Sexual Abuse isn’t just Hollywood’s Problem

Photo by Flickr user Prayitno

2017 may well go down in history as the year that Hollywood was revealed for what it really was all along. The past few weeks have brought us a torrent of accusations of sexual abuse and harassment against some of the leading names in American show business, from beloved Star Trek alum George Takei, to comedian Louis C.K. and Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, a host of big names are now fighting to deny (or in the case of Louis C.K., to apologize for) the accusations of misconduct that have been made against them. Then there is the man who practically runs the American film industry: Harvey Weinstein.

It was an open secret for years that Harvey Weinstein would use influence to get anything he wanted, but usually this was viewed in the context of film politics. Yes, Hollywood has a form of politics all its own. Since I was a teenager, I have been paying attention to the yearly series of self-congratulatory awards shows leading up to the Oscars. I have an idea of how the studios campaign for their films. At Miramax and then his own eponymous company, Harvey Weinstein built the most formidable campaign operation that the Oscars had ever seen. His ability to get his films into the winner’s circle was so impressive, one couldn’t help wondering if he was personally visiting Oscar voters in their retirement homes in order to twist their arms. (Yes, most of the voters are old, white, and male.)

There was no question that Weinstein behaved like a strong man, and yet his power attracted the friendship of anyone who was anyone. They all knew that he was pulling the strings. Hosts at award shows would joke about it openly. No one stopped to put two and two together and think, “If this is how this man behaves in general, might he be behaving this way toward the women in his life?” Actually, they did, but they were too terrified of crossing him to say anything. Weinstein had his fingers in so many aspects of the film industry that getting on his bad side was not a good idea for any up and comer. Continue reading

Is Wonder Woman a Good Example of Biblical Womanhood?

It has come to my attention in recent weeks that some people are pointing to the latest incarnation of DC Comics’ Wonder Woman as a role model not only for females in general, but for Christian females in particular. Her selflessness and compassion are admirable Christian virtues, it is said. Her bravery in the face of evil is emblematic of true womanly strength. Her willingness to save humanity, even though it is completely undeserving, is much in line with the actions of Jesus Christ. Some have gone so far as to claim that the filmmakers clearly meant to make a Christological statement.

I read all of this and rolled my eyes internally, for it seemed a whole lot of hoopla over a comic book film that is only considered great in comparison to the long string of uninspired and vapid sequels put out by Hollywood in recent years, all of which seem to rake in exorbitant sums at the box office despite getting terrible reviews. I do not speak from ignorance. My husband is the kind of man who will line up for any film that takes place in the Marvel or DC universe, and though I manage to skip most of these outings, my love for him requires me to attend at least a couple times a year. My goal is to choose whichever film seems either most original or least objectionable, and this summer that movie was Wonder Woman.

Unlike some of my female compatriots, I did not drive to the cinema anticipating greatness. The character of Wonder Woman has always been, in my estimation, a mixed blessing. It is a bit hard to square the notion that she is a feminist icon with the fact that her costume is hardly different from many S&M getups, whip and all. One might also object to the fact that being a strong female is equated with physical violence, or that Wonder Woman has been subjected in some manifestations to being yet another one of Batman’s boy toys, or that her obvious hotness seems intended to attract male viewers rather than female ones. All I was expecting from this movie is that it would be mildly entertaining, and it managed to clear that low bar. It was nowhere near as bad as some of the superhero films I’ve been forced to endure, but neither would I rank it among the very best. (I believe that The Dark Knight is the gold standard, even if it suffers from a disappointing final act.)

After seeing this movie, my Twitter feed continued to light up with all sorts of laudatory statements about how fabulous it is. Some were speaking merely in terms of its entertainment quality, but there was also the inevitable slew of articles from those who constantly seek out Christ in pop culture. A few of these writers made some decent points, and I don’t begrudge them delving into the shallow end of the pool once in a while. However, there were just as many essays that verged on the utterly ridiculous. Part of me wanted to craft a response, but I said to myself, “No, Amy. If you write about Wonder Woman, you’ll just be perpetuating the very trend that you hate. You’ll be giving in to the temptation of click bait.” Yes, I knew that writing about Wonder Woman would probably attract far more readers than my carefully thought out examinations of various Scripture passages. That, in my mind, was further proof of the shallowness of evangelical culture and how female writers will never be afforded the same level of respect as men. Well, I was not about to succumb to temptation. I left Wonder Woman alone.

