Tag Archives: Director

Ava DuVernay Is Bouncing Back With A New Project

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You can throw all the backlash and award snubs her way, but it clearly won’t hold Ava DuVernay down. She has successfully mounted her next project, an as-yet-untitled drama/thriller set in post-Katrina New Orleans.

There are so many great things about this news. First, DuVernay, like countless female directors before her, didn’t have to wait a few years and knock on a few doors before locking her next project. She’s risen from disappointing news to shift her focus on a new film, which is being funded by Participant Media, the distributors of her 2012 Sundance prizewinner Middle of Nowhere.

Also,this is also her third time working with actor David Oyelowo,for all we know these two are headed for a Tarantino/Jackson,Burton/Depp,Scorsese/De Niro(or DiCaprio) kind of long working relationship. Oyelowo is even helping co-produce the project.

And very importantly, this film will deal with the Katrina aftermath from a Black perspective. Instead of the typical ‘Stranger-In-A-Strange-Land’ narrative that would have planted a wealthy White male into the doldrums of destruction among secondary Black characters, the film’s POV will be of the race that bore the biggest brunt of devastation and indifference.

It’s great that DuVernay is getting to pick her projects and do them in quick succession. It’s also great that she’s sticking to these lower-key character-based dramas rather than the proposed bigger-budget alternative. Looking forward to this film already!

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A Great Piece On Cherien Dabis and Arab-American Representation

Cherien

Writer/Director/Actor Cherien Dabis (Amreeka, May In The Summer) is one of only a handful of voices that tell stories of the Arab/Arab-American experience in a way unforeseen. Her characters are people, not caricatures,not bigoted depictions. Good‘s Tasbeeh Herwees did this lovely profile on Dabis that talks about her films, her life, and her search to find self-reflection in a hostile climate of on-screen representation (American Sniper REALLY doesn’t help).

Read it here: http://magazine.good.is/features/cherien-dabis-arab-americans-in-hollywood

Oscar Nominations: What The Hell Guys?

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Before I unload my outrage, I want to maintain that Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the best president A.M.P.A.S has had since Frank Pierson. And based on ‘Dick Poop’, ‘Richard Link-Later’, and an embarrassed moment of silence after announcing the Best Director nominees, she was clearly as shaken as most of us by how The Academy voted this year.

Yeah, isn’t it? To be honest, I smelled disappointment beforehand. Antonio Sanchez’s score for Birdman was disqualified, a good number of impressive films didn’t make the Foreign Language shortlist, and Whiplash was deemed an adapted screenplay.

Then suddenly (like 3 days ago), everyone started falling in love with American Sniper despite it being laced with inaccuracies all over. But since it released wide rather late, it didn’t have to shield itself from accusations the way Selma did for two whole weeks. Deep down, I was scared Selma would pay the price for Sniper‘s upsurge. There was also some overlooking from all the Guilds, but even that didn’t matter.

Here’s an entire pile of shocking snubs in the wake of the nomination announcement:
Selma in most major categories: I called it months ago on this very blog, I said Ava DuVernay will find being nominated much harder than her male counterparts. But I still hoped to be dead wrong, and for a while it seemed that I would be, DuVernay would make history. Today, I hate that I predicted that and I’m amazed that despite her film being superior to three of the nominees (no names will be named), she’s the one who got left out. Moreover, David Oyelowo’s universally acclaimed performance was also ignored in favor of Bradley Cooper. Best Actor, a crowded race this year, was bound to yield some disappointment (Gyllenhaal and Spall also robbed), but Oyelowo was a lock till the last minute, his absence is inexplicable. Bradford Young is the future, his cinematography elevates any indie in quality, also not nominated.

Life Itself: Steve James, the man notoriously overlooked for Hoop Dreams 20 years ago, found himself in the same position with his latest documentary feature despite the acclaim. Roger Ebert would give this move Two Thumbs Down.

Benoit Delhomme: If there’s one fantastic thing about The Theory Of Everything, it’s the breathtaking cinematography. But since Academy voters almost never honor groundbreaking camerawork and lighting (because DP’s should only be people who can shoot vistas of mountains and trees) and thanks to the Reserved For Roger Deakins Spot, younger virtuosos like Delhomme and Young don’t get their due.

