Film, Trailers

TRAILER – THE PREPPIE CONNECTION:

Directed: Joseph Castelo

Starring: Thomas Mann, Lucy Fry, Sam Page

Based on the real life scandal at Choate Rosemary Hall in 1984, The Preppie Connection tells the story of a private school student (Thomas Mann) who begins a drug trafficking network

The trailer paints the film as an interesting blend of genres, with teen movies, indie flicks and crime/drug capers all amalgamating into The Preppie Connection, which could prove to be the element upon which the film will sink or swim.

preppieconnection

source: Variety

Mann made waves last year in the excellent Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, and it will be interesting to see what he can do with this role as the student who helms the trafficking. Mann has the right balance of indie awkwardness and charm and looks set to be bringing plenty of that to this, with the crime element creating something different.

The supporting cast look to be just as interesting with Australian actress Lucy Fry appearing to have an important role as the love interest and motivator of Mann’s character. Mann and Fry’s roles were initially linked to Evan Peters and Bella Heathcote respectively, but the pair look like a solid fit for the characters.

Joseph Castelo has previously directed two films – American Saint (2001) and The War Within (2005) – which explore interesting subject matters, with this proving to be another intriguing entry. The director has also penned the script alongside Ashley Rudden.

The film is set for a limited release in the USA on the 18th of March, with no word yet on a UK release date. With such a promising cast and an alluring concept, lets hope The Preppie Connection will make an appearance on this side of the pond sometime soon.

Advertisements
Standard
Film, Role Model

ROLE MODEL #2 – GEENA DAVIS

Every Friday A Peerie Yarn will look at a different female role model. They may be a role model for any reason at all, from a music legend to a fantastic author, and the piece will explore what it is that makes them someone to look up to. 

Background & Personal Life:

Geena-Davis-Hairstyles-1

source: SloDive

Geena Davis was born in Massachussets in 1956. She gained a Bachelor’s Degree in drama from Boston University in 1979 and began working in acting from the 1980’s.

Davis is a member of Mensa, a group for people in the highest 2% of intelligence based on IQ scores. She has been married four times, to Richard Emmolo (1982-83), Jeff Goldblum (1987-1990), Renny Harlan (1993-98) and to Reza Jarrahy since 2001.

She has three kids with Jarrahy, a daughter, born in 2002, and twin sons, born in 2004. In 2009 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Bates College.

“I haven’t even gone to any Mensa meetings.” 

Acting:

 

thelmaandlouise_pub_627

source: SBS

Davis refers to herself as an actor, believing that the word “actress” will soon be dated in the same way as “doctress” is today. This pursuit of equality is also reflected in her choice of roles, with Davis becoming known for carefully choosing her roles.

She bagged herself a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1988 for The Accidental Tourist, as well as gaining another nomination in 1991 for Best Actress in Ridley Scott’s Thelma and Louise. The former is Davis’ staple work – a roadtrip/buddy movie that subverted pretty much every trope from the respective genres and created something that screamed girl power.

Other roles included the baseball film A League of Their Own (1992)  and pirate caper Cutthroat Island (1995), proof that Davis refuses to be put into the typical boxes so many females working in the movie industry are.

She played a female President of the USA in ABC’s Commander in Chief, which ran for one season over 2005-2006.

Whilst her acting work has taken a backseat as she has raised a family and become more involved in activism, she is due to star in the film adaption of Marjorie Prime alongside Jon Hamm.

“If you read someday that I have signed up to play Sean Connery’s kidnapped wife, then you’ll know I’m broke.”

Archery:

Davis became interested in archery in the 1990’s and in 1999 was one of 300 women who went for semi-finals berth in the US Olympics Archery Team to participate in the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics.

She placed 24th out of 300 and whilst she did not qualify she participated as a wild card entry in the Sydney International Golden Arrow Competition.

“Archery is something that I took up later and didn’t know I had a natural aptitude for.” 

