Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WONDERWOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

By Moira Sullivan
We seldom hear about heroic women in film who are superheroes, even though there are countless examples, such as Lucy Lawless as Xena Warrior Princess, Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, Milla Jovovich as Alice in Resident Evil and what comes to mind most often --- Wonder Woman.

 Kristy Guevara-Flanagan looks at this phenomena in WONDERWOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines and wonders why there are not more. To answer this question she traces the origin of the comic book in the late 30’s and the great depression when people needed heroes.

Feminist Gloria Steinem, who is interviewed in the documentary, declares that Wonder Woman was the only game in town. And she is the first , and has survived 70 years. In 1941 William Moulton Marston created an Amazon princess goddess for a comic book company and Wonder Woman became an overnight success. In fact she became so natural that it was not unusual to envision that within a 100 years, a matriarchy would evolve who didn’t need men warriors.

After World War II when men came home,  the image of Wonder Woman , turned more to romance with pictures of Wonder Woman being saved by men. In 1954 a book was published by Fredric Wertham  - "The Seduction of the Innocent" –and the author claimed that comics were the cause of juvenile delinquency.  Comics became regarded as bad influences and Wonder Woman was one of them.

In the 1950's, some comic books were subject to a "comic code" and powerful women were subdued, such as Lois lane whose ambitions were cooled in Superman.  Wonder Woman was declared a lesbian which in itself was not negative, but the concerted effort of ultra conservatives to make lesbians negative was damaging. Wonder Woman was even transformed without magical powers and not as an Amazon princess in the  "New"Wonder Woman.

With this in mind, it is little wonder that we don’t have many women superheroes even today, and as one of the women Kristy Guavara Flanagan interviews states, they are often self sacrificing and need men.  Regardless of the backlash women associate Wonder Woman with feminism and as a symbol of female power.

Lynda Carter played Wonder Woman on TV in the 70s broadcast during the second wave of feminism. Interviewed on the documentary, Carter spoke of her character helping a community of women and revealed that the producers didn’t think a woman could carry the show. But other shows were to follow such as "Charlie's Angels" and "The Bionic Woman" with actress Lindsay Wagner who said "the feminist principle" was the unifying theme of the program.

According to another women interviewed in the documentary,  today heroines need to be "sexy, good looking, women who don’t run the story line and serve men.

Its not strange therefore that there are few super heroines today since 3% of the decisions to cast them in films are made by women. That amazing statistic comes from Kristy Guavara Flanagan's brilliant documentary.

"Wonder Women! The Untold Story of Superheroines" will be shown Saturday, December 1 at Fort Mason in San Francisco at 7pm as part of the "Celebration of Women & Film". The "LunaFest", a collection of short films by women will also be screened on December 1. The high quality films depict various kinds of women such as young gymnasts, women artists, a woman going through chemotherapy, the founder of Terry Bikes who fashioned bicycles for women’s bodies and women who work and dream of a better life. The show times for this program 12noon & 2:15pm
These two parallel programs are part of the "Celebration of Craftswomen 2012", which will be held for the final weekend on December 1-2 from 10am-5pm at Fort Mason.
"Wonder Women" together with the Luna Fest,  will pay tribute to women's creativity and help to support the Women's Building of San Francisco.

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 11/28/12
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Holy Motors: The Death of Identity

By Moira Sullivan

Holy Motors was presented in the official selection at Cannes in May, and was probably the most innovative film in the competition. It caused a lot of discussion and was loved by those who appreciate art cinema and made those expecting a film that follows the conventions of classical narratives uncomfortable.  However the unusual film that focuses on identity is a cinematic rarity.

Leos Carax' dystopia is set in Paris and is about a man whose everyday job involves acting out the various identities of a variety of people. In the initial scene morning, Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant), is a middle-aged businessman, picked up in a white stretch limo. He lives in a beautiful mansion and is chauffeured by Céline (Eva Scob) all day. On his seat is a notebook with his second job. In a traditional narrative since the setting is established we would be pulled into the identity of the characters and lifestyle of our lead.

