Between the phenomenal success of “Get Out” and the failure of “Ghost in the Shell,” might Hollywood finally wise up?
Between the phenomenal success of “Get Out,” the imminent next chapter of the emphatically diverse “Fast and the Furious” franchise, and the recent failure of “Ghost in the Shell,” (among other examples), is there genuine reason to hope that racially insensitive blockbusters might soon become a thing of the past?
Vadim Rizov (@vrizov), Filmmaker Magazine
I think a lot about Bilge Ebiri’s 2013 piece on how the “Fast & Furious” franchise blew up by self-consciously becoming “diverse.” The short takeaway: Universal execs didn’t throw together a super-diverse cast out of the goodness of their progressive hearts, but out of a keen awareness that targeting multipole, oft-underserved demographics was a key, underexploited pathway to making much more money. It’s long been reported that there’s a big gap between onscreen representation and the audiences showing up: Latinos are the biggest moviegoers in the US, which you wouldn’t guess from the number (or lack thereof) of prominently cast Latinos onscreen.
So the examples cited are, sure, apposite, but what we’re really talking about here are two examples of black filmmakers breaking through plus one self-consciously “inclusive” blockbuster — hardly a monster wave, and anyone with a memory of how the late ’80s wave of black filmmakers ground to a halt after a while should be wary that non-white filmmakers are now, finally, about to become an integral part of the Hollywood apparatus, with attendant changes in onscreen diversity to follow; all it takes is one flop for the machine to change its mind (which is admittedly very stupid). So I’m sadly wary that we’re on the way to a more inclusive onscreen future.
Charles Bramesco (@intothecrevasse), Freelance for Vulture, Nylon, the Guardian
While it would certainly be nice if Hollywood got its shit together and stopped casting white people in nonwhite roles, and while I agree that there have been tiny incremental decreases in that practice year by year, I fear it’ll be a long time until it become a complete thing of the past. You trace a positive trend through “Get Out,” “Moonlight,” and “Fastly Furious 8: Fambly Matters,” but we could just as easily draw a less heartening conclusion from a glance at the next few months. By the end of June, we’ll have a film in which Guatemalan-born Oscar Isaac plays Armenian, something called “How to Be a Latin Lover” (gulp) from my beloved Ken Marino, and loads of all-white studio projects.
Things are definitely better now than they were as recently as 2014, but until people of color have been installed in key decision making positions, I fear a meaningful step forward will be impossible.
Manuela Lazic (@ManiLazic), Freelance for Little White Lies, The Film Stage
In our frequent tearful and angry comments against the big monster that is Hollywood, we critics often fail to recognise this industry’s undeniable complexity. Somewhat simultaneously, progress seems always on the cusp of realisation, while signs of Hollywood’s backward ideas about race and identity continue to surface in countless new films, especially blockbusters. In theatres this weekend, a brave spectator — or one into cognitive dissonance — can have herself a double-bill of the ground-breaking “Get Out” and the whitewashed “Ghost in the Shell” remake. Hollywood is a messy place.
Nevertheless, “Moonlight”’s exhilarating critical triumph (with a gobsmacking twist ending on Oscars night) and “Get Out”’s massive commercial success recently may make “Ghost in the Shell” seem like an anomaly, a last misjudged attempt by Hollywood to pursue its long-held tradition of reappropriation and flattening out of racial difference in favour of the majority. It almost feels like real change is taking place, which can explain the vigorousness of the outcry against “Ghost.” Yet while evidently justified, this violent dismissal also risks making us forget about the similar and in fact not so distant scandal of “Doctor Strange,” which followed many others. Despite all the anger that these previous films generated, such attitudes evidently persist.
Hollywood nonetheless always tries to give its audience what it wants, if only because this strategy makes economical sense. And this explains the very existence of a “Ghost in the Shell” remake: the original regained popularity in recent years by becoming more available to Occidental spectators and thanks to the surge of interest in anime. But as the casting of Scarlett Johansson blatantly reveals, Hollywood is a clumsy pleaser. It is willing to tap into different stories, but cannot fully commit to their specificity. In some cases, as with the casting of Tilda Swinton as “the Ancient One” in “Doctor Strange,” traces of Orientalism even emerge, where Asian cultures are not only populated with white people, but also made to look inaccessible, exotic, magical and even dangerous.
Perhaps the solution to Hollywood’s racial problem lies in this very desire to please: critics, and social media users in general, might have the power to guide the big studios on their tedious path to sensitive representation. Through trial and error — that is, unsatisfying attempts at diversity in films, then virulent attacks by spectators in the press and the media- the industry might eventually understand what is so wrong about itself, and finally deliver consistently racially conscious movies. Until then, we shall stay mad.
Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko) Pajiba/Nerdist/CBR
Man, I wish. And not just because I’m an alleged and unrepentant SJW, but also because wouldn’t it be amazing if films as original, challenging, and riveting as “Moonlight” and “Get Out” became the standard and not the exception?
Personally, I’m hopeful that the success of these films — as well as the box office success of “Hidden Figures”— will prove to Hollywood once and for all that white-straight-male need not be the default setting for any given story. And I expect we’ll start to see a shift toward more Black actors getting lead roles, instead of the parade of blandsome white ingendudes of which Hollywood seems to have an endless supply. But I’m doubtful the success of these movies will impact Hollywood’s loathsome tradition of Asian erasure, as Asians and Asian-Americans are all too often left out of the race and representation conversation.
It all comes from Hollywood believing only white heroes (often white men) sell movies globally (which is bunk). Yet, this year alone we saw examples of Asian erasure in “The Great Wall,” “Iron Fist,” and “Ghost in the Shell.” While not all are clear examples of white washing, each is a story that relishes in an Asian culture, while centering on a White protagonist. And that reduces Asian people to set dressing, even within their own stories. What needs to happen for this kind to change is not only the failure of such properties, but also the success of ones that dare to recognize Asian and Asian-American stars as more than cameos that’ll help bolster overseas sales. We’ll know a sea change is actually happening there when Asian/Asian-American women can front a story that doesn’t involve martial arts, or when an Asian/Asian-American man can be cast as the lead in a romantic-comedy. Because — as Jack Choi pointed out last year — allowing an actor to be seen as a sex symbol is a crucial step in making him a star.
Here’s hoping someone soon will finally realize the untapped potential of the internet’s crush John Cho, or that some clever producer will run with the swoons Dev Patel has stirred from his surfer-bro “Lion” look. Because here is the rare case where objectification could actually help in representation.
Richard Brody (@tnyfrontrow), The New Yorker
The “Fast and Furious” franchise has a diverse cast; so do the most recent “Star Wars” entries, and so does “Captain America: Civil War”; and these films’ successes have hardly ushered in a new era in empathy and justice. Or, rather, unfortunately, not at all. Big-budget, mass-market films are effects, not causes. The commercial success of these movies with diverse casts and the failure of “Ghost in the Shell” may give studio executives the hint they need. On the other hand, “Life” was a failure, too (the capital letter matters). On the third hand, one of the things that makes “Get Out” a great movie is its depiction of racial identity as a matter of historical consciousness and personal experience.
Tentpole movies don’t offer much of either — for people of any ethnicity; the amount of human experience that filters into these films is pretty slender overall. That’s why the diversity of casts needs to be joined by diversity behind the camera — executives, producers, directors, screenwriters; otherwise, the diverse casts (though important in themselves, as opportunities for the actors) will have little effect on the films’ substance.
Christopher Campbell (@thefilmcynic), Nonfics, Film School Rejects
The sad thing is that “Ghost in the Shell”s disappointing box office may not be seen as the result of the casting controversy, and maybe it is not entirely. But we’ve seen so many movies that have had similar issues, including “Gods of Egypt” and “The Great Wall,” unable to financially back up the offenses in terms of being what audiences want, that it has to be getting to Hollywood. Unless they see the success of films like “Get Out” and “Fast and the Furious” being enough to counter the films deemed insensitive, like “Ghost in the Shell,” which is a box office failure, and Doctor Strange, which is not. And they may be doing well enough outside America where the controversies don’t alway carry over, that they don’t care. Maybe the only way to tell if anything was learned with “Ghost in the Shell” is to see what happens with “Akira.”
Tasha Robinson (@TashaRobinson), The Verge
I don’t think we’re ever likely to be entirely rid of tone-deaf adaptations, for the same reason we’ll never be rid of bloated blockbuster sequels or dumbed-down copycats of hit movies: at least half of Hollywood is always chasing what looks like the safest payday, by trying to plug “bankable” stars into everything, regardless of appropriateness or optics. What the success of films like “Get Out” and “Hidden Figures” gets us that I find heartening is a new set of profitable stars. There’s always going to be some clueless money-minded Hollywood exec pushing Tom Cruise or Matt Damon for the lead role in a President Obama biopic, because “Their films make money, and making money is what’s important.” But as actors like Michael B. Jordan, Janelle Monae, Octavia Spencer, and Mahershala Ali gain more cachet as Hollywood moneymakers, we’re more likely to see their names come up in conversation. The success of films like “Get Out” and “Hidden Figures” — or, on another scale entirely, the admirably diversity-minded “Star Wars: Rogue One” — isn’t just a boon for people who want to see themselves reflected onscreen, and it isn’t just a boon for people who want to point to “diverse” films and say they make money and have an audience. It’s also a boon for producers and directors and casting agents who want to widen their net, and need to be able to point to past successes when they’re pitching future projects. The more “bankable” stars of color we have, the less likely we are to live in a world where Scarlett Johansson is seen as the only possible star for an action film about a tough woman, regardless of that woman’s race.