Activism & Research:

geena-davis.jpg

source: Indiewire

Davis has become hugely prolific in her activism and research since the early 2000’s. She fronts the Women’s Sports Foundation and launched a campaign called “Geena Takes Aim” which advocated gender equality in sports opportunities.

She became even more interested in gender equality when watching children’s programming with her kids. She noticed the extreme gender imbalance and the worryingly sexualised nature of female characters appearances.

It was because of this that she paired with Dads and Daughters in 2005 to push for a balancing of the numbers of male and female characters in children’s TV and film. In 2007 she launched the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which launched the biggest research project on gender in the media to date.

The Institute published its findings, such as the fact that the ratio of male to female characters in Hollywood is 3:1, and Davis continues to speak at events all over the world to promote equality.

In 2015 she launched the Bentonville Film Festival, an event which was focused on promoting diversity in film.

“Six year old girls have already learned to see themselves through the male gaze.” 

Role Model:

Geena Davis is a massive role model for women – not only did she dedicate her career to making careful choices which allowed her to play a variety of progressive and strong roles, but she then went on to become part of the solution by spearheading the most expansive research into gender representations in media.

Davis has spent her entire career proving that no women – or person – should be put in a box. We can all be a whole range of different things, just as Davis is a wife, mother, actor, activist and archer, and her long and varied career is a testament to that.

“There are woefully few women CEOs in the world, but there can be lots of them in films. We haven’t had a woman president yet, but we have on TV. How can we fix the problem of corporate boards being so unequal without quotas? Well, they can be half women instantly, onscreen. How do we encourage a lot more girls to pursue science, technology and engineering careers? By casting droves of women in STEM jobs today in movies and on TV. Hey, it would take me many years to become a real nuclear physicist, but I can play one tomorrow.”

What do you think of Geena Davis? Share your thoughts in the comments section! 

Standard
#52FilmsByWomen, Film, Reviews

#52FILMSBYWOMEN – FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH:

After watching Amy Heckerling’s Clueless as part of the #52FilmsByWomen pledge, I decided to revisit her debut, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which is considered a cult classic and launched the careers of many actors including Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sean Penn

Directed: Amy Heckerling

Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Brian Backer, Robert Romanus, Judge Reinhold, Sean Penn, Ray Walston

maxresdefault (1)

source: Youtube

Amy Heckerling is one of a very select group of women who has managed to forge a lasting career in mainstream cinema, and this is no doubt largely due to the strength of her debut. Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a staple of the teen genre, featuring an ensemble of then up and comers who are now some of Hollywood’s most respected players.

The 1982 film, written by Cameron Crowe, is based on his non-fiction book of the same name, which he wrote after going undercover at Clairemont High School in California. The film has only a loose narrative, telling the tales of a number of High School students over the course of a school year.

fasttimesatridgemonthigh_bornunicorn

source: Born Unicorn

Characters include 15 year old Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is looking to lose her virginity and taking the advice of her older friend, the more experienced Linda (Phoebe Cates). Mark “Rat” Ratner (Brian Backer) admires Stacy from afar and takes dating advice from his own older friend Damone (Robert Romanus), whilst Stacey’s older brother Brad (Judge Reinhold) navigates a series of part time jobs. The film also follows stoner Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) as he gets engaged in a battle of wits with history teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston).

Sean Penn is hilarious as perpetually stoned Jeff Spicoli and has no doubt inspired every similar character to appear in a film since, including Travis (Breckin Meyer) in Clueless, who is essentially just a more self aware and 1990’s variation of Spicoli. Even his stoner/surfer style has become iconic, with his character being largely responsible for the enduring popularity of Vans slip-on shoes.

jeffspicoli

source: Oyster

It is Penn’s performance that remains the most enduring and popular, with stories of how he stayed in character throughout shooting and would only answer to the name Spicoli becoming popular trivia, but the excellent turns from the rest of the cast is not to be ignored.

