Women of Hollywood – Geena Davis

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“If she can see it, she can be it.”

One of my wonderful lecturers from when I studied film introduced me properly to this brilliant lady. We watched the 1996 thriller The Long Kiss Goodnight during her ‘Women on Screen’ module where Geena Davis portrays a badass assassin/housewife. I knew she was an amazing actress, and a big presence in Hollywood. However, I wasn’t aware of how much she had thrown herself into the cause of female representation and involvement in cinema, and media as a whole.

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media is a research-based organisation that works with the media and entertainment industry to educate, engage and influence content creators and audiences. Its purpose is to encourage gender balance, change stereotypes and have scripts depicting strong female characters that target audiences aged 11 or under.  It’s such an important cause. In this digital age, children are engaging with the media every day and what they see influences their social and cultural behaviours, as well as how they view themselves and others.

People love to ignore social issues, especially when they’re not affected personally. Geena has identified that the media industry needs remodelling and with the institutes research, she is able to deliver facts that cannot be ignored as to why and how. The institution was founded in 2004 but its amazing to see how even before that, when Geena was stuck in the heart of acting she was conscious of the roles she portrayed.

Lets talk about Thelma and Louise.

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If you haven’t seen this film, well then you need to finish this blogpost, pop some popcorn and put it on right away. Geena Davis plays female lead ‘Thelma’ who shoots a rapist and sets off with her fiery friend ‘Louise’ in a ’66 Thunderbird. Knowing that their claims of self-defence would be ignored because they’re women, they decide to leave their patriarchal lives behind and drive off into the new wave. Unsurprisingly, along this trip they encounter further spouts of sexism and misogyny. In result to this, the acts of violence continue so they can protect themselves. Thelma is an American housewife with a shitty husband and Louise is a liberal-fem that witnesses her friend being victimised and encourages her escape from the walls of the private sphere. This film celebrates female friendship and exemplifies how women can be their own heroes.

Another Geena gem, did anybody see Cutthroat Island? It’s one of the biggest flops in the history of films-flops (I think its actually in the Guinness book of records). Starring Geena Davis as a femme fatale pirate, it’s certainly lacking in Oscar magic but it’s watchable. If you’re into pirates or interested in exploring more of Geena’s movies then watch her character ‘Morgan’ set sea with her macho crew to find some Spanish treasure. There lots of rum, explosions and rope-swinging.

I’ve mentioned three Geena Davis films here but there are many other wonders to explore. She plays a huge part in the development of cinema and encourages everyone to create a conversation regarding our gendered media, but she is also an exceptional actress. Basically super woman.

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Women of Hollywood – Kristen Stewart

Kristen Stewart appreciation post ahead. Warning: some vampire talk. 

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For some reason, the media and public have come to an agreement that this woman cannot act because a few years ago she played the lead in a very successful but apparently ‘lame’ franchise. Vampires and love isn’t cool, so therefor Kristen Stewart isn’t cool. She’s the prime female victim of being accused of not “smiling enough” being “too awkward” and on top of that consistently questioned “Are you gay? Bi? What are you? We have to know!” Some of us are actually genuinely awkward – not “Jennifer Lawrence awkward” (I love J-Law but she knows how to play that game). Twilight wasn’t the best of movies to show off her ability, however, you can only do so much with a one dimensional character. If you’ve read the books, you’ll know that Bella is a tiny awkward girl that’s a bit tomboyish and would rather read a book than go to the party; this is exactly how Kristen portrayed the character.

She’s a very particular actress with a unique image and acting style, something that is rare in Hollywood amongst both women and men, lets celebrate that. Kristen seems to have done pretty well to not allow the press and opinions grind her down, reconstruct her in the Hollywood machine that would spit her out as an American Sweetheart. She’s her own version of a woman and actress and that should be inspiring to all of us.

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Welcome to the Riley’s

Since the vampire franchise, Kristen has featured in some amazing films and illustrated brilliant characters to shake off Bella.

Welcome to the Riley’s is one of my favourites. This was probably the first of her films that I’d watched that got me excited about her acting. She plays a young and grunge, teenage-runaway prostitute that finds herself involved with a dysfunctional family. Her character Mallory is intriguing and Kristen works wonders at developing this multi-layered adolescent. Aside from the outstanding performances all round, the narrative is pretty brilliant – raw and gritty.

