Showing posts with label film essays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label film essays. Show all posts

Thursday, April 25, 2019

How Iron Man (2008) Changed Superhero Movies Forever

Superhero movies weren't new when Iron Man strolled onto the scene in 2008. Superman had been fighting kryptonite since 1976. Throughout the 1990s to early 2000s went either straight-to-video (Captain America and The Death of the Incredible Hulk) or were on their third sequels (X-Men, Spider-Man). Though Christopher Nolan's Batman overshadowed 2008 with The Dark Knight, a string of lukewarm movies (Daredevil, Fantastic Four, and Ghost Rider) made the superhero genre seem less and less like a gamble worth betting on.

But fast-forward ten years from 2008, and generations have grown up knowing and loving the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. With a slew of characters and multiple spin-offs on the way, Iron Man is where it all started and where it changed everything, and where it seems to remain as one of the most underrated Marvel films.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Imperfect Complexity of Jackson & Ally

A Star Is Born portraits photographer Peter Lindbergh
photographer Peter Lindbergh
When A Star Is Born was released in late 2018, it received acclaim by both critics and moviegoers. But a not-so-subtle critique about the film was how it didn’t change its messaging about the tragic love story or its characters: does a male lead have to sacrifice himself as a woman rises to the top of their industry? Is the relationship between the love birds toxic more than purely romantic? With my love of director Bradley Cooper’s latest version in mind, I wondered about Jackson Maine and Ally Campana both on the page and screen, and if anything has truly changed in eighty-four years. (This post is l-o-n-g. Thanks in advance if you take the time to read it. Hope you enjoy!)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Why It’s Okay To Lean Onto Fandom in Troubled Times

Every day there are always more shocking and disturbing headlines highlighting what’s going wrong in the world. Not that tragic, controversial, or destructive incidents haven’t been occurring since the beginning of time, but now with social media, the spotlight singles out every event at the same time: gun violence, net neutrality, police brutality, incompetent governments, Families Belong Together, horrific allegations of abuse and sexual assault - to name a few. As technology captures every minuscule or massive piece of news, the world never stops watching and reporting, moving faster than humans can process one event from the next.

The news has become so rampant and extreme, reality is a blender of all of our scariest dystopias because life is becoming a real dystopia. One day it’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The next day it’s 1984. Or Brave New World or Animal Farm. Combining them all together can feel like we're in a never-ending episode of Black Mirror, so much so we only wish Rod Serling was narrating us for The Twilight Zone. While we all have the best intentions to log onto the internet or social media to stay-up-to-date, what we see and read almost binds us to our sails being deflated. No matter what at the end of the day we're still normal people with a sense of responsibility to the world around us, who are also trying to do our best. But it's also so easy to feel absolutely helpless about it all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What A Strong Female Character Means To Me

Women are more than cardboard cut-outs. But that's not how they are portrayed in pop culture. One term comes up a lot when the media or a fandom want to describe them, and that's Strong Female Character. In fact, that label comes up so much, I'm at a point where I don't know what it means anymore except that if there's a poster of a heroine wielding a weapon "she's a bad-ass and I'm automatically supposed to love her".

Recently I started thinking about SFCs, and how they're stuck with a copy-and-paste-personality of one part brawns and two parts boobs, measured by a standard that keeps moving and yet stands still. If a heroine dismantles the system, she's automatically more interesting than the ones who stay behind to serve in politics or keep their families safe. If an independent bosslady falls in love, that's the only aspect of their life that matters. If the girl-next-door doesn't want anything to do with a guy, he'll convince her until she gives in. And so it goes. Too often SFCs are experts at falling into one trope or having one mission, but fail hopelessly at everything else in their lives. 

When I think of my favorite female characters, they come from all walks of life in fandom:  Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Okoye/Shuri/Nakia from Black Panther, all of the women from The Walking Dead, Uhara from Star Trek, Princess Leia, Rey, and Rose from Star Wars. And the list goes on and on. They take on unique roles, sometimes the hardest ones if the writing is deplorable, and explore different arcs of a story. But they have a few traits in common: they're personable, layered, and multi-faceted. And that's why I started figuring out - what is a strong female character anywaysHow do you define Strong Female Character? Who are some of your favorites? I'd love to know in the comments below!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

10 Favorite Memories of Harry Potter (so far)

Harry Potter's been alive and well for two decades. While celebrating the 20th anniversary, I started wondering what bewitching memories I've been lucky enough to experience since I was a kid. From reading the books for the first time to visiting the theme parks, it's been one magical journey so far. Let's take a dip into my own little pensieve with a tour of my ten favorite memories as a Potterhead. What are your favorite memories of Harry Potter so far? Feel free to let me know in the comments!

Monday, June 26, 2017

What Harry Potter Means to Me

On June 26th, 2017, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone turns officially turns twenty years old. As a devout Potterhead, I tried thinking back to the time when I was a kid during the very beginning of the series J.K. Rowling had created. I don't remember much about the nineties, and maybe that's a good thing, just by the lack of coherent trends that took place then. The memories that came to mind was just how much Harry Potter means to me, and the weird road it took from pre-fan to a hardcore one.

Unlike an almost entire generation, I didn't grow up with Harry Potter in a typical way - dressing up and queuing at bookstores, anxiously reading each new adventure, chatting and befriending other Hogwarts students on forums and websites until the new book was released. Ultimately, being apart of the fandom culture that is so much more well-known and celebrated today in the open.

As a pre-teen, my little town was very hush hush about the wizarding world. In classes, kids who were given permission by their parents to read the books were as odd as the ones who were forbidden. My classmates chatted about their favorite characters, but it all felt very off-limits; that even though it was allowed, it was still wrong. It didn't help matters much that the quiet protest at school was only amplified on the news with groups hailing the Rowling's fantasy saga as 'evil' and 'satanic' burned copies, and the increasing controversy that the series was recruited impressionable children into worshipping the occult.

Either from the library or my mother, somehow I managed to finagle Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban. I don't remember reading them in secret, one after another, but being shy, I hardly ever vocalized what or how much I loved the books. If my mom took me to the mall, of which Warner Bros. used to have stores filled with Loony Toons, Animaniacs, and Harry Potter merchandise, I'd usually oggle everything knowing it was too expensive to buy but secretly wanting it anyways. She knew I was interested, but we didn't really know how much by a long shot.

Then, the one time I really expressed my love of Harry, everything changed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Where Did All The Rom-Coms Go?

Similar to studios releasing horror movies into theaters at New Years or Christmas movies in July, romantic comedies haven't been relegated to February releases in several years. But it still has remained a strange mood to adjust to when Cupid's month rolls around and there isn't a bundle of swoon-worthy films to enjoy a girls' weekend or single's dalliance at the theaters. In fact, looking at the next year ahead in 2017, only a handful of romantic-centered movies are coming out in theaters or on a streaming service like Netflix. And the lack of popularity of this once inescapable genre makes me ask: where did all the rom-coms go?

While pondering about recent releases at home and in theaters, I reasoned that my inability to find more options was because my own personal tastes for this genre are limited. Generally, I like to be swept off of my feet, but prefer rom-coms where the characters aren't around to fill a 'swooning' quota, the script offers dynamic dialogue, and the story has something other to offer than just two people falling in love. Mostly, I don't like to watch comedies where guys just ogle the girl-next-door or use women for their own macho rivals with other bros. My favorites run the lines between You've Got Mail and Bridget Jones’s Diary to sweeping epics like Titanic and Pride and Prejudice - basically flicks that could be denounced as a romantic movie at a glance but I'm not compelled to defend its chick flick sensibilities.

In looking back on films in 2016, I realized the grand sum of what I had seen was two: How To Be Single, a hot mess about three women learning to be single by not being single, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which pits Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy against the zombie apocalypse.  Even though my own preferred style of rom-coms is limited, I was hard-pressed to find not only rom-coms where the women are swept off their feet but lifestyle movies - where women are as focused on their career and family as they are on their relationships - and came up short. Whether released online or in theaters, around or far-away from Valentine's Day, the genre has slowly started to wither away.

But if rom-coms aren't as popular as they used to be, have they subtly transformed into another genre altogether that we just can't recognize them anymore.

There's nothing inherently wrong about movies where women find the love of their lives. We escape from real life in many ways, and surely, one of them is to have an amazing designer wardrobe, high-profile job, and finding fervent fantasies with Mr and Mrs Right through our celebrity crushes. However, considering some of the biggest money makers or influential actresses over the past few years, women flocked to theaters to see many different types of movies, and yet the genre hasn't been able to maintain its previous influence:

The Devil Wears Prada put Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt on the map as assistants to a powerful fashion magazine editor played by Meryl Streep. The movie focuses on the duo getting ahead in their careers and the double standards of female bosses versus men.

Magic Mike flipped the tables on women as the typical eye-candy by turning Hollywood’s hottest ab-actors like Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey into strippers.

Bridesmaids, with Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Bryne, and, was the female answer to The Hangover, where competition between a maid-of-honor and a bridesmaid causes chaos before a friend’s wedding.

Over the years, rom-coms have changed from the inside out. Thanks to the likes of comedians like Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Bullock, and Kristen Wiig, women have moved into the comedy genre where their characters purely bring on the laughs instead of the love. Meanwhile, other actresses like Reese Witherspoon and Julia Roberts have grown out of the  'American Sweethearts' image to take on more mature, complicated roles, and more up-and-coming actresses strive for complex roles in indies and dramas than the typical boy-meets-girl route in young adult.

Just as moviegoers want to see more dynamic women in science-fiction, fantasy, and action, women in romance have come to closely resemble real women living next-to-normal lives. More subtly, other types of movies focusing on relationships or singledom have come to the forefront in the form of independent movies focusing on heartbreak or topical social issues: A broken marriage was torn to pieces with Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling’s characters in Blue Valentine; Joseph Gordon-Levitt went through the complicated seasons of love to co-star Zooey Deschanel in the indie 500 Days of Summer; a comedian played by Jenny Slate faces having an abortion after a one-night stand in Obvious Child. And if a film still centers on a women's love life, the dynamics of stories we used to know like the back of our hands have changed: characters aren't limited to just being completed by someone else, women befriend other women without becoming enemies or fighting over the same guy, and are starting to prominently feature LGBTQ couples and minorities.

In asking myself where did the rom-com genre go, I also have to ask how it has changed. It hasn’t necessarily gone anywhere – just that the ones we're used to are on a break. To have any sort of comeback at all, the genre has to become smarter, well-rounded, and inclusive.

What do you guys think? Do you miss rom-coms? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Hollywood's Golden Underdog: Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio Hueur Link
As far back as I can remember, Leonardo DiCaprio has been one of my favorite movie stars. The tall tale of his fans' adoration is an extraordinarily common one: young girl watches Titanic (or Romeo and Juliet), falls in love, and continuously cries out for the subsequent snubs he's received with every Academy Awards ceremony.

Rewind back to my 1997 where every friend, friend of friend, and relative took me to see Titanic - a film about two fictional passengers from opposite social classes who fall in in love on the fated ocean liner. The chemistry between the film's stars Kate Winslet and DiCaprio radiated on-screen making it easy for the world to fall head over heels. As I grew up, most movies of my teenagerdom fell to the wayside except for Titanic. Its intricate production was filed into my fandom archives under "I Will Defend This Movie Until My Last Breath". And, DiCaprio remained a hardcore favorite.

Pinpointing the exact origin of my love for his work is difficult. His good looks probably played a role a long time ago, as time has passed, his ability to move from teenage heartthrob into mature actor has become an increasingly influential quality I've admired.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fifty Shades of Confused

50 Shades of Grey Movie Essay
Excluding a few excerpts I heard online and around friends, I had no idea what the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon was in 2011. The sweeping story of Anastasia Steele being swept off her feet by a control freak and "BDSM" millionaire Christian Grey didn't sound special, let alone memorable. Yet the series pulled in sales by the hundreds of millions and attracted just as many genuine readers. Parodies and celebrity readings went viral while targeted quotes haunted aspiring writers. Criticism of author E.L. James was less than favorable, and for the adult world of literature, the buzz for her series was as big as the magical obsession many bookworms had towards J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter.

If you follow me online, and put up with my incessant reblogs, you are well-aware of my current obsession with Fifty Shades of Grey. But, as obvious as my interest in the film might be, you can also call me Fifty Shades of Confused. I still don't know how I became obsessed with this series, even if most of it is directed towards movie.

What would a series where the author and editors copied and replaced the names Bella and Edward from Twilight into a literary sensation have anything to do with me? Three years later when the first movie teaser was released mid-2014, a little inkling of curiosity sprung out of nowhere. My excuse, was: HUH. I like the trailer. *fifty views later* Okay, I really like the trailer. Maybe in February I'd want to see the movie. Well, if I see the movie, I have to read the books. OMG, FIND ME THE BOOKS. THE MOVIE IS COMING OUT. I NEED IT NOW.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jake Gyllenhaal's Climb to Leading Man Material

photograph by Dove Shore
Every six months or so it seems a title of Best Leading Man Ever is passed around. Cleverly, the media tries to distract us into thinking there is only one actor who has ever earned the blue ribbon of being leading man material. But really stardom is a cycle: One month it's George Clooney, the next it's Brad Pitt, or Ben Affleck or Matthew McConaughey, and onwards.

Though the media tries to convince us, there's hardly ever just one man in the limelight, behind the curtain, or capable of having it all. One actor comes to mind who has recently popped up on everyone's radar, and has utilized his nearly lifelong recognition in film with attentive creativity and ambition. That guy, which comes to mind, is Jake Gyllenhaal.

For such a mildly young talent (34 years old), it's difficult to remember that he has been tagged with fame since he was eleven years old. And yet his career has garnered just about the right amount of everything it takes to be successful in Hollywood without becoming a warning label of toxic fame for young Hollywood. His climb to leading man material earnestly means that for as far as his career has taken him so far, he always seems on the cusp of re-inventing himself as a starring actor.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Master of Resurgence: The Strangely Brilliant Career of Ben Affleck

In comparison to the McConnaissance - a media-wide hailed return of Matthew McConaughey - Ben Affleck's star status has held up strong despite the variety of guilty pleasure movies he's starred in. After nearly twenty years in showbusiness, the California actor has evolved into a filmmaker forging a strangely brilliant career.

Before he had taken on roles in major blockbusters, Affleck's filmography kicked off on a high note. After acting in several indie movies, the young impressive star and co-star/writer/actor/friend Matt Damon struck gold with Good Will Hunting. An unrecognized genius student (Damon) is forced to become a therapist's patient (Robin Williams) after assaulting a police officer. Gaining critical acclaim, the 1998 drama earned the newbies an Academy Award for Best Screenplay and an Academy Award for supporting actor Robin Williams.