Jennifer Jason Leigh is a standout as Stacy, communicating the dual sense of braveness and vulnerability of exploring sexuality for the first time, whilst Pheobe Cates is also amusing as the older friend whose every word is lapped up by Stacy in spite of the fact she clearly isn’t all that sure what she is talking about. Each character is relatable in some way, especially Mark, who was based on Andy Rathbone, who has gone on to become the successful author of the For Dummies book series.

Other stars to be to look out for include Nicolas Cage (credited as Nicolas Coppola) and Forest Whitaker in their respective feature film debuts, as well as Eric Stoltz as a stoner buddy of Spicoli’s.

It is a credit to Heckerling’s direction that the film never feels meandering in spite of the loose narrative, and we come out feeling like every character has been on a journey of some sort. The film doesn’t shy away from exploring serious issues such as sexuality and abortion, and it probably has more in common with the raunch-fest Porky’s (1981) than the John Hughes classics of the decade.

The film is so on the nose about these issues in fact that it has sometimes drawn criticisms for sexism – Roger Ebert gave the film one star in his review and described it as:

“a failure of taste, tone and nerve – the waste of a good cast on erratic, offensive material that hasn’t been thought through, or maybe even thought about.” 

Ebert also denounces the film as sexist and bordering on sexploitation, and it has been debated for years whether or not Heckerling’s film is sexist. There is a plenty to suggest that it may be – particularly the famous swimming pool scene starring Cates – but the film is actually a very rare example of sexuality as portrayed largely from the female perspective.

maxresdefault

source: Youtube

This is clear at many points throughout the narrative, but is most obvious through the character of Stacy. When she gets pregnant she decides to have an abortion and Heckerling explores this in a wholly realistic way. There is no judgement, or even any debate, it is merely shown and the film ends in a way that suggests that Stacy learnt something and moved on, as is the case with many teenagers.

In her book It’s A Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Enviroments, Amanda Marcotte argues that the film is a very positive and female orientated depiction of the High School experience, saying it:

“…doesn’t romanticise high school from the point of view of a middle-aged man, but shows it as it is in all it’s cringworthy, immature nonglory.” 

In spite of the John Hughes dig, Marcotte does raise an interesting point about the film – whilst we see Stacy explore her sexuality, her encounters are far from the overblown and unrealistic depictions of sex usually put to the screen, and are much more reflective of real life experiences as had by many.

The film, like any great teen movie, also boasts a fantastic soundtrack which serves as proof that a pop music can have just as much impact as a traditional film score. From the opening track We Got the Beat by The GoGo’s it is clear that Heckerling has a talent for encapsulating contemporary youth culture, and the soundtrack features an array of brilliant tracks from the likes of The Eagles and Stevie Nicks.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a time capsule to the 1980’s, infused with a little more grit than the sugary sweetness of John Hughes, but with enough brains to still be feel-good, it inspired generations and films such as Dazed and Confused (1993) and many more would not exist without it.

What do you think of Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Which films are you watching as part of #52FilmsByWomen? Share your views in the comments section! 

Standard
Film, Opinion

THE BECHDEL TEST:

What is it?

The Bechdel Test was first developed as a tongue in cheek look at female representation in cinema by Alison Bechdel in her comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For. Since it first emerged in 1985, the test has become hugely influential. Whilst some deride the test as overly simplistic, there is no doubt that it does raise some interesting questions about how women are represented in cinema.

To pass the test, a film must have at least two named female characters, who speak to one another about something, ANYTHING, that isn’t a man.

