Tag Archives: Geena Davis

Stuart Little

I have always had copies of E. B. White’s Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web on my book shelf. It’s surprisingly sexy to read them aloud to a partner in bed.

Decidedly less sexy is the 1999 movie adaptation of the world’s 14th most popular mouse (it’s a very informal survey, but how many do you think you could name?).

George Little (Jonathan Lipnicki) wakes up on the best day of his life: he’s getting a sibling! He wakes his parents by jumping on their bed; the movie is too polite to mention Mr. Little’s balls, but as far as I know, kids in the bed results in dad getting kicked in the balls 100% of the time. Anyway. Mr. and Mrs. Little (Hugh Laurie and Geena Davis) are keen to give George a little brother, so while George is at school, they head down to the orphanage to browse the kids and see what’s on sale. Or, you know, “fall in love.” And they do fall in love with a clever little guy named Stuart, who just happens to be a mouse (Michael J. Fox). The social worker tries to discourage the match – adoptions outside the species rarely work, she tells them – but the Littles are not to be dissuaded. They bring Stuart home, clothe him with teeny tiny sweater vests, install the world’s tiniest plumbing fixtures, but tuck him into a normal yet comically oversized bed. There’s only one problem, really: George is terribly disappointed. He wanted a brother but got a mouse! Actually, there IS one member of the family disheartened than George, and that’s Snowbell the cat (Nathan Lane). Imagine being a cat with a mouse for an owner. Oh, the indignity.

So while George is quietly disapproving, Snowbell is actively plotting against him. It’s the nicest situation Stuart’s ever had, but it’s precarious.

Stuart Little is adventurous and colourful; the little mouse gets in exactly the sorts of mischief that kids will never fail to find entertaining. The story offers much less for adults, unless you’re prepared to read the “cross-species” adoption as a thinly-veiled critique of inter-racial adoptions, in which case the rich white family’s triumph is a little less palatable.

Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Steve Martin, Ray Romano, Albert Brooks, Ben Stiller, and Matthew Broderick were all considered for the voice of Stuart Little, but it ultimately went to Michael J. Fox, who gives him exactly the right amount of spunk and spirit. He’s a sweet little guy, and well-rendered; for a film that came out 20 years ago, the CGI holds up sufficiently well. I didn’t see this film at the time because it came out in direct competition with Toy Story 2. It didn’t do as well as that one, but it did make more money than Notting Hill, American Pie, American Beauty, or The Green Mile. It was, however, outperformed by The Sixth Sense (and about 10 others) but I mention that one in particular because believe it or not, M. Night Shyamalan wrote BOTH The Sixth Sense and Stuart Little, and was later revealed to have ghost-written another film that year, She’s All That. Surprise! Well it surprised me, anyway. And kind of made me want to rewind and reassess Stuart Little for a twist ending I didn’t see coming. But no. It’s just the cat.

Marjorie Prime

In the future, grief will be obsolete. If you are missing your partner of 50 years, all you’ll have to do is invest in a good hologram, tell it some personal stories, and all of a sudden you’ll have a spouse 2.0 sitting on your plastic-encased sofa, reminiscing about all the good times you shared. Is it a little creepy? Depends who you ask. Certainly when elderly Marjorie (Lois Smith) chooses to see her departed husband Walter as the handsome, middle-aged man she first met (Jon Hamm), her daughter Tess (Geena Davis) thinks it’s a little weird. Tess doesn’t want anything to do with her hologram Daddy but Marjorie is quite enamoured with him.

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-7-29-47-pmThe film makes you think about memory, and what that means, and how it is shared, and if it is real. And it makes you think about humanity and what makes us truly ourselves, and if we can separate ourselves from memory, or if indeed that’s all we are is our memories. And it makes you think about love: can it be recreated, does it live on after death, does it exist independently outside a couple, is it found in the details or does it truly live in our hearts? So if you’re in the mood for a talky, thinky piece with very little action, Marjorie Prime may just be the film for you. Based on a play, most of the film takes place within just one room. But within that room, the acting is superb. Lois Smith is a phenom. Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, and Tim Robbins orbit around her, fueling her sun.

