Tag: Culture

From Bran Stark to Boris Johnson: TV heroes and villains of 2019

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From Game of Thrones to BBC Parliament via a fascist Emma Thompson, there were champions and tyrants aplenty on our screens this year. Here are the best and the very worst

Heroes:
Princess Anne, The Crown

The royal family didnt exactly cover itself in glory in 2019, but salvation came from a most unexpected place. Princess Anne (previously portrayed in The Windsors as a sort of terrifying vampire) turned out to be the breakout star of The Crown. Played by Erin Doherty, she was funny, sardonic and exactly the right character to counter the dreary poshos that make up the rest of her awful family even if they did miss out the (surely intrigue-heavy) kidnap attempt against her.

Nadia Vulvokov, Russian Doll

Natasha
Natasha Lyonne in Russian Doll: the role she was born to play. Photograph: AP

The role that Natasha Lyonne was born to play in the show she was born to star in, Russian Dolls Nadia is a walking, talking wall of scar tissue. The only thing that can soften her up are several traumatising deaths and rebirths. But the miracle of Nadia is that even this isnt a complete success. By the end of the series she has changed, but remains still just as knotted and grouchy as before. What a concept. What a character.

Ebenezer Scrooge, I Think You Should Leave

The story of Scrooge traditionally ends with him embracing the spirit of Christmas and asking a boy to buy him a turkey. But only I Think You Should Leave showed the true heroism at the heart of the man. In the bizarre Netflix comedy, Scrooge was then visited by The Ghost of Christmas Way Future, who came with a dark warning about the future of humanity. By Christmas 3050, Skeletrex and his bone brigade have enslaved the human race. Only Scrooge, with his newfound sense of Christmas cheer, can defeat the bonies by smashing their brains out with his cane. Possibly the one real hero in all of television this year.

Jennie Gresham, Alan Partridge

From
From dismissal to fear to disgust … Jennie Gresham (Susannah Fielding) deals with Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan). Photograph: Colin Hutton/BBC/Baby Cow/Colin Hutton

Arguably the television performance of 2019, Susannah Fieldings Jennie Gresham felt more strongly about things than any other character this year. She veered from dismissal to fear to disgust to fury to something that briefly approximated seduction, all hidden behind a 6ft blast door of practised BBC cheeriness. Her emotions seeped out only through the sort of involuntary twitches and glances that tend to occur when you sit next to Alan Partridge. A complete professional.

Dr Manhattan, Watchmen

Although the finale ended up doubling as a critique of the man a god who lost interest in humanity Dr Manhattan was still the lynchpin of Damon Lindelofs Watchmen reboot. He spent decades exploring the universe until he came to see existence as little more than an abstract. But, still, at the moment of his death, he chose to replay the memories he made with a woman he loved. His last act of selflessness springs the story into exciting new territory.

Suzie, Stranger Things

A largely unseen presence who for the majority of the season we assumed was invented, it was Dustins long-distance girlfriend who ultimately saved the world from destruction. She knew Plancks constant, which was the key to defeating the giant blood monster. But she only gave it up on the proviso that Dustin first agreed to perform a duet of Never Ending Story by Limahl in its entirety with her. This is a woman with an appropriate sense of perspective.

Hamster, Seven Worlds, One Planet

Only in 2019 could an act of wanton grave desecration count as heroism, but there we are. Of course, it helps that the figure doing the desecration was a chubby cheeked Austrian hamster, carefully bobbing across a graveyard on its way to eat a meal of flowers and candle wax. But as ever, there was a moral to be found. If youre going to eat candles, be prepared to get your head stuck in a jar.

Bran Stark, Game of Thrones

Living
Living like a king … Bran Stark through the ages. Photograph: AP

All hail the king. While the final season and, in particular, the final episode of Game of Thrones looks set to go down as a historic misfire, at least we have Bran Stark to look up to. A weird little boy who did nothing to help anyone and ended up ruling the world anyway, Bran is everything we should aspire to. May his reign be fruitful and, more importantly, untelevised.

Villains:
Mitch Kessler, The Morning Show

The big bad on Apple TV+s The Morning Show looked and acted like a friendly dad. Mitch Kessler played by Steve Carell at the exact midpoint between Michael Scott and John du Pont was the anchor of a beloved breakfast TV show. The series started at the moment when his world began to crumble at the hands of #MeToo allegations, but it was only as the series progressed that you began to realise what a vile, grasping, self-obsessed monster he really was. Yuck.

Viv Rook, Years and Years

A
A slow and insidious rise to populist power … Emma Thompson as Viv Rook. Photograph: Guy Farrow/BBC/Red Productions

For the majority of Russell T Daviess apocalyptic drama, Viv Rook was a figure on TV; her slow and insidious rise to populist power playing out in tandem to the real action. But the scariest scene came when a character came face to face with her, and Emma Thompsons politician revealed herself to be nothing but a dimwitted mouthpiece an empty vessel for larger and darker forces. As with everything that Years and Years offered up, it was only frightening because you suspected that it was true.

