On Thursday, the Criterion Channel has joined the likes of A24 and Bad Robot in coming out to help support the fight against systemic racism, as well as advocate police reform and support for protestors throughout the United States, according to IndieWire. In an email from Criterion president Peter Becker and CEO Jonathan Turell, the company announced a $25,000 initial contribution, in addition to an ongoing $5,000 monthly donation, to organizations that back Black Lives Matter. Criterion will also lift the paywall on titles from Black filmmakers and white documentarians who have captured the Black experience, available on their homepage.
Between violent confrontations with police in protests over George Floyd’s death, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as record unemployment rates, there is little to celebrate about this year’s Pride Month, according to The New York Times. This isn’t to say all Pride events are canceled or postponed, because many can still be enjoyed online, such as virtual drag shows, benefit concerts, and, of course, “entertaining and evocative” films about the queer community and its history. Seven of these movies are: Arthur J. Bressan Junior’s Gay USA (1977); Greta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg’s Before Stonewall (1984); Christopher Ashley’s Jeffrey (1995); Gus Van Sant’s Milk (2008); Matthew Warchus’s Pride (2014); Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017); and David France’s The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017).
As protests continue to rage over the death of George Floyd, Black social justice leaders as well as scholars urge people wanting to make a change to educate themselves on systemic racism through books, conversations, movies, and documentaries, according to ABC. Doctor Creshema Murray, founding fellow at The Center for Critical Race Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown, published her first book in 2018, Leadership Through The Lens: Interrogating Production, Presentation, and Power. “Television and film is a way for us to disconnect from what’s happening in the real world, but it’s also a tool for us to understand,” says Doctor Murray.
Hollywood has a longstanding tradition of producing comedies about men dressed up as women.
Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959), in addition to its six Academy Award nominations, was voted as the top comedy film of all time by the American Film Institute on their “100 Years… 100 Laughs” poll.
While a man in drag shouldn’t be the butt of the joke in today’s climate (nor should they ever have been), these pictures, when viewed critically, can still yield a smile to your face.
Sydney Pollack’s Tootsie (1982) is one of the most warm-hearted, least mean-spirited of these examples.
If you don’t know what to watch next, Tootsie is available to stream on Netflix. The comedy was nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, as well as Best Original Screenplay. Jessica Lange won for Best Supporting Actress.
Set in New York, Michael Dorsey (Best Actor nominee Dustin Hoffman) is an actor with a reputation for being difficult to work with.
When his friend, Sandy Lester (Best Supporting Actress nominee Teri Garr), tries out for the role of Emily Kimberly on popular daytime soap opera Southwest General, an unemployed Michael auditions as “Dorothy Michaels” and gets cast.
However, “Dorothy” becomes a star, forcing Michael into a dilemma wherein he must reconcile his success with his and Sandy’s relationship, and his feelings for costar Julie Nichols (Lange).
Tootsie is second only to Some Like It Hot on the AFI’s “100 Years… 100 Laughs,” surpassing even Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), and it is preserved at the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry.
It is as romantic as it is comedic. Between Sandy and Julie, the dramatic stakes escalate the tension to a breathless climax.
Indeed, Lange defines star presence as Julie. One of the greatest actresses of her generation, she may be more recognized now for her tenure on FX’s American Horror Story (2011-), but she hits her marks as the infamously Method Hoffman’s love interest.
She can be funny without coming at the expense of her pathos, and you can’t help but fall for Julie, too.
Aside from the film’s questionable sexual and gender politics, Tootsie also suffers from Hoffman’s presence in it. After all, he was a name named as part of the #MeToo movement.
Not to mention, he made self-congratulatory comments during an interview about how he needed to play “Dorothy Michaels” to learn sexism is a thing.
Again, Tootsie is for the critical consumer. If you can look past the era it represents, you will find yourself taken by its romance and its wit. It is a movie with both a heart and a mind, which is what makes it as comforting for the soul as falling in love itself.
Extinction Rebellion has enlisted sixty-four-year-old Hollywood star Whoopi Goldberg for their three-minute climate change film, The Gigantic Change, which goes live on their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram for World Environment Day, according to Inside Nova. The short takes a look back from the year 2050 at how people came together to save the world and ends by directing audiences to a page outlining the most effective actions they can take to fight global warming. Goldberg, who has been a co-host on ABC’s The View (1997-) since 2007, announced earlier this year that her calling in life is to help people.
SpringHill Entertainment, a film company co-founded by Maverick Carter and his business partner, NBA megastar LeBron James, will produce a documentary about Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre (with no release date as of yet announced), according to KTUL. Salima Koroma, who pitched the project back in April, will direct the picture, tweeting that, “The Tulsa Race Massacre is not just a black story but American history. The fabric of this country is soaked in racism and today 99 years later, we’re still fighting for change.” This week marks the ninety-ninth anniversary of white rioters destroying the prosperous black community in Oklahoma.
Women In Film Los Angeles released a response to the ongoing protests in LA and around the world against the racist murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, according to Deadline. Calling for an end to anti-Black violence on their official Twitter account, Women In Film went on to encourage “real, systemic change,” while, at the same time, declaring their support for those among their members (as well as the LA community at large) who fight for racial justice. With this statement, Women In Film joins the many media organizations, agencies, and networks in the industry endorsing sociocultural change.
