Cinemability: Tonight on TCM

Posted on September 23, 2019 at 6:54 am

Tonight on TCM, “Cinemability: The Art of Inclusion” tells the story of disability representation in films, followed by some classic, if not consistent with current standards, examples, including “Freaks” (“You’re one of us now!”), “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and “Johnny Belinda,” with Oscar-winner Jane Wyman as a young deaf woman.

For many years, it seemed that the most reliable way to get an Oscar was to play someone with disabilities. In addition to Wyman, actors who have won Oscars for portraying disabled or ill characters include Dustin Hoffman (“Rain Man”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“My Left Foot”), Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”), Geoffrey Rush (“Shine”), Al Pacino (“Scent of a Woman”), Jamie Foxx (“Ray”), Tom Hanks (“Forrest Gump”), Tom Hanks again (“Philadelphia”), Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”), Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God”), Jack Nicholson (“As Good as it Gets”), and Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”). Of those, only Matlin had the real-life disability she was portraying. Increasingly, Hollywood is being urged to cast disabled actors to play disabled characters, which will open up opportunities to talented performers and provide more meaningful authenticity to the representation we see on screen.

Related Tags:

 

Disabilities and Different Abilities Documentary Film History Movie History

The Women Behind Hustlers and Unbelievable

Posted on September 21, 2019 at 7:43 pm

A top movie at the box office and a top limited series on Netflix, both based on true stories about women, have something else in common. Both were also made by women, with female writers, producers, and directors.

The Washington Post’s Sonia Rao writes about “Hustlers,” based on the story of a group of strippers who drugged and stole from Wall Street financiers:

None of this is to say that a male director couldn’t have achieved something similar, but it’s worth noting that Scafaria and other female producers had to fight to keep their vision for the film intact. Producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas told New York magazine that while some male studio executives were fine with how men treated women in, say, “The Wolf of Wall Street” — directed by Martin Scorsese, who passed on “Hustlers” — they were “a little uncomfortable” with a flipped premise.

For Vulture, my friend and fellow critic Jen Chaney writes that the limited series, written by Susannah Grant, Michael Chabon, andAyelet Waldman and directed by Grant, Jill Soloway, and Michael Dinner, “Unbelievable” on Netflix is the “most feminist crime show I’ve ever seen.”

Contrasting moments like distinguish Unbelievable as the most feminist crime show in recent memory, but one that is not feminist in the typical, “look at women being badasses” way that Hollywood often does feminism. As created by Susannah Grant, this series, which is ostensibly about the attempt to track down a serial rapist after his initial victim is deemed unreliable, is really about how women move through the world, not only as victims or detectives but as employees and bosses, mothers and partners, colleagues and friends. It’s a show about what happens when women use their voices, and how challenging it can be to figure out how to speak up and when.

The fact that Unbelievable is all of these things while still working within the traditional structure of the detective genre makes it quite remarkable.

Rao concludes:

If its opening weekend is any indication, “Hustlers” might become the latest female-led film to soar at the box office. That wouldn’t make it an exception to any rule — a study released in December by Creative Arts Agency and tech company Shift7 found that, between January 2014 and December 2017, female-led movies actually outperformed their male-led counterparts worldwide.

Related Tags:

 

Understanding Media and Pop Culture

The Good Place: Special Effects from Dave Niednagel

Posted on September 21, 2019 at 8:11 am

The Good Place is my favorite series on television and I always listen to the podcast hosted by Marc Evan Jackson, who plays the demon named Shawn. One of my favorite episodes featured the man who does the wonderfully imaginative and often whimsical special effects, Dave Neidnagel. NBC’s behind the scenes special about the show this week included some adorable examples of Neidnagel trying out the effects with his daughters.