Gillian Flynn: The only female scribe with a realistic chance of a screenplay nomination for Gone Girl, was missing from the final list of nominees, a revelation that belied months of Oscar buzz. Flynn used to be a film critic for Entertainment Weekly, could this be a vendetta against her by the voters?

Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione: They were supposed to win Film Editing for Birdman, not even nominated. It feels like a cruel joke, except that it isn’t.

Force Majeure: Another apparent lock (in Foreign Language Film) was somehow not in the final five, even though the race seemed down to it and Ida (both films are spectacular btw).

To be completely fair, it isn’t a total letdown, here are some of the pleasant surprises:

Beyond The Lights, the poignant yet little-promoted drama by Gina Prince-Bythewood got some love in Best Original Song with Grateful, a Diane Warren pseudo-ballad. Although, Fly Before You Fall made a far better candidate.

Marion Cotillard landed a Best Actress nod for her phenomenal work in Deux Jours, Une Nuit, and it’s pretty well-deserved. But must say, it’s hard not to feel bad for Jennifer Aniston after the tireless campaigning she did with Cake.

And FINALLY, Wes Anderson got some deserved nominations beyond his staple screenplay nod for The Grand Budapest Hotel, one of my favs this year and one of his best works.

2013 was pretty disappointing in terms of the snubs too, culminating with a horrible ceremony hosted by Seth MacFarlane (We Saw Your Boobs anyone?). But after last year’s wonderful turn, I was hoping things were looking up but clearly, this was a backlash year. Here’s hoping better for 2016.

From The Hollywood Reporter- “What Happens to All These Women After They Direct Their First Film?”

Emmy and Oscar nominated director Leslie Linka Glatter wrote this piece in THR describing the double standards most female directors face even today, irrespective of talent. A good read.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/homeland-director-what-happens-all-754654

Ridley Scott’s Response To Exodus Casting Controversy Proves What’s Wrong With Race In Hollywood

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Exodus: Gods and Kings has been trailed by uproar for a while now. Yeah, setting a film in ancient Egypt with an all-White principal cast will do that for you. However, director Ridley Scott has chosen to respond to the criticism. We never got such answers about Noah but that film had issues of its own. Read Scott’s tragic explanation here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/26/ridley-scott-exodus-controversy_n_6225022.html

Well it’s nowhere nearly as tragic as Rupert Murdoch’s ignorance but still. We need to ask ourselves, are we really the shallow, obtuse, self-centered folk they safely assume we are? Is star power more important to us than historical accuracy of a Biblical tale? Do we really want more and more of the same double standards under the guise of our entertainment because it mints studios money? If yes then our species fudged up somewhere along the way. For a film like this where the subject matter alone is controversial, you have a story that could’ve sold the film well, gathering A-list talent isn’t doing much.

To be fair, the film does have some diversity, but the roles they’re in is doubly depressing:
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If you want to fuel this fire by giving it your money, more power to you. If you want this to end, spend your cash on something original instead and wonder why it opened in only six theaters nationwide.

Marvel and DC Both Parade Their Female Superheroes. But Which One Will Hire A Female Director First?

MARVEL VS DC

Marvel vs DC is fast becoming the Apple vs Android of the entertainment industry. You know what that means, it’s not consumer interest at heart, but the need to outdo the other using consumers as pawns. Sounds like a world domination plan straight out of a comic book, huh?

Marvel just broke the internet twice in less than a week. First when they released a first look at Avengers: Age of Ultron, and then yesterday when they publicly announced Phase 3, which is their slate of upcoming films going all the way till 2019. As predicted, the list includes some sequels and threequels, but what really grabbed attention were the new franchises, including Black Panther and Captain Marvel, their first Black and female superheroes to get their own movies.

Marvel Phase 3

Coolbeans! Looks like Marvel is getting on with the times, BUT WAIT A MINUTE.

Just two weeks ago, DC announced THEIR upcoming slate which includes, well, their first Black and female superheroes to get their own movies: Cyborg and Wonder Woman. Moreover, the film version of The Flash will be played by openly gay actor Ezra Miller (meanwhile the TV series version has the out Wentworth Miller playing Captain Cold and Andy Mientus will soon play Pied Piper, a rare openly gay villain).