40 Movies Directed By Women To Look Forward to In 2016
Even with 52 slots, our annual list of the most anticipated movies of the year is missing a lot of notable upcoming titles (The Girl on the Train, for one). It’s also missing a lot of a certain gender of filmmaker. Of the major releases we highlighted, only one of them has a woman at the helm.
There are a number of movies directed by women set to open in 2016, and plenty of them are titles we’re looking forward to. Most are not studio productions and so don’t have definite US release dates, unfortunately. And of the 10 that do, sadly nine of them aren’t among those we’re super excited about.
We’ve found 40 notable movies expected to be released in 2016, all of them listed below. First, here are the quarter of them with official openings. Unsurprisingly, none are coming out in the heavy blockbuster times of the summer or holiday seasons. Who’d want to trust a girl with a real tentpole?
Kung Fu Panda 3 – directed by Jennifer Yuh (Kung Fu Panda 2) and Alessandro Carloni. After earning an Oscar nomination for helming Kung Fu Panda 2 on her own, Yuh has a male co-director for the third installment of the popular animated franchise. Also of note: with a worldwide take of $666m, Kung Fu Panda 2 is the highest-grossing movie directed solely by a woman. Release date: January 29.
Me Before You – directed by Thea Sharrock (The Hollow Crown). Game of Thrones stars Emilia Clarke and Charles Dance are among the cast of this adaptation of Jojo Moyes’s romantic novel. Clarke plays a woman in a small town who takes care of a paralyzed man, played by Sam Claflin of the Hunger Games movies. Release date: March 4.
Miracles from Heaven – directed by Patricia Riggen (The 33). Fresh off her movie of the Chilean miner disaster, Riggen already has a follow-up in this adaptation of Christy Beam’s memoir. The author, whose sick daughter was “miraculously” cured, is being played by Jennifer Garner. Release date: March 18.
The Invitation – directed by Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body). The one release helmed by a woman featured in our main preview (we already saw it and can recommend it), this indie horror movie debuted at SXSW last year. Release date: March 25.
Ratchet & Clank – directed by Jerrica Cleland (cinematographer, Arthur Christmas) and Kevin Munroe (TMNT). The popular video game franchise about the galactic adventures of an alien mechanic and his little robot sidekick get the animated feature treatment. Another with a man and woman directorial team. Release date: April 29.
Money Monster – directed by Jodie Foster (The Beaver). Ocean’s Eleven‘s George Clooney and Julia Roberts reunite for this thriller from actress-turned-filmmaker Foster. Jack O’Connell also stars as a man who takes Clooney’s character and his stock tips TV show hostage after losing all his money from some bad advice given by the program. Release date: May 13.
Maggie’s Plan – directed by Rebecca Miller (The Private Lives of Pippa Lee). Greta Gerwig stars in this comedy as a woman who falls in love with a married man (Ethan Hawke) but eventually realizes he’s better off with his now ex-wife (Julianne Moore). Release date: May 20.
Bridget Jones’s Baby – directed by Sharon Maguire (Bridget Jones’s Diary). Maguire returns to the Bridget Jones series for the third installment, which was nearly helmed by Paul Feig. Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth are also back, this time to be joined by a new addition to their family. Release date: September 16.
Besties – directed by Kelly Fremon (writer of Post Grad). Hailee Steinfeld stars in the directorial debut of Fremon, who also wrote the script. The teen comedy is about best friends who become enemies when one dates the other’s older brother. Release date: September 30.
Underworld 5 – directed by Anna Foerster (cinematographer, White House Down). After working as a second unit director and DP for major blockbusters, mainly those by Roland Emmerich, Foerster is taking over the Underworld franchise for her feature directorial debut. This is the fifth installment (once titled Underworld: Next Generation) and again stars Kate Beckinsale. Release date: October 21.
American Honey – directed by Andrea Arnold (Wuthering Heights).
The Bad Batch – directed by Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night).
Black Dog, Red Dog – directed by Adriana Cepeda Espinosa and James Franco (As I Lay Dying).
Elvis & Nixon – directed by Liza Johnson (Return).
First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers – directed by Angelina Jolie (By the Sea).
Leavey – directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Blackfish).
Loving Vincent – directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman (Oscar winner for the 2006 animated short Peter & the Wolf).
Our Kind of Traitor – directed by Susanna White (Nanny McPhee Returns).
Queen of Katwe – directed by Mira Nair (Amelia).
Replicas – directed by Tanya Wexler (Hysteria).
