Is it a Marvel? Women on the Big Screen

Yet another Blockbuster featuring a Woman in the Central Role and what a surprise–it’s making headlines! Captain Marvel starring Brie Larson had Opening Weekend Box Office of $455 Million worldwide. $153 million domestic is the second biggest solo superhero debut in history, behind Black Panther ($202 million). The real WIN in my book is that Rotten Tomatoes changed it’s review policy. Due to the advance bad reviews that punsters tried to post to the site BEFORE Captain Marvel was released, Rotten Tomatoes took a stand. It may seem logical to have prevented this in advance but the review-aggregating site was responding to public criticism that women-lead movies were being singled out for negative criticism (see
Ghostbusters).

Films with women in lead roles and/or directed by women have been few and far between but it feels like the tide is turning. Look at our current slate of films in theaters: Jordan Peele’s horror film Us features another remarkable performance by Lupita Nyong’o, Sebasti√°n Lelio remade his own film, Gloria Bell, featuring the luminous
Julianne Moore, and if you’re lucky to be in a major film market, Diane, The Chaperone, Sunset or Ash is Purest White might be playing. Women are front and center; and not just White Young Starlets, there are a few older women and other nationalities sneaking thru the cracks in the Hollywood Wall created by #MeToo and #TimesUp.

drinkswithfilms —Captain Marvel Review

ūüćļūüćļūüćļ1/2 beers out of 5 for @captainmarvelofficial
I really enjoyed the origin story and @brielarson performance. I liked the humor and the girl power. It could’ve used a little more fun and character development.

Let’s Talk about Sex~”Don Jon” and pornography

The song, Let’s Talk About Sex, keeps playing through my mind. ¬†This is post number one on my Sex in Cinema series.

 

 

Jon and Barbara like to watch

 

Don Jon¬† was originally titled¬†Don Jon’s Addiction. Joseph Gordon-Levitt choose¬†to eliminate the addiction reference from the title because the film is addressing more than one man’s addiction to pornography.¬†¬†“Wrestling with good old fashioned expectations of the opposite sex, Jon and Barbara struggle against a media culture full of false fantasies to try and find true intimacy“. ¬†In this brilliant directoral debut, ¬†Gordon-Levitt, who also wrote the script and stars, compares Jon’s addiction to online pornography to Barbara (Scarlett Johansson)’s love of romantic films. ¬†They both like to watch and both live in a fantasy world.

There is an abundance of porn clips, though nothing graphic, as Jon is looking at pornography on his laptop. ¬†But the more objectional clips are actually in the opening montage presenting women in tv shows and movies as objects: descending stairs in tiny gold skirts carrying briefcases, wearing skimpy outfits to sell products and one graphic misstep: a woman with an arrow through her breast from a horror film. ¬†The men in¬†Don Jon rate the women in the bar on a scale of 1 to 10 but in an interesting twist, one of the Jon’s friends actually prefers women that aren’t perfect in their rating system. Barbara, on the other hand, prefers her men to be like the ones in the romantic films (hilariously spoofed within the film) — ready to give up their lives for her.

The reason this film is such a revelation? ¬†It takes the conventions of a raunchy, romantic comedy and turns those conventions into a mirror to reflect back what’s wrong with men and women’s expectations and fantasies. ¬†Julianne Moore’s character acts as a lightning rod for Jon and suddenly a film that seems to be about sex and the glorification and objectification of the female body is revealed to be a sweet story of intimacy and healing. ¬† But please, don’t tell anyone. Let’s let everyone think Don Jon¬†is all about how hot Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson are…

If anyone learns that this film is actually a lesson about true intimacy, there might be less young couples in the theater and they’re the ones that really need this lesson!

Rating: 4 cocktails from that happening club down the street

San Francisco International Film Festival 56: Four Fun Features!

Staff BadgeA film festivals is like a river. ¬†Where you “ford” the river; where you step into the stream, is unique. ¬†Your experience of the same events will often differ drastically from everyone around you.

Are you anticipating a film because you’re familiar with the director’s previous work? ¬†Do you adore the lead actor and are you excited to spend some quality time in their presence? ¬†Did you have to stand in the cold in a long line before you were admitted into the theater or was it nearly impossible to find parking? All of these personal concerns and anticipations will color your view.

For me, having worked in this field for so long, film festivals are almost like coming home. ¬†I know the staff, I’ve worked the venues, and I love the thrill of seeing a film with filmmakers present! ¬†My film-going experience is bound to be a positive one. ¬†This year at SFIFF 56, I worked more than usual, both at the theaters and away from them. ¬†So I had very limited opportunities to actually watch films. ¬†Fortunately, the four features I did manage to see, were all very good.

“What Maisie Knew” — Divorce, Hollywood-style

SFIFF opened with this tale of self-centered parents battling for their child’s affections. ¬†Based on a short story by Henry James penned 100 years ago, the damage inflicted by neglect is brought to life by the marvelous performance of the young lead, Onata Aprile. ¬†As the pawn fought over by Julianne Moore’s aging rock star mother and the traveling philandering father, played by Steve Coogan, Onata is refreshingly open in her natural reactions. ¬†Her joy at spending time with the actors who play her surrogate parents is a delight. ¬†Alexander Skarsgard elevates every scene he’s in as the party boy who becomes the affectionate companion. ¬†The story stretches credability and reason at points, (even wealthy people can’t get away with this level of neglect) and the ending is pure fairytale but there’s a level of charm here that’s hard to deny. ¬†Rating: 3 glasses of expensive red wine

“Cutie and the Boxer” — Eccentric and Wonderful

Zachary Heinzerling’s directorial debut is the winning documentary about an eccentric painter and sculptor, Ushio Shinohara and his supportive wife and fellow artist, Noriko Shinohara. ¬†This intimate portrait of two talented Japanese artists struggling to find an audience (and buyers!) for their creations: towering papier mache motorcycles, paintings created by “boxing” the canvas and graphic novels depicting their own troubled relationship, is both tender and finely-crafted. ¬†Rating: 3 shots of sake

“Byzantium”–Irish Goth with some serious teeth

In one week, I found myself viewing two vampire films! ¬†Both closer in spirit to “The Hunger” or “Let The Right One In” than “Buffy” or “Twilight”; “Kiss of the Damned” is a campy affair by a first-time filmmaker but “Byzantium” is a classy, Gothic drama helmed by Neil Jordan. ¬†Outstanding performances by the female leads, the beautiful and very sexy, Gemma Arterton and the other-worldly, wiser-than-her-years, Saoirse Ronan bring this British Turn of the Century vampire tale to life.

Period costumes, a unique creation story and the always excellent, Sam Riley, add to this dark story of teen angst.  What to do when your mother turns your home into a house of ill repute  to support you?  When your boyfriend already looks like a vampire (Caleb Landry Jones) but your writing teacher suspects that your creative writing assignment might cut too close to the truth?  Rating: 4 glasses of red, red wine

“Ernest et Celestine”–Can a Bear and a Mouse be friends?

This delightful French 2-D animation has lovely water-color painted backdrops and a sweet story of two unlikely friends trying to survive in a world where creatures ¬†keep to their own kind. ¬†A small misstep in an over-long central bit spent in the mouse dental office but the drawings are so charming that it’s easily forgiven. ¬†One of my favorite films of the festival, “Ernest et Celestine” is a charming film suited for all ages.

Rating: 4 cups of cocoa