Congratulations, finally some diverse representation, but is this really a move to be progressive or yet another ridiculous arms race?

What about diversity behind the camera? To be fair, Ang Lee and Tim Story did do Marvel projects but neither one’s attempt was well received. Now both conglomerates are ready to showcase female heroes front-and-center but neither has ever hired a female director, and that’s a problem. It came close once, remember the Patty Jenkins snafu?. DC apparently wants a woman to helm Wonder Woman and Jenkins’ name is being circled again. Not for the Emmy-nominee’s talent but for the obvious reason that it would be a slap on Marvel’s face.

Why not have a female action hero’s story be told through a female perspective? That’s not to say men wouldn’t do a good job but previous examples don’t show much hope. No matter what, the male gaze does tend to get in the way. Remember how the camera kept lingering on Gamora’s butt in Guardians of the Galaxy? Remember THAT kiss in Elektra? Remember Halle Berry’s dominatrix costume in Catwoman and wondering how she doesn’t get cut and bruised all over? Remember Lara Croft: Tomb Raider at all? They’re not just badasses, they’re SEXY badasses, appeasing the depraved young male crowd is still paramount. Compare that with Rachel Talalay’s Tank Girl. Say what you want about it, but it did have empowering overtones ahead of its time.

Good thing Joss Whedon is a proud feminist or Black Widow would not have even made it to the Avengers universe (Where is HER standalone movie by the way?). Even Whedon’s co-created offshoot series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D features a team where the female members strongly hold their own alongside the men. The dude knows how to make strong women without referencing their sexuality at all and kudos to him, but the other guys just aren’t like him for some reason.

And it’s not just the female-centric action flicks, why can’t women direct any of the other heroes either? A majority of the films on both slates still don’t have directors, it wouldn’t hurt to consider female names. Catherine Hardwicke, Karyn Kusama, Lesli Linka Glatter, or Susanna White would all make suitable candidates who can work well with action and bring their own unique flair.

Unexpected hires have been successful for Marvel. Kenneth Branagh for Thor, Joe & Anthony Russo for Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Shane Black for Iron Man 3 were all left field choices that paid off. Hiring a woman is not nearly as big of a gamble, so why not?

TV: The New Shows So Far.

A whole bunch of new tv shows are upon us. Perennially in the need for new entertainment, I’ve been viewing various pilots, seeing how they are, what they could work on, or whether or not they would succeed. Here’s the verdict so far (only what I have seen):

Red Band Society: Great premise but way too mawkish. Although the kids are all great,  Leo, has lush, thick eyebrows while undergoing chemotherapy. How? Clearly, research needs to be done there. Post TFIOS, sick children is sort of becoming a tearjerker way of pandering, but such subject matter needs to be dealt with carefully. Octavia Spencer is brilliant but both she and Dave Annable need more material, they sort of get relegated to B-storyline status amid all the teen drama. It needs a few quick fixes,but definitely worth coming back for more episodes.

The Mysteries Of Laura: I’m all for a different tone, but this show doesn’t pull it off. In fact, it seems confused about what tone it wants to project, is it a quirky comedy or a dark one? Relies too heavily on Debra Messing and her “Woman in a Rom Com” antics. Actually, a lot of this show seems like a rom com, complete with that career woman balancing love, children, and work while being pined for by rom com-ready guys.

Madam Secretary: Finally, Tea Leoni front and center in something! You want it to go The Good Wife route, charged with intrigue and drama. Leoni definitely has the chops to pull it off. However, it gets too dry at moments, some scenes linger for too long without a build-up. Overall, it’s pretty good, just needs to not get too stagnant. Barbara Hall is a brilliant writer so I’m sure she’ll figure a way out of it.

Scorpion: A procedural for the tech generation, that’s clearly how they pitched this one. But it doesn’t work. The characters are too cardboard cutout, at times trying too hard with the “Look, I’m a hacker” vibe. Elyes Gabel is a commanding lead though, to the point that you feel he deserves better, and so does poor Katharine McPhee.