The businessman turns out to be one role, and being a middle-aged street lady is another. Within the same day Monsieur Oscar also goes to Père Lachaise cemetery and acts out certainly his most bizarre unconventional role. But the fact that he constantly changes identities and draws us into character identification is disarming.

At a photo shoot of a beautiful model (played by Eva Mendes) Monsieur Oscar has undergone another makeover where he wears a red wig has one false eye and long grotesque fingernails. He is barefoot and walks with a cane. The photographer decides to play with this freakish occurrence and incorporates this little man into the photo shoot. He decides that his model Beauty has found a Beast but only on a superficial level for in the next few minutes the little man bites the fingers of the photographer's assistant, kidnaps "Beauty" and takes her to an underground crypt.  Here he dresses Beauty in a Middle East burqa, which draws attention to the fantasy of appearances Beauty does not protest, and the little man lays his head on her lap.

Monsieur Oscar is also a father with a daughter, and we think that this is the real Mr. Oscar finally. He picks up his daughter who has hid in a bathroom at a party and has a father daughter talk with her.
Next he is a murderer who kills his double, thereby destroying his own image. When he is later an old man taking his last breath, Monsieur Oscar has gone through some real metamorphoses but not before he returns home to another family.

The scenes are carefully composed as small vignettes that are thought provoking. Not only does Monsieur Oscar assume identities the environments change too.  Many parts of Paris such are the sites of different kinds of architecture from different time periods such as  the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and tract homes outside Paris.

Leos Carax' addresses motion capture cinematography with Monsieur Oscar animating digital character models for video games and virtual reality.

Monsieur Oscar meets a depressed colleague on top of an abandoned building. She is played by Kylie Minogue, who has been also chauffeured in a white limo. The title Holy Motors has special meaning meeting for the transformative process of the passengers in these white limos.

Mr. Carax has had a long absence from moviemaking and is best known for Les Amants du Pont-Neuf  - the lovers on the bridge in 1991Holy Motors in such an absence has many messages - about the death of cinema with motion capture cinematography, the death of pop culture with the scenes with Kylie Minogue and Eva Mendes the death of Industrialism with gutted out abandoned buildings. There are also shapeshifting messages about gender and identity.

The critical response to the film was either exuberant or morose. It will most likely enjoy the same reception in Paris’ sister city San Francisco.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Cannes.

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 11/14/12
Movie Magazine International

Skyfall: Is Bond a Relic of the Cold War?

By Moira Sullivan

The Bad Bond Girl - Sévérine - Bérénice-Lim Marlone
Judi Dench called James Bond  a “misogynist dinosaur” and “relic of the Cold war” – in her debut opposite Pierce Brosnan’s Bond in GoldenEye. In Skyfall this antagonism continues. According to "M", “orphaned children make the best agents”, and in this film she winds up becoming more of a maternal symbol than ever. Not exactly what you expected but this is Judi Dench’s last Bond film.
Sam Mendes is the mastermind behind Skyfall who has crafted a brilliantly entertaining film.
In the opening scene James Bond is in hot pursuit of a French rogue named Patrice (Ola Rapace). The  M16 agent Eve played by Naomi Harris is ordered by M to take aim at Patrice even while he struggles with Bond on the top of a moving train. The rogue gets away and Bond takes a bullet. Later we learn that Patrice works for a master hacker who sets off bombs triggered by remote programming. M is targeted and the rest of the targets are on a microchip.  Acquiring it pits Bond against Patrice one more time in Shanghai. It is also time to meet the good Bond girl and the bad one. Eve shows up again as the nice Bond girl and works behind the scene while Bond tries to score on the bad Bond girl. The morose Bérénice-Lim Marlone plays Sévérine, the bosses girlfriend and slave, who can lead him to the owner of the microchip 
Bond was not so happy about how expendable he seemed to be for M. This fits in nicely with the main villain in the film, Raoul Silva played by Javier Bardem, an ex 00 agent M at one time found expedient.
The younger equivalent of Q ( Ben Whishaw)  knows about computers and hacking and is able to follow the path of Silva through his expert skills.

