Helen Mirren keeps popping up in my daily conversations and I am doing my best to resist this wave of Helen Fever. I had a strain of Helen Fever in 1995 (while sick with an actual fever and accompanied by marathons of Prime Suspect) so I felt this time around I was somewhat immune.
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.