Logan Roy, Succession

Logan Roy (Brian Cox) spent the second series of Succession huffing and raging like a Shakespearian monster. Once absolute, his power was starting to slip between his fingers, and he reacted with supreme cruelty. A villain so mighty that he happily used his own children as collateral damage, Logans barbarism came to a head with the unquestionable act of abuse that was Boar on the Floor, a game where he forced his family to crawl around begging for sausages. May his comeuppance in season three be swift and violent.

Prince Andrew, Newsnight

Only
Only an oafish moron would use such an alibi … Prince Andrew interviewed by Emily Maitlis. Photograph: Mark Harrison/AP

The gall of the man. The sheer bumptious idiocy. Only somebody as fundamentally stupid as Prince Andrew would agree to be grilled by one of the countrys most dogged interviewers about the sexual accusations made against him. Only a lumbering berk like him would suggest holding it in the countrys most comically out of touch room. Only an oafish moron would use an alibi (that he doesnt sweat) that would immediately trigger a race to disprove him by every picture agency in the world. And only an unremitting fool like him would come out of it thinking that hed done quite well.

Daenerys Targaryen, Game of Thrones

What a baddie. What a dictator. What an all-round awful person. Daenerys curdled hard this year, kicking out whenever her brittle grasp of power was questioned until she spent most of one episode literally destroying the world. Good riddance to a thoroughly nasty dragon queen and, er, Starbucks fan.

Mary Louise, Big Little Lies

Was Mary Louise really that bad? After all, she was the mother of a dead man, trying to work out who murdered him. However, in the hands of Meryl Streep, she became an absolute tyrant. Her worst move ripping Celestes children away from their mother came shrouded in faux goodness. Again and again she repeated that she only wanted what was best for everyone, but again and again she pushed everyone perilously close to the brink. May we never have to hear the clatter of her false teeth again.

Boris Johnson, Nowhere

The easy thing to do here would be to compare Boris Johnson to Viv Rook (see above), but at least Viv Rook agreed to be on television. Sidestepping almost every opportunity for proper televised scrutiny, Johnson instead turned his back and fled and he won. Not everyone can make Andrew Neils miraculous cloud of hair judder with rage, but not everyone is quite as much of a swaggering baddie as Boris.

Anthony the hairdresser, Fleabag

Hair-raising
Hair-raising … Claire (Sian Clifford) with pencil haircut. Photograph: BBC

He made Claires head look like a pencil and then refused compensation. Yes, sure, she asked for that exact haircut, but that isnt the point. Hair is everything, Anthony!!!

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/dec/20/from-bran-stark-to-boris-johnson-tv-heroes-and-villains-of-2019

Marvel’s Kevin Feige brushes off Scorsese superhero movies criticism

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Studio chief describes as unfortunate the directors claim that the blockbusters were like theme parks and not cinematic

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has responded for the first time in public to the controversy surrounding superhero movies first sparked in October by Martin Scorsese, who said they were not cinema and closer to theme parks.

Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Feige brushed off Scorseses remarks, saying: I think thats not true. I think its unfortunate.

Feige added: I think myself and everyone who works on these movies loves cinema, loves movies, loves going to the movies, loves to watch a communal experience in a movie theatre full of people.

Scorseses views were backed up by fellow directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, who described Marvels output as despicable and Ken Loach, who called them cynical. Film-makers such as Joss Whedon and James Gunn, however, defended the Marvel franchise, while Robert Iger, CEO of Disney, which owns Marvel, said: I dont get what [Coppola and Scorsese are] criticising us for when were making films that people are obviously enjoying going to and theyre doing so by the millions.

However, Scorsese later amplified his criticism of superhero movies with an article in the New York Times, in which he said he felt a terrible sadness about the state of the industry.

Feige said: Everybody has a different definition of cinema. Everybody has a different definition of art. Everybody has a different definition of risk. Some people dont think its cinema. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. Everyone is entitled to repeat that opinion. Everyone is entitled to write op-eds about that opinion, and I look forward to what will happen next. But, in the meantime, were going to keep making movies.

Feige, who is generally considered the main creative force behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has overseen the release of 23 MCU films since 2008 with a worldwide box office of over $22bn, making it by far the most successful film franchise of all time. Feige has also been asked to collaborate on a new instalment in the Star Wars series, the second highest grossing franchise of all time.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/nov/11/kevin-feige-martin-scorsese-marvel-studios-superhero-movies

Geena Davis: ‘damaging stereotypes’ on screen limit women’s aspirations

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Actor speaks out as film industry study on characters in leadership roles finds women four times more likely than men to be shown naked

The promises of positive change for women on screen that followed her role in the groundbreaking film Thelma and Louise have failed to materialise, leaving girls today with few role models, according to the actor Geena Davis.

The media continue to have a huge influence on how the world views women and girls, and how they view themselves, she said. But few current roles show women in powerful positions, and continue to reinforce damaging gender stereotypes.

Davis was speaking to the Guardian as research into the film industry showed that of characters in leadership positions, women were four times more likely than men to be shown completely naked. The study also found that 42% of men were shown in leadership roles, compared with 27% of women.

We know from many examples that media images can be incredibly powerful in a positive way if you bother to do that, Davis told the Guardian. My theory is we dont have enough real-life role models of women in important positions and occupations to inspire change, and so we need to have them in fiction so that life will imitate art.

I believed all the press reaction about Thelma and Louise, that it was going to change everything and that there were now going to be far more female lead characters in movies, and I was thrilled.

