WBEZ | cinema http://www.wbez.org/tags/cinema Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Winter in Hollywood: Tis the season for slut-shaming http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-01/winter-hollywood-tis-season-slut-shaming-105098 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/APTexasChainsaw.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Texas Chainsaw 3D (AP)" />The winter movie season tends to be a dumping ground for movies that couldn&rsquo;t hack it anywhere else&mdash;whether they&rsquo;re risky business for a studio that feels they might be a tough sell to audiences (the re-cut, hyper-violent <em>Gangster Squad</em>) or a studio red-headed stepchild that has flop written all over it (the long-delayed <em>Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters</em>).The <em>A.V. Club</em> recently referred to January as the &quot;<a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/2013-winter-movie-antipreview,90739/2/">least-wonderful time of the year</a>.&quot; But this winter, we&rsquo;re seeing an emerging trend on top of our yearly pile of holiday coal: a stinking heap of slut-shaming and sex negativity.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">To be fair, this isn&rsquo;t the first time that slut shaming has reared its sexist head in TV or film. The WB&rsquo;s golden age programming had a marked tendency to punish its female characters for losing their virginity. Both <em>Gilmore Girls</em> and <em>Felicity </em>have their young leads engage in infidelity for their first times, which leads to retribution and (in the case of Rory Gilmore) being shipped off to Europe for the summer like Daisy Miller. In <em>Buffy the Vampire Slayer</em>, <a href="http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SlutShaming">Buffy Summers</a>&rsquo; undead boyfriend loses his soul and tries to kill all of her friends after they have sex. The premium is put on maintaining one&rsquo;s virginity, and if any form of sexuality is shown, it&rsquo;s harmful and dangerous.</div><p>Cinema sometimes subverts these norms&mdash;like <em>The Devil Wears Prada</em>&mdash;but the more common example is a film like <em>What&rsquo;s Your Number?</em>, which tells women that having sex with too many people is bad. If you&#39;re a slut, no one will ever love you and you&rsquo;ll be doomed to be alone. It&rsquo;s like that scene in <em>Mean Girls</em> where a sex-ed counselor tells girls that if they have sex, they will get pregnant and die. This is not how Judy Blume said it would be.</p><p>Michael Tiddes&rsquo; <em>A Haunted House</em> (aka that movie starring a bunch of Wayanses) gives us a great example of Hollywood&rsquo;s norm of sex negativity, as characters who overtly express their sexualities are lampooned for it. The Wayans&rsquo; brothers previous <em>Scary Movie </em>franchise engages in the same behavior, presenting female sexuality in broad caricatures and dichotomies. Women are either fake-breasted sluts or virgins. In <em>A Haunted House</em>, the character most defined by his sexuality is Nick Swardson&rsquo;s gay psychic, and Swardson can&rsquo;t get through fifteen seconds of screen time without the movie shaming him for his sexuality. They even pull out a nice lisp and some leather gear to do so. The Wayans oeuvre is not one for subtlety.</p><p>As a (terrible) send-up of horror films, <em>A Haunted House</em> both comments on and upholds the horror genre&rsquo;s tortured relationship to sex&mdash;where the virgin lives and the slut dies first. (Joss Whedon&rsquo;s recent <em>The Cabin in the Woods</em> parodies this trope brilliantly.) If you wanted an example of slut-shaming in horror films for your cinema class, the recent <em>Texas Chainsaw 3D</em> is practically a gift from God, a movie whose characterization of female sexuality is so over the top that you feel like it has to be a joke. Two of the film&rsquo;s three screenwriters are female, so I sincerely hope this is the case, but Tina Fey assures me it might not be. Seriously, did <em>Mean Girls </em>teach us nothing?