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On the Road 

She stars as the seductive sweetheart, Marylou, in On the Road which is based on Jack Kerouc’s beloved American novel. A story about New York writer Sal Paradise and ex-con Dean Moriarty (Marylou’s husband). This film looks at the themes of freedom, adventure and ‘finding oneself’. It got slated for being a bit of a mess, but I enjoyed it. Fuelled by sex and drugs, these three protagonists are just exploring what’s out there…

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The Runaways 

There was no one better than Kristen to portray this L.A riot grrrl. As a fan of Joan Jett, I can say that she definitely captured the essence of the bad-ass, sexually fluid, rock n roll icon. The film is a lot of fun and definitely worth a watch to see how Kristen and bffl Dakota Fanning work together to depict the relationship and music that paved the way for future girl bands.

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Into the Wild 

Two years after Twilight Kristen jumped on the hippy-dippy train to cameo in Into the Wild as the sweet and innocent love child Tracy. She’s not in it that much, but she’s memorable and has a great affect on the lead. I remember watching it and thinking “Fuck thats Bella?! She’s gonna do great things” and she did.

 

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T2: Trainspotting

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“We’re all in a box just waiting for the lid to come down” – Begbie


The likely lads are back. T2: Trainspotting is finally here and its been perfectly sculpted to give us just the right amount of nostalgia. Trainspotting is in my top five favourite films ever. I wrote about it three or four times during my time as a film student so this sequel is a big deal.

*Drum roll* It delivered! I was completely and utterly infatuated by it. There were actual moments that I wanted to pause just so I could appreciate the picture a little longer. It’s the perfect balance between the old and the new without using conventional editing for flashbacks. Instead Boyle uses innovation to draw a bridge between our beloved cult classic original and T2. An unforgettable ending shot of Renton really depicts this, I couldn’t look away.

Boyle has successfully created a stand alone film. The actors have aged 20 years along with the characters and this adds to the social realist aspect that the original book and film were so loved for. Yes, the cast are now grand and successful individuals but they have not let Hollywood sweep their working class ghosts away.

Twenty years later, Renton finds himself back in Edinburgh lost and searching for a past. He reunites with Sick Boy – now ‘just Simon’ – firstly but each individual reunion is equally special and terrifying for Renton. If we all remember clearly, he did run off with every penny of Sick Boy’s and Begbie’s cash right at the end of Trainspotting, so this is no high school musical reunion. I don’t want to say too much about the plot but expect blood, cocaine, strap-on’s, betrayal and little bit of heroin.

The film teases you with the opening beats of ‘Born Slippy’ and ‘Lust for Life’, two iconic songs from the Trainspotting soundtrack.

Wherever you are, stop what you’re doing and go see it right now. Enjoy and let me know your thoughts…

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Manchester By The Sea: Men and Grief 

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Last night I lay awake until midnight watching Manchester By The Sea, a wise choice of movie, poor choice in time. This film will stay with you just as it stayed with me until 3am.

Grief is an inevitable part of all of our lives and in Manchester By The Sea, protagonist Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is given his fair share of lost loves. We’re introduced to this character during his current state of mind, unaware of why he behaves the way that he does. He is impassive, closed off from the world and his rage leads him to bite and attack. It is curious to observe a character who is consumed by grief without being aware of their state – especially a man. For a portion of Manchester By The Sea the audience recognise that there is something bizarre and dismal about Lee – the darkness of his eyes and his slow cognitive responses within social situations give us a sense of unease, but nothing to prepare us for the final truth.

These contemporary shots are contrasted with frames filled with a charismatic and loving father, and husband to Randi Chandler (Michelle Williams). Affleck performs exceptionally to illustrate two utterly diverse stages in human life. He depicts a man at his emotionally highest and then shows us the same man when life has beaten his soul into the ground.

After the death of his brother, Lee finds himself back in Manchester, a small town by the sea, looking after his adolescent nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), who has lost his father and is unsure of how to communicate this catastrophe. Lee battles to teach him how and why he should elevate his emotions as he hasn’t addressed his own – an unforgettable scene where Patrick is having a panic attack and Lee fails to aid him shows how withdrawn Lee is from human affection.

