Pictured (from left to right): Jennifer Lawrence in 'The Hunger Games,' Kathryn Bigelow, Lena Dunham, Jessica Chastain in 'Zero Dark Thirty,' and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer
If you have eyes, the ability to read, and Internet access, you’ve probably read an article at some point this year about The Magnanimous Excellence of The Female Species and How Women Shall Inherit The Earth As Men Go Running Scared Into Oblivion. You’d think some Amazonian tribe of women was running rampant, snatching up cities across the U.S. and claiming the land for all possessors of lady parts. Sometime in the past 12 months, we decided that 2012 was the year of women, especially in the entertainment industry. But that’s not exactly true.
What 2012 actually is, is a year of some women. But our oversimplification of the status of women this year is understandable, however inaccurate. When our discourse is dominated by proclamations of women “dominating” the Senate after a record 20 women won their respective elections, the “high” number of female showrunners in television, Marissa Mayer’s corporate domination as a working mother and CEO of Yahoo, Lena Dunham’s ability to project all of our neuroses on national television in a thoughtful and powerful way, and the notion that film characters like The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Zero Dark Thirty’s feminist-dream Maya (Jessica Chastain) signal girl power as the new norm, it’s no wonder we feel that women in 2012 hold more weight than ever. But perhaps it’s not the events themselves that are noteworthy, but rather our great proclivity for the discussion.
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“I think 2012 is a year in which women have a really powerful appetite to celebrate powerful women and our questions about where and when women are not powerful,” says Clare Winterton, Executive Director of the International Museum of Women. “The rate at which we’ve given due to those issues is very high. Whether or not that visibility is matched by concrete signs of advancement for women across the board is a big question,” she adds. The discussion around women and women’s progress, in Hollywood and elsewhere, has been given great wings in 2012, but it certainly doesn’t mean that suddenly, just before the Mayans predicted the downfall of civilization, women have “done it.” It’s still a work in progress, but one that saw a few significant boosts this year.
It’s something co-producer and co-screenwriter for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Philippa Boyens, has experienced firsthand. “I just did a producers roundtable, which was fantastic, and there were lots of female producers … there was once a time when there wouldn’t have been any women at that table, but now we make up half the table,” she says. And Boyens’ moment isn’t a singular piece of evidence for women advancing in entertainment.
Hollywood in 2012 boasts a laundry list of lady-led accomplishments. More and more women, like New Girl’s Liz Meriwether, Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23’s Nahnatchka Khan, and of course Girls’ incomparable Dunham, are running things behind the scenes of some of pop culture’s most talked about shows. Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to her Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker, and its impressive heroine are wowing critics as the film quickly rolls towards yet another Best Director nod for Bigelow. The Venice Film Festival made headlines this year because unlike Cannes — which failed to qualify a single female director for the illustrious Palme d’Or award — it offered up four main competition spots to female directors (albeit out of a whopping 17 spots). USC film school, one of the top in the world, cites an undergraduate class that is almost half women (41 percent, to be exact), suggesting the promise of more and more great women behind the camera. Even film critics like AP’s Christy Lemire and LA Weekly’s Karina Longworth continue to be significant voices in a male-dominated conversation, and Emily Nussbaum has just completed her first year as the voice of TV criticism for The New Yorker and as one of the top voices in the field itself. And while this lineup may be enough to send some of us into the streets crying, “We’ve made it, ladies!” it’s not time for that. Yet.
“The field is so much bigger now,” says independent filmmaker and NYU film school professor Christine Choy. “But I can still count the great female directors on one hand … and in general, they don’t last too long,” she adds. For every Dunham and Bigelow, we find a handful of forgotten directors like Winter’s Bone director Debra Granik, whose name faded into the background after they rolled up the red carpet at the 2011 Academy Awards. And while folks like Bigelow and Dunham certainly seem to be standing the test of Hollywood time — which tends to move even faster than that speedy New York minute — they can’t single-handedly change the face of the unarguably male-dominated entertainment industry. “One director is not enough,” says Choy.