And actually the next move I made, A League of Their Own, the press announced the same thing, that now absolutely for sure everything is going to change. Therell be so many sports movies now. And none of those things happened.

Over the 25 years since, there have been a number of times that movies have come out and people [have said], This is going to change things, and it didnt, added Davis, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Thelma in the 1991 film.

Its incredibly disappointing how little progress has been made.

Research published on Tuesday analysed the film industrys portrayal of women and its impact on the lives of girls, carried out by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which the actor founded in 2004, and the NGO Plan International.

It analysed the 56 top-grossing films of 2018 in 20 countries in North America, Scandinavia, Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.

Of the characters in leadership positions, it found that women and girls were four times more likely than men to be shown wearing revealing clothing; nearly twice as likely to be shown as partially nude; and four times more likely to be shown completely naked. It also found that when a slow motion focus was used on lead characters bodies, nearly twice as many female leads were sexually objectified than men.

Research also revealed that twice as many men appeared in the 56 films and they spoke twice as much as women.

Male characters were shown as being more effective and more respected when in leadership positions, while female presidents and prime ministers were portrayed as struggling with the job. Where female characters were portrayed as strong, it was in the home.

Almost half of the characters across the films analysed, which collectively earned $21bn (17bn) at the box office, were white. Only one of the 60 female leaders in the films was LGBTQ+. None of the films was directed by a woman, only a quarter had at least one female producer and one in 10 had at least one woman on the writing team.

In the report, Rewrite her Story, 10,000 girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 25, in 19 countries, were polled about the role media played in shaping their aspirations and view of themselves.

The vast majority of those interviewed said they were influenced by what they saw on screen and wanted more role models. More than 90% said they believed women in leadership roles were treated less well because of their gender.

Of course it hurts me because even if I know I could be a leader, I wont do it because I see it is just for men, not for women, a 22-year-old Ugandan woman told researchers. So that affects me. Ill have to sit back and watch men doing it, even though I am capable of doing it too.

Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International, said while a woman 007 or superhero in film is welcome our research shows they are exceptions and not the rule.

The bigger picture is that gender discrimination and harmful stereotypes still dominate on screen. This undermines girls and young women and has a negative impact on their aspirations to leadership in all walks of life.

Davis said she remained optimistic that things would improve. The #MeToo and Times Up movements have had a remarkable impact on the industry. We can feel change in the air, she said.

I feel the easiest way to bring change in our culture is on-screen representation. And if you make it happen there, it will happen in real life.

Davis, who this year joined Netflix wrestling drama Glow, played the ultimate leadership role that of a female US president in the 2005 TV show Commander in Chief. It was axed by ABC after one series. But, she said, a study found that 58% of people said they were more likely to vote for a female candidate for president after seeing me behind the desk.

She added: Imagine if I had stayed on air for eight years, what would be happening now?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/oct/01/geena-davis-damaging-stereotypes-on-screen-limit-womens-aspirations

So Long, You Weird, Space-Time-Defying Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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Odds are you watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., because you’re reading this. That puts you in a sort of exclusive club. Which is to say, not many people watch this show. A hanging story-chad of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. has had ratings consistently low enough to make the prospect of its renewal every year a kind of comic-book cliffhanger.

Yet it was. Six times. No matter what—stranding characters on distant planets, swapping members of the ensemble in and out, touring through some back alleys of the Marvel pantheon for characters whom it’d perhaps be a stretch to describe as beloved—Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was just … on, y’all. And now, as the show preps for its final season, it’s finally over. In the hours before the show’s Thursday panel at San Diego Comic-Con, the network finally took a shotgun axe to its little sci-fi superhero spy show. (The shotgun axe is a thing in the show. That’s the kind of show it is.)

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  • “We’re shooting the very last episode right now, so a lot of us are feeling this,” said show cocreator Jed Whedon from the stage of San Diego’s Hall H, an auditorium I am contractually required to describe as cavernous. “Part of the reason we’re really enjoying this is that we’re going through what the characters are going through, which is, this is our last mission together.”

    “And,” interjected Clark Gregg, the show’s lead, “the dragons look amazing.” (The dragons aren’t a thing. The show doesn’t have dragons. Probably.)

    S.H.I.E.L.D. started out as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Its center was Agent Phil Coulson, played by Gregg as the rectitudally high and tight, right-hand man of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in Iron Man and sacrificed to narrative gods in Avengers: That First One. But death is just something people get better from in comics; Gregg was a sunny spot in the movies’ Sturm and Drang. Coulson came back to take over TV S.H.I.E.L.D.

    In the early years, other Marvel cinematic characters occasionally showed up. Lady Sif from Thor did a guest spot. Some of the visual effects showing magic looked like the ones in Doctor Strange. Even Jackson’s Fury came in to shoot a gun, and if you watched closely you noticed that the helicarrier that saves the day at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron gets handed off from a S.H.I.E.L.D. episode. In the movies—Captain America: The Winter Soldier, primarily—S.H.I.E.L.D. the agency turned out to be rife with bad guys, and it disbanded, and it sort of did on TV too. The agents went on the run, ran a shadow-S.H.I.E.L.D., I think, and fought an offshoot of the movie bad guys.

