Monday, June 27, 2011

Commutation Test: change director of JodieFoster's Beaver Pitch

See for a discussion of how a variety of directors might have changed this Mel Gibson-starring summer 2011 flick

Monday, June 13, 2011

3D Boom: All over by summer 2011?

There are previous extensive posts on 3D, but this one takes a distinctive line ... signalling the end of the 3D boom...

Transformers: Dark of the Moon – the saviour of 3D?
Michael Bay's latest robo-fantasy offers mindblowing visuals, but in a world falling out of love with 3D, it can't afford to lose its plot
Still from Transformers: Dark of the Moon, out on 29 June 2011
Smokin' visuals – but is it enough? ... scene from Transformers: Dark of the Moon
As I race inside the auditorium at Paramount Pictures – running a bit late, it must be said – one of the press people dutifully calls me back to inform me that this screening of 20 minutes or so of footage from Michael Bay's upcoming Transformers: Dark of the Moon is being staged for one reason and one reason only: for journalists to talk about the 3D. They would rather we did not comment on the story.
What strange timing. Not long after my visit to the studio's London offices, nestled in beside a number of similar media HQs in Soho's Golden Square, an interview is being published with DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg, in which he responds to the news that US audiences are choosing for the first time to see blockbuster movies in old-fashioned 2D, even when the more celebrated option is available. The phenomenon emerged for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides last month and continued for Kung Fu Panda 2 two weeks ago.
Previously, filmgoers have always seen 3D screenings in greater numbers, an unbroken rule that has fuelled the format's rapid growth. 3D tickets attract a premium, which means yields are higher and end-of-year box office charts are slanted towards movies that are shown in stereoscope. Directors of mainstream films not available in the more expensive form have begun to find themselves questioned as to why: Inception's Christopher Nolan being the most high-profile example.

Does slow pace = boring?

An eminently quotable debate here, sparked by one critic's assertion that he was simply fatigued from all the worthy but slow films he'd been watching. Your own productions, bound by genre conventions and the 2min limit, are typically fast-paced. You could pick out one or more of the well-known names quoted below to support/interrogate your own choices, and the impact of these choices:


Are boring films good for the soul?

Dan Kois's confession that he has 'cultural fatigue' after watching too many boring movies has sparked a bout of soul searching by his fellow film critics
64th Cannes Film Festival - The Tree of Life
Terrence Malick's perplexing Palme d'Or winner, The Tree of Life. Is it a film to enjoy or endure

A troubling issue has gripped film critics. Are "boring" films really good for you? And if so, are cinema audiences of the future likely to sit still long enough to take their medicine?
On one side of the aisle sit those critics who embrace the best of popular entertainment and who regard slower-paced films as the equivalent of eating their "cultural vegetables"; on the other side are arthouse aficionados who much prefer an oblique or contemplative work to the hectic approach of multiplex blockbusters such as The Hangover II or Pirates of the Caribbean.
With the release this summer of a new slate of potentially challenging, thoughtful films and the announcement of a British release date for Terrence Malick's perplexing Palme d'Or winner The Tree of Life, the question has prompted a bout of popcorn throwing among British and American critics.
The debate kicked off when American critic Dan Kois confessed he was "suffering from a kind of culture fatigue". Writing in the New York Times, he asked whether some films are designed to be endured and then remembered with fondness, rather than enjoyed at the time. More controversially, Kois questioned his own assumption that glacial speed was the mark of cinematic sophistication.

Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film

The following is taken from
You can find further chapters and sections there on feminism, representation etc

Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film

next sub-section

The Slasher Film

The immediate ancestor of the slasher film is Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). Its elements are familiar: the killer is the psychotic product of a sick family, but still recognizably human; the victim is a beautiful, sexually active woman; the location is not-home, at a Terrible Place; the weapon is something other than a gun; the attack is registered from the victim's point of view and comes with shocking suddenness. None of these features is original, but the unprecedented success of Hitchcock's particular formulation, above all the sexualization of both motive and action, prompted a flood of imitations and variations. In 1974, a film emerged that revised the Psycho template to a degree and in such a way as to mark a new phase: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper). Together with Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978), it engendered a new spate of variations and imitations.
The plot of Texas Chain Saw is simple enough: five young people are driving through Texas in a van; they stop off at an abandoned house and are murdered one by one by the psychotic sons of a degenerate local family; the sole survivor is a woman. The horror, of course, lies in the elaboration. Early in the film the group picks up a hitchhiker, but when he starts a fire and slashes Franklin's arm (having already slit open his own hand), they kick him out. The abandoned house they subsequently visit, once the home of Sally's and Franklin's grandparents, turns out to be right next door to the house of the hitchhiker and his family: his brother Leatherface; their father; an aged and only marginally alive grandfather; and their dead grandmother and her dog, whose mummified corpses are ceremonially included in the family gatherings. Three generations of slaughterhouse