Stargirl – directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight).
Wakefield – directed by Robin Swicord (The Jane Austen Book Club).
The Whole Truth – directed by Courtney Hunt (Frozen River).
The Zookeeper’s Wife – directed by Niki Caro (Whale Rider).
Sundance 2016 Narrative Premieres
Agnus Dei – directed by Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel).
Certain Women – directed by Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy).
Equity – directed by Meera Menon (Farah Goes Bang).
The Intervention – directed by Clea DuVall (actress, Argo).
Sophie and the Rising Sun – directed by Maggie Greenwald (Songcatcher).
Tallulah – directed by Sian Heder (writer/producer, Orange is the New Black).
Sundance 2016 Documentary Premieres
Maya Angelou And Still I Rise – directed by Rita Coburn Whack and Bob Hercules (Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance).
Newtown – directed by Kim A. Snyder (I Remember Me).
Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You – directed by Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp) and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp).
Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper – directed by Liz Garbus (What Happened, Miss Simone?).
Nuts! – directed by Penny Lane (Our Nixon).
Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny – directed by Karen Bernstein and Louis Black.
Trapped – directed by Dawn Porter (Gideon’s Army).
Under the Gun – directed by Stephanie Soechtig (Fed Up).
Unlocking the Cage – directed by Chris Hegedus (The War Room) and DA Pennebaker (The War Room).
Weiner – directed by Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegman.
4 Films to Watch this Women’s History Month
Feminism In Film
March 02, 2016
March is Women’s History Month, so what better way to celebrate women in film than to highlight feminist narratives made in the 1980s? The ’80s were a wonderful time for female-driven properties. This was the era of Working Girl, Baby Boom and The Legend of Billie Jean. For your movie-going enjoyment, I have chosen four other female-inspired films that may have been forgotten by contemporary audiences.
Nine to Five • This 1980 flick was directed by Harold and Maude screenwriter Colin Higgins. Its story centers around a trio of office employees (Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton) who take their chauvinistic boss hostage, an act of defiance that is motivated by being subjected to verbal abuse and receiving unwanted sexual advances.
With their boss sequestered away, our heroines implement more accommodating policies that benefit women in the office, including salary increases, day care services and job sharing for working mothers. While still a comedy at heart, Nine to Five tackles serious issues regarding male attitudes toward women in the workforce, but it does so to the catchy beat of Parton’s Oscar-nominated titular song. Available on Netflix Instant.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains • Diane Lane and Laura Dern star as disaffected teens in a 1982 proto-punk band. The young women find themselves on a cross-country tour as the opening act for a more established musical group. Lane, as the Stain’s singer, defies the submissive female archetype by engaging in confrontational monologues with her audience, ultimately bringing her band to mainstream prominence.
Women are enamored with the band’s dyed hair, Ziggy Stardust makeup and their refusal to wear sexualizing outfits. Men are dismissive of the band’s artistic endeavors, labeling the Stains as a gimmick, a viewpoint that still dominates the rock world today.
These young women are a completely different breed than their conformist Baby Boomer parents. They are brazen in appearance. They are less emotional than most of the men. Simply put, they are the Stains, “and they don’t put out.” Available on Amazon Prime.
Born in Flames • Lizzie Borden’s seminal 1983 film takes place 10 years after the War of Liberation, where the women of New York City successfully overthrew the Democratic government and left a Socialist party wielding the political power. Despite the minor gains women have experienced (the government now gives hiring preferences to females), an imbalance of power between the sexes still prevails.
Spurring on the desire to promote female equality among the pervasive masculine culture is the Women’s Army, a predominantly African-American and lesbian group whose neighborhood offerings include child day care and rape rehabilitation centers. With the federal authorities monitoring the group’s activities and with a mantra proclaiming that “all oppressed people have a right to violence,” this militant narrative most assuredly ends in death and destruction. Available on Amazon Prime.
I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing • Films espousing feminine virtues don’t need to be overtly political. 1987’s Mermaids is such a film. Sheila McCarthy plays a secretary for an accomplished female art gallery curator. McCarthy is enamored with her boss’ beauty, sophistication, liberating views on sexuality and her desire for “universal respect.” The nebbish secretary’s naive decision to hang her boss’ lover’s painting in the gallery leads to surprising and unintended consequences.
This flick, a prototype for the New Queer Cinema movement, never comments upon the heterosexuality, lesbianism and bisexuality inherent in its characters’ desires. Psychologist Lisa Diamond describes this spectrum of sexuality as sexual fluidity, stating that female desire results in a fluctuation between same-sex and other-sex romantic longings. McCarthy’s secretary reiterates the film’s thesis when she states, “Gender is irrelevant in matters of the heart.” Available on Netflix Instant.
Article Source – San Antonio Current