    For the first couple seasons, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a sometimes predictable show that had a second job supporting Disney-Marvel’s dominion over all of pop culture time and space. But then it leveraged its hard-to-explain renewals to quietly become one of the zaniest, weirdest pieces of sci-fi on TV.

    The renewals aren’t that hard to explain, actually. The show had a marketing value, sure, and a small but avid fanbase, like a lot of genre TV. But since Disney owns the ABC television network, and ABC produces the show, it’s owned and operated, relatively cheaper to make because the network doesn’t have to share money with some other studio. Think of it as Disney’s ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Even a lower-rated, in-house-produced show can make more money, in the end, than an expensive but popular one made by someone else.

    That’s a potent combination, as it turns out. Few people watching, little oversight from a network because the stakes are low, a fan base distilled down to the most committed gladiators … what’s a writers’ room to do? Well, any damn thing it wants is the answer. Guest stars: Patton Oswalt, Bill Paxton, Kyle MacLachlan, Ron Glass, Edward James Olmos, Ruth Negga, Blair Underwood, Powers Boothe.1 Deep dives into Marvel’s back catalog: Ghost Rider, Deathlok, the Absorbing Man, Graviton, Mockingbird.

    The show went to a virtual matrix universe where everyone was a bad guy, and the Big Baddy was a magic robot lady. When Ghost Rider showed up, he wasn’t the iconic 1970s motorcycle demon with a flaming skull. This was the new Ghost Rider, who drives a lowrider (but also has a flaming skull). (The actor who played him, Gabriel Luna, is slated for a Ghost Rider show on Hulu.) There was time travel, space travel, a post-apocalyptic Earth rescued via time and space travel, and blue aliens. A beloved character used suspended animation to join his friends in a timeline where Earth was destroyed, but then died while helping them escape and change that future. So his friends went to space to fish him out of suspended animation in the newly remade present, because now there are two of him. Coulson died again! And came back again, only this time as a bad guy with no memories, from another planet, on our Earth to fight zombie alien space bats.

    It’s a lot, right? Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always great. But it always felt like real humans were sitting in a room authentically trying to outdo whatever they’d tried last time. “We never know when we’re shooting the end of the thing if we’re going to get another season,” Gregg said in Hall H. So every season things would get weird, come to a head, and go out big. Someone, probably in a suit, maybe in Burbank, would say "Um, actually could you just do more?" The show would say "Errr, OK." So things would just get weirder.

    That’s a rock-solid legacy. Marvel’s TV shows are about to change radically. The deals with Netflix that led to Jessica Jones and Daredevil, among others, have ended; the new streaming network Disney+ has announced shows more clearly derived from the movies, about Loki, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and others. The days of Marvel on a broadcast network are passing into legend. As for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? “This is the flagship show of Marvel television,” said Jeph Loeb, the head of that division. “And it’s the show that I love most.” Which, you know, I get it. Thanks for the ride, Agents. In the era of peak, golden-age, highly burnished, super-professional polish, TV needs weird too.

    1Updated 7/19/19 7:47 AM PDT to correct the spelling of Powers Boothe's name


    Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/farewell-agents-of-shield/

    8 Essential Books in the Queer Comics Canon

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    More than a decade ago, when Batwoman was reimagined as a gay character, it was a big deal. She was a woman in comics who dated and danced with other women, experienced heartbreak, and went through many of the mundanities of relationships that queer people aren't often afforded in mainstream media. Katherine "Kate" Kane was revolutionary.

    She was, and is, also not alone. LGBTQ+ people are now featured in a lot of comics. In fact, when it comes to queer representation, the Marvel and DC movies and television shows are pretty far behind their paperback counterparts. Batwoman is only just now getting a her own show, and Marvel is promising that a gay character is coming, but such a character has yet to be seen. It's no wonder, then, that when movie fans start speculating about whether or not Captain Marvel and Valkyrie might be a couple, most readers have to hold back the "Well, if you read the comics…" from their lips.

    Look beyond the superhero fare and there are even more queer characters filling comics panels. With a barrier to entry that can be as low as setting up a Squarespace account, indie comics featuring LGBTQ+ people are everywhere. And the mainstream titles are beefing up the queer storylines too. It's a lot to take in. Don't know where to start? Below are some of the best titles out there, from simple stories to superhero sagas.

    Note: When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Read more about how this works.

    Check, Please!

    Macmillan

    Check, Please! had the humblest of beginnings—starting as a class assignment for author Ngozi Ukazu, the webcomic grew a loyal online fanbase, and eventually got published as a book. It follows freshman hockey player Eric Bittle, or “Bitty,” navigating student life and playing hockey for his fictional liberal arts school. It’s a wholesome story, one that’s more about friendship than hockey. It’ll leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling, but will also punch you in the gut when you least expect it.
    How to read it: In print, or online.

    America

    Marvel

    America Chavez is one of the Young Avengers (a great queer story in its own right) who grew up in a queer utopia with her two mothers and is mourning their loss while also navigating the "real world"—and the racism, sexism, and homophobia that comes with it—for the first time. Plus, it features a queer woman of color punching Hitler in the face.
    How to read it: In print.

