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Entries in James Cameron (16)


Women's Pictures - Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days

On April 29th, 1992, the Rodney King verdict set Los Angeles on fire. Over 6 days, crowds rioted in South Central LA, protesting the acquittal of four LAPD officers who had been videotaped beating a black man. This was not LA's first race riot, but it came at a fraught time for the city, when the skyscrapers that were supposed to signal the start of a new era of prosperity loomed over widening economic and social gaps. By May 4th, it was clear that though the riots had "officially" ended, they had left a scar on the psyche of the city. Over the next few years, that scar would surface in one of Los Angeles's most prominent exports: film. After the Rodney King riots ended, a series of scifi blockbusters - including Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days - took to the streets of LA to predict the worst for the city's future.

Strange Days (another collaboration between Kathryn Bigelow and ex-husband James Cameron) is part of a group of dystopian action thrillers that cropped up in the wake of the Rodney King Riots. Escape from LADemolition Man, and Strange Days used their futuristic settings to do what science fiction does best: they created an allegory for contemporary fears about violence, inequity, and police brutality. 

Los Angeles is a good setting for a dystopia. Unlike New York City, America's Melting Pot, where people from different socioeconomic backgrounds intermingle on the street, Los Angeles is more a series of villages connected by highways. In LA, communities whose names are synonymous with wealth and prestige set their gates a handful of miles from infamously poor neighborhoods. But the two worlds never meet.

According to the movies, only three groups travel between these separate-but-unequal islands: cops, criminals, and entertainers. Lenny Nero, the protagonist of Strange Days, is all three: an ex-cop turned con-man who sells recorded memories and emotions via a "SQUID" machine - data discs that play directly in your cerebral cortex. When an anonymous donor leaves Nero a clip of his friend's rape and murder on New Year's Eve 1999, Nero and his friend Mace (Angela Bassett) get pulled into a plot that involves murdered rappers, police coverups, music producers, and Nero's lost love (Juliette Lewis). But bubbling under this detective story is a growing sense of unrest between police and the populace.

James Cameron's screenplay sets up a lot of ideas - drug allegory, the nature of memory, police militarization, the right to riot, institutional racism - and it is Kathryn Bigelow's very heavy duty to sort through these themes while also keeping the film on track. Miraculously, she is mostly successful. Though the structure of the script sometimes lags under the weight of its own ideas, Bigelow keeps the film moving at a clipped pace. Her fascination with point of view also becomes literal in Strange Days. the SQUID machines record from first person POV, which Bigelow uses to occasionally comic, often thrilling, and (in one incredibly intense murder scene) chilling effect. By virtue of its technical difficulties, First Person POV can look gimmicky on film, but Bigelow overcomes the difficulties to instead stage a series of fantastic action pieces.

The only failure of the film is not in its setup or its action, but in its conclusion. The complex problems of racism and violence which had occasionally bubbled to the surface - mostly in a B plot surrounding Angela Bassett's character - are neatly solved at the end of the film, though this denoument does give one intense image: a SWAT team beating an unarmed woman. It's probably too much to ask for moral complexity from an action thriller. Though insipred by riots that had proved there were still no easy answers in reality, Strange Days is still a product of its genre; commodified violence for the sake of box office. 

This month on Women's Pictures...

7/23 - K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) - Hands down the most requested film after Point Break, this film follows Harrison Ford racing to prevent a nuclear holocaust via submarine. (Amazon Prime) (Netflix)

7/30 - The Hurt Locker (2008) - The film that put Bigelow's name down in history as the first female director to win the Academy Award is a thriller about a bomb squad in the Iraq War. (Amazon Prime)


Beauty vs Beast: Motel Hell

JA from MNPP here, wishing you all a happy Monday and wishing what would have been a happy 88th birthday to the great, sadly passed Janet Leigh. She's been gone for over a decade but Janet's legacy still looms tall with several classics -- Touch of Evil and The Manchurian Candidate both come to mind -- but as it has been said we all go a little mad sometimes and color me mad when I realized that Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho has somehow never found itself "Beauty vs Beast"-itized. It's a prime pick whose time has come! Slap on your favorite wig and let's play!

