography (Black and White) statue in the year we happen to be celebrating this month. At one point in the picture Zorba (Anthony Quinn and Anthony Quinn's giant expressive face), catches his employer Basil (Alan Bates, in young, stuffy, super pretty mode) sipping at alcohol. Zorba, a man of big appetites, forcefully tilts the bottle higher to get more booze down his boss's throat.

Don't be delicate..."

He tells his boss. That's good advice if you're watching Zorba the Greek which is, and I cannot understand why no actressexuals warned me of this, a fairly reprehensible motion picture. If this series were called Hit Me With The Shot That Shows Your Feelings About This Movie, my choice would be a tie between this suspicious side eye from Irene Papas as 'the widow...' and the moment a few beats later when she spits at the men and exits the scene.

[SPOILER] The film has two major female characters. One is referred to as a "silly old bitch" and the other has no name or voice. This film's treatment of the latter, "a wild widow" is disgusting. It views her only as a sexual conquest and then as a corpse that's not even worth remembering (she's never mentioned again). The heroes can't save her but, as it turns out, they don't care anyway. Back to our jaunty score and the story of laughing dancing men bonding and building things. She is robbed of identity. Her murder is reduced to local texture, nothing more than a setpiece. [/ SPOILER]

Zorba was a massive hit in 1964 and probably helped popularize the very familiar trope of the Life Force who shakes up the Staid Hesistant Protagonist and convinces him to Engage With Life. You know how that goes. The picture is fuzzy about the why, and what good it does anyone, but it's all about the journey anyway. The film peaks right in the middle with strong playful scenes about a mine, a monastery and Zorba's famous dancing. The first dance is the film's most beautifully lit scene, all shadowy impishness and physically stout feeling.

The next day Zorba confesses to deeper truths about his life and tells Basil he doesn't understand -  men, women, war... the whole lot. Basil objects that he does understand but Zorba retorts:

With your head, yes. You say this is right. This is wrong. When you talk, I watch your arms, your legs, your chest. They are dumb. They say nothing. So how can you understand?

Which is why it's so smart narratively, and also visually, that when Basil tries (awkwardly) to recreate Zorba's uninhibited passionate dancing later in the picture the shadows render him headless.

In these admittedly frequent moments when the film is all gesture and the body takes center stage, Zorba the Greek has a certain potency. It even has masculine charm. But some of the ideas jostling about in its brain aren't worth the widow's spit. Better it loses its head. 

OTHER BEST SHOTS FROM THIS FILM
click on the photo to read the corresponding article!

Monks refer to him as "the devil." When Zorba dances, he moves like a man possessed...
- The Entertainment Junkie 

The dark silhouettes made the women look like vultures scavenging for food... 
-Film Actually 

 

For dance is an important narrative motif here; it is the metaphor for how much vivacity and vitality one possesses, and how much one is willing to pull the utterly English stick out of one's utterly English ass...
-Antagony & Ecstasy 

all the people on this island are always in packs...
-The Film's The Thing 

 

NEXT TUESDAY NIGHT: A special one-off TV episode of our series. Since everyone will be binge-watching Orange is the New Black Season 2, you can choose the best shot of whichever episode (or episodes) you most want to talk about. Why fight it? It's all the internet will be talking about that week.

Wednesday
May282014

Links: Daredevil Casting, Cage Laughing, Maleficent Building, X-Men Griping

Today's Picture To Gawk At
This one goes out to my podcast pals via Theater Mania because we know you've always wanted to see a photo of Julianne Moore with Sophie Okonedo!

Juli with the cast of the 2 millionth revival of "Raisin in the Sun"

Linkages
New York Times Maya Angelou, the famous author and poet, sometime actress, and one time director (Down in the Delta, 1998) has died
Pajiba Charlie Cox, who killed my beloved Pfeiffer in Stardust will be the new Daredevil for 2015's Netflix series. I haven't seen him in act in like seven years (no really)... so I have no idea what to say about this. Kept a low profile he has as a once rising star. Thoughts?
Playbill Best Picture winner The Sting (1973) will become a musical on Broadway. (That's mandatory now for famous movies)
AV Club HBO going further back with its gay content and planning a 1960s based gay telefilm Open City about gays and the mafia... not to be confused with the modern term "the gay mafia"
i09 talks to production designer turned director Robert Stromberg about his world-building on movies and Maleficent 


