At the 2018 New York Film Festival, actress Carey Mulligan was asked how she could get into character for someone as unlikable as Jeannette in “Wildlife” (2018). Mulligan explained to the shortsighted audience member that likability is more than niceness. It is finding a connection in someone. Mulligan transformed herself into Jeannette, a young mother who, while her husband is away, has an affair as she tries to find herself again. It is a beautiful performance about the way definitions can be thrust upon and shackle women. So, what made her unlikable? Was it the infidelity? The selfishness? The uncomfortable self-exploration? It seems that male characters can do and be those things. We call them “complex” or “complicated.” We label them the “anti-hero.” But what makes that journey different for women?
It was disheartening to read that a butchered version of one of this year’s best films, "Booksmart", was shown on Delta’s aeroplanes. It was reported that “A version of the coming-of-age comedy that is being shown on Delta doesn't include a hookup scene between two teenage girls and eliminates references to female sexuality.” Thankfully, Delta has recognized the problem and is now making the film available in its entirety. This whole story must be discussed as it says some telling things about prejudices and biases that, sadly, are still present today.
Have you ever seen a film and found something just a bit distasteful about the way female actor came across but you couldn’t quite point to exactly why it didn’t sit right? And, maybe others have pointed out that the main female character have been treated very well because they ended up saving the day, so what are you complaining about?
There’s more to a film than the simply action that takes place and who is on screen. It’s a visual art form and we’re all trained in the visual language of cinema from the moment we start watching films. By ‘visual language’ we mean the way people are photographed in order to convey meaning beyond what they say or do. Someone shown in the frame as towering above another person is often the one with the power for example.
Amidst the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, it as become glaringly obvious how pervasive toxic masculinity, harassment, and abuse are in the film industry. With film and television as not just art forms, but avenues of escapism, how do we watch cinema more responsibly?
Following the scathing Weinstein report, MANY men in Hollywood – and some women – have been accused of sexual harassment and assault. This is not a new thing, but we are certainly not remaining as complacent as before. Louis C.K., Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Bryan Singer, R. Kelly and so on are facing exile from the entertainment industry.
When making that perfect meal, there are two key rules - follow the recipe, and get the very best ingredients. Everything else is just adds to the general appearance, but if you get those basics right? You won't go far wrong. Making a film is pretty similar - get the right story, and deliver it with the best creative team, and you'll almost certainly get an enjoyable film. "Jennifer's Body" is the exception that proves this rule.
Let me take you back to 2009. Megan Fox was one of the hottest properties in cinema, with her face and body being plastered all over the unfathomably internationally successful first couple of entries into the Transformers franchise. Amanda Seyfried was a key part of popular movies like "Mean Girls" and "Mamma Mia!", along with a major role in hip TV show "Veronica Mars".
Anyone who uses social media to discuss their favourite tv shows or movies has probably run into a crazy fan or two. Most major franchises - Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Disney, etc- have a large following on social media that unfortunately includes some people whose goal is to make everyone else miserable. These "Toxic Fans" (or "Toxic Fandoms" as a group) are defined as fans that are overly negative towards opposing opinions, are possessive, entitled, and/or abusive towards people they think are "ruining their franchise". These groups of people have been in the spotlight recently for being so abusive they've made actors flee social media entirely. An example of this is with Rian Johnson's "Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi" (2017) and its character Rose Tico and actress Kelly Marie Tran.
If the purpose of film, like literature and other narrative-driven art forms, is, in part, to examine and portray under-explored or overlooked aspects of the human condition, then it is the perfect medium with which to explore mental illness and the impact it has on those effected by it. If, however, the purpose of film is simply to entertain and titillate, it is the least appropriate medium to use as an exposé on mental health. Some will argue that genre film, like genre fiction, is a “lower” form of the art and not meant to achieve much more than excitement or amusement.
By Jenni Holtz
Nena Eskridge’s “Stray” (2015) tackles the aftermath of trauma and the ongoing pain that infiltrates Jennifer’s life even after she tries to start again. The micro-budget psychological thriller is an unusual story of the not-so-pretty effects of abuse. With the limited resources it had, “Stray” still manages to be a thought-provoking thriller with strong performances.
The trope of the ‘Final Girl’ is a hallmark for slasher films. But what hallmark for women is seen in supernatural and possession movies? Oh, haven’t heard of it? There definitely is one, and it is not always the most flattering.
When it comes to demon possession or ghost hauntings, the fear of losing control comes to mind. A sinister presence creeping in. The women of those films tend to have one thing in common: hormones. From “The Conjuring” to “The Exorcist”, women in possession films are at a flux in their own lives, but that vulnerability is weaponized against them.