Tag: Film

Kathy Bates: ‘I told Clint that after 50 years, I feel like I’ve hit the big time’

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With her fourth nomination for an Oscar, Kathy Bates talks about overcoming brutal criticism about her looks, her pride at playing real women and why she loved working with Clint Eastwood

Oh, Im a bumper! says Kathy Bates as I reach out to shake her hand. A small fist comes towards me with a large, round, pink-rose ring on the middle finger. We bump and laugh and one of the truly unique American acting powerhouses of the past half-century beams back at me. She has a splendid smile, full of mischief and wisdom: a small and compact woman buoyed by that straight-up, unfeigned southern warmth that abides no matter where you encounter it. She fusses over me kindly, offering drinks a world away from the nervous, shy, deeply rattled and easily hurt woman I have just watched in Clint Eastwoods new movie, Richard Jewell.

Bates plays Bobi, the mother of the eponymous character, a security guard at the 1996 Olympics in Centennial Park, Atlanta, who discovered a backpack full of pipe-bombs, laid by white-supremacist terrorist Eric Rudolph, minutes before it exploded. Although one person died and 111 were injured, Jewell saved countless lives by clearing the area before the bombs exploded. But within days he found himself under a nationwide spotlight as the FBI focused on him as their chief suspect.

For 88 days, he and his mother endured a press siege outside their shared apartment and a vicious feeding-frenzy in the national media until the FBI halfheartedly admitted he hadnt planted the bomb. Almost a decade later, Rudolph confessed in a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty. Jewell enjoyed only a brief vindication though, dying of heart failure aged 44 in 2007.

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Bates with Sam Rockwell and Paul Walter Hauser in Richard Jewell. Photograph: Claire Folger/AP

Eastwoods movie is about enormous pressure being brought to bear on people unable to handle it, and Bates and Paul Walter Hauser do sterling work to delineate the suffering the pair underwent. Hauser is a good-natured fool, a fantasist deluded about his security-guard role, claiming he is law-enforcement even as the FBI laugh in his face. Bates Bobi is all nerves and near-hysteria, absorbing every blow like a woman on the verge of collapse. But her final speech, the true emotional climax of the movie, burns with a righteous fury, even as the tears fill her eyes. Eastwood needed an actor of commanding stature to deliver weakness, then rage, then fragile strength, and Bates has deservedly earned the lions share of the movies acclaim.

On Monday, it earned her a fourth Oscar nomination; today she is pleased, and nostalgic for her first one, for Misery, back in 1991, which translated into a win. I arrived home two days before the ceremony. Literally only had enough time to put on the dress. Thank God it fit. The night was a dream come true. My fiance was worried I would lose, but when Daniel Day-Lewis had the envelope in his hands, in my mind I saw my name in it. Heard him say it. Sailed up the steps and forgot to thank my fiance and my mother, who deserved all my thanks sitting at home.

This time is different, she says, because Richard Jewell is based on a true story. All we wanted was for Bobi Jewell to feel the film vindicated her son. I wanted her to like my portrayal of her. Shes waited 23 years for justice. Ive never felt quite like this before. Whatever happens now, Im just grateful the film will get more eyeballs.

Bates voice breaks and her breathing shortens when she speaks about the woman she plays, and with whom she made contact long before shooting started. It was my birthday the day we met. She baked me a pound cake. She had the Vanity Fair article the movie is based on, and the script, which shed annotated with things like: Id never do this, Id never call him that. She was very meticulous. It was obvious shes still absolutely raw from this, even 25 years later. It still affects her, and its never going to change.

Everybody loves Bates, but the movie with its Trumpish overtones has not escaped criticism. The enemies are the media and the deep state. The guy who gets off scot-free is Rudolph I tell Bates that particularly disappointed me and she seems to partly agree: Rudolph was just evil, obviously.

She also appears sympathetic to disquiet over Olivia Wildes character, Kathy Scruggs, the journalist who put Jewell in the headlines in the most negative way and is the most venomous portrayal of a woman in an Eastwood movie for many years. Scruggs died of a drug overdose aged 42, which means she cant defend herself against the films claim that she slept with an FBI agent (Jon Hamm) for the scoop.

I was a little uncomfortable with her character, says Bates, though I think Bobi sort of balances that out in the movie. She and Wilde didnt share any scenes, which was frustrating, because shes Irish and Im Irish, and I think Irish people make the best actors. Bates looks for the positive. I loved Booksmart [Wildes directorial debut]. Shes a brilliant director and that counts for a lot.