Films which fail:

Creed-MBJordan_TThompson_02

source: Pop Inquirer 

Creed – an example of how the test isn’t exactly extensive, Creed fails the Bechdel Test in spite of having an arguably very progressive female character in the form of Bianca (Tessa Thompson) . Bianca’s character rises far above the “girlfriend” stereotype so often found in sports films and is a great example of how Ryan Coogler has updated the Rocky franchise, with her character being fully formed and having her own life and dreams outside of her relationship with Creed (Michael B Jordan). So why does such a great film fail the test? Because Bianca is one of the few female characters, and she never has a conversation with any other females, meaning the film cannot fulfil the second requirement.

toy-story-20th-anniversary

source: Wet Paint

Toy Story/Toy Story 2 – Even kids films aren’t safe! There is a real case for arguing that achieving equality in children’s films is actually the most important of all – they are what children are growing up consuming, and go a long way in forming opinions and perceptions. It may come as a surprise, but both Toy Story and Toy Story 2 fail the Bechdel Test. Whilst there are female characters in both films, they are massively outweighed by the male centric cast and they do not have any conversations with one another. Again, this doesn’t mean the films aren’t great – Jessie is a fantastic female character who debuts in the second film – but it is interesting that across two movies there aren’t any interactions between named female characters. However, it could be argued that Pixar took it on board, because they closed the trilogy in 2010 with Toy Story 3, which does technically pass the test.

maxresdefault

source: Youtube

The Big Short – Adam McKay’s Oscar nominated film depicts the real life circumstances of a group of men in the run up to the 2008 housing mortgage crisis in the US. There are few female characters outwith some celebrity cameos from Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez, so it comes as little surprise that the film fails the test. Films based on true events are always interesting to talk about in relation to the test, as it highlights how gender inequality is an issue which impacts our society as a whole.

Why is it important?

The above films are just a very small slice of the hundreds and thousands of films which fail the test, giving a sense of how the representation of female characters is an issue which is widespread across almost all aspects of film, from animated children’s films to adult orientated content.

The Bechdel Test does have a place, even in just creating a dialogue about how women are represented in films.It should not be used as the only way of measuring gender issues in cinema, and a film failing the test clearly does not automatically make it a sexist film, but it does raise interesting questions about the ratio of men to women in cinema.

For instance, take the situation and apply it to male character – there aren’t many films which would fail the test. We live in a society where women make up 50% of the population, so why aren’t we seeing those proportions translated onscreen? The Bechdel Test provides a way to highlight this, and whilst a lot of the details may slip through the cracks in the process, it has merit in being able to do so.

What do you think of the Bechdel Test? Share your views in the comments section! 

 

Standard
Music, Role Model

ROLE MODEL #1 – PATTI SMITH:

Every Friday A Peerie Yarn will look at a different female role model. They may be a role model for any reason at all, from a music legend to a fantastic author, and the piece will explore what it is that makes them someone to look up to. 

Background & Music:

Patti-Smith-Horses-cover

source: Villaminin

Patti Smith is an artist who defies convention. A punk-rock singer, a poet, an artist, a writer, a mother, a wife – Smith, like any woman, cannot be neatly placed into a box.

Born in Chicago in 1946, Smith first rose to prominence as part of the New York City punk rock movement in the 1970’s, with her debut Horses becoming one of the most important to emerge from the period.

Infusing rock’n’roll with poetry-infused lyrics, the freestyle Beat influence was clear in her early work. As detailed in her memoir, Just Kids, Smith’s foray into music was almost accidental. 

Moving to New York in the late 1960’s, Smith met photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and embarked on the period of her life that she would go on to document in Just Kids.

Lovers and best friends, the pair lived in a creative bubble which saw them associate with some of the greats of the time, from Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin to Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg.

Smith has been continually active as a musician since Horses, with a total of 11 studio albums to date. The most recent, 2012’s Banga, was met with critical acclaim. She was inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

In 2011 Smith was awarded the prestigious Polar Music Prize:

“By devoting her life to art in all its forms, Patti Smith has demonstrated how much rock’n’roll there is in poetry and how much poetry there is in rock’n’roll.”

– Polar Music Prize

Poetry & Writing:

Whilst best known for her musical endeavors, Smith actually started out as a poet/artist and has published numerous poetry collections since the 1970’s.

She was a part of the St Mark’s Poetry Project in New York whilst living with Mapplethorpe and has continued to write poems ever since.