Male grief is frequently invisible and rarely encouraged to be addressed, accepted and spoken about in society. It is often dismissed and felt unwanted and both women and men find themselves in situations where they are hesitant with their response to male outbursts of despair and tears. The subject of male grief and mental health is seen as taboo and our culture has classified it as an uncomfortable occurrence that is unnecessary. Men are supposed to be the alpha males – strong, mentally stable and the leaders of our patriarchal society – there is no room to grieve or loose yourself during lifes unavoidable challenges. This is purely why films such as Manchester By The Sea are so important. They create a conversation about a subject that is foreign and ignored by many. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, this is fact. However, building art that depicts this will create a communication amongst people and hopefully result in a change.

An unforgettable scene between Lee and Randi explores how open Randi is to discussing their bereavement. She has a dying need to express herself, to mourn and cry and scream but Lee is unresponsive. You can see the agony begin in his eyes and flow through his body as Randi is pecking away at him, trying to draw some form of emotion out.

Manchester By The Sea has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay.

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Moonlight: Review

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Moonlight dwells on a narrative that society has been in need of for a long time now. Barry Jenkins has elegantly constructed a coming of age drama which is universal but very much about the black experience.

The movie opens with a drug deal on the streets of Miami where Moonlight is set, this may at first throw an audience off. If you do not know much about the narrative you would assume this film to be something similar of City of God. However, Moonlight is a lot more poetic and empathetic. Using intimate camera angels, Jenkins tells a story with three crucial life stages – childhood, adolescence and adulthood – to depict the life of a gay black man. Moonlight conveys what it means to be black in America, black and poor in America, and black, poor, gay and a man in America.

Chiron, played by three actors, is not used as a symbol but rather to tastefully express the themes of love, oppression, intimacy and identity under the black community. Throughout the narrative, Chiron is micro-aggressive in response to society, confused by what his identity is and why his neighbourhood acknowledge it with such isolation and aggression. During his childhood stage, Chiron is being told who he is before he even knows himself – much of what we see in western culture. Men are socialised to be authoritarian with their sexual identity, there is no room to be vague or unsure. The gasping moment of when he asks Juan (Mahershala Ali) “What does faggot mean?” and “Am I a faggot?” is a turning point for this narrative and completely illustrates the relationship between himself and his only parent. A drug addict, single mother who’s lost in the world just as much as her son but is so damaged and self consumed that she is unable to part any wisdom.

Chiron is silent, withdrawn and fragile but Jenkins does not completely focus on despair. He drowns us with moonlight and beautiful scenery of landscapes, the sea and the sand. The film is almost as completely silent as its lead character, during moments of emotion and intensity, and will resonate with anyone who has been on the same journey with identity as him.

An absolute ravishing and delicate achievement by Jenkins. Moonlight hits cinemas in the U.K on February 17th.

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My Top 4 Marilyn Monroe Movies

1. Bus Stop (1956) 

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This hillbilly love story follows rodeo cowboy, Bo (Don Murray) and showgirl Cherie (Marilyn Monroe) as Bo performs an ungentlemanly attempt to make Cherie his wife. The narrative focuses on the physicality of love, lust and attraction as we watch Bo hurl himself around like a pubescent country boy with the desperate need of a lady’s attention. He demands to marry Cherie — regardless of her wishes. Cherie is forced to decipher whether she should actually wed this stud who is embarrassingly obsessed with her, when she finds herself stuck with Bo and his uncle at a bus stop because of a blizzard. This is possibly Marilyn Monroe’s greatest performance. Her accent cannot be faulted, she is sweet, charismatic and the dynamic between herself and Bo makes both performances unforgettable.

 

2. Some Like It Hot (1959)

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Comedy masterpiece. Remade from a 1955 German movie, Some Like it Hot is whimsical, expansive and entertaining. Jerry (Jack Lemmon) and Joe (Tony Curtis) cross-dress their way into an all-female jazz band when they find themselves on the run from deadly gangsters. Wilder, unknowingly (this is 1950s Hollywood, lets remind ourselves) has explored the notion of gender roles — considerably through Jerry/Daphne, who’s frivolous character brings up the issue of sexuality and touches upon Americas consensus towards the subject. Although Curtis and Lemmon’s characters complete this movie, Marilyn Monroe still shines bright alongside them.