PREVIOUSLY This weekend Terminator: Genisys flopped box-office-wise and according to your votes maybe they should've thought about bringing Linda Hamilton along for the ride since her Sarah Connor trounced Full Metal Arnold in our face-off taking just under 80% of the vote. Said SusanP:

"As far as I'm concerned no contest -- Sarah Connor in a walk. Plus, when you list her pros you are neglecting her most important/awesome assets: The Arms "


Beauty vs Beast: Mother Machine

Jason from MNPP here wishing everyone a happy Monday, and a happy July-4th-weekend-to-be - speaking of, hitting theaters this big holiday weekend is the latest movie in the unstoppable Terminator franchise... is anybody excited? I imagine it's hard for most of us to stir up a ton of enthusiasm five movies in and coming off of two entirely lackluster sequels, but I really love the cast that's been assembled so I will probably get suckered in one more time. Jason Clarke wouldn't steer us wrong... right? That said for this week's "Beauty vs Beast" let us look back at the last time the franchise was good with the movie every sequel since has been riding the fumes from, James Cameron's 1991 action classic Terminator 2: Judgement Day.You have one week to choose!

PREVIOUSLY Billy Wilder's birthday carried us up into the dark weird manors of the Hollywood Hills with a face-off between Sunset Boulevard's Norma Desmond and her post-dead boy-toy Joe, and Norma's stardust was too much for us to resist. She carried just under 80% of the vote! Said tom:

"While Joe seems to inspire those around him, Norma consumes them. She probably swallows them whole. You have to vote for someone with an appetite like that."


Q&A Part 1: Avatar the Musical (Not Really) & Instant Classics

For this week's "Ask Nathaniel" party, I asked people to be inspired by the theater (Tony season is upon us) or by the science fiction genre. I promised 10 questions. 10 answers but that's too long. So here's part one of two: 4 questions today. 6 tomorrow. here we go...

I started drawing myself as a Na'vi but got bored when I realized my lack of hair meant I couldn't ride dragons. Unfinished.STEVE: Do have fear that the million Avatar sequels that will happen will ruin the magic of the original for you?

NATHANIEL: I love Avatar but it will ruin itself. Technological breakthroughs rarely age well because there's always another technological breakthrough around the corner to make the previous one look antique. The exception is something like Star Wars because its success wasn't really about how "new" it looked. In fact, it was successful because it was so good at being an old thing (adventure serial) and using old techniques in improved new ways like models and matte paintings and whatnot. I think it's quite funny that the upgrades when they "fixed" the Star Wars trilogy later on actually made them seem less timeless. Computerized Jabba the Hut for example totally places you in the exact moment of when CGI looked like that. Puppet Jabba is forever.

Plus will those three Avatar sequels actually happen despite the current plans? James Cameron has only made two films in the past 20 years and he's already 60 years old. I realize he's planning to shoot them simultaneously but if he weren't he'd be wrap up a full Avatar quadrilogy in 2044 or so and then retire and/or die at 90.

JAMES: What witches do you think Meryl Streep was offered when she turned 40?

OMG I LOVE THIS QUESTION. I have ignorantly never questioned this  despite the fact that Meryl Streep has been quoted about this a few times. [More...]

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Ripley is Forever

There are few movie characters as iconic as Lt. Ellen Ripley, the accidental but determined warrior so superbly played by Sigourney Weaver four times over in the five film Aliens franchise (1979-2012). Soon to be six or seven if Ridley pursues his Prometheus sequel and Neill Blomkamp and Sigourney actually make good on their plans to bring Ripley back in 2017 on the heels of their first collaboration Chappie (opening Friday). 