</p><p><em>Texas Chainsaw 3D</em> introduces us to two female leads, whose sexual behaviors are diametrically opposed. Alexandra Daddario&rsquo;s Heather is a classic horror movie good girl in the vein of Jamie Lee Curtis, who looks like Neve Campbell crossed with Tiffani Amber Thiessen. She&rsquo;s shown to be somewhat sexually active, but far more conservative than her friend Nikki, whose dress and nomenclature suggest she&rsquo;s auditioning for <em>Showgirls II: Revenge of the Kibble</em>. Almost every line of Nikki&rsquo;s dialogue that graces our ears is about having sex, hooking up or boys&mdash;but Raymonde plays Nikki with enough winking irony that you know she understands what she&rsquo;s dealing with here. During a <a href="http://www.dreadcentral.com/news/62449/exclusive-interview-tania-raymonde-being-slutty-girl-and-more-texas-chainsaw-3d">panel</a> discussion about the film, the <em>Lost </em>actress was a good sport about her character&rsquo;s limitations: &ldquo;That was another pleasure of mine, to fulfill the iconic stereotype role of the bimbo in the horror movie.&rdquo;</p><p>Despite the brains behind the boobs, the movie treats Nikki with a strange amount of disdain and spends a great deal of screen time setting her up for a slut takedown. Throughout the film, Nikki goes after Heather&rsquo;s boyfriend (played by rapper Trey Songz, obviously) like a drunken, heat-seeking missile, and finally lands him in a barn by getting him liquored up. She all but has to force him to get him to have sex with her, which the movie is then able to punish her for by brutally slaughtering her. Whereas Mr. Songz&rsquo;s death gets to take place off camera, the film revels in watching her pay.</p><p>The same behaviors take place in <em>Jack Reacher</em>, a movie that&rsquo;s been steamrolled at the box office by <em>Django Unchained</em> and <em>Les Miz</em> ever since it was released. Buried in the pre-Christmas onslaught, the film portrays Tom Cruise as a loner vigilante working with and against the police to track down a serial killer, played with reliable surreal gusto by the mad German auteur Werner Herzog. While hunting down the bad guys, the film serves as a love letter to Tom Cruise&rsquo;s apparently irresistible sex appeal, as almost every woman he encounters throws themselves in front of him to have sex with him. In an uncomfortable scene, even an old lady cashier gives him the sex-me-now eye. He declines, because he&#39;s too good for sex. Jack Reacher is above that sort of thing.</p><p>One of the women dying to be with him is the scantily clad Sandy, who approaches the much older Cruise in a bar and offers to go to bed with him. For reasons that the plot will attempt to explain later, Cruise turns down her offer, at first mistaking her for a hooker, and then repeatedly calls her a &ldquo;slut&rdquo;&mdash;until the men she&rsquo;s with try to beat him up. (Because it&rsquo;s a Tom Cruise movie, he&rsquo;s able to fight all of them off.) However, the movie is not done with Sandy, and Cruise will track her down again later to give her a bizarre speech about her life choices and why she needs to change her filthy, whorish ways. Sandy doesn&rsquo;t turn her life around, so someone punches her in the head and she dies. No more Sandy.</p><p>What&rsquo;s interesting here is that the movie finds the idea of Tom Cruise being an insatiable lothario so permissible that it&rsquo;s able to ram it down our throats&mdash;but if a woman expresses herself sexually, she gets killed for it. What is this, the Taliban?</p><p>Even the movies that do a better job on issues of female sexuality have an odd relationship with the secular flesh. Take the Oscar-nominated <em>Zero Dark Thirty</em>, which is a landmark in rewriting the rules of women in film. Jessica Chastain&rsquo;s Maya lives for her job, so much so that she views the idea of having sex with her co-workers &ldquo;unbecoming.&rdquo; When another female employee, played by Meryl Streep look-alike Jennifer Ehle, suggests that she relax and let her hair down, Maya insists, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not the girl who f**ks.&rdquo; In order for Maya to be respected at what she does, she&rsquo;s not allowed to be sexually active at all, and Maya looks down on those without her brand of sexual ethics. All this does is replace one set of sexual standards for another, rather than just allowing women to make their own choices.