Gotham: WOW! This could’ve been so misguided, so boring, so cluttered. It’s none of that. Bruno Heller & Co. have done a great job with the pace and the dark tone that never comes across as trying to ape Christopher Nolan’s film franchise. The performances are spectacular, Ben McKenzie is at a career best, Robin Lord Taylor and David Mazouz are stars in the making, and Jada Pinkett-Smith is simply a force of nature, stealing every scene she’s in. Danny Cannon’s highly experienced in the action/adventure. He directed some of Nikita’s best episodes and he definitely doesn’t disappoint here either. A possible breakout hit.

How To Get Away With Murder: This one’s the surefire breakout hit. It has the easy position of boasting the Shondaland label and having THE Viola Davis as a lead, but luckily, it never rests on those laurels. Davis is very much a showstealer with her presence and performance, but the rest of the younger cast is equally endearing and each one holds their own excellently. The plot, oh the plot, you’re hooked from the get-go. Like previous Shondaland hits Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, this show combines overarching season-long plot with a case-of-the-week on the side. Creator Peter Nowalk is an experienced member of Shonda Rhimes’ writing staff, so it’s no surprise he used this device perfectly when making his own show. The pilot’s director Michael Offer needs to be the next in-demand name for future pilot seasons because he seems to have a gift.

NCIS: New Orleans: Was another one really necessary? This brings nothing great to the table. Yes there’s New Orleans imagery, and Scott Bakula, and an underused CCH Pounder, but nothing else.

Black-ish: I wasn’t sure if this would be something a post-racial audience wants to see. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It has a very clever take on institutionalized racism and how cultural appropriation changes from generation to generation. It handles its subject matter in a way that’s never heavy-handed. It does fall prey to one tired sitcom trope though: The obnoxious man-child husband and his nagging high-strung wife. That’s not to say that Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross don’t do a great job because they do.

Selfie: That name alone is cringeworthy. So is the Pygmalion-inspired premise. This could easily be dismissed for being another instance of an older man telling a younger woman how to live her life but there’s more. You know those annoying articles about Millennials, the ones that are all “Look at these young people” as if we’re a weird alien species that’s too self-absorbed and doesn’t play by their rules? This is the comedy version of that. Everything is soooooooo exaggerated in a “This is what kids are doing nowadays” manner. Do any of us Millennials with a functioning brain (the vast majority) not realize that our thousands of Instagram followers are not the same as our few close friends? It breaks my heart because of how much I love both John Cho and Karen Gillan, but this does nothing for them.

Manhattan Love Story: At least 10 years too late to the small screen. Every cliche character trope from the countless romantic comedies about young singles living where else but in Manhattan, is rolled into one show. The gender differences don’t seem humorous here, they just seem pigeonholing and at times even offensive. Women are always too emotional, men are always too horny.The two worlds don’t understand each other. Let’s have another piece of entertainment indoctrinate the same set of stereotypes in our minds yet again. Who thought this was a good idea? Did they come via time machine from 1989? (The year Harry met Sally).

A to Z: Read the above. Swap the internal monologues with whirlwind sexual encounters. This one does feature voiceover from the flawless Katey Sagal, but the novelty ends there.

Marry Me: Read the above yet again, because that couple is now in their mid-late 30’s and is trying to get married, how else but one mishap at a time.

Stalker: When Kevin Williamson tried crime procedurals with The Following, it was a huge letdown (but still worth watching from time to time for a Kevin Bacon dose). He redeems himself with Stalker! Very well executed, and Liz Friedlander is beyond underrated as a director. It refreshingly captures the West Coast setting far better than most shows, and stars my future wife Maggie Q and my dude crush Dylan McDermott as co-leads with chemistry so good, it’s Fillion/Katic intense!

Bad Judge: Much like “Laura” above, this show seems confused about its tone. It’s actually a disappointment for the most part. You really really want it to be good but it just isn’t. There are some redeeming points, the story arc with Kate Walsh and the kid is quite touching, but then it feels out of place with where the rest of the show is going. Hopefully the writers can pull together the structure in time.

More new shows will be reviewed as they air.