Saturday, 3 October 2015

Our Brand Is Sexism

I'm pleased to see more and more about equality in filmmaking and TV production, behind the camera and in front of it. But it seems that most of the talk is about stirring speeches, where people stand up and clap but nothing much more is done. But, trying to channel some optimism, I'm hoping all this 'talk' will leads to eventual changes and shake ups.

Progress feels like its just around the corner. Viola Davis delivered a fantastic speech when she won her award recently, its events like these where women are using the spotlight for good. But then on the otherside of things, you have idiots like Matt Damon talking over a successful black female producer about diversity. 'You do it in the casting of the film not in the casting of the show'. Here is the clip - its short but sums up the Hollywood attitude. And here is a link to him apologising for being insensitive.
Oh look at all the men and one women here...

To be honest, I had wanted to see this show, but after this and whole media hit it took afterwards, really put me off ever seeking this show out. All men, oh apart from one woman. Really great guys. This doesn't put a good light on supposed nice guy actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck at all, or their 'brand'. They all say that diversity is very important to them, but what they do doesn't reflect this at all.

Reading over some articles that were posted by Birds Eye View Film I was not surprised to read that 99% of women working in film have experienced sexisim. Is it bad that I'm not surprised? Or is it bad that nothing has been done? Both. The article was very interesting and again, most of what was said didn't surprise me, just disappointed me. As Amanada Nevil, Chief Executive, BFI says, there is clearly an issue. I've added some quotes from women in film from the article and you can read it in full here.

"It mainly works through tokenism: we women directors are so starved for jobs, if you tap any of us to get into the club, we swear to uphold club rules and not rock the boat. If everybody wants to be “the chosen one” or “one of the guys”, you won’t have unity and solidarity – the only weapons that can combat the status quo." - Lexi Alexander, Director

"On my first film, after completing my very first shot, I was approached by a member of the crew who asked me if I “knew why women bleed”. When I looked at him, slightly confused, he answered “because they’re evil”" - Amma Asante, Director

"Most of the time it’s a refusal to do what you’ve asked, or to doubt the legitimacy of the instruction." - Agnes Godard, cinematographer

"I’ve heard, for example, that if a male director is being picky, people say he has a strong vision. With a woman, people will say she is being difficult."- Ellen Kuras, cinematographer

"There are still far more men than women working in almost every field in the film industry, and it’s not because women aren’t interested in those jobs. There are not enough films with female protagonists or characters who are more than the obligatory wife, girlfriend or assistant. There are also plenty of parts written for men over 40 and very few for their female counterparts." - Sandy Powell, Costume Designer

"There is clearly an issue within the industry: less than 15% of British films have been directed by women and there are similar figures when it comes to writers."- Amanda Nevill, Chief Executive, BFI

 There was also a recent article about Geena Davis and sexisim in film and TV and about her 'Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, the only research-based organisation that works to promote gender balance in the media and entertainment industries.' It's an interesting sounding study that combs through all the stats of women in the industry and how the percentage of women to men ratio is 17%. It's odd that the number keeps appearing. She mentions her own struggles with work as she gets older. Hollywood only seem interested in white men and not interested in stories that may feature women, over 40 years of age. 

“If a movie starring or written by or directed by a man flops, people don’t blame the gender of the creator,” the writer and director Diablo Cody told Variety magazine last July. “It’s just kind of weird how the blame is always immediately placed on female directors.”

It's a brilliant article and I'm actually annoyed that I missed out in tickets for Geena Davis' talk at the BFI Festival this year. Talking about these issues in the industry will and should lead to action. You can read the full article here.

But, through all this sexism issues, there is a small light at the end of the tunnel when I heard that more roles meant for men are being rewritten for women. After Sandra Bullock was struggling to find a decent role, she came across 'Our Brand is Crisis' script and asked if she could play the lead. George Clooney was the co-producer on the project and so with some calls and script changes, the role was given to Bullock and I have to say, after seeing the trailer I am looking forward to seeing it. George Clooney admitted that after the role was rewritten, the project also began to move forward. There have been other roles originally for mem, switched to woman, like the remake of Secret in Their Eyes with Juilia Roberts in the lead and Emily Blunt in Sicario. Now we just need more diversity.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Halloween Edition: Alfred Hitchcock Movies

It's the start of Halloween month and as I don't watch much, actually, practically no horror films, I might not be able to do many of the picks this month, but Hitchcock I know and love. Rear Window and Lifeboat are two of my favourites but I wanted to talk/write about three I don't gush about. In fact, the first film is in my top 5. I'm sure all three will appear in other lists though. I was going to pick Marnie, but that is one oddball film, thats including the stranger trailer for it.

1. Shadow of a Doubt
If you've seen Stoker, which was loosely based and inspired by Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, you can get a idea about this film. This story is about what is implied and unlike the uncle-niece revelations in Stoker, the neice has better morals. Uncle Charlie is a suspect in a serial killer case - this is not a spolier - and he's very fond of and close to neice Charlotte, she was named after him. He comes to visit and his lies start to unravel but only Charlotte can see whats happening. Queue lots of suspense and intrigue. I think it is one of Hitchcocks better films and also less seen.

2. Rebecca
I'm forever saying; 'I shall never go back to Manderley again' around the house. Don't know why. I just love this film and I like saying it. One of Hitchcock's best (this is in my top 5 Hitchcock films) films. The source material from Daphne Du Maurier is just perfect for Hitchcock's style. This was also an Oscar winner and rightly so. Mysteries surrounding the death of the first Mrs de Winter, which looms over the happiness for the second Mrs and Mr de Winter, as well as the creepy house and even more disturbing housekeeper, Mrs Danvers who was and is obsessed with the first wife. I really do relish films or stories that feature or are named after a character that the audience or reader never meets and Rebecca is a staple for that, as Rebecca was the first Mrs de Winter.

3. Suspicion
I read about this Hitchcock film first and it was the description of the infamous scene of Cary Grant's Johnnie walking up the stairs with the very while glass of milk for his wife, Lina (Joan Fontaine) who is sick in bed. It is at this point where both Lina and the audience decide whether or not he is evil and is about to poison her. Throughout the film, flukes and coincidences happen far too often, especially as they are usually tragic. The film keeps you on the edge of your seat and the quick cut end will annoy me, as it did at the end of North by Northwest. I rather hoped the film would end with the scene on the stairs, far creepier and it leaves you to decide what happened.

 Don't forget to check out what Wandering Through the Shelves picked, the blog that started Thursday Movie Picks.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

September Watch List

1. Dope
The film starts with a definition of the word 'dope', all three meanings are relevent to the film and the characters too. Malcom (Shameik Moore) is a self confessed nerd, along with his two best friends, Diggy and Jib. One of their most stand out qualities is that they are 90s hiphop enthusiasts. When they end up going to a drug dealers party and Malcom ends up with a bag full of MDA, the film takes a turn. They need to get rid of the drugs, but after the long hectic hilarious trail ends with disappointment, the story changes to nerds selling drugs. They get away with this because no one will suspect them. That is the basic story, to explain it in full would be confusing and I think would ruin the experience. Through all this chaos Malcom is trying to get into college and he has his heart set on Harvard but everyone around him doubts his chances but he never gives up. The soundtrack is brilliant, with a mixture of songs that the characters would listen to and songs from the groups band, Awreeoh. I can't really explain and do this film justice in a few sentences so, just go watchthe film. 4/5

2. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Based on a YA novel of the same name, a very catchy easy to say even though its long name, the story is sort of in the title. Greg, self made loner (of sorts) has deliberately detached himself from the typical highschool drama by not being part of a 'group' but being friendly with every group he has safe passage through the crazy. This is until his mum makes him hang out with Rachel, average normal teen who has just been diagnosed with cancer. From here, they form a, what Greg tells us throughout, doomed friendship. Greg reluctantly introduces Rachel, to his and his co-worker/friend's movies they make. They are hilarious. The rule, take a movie and make it stupider, works a treat. From start to finish Greg builds up the ultimate end and throughout he and Rachel have caring friendship which - as the title suggests - tragic end, but we all know its coming. What I thought was so refreshing was that Greg and Rachel's friendship stays platonic and its even more meaningful, in a way. She spurs him on to get of his self hating shell and apply for college and Greg even tries his best to convince Rachel to carry on the fight. Greg loves films and loves making them, I had a similar system in secondary school, so I understand the want to go under the radar. I had a friends but I didn't have a group and I avoided lots of dramatics but I did come out of my shell when I realised I shouldn't care what everyone thinks, I'll do what I want to do and I like what I like. Rachel needed Greg, an outsider to help her through the pain and Gred needed Rachel to make him understand to use his time well and not stay locked away. 3/5

 3. Irrational Man
 The only thing I kept saying through the film was 'Emma Stone was so annoying'. Or rather her character was. But Emma Stone, who can do no wrong really did not impress in this film. I had already read an article that Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence have an older man problem, and they do, they really do, watching this film just projected it. I was hoping that the film did not go down the route of student teacher romantic relationship, especially after fighting it for most of the film, but alas it did. Young woman falling for flawed older man is getting old and Woody Allen can do better. The parts I did like were Joaquin Pheonix - he is perfectly matched to Allen's babbling genius nonsense. The other element I enjoyed were the two voiceovers, Abe (Pheonix) and Jill (Stone), they were really quite funny. But the incredidly annoying Stone character took away quite a bit of the enjoyment of the film. The rating goes to really quite bizarre and 'wish they focused on this more than the dumb relationship' part when Abe decides his life has meaning after he decides to murder someone he doesn't know. But the film is on thin ice apart from this brilliant plot point. 3/5

4. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
An American film, set in Iran, written and directed by American Iranian Ana Lily Amirpour, starring American-Iranian actors, filmed in black and white and all the dialogue is in Persian (according to Wiki). It was dubbed as the 'The first Iranian vampire Western' and doubt there will be many more like it as this film could almost be the definition of unique. Arash, is hard working, his fancy car is prrof of this, but his father is drug addict and is in debt to local 'gangster' and pimp, Saeed. He takes his car as payment. Just after he has snubbed and mistreated one of his prostitutes, the Girl appears. She stalks him down, get invited into his home and drains him dry. This is theme, the Girl vampire goes after mem who mistreat women or nasty men in general. The first half is an intriduction to Arash and the Girl, the second half is a very gentle love story, ending in a bloody realisation. Apart from the blood and killing, the weird peacful tenderness that is shared speaks volumes more than if anything else more graphic or physical occured. Less is more here and throughout. Filmed in Calfifornia, it stands in for a Iranian ghost town called 'Bad City' which is again a very basic term for the people that live there and what happens. There doesn't seem to be any law enforcement around for all the deaths. The black and white adds to the delicate scenes, even the more bloody, it also makes the film feel otherwordly, that this is not somewhere familiar and I liked this. I would reccomened this film to anyone looking for something new to watch and anyone who appreciates art. I was pleased to here the film is being made into a graphic novel which will help the film story spread its wings, I just hope Arash and the Girl stay together. 4/5

5. Very Good Girls
I judged this film before it began. I saw the trailer months ago and dismissed it as sterotypical, best friends torn apart by a guy scenario. But its not really. Lily and Gerri (Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen) are best friends, very different in their views and behaviour, this is mirrored by their families too. After going to the beach they literally bump into David, ice cream seller/budding photographer, Gerri is obviously attracted to him but its Lily who captures his attention. He woos her by posting a photograph he took of her around the area he knows she'll be. They start dating and its sweet, for a while. Other things take over, including Lily's guilt over Gerri who still likes David, Lily's parents are separated after he cheated on her mum, Lily's boss at work is a little too interested and the general impending move to college looms slightly. The film goes deeper, in non superficial way, and it makes for a film about friendship and family and relationships in general. Dakota Fanning barely changes her expression but its her understated reaction to events that makes her character a lot more complex. In a way 'I totally get her'. This film was better than I thought and I'm glad it surprised me. 3/5

6. Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List
This was the stereotypical film about two best friends torn apart by a guy scenario, and it wasn't very good. It has a very low rating from me because the end scene was great and the monolgue voiceover at the end was perfectly done but everything else was a mess. Ely, over the top attention seeking, Naomi, always told she'd beautiful, needy and doesn't really have much substance to her. The characters feel like they were lifted out of a more successful YA novel. The chemistry between the best friends is brilliant but I wasn't convinced by Naomi wanting Ely (who is gay by the way) to be more than her life long friend. It was obvious that they love each other deeply but not in a romantic way. The 'guy' that tears them apart is Naomi's weak blank boyfriend who she doesn't really like but is really angry about when Ely kisses him. His defence, he wasn't on the 'no kiss list' of the title. Also, he really likes him and his interest is returned. Naomi just doesn't like being pushed aside. That's what it really comes down to. But never fear, everything gets neatly tied up in a happy little bundle over coffee. Typical YA nonsense. 1/5

7. Lost River
I don't understand the hate here. I can't see why everyone at Cannes made such a fuss saying the film was pretensious. It's not. The film is barely stylised. The cast are brilliant and the soundtrack is great (bought a few tracks), the story needed more padding but I think the locations did a lot of the speaking for the films too. A mixture of played down futuristic downfall and part urban fairytale and myth, it beautiful in some scenes. The story is about a single mother Billy (Christina Hendricks) and her two sons, Bones (Iain De Caestecker) and Franky, who live a run down part of the fictional city or area, Lost River. The houses are all being torn down by the banks who had run people out of their homes and Billy's home is next. After failing to sort something out with the bank, she takes a job offer, from the sleazy bank manager, at a weird high brow club that loves blood, gore and screams, all set up like theatre skits. Bones meanwhile tried to find copper from old houses to sell on but after he has a run in with local lunatic who claims all the copper in the area, Bully, he becomes a target. Rat (Saoirse Ronan), the family's neighbour, lives with her mute grandmother who spends her days watching her old wedding video. Rat and Bones have sweet relationship and she shares with him the myth of the underwater town. Legend says that if you bring a piece from the town to the surface, the spell will be broken and everything will be better. The line between 'make believe' and reality do blur but it makes it feel that this fantasy could be something possible. It is bleak but the characters make it colourful. 3/4