 

3. Niagara (1953)

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Henry Hathaway’s technicolour film noir explores jealousy, lust and murder. Niagara contrasts two couples; honeymooners Polly (Jean Peters) and Ray Cutler (Casey Adams) with an unhappily-wed Rose (Marilyn Monroe) and her husband George Loomis (Joseph Cotton), during their stay at a resort at the Niagara Falls. Outbursts of animosity and obsession towards his wife express Georges mental instability, however, his behaviour is somewhat justified when Polly catches Rose cheating. Monroe is often seen dressed in desirable red and pink dresses, walking in a haze and being up to no good. However, it seems the truest beauty within this film is the Niagara falls, with its majestic and stormy aesthetic – beautiful but dangerous.

 

4. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

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Va-va-voom. That’s literally all that comes to mind when I think about Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. On the contrary, I believe that actual, real gentlemen, don’t use hair colour as a preference to who they find attractive – I am possibly wrong. Definitely an entertaining watch on the surface, however, the film does rely on stereotypes and cliches; pretty blonde likes shiny things and rich men, rich man likes pretty blonde and will buy her shiny things. Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy (Jane Russell) find themselves on a boat trip to Paris where Lorelei intends to bag herself a millionaire. They are sly and seductive, while the camera focuses on the men drooling, you as an audience are able to watch the Male Gaze gaze.  A 1950’s Hollywood aesthetic, plus musical elements, PLUS Marilyn’s charm – what more does one want?

Cross them all off your list…

 

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Why ‘Before the Flood’ is the Most Important Documentary You Will Watch in 2016

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So, I saw this incredible documentary at its European premier last month at the BFI London Film Festival and Mr. DiCaprio was there (eek!).

It’s a must see for everyone – emphasis on everyone. There is no target audience. As long as you’re old enough to understand that our planet is beautiful and us human beings will collectively be the result of its demise (unless we pull our socks up) then you must watch it.

So this film, essentially, is to encourage us self-obsessed, materialistic, capitalism-loving homo sapiens to step it up and protect our home. Thats the most pivotal thing to remember – earth is our home.

The documentary follows Leonardo DiCaprio around the world as he observes the effects of climate change, how these tragedies are the result of capitalism and how they can be avoided. Unfortunately, so much damage has been done already that it cannot be reversed, however, we CAN prevent further destruction.

Just like Cowspiracy which DiCaprio produced, this documentary is full of beautiful frames of nature and delivers knowledge on how our actions are affecting the planet. It will terrify you, make you feel guilty for all the things you should have been doing so far to save our environment and (hopefully) encourage you from here on out to make a change.

It is entirely ludicrous to suggest that climate change is a conspiracy and if you have not yet been convinced, then Leo will convince. He guides us around the world to some of the most magical and delightful of places to look at. These images are contrasted with not so lovely ones. The destruction of forests due to palm oil, melting polar ice caps and distressed animals who’s homes have been burned to the ground.

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DiCaprio engages in interviews with a variety of the worlds most influential people, such as Barack Obama and Pope Francis. Making them aware of the situation and expressing the need for change. Before the Flood also features a glimpse of his time while filming The Revenant – the location of the final shoot had to be altered due to – guess what – global warming. The snow melted away (and it really shouldn’t have) so Alejandro G. Iñárritu marched down to the South Pole with a pissed of Tom Hardy and Leo chanting “I TOLD YOU ALL”.

It’s incredible watching a man who has such a huge spectrum of audiences use his status to educate and motivate society, but this film will also show you how Leo is just a humble man who adores animals and is fascinated by nature.

To conclude; have shorter showers, recycle, DON’T purchase anything with palm oil, become vegetarian, or even vegan – just do something. Lets look after our home, look after our animals and look after ourselves.

Before the Flood is available to watch online for free and Cowspiracy is available on Netflix. There’s no excuse – go go go!

 

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