Related Tags:

 

Behind the Scenes

Ad Astra

Posted on September 19, 2019 at 5:31 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some violence and bloody images, and for brief strong language
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Peril and violence, characters injured and killed, some startling and disturbing images
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: September 20, 2019
Date Released to DVD: December 16, 2019

Copyright 20th Century Fox
James Gray, the writer/director of Lost City of Z. has given us another story of a father and son who leave women behind to explore unknown territory. “Lost City of Z” was based on the true story of Percy Fawcett, who traveled through South America in search of the legendary city of gold, inspiring a generation of adventurers. In “Ad Astra” (“to the stars”) an astronaut goes to the farthest reaches of the solar system in search of answers that range from the most cosmic and existential to the most deeply wrenching and personal.

In both films, Gray is better with the settings than the characters and better with the characters than the storyline. And Brad Pitt’s acting is better than every other part of the film.

The look and sound of “Ad Astra” is spectacular. It creates a completely believable, fully-imagined near-future look and feel of an era of space travel and planetary colonization. It is difficult in a sci-fi movie not to want to show off the coolness of the technology, and make the most of the extrapolations of our time into the worst (or occasionally best) possible outcomes, for example, Earth destroyed by human failings or hubris. But this film makes its imagined future all the more believable by making it fit seamlessly into a world that seems just minutes from where we are now. So of course there will be bomb-sniffing dogs in the rocket hanger; just because we develop the technology for routine travel to outer space does not mean we will develop a safer world at home. And of course there will be a Subway (the sandwich place, not the mode of transportation) in a space outpost because why wouldn’t fast food corporations line up whatever territory they can.

I will not spoil the adventures along the journey; I will just say that the characters acceptance of them as ordinary and expected also underscores the vastness of the imagined world and deepens the impact of the dangers Roy faces.

The score by Max Richter, cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema (“Intersteller”), and the sound design by Grant Elder shape the story-telling, making the exploration seem so completely realistic that we can believe it is already an ordinary part of our daily lives, but keeping things exciting and suspenseful when the time comes.

And then there is the story. Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is an astronaut, like his father Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones), who disappeared on a voyage to Neptune when Roy was a child. Now someone needs to go to Neptune to investigate a mysterious electrical surge that is creating great damage on earth. And it seems possible that Clifford is involved somehow, that he has survived all this time.

The astronauts are required to do regular self-assessment check-ins on their mental and psychological states to determine whether they are stable enough for space travel. But it is not at all clear as Roy goes through the list of questions whether he is saying what he really feels or what he knows they want to hear. “I am focused only on the essentials,” he says, “I do not allow my mind to linger on that which is not important.” Can anyone believe that is possible? Or that it should be possible? What Roy’s superiors know is the data that they have received, showing that his pulse never goes above 80, even when the situation is very dire. So, should he have one of those “Houston, we have a problem” complications, they believe they can count on him to be level-headed and focus on practical solutions instead of getting emotional, frightened, or angry.

And so he seems to be the right choice for “a crisis of unknown magnitude,” unprecedented electrical surges that put all human life at risk and that seem to be connected to Clifford’s long-ago mission. Roy agrees to go to Neptune, requiring stops on the moon and Mars, to see if he can find and stop the surges. But there’s a warning. “We have to hold out the possibility that your father may be hiding from us.” “I remain mission ready,” Roy assures them.

But we learn that Roy understands rage. He has seen it in his father and he feels it in himself. There will be sacrifices along the way, and decisions with tragic consequences. I found the ultimate encounter less than satisfying, not up to the ambitions of the premise and the settings. But Pitt’s performance and the world of the film provide more than enough reason to watch and wonder.

Parents should know that this film includes sci-fi style violence with peril and some disturbing and graphic images, themes of parental abandonment, characters who are injured and killed, and some strong language.

Family discussion: Was Roy honest in his answers about his emotional state? How was he like his father and how was he different? Would you like to explore space?

If you like this, try: “2001,” “Gravity,” “The Martian,” and “Silent Running”

Related Tags:

 

Drama DVD/Blu-Ray movie review Movies Science-Fiction
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2021, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik