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Daily Reads: Hollywood's Homophobia Problem, Why Filmmakers Fail and More

Criticwire By Max O'Connell | Criticwire July 24, 2014 at 9:37AM

Plus: How Marvel became the envy and scourge of Hollywood, and why disabled characters are rarely played by disabled actors.
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"The Hangover"
"The Hangover"

Criticwire's Daily Reads brings today's essential news stories and critical pieces to you.

1. Hollywood's Ongoing Homophobia. A recent article in The Dissolve pointed out how cinema is finally covering gay history, but the LGBT community is still woefully underrepresented and misrepresented by Hollywood films. A new GLAAD report found only 17 representations of LGBT characters in 102 films released by the six major studios, most of which were either inessential to the film or regressive stereotypes. One could argue that the point of the scene in question in "The Wolf of Wall Street" is to illustrate the cruelty and moral bankruptcy of the men in the film, but when a Tyler Perry movie has one of the year's most progressive depictions of LGBT, one can't help but be taken aback.

But the L.G.B.T.-positive message of "Peeples" serves as an anomaly on this grim list, where gay characters are not only punchlines ("Grown Ups 2," "We’re the Millers"), but also punching bags ("The Wolf of Wall Street," "Pain & Gain"). From some of the language in the study, it would seem that GLAAD struggled to include even 17 films on this list. Cameron Diaz’s allegedly bisexual character in "The Counselor" was dismissed because, according to GLAAD, “the film does little more than tease this as a possibility.” And almost against their will, GLAAD included Ken Jeong’s Mr. Chow from "The Hangover" trilogy, saying “it’s disheartening that this offensively constructed character also stands out as one of the most significant among the 2013 releases.” Read more.


2. 
Gender Within Film Crews. Speaking of representation, writer/producer Stephen Follows of Catsnake Film has a report on the presence of women on film crews from 1994-2013, and the verdict isn't good. According to Follows, the gender-split of film crews on the top 1,000 grossing films from the two-decade period is made up of only 22.6% women, and only 21.8% of the film crew members on 2013's highest grossing films are female. Most of the crew members are in the costume, makeup and casting departments, with only 24.2% of editors and a paltry 5.1% of camera or electrical crew members being made up of women. 

Once I had complied these league tables I researched who were the key filmmakers behind these 40 movies. The results tell a clear story. The 'Most Male' films are written and directed exclusively by men, four out of five of the producers are male and three-quarters of the principal cast (i.e. top seven names) are also men. In total, 83% of the people involved with these films were men.However, the pattern is not the same for women. While there are far more female filmmakers in the 'Most Female' chart, men are still the majority at 54%. The only place where women outnumber men is in the principal cast. It should be noted that 42% of the writers for the 'Most Female' chart are women, which is way above the UK average of 12% for all films. Read more.


3. Disability Is Not Just a Metaphor. Damn it, can't seem to get off representation today. Hollywood loves movies about disabled characters, but they don't love casting disabled actors in the roles. With rare exceptions like RJ Mitte in "Breaking Bad" or Jamie Brewer in "American Horror Story," playing a disabled character is reserved as a feat for a non-disabled performer to collect accolades for. Why is that more films can't use the lived-in experience and reality of an actor like Harold Russell in "The Best Years of Our Lives?" Perhaps, as The Atlantic's Christopher Shinn writes, it's because audiences are more comfortable knowing that the performer in question isn't really missing a limb.

Often, one fears, that’s the point: Pop culture’s more interested in disability as a metaphor than in disability as something that happens to real people.  For example, in his review of "Side Show," New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood wrote, "Of course, in some sense, we all know what it’s like to feel self-divided, or alienated from the world, which is what makes 'Side Show' emotionally stirring." Disabled characters are often seen as symbolizing the triumph of the human spirit, or the freakishness we all feel inside. That may be another reason disabled actors are overlooked—they don't allow disability-as-metaphor to flourish as easily.

Read more.

4. Why Filmmakers Fail. For every young filmmaker like Ryan Coogler or J.C. Chandor who find acclaim early in their career there are a dozen of struggling directors who can't seem to get a break. Indie marketing and consultant David K. Greenwald says that sometimes there are reasons beyond bad luck, including marketing, failure to collaborate and failure to build relationships. 

BLAMING HOLLYWOOD. Some bash Hollywood as the source of their difficulties. Criticize their film choices, but understand their business as well as they do. The studios are committed to cost efficient line extensions. They are still standing a hundred years later. In any business, that’s success. And focus on their overall track record (the big picture), not on their individual failures. The casinos lose money too occasionally, but that doesn’t change the adage, in the long term “the house always wins”. Read more.

5. How Marvel Become the Envy and Scourge of Hollywood. At this point, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has gone from a fun idea for superhero fans to a chokehold on the modern blockbuster. Ike Perlmutter, the CEO of Marvel Entertainment, rules the company with an iron-fist, and it's not always the prettiest sight on the inside (see: the Edgar Wright blowup). The Hollywood Reporter's Kim Masters has the full story.

On the Marvel board, Perlmutter helped steer the company through bankruptcy protection and survived a battle with investor Carl Icahn to become CEO in 2005 — after which Marvel's plan to produce its own movies was hatched. Perlmutter is said to have attended the "Iron Ma"  premiere in disguise and has not been spotted at a Marvel event since. He relishes his reputation as secretive and frugal, according to a top executive who has dealt with him: "It's things like, 'Why do you need a new pencil? There's 2 inches left on that one!'" Read more.


6. At Least One Real Moment of Humanity with Cameron Diaz. Reception for Cameron Diaz's new comedy "Sex Tape" hasn't been too kind, but Diaz remains hardworking. Alex Pappademas of Grantland had an incredibly awkward interview with the actress that shows the bizarre, artificial way press junkets tend to work.

Shake hands. Say thank-you. Say good-bye. Immediately begin asking yourself why you got the Cameron Diaz chatbot instead of the Cameron Diaz who has eccentric thoughts on crunchy foods, why you were unable to engineer anything that felt like a moment of humanity. Consider the possibility that thinking of such moments as engineerable is the root of the problem. Consider the possibility that your questions sucked, that you should have offended her more. Decide to blame the context. There is undoubtedly some part of Diaz that needs to detach and float up to the ceiling or some other happy place in order to get through a day of junket interviews without feeling psychically brutalized.

Read more.

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This article is related to: Cameron Diaz, Daily Reads, Queer Cinema


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