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Academy Awards 2014 Highlights

It’s fair to say that this year’s Academy Awards marked a departure from previous years. Despite Ellen DeGeneres’ humour falling slightly flat at times, the event was considerably less of a snooze/cringe/misogyny-fest  in comparison to 2013’s We Saw Your Boob’s, the cast of Les Miserables’ ensemble performance and general hosting fail by Seth MacFarlane. The atmosphere – both viewing at home and in the audience, was a much more relaxed affair. Here are a few of the highlights:

The big winners were Gravity (7 awards) and 12 Years A Slave (3)

 Meaning that Alfonso Cuarón was the event’s first Mexican recipient of the Best Director award, and Steve McQueen its first black Best Picture winner.

Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress, meaning that J-Law can resume being adorable, as she did when attempting to steal Lupita’s gong.

jlaw-lupita

 Despite having 10 nominations, American Hustle walked away empty-handed.

This made The Wolf of Wall Street’s losses a lot more tolerable.

Cate Blanchett gave an inspiring acceptance speech – calling out Hollywood for its denial that women-led films can’t be box-office hits, saying:

I’m so very proud that Blue Jasmine stayed in the cinemas for as long as it did. And thank you to Sony Classics, to Michael and Tom for their extraordinary support. For so bravely and intelligently distributing the film and to the audiences who went to see it and perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.

Lupita, Meryl and Amy got their dance on.

And erm, Ellen achieved the most retweeted selfie of all time.

Winners:

Best Picture – 12 Years a Slave

Best Actor – Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress – Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Best Supporting Actor – Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Best Adapted Screenplay – 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley)

Best Original Screenplay – Her (Spike Jonze)

Best Animated Feature – Frozen

Best Cinematography – Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki)

Best Costume Design – The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin)

Best Directing – Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)

Best Documentary Feature – 20 Feet from Stardom (Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen, Caitrin Rogers)

Best Documentary Short – The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (Malcolm Clarke, Nicholas Reed)

Best Film Editing – Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger)

Best Foreign Language – FilmThe Great Beauty (Italy)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Dallas Buyers Club (Adruitha Lee, Robin Mathews)

Best Original Score – Gravity (Steven Price)

Best Original Song – Let It Go – Frozen

Best Production Design – The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin, Beverley Dunn)

Best Animated Short Film – Mr. Hublot (Laurent Witz, Alexandre Espigares)

Best Live Action Short Film – Helium (Anders Walter, Kim Magnusson)

Best Sound Editing – Gravity (Glenn Freemantle)

Best Sound Mixing –  Gravity (Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, Chris Munro)

Best Visual Effects – Gravity (Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, Neil Corbould)

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Watch Olivia Wilde Discuss the Role of Women in Hollywood

This clip shows actor Olivia Wilde discuss the limited roles available to women working in Hollywood as part of a panel titled State of Female Justice, noting the unwillingness of film distributors to green-light projects with female leads. Wilde demonstrates a great awareness of her position in the industry, stating that as storytellers, it is up to filmmakers (herself included) to educate the public on equality. She makes reference to Alien and Salt, as being two films starring female protagonists – Sigourney Weaver and Angelina Jolie – which had originally been written with male leads in mind.

As this chart shows, women make up half of cinema audiences (if not slightly more), rendering the old supply and demand argument for male-centric movie content invalid.

cinema-demographics

As can be seen by the box office success of  The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Gravity and Frozen in 2013, audiences are not unwilling to watch female-led movies; however, as long as the majority of parts written for women are that of the throwaway love interest/long-suffering wife, cinema will continue to be created with male driven plots and male audiences in mind. This theory can not only be applied to women, but also to racial minorities: for example, most commercial productions still promote tired stereotypes of African Americans (see use of the angry black woman cliche in Anchorman 2), rather than as multi-faceted individuals. Diversity in Hollywood merely requires the formation of well-written characters, irrelevant of gender or race.


The Antichrist that is Lars Von Trier

After being left feeling astounded at the masterpiece that was 2011’s Melancholia, I took it upon myself to delve into this director’s back catalogue.

I started off with Dancer in the Dark, thinking this was going to be some uplifting tale of a blind woman who rose up from her difficult social circumstances to make it into the glamorous world of Hollywood, boy was I wrong…what I got was theft, murder and death by hanging, all to the hypnotising soundtrack of Bjork. It was brutal seeing the suffering this woman went through to try and prevent her son from suffering the same illness that she did, but it just left me feeling cold and empty.