Smith has also forayed into writing books, releasing Just Kids in 2010. The book is a memoir which tells the story of her relationship and friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, and she wrote it to fulfill a promise to him that she would document their endeavors.

Just Kids was a huge success and Smith released a second memoir, M Train, in 2015, focusing on her late husband Fred “Sonic” Smith.

“”What will happen to us?” I asked. “There will always be us” He answered.

– Just Kids (2010)

Art:

Smith has been active in the creation of art her entire life. Her work, from paintings to photographs to installations, has been featured in various locations including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Pompidou Center in Paris.

She has been represented by the Robert Miller Gallery since 1978. In 2002 a 300-work retrospective, Strange Messenger: The Work of Patti Smith, was held at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. The exhibition was then released as a book the following year.

In 2005 Smith was awarded the Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, an esteemed French honour.

“It’s the artist’s responsibility to balance mystical communication and the labour of creation.” 

– Just Kids (2010)

Fashion:

Another term often associated with Smith is ‘style icon’. Her androgynous look, which she has channeled throughout her career, was well ahead of it’s time in 1970’s New York.

Smith went against the grain from the beginning – little make-up, tousled hair and crisp white shirts were not what women were wearing. She put together outfits that, whether intentional or not, became an extension of her art.

Even now, in her late 60’s, Smith refuses to adhere to traditional expectations. With her long grey hair and bohemian style she proves that through it all she has always remained steadfastly true to herself.

“My Keith Richards haircut was a real discourse magnet. I miraculously turned androgynous overnight.”

– Just Kids (2010)

Activism:

Smith has been involved in activism for much of her adult life, particularly in AIDS research following the death of Robert Mapplethorpe from the disease.

She contributed to AIDS benefit album No Alternative, produced by the Red Hot Organisation.

She has also released protest songs and sung at various rallies and events for a variety of causes, such as protesting against the Iraq War and calling from impeachment of George W Bush.

Smith has been affiliated with the Green Party and supported Democratic candidates in some elections.

“The power to dream, to rule, to wrestle the world from fools, it’s decreed the people rule.”

– People Have the Power (1988)

Family:

fcb094ecf79faaea8091117ea36e4d16

source: Pinterest

As well as a long and varied career, Smith has also raised a family. In 1980 she married Fred “Sonic” Smith, a guitarist for MC5. They had two children – Jackson, born 1982, and Jesse, born 1987.

Throughout the 1980’s Smith lived in Michigan with her family and was in a state of semi-retirement from music. Frank died in 1994 at the age of 45.

This, along with the sudden death of her brother Todd, led Smith to return to NYC in the 1990’s.

Role Model:

6989614-3x2-940x627

source: ABC

Patti Smith is a true female role model – a living embodiment of the fact that a woman can do anything and everything she wishes to. Her entire life has been dedicated to artistic pursuit and raising a family.

From her bold fashion statements to her music, Smith has the attitude of a true punk – she doesn’t care what people about her, and she is just happy to be pursuing her craft.

She has survived through a time where a lot of her creative counterparts saw their lives cut short by addiction or tragedy. She has endured these losses alongside the loss of her husband, her best friend and family members, and still she continues to work.

Patti Smith is a woman who, in many ways, was ahead of her time, and she has been a trailblazer in the creative world. A true inspiration, it is little wonder that thousands of people around the world look up to her.

“All I ever wanted, since I was a child, was to do something wonderful.”

– Patti Smith

What do you think of Patti Smith? Who is your female role model? Share your thoughts in the comments section! 

Standard
Film, News, Opinion, Trailers

MOVIE TRAILER: I SAW THE LIGHT (2016)

Directed: Mark Abraham

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olson

With all the hype about the big summer blockbusters it can be easy to forget that there are countless other exciting projects coming out this year, with I Saw The Light being the one that I am most excited about.

The film is a biopic of country legend Hank Williams, one of the most influential songwriters of the 20th century and a legend in country music.

i-saw-the-light-movie-still-1

source: Independent 

I am a huge Hank Williams fan and a cinematic adaption of his story has huge potential. There’s a good chance it will be pretty typical ‘tortured artist’ fare, considering Williams fit the archetype pretty well, but with Tom Hiddleston in the starring role I am confident this could be something special.