This season, Bates has also admired Joker, Jojo Rabbit (unique, heart-rending and so relevant as is Parasite) and Little Women. It was absolutely delightful in every way. I adored it. Im sick Greta Gerwig didnt get a directing nomination. Her adaptation was incredible, but her vision as a director is on that screen in every word and moment of those performances.

She has also been trading larky congratulations and commiserations with Uncut Gems star Adam Sandler, who played her son in The Waterboy. You was robbed!! But Mama loves you!!! You da GOAT!! she told him on Twitter. She expands, a touch more soberly: Adam is a kind and gentle man. Friends and family are very important to him. Hes in this business, but not of it, if you get my drift.

Still, Bates admiration for Eastwood beats all. I remember telling him on the set: Ive been in this business half a century but working with you, I feel like Ive hit the big time!

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Bates in Misery, 1991. Photograph: Allstar/COLUMBIA

In truth, she hit that some time back. Bates made her movie debut in 1971, in Milos Formans Taking Off, as a singer in a crowd scene, for which she was paid $50. Her next screen role wasnt for another seven years, but she established herself as an exciting new presence in landmark stage productions which, when they were adapted for cinema, routinely traded her for other actors: Michelle Pfeiffer, Sissy Spacek, Diane Keaton.

She also received a barrage of sexist and appearance-based criticism from male critics, particularly the late Playbill critic John Simon, whose most benevolent remarks included that she was enormously overweight and unattractive. She remembers a particularly brutal British press conference for a bad movie I was in probably 1991s At Play in the Fields of the Lord.

One guy was so nasty that I went up to my room and I cried like a kid out of kindergarten. Our producer came in and said: Kid, youve gotta get tough. And in the middle of everything I got on a plane and I went home. It was so cruel, so unnecessarily cruel.

Bates is circumspect in hindsight. The thing is, you remember those moments for ever, she says. Even if you dont remember the exact words, its a dart through the heart. But as Harold Clurman said something it took me a long time to accept Youve gotta have the manure, youve got to take all the shit to really grow.

I remind her that when she was 41 and promoting Misery, she said: A woman, a character actress, in her 40s Ill be very interested to see how Hollywood treats us over the next 10 or 15 years.

Wow, she says, 29 years later, I said that? Holy crap. I didnt know I was such a smart cookie back then! It was my first big movie and I was stunned by the press. The very first question I got asked at a round table was: Youre not Michelle Pfeiffer. And I was like: No, Im not! Her face collapses into incredulity. I was still very serious about things back then.

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Bates in Titanic with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Photograph: Allstar/20 CENTURY FOX/Sportsphoto Ltd.

Bates position as a female actor who has long dealt with many of the issues in play, post #MeToo, gives her an unusual and sometimes difficult insight into how the industry has, and has not, evolved.

About people like Weinstein and the casting couch and all of that, she says, I have a confession. In my day, if you went up to a guys hotel room, you knew exactly why you were going and in those days it was consensual. Times were different, but I really support the women who are coming forward now and Im not happy about the men who are being accused falsely but the ones who deserve all theyre getting, my feeling is hey, go for it.

That she wasnt a classic starlet didnt insulate her from misogynys pigeonholing right? I hate to complain about it, but never being considered the romantic lead which is fine, Im over that, been there, done that means they look at me in a different way. But then I look at my friends who are beautiful girls but not working after 40 very few of them. Well, Nicole Kidman is

But Im so grateful that television is providing all these great roles for us, with people like Ryan Murphy around [the producer of American Horror Story, which has cast Bates several seasons running] weve been given a second life. I give Ryan a lot of credit. That shows like being in a repertory company. Oh yes, horror has been veeeery good to me! She chuckles like a fiend.

Her movie career took off after Misery, in which she imbued her Nurse Ratched-meets-Medea character with a surprising degree of sweetness and vulnerability. So memorable and lauded was her performance, people have tended to conflate her with her character Annie Wilkes, even as she was busy building a gallery of richly detailed, multifarious and moving other performances, including the warm-hearted new money Molly Brown in 1997s Titanic. She puts the films enduring appeal down to the wealth inequality at its centre: The murder of the third-class passengers being locked below decks revealed the brutality of class struggles around the globe. That, too, is perhaps why raft-gate persists as a debate: We all wanted Jack to survive, and there did seem to be enough room for him to squeeze on.