My most significant memory of this film was this…which came years before I even saw it.

Next I tried Dogville. I read about the themes which interested me as well as the casting of Nicole Kidman and Paul Bettany. However after about 20 minutes I gave up, unable to get to grips with the chalk lined setting. I’d like to revisit this film but its 178 minute long running time along with the ‘unrealistic’ setting doesn’t exactly spark my interest.

Afterwards I turned to Breaking the Waves, which I’m still avoiding. I’ve heard it’s Von Trier’s best work and although again the narrative themes sound appealing, just imagining these compared to what I’ve seen already fills me with dread.

This brings me to the main event, Antichrist, a film I’ve been daring myself to watch for at least a year and didn’t build up the courage until last night. Well, I had already read a scene by scene synopsis to really let myself know what I was in for – this actually made it sound much more gruesome than what actually unfolded.

The opening shower sex scene was horrible; I didn’t need to see that penetration. The actual death of the child left me completely unaffected. Without going into an ENTIRE plot summary, ‘She’ (Charlotte Gainsbourg) becomes deeply depressed and anxious after this death, which I forgot to mention occurred at the same time as the ‘act of love’ was in full action. ‘He’ (William Dafoe) is a psychologist who tries to help his wife through this, eventually taking a trip to ‘Eden’, a forest which She admits to being the place she fears the most.

This was where I expected an all-out gore-fest. What I got was a nasty scene where She masturbated underneath a tree, before having sex with He, then throwing a piece of wood, rock, or whatever onto his penis. She then proceeds to masturbate him, while blood spurts out of his penis. He remains unconscious the whole time, while She then screwdrives her way through his leg and pushes and pulls a finger out of the bloody hole. She then cuts off her clitoris with a pair of rusty scissors, He wakes up and strangles her then burns her body and attempts to make his way out of the woods.

Oh by the way, there’s also a talking fox.

Antichrist contains many elements which intrigue me – She wrote her thesis on the persecution of women through the ages, the work She read while researching this then led to her concluding that women are evil and I assume the burning of her body was some kind of metaphor for this. However I really don’t see what all the fuss was about apart from including gutsy performances by mainstreamish actors. I’m renowned for my fear of horror and was actually disappointed by the lack of extremity I’d heard so much talk of.

On the other hand, Melancholia is a genuine piece of art. Von Trier’s next project is ‘The Nymphomaniac’. Having just watched the trailer for this, I can’t see myself venturing out to the local Cineworld to view it, but will likely make the effort to catch it on DVD. It does make me wonder what torture he’ll plan for his female characters next. Think I’ll choose The Idiots as my next venture into this director’s work, apparently it includes some humour.

Here’s the Nymphomaniac trailer (I think we can all agree that the casting of Shia LaBeouf is enough to make us feel a little bit squeamish towards it):


Sheldon Cooper’s Best Moments

The Bad Fish Paradigm

The Itchy Brain Simulation

The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis

The Wheaton Recurrence

The Launch Acceleration

also this:


Joss Whedon has a Problem with the Word Feminist

In Whedon’s recent speech at an Equality Now benefit (of which he is an Advisory Board member), he encapsulates current problems with the term ‘feminist’, and instead offers an alternative expression.

Speaking of gender equality, Whedon states: “You either believe women are people or you don’t. It’s that simple.”

 


Joss Whedon Much Ado Interview – The Audio

While I have already posted the text version of the Joss Whedon round-table interview I took part in prior to Much Ado About Nothing’s UK premiere at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, I thought it would be much more fun for people (ie. Whedonites) to have the chance to actually hear the great man’s responses in the context they were said, rather than my written interpretation of them.

– Just to note – I have no idea if copyright law allows me to publish this, but I’m going to take my chances.


Representations of Dystopia in Ridley Scott’s Blate Runner (part 3)

Technology:

The most prominent technological ‘achievement’ is clearly the replicant. Elizabeth Paddon says that in science fiction writers have ‘Invented new words or repurposed existing words to describe speculative ideas that have not yet been achieved by science.’[1] The word ‘replicant’ was clearly born out of replicate, meaning to make an exact reproduction of something. Replicants are artificial beings that have been created by the Tyrell Corporation to be used as slave labour on the off-world colonies. They are indistinguishable from humans, but only have a life-span of four years to enable their human masters to remain in control.