Elizabeth Olson also stars as Williams’ first wife Audrey, only adding to the star power and striking reminiscent of the brilliant pairing that was Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line (2005).

A film of this nature will of course sink or swim based on the music – it was Pheonix and Witherspoon’s incredible singing voices as Johnny Cash and June Carter that really made Walk the Line, after all – and so far Hiddleston appears to be more than up to the challenge of conveying Williams’ distinctive twang.

This clip shows Hiddleston perform Williams’ song Move It On Over:

Williams’ grandson Hank Williams III has criticised the video, saying that Hiddleston lacks soul and that the role of his grandfather should not be played by a non-American.

Whilst it must be strange to see your family being played by an actor who is bound to take some creative license, I don’t think the fact that Hiddleston is British will have any real impact on his performance.

Acting is a transformative business, and Hiddleston doesn’t need to be from the South to encapsulate the essence of Williams or his music.

I Saw The Light will be released in cinemas on the 25th of March.

Standard
#52FilmsByWomen, Film, Reviews

#52FILMSBYWOMEN – OBVIOUS CHILD

Directed: Gillian Roberspierre

Starring: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann

For my next #52FilmsByWomen viewing I decided to go for something recent and fell upon 2014’s Obvious Child, a female-centric comedy drama that I was drawn to because of Gaby Hoffmann’s involvement. I am a huge Hoffmann fan after seeing her in Girls and Transparent, so when I saw she was in Obvious Child and that it was directed by a woman it became essential viewing. 

Obvious Child began life as a short film and tells the story of twenty-something Donna (Jenny Slate) who finds out she is pregnant after a one night stand with Max (Jake Lacy) and decides to have an abortion. The premise alone is brave considering abortion continues to be a near-untouchable taboo in cinema. Even the more daring films such as Juno sort of skirt past the issue, making Obvious Child a breath of fresh air in its frank tackling of the subject.

maxresdefault

source: Youtube

In spite of the taboo subject matter, Obvious Child is surprisingly and refreshingly unpolitical. Sure, there is most likely a political message tucked in there somewhere, but it’s a subtle one and it is clear from the beginning that the film isn’t so much about peddling a pro-choice argument than telling the story of one woman’s experience with an unplanned pregnancy.

The first act isn’t great and the set-up is done to death – woman gets dumped, gets wasted, loses her job etc. – but once the plot has been established the film really hits its stride. Jenny Slate plays Donna with comic vulnerability and in a way that is sure to strike a chord with any woman who has found herself in a less than ideal situation. Jake Lacy is equally charming as Max, whilst Gaby Hoffman appears in a brilliant supporting turn as Donna’s best friend and room-mate Nellie.

The supporting cast are excellent, with David Cross even showing up for a hilarious extended cameo, but the film rests entirely on Slate’s shoulders. The humour is crude in a way that probably won’t sit well with every viewer – vagina jokes are commonplace – but there is a lot of heart beneath the vulgarity and the film finds more success in it’s dramatic moments than it’s funny ones.

In her review for The Nation, Michelle Goldberg argues that the film’s narrative is actually quite conventional in spite of its tackling of a sensitive subject matter, and this is true to an extent. The abortion route is different and little explored in film, but the rest of the story we are presented with is pretty standard indie rom-com fare. This is not a bad thing as such, but it can be easy to overstate how inventive Obvious Child is due to it’s brave tackling of abortion.

Screen-Shot-2014-04-15-at-4.33.21-PM

source:In Bed

That said, there is enough going on here to make it feel refreshing and the film is a great example of how you don’t need overt political messages to communicate ideas. Obvious Child is a fun and charming film about a subject that is anything but fun and charming, so it’s certainly doing something right.

Obvious Child is available to stream on Netflix UK.

Standard