The movie feels haunting and intriguing, and maybe it isn’t fair to say this, but it raises such interesting ethics that I almost wanted more from it, more cud to chew on. At times the film feels a little redundant: you have to feed the hologram in order to make it more believable, more “real.” But no matter how many perspectives you feed it, it will always be missing its own. These “primes” strikes me as an excellent opportunity for Sean to finally construct a Jay he’s always dreamed of: one that doesn’t talk back, who doesn’t know sarcasm, who doesn’t remember the time he told a naughty story about her in front of his mother. But the thing is, if Sean invested in this Jay Prime because he missed her, what good would she be if she didn’t roll her eyes at him?

Even with its faults, I enjoyed Marjorie Prime, for the watching and the thinking it inspired afterward. Watch it, and tell us what you think: would you be comforted by a hologram of your mother or your spouse or even your dead dog?

Road Trip Movies

TMP

Wanderer’s timing has been spooky lately. The Assholes fly out to sunny California today and will be taking a road trip of our own on Sunday along the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. Perfect time to be thinking of our favourite road trip movies.

thelma and louise

Thelma and Louise (1991)– A road trip to a friend’s cabin in the mountains quickly goes off the rails for Thelma and Louise when Louise shoots an attempted rapist to death before they’ve even reached their destination. The trip goes from vacation to nightmare to something much more as the two realize they wouldn’t go back to their old lives even if they could. Nothing like the life of a fugitive to make you finally feel free.

sideways

Sideways (2004)– I made a deal with myself that I would only pick one Alexander Payne movie this week. As much as I love his last four movies- all road trip movies- Sideways was an easy decision, given that we will be doing a Napa Valley wine tour of our own tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll have more fun than Miles (Paul Giamatti), a depressed alcoholic and failed novelist. Sideways is a hopeful but often painful comedy that to this day still makes me feel a little guilty every time I order Merlot.

Due date

Due Date (2010)– Director Todd Phillips and star Zach Galifianakis’s follow-up to 2009’s The Hangover was highly anticipated and very disappointing to many but I have always stood by it. Galifianakis’ Ethan Tremblay and Robert Downey Jr.’s Peter Highman are forced to drive cross-country together after they’re both improbably kicked off an airplane. Both stars play off of each other beautifully and the gags mostly work but what I love is how the story is constructed around what’s going on in the lives of these two men instead of around a bunch of setpieces and jokes. Downey is particularly good as his performance hints at a more real pain than he has been able to manage even in his recent “dramas” like The Judge.

Gender Inequality in Film

Yes, there are movies made with a female in the lead. But has Oscar ever heard of them?

This year’s Best Picture nominees are as follows: a story about a man who goes to war and loves it; a man on Broadway as actor\director\schizophrenic; a little boy growing up to be a man; a man running a crazy hotel; a brilliant gay man; a brilliant black man; a brilliant man with a degenerative disease; a devoted male student and his sadistic male teacher.

So, a big time sausage fest. These are the stories of men. Felicity Jones, Emma Stone, and Keira Knightly are all nominated for their roles as pretty accessories. None are real players in their films; they are passive actors in someone else’s story. Julianne Moore in Still Alice, Reese Witherspoon in Wild, and Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night are all the driving forces in movies told from their (female) points of view, and none of those movies earned best picture nods.