    The Witch Boy

    Graphix

    In the world of The Witch Boy, all girls are witches and all boys are shapeshifters. Our protagonist struggles with those expectations and trying to be himself in a world that penalizes him for that. The Witch Boy was written as a children’s comic, but still has enough complexity and intrigue for an adult reader. And it's great for facilitating conversations between parents and their children about gender and gender roles.
    How to read it: In print.

    Bingo Love

    Image Comics

    This indie comic made a lot of best-of lists last year, and with good reason. The book follows two queer women from their teenage years in the 1960s to the present day. It’s beautifully written and illustrated, and it tells a story you likely haven’t heard or seen before.
    How to read it: In print.

    Iceman

    Marvel

    Iceman is just one example of the benefits that comics have over films. The same character can be written over and over again in various iterations and interpretations. In this case, 2017 Iceman is recently out and finding community while also learning to accept himself as both a mutant and a gay man. X-Men have long served as an allegory for various marginalized groups over the years, and that’s true two-fold here. Bobby Drake’s double minority identity is framed throughout the series through the lens of his parents who love him but say all the wrong things in a way that rings very true, and highlights the importance of having queer writers behind queer stories.
    How to read it: In print.

    Jughead

    Archie Comics

    In a similar vein of reinterpreting a familiar character—in this case an Archie one—Chip Zdarsky’s Jughead Jones made headlines in 2016 when he came out as asexual. It was a move that was very much in character for those familiar with the (pre-Riverdale) burger-loving guy.
    How to read it: In print.

    O Human Star

    Blue Delliquanti

    This futuristic sci-fi webcomic is about a man who wakes up to find that he's been dead for 16 years and his brain has been uploaded into a robot’s body. It explores nature-versus-nurture and how much society and our upbringing impacts our relationship to ourselves and our genders, and it only gets more complex as the comic goes on.
    How to read it: In print, and online.

    A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns

    Oni Press

    A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns is a great example of a comic being used as a tool for education. As genderqueer author Archie Bongiovanni explains in the book, it can be exhausting for trans and gender-nonconforming individuals to explain their pronouns and identities to others over and over again. This book does some of the heavy lifting, and its compact print size makes it easy to whip out should you run into someone who needs it.
    How to read it: In print.


    Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/8-essential-books-queer-comics-canon/

    Rocketmen, raves and rhapsodies: how the music biopic became a Hollywood hit

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    Elton John is the latest rock star to get the movie treatment in Rocketman. When did singers become as bankable as superheroes at the box office?

    The doors swing open and through the smoke swaggers a figure in bejewelled orange horns, gold popped collar and fiery plumage. The Avengers have fought their last battle, and this summers superhero has arrived: his name is Elton John (or Taron Egerton) and his superpower is Hollywood hopes getting bums on seats in a projected $25m opening weekend.

    In the opening scene of the biopic Rocketman, Taron-as-Elton strides straight off pops most decadent imperial period and into rehab, where he recounts his life from chubby-cheeked Reg Dwight, stuck in a Reg Perrin suburb, to Dodgers Stadium-playing, cocaine-hoovering Elton John. The details of Eltons gilded life may be particular to him, but Rocketmans arc (spoiler alert, fame corrupts!) will be familiar to anyone who has recently visited a cinema, where stories about musicians are outnumbering even the comic book characters.

    Last year, A Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody questioned the price of fame for Lady Gagas fictional singer Ally and Rami Maleks toothy Freddie Mercury. More recently, Wild Rose followed a Glaswegian mother-of-two fresh from prison and hoping to make it as a country star; Vox Lux lambasted Americas appetite for destruction with its story of fictional star Celeste, whose career begins after she survives a high school shooting and writes a tribute song to her murdered classmates; and Beats, set in 1994, eschews a central star to centre on two Scottish lads raving against the onset of the Criminal Justice Act.

    Watch the trailer for Rocketman

    And still to come after Rocketman are Danny Boyles Yesterday, a romcom that asks what life would be like if the Beatles had never existed; Elle Fanning playing a reality show hopeful in Teen Spirit; Elisabeth Moss as a self-destructive rock wraith in Her Smell; Rene Zellweger as Judy Garland in Rupert Goolds biopic Judy; and Blinded By the Light, based on Sarfraz Manzoors memoirs of falling for Bruce Springsteen as a British-Pakistani teenager in the 1980s.

    It is the summer of the (juke)box office smash. Why? Martha Shearer, a teaching fellow in film studies at Kings College London, says that some of these films have an emphasis on being plucked out of the crowd that perhaps speaks to our age of reality talent shows and the social media generalisation of fame. But more than that, she says, these films use the transcendent moments of pleasure that musical performances produce to express a feeling of being part of the crowd, of the authenticity and immediacy of that collective experience much more so than individual success narratives. Theres a way of reading those moments as a longing for a collective experience in a fairly bleak cultural moment of neoliberal social fragmentation. In this respect, Beats, which gorgeously recreates a rave and the joyful gurning that goes with it, is this waves most successful film. I wanted the audience to feel like theyd experienced what it was like to be on a dancefloor in 1994 with this music and these boys for whom the music is new and the experience is new, says the films director, Brian Welsh.