YouTube every time Nicolas Cage laughs in a movie. This is so funny and disturbing 
Variety Gross! Clueless's Stacey Dash (Dionne) is a Republican and has just joined Fox News
Variety Golden Trailer Awards getting more popular each year 

Would Be Emmy Precursors
Finally, The Broadcast Television Critics Nominations were announced today. I don't belong to this kid brother organization of the BFCA (which I do belong to) that is still very new... but I can't say that I'm pleased with them for the Mad Men shutouts in their drama nominations or that they're so conversative in their taste when it comes to some of Emmy's issues. (The Big Bang Theory, really? and no RuPaul's Drag Race in Reality Competition despite the media always complaining about how dumb the Emmys are to not see its subversive brilliance?) But if you're curious you can take a look. Things That Are Awesome:  Lauren Weedman for Guest Actress for Looking on HBO. Lots of nominations for Masters of Sex and Orange is the New Black; Things That Are Stupid: Mad Men shut out; Things That Are Interesting: Joe Morton who plays Kerry Washington's father and Bellamy Young, who plays the perpetually defeated unloved First Lady are the only members of Scandal to get acting nominations. The lack of interest in Girls on HBO (only nominated for Andrew Rannels in Guest Performer). Two acting nods for Shameless as a Comedy (it's new campaign tactic) even though it's more of a Drama than it used to be.

art by Jason MetcalfX-Men. Emphasis on the Men. 
Dim the House Lights has an excellent piece expanding on my frustrations with X-Men Days of Future Past and the X-franchise's unwillingness to care about its female characters. This article goes one step further and argues that their agency has been completely erased. Compellingly argued, too.

Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men in my readings about the X-Men movies I chanced upon this great funny podcast that attempts to explain the X-Men's very convoluted history, right from the beginning in the 1960s. If you care about comic books, the X-Men, or want to just marvel at how professional some podcasts sound (seriously, what equipment do people use that their voices are always so shiny, clear and untarnished by sound debris?) [all the episodes on iTunes]

Friday
May232014

Good Reads: Superheroine Edition

With various X-Men smearing their mutant DNA all of your movie screens this weekend, it's become painfully obvious that movie studios are still terrifed of superheroes with vaginas. Storm continues to be the single most-wasted ineptly-transferred great character from the comics but Kitty Pryde has an even sadder story. "X-Men Days of Future Past," one of the most famous and influential comic arcs of all time, originally granted the phasing young mutant (played by Ellen Page in the movies) the starring role. We all knew they would find a way to sideline her.

I lurve Hugh Jackman but one of my biggest disappointments about the X-Men movies continues to be the way the team aspects are muted in order to make it all about the charismatic clawed one. The Avengers figured out a way to balance multiple headliners but the X-Men movies haven't been that inspired. So here are two excellent reads from Slate if you care about the ladies and gender inequities within this genre.

"Why is Wolverine Doing All The Things I Did?"
Kitty Pryde herself (via Stephen Burt) writes a letter to the filmmakers about her suddenly sidelined heroics. Why is that exactly?

"David Goyer’s Comments About She-Hulk Make People Very, Very Angry"
The title is too utilitarian to get excited about but there a lot of great points raised in this article about origin stories and comic book sexism. This article was in response to screenwriter David S. Goyer's (The Dark Knight, Man of Steel) comments about the character of She-Hulk on a podcast we linked to yesterday. One of the two podcast hosts Craig Mazin, who used the word "slut" in the discussion, has since published an apology/clarification of what he meant. But the conversation basically treated her as a Bride of Frankenstein sex fantasy creation for Hulk -- missing the point that she was created as a female empowerment fantasy and is Bruce Banner's cousin. (Not the kissin' kind.) I suppose it's no accident that Goyer is involved with Batman v Superhero: Dawn of Justice which already controversially cast a 110 lbs underwear model as the most famous amazon superheroine of all time (that'd be Wonder Woman). 

The takeaway is that we're never going to get female superheroes done right until...