Cold War Relic? 
We eventually travel to Bond’s family home, with Sean Connery’s old 007 Aston Martin to Skyfall, located in Scotland, where his parents died in an accident while the young James hid in a secret pathway called a "priest hole". Albert Finney plays Kincade, the gamekeeper of the Skyfall manor.  
Ralph Fiennes as  Gareth Mallory, debuts as the new head of foreign intelligence in Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Skyfall is set in Shanghai with exquisite art direction, Turkey, England, Scotland and an island in Japan. 
Adele sings the Bond theme song “Skyfall” and Eve doubles not only as a 00 agent but in the end as the new "Miss Moneypenny".

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 11/14/12
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ghostbusters relived in 2012

By Moira Sullivan

Gozer, the destructor with Dana and Louis trapped within her servants

Twenty-eight years ago, a New York tale of ghouls and goblins infiltrating and haunting libraries, courtrooms, buses and the subway became one of the most beloved films in modern movie history. Made on a budget of $32 million it has grossed 10 times over that worldwide and was nominated for two Oscars for special effects and best song -- the film is Ghostbusters. There are so many things I like about this film, that I find myself watching it about four times a year. On Halloween, I’ll watch it once more.
First of all some of the "Saturday Night Live" talent is in this: Bill Murray, Rick Moranis, and Dan Aykroyd , co writer of the film. Sigourney Weaver did Ripley and Zuul skits for SNL—Ripley being her role in Alien, and Zuul from Ghostbusters, the demigod and servant to the Sumerian shape shifter Gozer the Gozerian, the destructor, played by Serbian model Slavitza Jovan.

The story of Ghostbusters begins with three scientists –more on the sociopathic side - that try to make their living doing pseudo science off of university grants. They are fired from the university and decide to open a business catching ghosts, and buy a hearse, rent a condemned building, and hire a secretary and another assistant called Janine Melnitz played by Annie Potts and Winston Seddmore – played by Ernie Hudson. Their secret weapon is a "proton pack" with a stream that captures ghouls, which is then trapped in a container and kept in a facility in their building.   

Their first client is Dana, (Sigourney Weaver) who complains about a monster in her fridge. Dr. Peter Wenkmen (Bill Murray) comes home to visit and leaves when Dana feels he's more on the "game show side". In truth there is a monster in her fridge who later embodies her, with its twin that takes over her neighbor Louis played by Rick Moranis. Dana is the gatekeeper and Louis is Vinz Clortho, the key master. Dana’s apartment is the threshold in a haunted building built by a demented mad doctor called Ivo Shandor who wanted to bring about the end of the world. Meanwhile the Ghostbusters find trouble with the EPA with their ghost catching compartment in the building and are forced to shut this machine down unleashing all the ghosts they have captured with their ghost detectors. The mayor of New York finally grants them permission to take on the haunted house and rid the town of the ghosts.
The timing in the script makes it one of the humorous films of the 80s and it doesn’t seem to have aged. It’s a definite New York made product with lots of crowd scenes of willing extras subjected to earthquakes, falling debris and a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The Canadian Czech director Ivan Reitman is behind this film and the sequel, and also provides the voice of Zuul.
“There is no Dana Only Zuul” is one of his lines before Dana levitates above her bed. The ensemble cast is brilliant in a film that takes a look at paranormal activity with a script of memorable lines that make it a good choice for a sing along at the Castro in Halloweens to come.

For Movie Magazine , this is Moira Sullivan wishing you Happy Halloween from San Francisco.
© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 10/31/12
Movie Magazine International