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Kathy Bates in About Schmidt. Photograph: Claudette Barius/AFP/Getty Images

Five years later, another indelible turn: opposite Jack Nicholson in Alexander Paynes About Schmidt. A nude hot-tub scene went a long way to shake off the memory of Misery. I think a lot of women in that audience were thrilled to see a real woman up there on the screen in all her glory, she said at the time. Stripped of its nudity context, I suggest, that almost sounds like a proud rallying cry for the kinds of characters she takes on.

It does, doesnt it? she nods. And if Im proud of anything, its leaving behind me such a wide range of interesting, real women.

Not that she would rule out supernatural women, she adds. I would love to play a character with magical abilities. I enjoy superhero movies as long as the story is well written and the characters have wit and heart, like Iron Man and Star Wars. Otherwise soulless characters in a plastic universe dont appeal.

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Kathy Bates photographed for the Guardian. Photograph: Philip Cheung/The Guardian

Today, at 71, Bates looks chipper and fit. She came through ovarian cancer in 2003, but in 2012 had a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer. After, she suffered lymphedema a condition that makes the arms rock-solid as lymphatic fluid drains out under the fingernails, and which, she discovered, was barely understood by medical professionals.

I dated a guy who had melanoma in his armpit and they took everything out and as a result his arm was like wood. I pleaded with my surgeon not to take any lymph nodes out. He ignored her. Since then she has been raising awareness of lymphatic edema: more people have it than MS, muscular dystrophy, ALS and Aids combined and nobody knows about it.

She is the spokesperson for the Lymphatic Education & Research Network. I spoke before the American Society of Breast Surgeons and its so hard to convince them Nobel laureates! I gave them these statistics and there were gasps in that room. Though she likes Twitter, she mostly uses it for getting the word out about the condition. I joined in 2011 and initially used it to engage with fans and then it got to be so time-consuming that I had to cut back. Then after a couple of unpleasant experiences with fans I rarely use it and I dont get sucked into provocative tweets.

She worries about a general climate of hate thats getting stronger in my opinion, particularly when it comes to LGBT rights; in 2016 she was involved in a video telling the stories of victims in the Orlando shooting. Viciousness is bred in the bone and will take generations to reverse. I worry about my gay and transgender friends.

But Bates remains a bumper to the end. Next month is going to be mostly about awards ceremonies, and one Oscar victory and two losses have left her a perennial optimist. I learned you always think youre going to win, the moment they announce your name.

Richard Jewell is released in the UK on 31 January

This article was amended on 17 January 2020 because an earlier version misspelled Harold Clurmans last name as Klurman. This has been corrected.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/jan/17/kathy-bates-richard-jewell-i-told-clint-after-50-years-i-feel-like-ive-hit-the-big-time

The New Mutants: what should we expect from the cursed X-Men horror film?

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After a delayed release, reshoots and controversial casting choices, the youth-centric scary movie is finally coming out three years after it was shot

The X-Men horror The New Mutants has had quite the mutated journey to the screen: several scrapped release dates, abandoned reshoots, a new character who never materialized, issues around colorism in casting, and finally, a corporate acquisition that nearly shelved the project altogether. Now that the dust has settled, a release date has been firmly set for 3 April and this week, a new trailer launched, does the final product have any hopes of being any good?

Back in October 2017, everything seemed on track when Fox released the first trailer online. After 10 films, X-Men fatigue was settling in, but The New Mutants was pitched as something different. Not only would it be the first scary movie in the universe but it would introduce a host of never-before-seen-on-screen characters Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy), Wolfsbane (Maisie Williams), Cannonball (Charlie Heaton), Sunspot (Henry Zaga), and Danielle Moonstar, AKA Mirage (Blu Hunt) and trap them in a haunted asylum, a juicy prospect that was enough to pique interest. The director Josh Boone pitched the story, based on the Demon Bear arc by the writer Chris Claremont and the relatively avant-garde artist Bill Sienkiewicz, as the start of a trilogy, one that would later introduce characters like Karma and Warlock. The movie was scheduled for release on 13 April 2018.

But by January, the cracks started to show. The film was pushed way back to February 2019 and then to August 2019 to make space for Deadpool 2 and Dark Phoenix, respectively. Per the Tracking Board, the studio wanted the film reworked to be even scarier, to capitalize on the new horror wave started by Get Out and It. By February 2018, the Hollywood Reporter claimed that The New Mutants was undergoing an additional round of photography, and would include a new character changes that appear now to have never occurred.

