Annakarinaland

Annakarinaland
Anna Karina in Pierre le Fou

2013-03-15

Romanian drama 'Beyond the Hills' sets lesbian characters back years


Romanian drama 'Beyond the Hills' sets lesbian characters back years


Beyond the Hills

Rating:
Star
Star
Star
Star
Star
The award for one of the most backward portraits of lesbians in recent film history would have to go to "Beyond the Hills" opening in San Francisco March 15. The film is set in a Romanian convent where a young woman comes to visit her past lover after working in Germany. They had plans to live together and Alina (Cristina Flutur) was even saving up to buy land for a home. But Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) decides she doesn't want to leave the monastery with her and Alina flips out.

Worst lesbian onscreen characters in recent years; Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur, best actress award at Cannes 2012.
Wildbunch

The "Father" and "Mother" as they are called of the monastery do a "pray in", chaining Alina to a wooden board in a bizarre sort of exorcism. The treatment raised the eyes and ears of critics in the recent Cannes Film Festival and it was considered a front-runner for the Palme d’Or. You could either love it or hate it. The film is an indictment on the religious and medical persecution of "hysterical" women, who usually have some background that qualifies them to be "hysterical", as in this case.
The actresses in the film, Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan, shared the award for best actress but the consensus of the critics is that this was not an exceptional Cannes festival year.
Director Christian Mungiu won the best screenplay for the film and this must have been because of the cinematography that adorns this barren story.
To create a lesbian couple where only one of the two is willing to admit it, and the other in the worst throws of unrequited love keeps hurling herself at a religious fanatic, her former girlfriend, is a screenplay nightmare considering all the inroads that have been made about lesbian characters in recent years. It would be well to avoid Romanian monasteries for the adventuresome lesbian of today. Run for the hills! There are no good female role models in the film either, where nuns try to remedy the two girls and get Alina to calm down and pray to God to be relieved of same sex love. All rely on the priest who is the father figure of the convent and who tries to be a father to the wayward lesbians amidst his Christian colony.
Not even the jury of the Queer Palm felt this picture of a closeted lesbian and a victimized love addict was strong enough to motivate an award in opposition to the ideas of the official jury. Take note that jury decisions at film festivals are arbitrary but the Cannes awards for this film were eye-opening.

2013-02-26

'Silver Linings Playbook' gives Jennifer Lawrence her first Oscar

By Moira Sullivan


When Jennifer Lawrence was asked to be on the Actor’s Studio she declined claiming she has no 'method' of acting.  She has played strong women in 'Winter’s Bone' and 'The Hunger Games', and now in 'Silver Linings Playbook'. Since declining to be interrogated by the caustic James Lipton she may inspire many young actors who haven't had a formal acting, singing and dancing education from the minute they were born.  There are some like Lawrence who are creative souls that are born to act.

At 22 Lawrence has made uncanny remarks that reveal introspection and wisdom. Her take on life is refreshing and her sense of humor is endearing. At the Oscar backstage press conference she remarked in gest that journalists, all issued with numbers, were taking turns making fun at her, such as if she worried that success had come too soon. "I do now", she answered clearly taken aback by the question.
In a recent interview she reveals she doesn't like to talk about herself, and that it is not healthy to do this all the time. At home she may wear the same clothes three days in a row. She also feels the penetrating eyes of the paparazzi and knows her personal freedom has been clipped. It is a bit scary to see what the fashion designers and photographers are doing with her much like Kristen Stewart where she is asked to pose as personas such as for Dior that are very much unlike the person she appears to be in her interviews. Will fame change Jennifer Lawrence? It probably will if she doesn't have good people looking out for her. This brings to mind the truthfulness of the comments of Jodie Foster at the Golden Globes who said there was a camera in her face from an early age.

"Silver Linings Playbook" directed by David O Russell is moving and engaging. Two misfits who are taking medication for depression - Tiffany (Lawrence) and  Pat (Bradley Cooper) meet while jogging. Pat has been issued a restraining order towards his girlfriend and now lives at home with his parents. Down the street lives Tiffany, the widow of a local who took out her grief by sleeping with the male and female staff at her job and was consequently fired.  Tiffany promises to get a letter to Pat's girlfriend but wants something in return -  that Pat enter a dance contest with her.

The yin and yang of the film with complementary opposites is fairly simplistic and geared for a general audience. Dance will help make Pat feel but his father played by Robert De Niro, likes to bet on football games. He has been banned from games since he fights but wants his son to go to games for him and improve his betting odds with his neighbor. It is not hard to figure out the roots of Pat's depression growing up with this father.