Then a wonderful Christian author, a female most averse to controversies of any kind, alerted me to some concerns that have been voiced. It seems that there are other people equally troubled by the fact that Wonder Woman is now considered the standard for biblical womanhood. This female I will not name, who is awesome with awesome sauce on top, had no time to respond to the problem, and in any case it is truly beneath her. Such a task is better suited to a nobody like myself. Therefore, I agreed to write about Wonder Woman, and in doing so I ensured that at least on this occasion, my husband would read my blog. Unfortunately, I will not manage to follow this author’s suggestion that I limit the number of words in my articles. Apologies in advance. Continue reading

What I Didn’t Expect to See in “The Force Awakens”

Theatrical poster for "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens"

Theatrical poster for “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”

WARNING: The following contains some major spoilers about the newest Star Wars installment. Read on at your own risk.

3:00 a.m. A moment ago, I was in the land of sleep, but now that bliss is denied me. My muscles are tensed. My mind is churning so hard it’s likely to produce butter. Each effort to relax seems to be in vain.

This isn’t like me. Undisturbed sleep is one area in which I typically excel. I once slept through a fire alarm, after all. So I’m going to attribute this nocturnal interruption to the excitement of the previous evening, when I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

True, I probably shouldn’t have had that Cherry Coke. I try to avoid drinking caffeine in the evening, and these days I avoid soda in general. (Something about all those added sugars being bad for my health, so I figure that abstaining means I can skip that five mile run.) But it’s not every day that I see the opening of a new Star Wars film, and this one promised to be a cut above the rest, so I decided to indulge. Live and learn.

Then again, caffeine has not historically given me fits, so maybe there’s something else to explain this unpleasant wakefulness. Could it be that I’m still a bit in shock from what I just saw on the screen? Continue reading

Update: ’12 Years a Slave’ Wins Best Picture at the Oscars

"Twelve Years a Slave" stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (far left) and Lupita Nyong'o (center) with director Steve McQueen (far right) at the Mill Valley Film Festival. Flickr photo by Steve Rhodes

“Twelve Years a Slave” stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (far left) and Lupita Nyong’o (center) with director Steve McQueen (far right) at the Mill Valley Film Festival. Flickr photo by Steve Rhodes

 

I wish to extend my hearty congratulations to those involved with the film 12 Years a Slave after its success at the Academy Awards last night, taking home the trophies for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was a not a clean sweep, and the Academy members rightly wanted to honor another ground breaking film, Gravity, with a slew of technical awards, Best Original Score for Steven Price, and the Best Director prize for Alfonso Cuarón. Interestingly, American Hustle got completely shut out. (A full list of winners can be found here.)

Back in November, after seeing 12 Years a Slave, I wrote a rather extensive analysis of the film.  If you are interested in reading it, click on this link. I have to say, it was refreshing to see for once that the Academy actually chose their Best Picture winner based on merit (at least in my opinion). The voters have a habit of going for feel good sentiment, or movies that seem to praise movie making, while shying away from films that are darker or deal with difficult subject matter. Well, not this year! Perhaps host Ellen DeGeneres was right: the Academy members’ only choices were to choose 12 Years a Slave or look like a bunch of racists.

One final note: the presenters for the Best Director award were Angelina Jolie and living legend Sidney Poitier, who was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his win for Best Actor, the first ever by an African-American. The main rival in this category to eventual winner Cuarón was Steve McQueen, the director of 12 Years a Slave. If McQueen had won, he would have become the first black director to win Hollywood’s top prize, and he would have received the statue from Sidney Poitier. I cannot help but think that this had something to do with the choice of presenter (as they could have easily had Poitier introduce another category), but it was not meant to be.

2014 Oscars Best Dressed List

If it’s the Oscars, you know that I have to be putting together a best dressed list for the ten most beautifully attired females in attendance. In order to avoid copyright violations, I am going to be linking to pictures of the garments in question rather than stealing them and posting them here. Just click on the name of any of these ladies to see what I am talking about.

10. Jennifer Lawrence – A classic red peplum dress; nice and glamorous, though it could have done with some more glitzy jewelry. (It’s the Oscars: if you’re not going to go with the glitz here, then where else?)

