Reel Reads is a regular feature that gathers lengthier stories related to the world of film criticism you may have missed during the week. If there's anything you think would be ideal for future installments, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Girls on Film is a dependably wonderful column written every week at Movies.com by Criticwire member Monika Bartyzel. This week’s subject is “Magic Mike” and the resulting issues stemming from the film’s unavoidable themes of gender and responses to overt sexuality. Rather than assert a singular opinion from start to finish, Bartyzel craftily includes input from other film writers (both male and female) to present an insightful discussion of the nature of objectification and whether there are any acceptable forms. She writes:
"But it’s not all laughing. Some is simple glee – excitement over all-too-rare visual stimulation. As much as this world is rife with gender confusion and imbalance, aren’t the exuberant reactions to Magic Mike just like that awkward person at the concert who covertly taps their foot, then sways, and then sheds their inhibitions and dances to the music? I wonder if men and women approach sexualized images differently (fun and lively male strip clubs versus exploitative leering in female strip clubs), or if women just haven’t been given the space to evolve as far with their reactions. It’s always glee because it’s so rare."
Stories of development hell can be either depressing, inspiring or both. Regardless of where on the spectrum this Reel Culture blog post by Daniel Eagan falls, it’s an interesting reminder of some of the bygone projects of iconic filmmakers. Stanley Kubrick’s many stalled epics and David Lean’s late attempt to create a sweeping adaptation of a Joseph Conrad novel might be recognizable anecdotes for hardcore movie history buffs, but these various works are entertaining forms of retroactive speculation. A taste:
"After helping make Marlene Dietrich an international star in seven visually astonishing films, director Josef von Sternberg burned a lot of bridges at Paramount, made two minor films at Columbia, then fled Hollywood. In London he accepted an offer from producer Alexander Korda to film an adaptation of I, Claudius, a 1934 novel by Robert Hughes about the first-century Roman emperor. The cast included Charles Laughton, one of the most respected actors of his time, and the imperiously beautiful Merle Oberon. Korda was hoping to build on the success of his film The Private Lives of Henry VIII, while Sternberg, who had filmed Dietrich as Catherine the Great in The Scarlet Empress, relished the chance to explore the Roman court. But the production was troubled from the start. Sternberg couldn’t establish a working relationship with Laughton; in his autobiography Fun in a Chinese Laundry he wrote: 'when he was not in front of the camera he seemed no more abnormal than any other actor.'"
While there are some who would argue that the digital revolution and increased access and availability of equipment is democratizing the filmmaking process, others would contend that the recent frequency of amateur remakes of Hollywood outputs might be somehow detrimental to the artform. In anticipation of the Swede Dreams block of film programming soon to debut overseas, Ben Walters of the Guardian details some of the trends in these remakes, from the inception of home video to recent release of "Star Wars Uncut," a crowdsourced retelling of the sci-fi classic. Here's a sample:
"Even within the sphere of sweding, the reverential imitation of Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation seems quaint. Star Wars Uncut and Night of the Living Dead Reanimated generally hew close to their sources' framing and screenplays but riff expansively on their visual styles; Flooding With Love for the Kid was conceived explicitly as a rebuttal to what its maker, Zachary Oberzan, perceived as the failure of the 1982 film of First Blood to do justice to David Morrell's novel. Even Be Kind Rewind and Son of Rambow, though studio-made, play fast and loose with their mainstream sources and revel in the shared audience experience. These are the things that Swede Dreams aims to celebrate."
Fandango has become synonymous with online ticket-buying. Yet, during that ascension to ubiquity, the company has been involved in a fierce battle to assert their corner of the online market. Brent Lang’s overview of the situation for The Wrap follows the different developments in the fight for market supremacy, highlighting the involvement of independent corporations and movie chains alike. For example:
"The need by theater chains to be perceived as being on the winning side of the turf war may be a bigger reason for Fandango's flood of new deals than any specific differences in user experience. Indeed, some studio executives and analysts gripe that given the $1.25 surcharge Fandango generally imposes for its services, there’s room for improvement and an opportunity for a new competitor to emerge."
Yes, we’ve featured “Jaws” pieces before, and Matt had a great roundup of “Jaws” reviews earlier this week. But the story of the shark is one of the most compelling elements of the film’s production, one whose legacy has grown in the nearly four decades since. Bill DeMain’s piece for Mental Floss expands on the territory covered in the recent oral history, delving into some of the challenges faced by some of the film’s technical team. Among them:
"An exhausted Spielberg finally returned to Hollywood 159 days and nearly $8 million later. But his work wasn’t over. With the help of veteran editor Verna 'Mother Cutter' Fields, he pieced the movie together. The New England weather haunted him—the wildly varying light and changing skies made for endless headaches as they matched footage. Massive reels of Bruce had to be cobbled into cohesive bursts of terror. To add an extra scare, Spielberg reshot part of one scene in Fields’s backyard pool, dumping powdered milk in the water to approximate the murky ocean. But even after finalizing the film, Spielberg doubted the results. Would his shark movie scare audiences, or would it be the 'laugh riot of '75'?"