    Alex Ross Perry, who directed Her Smell, pegs the popularity of these films to a feeling of nostalgia for a communal experience unmediated by technology, and the demise of the traditional rock star figure as contemporary pop stars strive to appear ordinary. The constant accessibility of people in the modern age has rendered temporary lapses of their behaviour less appealing when someone can have a breakdown on their own social media page, its a lot less exciting to buy a ticket to their concert and think, Maybe theyll have a breakdown on stage. For Danny Eccleston, senior editor at Mojo, it reflects fans desire for music as a complete audiovisual experience. Theres that ocular fixation thats come with the triumph of YouTube, he says.

    Rami
    Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in last years Bohemian Rhapsody. Photograph: Nick Delany/Twentieth Century Fox

    The impetus for studios and musicians to make these films is clear: cash. Despite lacklustre reviews, Bohemian Rhapsody became the biggest music biopic ever and won four Oscars. And since its release last October, Spotify streams of Queens catalogue rose 333%, with 70% of listeners under the age of 30. With biopics, says the entertainment lawyer Gregor Pryor, theres money to be had from exploiting sound recordings and publishing rights. And because catalogues are often changing hands, theres a renewed onus on new catalogue owners to sweat the asset. Youve had tribute bands, tribute musicals, and this is arguably an extension of that. Its an attractive business: Pryor mentions that he is representing a new firm developed to buy up rights for such projects, but says they want to remain nameless.

    What does commercial demand mean for the stories that are being told? Bohemian Rhapsody was slammed for suggesting that Mercury was a tragic figure because of his sexuality (and for excising all reference to his gayness for the Chinese edit) although Paul Flynn, author of Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride 30 Years of Gay Britain, found the criticism misplaced. Freddies entire life was straight-washed he didnt want to be a public gay man. He was a figure that you would associate with what in retrospect you would call gay shame. Its a complex story of him arriving at his gayness, and how some people used to have to do so through self-denial and trying to be straight. Flynn finds it hugely significant that the two biggest biopics are about gay pop icons. Its the story of gay acceptance.

    Eccleston adds that, for all the criticism of Bohemian Rhapsodys chronological inaccuracies, biopics are sometimes better when they scramble the facts. When Frank Cottrell Boyce wrote 24 Hour Party People [about Factory Records], his take was that rocknroll is at least partly constructed out of myth and madness, and you cant reflect that if youre going: This happened, then this, then this. If you want to know the truth about any artist, you might read the authorised biography and derive a lot of value from that, including how the artists see themselves, which is a truth of sorts thats interesting. But youre advised, if you want to go into it a bit deeper, to find independent voices investigating these artists. There has to be a cartoon element for a biopic to work, he says. My moneys on a Fleetwood Mac Rumours movie next.

    On
    Beats: I wanted the audience to feel what it was like on the dancefloor, says its director, Brian Welsh. Photograph: Altitude Film

    Which would, at least, mean focusing on a real band with female members a rarity in the world of rock biopics. There is something strange about the lack of biopics about female musicians and this cinematic reassertion of a mode of masculine authenticity that women can never truly achieve, says Shearer. One of the things that really bothered me about A Star Is Born is how it conceives true creativity purely as a kind of masculine authenticity, and hates Lady Gagas character the more she becomes like Lady Gaga. Its weirdly retrograde and conservative and seems to be calling into question the viability of the female musician in a way that wouldnt really be tenable in reality.

    An alternative concept for Yesterday might also be: What if music by women never existed? Unsurprisingly for a film that features Ed Sheeran playing himself in a supporting role, its two female characters (as in his songs) are a simpering drip who loves Jack, the lead, and a monstrous figure from his label. Amy Raphael, author of Never Mind the Bollocks and the forthcoming A Seat at the Table, which feature interviews with leading female musicians, balks at these portrayals, and particularly how the leads in Vox Lux, Her Smell and Wild Rose are humbled by motherhood.

    In Her Smell, she is handed her toddler have you ever seen that in a biopic of a male band? Id love to watch something where the woman isnt judged for being a mum and for being a shit mum. What are all these men and it is largely male directors trying to say about female artists? Will we end up pitying Rene Zellweger as Judy Garland? Because that is what I feel Im being manipulated to do. Thirty years of interviewing people and I dont recognise anything Im seeing on screen. It matters who tells these stories.

    Jessie
    A rare case of a female central character: Jessie Buckley in Wild Rose. Photograph: Entone Group

    What these films do share is a critique of the music industry and the faustian pact entered into by musicians and their fans. Theres a long history of films about the price of fame. That allows studios to express the power of the whole star-making system, since [it can] destroy as well as create, says Shearer. Theres also an ongoing tension for the audience between the desirability of wealth, fame and feeling valued, and a reassurance of punishment, so that the social hierarchy and alienation that produces that audience desire doesnt start to become uncomfortable.

    In A Star Is Born, Bradley Coopers Jackson Maine tells Ally that pop music is the same story told over and over again. So it seems from the current crop of films about music, in which few stars get out alive or intact, and the audience is reminded about its complicity, each member a voyeur of troubled lives. After all, nothing screams summer blockbuster quite like a light hectoring from Hollywood, an industry that is entirely free from these issues oh, wait!