“Imagine everything you ever wanted shows up one day and calls itself your life. And, then, just when you start to believe in it… gone. And, suddenly, it gets very hard to imagine a future… that’s depression.”
If you don’t know what to watch next, Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects (2013) is available on Amazon Prime. The psychological thriller stars Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum. The filmmaker also cinematographed as well as edited the production.
After the release of her husband, Martin (Tatum), from a four-year prison sentence for insider trading, Emily Taylor (Mara) attempts suicide by crashing her car into the wall of a parking garage.
Doctor Jonathan Banks (Law), her assigned psychiatrist, prescribes her an experimental new antidepressant called Ablixa at the urging of her previous psychoanalyst, Doctor Victoria Siebert (Zeta-Jones).
When the side effects prove to be deadly, Doctor Banks finds his personal and professional reputation on the line.
Side Effects is Soderbergh’s masterstroke.
His filmography represents a range of genres, but an antiestablishment thematic stance (anti-corporate America in Erin Brockovich (2000), anti-DEA in Traffic (2000), anti-CDC in Contagion (2011), and anti-private insurance in Unsane (2018)) unites much of his work.
Side Effects takes on big pharma with an aesthetical style like only Soderbergh could be inspired by elegant muse Zeta-Jones to construct, as keen as the mise-en-scene in his Ocean’s series.
But it is Mara out of whom Soderbergh directs the performance of a lifetime. As mind-bending a character as Kim Novak in Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), Emily Taylor is a devastation for anyone who’s ever suffered from mental illness.
It is a sensitive, understated, multifaceted work of dramatic art.
But the film is almost a note-for-note twin to Phil Joanou’s Final Analysis (1992).
The Hitchcockian neo-noir thriller stars Richard Gere as a psychiatrist who meets a woman (Kim Basinger) through a patient (Uma Thurman), only to be caught up in the middle of a tumultuous marriage with her husband (Eric Roberts), to the doctor’s detriment.
If it feels like you’re seeing double, that’s because you are.
What Side Effects lacks in originality, though, it makes up for in quality – it is an evolution of Final Analysis, rather than a rip-off.
There is only so much wiggle room according to the generic conventions of the thriller – the goal is a single reaction, which is to thrill – and Side Effects is thrilling.
It is as thrilling for the critic to deconstruct as it is for the audience to be entertained by it, and that is what makes it the director’s magnum opus.
The Guardian critic Erik Morse was twelve years old when he saw a heavily edited version of Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill (1980) for the first time on late-night television. According to Morse, in the decade before the film started appearing regularly on cable as well as video rentals, the Italian “giallo,” the genre from which De Palma borrows most heavily, had been followed up by low-budget slashers and erotic thrillers. Morse writes, “Dressed to Kill’s kaleidoscopic atmosphere – its watery, soft-focus lens, garish colour palette and flashy, optical tricks such as slow-motion, mirrored surfaces, split screens and dioptres – was a feast for my languorous, pre-teen senses.”
Let’s face it: the Golden Age of Television is a sausage fest. The antihero dances perilously close to making folk heroes out of the violent white male. Female sociopathy is largely uncharted territory.
Consider Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) the exception to the rule.
If you don’t know what to watch next, FX and Audience Network’s Damages (2007-2012) is available to stream on Hulu. The legal thriller won two Primetime Emmy Awards during its run for Close’s portrayal of Patty.
It has also been nominated twice for Outstanding Drama Series.
Fresh out of law school, Ellen Parsons (Outstanding Supporting Actress nominee Rose Byrne) is offered a job at Hewes & Associates, a competitive (but infamous) litigation firm.
Her boss, Patty, is something of a legal vigilante, taking the law into her own hands if it means cutting down to size men who abuse their power.
Each season focuses on a different lawsuit from both sides of the case, with nonlinear framing devices generating binge-worthy suspense through central mysteries.
The mentor is toxic and abusive, while the protégé is the moral foil, coloring the conflicts between them in shades of morally gray.
But the mother-daughter dynamic between Patty and Ellen is distinctly feminine across a writerly landscape where women written by men all too often sound like they’re written by men – Patty may be a study in antisocial personality disorder, but she is still a survivor of misogynistic oppression, just like Ellen.
Patty also echoes Walt, Tony, and Don as the boss from Hell. To become the self-made success story of the American Dream they all are, each one of these characters, in his or her own respective ways, was forced to become something inhuman.
Indeed, those in power around them are no less self-serving, manipulative, and corrupt, and Patty does what she must to survive.
Which brings us to our next comparison: Patty and Daenerys Targaryen. Like Daenerys, Patty faces off against antagonists even more unlikable than herself, and so we empathize with her by comparison.
But unlike Daenerys, Patty is an ethically written female antihero, in that she is never presented as a “fallen woman” too emotionally unstable to do the right thing with her own power, but, rather, she beats the men around her at their own game.
Even though Patty holds her own with the boys (unlike Daenerys), Damages would be one of the classics had been canceled after its third season.
The transition from the thirteen-episode seasons on FX to the ten-episode seasons on DirecTV marks a change in pace and tone like something out of a different (and lesser) show.
Even the greatest series are in the business of making money, and that means staying on the air until they are no longer profitable, no matter how slow and painful a death that may be.
But for the first three-fifths of its run, Damages is one of the all-time best, which is more than can be said for almost every other series out there. Like Close herself, it is not talked about enough. And its parallels to real-world cases makes it that much more watchable.