While James Cameron's Aliens (1986) hogs most of the attention when it comes to Weaver's franchise headlining work (including a well deserved but very out-of-comfort-zone Oscar nomination for Best Actress) she's actually pretty stellar in all four of the movies. [More...]

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Link o' the Morning To You

Film Society NYC's annual Asian Film Festival starts at the end of the month and will pay tribute to Jimmy Wong Yu (Taiwanese director), Lee Jung-jae (Korean actor), and Sandra Ng (Hong Kong actress) among others. Lots of interesting sounding films as usual
TMZ a few dozen images from the set of Star Wars Episode VII - mostly it's just charactor actors mulling about Tattooine sets with dark sunglasses in those earth colors heavy robes. Don't get too excited.

MNPP Good morning Jamie Dornan. This new photoshoot seems to be taking over the web (but I am willing to predict that 50 Shades of Gray won't do justice to Dornan's smolder.
LA Times Ann B Davis, "Alice" the housekeeper from The Brady Bunch has passed away. She was already a two-time Emmy winner when she started that show in 1969 but can you believe The Brady Bunch was never nominated for a single Emmy? Of course the awards were much different then with far fewer categories. Out of curiousity I looked up on the nominees that year from The Brady Bunch's first year 69/70 and the winning comedy was "My World and Welcome to It" and the winning 'new series' (a category they don't have anymore) was "Room 222" which was an interracial drama. I've never heard of either.
Towleroad Penny Dreadful [SPOILERS] got a man on man kiss last night between Josh Hartnett and Reeve Carney. I did *not* see that development coming given what we've seen of Hartnett's character
Collider James Cameron on his new projects, Avatar and Terminator franchises, and one old aborted movie involving a webslinger
James Cameron's Spider-Man Treatment  I can't decide whether or not to read this. I love Cameron movies so much that I fear forever wishing this had happened


Brie & ShaiToday's Must Read
Lynn Hirschberg invites Shailene Woodley and Brie Larson to dinner for Vulture and she agonizes about how to cook for them (in a kind of gentle mocking tone?) and they talk friendship, staying honest, and fixing Hollywood. Brie Larson reveals that she misses rejection ("it's real and I don't want to lose that") and Shailene talks about her failed Oscar campaign for the Descendants (‘Are you telling me that if I dress a certain way, my chances are better for an Oscar? That makes me want to show up naked.’).

Anyway it's a great read...

They both approved of my soup (thank God!) and did not question my out-of-­season tomatoes imported from some ­faraway, nonlocal place. The girls talked like long-lost sisters, airing their ­frustrations and expectations in equal measure. Woodley, for instance, hates sleeping scenes in movies. “It’s so ridiculous the woman wakes up and she’ll have makeup on! I don’t even look like that after a photo shoot!” And both women worked hard not to be judgmental. “Girls in this industry sabotage one another,” Larson said. “We will never do that.” It was a lovefest with big stakes: Together and apart, they were constantly pondering how to improve the movie business. Or, at least, how to mobilize their army of two.

It's  sad to me that Shailene Woodley spoke out against feminism recently because she clearly doesn't know what it means and would love it if she got educated and understood it.


14 Days Til Oscar: "All About Titanic"

[Our countdown to Hollywood's High Holy Night continues. Here's abstew with a fun "battle"]

We've only 14 days to go. It seemed like the perfect time to take a look at the two films that jointly hold the record for most nominations (in case you hadn't guessed, that would be 14). One is a fabulous Actressexual's dream about back-stabbing in the theatre world and the other a small indie about a boy and girl in love. Oh, yeah and something about a ship. 

Technically, Titanic holds a higher place in Oscar history, having won 11 of its 14 nominations while All About Eve went home with only six statues (though 12 was the most it could have won with double-nods in Lead and Supporting Actress). But haven't you always wondered what film would come out victorious if they had gone head-to-head?  No? Well, let's find out anyway

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