This week nothing on the local scene has moved my needle. There was a Ghanaian production in theatres which I didn’t bother to see (Silent Moment). If you saw it you can give me a review or something. I did see The Scorch Trials (not Trail like I put in my review which you should check out). I have been a tad lazy so not much writing either. Just a review of the Coen classic, Fargo, to go with the YA adaptation. Check that out too.
This week, in light of the much heralded words from Viola Davis, I have diversity on my mind. A study into the diversity of film characters since 2007 has found very little improvement in representation, by gender or race. Researchers at the University of Southern California studied the 100 top-grossing films of each year in the US from 2007 to 2014 (excluding 2011) and discovered that out of the 30,885 characters on screen, only 30.2% were female.
Looking at the top films of 2014, they found that out of the 4,610 characters being shown, only 19 roles were classed as lesbian, gay or bisexual. There were no transgender characters. The research also examined the way that women are generally portrayed and found that in 2014, 26.4% of female characters showed nudity with 9.1% of men. Too many numbers I know – bear with me,
There’s also unsurprisingly a continued lack of diversity behind the camera. Out of the 779 directors behind the top films since 2007, only 5.8% were black and just 2.4% were Asian. There were also just 24 female directors in the same period – almost criminal on the gender front. The report does carry some optimism and suggests that this year could be a turning point. “Looking ahead to 2015, change may already be on the horizon. Films by and about women (eg Pitch Perfect 2, Spy, Fifty Shades of Grey, Cinderella, Insurgent) have drawn ticket buyers en masse. Five female directors have helmed films that made over $25 million in the first half of 2015, which should put them all in the 100 top films this year. This is greater than the number of female directors of the 100 top films of 2013 and 2014.”
Optimism – I think not. The Hollywood film industry is so sexist that it there was even a campaign for investigations into civil rights violations. It’s a white man’s world down there – will be for the foreseeable future. The “celluloid ceiling” persist despite years of complaints about gender inequality, the American Civil Liberties Union reports. In particular, both aspiring and seasoned female directors are excluded from the vast majority of movies. The ACLU is looking to have their state and federal agencies investigate the hiring practices of Hollywood’s major studios and consider filing legal charges. Well good luck to them.
The ACLU found “rampant discrimination” against female movie directors and has focused its latest investigation mainly on that sector of the industry, but also raises concerns about long-term gender discrimination involving actors, writers and other roles in both film and television. “Hollywood is in a dire situation in terms of gender disparities and the industry has been pretty much getting away with it,” In 2014, only 7% of the directors of the 250 top-grossing Hollywood-produced films were women – which was down 2% on the equivalent figure for 1998, the ACLU noted and last year, 70 network television shows (about a third) hired no female directors at all.
So many problems and I haven’t even gotten to the racism. The ACLU found 69% of all the television episodes analysed by their researchers having been directed by white men. The ACLU prepared letters with reports of statistics and complaints from individuals in the industry that amount to “systemic failure” to hire female directors in the film and television industry. The number of women studying at leading film schools was roughly on a par with men and films directed by women do well on the festival circuit but then the men get picked up by the studios and the women don’t. It’s appears almost blatant. A pattern the ACLU says.
Earlier this year a blog on Tumblr called Shit People Say to Women Directors made rounds and it has been overwhelmed with reports from women in the film and TV business complaining about the blatant sexism. I could go on and on with the sexism bit and there’s a lot more data to back it up but you get the point. Hollywood is a nasty place. Surprised anyone?
All the points made are valid undoubtedly valid, disturbing even, but my peeve here is the focus on the highest grossing films and hence Hollywood. The diversity picture becomes more alarming when the focus is on the top 100 grossing films which are almost always driven by white male faces. Sitting in Ghana I have a much broader world view and down here, despite our numerous problems, women are well represented such that, much like anti-semetic comments from Mel Gibson all but killed his career, blatantly sexist behaviour down here in Ghana might do same.
Even stepping out of the borders I have been stimulated by the intriguing films women have helmed this year but in the grand scheme of things even they might be a drop in pool. Sexism in film is ultimately a projection of the already existing patriarchy and going back to Hollywood, they exist to make money of the desires of the masses and the masses want men it appears. This means there is no significant mainstreaming of women’s talent or non-white talent (we slowly enter the racism section).
The recently hacked Sony emails showed senior executives of the studios making racist jokes about President Obama, the gender pay gap and trashing women like producer Megan Ellison as a “bipolar lunatic” and Angelina Jolie as “insane”. Are we really surprised by the output from Hollywood when the powers that be find themselves enjoying their racism and sexism like some Sunday footy banter? The folks at Sony didn’t even trust Denzel Washington to put in work for them because he was old – just kidding – BLACK! I mean if Denzel frigggin Washington, one of the most bankable film stars of all time can’t make it, what hope does the average black talent have in these murky racist waters?
Going back to Emmy winner Viola Davis: “The only thing that separates a woman of colour from anything else is opportunity.” I think about a talented actor like Derek Luke and the waste probably because of his colour. Lord knows if he were white, he may have helmed a mammoth production by now. Viola Davis herself has been wasted thus far and I thank God she has a juicy character in Annalise Keating to chew into on HTGWM. She’s as compelling a screen presence as any of the best but unfortunately the rest of the best are white. She has two Oscar noms in the bag for terrific performances but looking back her roles in Doubt (a working maid) and The Help (surprise surprise another maid) were a bit stereotypical. Not to come off as disingenuous I will point out there is a lot more to her powerful role in Doubt.
