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Snarky's Cinemachine: The Salt Supremacy

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My parents have a floor to ceiling bookshelf occupying an entire wall in their living room. Mingled with the literary classics are novels by Tom Clancy (Jack Ryan series), Robert Ludlum (Jason Bourne series), and possibly every single Science Fiction novel ever written. During summers between college, I'd browse the selection intending to snag classics required for the next semester's coursework, but instead read William Gibson, Octavia Butler, Ludlum, and of course, Tom Clancy. While my own literary tastes favor YA fiction and works by writers on the margins, I find spy novels irresistible. Earlier this year when I blogged about my disappointment regarding the decision to cast Chris Pine as CIA analyst Jack Ryan in the upcoming franchise reboot I wondered when Hollywood might move beyond its tendency to view casting younger white males as vital in its never-ending quest to reinvigorating moldy franchises or film genres.

Hollywood has a well established history of ineptitude as it relates to balancing the wishes of fans with the desire for strong box office numbers. Producers would be wise to create entertainment, which privileges preservation of source material or genre conventions over profit concerns, as many of these films enjoy tremendous success at the box office. (Lord of the Rings, Twilight and Bourne film franchises are good examples.) Overemphasis on profit margins and desperation for broad audience appeal often leads to ill-advised casting choices, public outcry and oddly enough, disappointing box office revenues.

Maybe Hollywood got the message this time. Clocking in at a taut 100 minutes, Salt packs plenty of intrigue, beloved spy thriller tropes and ass kicking stunts into its modest running time. Director Phillip Noyce (The Bone Collector) keeps things moving with an engaging lead, well-timed action sequences, smart dialogue and characters whose motivations are well defined. Salt combines elements of The Sum of All Fears' plot with the "disavowed spy on the run" trope seen in films such Sydney Pollack's 1975 classic Three Days of the Condor and 1996's Mission: Impossible. While hardly inventive, Salt's plot twists and reveals are entertaining and the action sequences do not belabor the point. Much has been made of director Phillip Noyce's gender casting switch, complete with misogynistic framing suggesting Salt is Jolie struggling to wear Tom Cruise's cast offs (Cruise passed on the role). This framing is disingenuous bullshit.

For instance, Evelyn Salt and Jason Bourne share few similarities, most notably their choice in employment. Besides, Bourne—as played by Matt Damon—seems jovial when compared to the no-nonsense Salt. If Evelyn Salt reminds audiences of other cinematic characters, most likely they are ones played by Jolie herself. (Lara Croft, Mrs. Smith, Kate "Acid-Burn" Libby) If Salt proves successful at the box office, instead of opting for the time honored tradition of shopping around projects until the producers feel they have no choice but to cast a D-list male actor or an unknown, perhaps Hollywood might tap into its wealth of female actors who have seen their big screen opportunities all but vanish.

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Comments

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Umm...

Snarky- is this review done? Is seems so capped off for your uysually loqacious self.

I've been preaching to the fat cats of Hollywood ever since they (horror of horror) cast Travolta in Hairspray- you know, because middle aged women of a certain girth exploding character and poise are so difficult to come by. They are simply snatched up far to qucikly by all of those other movies that are chock full of roles for portly or as my grandmother may have put it "well-loved" women- no way a women with the proper gnertic code- or hell a cross dresser (to my knowledge Travolta is not publicly known as a trans-gender actor correct?). So this wonderful role finally comes along- that you don't have to be underweight and perky, prefferably blonde and definitely under 25...And they give it to Danny Zucco? WHY?!

So yes, why not more femal action stars? Women are fully capable, and actually, we are more bendy, more flexible, and some may claim (myself for one) more capable of deception. And I am happy to shell out $15 to watch Angie kick ass. If it was Tommy boy? Not even $2.50 for a rental....

Seems done to me

Emily,

A review doesn't need to be lengthy to be informative, especially since this particular post was more about women in action films than it was about the plot of Salt. I'm sure Snarky wouldn't submit a review without finishing it to her liking.

