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31 March 2018

Not another Teen movie: How does the new wave of ‘coming of age’ cinema signal a new direction for the genre?

The ‘teen film’ has significantly developed since its early days. The concept of the ‘teenager’ came into its own during the 1950s, and, with this, arrived a new wave of cinema that was made for and spoke to young adults. These kids, too young to be considered adults but too old to mingle with children, finally had their own social circle and Hollywood began to exploit this exclusive demographic. The Fifties saw films such as, The Wild One, and Rock Around the Clock, which explored rebellion and rock and roll, tokens of the subversive culture of the Teenager.

As decades passed, teen films began to seep into other genres, such as comedy and horror, giving us a revamped wave in the Eighties (which is often noted as the epitomical era of young adult movies). John Hughes delivered some of the greatest examples of teenage subversion thus far, becoming the auteur of teenage angst. He explored the difficult issues that teens faced in the decade, from societal pressures and individuality to sexual relations and the future – a far cry from the nominal rumblings of social resistance in the Fifties (but still very much conservative if one is to look back on them now).

The Nineties did not see much development in the teen film. The movies played on stereotypes and, apart from producing a few iconic comedic moments, made no contribution to the social impact of this sub-genre (which had every chance of having one through its targeted demographic). Yes, young people had films marketed directly at them but that was only because they were a lucrative audience — there was no room for identification, advice or comfort in the messages that these films put out, much less, any concern for the realistic teenage experience.

As the late Nineties moved into the 2000s, issues surrounding teenage mental health and sexuality were primarily reserved for the arthouse/indie film — think My Own Private Idaho or Bad Education. Mainstream teen-cinema was still focusing on heterosexual, white, neuro-typical characters; and spaces for mentally ill and queer POC were scarce on the big screen. Although there were characters like Damian from Mean Girls, these were caricatures and joke-machines if anything else. Young, queer kids did not have the onscreen representation they deserved, especially considering the teen movie had had over fifty years of development.

However, the 2000s. specifically, 2010 has seen a significant shift in subject matter. With the rise in popularity of Young Adult novel adaptations, the teen genre has seen more all-inclusive films than ever before. One catalyst for this was the work of author John Green, whose novels depicting hard-hitting topics such as, terminal illness; the journey from adolescence to adulthood and homosexuality have seen recent on-screen success. Books of a similar vein are rapidly being adapted for film. These novels, which have seen significant critical success and have found a solid place in the socio-cultural sphere of ‘the teen,’ are being made available to an even wider audience. The positive effect of this is evident in the recent release of Love, Simon –– an adaptation of the YA novel, Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda. Unlike recent LGBTQ+ hit Call Me By Your NameLove, Simon bears no resemblance to the brooding and seductive queer romances found in art films. Refreshingly, this new adaptation is said to be utterly average, celebrating the normality of queer teens and depicting the adolescent experience as plainly as any heterosexual teen film would. As Out magazine puts it, “young LGBTQ people can see themselves in everyday life without feeling like a tokenized piece of comic relief.”

The impact that this film is having on young and old audiences alike is profound, with some saying — on Twitter — Love, Simon has helped them come out to friends and family and some wishing that they had had as positive a representation of queerness as this one when they were a teen. Keiynan Lonsdale, who stars in Love, Simon, has come out during the last few months and Nick Robinson, who plays Simon, has said that his brother was able to come out to him during filming. This sort of response proves just how important it is to have a non-sexualised LGBTQ+ film aimed at young people.

One of the most important features of the teen movie is representation. At an age where it may feel like the world is against you and that you don’t belong, cinema can offer a safe space for an individual to identify with characters that speak to their anxieties and insecurities. For too long, the genre has put the privileged, hetero-teen at the forefront, but it would appear that a cultural shift is starting to occur. If this new wave of teen cinema is one of all-inclusive, realistic representation then please, let it live on.

25 February 2018

Year of the woman: 5 female-led films to look out for in 2018

In 2017, Wonder Woman grossed $821 million and became the tenth highest grossing film of the year. Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Beauty and the Beast were the two most successful films of 2017, both making over $1 billion worldwide, and featured female protagonists. Girls Trip, a WOC-led film about four friends reconnecting, became the first comedy of 2017 to gross over $100 million. Raw and I Am Not a Witch showcased the undeniable talent of female filmmakers, especially in the horror genre, and gave us two of the most notably unique female-led films of the year. But the female-led reign of the box office is not over yet; 2018 is set for even more incredible films about women for audiences to look forward to. Here are a few of our top picks:

A Wrinkle in Time – dir. Ava DuVernay

A Wrinkle in Time is an upcoming science fantasy adventure film, based on a novel by Madeleine L’Engle. The story follows a young girl who must travel through space and time to rescue her scientist father whilst being guided by a trio of guardian angels named ‘Mrs. Whatsit’, ‘Mrs. Who’, and ‘Mrs. Which’. Boasting a stellar cast of Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling, this upcoming whimsical movie will provide a number of inspirational new heroes for young girls everywhere.

