Women in film

Why you need to watch Inside Out

Let me put it out there straight away – I am an Amy Poehler fan.

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So there’s already a certain amount of bias from me before I even went to see the new Disney/Pixar animated flick Inside Out.

The emotions of 11-year-old Riley in Inside Out

The emotions of 11-year-old Riley in Inside Out

As expected, this sweet flick about the five emotions (Joy, Fear, Disgust, Sadness and Anger) inside an 11-year-old girl’s head, made me sob, guffaw, sob and reminisce about my own childhood. And sob. Did I mention that? This is a real doozy with switching on the waterworks. Which is also expected, considering it’s co-directed by Pete Doctor, who wrote and co-directed that other beautiful tearjerker Up.

But it’s also not just an intelligent, thought-provoking children’s movie. Inside Out is much more than that.

It’s a movie every child and adult should watch as an important lesson in mental health.

In Inside Out, Poehler voices the blue-haired, pixie-looking emotion Joy. No surprises there, considering the ever-optimistic attitude of many of Poehler’s characters, including Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation.

The always-positive Leslie Knope

The always-positive Leslie Knope

 

But Inside Out teaches us it’s not healthy to just have one emotion dominating all the time, as Poehler pointed out in this interview with The Guardian:

Joy and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith)

Joy and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith)

“I feel no one can be Joy all the time (and) I think the film reminds us that we have all the feelings and emotions running through our head,” she said.

“Joy has a really great arc in the film. She goes from thinking, she’s very single minded and thinking that happiness is the number one pursuit, to realising she needs to work with Sadness to get anywhere and she herself gets sad for the first time.”

Happiness seems to be the sole goal of our modern society, but to be constantly happy is not realistic.  It makes it hard when social media demands we only ever present a shiny, positive image to others. But I’m always curious about what’s on the left and right of that frame – where the truth and realism lie.  Our experiences don’t ever have to be defined as one singular feeling. When we’re on a rollercoaster, we can be scared and excited. Sometimes we can be so mad or exasperated at someone, but then they make you laugh. And sometimes we’re sad – and we’re allowed to be.

tumblr_mux65qd1dE1r5c2fso1_250Sure this is all a bit deep for a children’s movie, but it’s still a message that seeps through in a fun, incredibly imaginative way in Inside Out. And it’s an important one, particularly for children today, who I believe are facing so many more challenges than I did at their age.

Children today face many challenges

Children today face many challenges

I didn’t have to worry about Facebook, or Instagram. I could go home and switch off. But in a world that is always buzzing, always online, always demanding interaction, I think education on mental health is necessary to ensure people lead balanced lives.

So Inside Out may not be the greatest animated movie I’ve ever seen, but I think it’s one of the most important.

Just remember to take tissues.

Inside Out gets two thumbs up

Inside Out gets two thumbs up

 

 

Mad Max: Fury Road worth the wait

Thirty years since the last Mad Max film roared onto screens, George Miller has returned with Fury Road – a two-hour edge-of-your-seat rampage whose heroine gives Ripley a run for her money and proves that three decades was well worth the wait.

Furiosa (right) is comparable to Ripley from Alien

Furiosa (right) is comparable to Ripley from Alien

I’ll admit when I entered this screening, numb and teeth chattering from waiting in the blistering cold for more than an hour, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to watch a film.

But this BLEW. ME. AWAY.

Visceral and unrelenting in its thrills and ferocity, this takes action movies to a whole new level. There simply isn’t anything quite like this out there. At 70 years old, director and co-writer George Miller has challenged the genre with energy, zest and originality.

It stars Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, a one-armed road warrior tasked with taking a powerful tanker (dubbed War Rig) for a fuel run by the horrific warlord who rules over this post-apocalyptic wasteland. But instead of doing as she’s bid, she takes the War Rig off-road. Turns out, Furiosa is smuggling a group of young wives – the warlord’s breeders – out of their captivity to free them from exploitation. Her plan obviously doesn’t sit too well with this guy…

Warlord Immortan Joe, who's played by Hugh Keays-Byrne aka Toecutter in the original Mad Max

Warlord Immortan Joe, who’s played by Hugh Keays-Byrne aka Toecutter in the original Mad Max

Hence the road chase.

