Examinations of masculinity are most interesting when viewed either through the female or gay male gaze as we have seen so little of this perspective in the context of the history of cinema. When women do get the opportunity to direct, they frequently, and completely understandably, focus on female protagonists, personal themes and coming-of-age stories. However, when they do turn their lens on a male protagonist, fresh insights can be brought and new truths revealed, through the objectivity of an ‘outsider.’
In Beach Rats (2017), director Eliza Hittman and cinematographer Helene Louvart closely follow Frankie (Harris Dickinson), a young man from Brooklyn who is wrestling with his sexuality. In Lazzaro Felice (2018), director Alice Rohrwacher and cinematographer Louvart (again) tell the story of gentle tobacco farmer Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) in two halves; one in the summery, rural setting of the farm in Italy and then secondly in the cold city. The secondary character of the Marquise’s son, Tancredi provides a counterpoint to Lazzaro’s highly unusual brand of masculinity.
Adaptations of graphic novels can either extremely hit or extremely miss. It’s difficult to capture their larger-than-life style, acts of violence, and over-the-top characters that are confined to the panels on the page. With Jonas Åkerlund adaptation of Victor Santos’ Polar for Netflix, he proves it is possible to translate a graphic novel’s gore and violence onto the screen with even more stylistic flair than its source material. Åkerlund took Santos’ minimalist illustrations and made something bright, oversaturated, and delicious.
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen plays Duncan Vizla, or the Black Kaiser, who is days from retirement from his life as an assassin. He starts to settle into retired life in a small town in Montana, shopping at the local grocery store, frequenting the town’s diner, and striking up a quiet friendship with his neighbor, Camille, played by Vanessa Hudgens. But, just a few hundred miles for his snowy, idyllic set up, a hit is put on his head so his employer, the Damocles Corporation, won’t have to pay him his $8 million pension. So, a group of younger, showier, and somehow more violent hitmen set out to kill the Black Kaiser. What follows is a trail of blood, revenge, and Mads Mikkelsen’s beautiful bare ass.
Last night, at the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, Alan Alda was presented with his lifetime achievement award. Today, it is his 84th birthday. Here, I reflect back on the strangely wide effect that Alan Alda has had in my own lifetime.
High school-centered media is always incredibly tricky to get right. It’s a time in our lives when we are incredibly vulnerable, as we come into ourselves socially, professionally, and sexually. So it makes sense that it’s such a popular genre. People want to see their experience mirrored, in a relatable fashion, on screen. So many films and television shows seem to miss the mark when it comes to this time period, especially when it comes to sexual exploration. Many sexualize teenagers to an uncomfortable degree, others disregard issues of consent and respect outright, and many works seem to make a joke out of a character’s understandable inexperience around sex. It is no exaggeration to say that this odd, uncomfortable depiction of sex can be harmful, especially to the developing young adults consuming this type of media.
So, as we near the end of the first month of 2019, we clearly have an evolved sense of sexual respect. We are coming off of a year where much popular conversation surrounded sex and respect, or lack thereof. So clearly we should have art that reflects our new, mature sensitivities around sex. We should hope so, at least.
A lot of the discourse around the recently released Netflix original miniseries Sex Education has been about just this: the show’s treatment of sex. Rightfully so, as the show makes no illusion that it has something to say about sex in high school, as its title would suggest.
As teenagers, music often plays a pivotal role in our lives. While an adult identity gradually begins to take shape, music sonically illustrates the ever-growing complexity of our emotional lives, giving voice to our desires and insecurities and helping us to make sense of the world around us. Brought to life on the silver screen through pounding beats, glossy visuals and naturalistic movements, Céline Sciamma’s third feature-length film, Bande de Filles (titled Girlhood in English) reaches through the screen, encouraging its spectator to recall and connect to these sensations themselves.
Star Wars fans and critics alike have been drawing parallels between The Hidden Fortress and Star Wars since it premiered; each story is told from the perspective of the lowest two characters, they utilize transitional horizontal wipes between scenes, two former best friends must fight as bitter enemies, the list goes on. Lucas even considered Toshiro Mifune to play the part of Ben Kenobi, and has admitted the large influence that The Hidden Fortress and other Kurosawa films had on his own work. When I first watched The Hidden Fortress, the parallels that immediately struck me most were the similarities between Princess Yuki and Princess Leia.
In both Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958) and George Lucas’ Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), a princess plays a significant role. Kurosawa’s Princess Yuki resides in the titular “hidden fortress,” patiently awaiting her chance to move to more friendly Hayakawa territory, while Princess Leia is captured by Darth Vader while on her way to transmit plans to help the rebel alliance defeat the imperial empire. Both princesses have moments playing both the damsel in distress and the badass; however, Kurosawa and Lucas deal with these character archetypes in different ways.
The first time I watched Toy Story 2 with my dad, he rose from the couch abruptly to get a glass of water. Jessie, the cowgirl doll, was singing “When She Loved Me,” the bittersweet backstory of her previous owner’s love and the memories they shared, ending with the child outgrowing her and ultimately giving Jessie away to charity in a cardboard box. As I fumbled to pause it so my dad wouldn’t miss anything, I heard a quiet sob from the kitchen. Silence. Then another. I set the remote down; not fully understanding, I let the film keep playing.
While the past few years have helped bring complex and dizzying portraits of women and mothers to the forefront, I am simultaneously and inevitably drawn to the softness and generosity of onscreen father-daughter relationships in 2018. Whether in a tensely-plotted thriller like Searching or A Quiet Place, or a tender, thoughtful character study like Eighth Grade or Leave No Trace, the bond between father and daughter not only helps drive plot, but allows viewers to understand the characters and the ways they acknowledge one another more richly. After all, aren’t love, and paying attention the same thing?