And that’s because progress don’t simply manifests itself like a happy ending in a princess movie. The reality is a little more complex, as is the goal of equalizing the positions of women and men in entertainment. Our infatuation with the progress made by our real-life heroines doesn’t change the fact that they’re just starting to get the ball rolling.
“It’s a fair assessment to say women aren’t progressing as fast some of the popular representations of women would like you to believe,” says Winterton. Successes on the scale of Marissa Mayer and Bigelow obfuscate the indicators of the work that’s left to be done, like the fact that 2012 saw almost no growth in women holding top positions at Fortune 500 companies or the fact that for every woman who’s a noteworthy director or showrunner in entertainment, there are legions of men outnumbering her.
While 2012 delivered us legions of powerful female characters – even Twilight’s Bella pulled ahead of her brooding lover as a hero in the series’ final installment this November – and powerful women, it came with the pall of the realization that the world hasn’t exactly caught up. Body shaming was rampant in coverage of some of the most successful women on the planet: Lady Gaga, Jessica Simpson, and even Adele were subject to chatter about their weight, completely undermining the level to which all three of these women are dominating their industries (Simpson, of course has a wildly successful clothing and accessories empire). Acclaimed author Bret Easton Ellis brought the discourse down several notches when he claimed Bigelow’s work was only acclaimed because she’s “a very hot woman.” The woman behind the female empowerment tale Brave was outed as the film’s director due to “creative differences” – a change many some critics fear will mar the progress of female animation directors.
If 2012 proved anything it's that the work is not done. If anything, the conversation is just getting started.
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[Photo Credit: Photo Illustration by Hollywood.com; Photo Credits: WENN (2); WireImage; Lionsgate; Columbia Pictures; Disney/Pixar]
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The folks over at Lifetime who are behind the upcoming Elizabeth Taylor biopic TV movie Liz & Dick aren't exactly playing down the overt Lindsay Lohan comparisons. From the poster with leading lady Lohan standing in front of highlighted LiLo buzz-phrases like "scandal," "child star," and "paparazzi" (what, no fetch?) to the new teaser trailer that almost requires no visuals.
If you closed your eyes with the preview on, first you might think it's a Bing commercial thanks to the use of Alex Clare's "Too Close." But after that you might mistake it for a Lohan biopic rather than a Taylor biopic. Case in point, same sound bites:
- "You're screwing that witch?" Lohan cries. Samantha Ronson rumors aside, there's also a good chance this is key dialogue between Lohan and Charlie Sheen in Scary Movie 5.
- "God, that woman knows how to make an entrance," marvels Grant Bowler as Richard Burton. Oh, Lohan knows how to make entrances alright. Exits, too. - "They drink, they fight, they fornicate." No comment. - "Ugh, who's counting?" whines an annoyed Lohan. Don't worry, we've all lost count of the shenanigans, too. Watch — and listen to — the Liz & Dick teaser trailer below, and see if you can find all the Lohan buzz-words and -phrases. (We found nearly a dozen, including "scandalous," "dangerous," and "infamous.")
Liz & Dick, the unofficial unintentional Lindsay Lohan Lifetime movie, airs in November.
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Remember that glorious two month period earlier this year when Sunday nights, for the first time in history, meant new episodes of Mad Men and Game of Thrones were on the way? If this is the kind of news that made April of 2012 the happiest month of your life, then you'll practically melt over the following news: the developing adventure-drama film The Mortal Instruments has just added two new stars — one from Madison Avenue, one from Westeros.
The Harald Zwart (director of the Jaden Smith version of The Karate Kid) film will now feature Jared Harris, Mad Men's fish-out-of-water Lane Pryce, and Lena Headey, who plays the villainous, incestuous monarch Cersei Lannister on Thrones. Two celebrated actors who have contributed more than their share to their respective programs. The Hollywood Reporter revealed the news, and Hollywood.com has confirmed Headey's casting.
Among the existing cast is star Lily Collins, who plays a young girl whose mother is the victim of a demon kidnapping. In an effort to rescue her mother, the girl learns a great deal of supernatural surprises about her background. The story comes from the novel The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.