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/may/24/rocketmen-raves-and-rhapsodies-how-the-music-biopic-became-a-hollywood-hit

    Avengers: Endgame Review: Time Is on Their Side

    Uncategorized

    There is nothing more impermeable than time. It's fixed, constant. It may be a human construct, but it is one humanity has built atomic clocks to perfect; there is no stopping its ever-forward march. Except in sci-fi. And comic books. In those worlds, it's fluid. There are rules about not killing Hitler or betting on the World Series, but other than that, the structures of time can be bent.

    This, more than anything, is the core of Avengers: Endgame. Yes, there is—as most fans expected—some time travel. (More on that later, in the spoiler-y paragraphs below.) But its deeper narrative follows a thread about the years people have devoted to Marvel heroes, the nostalgia those fans already have for them, and what the future will look like as they evolve. Luckily, in comic-book stories, the future is just as malleable as the past.

    Captain Marvel Is About Female Power—Not Empowerment

  • Avengers: Endgame Will Rule the Box Office—but Not For Long

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  • First, here's what you need to know: Avengers: Endgame picks up where Infinity War left off. Thanos has wiped out half of the universe's population, and the remaining heroes (Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Rocket Raccoon, and the newly recruited Captain Marvel) are trying to un-snap his fingers. The other thing to note: Avengers: Endgame is very good. No movie could have fully encompassed everything that happened in the preceding 10 years and 21 films, but it is the best possible effort at trying to achieve that goal. It's nearly three hours, and none of them feel wasted. More than that, it's exactly what fans need.

    What Marvel fans, or anyone, needs in 2019 is a tricky proposition—one that plays out twofold in Endgame, with a double-helix of a plot that constantly works on two levels. First, there's the obvious: Everyone needs closure, needs to see if the Avengers can pull off saving the universe one more time. Second, they need to be rewarded for the decade-plus they've spent with these characters, the effort they've put into seeing every film.

    Endgame achieves this using one of the oldest tricks in the cinematic playbook: time travel. As everyone who noticed that Doctor Strange, Wong, and Ant-Man were largely unaccounted for at the end of Infinity War predicted, there is only one way to press Undo on what Thanos did: pull a Cher and turn back time. Though, they don't just rewind what happened and stop it. Instead, they find a more permanent solution that involves going back to retrieve the Infinity Stones before Thanos got his big purple hands on them and using their power to reverse the damage.

    This review won’t reveal if this plan succeeds at defeating Thanos, but it will say that it’s a wonderful ride and a narrative tool that provides a chance for the Avengers and their posse to revisit a large chunk of the movies in the franchise. It’s a trip that, in the best ways possible, feels like a band reuniting for a greatest-hits tour, one where the songs gets played by a frontman or frontwoman who wasn’t on the original track—some Traveling Wilburys covering a George Harrison track, Jay-Z and Nas ending their beef to perform “Dead Presidents,” and Beyoncé reuniting Destiny’s Child at Coachella all rolled into one. (In this case, it’s more like “Rocket goes to Asgard” and extended beats of Bruce Banner explaining science to The Ancient One.) It’s a service to every fan who remembers those early films fondly, and a final tug on the threads that have held the franchise together since the beginning.

    This kind of nostalgia is delicate, though. It’s tempting to want to go back to the first arc in these heroes’ journeys, the origin stories when they were ascending. It might even be tempting to just go back to 2008, before Mueller reports and Harvey Weinstein investigations and Michael Jackson documentaries, when it seemed easier to believe in heroes in general. That’s impossible, and foolhardy. Longing for those days is akin to longing for a time of ignorance, a time when all the superhero movies were led by white dudes. Everything has changed, and while revisiting days of future past is fun, time (in our world) only moves forward, and the future is more important than what’s come before. Or, to borrow a phrase from Tony Stark, “That’s the hero game—part of the journey is the end.”

    Acknowledging this reality is Endgame’s strongest suit. Because while it spends a fair amount of its second act playing to its base (with some excellent surprise cameos), it spends its final third establishing its new world order. In one of the film’s most telling moments, Captain Marvel—sporting a haircut sure to be the toast of Lesbian Twitter for months—charges into battle flanked by the franchise’s women heroes, the MCU’s version of a Time’s Up meeting (remember this?). Marvel’s Phase 4 is still fairly uncertain, but if Endgame has any takeaway it’s that the future is female. And less white. And at least a little bit queer.

    Avengers: Endgame could become the biggest movie the world has ever seen: It may make nearly $1 billion in one weekend. Theaters are staying open around the clock to keep up with demand. It’s the culmination of 11 years and 21 films—an unprecedented feat that may never be repeated. The only thing that may come close is December’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which will be the ninth film in a nostalgia-filled franchise spanning more than four decades. That film, too, will see the reins handed over to a new generation of heroes, folks whose chance to lead is long overdue. Endgame is a beautiful, massive finale—and it paves the way for all the warriors to come. It’s about time.


    Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/avengers-endgame-review/

    Saturday Night Live: K pop stars BTS drown out host Emma Stone

    Uncategorized

    A cold opening without Donald Trump felt like the dawn of a new era and the show that followed worked hard for its hits

    We open on MSNBCs Lockup: Now that the Mueller report turned out to be a big fat zero, were back to prison shows. A trio of hardened criminals share a cell with Aunt Becky herself, Laurie Loughlin (Kate McKinnon), who has acclimated surprisingly well.