workers, once proud of their craft but now displaced by machines, have taken up killing and cannibalism as a way of life. Their house is grotesquely decorated with human and animal remains—bones, feathers, hair, skins. The young people drift apart in their exploration of the abandoned house and grounds and are picked off one by one by Leatherface and Hitchhiker. Last is Sally.

Final Girl: Carole Clover and critiques

The following is taken from Men, Women and Chainsaws

Men, Women and Chainsaws: The Final Girl

The final girl is a thriller and horror film (particularly slasher) trope that specifically refers to the last woman or girl alive to confront the killer, ostensibly the one left to tell the story. The term was coined by Carol J. Clover in her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Clover suggests that in these films, the viewer begins by sharing the perspective of the killer, but experiences a shift in identification to the final girl partway through the film. The final girl has been observed in dozens of films, including HalloweenFriday the 13thA Nightmare on Elm StreetThe Texas Chain Saw MassacreI Know What You Did Last SummerHellraiserAlien and Scream.
According to Clover, the final girl is typically sexually unavailable or virginal, avoiding the vices of the victims (sex, narcotic usage, etc.). She sometimes has a unisex name (e.g., Teddy, Billie, Georgie, Sidney). Occasionally the Final Girl will have a shared history with the killer. The final girl is the "investigating consciousness" of the film, moving the narrative forward and as such, she exhibits intelligence, curiosity, and vigilance.
One of the basic premises of Clover’s theory is that audience identification is unstable and fluid across gender lines, particularly in the case of the slasher film. During the final girl’s confrontation with the killer, Clover argues, she becomes masculinised through "phallic appropriation" by taking up a weapon, such as a knife or chainsaw, against the killer. Conversely, Clover points out that the villain of slasher films is often a male whose masculinity, and sexuality more generally, are in crisis. Examples would include Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Clover points to this gender fluidity as demonstrating the impact of feminism in popular culture.
The phenomenon of the male audience having to identify with a young female character in an ostensibly male-oriented genre, usually associated with sadistic voyeurism, raises interesting questions about the nature of slasher films and their relationship with feminism. Clover argues that for a film to be successful, although the Final Girl is masculinised, it is necessary for this surviving character to be female, because she must experience abject terror, and many viewers would reject a film that showed abject terror on the part of a male. The terror has a purpose, in that the female is 'purged' if she survives, of undesirable characteristics, such as relentless pursuit of pleasure in her own right. An interesting feature of the genre is the 'punishment' of beauty and sexual availability (Leading to the idea that "Sex = Death" in Horror Movies)
Examples of final girls
Before the release of Alien 3, Clover identified Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise as a final girl. Elizabeth Ezra continues this analysis for Alien Resurrection, arguing that by definition both Ripley and Annalee Call must be final girls, and that Call is the "next generation of Clover's Final Girl". Call, in Ezra's view, exhibits traits that fit Clover's definition of a final girl, namely that she is boyish, having a short masculine-style haircut, and that she is characterized by (in Clover's words) "smartness, gravity, competence in mechanical and other practical matters, and sexual reluctance" being a ship's mechanic who rejects the sexual advances made by male characters on the ship. Ezra notes, however, that this identification of Call as a final girl is marred by the fact that she is not a human being, but an android.
Christine Cornea disputes the idea that Ripley is a final girl, contrasting Clover's analysis of the character with that of Barbara Creed, who presents Ripley as "the reassuring face of womanhood". Cornea does not accept either Clover's or Creed's views on Ripley. Whilst she accepts Clover's general thesis of the final girl convention, she argues that Ripley does not follow the conventions of the slasher film, as Alien follows the different conventions of the science fiction film genre. In particular, there is not the foregrounding in Alien, as there is in the slasher film genre, of the character's sexual purity and abstinence relative to the other characters (who would be, in accordance with the final girl convention, killed by the film's monster "because" of this). The science fiction genre that Alien inhabits, according to Cornea, simply lacks this kind of sexual theme in the first place, it not having a place in such "traditional" science fiction formats.
Laurie Strode (from Halloween III, and H20) is another example of a final girl. Tony Williams notes that Clover's image of supposedly progressive final girls are never entirely victorious at the culmination of a film nor do they manage to eschew the male order of things as Clover argues. He holds up Strode as an example of this. She is rescued by a male character, Dr. Samuel Loomis, at the end of Halloween. He holds up Lila Crane, from Psycho, as another example of a final girl who is saved by a male (also named Sam Loomis) at the end of the film. On this basis he argues that whilst 1980s horror film heroines were more progressive than those of earlier decades, the gender change is done conservatively, and the final girl convention cannot be regarded as a progressive one "without more thorough investigation".
Williams also gives several examples of final girls from the Friday the 13th franchiseAlice from Friday the 13th, and the heroines from Part II and Part III. (He observes that Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter does not have a final girl.) He notes that they do not conclude the films wholly victorious, however. The heroines from Parts 2 and 3 are catatonic at the ends of the respective films, and Alice survives the monster in the first film only to fall victim to "him" in the second. The final girl in Part 2 is carried away on a stretcher, calling out for her boyfriend (which Williams argues again undermines the notion of final girls always being victorious). Moreover, Ginny's adoption of the monster's own strategy, in Part II, brings into question whether the final girl image is in fact a wholly positive one.
Kearney observes that in the middle 1990s the trope of the final girl in horror films was "resurrected, reshaped, and mainstreamed". She points to Sidney Prescott (in Scream III, and III) and Julie James (in I Know What You Did Last Summer and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer) as examples of this.
Other characters identified as final girls include Sally Hardesty of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Nancy Thompson of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Roseanne on class prejudice/sexism of TV