This isn't the first time the worlds of Mad Men and Thrones have collided. The NBC sitcom 30 Rock has featured stars of both series, Jon Hamm (Don Draper on Mad Men) and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister on Thrones) as guest starring love interests to Tina Fey's Liz Lemon. Both... didn't work out too well.
[Photo Credit: David Edwards/Daily Celeb]
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The Mortal Instruments
2009’s Sherlock Holmes found unexpected synergy in the pairing of Robert Downey Jr.’s impish charm and Guy Ritchie’s macho kinetic visual style reinventing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s master detective for a modern blockbuster audience. The follow-up Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows employs the same winning formula while adhering judiciously to the Law of Sequels and its more-more-more dictates: more action bigger set pieces higher stakes and a darker more convoluted plot. But more as so many past sequels have taught us is rarely better.
Game of Shadows marks the emergence of Doyle’s most famous villain James Moriarty (Jared Harris). Glimpsed only in darkness in the first film Moriarty takes center stage in the sequel as Holmes’s foremost criminal foil a genius-level university professor whose extracurricular interests range from horticulture to homicide. Holmes has deduced him to be at the center of a wave of terrorist bombings as well as the seemingly unrelated deaths of various titans of industry but can’t quite discern just what the professor’s endgame might be. Composed and calculating to a menacing degree Harris makes for a promising counterweight to Downey’s manic verbosity. But as in the first film Game of Shadows’ best moments are found in the comic interplay between Holmes and his reluctant sidekick Dr. Watson (Jude Law) who is plucked from his honeymoon to accompany the detective on a trans-continental trip in search of clues to Moriarty’s machinations.
And it’s very much a boys-only trip. The female leads from the first film Rachel McAdams and Kelly Reilly are tossed aside – literally in the case of the latter – in Game of Shadows while the cast’s highest-profile new addition Swedish star Noomi Rapace (best known as the original non-emaciated Lisbeth Salander) is a curious non-factor in the role of a Gypsy (or Roma if you prefer) fortune-teller. The film maintains only the slimmest pretense of a romantic subplot between her and Downey. Rapace looking perhaps a bit lost in her first English-speaking role can’t hope to eclipse the Holmes-Watson traveling road show.
Ritchie’s technique with its signature blend of rapid cutting and slow-mo and super-high frame-rates – perfect for admiring the odd apple tossed in the air or a piece of bark shot off a tree – is once again evident in the film’s awe-inspiring (and occasionally coherence-defying) set pieces the most memorable of which is set in a munitions factory with Watson wielding a gatling gun like an early T-600 prototype. But some of the novelty of the stylistic juxtaposition has faded since the first film. Ritchie tries to compensate by ramping up the firepower to limited effect. Absent amid the hail of mortar blasts and automatic weapons fire is any real sense of intrigue or suspense which proves to be Game of Shadows’ most vexing mystery.
Finally a brilliantly told fractured fairy tale for children and adults alike that does not feature a grouchy green orge anywhere. Once upon a time a young man sneaks into the mysterious magic kingdom of Stormhold that’s walled off from his quiet English village. He soon meets a lovely young lady who just so happens to be a princess enslaved by a not-so-wicked witch. Nine months later a basket is dropped on his doorstep. Yes this baby boy is the unexpected result of his one-night liasion with the royal lass. The boy grows up blissfully unaware of his regal roots so when he reaches manhood Tristan (Charlie Cox) doesn’t understand why he so drawn to the land on the other side of the Wall. He finally hops over the Wall when a star falls out of the sky and lands deep in the heart of Stormhold. His goal: to bring back the star as proof of his love for Victoria (Sienna Miller). Too bad this scheming temptress doesn’t