But ‘road chase’ isn’t an adequate explanation for what follows – a dangerous journey through dust storms, sand dunes, craggy valleys and mind-blowing landscapes, where the warlord’s brainwashed men swing atop poles on moving vehicles, carrying off daredevil stunts – many of which are real, not CGI.

George Miller had to settle for Namibia over Australia’s Broken Hill when an unseasonal amount of rain came through and turned the dusty Outback into a lush space of green. However, the gorgeous landscapes he has managed to put on screen with Namibia, make it all worthwhile (also the film still has a lot of Aussies in the cast and crew, so a big thumbs up for that).

The War Rig is chased by baddie Immortan Joe into a sandstorm

The War Rig is chased by baddie Immortan Joe into a sandstorm

Of course you’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned Tom Hardy as the titular character yet? Well, for one, it’s very much Theron’s film. Hardy takes over the reins from Mel Gibson as Max, but he’s just a stoic survivor who’s dragged along for the ride, really. So much so, that it angered a Men’s Rights Movement, who dubbed it feminist propaganda because it (gasp) has Furiosa barking orders at Mad Max.

Furiosa takes aim...

Furiosa takes aim…

Actually, Furiosa does better than that. She uses Max’s shoulder as a platform to steady a sniper rifle so she can take a shot when he fails at it. With her bionic arm. Yep, she’s that badass.

 

 

Mad-Max-Fury-Road-PicturesHardy is still a powerful presence. Anyone who’s seen him as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises knows it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t talk a huge amount, or that he has a metal muzzle over his face for the first half hour.

This is a film with a powerful feminist message – hell, painted on the wall in the breeder’s chambers are the words “We Are Not Things”. It’s stance only makes it more relevant, more unique and more exciting. And with the screenplay to a sequel, Mad Max: The Wasteland, already penned it looks like this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Miller’s crazy, madcap version of a dystopian future. Fury Road took 15 years to get to the big screen, after originally being down to film in 2001, so let’s just keep out fingers crossed that this one doesn’t take quite as long.

 

 

 

Must See Viewing: Orphan Black

Exciting news Clone Club! BBC America has renewed Orphan Black for a fourth season.
For any of you that have seen this show there is no shame to admit you’re victory dancing right now…

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For any of you that have yet to see this show, don’t despair, just be well aware that when you start watching it, you can say goodbye to your social life for a week or so as you smash through the first two seasons. I’m speaking from experience here people – having just caught up to Season 3, I’m 1) gutted that I know cannot binge watch this series and 2) kind of happy that I can have my life back… but not really.

These people know what I’m talking about.

At this point, I’ve annoyed my friends and colleagues so much by talking about Orphan Black, it’s high-time I raved about this brilliant series online.

Like with most television, I’m jumping on the bandwagon a bit late.
And like with most television, someone told me to watch it about two years ago and I added it to my ever-growing list of “THINGS I NEED TO WATCH”.

I will admit, I’ve been a little disheartened by film at the moment, which seems to be 30% awful, 50% meh and 20% amazing.

bed movies

Earlier this year, I was sucker punched by a two week period filled with Fifty Shades of Grey, Jupiter Ascending and Project Almanac. Yes, film is a business, and I get that it needs to be profitable, but lately it’s been upsetting to see just how much the dollar sign is driving this creative medium.

While there have still been gems so far this year (and with Sydney Film Festival coming up, I’m preparing myself for even more) I’ve been increasingly turning to television and books for stories that really wow me. The latest of which is Orphan Black.

Maslany plays multiple characters often in the same scene.

Maslany plays multiple characters often in the same scene.

A Canadian series by BBC America, it’s about a woman who finds out she’s one of an unknown number of human clones, illegally created in the 1980s. Rather than crazy, out-of-this-world sci-fi, it’s dramatic, thrilling and packs a feminist punch, as these women struggle to claim ownership over their life when so many organisations, whether they’re run by scientists, governments or religious fanatics, believe they have the right to lay claim to them. One of the shows creators Graeme Manson told the New York Times in this fantastic article: “It’s so thematically connected to feminist issues. Who owns you, who owns your body, your biology? Who controls reproduction?”

At the heart of it all are a bunch of characters you get way too emotionally invested in for a fictional show, and even more unbelievable? They’re all played BY THE ONE PERSON. Tatiana Maslany. Aka one of the most phenomenal actresses out there right now, considering she makes each of these clones fully formed, separate characters – so much so, you often forget only one actor is playing them. It’s understandably exhausting work, with some days stretching out to 17 hours long.