Ocean’s 8 – dir. Gary Ross

Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, and Anne Hathaway — if the incredible cast doesn’t convince you to see this film then I don’t know what will. The female-led spin-off of the Ocean’s Eleven series sees the gang of ladies attempt to pull off the ultimate heist at New York’s star-studded Met Gala and steal a near priceless necklace. The film promises a whole host of celeb cameos, including the likes of the Kardashians and Anna Wintour. Much like WidowsOcean’s 8 is a step forward in genre films; women are getting to be part of the action, yielding weapons and harbouring slick criminal intuition, proving that they can be just as badass as George Clooney.

Widows – dir. Steve McQueen

An adaptation of a 2002 TV miniseries, Widows follows the lives of four widowed women who are left to deal with the debts left behind by their criminal husbands. The women must work together, using what little help their dead husbands left behind, to pull off their very own heist. With a screenplay written by Gillian Flynn (author of the best-selling Gone Girl) and a leading lady foursome of Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Erivo, this is set to be an exhilarating crime thriller which might just be another critically acclaimed success for McQueen.

Crazy Rich Asians – dir. Jon M. Chu

Starring Constance Wu, this adaptation sees a young woman come to terms with the life of Asia’s rich and famous after finding out that her boyfriend’s family is one of the richest on the continent. The film includes an all-Asian cast and explores familial relationships, modern romance, socialite-life and tricky mothers in law. Crazy Rich Asians will be Constance Wu’s most acclaimed leading role so far, in the film world, and will hopefully make her a household name.

On the Basis of Sex – dir. Mimi Leder

This upcoming American biographical film will see Felicity Jones play Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Bill Clinton appointed Ginsburg in 1993 and she became the second female justice to be confirmed to the Court, as well as being the first Jewish justice since the 1969 resignation of Justice Abe Fortas. The film will detail Ginsburg’s journey to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice; it shall explore the struggle for equal rights and the challenges of sexism she faced.

23 January 2018

Even with all the money in the world, has Hollywood still failed us?

During the recent months, the slick foundations of Hollywood have begun to crack, revealing the cesspit of movie-mogul scum to the masses, and exposing them for years of hidden sexual abuse. Since the expose on Harvey Weinstein was published last October, barely a week goes by without more allegations against Hollywood’s elite coming to light. However, alongside the revelations has come an uprising in the form of the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up charity, which raises legal defense funds for victims of sexual abuse. Increasing numbers of celebrities are vocalising their support for the movement, with some turning their backs on a few of the industry’s most powerful names and others actively taking part in the protest, most notably at the recent Golden Globes ceremony. But how far does this support actually go?

The inner workings of Hollywood is all about the surface image. Whilst donning a Time’s Up badge or wearing black to an awards ceremony seemingly emits an image of progressiveness, is it fair to praise a superficial show of support? A dichotomy of ‘us vs. them’ has arisen in the industry, with celebrities voicing conflicting stances on the so-called ‘witch hunt’ of sexual abusers (a term used by celebrities such as Woody Allen and Jeremy Piven). The list of celebrities standing up against the systematic abuse of the industry grows each day, with innumerable tweets of support for the cause, but it seems that some might need to be reminded that having your name put on the list of ‘woke’ celebs is not the end of the story.

The search for the ‘right’ kind of support is perhaps a dead-end, especially given the variety of stars — a seasoned actor denouncing a filmmaker does not carry the same weight as a rising star doing the same — so how can stars show a selfless display of support in such a selfish industry? Is the occasional flash of outspokenness enough, or must actors take it further?

It would appear that the question of money has joined the conversation. Recently, actor Mark Wahlberg donated his earnings from the All the Money in the World reshoots to the Time’s Up charity. However, this gesture was only performed after a week of public shaming. It was reported that Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million for the 10 days of reshoots  after the disgraced Kevin Spacey was to be edited out after allegations of sexual abuse. Wahlberg’s female co-star Michelle Williams, however, was paid the union daily wage for an actor, with her earnings amounting to less than $1000 for the same amount of work.
When Kevin Spacey was exposed for allegedly abusing actor Anthony Rapp, amongst others, Ridley Scott, director of All the Money in the World, made the decision to completely erase Spacey from the film and replace him with Christopher Plummer. Determined to keep to the intended release date, the cast and crew were required for an intense 10 day run of reshooting last November in order to finish on time. Reshoots of this scale are rare; the amount of time, effort and money that is needed to execute this is astronomical. However, it perhaps signals a change in the industry. For a film to take the Spacey allegations so seriously that he is completely edited out of his role appears to be a major step forward in the way that Hollywood treats its abusers. Michelle Williams spoke out about the importance of doing the reshoots, and she and several other actors immediately agreed to return to set for minimum pay over the Thanksgiving period.

