We got the Summer Movie Preview edition of Entertainment Weekly recently. I’d already heard about one controversy from it, but I was rather amused at a bunch of market-speak that were worthy of Mad Hatter Awards, and so here they are:
1) First prize goes to director George Nolfi, who is helming his feature debut in The Adjustment Bureau, for which he also wrote the screenplay, a thriller based very loosely on a short story by Philip K. Dick, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, about a politician who falls for a ballerina and then must elude a shadowy agency that adjusts reality and seeks to keep them apart. Nolfi wants to pretend he didn’t do a sci-fi movie: “Sci-fi to me conjures up lasers and spaceships and time travel. This movie is told very realistically.” Because it is very realistic to be able to adjust the fabric of reality.
Philip K. Dick is of course the science fiction author most beloved by Hollywood. Numerous works of his have been made into film, and his dark, dsytopian visions have had a profound impact on cinema. Rather than capitalize on that or the large interest in SFF films, Mr. Nolfi seems to feel that thriller-goers will avoid speculative elements if you call them that, which is of course nonsense, as is the claim that sci-fi stories never deal with reality. I’m likely to see the film at some point, as I like both Damon and Blunt, but I suspect I will avoid Mr. Nolfi’s other films in the future, as he is most dreadfully out of date and out of touch with reality. He may need an adjustment from the bureau. 🙂
2) Second prize goes to actress Julia Roberts and writer-director Ryan Murphy for their comments on their up-coming summer movie Eat, Pray, Love, adapted from Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir. Roberts starts things off with the quote: “But one of the things I really loved about our approach to this material is that people took it very seriously. This wasn’t gone into as a frothy, girl journey. This is a person’s soul-searching experience.” And Murphy finishes it off with the appeal: “This is for the ladies who sat through five action movies with their boyfriends, and it’s their chance to say ‘My turn.'”
So, get it straight ladies — you do not like action movies; you like frothy girl journeys, because women’s movies are always usually inconsequential bilge water. But this movie is not a frothy girl journey. It’s a soul searching story that will only appeal to women, who do not like icky boy movies. And they aren’t being condescending toward women at all, really they aren’t. Again, Murphy does the t.v. series Glee, which I like a lot, and Roberts is of course an institution to whom I’ve often given money. But as I have no interest in this film whatsoever, I will not be facing a crisis of conscience on this one. I’ll just go to the icky boy action movies that I drag my husband to. And wonder when actors and filmmakers will stop talking to me as if I was a little girl who had to be educated on proper female interests when they clearly don’t have a clue themselves.
3) Next in the special condescending toward gender section is the quote that is causing the Internet controversy — regarding the movie Salt. The movie, about a possible Russian sleeper spy, was originally written for a guy and was going to star Tom Cruise. But he dropped out, and they re-did it for Angelina Jolie. Which is certainly a nice thing and Jolie can definitely carry an action movie. But then we get this quote from the film’s director Phillip Noyce: “In the original script, there was a huge sequence where Edwin Salt [the original character] saves his wife, who’s in danger. And what we found was when Evelyn Salt [the new character played by Jolie] saved her husband in the new script, it seemed to castrate his character a little. So we had to change the nature of that relationship.” They changed it by having the husband able to save himself.
Now, I actually give Noyce foolhearty points for openly declaring how much focus group research and studio concerns for demographics control the film process. But as a way to sell the movie to either men or women, it stinks. It particularly stinks for the audience of women who might be interested in this film. After lauding how they made Jolie’s character kick-ass and how much we should appreciate that they did so for a girl, they simply announce that as a woman, she can’t act totally like a guy [only the sexy parts of being guy-like, not the competent parts] and a guy can’t be saved by a woman in an action picture. Otherwise, his precious masculinity will be somehow threatened. Castrated, even. It’s Mad Hatter logic, made all the more funny because in her action films, Jolie’s characters have saved Daniel Craig (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,) Brad Pitt (Mr. & Mrs. Smith,) and James MacAvoy (Wanted,) among others, without apparently these films causing a castration crisis. I suspect, like The Adjustment Bureau, I will probably end up seeing Salt at some point, but these sort of things make the film sound more boring, not more interesting.
4) And lastly, we have Iron Man 2, where director Jon Favreau takes this swipe: “On one side, you have Spider-Man, which has its charms, and on the other side you have The Dark Knight, which has a complexity to it. We’re somewhere in the middle. There’s a certain humor, irreverence, and panache to Tony Stark. Thats what’s unique to us.” Yeah, that’s the scale — wisecracks and complexity. Forget that the essence of Spiderman is about the dark side of superheroes — with great power comes great responsibilty — and that the films are morally complex (particularly the story concering Doctor Octopus.) Forget that The Dark Knight’s rift on vigilantism owes more than a few notes to Spider-Man. Forget that making Tony Stark a wise-cracking and irreverant superhero — which he’s not originally if you’ve ever read the actual comic book — was cribbed from fellow Marvel character Spider-Man, and is hardly unique to comics in any case.
I am, again, fond of Favreau and will definitely be seeing Iron Man 2. But that’s the point — Iron Man was a hit and the franchise is on-going, so “defining” the sequel was entirely unnecessary. Whereas the Spider-Man operation has been shut down and there was utterly no reason to diss Sam Raimi as being a director without complexity. So Favreau gets the runner-up award.
Honorable Mention goes to the folk who made Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe. The film was supposed to originally be entitled Nottingham and tell the story from the Sheriff’s point of view, with Crowe playing him. Instead, they decided to re-make Prince of Thieves and have Crowe play Robin Hood back from the Crusades. It’s not exactly illogic, but it’s a sad piece of wimpy film-making.
So that’s all my kvetching for today. Something more interesting and less complainy in subject matter I’m planning to have up soon.