I love movies, and I am more than interested in politics. So it behooves me to think about the sizable overlap between the two. One of the things I love about political movies (and heck, political television shows, too) are the tropes they include and play to, especially as tropes reveal something about an era's ideology around politics. There's something different in the feel and mood, for example, in the original and remake of The Manchurian Candidate that goes to the heart of 1962's understanding of the Korean War and the just-after 9/11 tragedy zeitgeist's take on the first Gulf War, respectively, but both take on conspiracy theory and the presidency.
Whenever I am asked to name a film whose female actor's performance lifted me out of the recliner I immediately think of Angela Lansbury's chilling turn as Eleanor Iselin in the 1962 John Frankenheimer film The Manchurian Candidate. (Don't bother with the soggy 2004 remake, which is awful in every way imaginable) The Manchurian Candidate is a palate cleansing suspense thriller worlds away from Lansbury's sweet, meddling mystery writer J.B. Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote.
At some point between the release of 1996's Mission: Impossible and Jerry Maguire I discovered I could predict future Tom Cruise trends based on what I knew about his upcoming releases. Granted, I could not give pertinent details such as box office grosses or where he might holiday with his family, but I could predict things such as potential co-stars (I had Thandie Newton as his M:I2 co-star before I'd even left the screening of the first installment of the franchise) and general trends. I have always believed Cruise's persona was carefully constructed in a way that is much more sophisticated than many stars' audiences are used to. Personally, I don't think any incarnation of Cruise's persona is in fact representative of Cruise himself, but I do think they tend to represent areas of concern he opts to explore on screen.
The genesis of my cinema love affair can be traced to two films: The Wiz and Serpico, both directed by Sidney Lumet (father of Jenny and Amy Lumet and son-in-law of the incomparable Miss Lena Horne) Despite being two decidedly different films, they share a lineage and many visual stylistic elements, which tends to make a double-feature of them oddly harmonious.
I feel geeky admitting that each major crew member of The Wiz had a corresponding Cabbage Patch Doll, imaginary friend or personal effect named in their honor. My typewriter was named "Joel Schumacher", my Fisher-Price record player, "Quincy-Vandross," (of course!), and my Fisher-Price camera was named after trailblazing film editor and personal bad ass chick hero: "Dede Allen". Allen died this past April, leaving a legacy of iconic film imagery and countless imitators.
Hollywood seems to reserve a special hell for female actors who do not play nice, and the most enduring example–for me anyway–is Sean Young. Young's performance in the 1982 Ridley Scott sci-fi classic Blade Runner left an indelible impression on me as a teenager and even more so when I saw the first of many "director's cuts" theatrically.
Even though we're three feature films away from the conclusion of the Twilight film series (Eclipse premiers at the end of this month), there's already talk of what the adaptation of Breaking Dawn, the final book in the series that is being broken into two movies, is going to include...or more specifically leave out, namely Bella's bone-breaking, blood-soaked, and almost-lethal delivery of her vampire baby.
The remake of The Karate Kid surprised many Hollywood insiders–worn down by under-performing overly hyped films (Robin Hood, Sex and the City, Killers) and the audience's reluctance to shell out upwards of $17 for gimmicky 3D summer releases–by ringing up an impressive $56mil over the weekend.
2. Even female action stars must submit to the Makeover trope.
The trailer for the hotly anticipated Salt finds Angelina Jolie rocking the mess out of a pencil skirt and taupe heels, only later to revamp her exterior with some snug black clothes and Miss Clairol's bluest black. While it certainly makes sense for a person to alter their looks when being chased by the CIA, I'm not sure if why the trailer evoked films like Clueless, Pretty Woman and 13 Going on 30. More importantly, it's possible the audience can take for granted that Jolie has altered her appearance without being shown every detail of her transformation. The makeover trope is utilized for men, but often–even in action films–it's played for comedic effect. Harrison Ford might have grimaced his way through an application of Just for Men in 1996's The Fugitive, but it was clearly meant to be an amusing respite from all that heart pounding action. Yet Jolie's transformation feels like a rite of passage rather than a necessary element of survival.
Whenever I opted to play "superheroes" with neighborhood kids, I was often assigned Catwoman, since other gals had already called dibs on Batgirl, Superwoman, Mary Jane (didn't realize she was a superhero) and Wonder Woman. Backyard rules apparently dictated there could only be one of each female superhero, but had no prescriptive on the number of Batmans, Supermans and Spidermans battling the faux forces of evil in one backyard at any given time. Initially, I would rebuff the assignment, opting instead to battle the forces of evil as Chaka Khan. While being a superhero in my own personal world, Chaka Khan was not recognized as such by the Neighborhood Children's Superhero Committee - a governing body with chapters all over the universe - and therefore was prohibited. Despite its rather sexist and draconian guidelines in the case of female superheroes, the Neighborhood Children's Superhero Committee was rather flexible with male superheroes. Anyone - and I mean anyone - could be Batman, Superman or Spiderman. Though the first one calling dibs on Superman was the leader and free to restrict the number of Superman also-rans under his/her command. As Catwoman I was tasked with reconnaissance and retrieval; as children we were well acquainted with the naughtiness of theft, but not acquainted with the concept of moral ambiguity. My job was to find object and information - by any means necessary, even a tap dance (the "sexiest" interrogation tactic we knew) - and report back to the primary Superman, who often ate cookies and stabbed holes in his spent Capri Sun drink.