Women in film

Why you need to watch Inside Out

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

tumblr_n1kig7ck7D1qayeymo5_500

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.

 

 

 

Women in Film

It’s International Women’s Day on March 8 and as someone who lives and breathes film, it makes me wonder what that actually means for the ladies in the industry.
This past year has been a fascinating one in the realm of the gender debate in film.
Meryl
Most recently, we had Patricia Arquette delivering a passionate speech about wage equality during her Oscars acceptance speech, even if the message was soured backstage.
Anyone who still believed that action movies with women don’t sell, was well and truly silenced with the Jennifer Lawrence driven sequel Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 becoming the top grossing film in the US and in Australia.

Similarly, Scarlett Johansson-starrer Lucy gobbled up the box office in the US on its opening weekend with US$44 million, while action hero Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules only took $29 million the same weekend.

LucyScarlettJohanssonLSUniversal

AND the screenplay for box office smash Guardians of the Galaxy was actually written by a woman – Nicole Perlman – before director James Gunn took over the reins.

So there’s a lot to be pleased about as a woman in film. But it’s not all arrow-slinging heroines out there.

As revealed by the Sony hack late in 2014, J-Law may be reeling in the big bucks for studios with The Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook and the X-Men flicks, but when it came to coughing up the cash for her role in American Hustle, she and Amy Adams were paid less than their male counterparts.

I get why the writer/director David O Russell is earning more and in some ways I maybe understand why Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale might be, seeing as Lawrence’s character is more of a supporting role than theirs. But 1) how does that explain the gap with Amy Adams, who is definitely a lead role and 2) why would Jeremy Renner be earning more? Fanbase size aside, which Lawrence is probably leading in anyway, I think how valuable they are can be judged in another way: Renner’s role in American Hustle could have been played by another actor and it wouldn’t have changed the film much, but Lawrence owned that part. I don’t think anyone could have played it as well. It gave American Hustle a much-needed boost of energy and humour.

jennifer-lawrence-american-hustle-deleted-scene

Additionally, there was also the obvious and worrying lack of female nominees at the Oscars this year, particularly for Selma director Ava DuVernay and Gone Girl screenwriter Gillian Flynn. Some said this was because of the lack of representation in the Academy, however I believe the problem is far deeper.

It is a problem when there is only one woman people believe is in the running for best director at the Oscars. Many should be vying for a place there and for stories about women. Why is it that every single film nominated for the Best Picture was a story revolving around a man. Women apparently make up around half of the population, so why is it that we apparently aren’t watching their stories on screen? Where are all the female directors and screenwriters?

And then you have something like Wild. A personal, passionate memoir written by Cheryl Strayed, it’s produced by Reese Witherspoon, who also stars, and yet it’s adapted for the screen by men. I’m not saying that screenwriter Nick Hornby isn’t fantastic – An Education is a wonderful movie – and I’m not saying Jean-Marc Vallee who directed Dallas Buyers Club isn’t talented either. I’m just saying, if you have such a personal tale that focuses on that wonderfully complex mother-daughter relationship, why wouldn’t a female screenwriter, or a female director be the right choice to put it on screen?

Cheryl Strayed Reece Witherspoon

Author Cheryl Strayed and actress/producer Reese Witherspoon

 

Maybe there’s just not enough women out there who want a career in film. Apparently a recent report by Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University showed that of the 250 top grossing films, only 7 per cent of the directors were women. It was a two per cent drop over the last 17 years.

It’s easy to get disheartened by such figures. But then you watch a movie such as exceptionally frightening and fabulous The Babadook by Australian director Jennifer Kent, or revisit some of the work of Lynn Shelton, Jane Campion or Tina Fey. Or maybe you catch the documentary Citizenfour by Laura Poitras or a personal fave, Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley. And you realise there are voices out there. Loud voices. They’re being heard, but just not yet in the volumes we need.