9. Naomi Watts – She played Princess Diana this year in a film that was widely panned, but this dress, which looks as if it could have been worn by Di herself, gets an ‘A’ grade from me. Continue reading

Update: Oscar Nomination Reactions

"The Wolf of Wall Street" did better than pretty much anyone expected.  Movie poster copyright Paramount Pictures, used for commentary purposes only.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” did better than pretty much anyone expected. Movie poster copyright Paramount Pictures, used for commentary purposes only.

 

For those of you who read my Oscar nomination predictions for this year and were curious to know how I did, I thought I would provide a brief rundown of how things went. I was 4/5 in every category, except for Best Picture, where I correctly predicted all nine nominees. Because the number of Best Picture nominees cannot be known for sure ahead of time, I provided a total of ten predictions, so one of them was incorrect. However, since I did predict all of the ones that were nominated, I think we should consider this one a perfect 9/9, no?

As for who will win the big award, today’s announcement changes nothing. It is still a three-way race between American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave.

Full list of nominees from Variety. Continue reading

Oscar Nomination Predictions

The red carpet rolled out in front of the Kodak Theatre (now the Dolby Theatre) for the 2009 Academy Awards. Flickr photo by  Greg Hernandez ("Greg in Hollywood")

The red carpet rolled out in front of the Kodak Theatre (now the Dolby Theatre) for the 2009 Academy Awards. Flickr photo by Greg Hernandez (“Greg in Hollywood”)

It is that time of year again: the time for Hollywood to engage in its annual orgy of self-congratulation.  The Oscar nominations are set to be announced this coming Thursday, January 16, at a time early enough in the morning for all the nominated actors and actresses to insist –

“Oh, I was sound asleep when my agent called me to tell me the good news!  I was so surprised!  This is such an honor!  Not that I think you can really compare art.  I mean, there were so many amazing films this year.  It’s an honor just to be mentioned among these other men/women. I suppose I’ll have to find something in the closet to wear…” Continue reading

For Japan and China, a Dispute Worthy of Voldemort

Yasukuni Shrine Wikipedia Fg2

The Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on a rainy day. Photo by Wikipedia user Fg2

I had a nice post prepared for today that was going to deal with a controversial issue in the religious world, but I have decided to put it aside and instead address a controversy that is currently brewing in the world of international relations.  One might even say it takes place in the fantasy world.

Let me first state a well known fact: China and Japan do not get along.  Subjects of disagreement between them include the fact that one is Communist and the other is a Western-style democracy, one is a major U.S. ally and the other more of a U.S. competitor, both are economic powers going after some of the same markets, a controversial chain of islands is claimed by both of them, they each have capable and expanding military forces, and one of them has a bunch of cute pandas while the other does not. (Ok, that last one isn’t really a source of tension.) Yet, all of these factors tend to take a backseat to a list of historical grievances that have proved to be infinitely hard to forget. Continue reading

“12 Years a Slave”: Thoughts on America’s Darkest Chapter

An examination of some of the issues raised by director Steve McQueen’s newest film, including its historical, cultural, and spiritual implications.

I did not go to see 12 Years a Slave intending to write about it, but as much for myself as for others, I feel a need to do so now.  What I saw was not an ordinary film.  I knew before I went in that it would prompt a great deal of philosophical pondering, but perhaps even this expectation has proved to be too small.

The film tells the story of Solomon Northrup according to his 1853 autobiography.  A free black man living in New York state, he was deceived and abducted into slavery while on a trip to Washington, D.C.  For the next twelve years, he witnessed the horrors of slavery on multiple plantations in Louisiana, until finally a chance encounter allowed him to press his legal case and earn back his freedom.  It’s the kind of amazing true story that screenwriters would normally dream about, but the darkness of the subject matter is likely part of the reason that no filmmaker has attempted the feat until now. Continue reading

Captain Phillips is a Case of Greengrass Déjà Vu

Going to see the new movie Captain Phillips was a case of massive film déjà vu.  No, this is not because I was recently on a boat that was taken over by Somali pirates, or because I was once trapped on a lifeboat for several days.  Fortunately, there was nothing from my own life that bore a striking similarity to the events on screen.  Rather, it was a case in which one film reminded me of another film, and the similarities were no coincidence. Continue reading