Due to the ‘more human than human’ nature of these machines they can be considered to be simulations of reality, an embodiment of Jean Baudrillard’s third order of simulacra. The replicants exist as copies of humans but do not have an original.[2] They are hyperreal, which poses moral implications. Joseph Francavilla writes:

The replicants in Blade Runner have virtually no right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness…[the film’s] artificial form of the double presents a moral question about the creator’s responsibilities towards his living creations (and their rights) that remains a vexed one.[3]

This problem becomes prominent due to the increasingly emotional side the viewer sees of the replicants, which emphasises the dehumanised portrayal of the human characters. This is ultimately displayed when Roy Batty, leader of the Nexus-6 group of replicants, allows Deckard to live; knowing that he himself is coming to the end of his short life span.

Ultimately it is Roy who is the hero of the film, highlighting how blurred the line of good and evil has become. This theme has also been raised in the television show Battlestar Galactica, which also revolves around humans battling against robots they created and who have since evolved to emulate them.[4] The show adopted the term ‘skin-jobs’ to describe the machines also known as ‘Cylons’, a derogatory term initially used in Blade Runner for the replicants. Mark A. McCutcheon says:

As the series progresses, questions of human responsibility for the Cylon ‘machines’ deepen and overlap…the Cylons routinely blame humanity for its own annihilation…Battlestar’s ‘war on terror’ allegory is deeply ambiguous in blurring the lines between good and evil, friend and enemy, human and inhuman.[5]

Frequently we see the Cylons act more justly than our main protagonists. Just as they seek revenge on their makers, the replicants strive for justice for the hand they have been dealt. Mirroring Frankenstein’s monster, Roy murders Tyrell; but which of them can be considered the real villain here?[6]

The replicant Rachael is used as an experiment by Tyrell. Initially she does not know what she is and believes she is human. This is due to her having been given prosthetic memories by Tyrell. After Deckard tells her she is a replicant, Rachael defends herself with photographs from her past. Alison Landsberg states that: ‘The photograph, she hopes, will both validate her memory and authenticate her past.’[7] These pictures serve as proof of her existence, but really only show the lengths Tyrell will go to in the name of science. False memories and photographs as evidence are also used similarly in Ghost in the Shell, again raising similar questions of identity and humanity, such as whether a cyborg can possess a soul.

Photographs are used in a second example of technological advancement, this time in relation to the ‘Esper machine’. This device allows Deckard to search a photograph intensely, going beyond the limits of the image captured on camera. Judith B. Kerman says this is ‘Stunning as a commentary on privileged sight as an aspect of power and as an extrapolation on the tradition of the Private Eye.’[8] This is an extreme take on surveillance, proving how policed this world is. Nothing can remain private, showing the limited freedom of its citizens.

In Part 4 I will investigate how gender – particularly femininity – has played a role in Blade Runner’s dystopia.


[1] Elizabeth Padden, , ‘The Word-Pocalypse: Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse and Dystopian Language’, Student Pulse, 3.11 (2011) <http://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=591&gt; [accessed 1 April 2012] (para 15 of 96)

[2] Jean Baudrillard, ‘Simulacra and Science Fiction’, Science Fiction Studies, 18.3 (1991) < http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/55/baudrillard55art.htm&gt; [accessed 2 April 2012]

[3] Joseph Francavilla, ‘The Android as Doppelganger’, in Retrofitting Blade Runner: Issues in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, ed. by Judith B. Kerman (London: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991), p. 9.

[4] Battlestar Galactica. Sci-Fi Channel. 9 December 2003.

[5] Mark A. McCutcheon, ‘Downloading Doppelgangers: New media anxieties and transnational ironies in Battlestar Galactica’, Science Fiction Film and Television, 2.1 (2009), p. 7.

[6] Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (London: Penguin Books, 2003)

[7] Alison Landsberg, ‘Prosthetic Memory: Total Recall and Blade Runner’, Liquid Metal: The Science Fiction Film Reader, ed. by Sean Redmond (London: Wallflower Press, 2007), p. 245.

[8] Judith B. Kerman, ‘Technology and Politics in the Blade Runner Dystopia’, in Retrofitting Blade Runner: Issues in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, ed. by Judith B. Kerman (London: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991), p. 19.