Technical achievements aside (she plays multiple characters often in the same scene – see here if you’ve seen Season One), Orphan Black is also a fine example of writers who have crafted unique, complex and compelling female characters for our scenes. From the punk girl with a huge heart Sarah, to the abused childlike killer Helena, to anxious soccer mum Alison and lovable genius Cosima – and that’s just to name a few.

Additionally, these are women who don’t survive because they have a superpower, or can break out some martial arts moves. They get by on their tenacity, their intelligence, their wit. And Orphan Black remains proof that you can have a successful series driven by female characters, who don’t need to get their kit off or be dressed in tight leather or spandex to pull in viewers. As tumblr page hershotonher notes (via Jezebel):

not only does orphan black eat the bechdel test for breakfast lunch and dinner but it abysmally fails the reverse bechdel test

there are literally like three instances in the entire series where two men speak to each other about something other than a woman

what more reason do you need to watch this fucking show

Orphan-Black-S2Props to creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett and the raft of brilliant writers on this series, who also slam you with enough twists and turns that you’re never quite sure who to trust.

Yes, television is showering us with too many fantastic shows to keep up with, but if you’re not in Clone Club already, add this one to your list. 

It is one of the most intelligent, thought-provoking and addictive series out there.

 

Cate Blanchett intros Cinderella

Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett walked the red carpet and took to the stage before the Australian premiere of Cinderella in her hometown of Sydney, to give her own thoughts on playing the “wicked, not the ugly, stepmother”.

Blanchett (right) introduces the film at the stunning State Theatre in Sydney

Blanchett (right) introduces the film at the stunning State Theatre in Sydney

It’s a line Blanchett revealed she said to director Kenneth Branagh very early on – that although the stepmother has been variously called wicked and ugly over the centuries, her version would be the former.

Cinderella

Blanchett grew up on the Wonderful World of Disney, which played every Sunday night at six ‘o’ clock (I too remember the excitement of Sundays for that very reason), so said she was thrilled about tackling a live-action version.

And the result is very traditional.

“I think and hopefully you’ll agree, (it) feels like you’re hearing the story for the very first time,” Blanchett said.

“It’s gone back to Cinderella 101. It’s not a zeitgeisty, now-y telling. It’s got everything that people want from a fairytale and that’s what attracted me.”

And through making Cinderella, she saw a different side to Cinders than what she had seen as a child.

“When I grew up, Cinderella wasn’t actually a fairytale that I gravitated towards, because I thought, she’s a little bit of a doormat,” she said.

“(But) Ken (Branagh) kept talking about kindness as a superpower and everyone’s talking about how hard you can punch, and how brave you can be – but how kind you can actually be, (it) actually comes back at you.

“So the first time seeing the film, I noticed what makes Cinderella tick, and that was a new thing for me, because I didn’t really understand that going in.”

Lily James and Cate Blanchett in Cinderella

Lily James and Cate Blanchett in Cinderella

Now for me, in all honesty, I can’t say I was incredibly excited about seeing this version of Cinderella – the latest Disney animated classic getting the live-action treatment.

Last year there was Maleficent, but what was intriguing about that tale, was how it turned Sleeping Beauty on its head, exploring the POV of the villain. I was pleasantly surprised at the result.

But Cinderella? Don’t get me wrong, I loved the animated flick growing up, mainly because there were talking, singing mice. But I don’t think Cinderella is a particularly layered character. In fact, in this version, she feels almost devoid of personality (played with earnest by Downton Abbey’s Lily James).

And she’s not the only one. Richard Madden aka Robb Stark is reduced to a smiling, besotted Prince, while the stepsisters are over-the-top caricatures. The saving grace is, actually, Blanchett, alongside Helena Bonham Carter as the ditzy fairy godmother.

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Maybe I’m too cynical. But this was actually too traditional for me. It felt like it was pandering to all the little girls who fell in love with princesses after Frozen. Except those princesses had flaws and guts and were fiery (there is actually a Frozen short playing before the film which is tremendously cute).

Having said that all the children around me seemed to love it. But I’m actually looking forward to seeing the next live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. Belle is a brainy, brave outsider, who stands by her beliefs. On top of that Emma Watson, Emma Thompson and Kevin Kline are already announced for the cast. Be our guest? Yes please!