The point on stereotypes in casting remains. How many white maids, junkies, pimps, rappers, a drug dealers and convicts do you come across? Not a lot I bet. If no immigration, slave, martial arts or terrorist movie comes around minorities get the day off.
This was a good gripe to let out. We can all but hope things change. As it is now, the white women have to done right by before we move on to minority men and then minority women. Judging by humanities stellar ethnocentric track record, we have a wee couple of centuries to get things right.
Let’s do something fun now. Take a break if you want but come back please.
Spectre is just weeks away (if you just asked what Spectre is, skip to the next story). Sam Mendes is returning for this next 007 instalment, the last for Daniel Craig (best bond ever) and Craig has called Spectre “a celebration of all things Bond” which is nice to hear. I noted, a couple of weeks ago (the Elba post) the departure of the contemporary Bond franchise from its roots and despite the attempts to reintroduce staple characters like Q, Moneypenny and even a male M, Skyfall was the worst culprit of this departure.
It seems the creative minds here may be going all out and sending Craig out with a bang because there is chatter about Christoph Waltz’ character being the iconic Blofeld. Indeed the title of the movie refers to the organisation that Blofeld headed in past incarnations of Bond films. Since the casting of Christoph Waltz was announced, rumours concerning the true nature of his Spectre character have been rife but nothing substantive of yet. When asked directly if he is playing Blofeld, Waltz has said “It’s more complicated than that.” We just know that his character is called Oberhauser and that he will go down as the best Bond villain of all time – 007 may not survive this film guys.
Mendes in an interview with Empire spoke more about Blofeld. He explained why he doesn’t want fans to know the truth behind Waltz’s character yet:
“The B-word! We talk about it all the time. It’s the great figure from the Bond vault, as it were. There was this big spectre hanging over the movie and the franchise, which is Blofeld, and what happened to the supervillain. That’s all I’m going to say. There’s some big stuff the movie is moving towards. There are depth charges you hopefully don’t see coming.”
On the subject of exactly who Waltz would be playing, and whether the alias Oberhauser was just a ruse, Mendes was insistent that spoilers should not and would not, be given.
“The audience cannot and should not be given – and I’m not confirming or denying anything – information that the characters do not have. And preserving tension in the narrative of a story that is a riff or an acknowledgement of the iconography of Bond over the years has been crucial. Otherwise you have taken an audience out of the narrative before it’s even begun.”
Fair enough but Mendes’ comments seem to point to Bond’s arch-nemesis returning. Also Waltz’s character was referred to as Blofeld in leaked exec notes of the Sony hacks, though not in the screenplay for Spectre so still nothing concrete as yet. The good news is we don’t have long to wait. Smallest time fellow cinephiles. If Blofeld does make an appearance I just hope he has a cute fluffy feline to go with graviton malevolence.
Mad Max; Fury Road is still the best action film this year – one of the best of the last decade. When it first came out I remember being awed by how visually driven it was and the extensive work with story boards backed that up. A seeming love letter to silent cinema it is as a chunk of the film carries some excitement, poignancy and coherence without dialogue. Well director George Miller has since gone on record saying that the best version of Fury Road is a black and white silent cut with an option to include the score and this makes sense. He wanted this cut on the film’s Blu-ray release but the unfortunately, Warner Brothers did not include that version with the movie’s regular Blu-ray release – Racist and now, party poopers.
Miller argued the monochromatic version would be the “purest and most-stripped down version of Fury Road you can imagine” and as it turns out, a fan made imagination reality. This doctored his own version of Fury Road and posted it online. Dubbed Black and Chrome, this alternate version was uploaded to Vimeo, but has since been take down. The creator(s) of Black and Chrome went back on the site to express their hope that “the right person(s) will have WITNESSED this and we can look forward to an official version of Mad Max: Fury Road in black and white”.
I talked about Fury Road being one of the best action of the last few years but John Wick gives it a good run for its money. They don’t come as slick as this Keanu Reeves flick which revels in its well streamlined scenes of violence and intriguingly conceited world building. John Wick took in good money so there’s a sequel on the cards.
Production of John Wick 2 is set to begin this fall with the original directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski along with screenwriter Derek Kolstad still helming affairs so at the very least we will still be gifted with exhilarating action sequences. Leitch and Stahelski previously offered the following tease, regarding how they are approaching the task of crafting a franchise:
“We have ideas for days and without blinking twice we know we can outdo the action from the original. It’s the matter of story and how much you like the character. That’s always the most important. If there’s great action but you have a character that no one likes and doesn’t have charisma you’re not going to watch it… So we want to make sure we have a story and a character that everybody loves and then we’ll dress it with action that we promise will be awesome.”
They’re just being modest. We’ll still show up for the action sequences. Leitch and Stahelski come from a stunt coordination back ground so they know their business and cockiness on the topic of outdoing the first film excites me. They know how to do action well and the way they filmed their it with a lot of medium shots and minimal close ups just invited audiences to absorb the dances of stylized violence they had crafted. They are also looking to build on the eponymous character who is still a bit of a blank slate without the grief and vengeance so it will be intriguing to see what they come up with.
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