Russell puts Tiffany center stage and the clever young woman suggests a bet to see if the Eagles can beat the cowboys and that she and Pat will get a score of 5 from the judges at the dance competition.
Lawrence was promoted for the Oscar by Harvey Weinstein and as she admitted at the Golden Globes she asked him "who she needed to kill" for the part. It is clear that producers push their talent for awards which increases their box office receipts. It's not altogether fair to Lawrence who shows incredible acting acumen in the film and is the lynchpin to all the other characters, even outshining Bradley Cooper.

With this award, unlike Anne Hathaway's fifteen minutes of screen space in "Les Misérables"that brought her a supporting actress Oscar, Lawrence is destined for great parts. Hopefully she won't be pigeonholed into playing women with mental problems as the result of the award, which often happens with an Oscar winning performance. One need only look to Meryl Streep to realize that it doesn't have to go this way, and one of the reasons why she is so highly regarded in the motion picture industry. "The Hunger Games" will continue and Lawrence knows what will happen here, but she is such a talented, insightful and resourceful actress that her future roles will be very exciting to follow.  The world needs more young women like Jennifer Lawrence and her Oscar is also a nod to all of us for choosing someone like her to represent our ideas about life.
© 2013 - Moira Sullivan - Date: 02/26/13

2013-01-15

Jodie Foster's Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award speech was brilliant



Jodie Foster's Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award speech was brilliant


2013-01-14

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler Reinvent the Golden Globes

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler
Thank you Hollywood Foreign Press for choosing Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as emcees of the 70th Golden Globes! The "Saturday Night Live" veterans put the Globes on a roll from the start.

Kathryn Bigelow’s nominated tonight. I haven’t really been following the controversy over "Zero Dark Thirty", but when it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent three years married to James Cameron,” intimated Poehler.
The remark went around the room in cascades of astonishment and amusement.

Then there were those other standout moments:


"JLaw", quipped presenter Will Ferrell with Kerstin Wiig about best actress in a comedy Jennifer Lawrence. In a hilarious clearly unrehearsed skit, the duo took us through their experience of the films in the category they were presenting.
On Lawrence and memorable lines from her role in “Silver Linings Playbook”, Ferrell and Wiig were as equally impressed with her as the other nominees:
"That's my cookbook!" "You get out of here",  "And she means it!" emphasized the duo.
Jennifer Lawrence acknowledged in her acceptance speech:

Jennifer Lawrence
"Oh what does this say? I beat Meryl". Lawrence in effect was referencing "First Wives Club," the classic 1996 comedy on female bonding starring Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton.
"Harvey: Thank you for killing whoever you had to kill to get me up here",  Lawrence exclaimed.
"To my brothers: I wouldn't have made it up here if you haven't been mean to me".
Well chosen words for the 22 year old actress. Go JLaw!  - a  beguiling actress with unexpected candor.

Back up at bat was Tina Fey on Anne Hathaway, best supporting actress in a motion picture:
Anne Hathaway, you gave a stunning performance in "Les Miserables" (best musical). I have not seen someone so totally alone and abandoned like that since you were on stage with James Franco at the Oscars.”
Hathaway particularly singled out fellow nominee Sally Fields who she applauded for resisting typecasting in roles from “The Flying Nun” to “Norma Rae”, to ‘Mrs. Gump’  to ‘Mary Todd Lincoln’.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone joked about their English language skills.
Stallone to Arnold: “You've been here how long? It's amazing”.

The Austrian drama “Amour”, was the winner for best foreign language film and director Michael Haneke thanked Arnold:
“I never thought to get an award in Hollywood by an Austrian", Haneke admitted. He also praised his actors Jean Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva and declared that “the Golden Globe is for those fantastic actors”.

Claire Danes won best actress in a television series for "Homeland", her fourth Globe.
“Wow!" I have to thank the HFP for being so insanely supportive of me”,  Danes gushed.
“I want to thank the other women in this category who are so brilliant and have contributed to making television this rich place with really dynamic, complex, bold, female characters."

Add to that list the characters in “Girls” created by 26 year old Lena Dunham who won best actress in a television series. The HBO series is about  20 year old women in New York based on Dunham's own life experience.
Jodie Foster
The true star of the Golden Globes this year was Jodie Foster who won the Cecil B. Demille AwardRobert Downey Jr presented her tribute, teasing that as presenter he was as important as the honoree.  Foster acknowledged Mel Gibson as one of her dearest friends and revealed that she is now single and grateful to her ex-partner Cydney Bernard of 20 years, co-parent to her two children. The 'coming out' announcement is the first on a global level.