    You think prison is hard, Ive done 68 Hallmark movies, she says. Ive lost all sense of reality.

    Shes joined by celebrity lawyer Michael Avanetti (Pete Davidson); the scourge of the cleaning staff at the Ecuadorian embassy and actual, dactual James Bond supervillain Julian Assange (a bearded and bewigged Michael Keaton); and Takeshi69 (Melissa Villaseor), whos incarcerated for regular stuff like assault. Theres no actual arc to the sketch, but at least its a break from the tired Trump material the cold opens usually center around.

    Emma Stone hosts for a fourth time. Even though SNL traditionally rolls out the red carpet for five-timers, she suspects the cast is planning something special. Theyre not. She guilts McKinnon and Keenan Thompson into singing an impromptu song Oh, Emma she hosts! set to the tune of No Woman, No Cry and later they blindfold her while cast members impersonate celebrity guest stars. Eventually, they hand her a denim jacket, the number four lazily spray-painted on the back.

    In Dorm Room Posters, Davidson plays a college student stressing out about a history essay. He falls asleep, prompting a dream where the people on his posters a tatted-up white rapper, the characters from a Black Panther-like superhero movie, a model from Maxim Magazines 50 Hottest Girls from Rural Areas and a pro wrestler give him a rundown of the importance of history. Stone goes all the way to 11 with her squeaky-voiced bimbo, but there are long stretches of laugh-free awkwardness.

    Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl)

    Nothing like a good split screen. #SNL pic.twitter.com/K4MwyU6kGz

    April 14, 2019

    The cast of The View Whoopi Goldberg (Leslie Jones, spot-on), human mother and conservative daughter Abby Huntsman (Cecily Strong), Joy Behar (McKinnon), Ana Navarro (Villaseor, also on point), and Princess of Arizona Meghan McCain (Aidy Bryant) debate Trumps immigration policy, devolving into a fight between militant liberal Baher and facile idiot McCain. They eventually welcome former co-host and leading anti-vaxxer Jennie McCarthy (Stone), who spouts anti-science nonsense to the bafflement of her peers save for McCain, who argues on her behalf out of bad faith. The sketch ends just as it starts to get going.

    Hobby Enthusiasts is a music video in which Villasenor raps to an uninterested Stone about her hobbies, which include self-portraits, sewing, knitting, cooking for one and smelling my books! Eventually, Stone joins in to rap about her toy train obsession.

    Ladies Room is another musical number, an 80s dance tune from a trio of glamorous, big-haired singers (Stone, Strong and Jones). Theyve confused a Limited Express fitting room for the ladies room at Club Vortex, much to the horror of the stores manager (a Jerry Curl-sporting Thompson) whose pronouncement of the word toilet is the funniest part of the bit.

    The first K-Pop group to appear on SNL, BTS performs their hit Boy with Luv as screaming fans threatens to drown them out.

    Weekend Update starts with a rundown of Assanges very public arrest. It was so satisfying seeing an internet troll getting dragged into the sunlight, says Colin Jost, who plays a clip of Donald Trump claiming he doesnt know anything WikiLeaks before rolling a montage of the presidents praise for it, pointing out that Trump is more obsessed with WikiLeaks than this audience is with BTS.

    With Spring Break around the corner, Michael Che introduces Carrie Krum, the awkward pre-teen travel expert played by Bryant. She recommends vacationers head to Boise, Idaho, where she spent her most recent vacation, and her grammys cul-de-sac. The bubbly, easily excitable character seems to connect especially well with the BTS fans in the crowd.

    Next they bring on Nico and Brie, the hashtag-obsessed Instagram couple played by Mikey Day and Heidi Gardner. There to give couples advice on picnicking in time for warm weather, they start bickering. Its a solid send-up of social media hucksters, but also insufferable by design, to be fair.

    Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl)

    Prince Harry’s making a splendid video for the royal baby. #SNL pic.twitter.com/clyqTJlIFs

    April 14, 2019

    Royal Baby Shower has the ginger of Windsor, Prince Harry, recording the event for his child. He introduces friends and family, including a furiously jealous Kate Middleton, an obnoxious James Corden and The Queen herself, who welcomes her great-grandchild with all her heart, despite the fact the baby will be half-American, which makes you half-traitor. Theres no real payoff and none of the jokes earn more than a chuckle.

    BTS returns and performs Mic Drop. Then The Actress is a short film in which Stone plays a method actor set to play the woman who gets cheated on in gay porn. She tries to find her character, despite only exist[ing] to get cheated on. A solid mix of satire and crass humor, this is the winner of the night.

    The final sketch is Chalmers Reserve, an infomercial for a line of rotgut sold by Trett and Leezan Chalmers, hosts of the reality show The Nastiest Summer Renters in Sag Harbor, which has been cancelled already. They introduce the winemakers, a stereotypical Italian couple who arent actually Italian, who warn viewers not to drink the wine. Despite an abrupt ending, the sketch is enjoyably weird.

    Thanks to her natural comic timing, Stone continued her streak as a strong host. But the real stars of the episode were BTS.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/apr/14/saturday-night-live-bts-emma-stone-julian-assange

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