I made the mistake of thinking Marcy was a powerful woman in her own right. I've come to learn that there are none in TV. There aren't powerful men, for that matter, either – unless they work for an ad company or a market-study group. Those are the people who decide what gets on the air and what doesn't.
Complaining about the "created by" credit made an enemy of Matt. He wasted no time undermining me, going so far as to ask my co-star, John Goodman, who played Roseanne Conner's husband, Dan, if he would do the show without me. (Goodman said no.) It was then that I had my first nervous breakdown. [excerpt]

I'll cross-post this on several blogs as it touches on gender, regulation, class prejudice and the general financial machinations of the entertainment business. Assuming you're unaware of what 'Roseanne' is, a few clicks on wikipedia or youtube will swiftly bring you up to speed - it was a hugely successful US sitcome with the USP of centring on a working-class family (with money problems and lousy jobs, not the usual facsimille of working class, or 'labour as Roseanne Barr refers to it, with a tough domestically inept/disinterested woman at the head of the family).

There are very, very few comparisons - aspects of Taxi perhaps, maybe even Married With Children.
Her article, and forthcoming book, reveal just how unprepared the US TV network (whose working practices, being fundamentally driven by financial calculations and audience testing, are not so different to those of the film biz) was to let an unvarnished depiction of working class folk go on, let alone allow a female creative lead the way. Roseanne Barr found that her own creation was credited to an entirely uninvolved male producer, who went on to make her life hell.

There may be a 'PC' moral behind this, but it is a fascinating read from a very un-PC lady.

Roseanne Barr: 'Fame's a bitch. It's hard to handle and drives you nuts'

With a hit TV show, Roseanne Barr could get the best tables in the best restaurants. Never mind about the empty flattery, the nervous breakdowns and the feeling of being used for 10 years. But she's not bitter. Honest
Roseanne Barr 11.6.11
    Roseanne Barr
    'I walked into the producer's office, held up a pair of wardrobe scissors to show her I meant business - "This is no character! This is my show. You watch me. I will win this battle." ' Photograph: Robert Maxwell/Art + Commerce
    During the recent and overly publicised breakdown of Charlie Sheen, I was repeatedly contacted by the media and asked to comment, as it was assumed that I know a thing or two about starring on a sitcom, fighting with producers, nasty divorces, public meltdowns and bombing through a live comedy tour. I have, however, never smoked crack or taken too many drugs, unless you count alcohol as a drug (I don't). But I do know what it's like to be seized by bipolar thoughts that make one spout wise about tiger blood and brag about winning when one is actually losing. It's hard to tell whether one is winning or, in fact, losing once one starts to think of oneself as a commodity, or a product, or a character, or a voice for the downtrodden. It's called losing perspective. Fame's a bitch. It's hard to handle and drives you nuts. Yes, it's true that your sense of entitlement grows exponentially with every perk until it becomes too stupendous a weight to walk around under, but it's a cut-throat business, show, and without the p