Elizabeth Olsen as The Scarlet Witch in "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015)

a) more actressexual directors get involved. Joss Whedon is a great start and our best hope at the moment - look how he rescued the Black Widow from her Iron Man 2 decorative-nothingness. Can we hope that he'll also exceed expectations with The Scarlet Witch?

b) the people in charge of shepherding this genre to the screen are more evolved than Frank T.J. Mackey and don't immediately think "great tits!" first when confronted with the idea of a superheroine. There's nothing wrong with great boobs -- We fully support them and thank Scarlet Johansson for hers at least weekly --  but boobs do not a heroine make. 

You wouldn't think those two things would be such tall hurdles to clear... 

Tuesday
May202014

Cannes Diary Day ???: "The Homesman," Or How Tommy Lee Jones Failed at Feminist Storytelling

Diana Drumm is reporting from Cannes for the The Film Experience. 

 

Based on the award-winning novel (that Paul Newman was attached to for years) by Glendon Swarthout (“The Shootist”), The Homesman is a bizarre, unwieldy Western about 31 year-old spinster Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) and questionable character Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) who are driving three insane women (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter) back East for treatment, or at least respite from their literally-maddening frontier lives.  

Or for a convoluted, reference-laden way to generalize it all, think of The Homesman as an inverse of the Robert Taylor-starring not-quite-classic Westward The Women (1951) meets the Glenn Close-starring made-for-TV movie Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991) with the madness and mismatches of Quills (2000, Briggs being the less couth, toned down subversive Marquis) divided by the stunning Western cinematography of Brokeback Mountain (2005, via Oscar nominee Rodrigo Prieto). Apologies, my brain is flooded with movies. 

Scale of Tommy Lee Jones orneriness, gender politics, and star cameos after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
May182014

Cannes Diary Day 4 Pt 2: Hilary & Tommy Promote "The Homesman"

Diana Drumm reporting from Cannes for The Film Experience

 

At today’s The Homesman press conference, Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank lived up to their public personas, the former as a well-meaning curmudgeon and the latter as diplomatic would be sweetheart. This dynamic was evident when Jones made the off-putting comment that editing is time consuming but “it’s not hard work” and Swank, spotting the possible faux pax in front of a room of international movie press, swooped in by clarifying maybe not for someone like him with his great mind and thoughtful vision, but she’d be lost and that editing is indeed hard work.

Well-trained in the art of dodging cringe-inducing questions, Swank managed to pivot from a meant-to-be-complimentary question about the disparity between her beauty in person and her plainness onscreen to an empowering impromptu speech about the subjectivity of attractiveness. She shared that some people have told her that they found her characters Maggie (Million Dollar Baby) and Mary Bee Cuddie (The Homesman), to be attractive because of their strength. Considering that the film tackles the issues of female subjugation and objectification, it was all the more uncomfortable when multiple professional journalists either commented on her physical appearance or prefaced their question with a comment on her physical appearance.

What did these reporters expect? She’s a movie star at Cannes promoting a film, the very definition of a glamorous day's work. And isn’t that a pretty tired narrative for Swank, dating back over a decade?

To Swank’s left, Jones bordered on ornery, not understanding a number of questions (giving unrelated answers or asking reporters to rephrase) or speaking in vague, sometimes dismissive, terms about cast and production (“The difficulty was the weather.” … “It’s not real research, we’re not curing polio.”).  As for both directing and acting on this film, he deadpanned:

As a director, I can tell you that I do everything I tell myself to do.”

Dodging the more thematic  and film-specific questions, Jones repeatedly answered “The movie speaks for itself,” without further explanation. On a rare upbeat note, Jones did spark to a question about the film’s music (plugging his son, the film’s music consultant) and went into a long-winded explanation about finding era-appropriate tunes and building wind organs.

In response to a HuffPo reporter’s line of questioning about women’s issues in the 1800s (when the film is set) relating to those of today, Jones said,

 I don't think there's a woman in this room that has never felt objectified or trivialized because of her gender. There's a reason for that and a history of that, and I think that's an interesting thing."

A smattering of applause. Jones won back a few of the hearts he may have lost.

 

Day 1 Arrival & Opening Night | Day 2 Grace of Monaco | Day 3 Mr Turner & Timbuktu  | Day 4 Amour Fou & The Blue Room |  Day ??? The Homesman Review