think too much of the penniless and mild-mannered workingclass stiff. This being a fairy tale the star isn’t just a star. The star’s actually a beautiful celestial being named Yvaine (Claire Danes). And she fell to earth as part of a devious plan by Stormhold’s dying king (Peter O'Toole) to determine his successor. But the king’s scheming sons (Jason Flemying and Mark Strong) are not the only ones seeking Yvaine. The oh-so-wicked witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) needs Yvaine to help her restore her youth. So that means Tristan must become the hero he’s destined to become—and take on witches princes airbourne pirates (Robert De Niro’s Capt. Shakespeare) and shady black marketeers (The Office’s Ricky Gervais)—so he can return home to Victoria. But Cupid has other plans for Tristran and it’s not hard to guess what those are. If all stars took on the human form of Claire Danes many more of us would probably pursue a career in astronomy. But it doesn’t take a working knowledge of the Hubble telescope to see how relaxed and luminous Danes is when she’s not carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. And sparks definitely fly between Danes and Charlie Cox even when they’re at hurling hilarious insults at each other. Newcomer Cox makes a smooth transition from ill-at-ease lovesick puppy to swashbuckling hero. He also doesn’t seem to be intimidated at the prospect of staring down Robert De Niro. There’s always concern whenever De Niro takes on a comedic role for a big paycheck. He usually gets by with pure talent and nothing more. And when De Niro’s pirate crosses paths with Cox and Danes you immediately fear that he’s going to offer yet another variation on his tough gruff Alpha males from Analyze This and Meet the Parents. But he blindsides us by instead going all Jack Sparrow on us—that is if the old sea dog had no interest in the ladies—to deliriously campy effect. What with Hairspray and now Stardust Michelle Pfeiffer’s comeback seems to be predicated on getting in touch with her inner bitch. She’s splendidly nasty and scary as Lamia. And the uglier and older she gets the meaner and funnier she gets. Equally cruel—though more cheerfully so—is Sienna Miller. Providing small but amusing cameos are Gervais once again revealing an unparallel mastery of toadying and Peter O'Toole who kicks the bucket quicker than John Cleese’s King Harold does in Shrek the Third. There’s legitimate reason to question whether Layer Cake director Matthew Vaughn has what it takes to direct a big-budget effects-driven summer blockbuster. Remember after making his name producing or directing relatively inexpensive British crime capers Vaughn walked away from X-Men: The Last Stand. Judging by Stardust though Vaughn would have done a masterful job leading those misunderstood mutants into battle. Then again he couldn’t have done worse than Brett Ratner. Based on the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess Stardust possesses both a big heart and an uncommon adventurous streak. Unlike the recent Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End which was too long and too cumbersome for its own good Stardust moves nimbly and confidently through a strange and wonderful land populated with noble heroes to cheer for fiendish villains to boo at and gorgeous damsels in distress to sigh over. Vaughn keeps us on the edge of our seats whenever Tristan must think or fight his way out of danger. But he invests as much time in making believe that Tristan and Yvaine are made for each other. He also strikes a fine balance between honoring the sword-and-sorcery genre while playfully sending up its many cliches. The humor’s a lot more risqué than the bedtime story that was The Princess Bride but most of the sexual innuendoes will zoom over the heads of those still too young to pick up on many of Shrek’s pop-cultural references. Clearly Stardust cannot escape all other comparisons to The Princess Bride but Stardust boasts more than enough magic and daring-do to win over those who remained enthralled to this day by Cary Elwes’ brave efforts to rescue a kidnapped Robin Wright Penn. So this is one fairy tale that richly deserves its happily ever after--and for that matter so does Vaughn.