Jodie Foster in 'Taxi Driver'
Foster has been in the business 47 years and just turned 50. It would appear from her speech like she won't be on the screen much and wants to change direction, though backstage afterwards she stressed that she has no intention of quitting acting. A compilation of clips from her films included her Oscar nominated supporting role as a 12 year old. In a scene with Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver (1976) Foster inquires, "Didn't you ever hear of women's lib?"
Though not as eloquent as her previous Oscar speeches,  Foster's Cecil B Demille award was a moving experience, all the more because of her decision to speak about who she is in a public setting. Even to her mother, Foster told her she loved her. hoping it would sink in.  She still wants her privacy and after being in the business since she was three, she deserves it. But the level of sharing that Foster did last night was something special for all of her fans and admirers around the world. It was a rare moment for Foster and a gift to us all.
As the evening wore on, more and more references were made to the free flowing spirits in the room, and comments were frequently censored for national television.

Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain was more than gracious in her acceptance speech as best actress in a motion picture drama, especially when paying tribute to Kathryn Bigelow, whom she felt embodied her character Maya in "Zero Dark Thirty". Bigelow is the only woman to win an Oscar for director and her body of work consistently shows her ability to challenge and explore the terrain with great parts for women.
“You said that filmmaking for you is not about breaking gender roles but when you make a film that allows your characters to disobey the conventions of Hollywood, you’ve done more for women in cinema that you take credit for".
Another incredibly generous and compassionate winner with a beautiful acceptance speech was Daniel Day- Lewis, best actor in a motion picture drama for "Lincoln". The British actor reasoned that if Bill Clinton came to speak for "Lincoln" why not Queen Elizabeth making a last pitch for "Skyfall". (Adele won a Globe for the theme song of the latest James Bond film). Day-Lewis praised his "humble master" director Steven Spielberg in the role he will remember all of his life.
In the end, an overwhelmed Ben Affleck won the best director award for "Argo" that was voted the best motion picture of the year.
“Holy Cow, what an incredible company to be in", remarked director Mark Adams whose film "Brave" won the best animated feature. The comment  sums up the upbeat and entertaining Golden Globes this year, a pageant where the contestants seem to feel and display more freedom than they do at the Academy Awards, coming up on February 24.

Tina Fe and Amy Poehler had just the exemplary kind of talent, acumen and appeal that put the room into such great mood that everyone who climbed the steps put out their best. This is the mark of a brilliant awards show. It was an evening in which women were especially in the spotlight and the promise of continual and versatile, powerful roles from veterans Jodie Foster to Maggie Smith to newbies Lena Dunham and Jennifer Lawrence.

Lena Dunhan and cast of "Girls".

2012-12-17

'The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey' is not a film for girls



'The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey' is not a film for girls


The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey

Rating:
Star
Star
Star
Star
Star
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", whether in 2D or 3D, on screen or on the pages of Tolkien's novels, is an epic for boys. The film opens in San Francisco this week. If you are a girl sitting in the audience it's an alienating experience. Most of the 13 dwarves are grotesque looking but the makers threw in a few attractive younger ones to soften the blow. The dwarves have all the excesses of ugly manhood: warts, unattractive bald spots, running snot, pot bellies, and all the horrible behaviors: grunting, overeating, drinking to excess and spilling liquids and crumbs on scraggly beards. 


Cate Blanchett gets made up for The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey
Warner Bros