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Thanks, Kelsey. I definitely

Thanks, Kelsey. I definitely was more interested in this idea of Hollywood trusting audiences to know what they enjoy and seeing the benefits of that particular perspective. Salt is definitely worth discussing in depth, but for the purposes of this entry, it didn't feel useful. I also wanted to give folks a chance to see it. Not everyone got a chance to catch it this weekend.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Review

Thank you for informing that there is no length requirement on reviews. I had believed that as this is set up a forum, some constructive criticism from a reader who tunes into all of Snarky's reviews may be appreciated, or observed at least, but since I have been corrected by you Kelsey, I guess I was amiss. I do apologize for speaking up. My opinion still stands; hopefully Snarky respects the thought, and explores this subject further, as I think the topic is excellent, and could really be explored. Her reviews usually pop and dig into fleshier matters- and she lives up to the monikier.

So shoot me.

No one wants to shoot anyone.

Hi Emily,

Of course this is a forum for discussion, and your comments are more than welcome. However, framing your criticism as a question (i.e., asking whether or not Snarky had actually finished the article we published) struck me as unnecessarily, well, snarky. As the web editor here, I just wanted to make it clear that our guest bloggers are awesome and wouldn't accidentally submit work without finishing it.

I hope that explanation helps, since I certainly didn't intend to make you feel like I wanted to shoot you.

Thanks!

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Emily, thanks for your

Emily, thanks for your response and critique. It's always nice to hear a reader desiring more from a writer! :)

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I think that in the original

I think that in the original Broadway show, the mother was always played by a man in drag. And, Edna Turnblad was originally played by Divine, who is a drag queen (or transvestite, according to the imdb bio). So honestly, to cast John Travolta as Edna Turnblad isn't outrageous. I thought he was hilarious in the roll and why, might i ask, does it have to be played by a transgendered person? Edna Turnblad isn't transgendered. So I honestly don't understand your logic.

Transgendered?

I was simply stating that it bothered me that for once in Hollywood a role had become available for the kind of woman that rarely gets cast- overweight and full of personality (large and in charge)- they gave it to a man. Whether the man did a good job with it or not to me is moot. there are plently of roles availible to men- once you hit your 30s, if you've put on a few lbs.- forget it- it is incredibly difficult to get cast as anything in Hollywood. Even mother of the bride roles and the like have weight requirements. To me, it was a slap in the face to cast a man, when we have a plethora of untapped raw talent in the plus size dept., despite what history may dictate. I mean, all of theater was performed by men at one point, should we go back to that as well?

I am way off topic now, so I will stop.

I understand what you're

I understand what you're saying, but the role of Edna Turnblad has ALWAYS been played by a man in drag. It was a John Waters thing, not a Hollywood thing.

The character of Tracy, however, has not, and the cute and talented Ricki Lake did great in the first movie, Nicki Blonsky did fabulous in the musical adaptation.

Lake

Lake was excellent. I had forgotten abou that performance.

Hmmm

I was on the fence about Salt but this review made me want to see it.

Also, I might not be the best person to discuss this because I haven't read any of the Jack Ryan novels, but I saw Chris Pine in a play last summer and I think he has far more talent than you might be giving him credit for based on Star Trek. That said, if they ever cast Don Cheadle my little heart would explode from happiness. I would really like to see more actors and actresses of color getting a shot at roles like these.

Thanks for this comment. You

Thanks for this comment. You are the second person who has noted Pine's acting chops, which are barely evident in the Star Trek. I am definitely going to revisit my thoughts on Pine in an upcoming post on my own blog.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I'm sorry but I have to

I'm sorry but I have to politely disagree. As an avid Star Trek fan, I loved Pine's performance as Jim Kirk in the new movie. I could see so much inspiration from William Shatner when he played the character. I just thought the entire casting couldn't have been more perfect. But that's just one Trekkie's opinion....

Agreed

I definitely agree with Anonymous here—I've worked tech on a theater production CP starred in in his earlier days (pre-Lindsay Lohan rom-com), and I gotta say he has the chops. In terms of physicality, embodying/communicating the character, and risk-taking he's pretty excellent.

I had no idea he was cast as Jack Ryan—and I'm interested to see how that goes. (Though I wager a lot of bitch readers are well under the average age of a Clancy fan—but some of us break trend and that's a good thing.) I hope it's a success. He never seemed like an action hero type back then, but he's flexible, and as long as he doesn't get pigeonholed I look forward to seeing a range of roles from him.

