Having already seen “The Fault In Our Stars” and “Glee,” I don’t think I’ll be tuning in for Fox’s “Red Band Society,” a new dramedy produced by Steven Spielberg about teenagers living in a hospital. But it’s come to my attention that on a promotional ad for the show, which debuts September 17th, the Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer, who is Black, is labeled the “Scary Bitch.” Portraying Black women as unpredictable and scary — gee, we’ve never seen that in Hollywood before. To be sure, the show’s labeling of other characters in the promo ad isn’t too original either. For example, the hot blonde girl is the “Mean Girl” because of course she is. Still, Spencer’s “Scary Bitch” label stands out as especially harsh and problematic. There are plenty of ways to portray someone as an antagonistic character without relying on a tired stereotype. Would “Nurse Ratched” have gone over America’s collective heads? (If so, go watch “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” now.)
Two Hollywood legends passed this week — Robin Williams, 63, on Monday morning, and Lauren Bacall, 89, on Tuesday night. They died in extremely different ways, but both were household names who’d been in numerous iconic films. These two deaths are being handled very differently — Bacall’s obituaries and remembrances are far more focused on her sex appeal than her career.
It’s understandable to mention an iconic actress’ beauty in an obituary, especially one who was discovered while working as a fashion model. I’m not suggesting that Lauren Bacall’s great beauty should be off-limits entirely. And to a certain extent, the emphasis on Bacall’s old Hollywood glamour is also understandable — her scandalous romance with Humphrey Bogart is far more interesting to most people, I’m sure, than Robin Williams’ three marriages. Yet the way some of her obits have been written make it seem as though Bacall was more famous for her looks and her husbands than for her over-half-a-century-long career in which she appeared in some of Hollywood’s biggest films, like “The Big Sleep,” “How To Marry A Millionaire,” and “Misery.” Writes blogger Tracy McVeigh in the UK’s Guardian, “It’s often the case with beautiful women that their achievements can be undone by people transfixed by their smouldering celluloid gaze.”
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I guess, in our post-”Harry Potter” world, a lot of people would be really excited when a new movie comes out starring Daniel Radcliffe.
Alas, I am not one of those people.
When I heard about the cast for the new rom-com “What If,” I was more excited about Zoe Kazan. The Yale graduate does things like tweet about Criterion films and how “Boyhood” reminded her of Truffaut’s Doinel stories. She a star of stage and screen, appearing in shows like “The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie,” and films like “It’s Complicated,” “Revolutionary Road” and ”Ruby Sparks.” In fact, it’s “Ruby Sparks,” which she wrote herself, that made me a Zoe Kazan fan — there’s something very badass about writing yourself a lead role in a movie.
In “What If,” Kazan is a leading lady once again, playing Chantry, a young woman with a boyfriend (Rafe Spall) who befriends her cousin’s aimless pal, Wallace (Radcliffe). As their friendship gets closer and closer, Chantry and Wallace both start to wonder whether it’s possible to remain friends when you’ve got romantic feelings. It’s super emotionally realistic in a way most rom-coms usually aren’t.
Earlier this spring, I met up with a bubbly Kazan to chat about “What If,” rom-coms, feminism, and femininity. Our conversation is after the jump:
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“I had an agent that told me not to speak in meetings because I was too intelligent and it was stressing to the men. It was a woman that told me that. I didn’t say anything, then I went to my car and kind of cried and then I was, like, ‘Fuck you’… [I]t’s been amazing changing gears and doing things that honor my brain….I spent the better part of 15 years not being myself, and I’m just kind of over that.”
“Charmed” actress Rose McGowan told “HuffPost Live” that two years ago, she was scolded by an agent for speaking well in meetings. She says that only lately has she gotten comfortable acting like her true self and speaking her mind instead of blending into what she thought others wanted her to be in the male-dominated film business. Her full interview is pretty kickass, and full of clever observations about the overt sexism she’s seen over the years in Hollywood. [Huffington Post]
If you think you don’t know who Jenny Slate is, you just haven’t attached the name to the person. She’s Mona-Lisa on “Parks and Recreation”; Tammy on “Bob’s Burgers”; a bunch of characters on “Kroll Show”; and she was on one season of “Saturday Night Live.” (You may remember her from the Doorbells And More sketch?). Lately, Slate is everywhere — literally everywhere — as the star of a new film, “Obvious Child” which appears nationwide this month.
In “Obvious Child,” Slate plays 27-year-old Donna, who accidentally gets pregnant right after she’s been dumped and lost her job. She genuinely likes the guy who got her pregnant (played by Jake Lacy from “The Office”), but is in a bad place to bring a kid into the world. Donna wants to have an abortion and unlike many movies where a women ends a pregnancy, that choice isn’t portrayed as a scary or dangerous thing. “Obvious Child” manages to be both hilarious and heart-tugging, a testament to both director/writer Gillian Robespierre’s writing and Slate’s earnest relatability onscreen.
Jenny Slate and I chatted recently about movies depicting abortion, women in Hollywood, and feminism. Here’s our conversation, after the jump: Keep reading »
The Cannes Film Festival begins today in France. Movie stars along the French Riviera sounds lovely, of course. But Cannes, and every other film festival, is always a reminder of women director’s underrepresentation in the movie business. In the past decade at Cannes, there have been several years when ZERO female directors have had a feature film screened — and that’s in pools of, like, 22 competing films. Keep reading »