This is a long film with lots of chase scenes and fight scenes given the age requirement of 21. Vengeance is on the minds of the dwarves. They have had their home stolen from them, and Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the Hobbit from Middle Earth who truly loves his home, is going to help get it back for them. This is a good deed, and Bilbo makes up for the hideousness of all the CGI dwarves, trolls, necromancers, goblins and fat snarling wargs. 
There is one woman with a speaking part, and we are used to her by now in so many films that without even blinking you know it's going to be ...Cate Blanchett as the elf royal Galadriel who can communicate telepathically with Gandolf (Ian McKellen). Otherwise there are a few women who are mute flute players and of course servers and some frumpy hobbit women in long shots. If you lack anything to identify with you can at least take in the beautiful scenery of the film made in New Zealand - the green valleys, rugged foothills, dark mountains capped by snow and the elements. Mother Nature is there after all.
After yet another nearly all male cast of inflated spectacular claim, the only "unexpected journey" was an epic that doesn't speak to women because there is not much to identify with.The latest Middle Earth epic is a 21st century adaptation of 'The Hobbit' (1937), as are the two other planned sequels or rather prequels to 'The Lord of the Rings'. Tolkien's hobbit and dwarf women may be marginal, but far worse are the moviemakers of today who consider women in the audience invisible, or inseparable from the mass.This new 'adaptation' from Tolkien novels does not attract young girls today unless you are willing to identify with dwarf men, a giant wizard and all the largely male foes.
Don't blame this on the book. Hobbits are related to 'men', the younger children of Ilúvatar together with the elves, and dwarves are the older children of Ilúvatar. There were mothers, and sisters, aunts and grandmothers. There is the elf queen Galadriel who was the only woman make it into Jackson's adaptation. The dwarf 'men' wanted their women to be hidden in the mountain halls in order to protect them. When dwarf women did travel, they were disguised as 'men'. Moreover, as dwarves, the women had beards. Were any of the scriptwriters interested in this queer connection for today's audiences? 
There were also Hobbit women. Bilbo's parents were Belladonna Took and Bungo Baggins, One of the well-known Hobbit women is Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and there is Dís, named for the Norse goddess Hjrodis, goddess of the sword. Dís was the daughter of King Thráin II and sister of Thorin and Frerin. There is also Rose Cotton, wife of Samwise Gamgee. Together they had a daughter named Elanor, who after Samwise's death became the "keeper" of the "Red Book of March", the story of Middle Earth written by Bilbo Baggins. There are far more women in Middle Earth than we realize, but Jackson made them invisible. 
According to Kristy Guevara-Flanagan who looks at this phenomena in WONDERWOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, only 3% of the decisions to cast women in film are made by women. So a film that does not feature any women is planned for a specific target audience that won't mind that. Tolkien's novels have been criticized for their clearly insignificant women characters, but given the time period of the late 1930's this is certainly more understandable than why today's producers would make a blockbuster largely targeted for 21+ men. 
Director Peter Jackson has made a testosterone roller coaster ride. It does feel like three hours, since there is one obstacle after another and little time to recover in between. For the uninitiated it seems like there is just one obstacle left after so many. But that is not the case. Alas, there will two more epic installments through 2014. 
Will they get their gold back? Is it worth two more films to find out?

2012-11-10

The "Bond Girls" in SKYFALL



Judi Dench as "M"
'Skyfall', which opens November 9 in San Francisco injects new blood into the 50-year James Bond cinema experience. Ever since the magnificent and audacious Judi Dench debuted as head of Her Majesty's Secret Service, James Bond has been in need of a makeover.  Dench's M refers to James Bond as a “misogynist dinosaur” and “relic of the Cold War” (Pierce Brosnan’s Bond in 'GoldenEye') and in 'Skyfall' this scrutiny continues.
Judi Dench, 1968

“Orphaned children make the best agents”, says M, and she is as close to being the mother Bond never had than anyone.

In the opening scene of 'Skyfall', James Bond is in hot pursuit of a French rogue named Patrice, an assassin who works for a master hacker who constructs remote controlled time-bombs. The assassination of M is one of the targets for destruction and Patrice carries the microchip with the names of the others.

Patrice, played by Swedish actor Ola Rapace is the former husband of Noomi Rapace ('The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo') and both actors were promoted for the films by Swedish casting agent Tusse Lande. The Scandinavian influence in James Bond films is historic. Swedish actors have played Bond girls (Britt Eklund, Izabella Scorupco and Maud Adams) and two Danish actors play villains in 'Casino Royale' (Mads Mikkelsen and Jesper Christensen) and 'Quantum of Solace' (Christensen).

The main villain in 'Skyfall', Raoul Silva, is played by Javier Bardem, a former "00 agent" whom M found expedient, as she seems to have done with Bond by allowing an M16 agent to take aim while he struggles with Patrice on a moving train. When Bond and Silva finally meet, he brings up their mutual betrayal and asks Bond if it might be uncomfortable if he had to be touched by a man in the line of duty. “What makes you think I haven’t", retorts Craig in a real update for this “Cold War relic”.
It is not only M who finds Bond ancient, Bond thinks the same, for he challenges the wisdom of the younger equivalent of Q (played by the adorable Ben Whishaw) because of the “spots” on his face. This Q does not instruct about gadgets such as the special pens and watches used by previous Bonds. Instead his expertise is in computers with huge monitors, which should appeal to the under 30 crowd the Bond franchise is hoping to attract. Bond is clearly reinvented in each installment of their 50 year old history.