If you thought the Viking Age was uninteresting in that old history textbook Pathfinder does it one better by actually upping the boring ante. In fact even ye Old World buffs out there will be disoriented. It’s set “600 years before Columbus ” when “people had to guard America’s shores from marauders.” One of those most noble guardsmen was Ghost (Karl Urban). Native Americans happened upon him as a young orphan boy and decided to raise him as one of their own--even though he was never truly accepted due to his unknown ancestry. Fifteen years pass and Ghost once a frail child has blossomed into a beast-sized man capable of warding off almost anyone. His size and skill set come in handy when Norse invaders look to raise hell in his village. Armed with horses swords and thorny helmets they kill and maim everyone in sight and mostly get away with it. That is until they mess with the object of Ghost’s affection Starfire (Moon Bloodgood) thereby seriously messing with Ghost. You don’t put Ghost in a corner! Beefcake actors are apparently a dime a dozen these days and Pathfinder lead Urban does nothing to separate himself from the supporting actors of his own movie let alone from the aforementioned Hollywood stereotype. Looking like a runway model on steroids the Lord of the Rings and Bourne Ultimatum star only stands out aesthetically here and is in danger of being pigeonholed and typecast for a long time to come. Unless he can somehow show a different side Urban will wind up on a long list with the likes of wrestlers-turned-actors who can’t act. Thing is in Pathfinder he can’t even manage the uber-virility his character is meant to project. Bloodgood (Eight Below) meanwhile owner of the best non-porn name in showbiz holds her own and softens things up in a movie otherwise completely dominated by males. And finally there's veteran Native American actor Russell Means (Natural Born Killers) who as the Pathfinder himself at least lends some desperately needed credibility. Looking up a director’s name and past work isn’t a fair way to pre-judge his or her movie but it may sometimes hint at what you’re in for. Take Pathfinder for example: Director Marcus Nispel's past work includes Texas Chainsaw Massacre and music videos. Massacre was terrible and music videos are stylized; thus we arrive upon Pathfinder which is terrible and stylized. When parents complain about violence in the movies this should be their focal point. Nispel like other offenders is unable to ever refrain and beheadings and such in all their slow-motion glory resemble fun video games. Not that his lack of morality makes Pathfinder the crap it is however. That blame rests on his apparent decision that such violence is all moviegoers want to see. And it is perhaps the sheer lack of a story that accentuates how mediocre the violent scenes really are--scenes that are meant to leave us agape in amazement as if we’ve never seen a loose eyeball on the screen before. On a (lone) positive note though the set design seems up-to-snuff.
Plenty of worries mate. A third helping of this croc-out-of-the-Outback series is one too many. The difference between the delightful original and this plodding trek through Los Angeles is almost negligible. Once again crocodile hunter Mick (Paul Hogan) puts his survival skills to the test while roaming the wilds of a major metropolis. The Big Apple jaunt resulted in Mick falling in love with journalist Sue (Linda Kozlowski). In Los Angeles Mick grapples with making Sue an honest woman thanks to the prodding of their young son Mikey (Serge Cockburn). La La Land provides enough distractions to prevent Mick from popping the question. Lavish parties. Acting gigs. Monkey wrangling. And the strange business practices of Silvergate Pictures. Sue returns to the United States to temporarily oversee her newspaper magnate father's Los Angeles bureau. Her first assignment: expose Silvergate and its likely criminal activities. But who needs a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist with N.Y.P.D Blue junkie Mick Dundee on the case.
Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles lacks bite but Mick remains the life and soul of the hunt. The leatheryHogan - now 61 but leaner and fitter than a certain real-life crocodile hunter half his age - is so affable fascinating and boyish that it's a pleasure to share his company. He's the same old Mick Dundee that audiences laughed at but mostly laughed with in the late 1980s. Hogan hints--though not very seriously--at the end of this adventure that it's time to call it quits. If so he would be wise to pass his croc-skinned vest and hunting knife on to Cockburn. He's a chip off the old block. Whether he's rescuing skunks or trapping rodents Cockburn manages to charm without being self-consciously cute or deliberately bratty. Too bad Kozlowski--Hogan's wife--has nothing better to do than lovingly raise her eyebrows at Mick's occasional blunders or pass herself off as a journalist.
Simon Wincer last worked with Hogan on 1994's Lightning Jack a not-so-wild Western that floundered in its bid to put any distance between Hogan and his Crocodile Dundee persona. In Wincer's hands Mick Dundee's latest urban jungle safari lacks any genuine surprises. Is Mick the only tourist to find himself confronted by a mugger each time he steps off the plane? In Australia Mick may call the Outback his workplace but he does seem to enjoy some modern amenities. So it's become something of a stretch to imagine that Mick doesn't watch TV and can't take a bath without fearing a crocodile attack. Much of the blame rests with the bland and trite cultural differences that writers Matthew Berry and Eric Abrams compel Mick to face continually. (Hogan contends that he deserves credit for writing the script but unless he needs the extra cash he should back down--it's nothing to be proud of.)