@Snarkysmachine, I look forward to hearing your take once the movie's out.

And to get this comment to have some little to do with Salt, Jolie is hotness, and I'll be seeing it...on Netflix.

Looks good

I´m looking forward to see this movie, I´ve had a very good entertainment with all Jason Bourne movies. I didn´t knew they were book based... trying to imagine all that action in printed words.

"ill-advised casting choices"

and you link it to the IMDB page for Interview With the Vampire?

I'm sorry but huh? any explanation?

And maybe Hollywood will stop casing young white males in their movie roles when 1) Writers start writing their young protagonists as non-white and non-male, and 2) when Hollywood will stop doing book adaptations as movies. Don't get me wrong, I want to see more diversity in movies, but it's not just the casting agents, it's also the screenwriters, who are largely, white males. I mean, it was a HUGE DEAL that the winner of best adapted screenplay was a gay black man, apparently, had never happened before. So what we need are more young writers of color writing screenplays with young protagonists of color.

Sure, Salt was entertaining, but at the expense of Russians. Hate to say it, but the movie was rife with Russian stereotypes. I live in a community that is heavily populated with Russian immigrants, it just rubbed me the wrong way to see Russians stereotyped as spies and sleeper agents intent on destroying America. haven't we seen enough of this?

Don't get me wrong, I love an action flick with a kick-ass no-nonsense female lead. And I hope that Hollywood starts casting talented kick-ass female leads, but I feel that the change needs to start from the source. I haven't read the screenplay for Salt, but I have a feeling it was originally written for a male lead.

So Hollywood screenwriters, start writing stories about kick-ass females!

Anne Rice fans were pretty

Anne Rice fans were pretty up in arms over the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat over the objection of Rice who envisioned actor Julian Sands in the role (I agreed, though am not a fan of Anne Rice, Julian Sands or vampire lit in particular). After screening the film, Rice reserved her position on Cruise's casting. Some fans, however, remained disappointed based on the discussion in the LA goth spaces I occupied at the time. But you're right, I could have spelled the connection much clearer.

I mean, it was a HUGE DEAL that the winner of best adapted screenplay was a gay black man, apparently, had never happened before. So what we need are more young writers of color writing screenplays with young protagonists of color.

Absolutely. It was a wonderful moment. And while I agree we need more diversity in screenwriting camps, I prefer to deal with the situation "as is" rather than some far off future dream. Right now, white males DO dominant screenwriting, so it is more likely to see something like the casting of Morgan Freeman as Dr. Alex Cross (from those James Patterson nursery rhyme titled crime thrillers) than suddenly having tons of opportunities for screenwriters of color. Though, ideally, I'd like to see BOTH, but realistically, I understand dismantling systems of oppression takes more time.

Also thanks for your thoughtful comment! Much appreciated.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

The thing is, fans of novels

The thing is, fans of novels will rarely be happy with casting choices for the adaptations of their favorite books. And I'm one of them. I never really liked the Harry Potter movies, and I rarely like any book adaptations (There are exceptions, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was amazing, and there are a couple others) myself. But I liked Tom Cruise in the movie, but then again I haven't read the books, and that was before he got all wonky. I'm sure when I read the book, I'll feel differently. Some more examples like back in the day (and even now), when white actors are cast to play characters of color. Really Hollywood, WTF? John Wayne as Ghengis Khan? Or my favorite, Keanu Reeves in Dracula. Surfer boy doing an English accent, LOLZ. I'm getting off-track, but I'm having WAY too much fun with this.

And I think directors and producers should be more comfortable with casting cross-gender and cross-racial characters. Johnny Depp is rumored to be playing Carol Channing in a movie adaptation of her life, which she has heartily approved of. And with Salt, it's absolutely evident that the movie was a success with changing the gender of the main character to female. Sometimes, the part has to go to the best actor. But I'm talking about changing the character, of course.

EDIT: I didn't even know that Rice fans were upset over the casting choice, so thanks for that tidbit of info!

Oh, and speaking of Keanu Reeves....

http://www.theshiznit.co.uk/feature/top-20-worst-casting-decisions-ever....