2014’s highest grossing movies include:

1. Transfomers: Age of Extinction

2. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ARmies

3. Guardians of the Galaxy

4. Maleficent

5. X-Men: Days of Future Past

6. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, part 1

7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

9. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

10. Interstellar

Women fare a little better here – females take the lead in 2 of the 10, which, in case your math is  weak, is exactly 20% of the top-earners and 0% of the most lauded. And women, in case you haven’t looked around in a while, make up a good 50% of the population. Does that make any sense to you? Only 12% of protagonists were female in 2014 movies, which is down 3% from the previous year. THAT’S THE WRONG WAY, PEOPLE!

a0e86469192b5ac4b68c392aa7ee39b1Yes – you’re reading that right. Only 9% of directors are female. Only 4 women have ever been nominated as Best Director, and of them only Kathryn Bigelow has won (for The Hurt Locker – a movie with basically no women in it). It would seem that to be taken seriously, a woman has to direct a masculine film; Angelina Jolie made war movie Unbroken this year, and Ava DuVernay tackled the most iconic man in American history with Selma. Both were locked out of the Best Director category but Selma scored 2 men nominations for Best Song while Unbroken garnered 3 nominations spread among 5 men and 1 lone woman (Becky Sullivan, for sound editing – we salute you!).

In 73 years of Academy history, only 8 women have won best adapted screenplay, and only 8 have won best original screenplay. In 85 years, only 7 women have taken home Best Picture Oscars as producers, and all of them were co-producers with men.

77% of Academy voters are male. Another big surprise: the average winner in a female acting category is 36 years old compared to 44 for men.

The top 10 highest-paid actresses made $181 million in 2013 while the men made more than twice that – $465M!

The worst part is that the stats are worse when it comes to movies made for kids – in top-grossing G-rated family films, there is almost a 3:1 ratio of male characters to female characters. And how many of those are industrious go-getters? What are we telling our daughters, or for that matter, our sons? And what does it say about us as a society that animated female characters tend to show more skin than male ones – even the little girls – and are portrayed with tiny little waists and sexy features. Even the non-human females are sexualized in children’s cartoons!

In G-rated family films, speaking parts are 70% male. Characters with jobs are 80% male.

In 2012, Pixar released Brave, its first movie (out of 13) with a female protagonist. While Merida provides a positive female role model to its young audience, behind the scenes things were a little less progressive. Brenda Chapman, who spent 6 years working on the film, was stripped of her directorial duties and for the 13th time in a row, a Pixar movie was helmed by a man.

Check out the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to find out more.

 

 

 

In a World…

Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) makes a living (more or less) doing voice work and teaching celebrities to perfect their accents. She’d like to break into her father’s business doing voice-over work for movie trailers, but the industry doesn’t want a female voice. But a huge gap has been left by the death of Don LaFontaine (the real-life king of voice-overs) so she finds herself competing against her childish and jealous father, an industry giant, who champions his smug protegé, up-and-comer Gustav, to revive the “In a world…” work.

This film does a lot of things well, but I really enjoyed watching a woman try to break into a male-dominated industry, and witnessing the different things that need to fall into place in order for it to happen.  Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of back-stabbing and sabotage that goes on as well, some of it by Carol’s own father, a man who believes that there is no place for women in his workplace (and that things were better off when there weren’t women in any workplace, period). world

But this is not some heavy drama about sexism. I mean, first of all, there’s Eva Longoria, as herself, learning how not to sound like “a retarded pirate” (this is her attempt at a Cockney accent). Longoria seems pleasantly game and wins some major not-taking-herself-too-seriously points. Then there’s this: (are you sitting down? you may want to sit down.) DEMITRI MARTIN and NICK OFFERMAN in the same movie. In the same scene! In the same several scenes! I nearly fainted from the awesomeness. They play the good dudes who actually believe in Carol and want to help her succeed.

This movie is Lake Bell’s baby – she wrote it and directed it. She casts this movie like it is her baby, like she knows she has to get everything perfect, and does. She surrounds herself with talent and milks it for every ounce, but she’s no slouch: listen carefully and you’ll hear her own voice-over work sprinkled throughout the film. Girl’s got chops. The script is a lot of fun, there’s a lot of great lines, and great opportunities to showcase herself from every angle.

Watch out for Lake Bell – she’s been popping up in random places over the past few years, but with this effort, she’s truly made herself known.