However, Mark Wahlberg reportedly needed more convincing to come back and complete his share of the work. After pushing to be paid a monstrous sum of $1.5 million, he agreed to do the reshoots. The fact that Wahlberg needed that big of an incentive to commit to 10 days of extra work, which were effectively a show of support for the victims of abuse, speaks volumes about his priorities.

This is further proved by his week-long delay in responding to allegations about the wage gap he exploited. Aidy Bryant of Saturday Night Live picked up on this during Weekend Update, saying “it would be so cool if it didn’t take a week-long public shaming to do the right thing.” Whilst Wahlberg ended up donating the reshoot salary to the Time’s Up legal fund, he can hardly be praised for his delayed response. It shows little care for the victims of Hollywood or the movement against the abuse. His reluctant gesture rather seems like an easy way out, like a way to pay off the negative press and appear to support the cause whilst doing the bare minimum.

This issue of ‘paying off’ criticism goes further than this. Many actors are currently expressing their regrets for working with director, Woody Allen. Allegations against Allen have been rife in Hollywood for decades, with his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow repeatedly speaking out about the abuse she allegedly suffered at his hands when she was a child. Ellen Page has come out to say that working with Allen in 2012 was “the biggest mistake of career”, Colin Firth has expressed his guilt about working with the filmmaker, as have Mira Sorvino and Greta Gerwig.

Actors are taking further steps to make retributions for working with the besmirched director. Rebecca Hall had previously worked with Allen in 2008, and began work on another of his films last year. However, this month, she has expressed her guilt for working with Allen after revisiting Dylan Farrow’s statements and doing research into past allegations. She has since donated her full salary to the Time’s Up fund and has said that she “signed up, will continue to donate, and forward to working with and being part of this positive movement towards change not just in Hollywood but hopefully everywhere” (Vanity Fair). With this statement, Hall makes a departure from the easy road that apologising celebs seem to take. Unlike Wahlberg’s effortless pay-off response, Hall has pledged to actively contribute to the movement and make a difference in Hollywood.

Other actors from Allen’s new film are making similar moves. Awards season’s favourite rising star, Timothee Chalamet, has released a statement expressing his regret. He has also donated his full salary to 3 different charities; Time’s Up, the LGBT Centre in New York, and RAINN. In his statement, he acknowledges that his decision to take the role was a selfish one. He admits that he was just starting out when he took the role, echoing Ellen Page’s statement where she stated that you can’t say no to a Woody Allen film. As a young and naive actor, it is far easier to forgive someone like Chalamet for working with someone like Allen, compared to someone like Kate Winslet. The industry is a battleground and actors starting out are likely to grab any role in order to get a named credit, particularly with a famous director. For a younger, less-experienced actor, it speaks volumes when they explicitly denounce someone they’ve worked with and donate their salary, as it comes with more risk.

The difference between Mark Wahlberg’s donation and Chalamet’s is about learning from mistakes and taking the risk that that involves. Going by Wahlberg’s continued success, even after racial abuse claims, it would appear that the seasoned star has no fear of something like this affecting him. He is still securing roles and he is able to live his affluent lifestyle. Newer or less commercialized actors don’t have that cushioning but take the risk anyway. Actors such as David Krumholtz and Griffin Newman, who also appear in Allen’s forthcoming film, have made similar announcements, with Krumholtz donating his salary to Time’s Up, and Newman donating his to RAINN. These are names that are considerably less well known, and thus their actions come with much higher risks. It shows a degree of courage for these actors to believe in and fight for the cause.

Again, we are brought to the main question: is this enough? Which leads us to think about whether these supposedly grand gestures of monetary donations are making a difference, or are they a way of easily escaping scrutiny? In the case of Chalamet and Hill, it’s certainly a start, but how many donations need to be made, or Time’s Up badges worn, before a power shift in Hollywood happens? Is there a right and effective way to show support or is simply showing support enough?

Whatever the answer to that question may be, it will take more than all the money in the world to pay off the crimes of Hollywood’s elite.

For more on the impact of the Time’s Up campaign and activism in Hollywood, check out our Golden Globes coverage here.

To find out more about the Time’s Up campaign and how you can make a difference, go to their website.