</p><p>Although the film is meant to be a statement about the hyper-sexualization of women in cinema and a cry against patriarchy, this only upholds the overarching sex negativity in Hollywood, where sex is a four letter word. Last year&rsquo;s public slut-shaming of Kristen Stewart and the industry&rsquo;s complicity in dumping her career only showed how much progress needs to be made on the issue. We need to change a culture where women are thrown under the bus for cheating, and men get to keep their jobs and careers. The slut shaming we see in such films as <em>Texas Chainsaw 3D</em> is a reflection of that puritanical mindset, one that we reinforce by throwing money at it.</p><p>If there&rsquo;s any hope for sluts at the cinema, you&rsquo;ll find it in films like Will Gluck&rsquo;s <em>Easy A</em> or David O. Russell&rsquo;s <em>Silver Linings Playbook</em>, which aren&rsquo;t perfect but are a huge step in the right direction. In <em>Silver Linings</em>&rsquo;, Jennifer Lawrence&rsquo;s Tiffany plays a widow who went through a promiscuous period after her husband&rsquo;s death, about which her romantic interest, Bradley Cooper&rsquo;s Pat, gives her a hard time. Rather than apologizing for her past, Lawrence owns her sexual history. When Pat calls her a &ldquo;big slut,&rdquo; she retorts, &ldquo;There&#39;s always going to be a part of me that&#39;s <em>sloppy and dirty</em><em>,</em> but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself.&rdquo;</p><p>Sure, Tiffany has to reinforce the idea that she&rsquo;s not a slut <em>anymore</em> to assuage Pat&rsquo;s fears, but a mainstream movie that even flirts with sex positivity is a revelation. Although outspoken young actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and Olivia Thirlby&mdash;who mentioned in a recent interview that she self-identifies as a &ldquo;slut&rdquo;&mdash;are ready and able to break the boundaries of how Hollywood portrays women, they need directors, producers and writers who are willing to go on that journey with them. Rather than continuing to perpetuate damaging norms and then cheekily playing along, we need to stop teaching young women that their bodies are bodies are disposable and they deserve to die for having sex. If we want to empower women, we have to stop being ironic about sexism and start actually doing something about it.</p><p><em>Nico Lang blogs about LGBTQ life in Chicago for WBEZ.org. Follow Nico on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Nico_Lang" target="_hplink">@Nico_Lang</a> or on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang" target="_hplink">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 23 Jan 2013 10:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-01/winter-hollywood-tis-season-slut-shaming-105098 Milos Stehlik reviews Errol Morris’ new film 'Tabloid' http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-15/milos-stehlik-reviews-errol-morris%E2%80%99s-new-film-tabloid-89217 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-15/tabloid-movie-poster.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Tabloid</em>, which filmmaker <a href="http://errolmorris.com/">Errol Morris</a> self-assesses as his best film, is opening at a topical time – just as the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14045952">scandal</a> surrounding the British tabloid News of the World continues to explode.</p><p>Errol Morris’s films have a sensationalist element at their core: people obsessed with their pets and pet cemeteries in his first feature, <em>Gates of Heaven</em>, the turkey hunters in <em>Vernon, Florida</em>, the Texas man wrongly accused and convicted of murder in <em>The Thin Blue Line</em>, the portrait of execution device inventor and holocaust denier <em>Mr Death: The Rise And Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr</em>., the self-rationalizations of former defense secretary Robert McNamara in <em>Fog of War</em>, American soldiers run amok at Iraq’s Abu Graib prison in <em>Standard Operating Procedure</em>.</p><p>If Morris thinks that <em>Tabloid</em> is his best film, it is because it is the most cinematic and the fastest-moving. Its subject --- the beauty queen Joyce McKinney – whose relationship with a missionary Kirk Anderson becomes the scandal known as “Mormon sex in chains case” –is certainly <em>Tabloid</em> fodder.</p><p>As the love-struck Joyce McKinney pursued Kirk, the Mormon missionary to England, she was arrested and charged with abducting him. Then the press accused her of chloroforming and raping Kirk Anderson, who she said was her fiancé. The case became the locus of a newspaper war between <em>The Daily Express</em> and <em>Daily Mirror in London</em>. In the film, McKinney says that her relationship with Anderson was a love story, and all she wanted to do was to reclaim him from brainwashing by Mormon Elders. Even today, McKinney thinks that the Mormon Church ruined her life.