In this film, we eventually travel to James Bond’s family home, Skyfall, located in Scotland. His parents died in an accident while the young James hid in a secret pathway ("priest hole")  under their house. Albert Finney plays Kincade, the gamekeeper of the Skyfall manor. Casting thoughts went to Sean Connery for this role, which director Sam Mendes considered, but it would have been a nostalgic choice. Sir Sean Connery would probably have turned it down anyway. At any rate Bond's (Connery) Aston Martin is unearthed that debuted in 'GoldFinger' (1963), an artifact from the past that proves itself more than useful.

There are many things that make this Bond film one of the best, Daniel Craig, notwithstanding. Though Craig was sought out by Bond producers for quite a while before he said yes to 'Casino Royale', he is truly far from the dark-haired and tall Bond long associated with the character (excluding Roger Moore). Sean Connery and modern Bond Pierce Brosnan were the best archetypes. Craig already shows signs of aging: a gray beard stubble and a haggard, chiseled face.

After the shooting incident with Patrice, Bond has to prove himself fit for fight and although he doesn’t actually pass the M16 batteries of tests, at least to the unsuspecting public, he makes an excellent display of dastardly agent acumen with vulnerability. This sequence is to Craig’s credit and warms us up to him more than ever, as he is slated to play a few more Bonds.

The casting of Javier Bardem is indeed brilliant and his role as the demented bitter "ex-00" Raoul Silva is delivered with subtle and sarcastic humor, and is as impressive as Christopher Walken’s Max Zorin in 'A View to Kill' (1985).
The 'good' Bond girl Domino (Kim Bassinger) and the 'bad' Bond girl'
Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera)  in' Never Say Never Again (1983)

Skyfall's Moneypenny


Less impressive are the Bond girls who have minor roles. Doubling as a minxy M16 agent and in the end as the alluring new Miss Moneypenny is the African-Brit Naomi Harris, the “good Bond girl” in a new twist for Moneypenny.  The morose "bad" Bond girl is Bérénice-Lim Marlone (France/Cambodia), who plays Sévérine, Silva’s 'girlfriend' and 'slave'. Typically the 'binders of women' for nice Bond Girls have been white (21 out of 23) and for bad girls women of color or non-Anglo origin, (15 out of 23) with notable exceptions.

The fact that the 'Skyfall ' Bond women of do not play fully constructed characters with onscreen longevity that leave their mark such as Dianna Rigg (UK) as Teresa in 'Her Majesty's Secret Service' (1976) Barbara Carrera (Nicaragua) as Fatima Blush in 'Never Say Never Again '(1983), Grace Jones (Jamaica) as "May Day" in A View to Kill (1985) and Famke Janssen (Dutch) as Xenia Onatopp in 'GoldenEye' (1995) is a notable flaw of the film.

Bérénice-Lim Marlone as Sévérine,
We have Ralph Fiennes to look forward to in future Bond films who plays Gareth Mallory, a higher up head of foreign intelligence in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. However, there is not much inner charisma or pointed sarcasm to be found here.

'Skyfall' is set in Shanghai with exquisite art direction in the nightclub where Bond meets Sévérine, and in Istanbul and Fethiye, Turkey. Surrey, England is the site for the makeshift Scottish Skyfall estate (with establishing shots in Glencoe, Scotland and Berkshire, England) and many scenes were shot in London. Raoul Silva's hideout was shot on Hashima Island, Japan.

The art design by Chris Lowe ('Quantum of Solace'), especially in Shanghai, is modern and elegant. The cinematography by Roger Deakins (who worked with Mendes on 'Revolutionary Road') is beautifully executed, combined with the seamless editing of Stuart Baird who worked on 'Casino Royale'.

England’s very own Adele sings the Bond theme song “Skyfall”.

Director Sam Mendes, the mastermind behind 'Skyfall', distinguishes himself by making one of the best Bond films to date. Together with producer Barbara Broccoli, he assembled all the right talent and instructed them in crafting a brilliant film.
James Bond films navigate a time-honored pathway involving a series of challenges that agent 007 skillfully overcomes in exotic places with beautiful women, and in the end a brilliant master villain is caught with a big bang. This is the connaisseur Bond spectator reward and 'Skyfall' delivers on schedule.
'Skyfall' is brilliant gift for the golden anniversary of James Bond films Moira Sullivan, San Francisco - Examiner.com, November 9, 2012