Boone told Creative Screenwriting that navigating the politics of studio film-making was its own special beast that led to a constantly morphing script (that was repeatedly torn apart and put together by four other scriptwriters and a six-person writers room). Tracking Board said Boone felt a bit neutered by Fox, as the company couldnt decide if it wanted New Mutants to be a YA drama or an all-out splatterfest. Disney acquired Fox in March 2019, and New Mutants got lost in the shuffle until Boone re-emerged in December 2019 to confirm Disney would be releasing the film as originally shot.

Boone finally seems to have regained creative control of his project, but elsewhere the film stumbled under the studios direction in more profound ways. Fans noted that both the casting of Alice Braga as Dr Cecilia Reyes and Henry Zaga as Sunspot erased their identities as Afro-Latinx characters and perpetuated issues of colorism already oft spoken about in regard to Storm. Comparing character redesigns and colorings across comic book runs can be fraught, but canonically all three have been portrayed as darker-skinned in their earliest incarnations. This seems like an unfortunate misstep that goes against the nature of the story itself, as Stan Lee told the Guardian in 2000 that the X-Men were a direct metaphor for what was happening with the civil rights movement. (Lets lay it right on the line, Lee wrote in the comics in 1968. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today.)

So whats to be done? Can The New Mutants climb out of this pyre to become, if not the most progressive, at least a passably good comic book film?

Considerable baggage aside, one angle to consider is the potential novelty of the story: unlike the world-ending stakes that comic book films often shoehorn in, the Demon Bear saga has a focused scope. In the comics, the demonic bear that killed Danis parents stalks and nearly kills her, and when the bear comes to finish the job, the New Mutants throw down in a hospital. Its a horror story that is, at its core, about the importance of friendship, family and the ties that bind and arent the best horror tales often about that? With rumors that New Mutants will feature a romance between Dani and Wolfsbane, its easy to see how Boone (who directed The Fault in Our Stars) could ground a more nightmare-inducing adaptation in a tale of young love. Does that make The New Mutants automatically good? Not necessarily, but itd mark the film as more unique than the vast majority of city-leveling X-Men films, and put it more in line with standalones like Logan and Deadpool.

Maisie
Maisie Williams in The New Mutants. Photograph: Marvel

The New Mutants also has the benefit of a cast of fresh faces. A rather thorny issue with the X-Men films as a whole is how poorly theyve juggled their vast stable of characters, focusing primarily on the same white, often male, leads. While the original 2000 X-Men had a unique, gritty, indie quality to it terrified loner Rogue meets gruff father figure Wolverine the subsequent films got lost in the sauce, repeatedly centering Wolverine, Professor X, Magneto, and then to a lesser extent, Jean and Mystique, to the detriment of literally everyone else in the X-verse. Rogues powers went mostly unexplored; Jubilee is never named on camera; the omega-level Darwin was easily killed; Kitty Prydes comic book role was handed to Wolverine in Days of Future Past; Storm and Emma Frost were underutilized; the list goes on. To put it frankly, the core X-Men films suffered from a profound lack of imagination, and though theyre ensembles, not a single one of their 12 films can boast a character of color as the primary lead. Isnt it disappointing that the franchise that was built on the importance of being different was too afraid to be different itself?

This is what The New Mutants, warts and all, has going for it: Blu Hunts Dani Moonstar is the first Native American to lead a comic book film, a fact thats gotten buried in all the scheduling conflicts and reshooting drama. Though Hunts casting also fueled some concerns of colorism, it remains a notable leap forward. Theres an opportunity a hope that Boone and the other writers on the film also fixed the problems of the original Demon Bear story (Dani turns into a damsel in distress, and the Demon Bear inexplicably turns two white characters into Native Americans) and let Dani be the true lead in her own tale.

That the sun will set on this entire Fox franchise right as the studio landed on Dani as a lead feels particularly tragic. Despite being fantastical tales of aliens, monsters, superhumans and robots, nearly all comic book films have issues around primarily favoring the stories of white characters, and/or casting light-skinned or white-passing actors. The New Mutants, at the very least, foregrounds an indigenous woman of color, who literally wrestles with her heritage and legacy, all while developing a newfound family at Xaviers school. It stands a good chance of being a fun one-off film, but the brass tacks of it all is that Dani Moonstar deserved better, as all the X-Men of color deserved better.

Hopefully Disney will see the value in Danis story and keep her around, or at least greenlight future X-Men projects focused on lesser-seen characters from the get-go. If Disney ends up rebooting with Professor X and Magneto again, while pushing off all the characters of color until a third phase (a la Black Panther), The New Mutants will forever be remembered as a landmark casting, but also a tragic example of too little, too late.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/jan/08/the-new-mutants-x-men-horror-film

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

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

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

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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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