</p><p>Years later, McKinney continued her sensational saga by paying $25,000 to a Korean scientist to have her dead pit bull cloned in Korea. The result was five puppies.</p><p>What makes the films of Errol Morris, including <em>Tabloid</em>, interesting is not just their subject matter, but Morris’s approach. Morris’s take is ironic, voyeuristic and peels at the scabs of sordid reality to revel in the gap between how people are and how they see and represent themselves.</p><p>Just how visceral this disconnect between reality and perception can be, is demonstrated by the real Joyce McKinney’s reaction to <em>Tabloid</em>, the movie. She has virtually stalked various festival screenings of <em>Tabloid</em>, accused Morris of lying to her, and threatened to sue. The singular argument that emerges from her impassioned rhetoric seems to be that Morris falsely says McKinney raped her lover. As she states in one on-line blog response, Morris was not in the bedroom.</p><p>Joyce McKinney states that Morris tricked her into appearing in the film in the first place by representing the shoot as a non-existent Showtime series about paparazzi, and that her story, as Morris represents it in the film, is false. She says that the tabloid hoax, invented by the British tabloids in 1977, is based on false information propagated by the Mormons when McKinney tried to rescue her fiance, which led to her wrongful arrest. The film, McKinney charges, also promotes lies about her.</p><p>I would wager that the controversy over <em>Tabloid</em>, much like earlier controversy over <em>The Thin Blue Line</em> and, to a lesser extent, <em>Fog of War</em> is music to Errol Morris’s ears. The more blurred the shadowy line between truth and fiction becomes, the more Morris, the director, becomes the singular orchestrator of that reality. There is something brilliant and at the same time diabolical in his being able to provoke that tease, leaving the audience gasping for some sure footing in the ambiguity.</p><p>Morris’s defense would be, of course, that the scandal in <em>Tabloid</em> is just a story –a story that he, as a filmmaker, simply found fascinating. But every story, whether it pre-exists a film or not, needs a storyteller. Much like his vaunted “Interretron” interviewing technique – which uses technology to fool the interview subject into looking straight into the camera – Morris, the orchestrator of the shifting realities, hides in their shadow, leaving his audience breathless – and grasping for meaning…</p><p><strong>M</strong><strong>ilos Stehlik’s commentaries reflect his own views and not necessarily those of Facets Multimedia, <em>Worldview</em> or 91.5 WBEZ. His reviews air on Fridays.</strong></p></p> Fri, 15 Jul 2011 18:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-15/milos-stehlik-reviews-errol-morris%E2%80%99s-new-film-tabloid-89217 Minority-owned theater chain ICE re-opens location in Lawndale http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-21/minority-owned-theater-chain-ice-re-opens-location-lawndale-85490 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-April/2011-04-21/ICE Flickr Jeffrey Zoline.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.icetheaters.com/chatham14.asp" target="_blank">Inner City Entertainment</a>, also known as the ICE theater chain, will officially re-open one of its theaters in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood. The theater closed about four years ago. ICE has been in business almost for fifteen years now. The ambition of its owners is to provide entertainment – and jobs – to largely minority communities.<br> <br> To help them kick off the re-opening, they’ve invited Lawndale native Robert Townsend. On Friday, April 22, the actor and filmmaker will screen his 1991 film <em>The Five Heartbeats</em>.<br> <br> ICE co-owners Alisa and Donzell Starks joined <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> to talk about the movie theater business.</p></p> Thu, 21 Apr 2011 15:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-21/minority-owned-theater-chain-ice-re-opens-location-lawndale-85490