All posts by joshantonelli

‘George Lucas racist, sexist,’ according to so-called journalist who apparently never watched a ‘Star Wars’ film.

So this happened.

A guy called Ben Child, who is apparently a writer for ‘The Guardian’, wrote a nice little piece about how George Lucas is apparently a grumpy old sexist/racist fool, and Star Wars is becoming infinitely more diverse without him.

Now lets call a spade a spade, shall we? This ‘article’ is a character assassination attempt. Child attempts to paint the Star Wars/Indiana Jones creator as an out of touch old fool, interested in only creating stereotypical ‘plot device’ female characters.

This insinuation is laughable at it’s worst. Whether you love or loath Lucas, the facts are undeniable: Princess Leia, played by the late, great Carrie Fisher, has been for four decades the face of both geek and feminist culture. During ‘Star Wars’ (later re-titled ‘A New Hope’), Leia was introduced as a typical “princess-type” character, essentially a plot device for the male characters. And then something happened: brave-but-naive Luke let Leia out of her prison cell. Leia (and since he wrote and directed the bloody thing, GEORGE LUCAS) turned the stereotype on its head: she took charge and led her outmatched team out of danger.

But this of course gets little-to-no mention in Child’s attempted take-down of the man directly responsible for jump-starting the imagination of many millions of children, including quite a few who now monopolize the film industry. Mostly because it doesn’t fit the narrative: George Lucas bad, Disney good!

Here is the mother-of-all-turds that Child claims in his article:

“In many ways, Lucas’s attitude towards women in space seems to have regressed during the prequels: Natalie Portman’s Padmé Amidala may not have suffered the discourtesies faced by Fisher as her daughter in the saga, but at least Leia got to fire a blaster or two (not to mention strangling Jabba) in the original trilogy. Despite their similarities in rank, Padmé rarely got involved in the action, but (as Fisher also observed) she did get to change her costume and hairstyle an awful lot.” -Ben Child

At this point, you have to wonder if Child has actually seen a Star Wars film. Leia perhaps played with blasters just as much, if not more, than most other characters in the original trilogy. And guess what? Save for 2005’s ‘Revenge of the Sith’, so did Padme. And I think we’ll forgive Lucas for keeping Padme out of the action in Sith, considering there was that whole “Luke and Leia need to be born” thingy.

Now, if you recall, Padme participated in multiple action sequences in both of the first two Star Wars’ prequels. Hell, in the “gladiator arena” sequence in “Attack of the Clones”,  Lucas once-again subverts the “hero rescues the damsel in distress” stereotype.

“She seems to be on top of things”.

But once again, this doesn’t quite fit the “George Lucas is the devil!” narrative that some older fans, like Child, would like to instill in our youth’s minds. The claims of some members of the internet-era who still haven’t forgiven Lucas for making the films, WITH HIS OWN MONEY, that he wanted to make.

“People get real tight about like ‘He raped our childhood!’ You know, calm down dude… you wanna know what it feels like to have a dick in your ass, i’ll show you! – Kevin Smith.

The funniest part of all this is the assertion that modern, Disney Star Wars is righting the atrocities that Lucas made to feminism in cinema. Child directly compares Lucas’ films with Disney Star Wars films, without giving much thought to how, to a certain degree, the abilility to push women and people-of-color into the forefront of film is based on the groundwork that Lucas himself laid for us.

Has all that much changed though, really? Sure, the main character in ‘The Force Awakens’ is a female heroine. But the other two parts? One, Leia, was created by George Lucas. The other, Phasma? Both fans who loved and loathed the first ‘new’ Star Wars film widely regard Gwendoline Christie’s character as a joke: a token character meant to sell toys. And what about Rogue One? Well, the films once again focuses on a female lead, and guess what? The only other significant female character is Mon Mothma, once again, say it with me? CREATED BY GEORGE LUCAS.

Oh, and did you guys pick up the part when Child insinuated that Lucas is a racist? (By the way, did you notice how Child didn’t even mention one of the greatest complex characters of colour in blockbuster cinema, Lando Calrissian? Good.) Lucas, who himself is in an interracial marriage?

Laughable.

In the end, perhaps the worst thing about this article is the way that Child strings his points together with a shoe-string. Child insinuates that Lucas’ obvious dislike for the new films must directly from his failures, sexism and racism. Such claims go against what we know.

We live in a day-and-age where, more so than ever, we need to make up our own minds, rather than base our opinions of others on the small-minded views of biased individuals. Whilst it is easiest to attribute this comment to modern-day politics, I would argue that it also applies to cinema.

Kids, go watch all the Star Wars films. Every single one. Make up your own mind. Don’t listen to bitter old men who can’t, or won’t, let go of their own failures and heartaches. Don’t let them force their opinions of you. Make up your own damn mind.

Original article:  https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2017/feb/20/a-modern-space-opera-has-star-wars-escaped-the-george-lucas-worldview

Advertisements

A DUMMIES GUIDE TO FILM CRITICISM

Film criticism.

If you looked it up in the dictionary, you would probably find something like “Evaluating the positives and negatives of a film”.

In it’s most basic form, this is exactly what film criticism is. Watching a film, having a think about it, and discussing it. Careers have been built and destroyed all on the words of a single critic. So, as famously announced in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Yes, criticism is simple to define, but to properly critique a film, it is important to look past the surface and properly look at many different elements that make films, for better or worse, unique. A critic should be impartial, forgetting their own desires and feelings, and truly assess a film for the quality of final product.

Firstly, a critic must be aware of the two different types of conventions that modern cinema has been built upon. In case you were not aware: in film land, conventions define the rules and standards of a particular task or quality.  The two major conventions are film production and genre conventions. As production teams are aware of these elements, and give them much consideration from the initial drafts of a film, through to final cut, so too should a critic be giving much thought to these guidelines during the film’s viewing.

The first consideration when considering cinematic conventions is the production elements of a film. This essentially considers the different elements of a film’s production, including the script, acting, sets, visual effects and editing. It is a critic’s goal to assess all of these different elements and see how they contribute to a film’s narrative, and whether they convey the different idea’s and feelings that the film is trying to project onto the viewer. For example, a critic should examine the narrative. This should include the pacing of the script, the transition and fluency of the action, and dialogue that is conveyed by the film’s actors. Also, a critic should examine whether the acting appropriately conveys the narrative in a believable and considerate way.

Another consideration that should be given is to a film’s production. Elements such as cinematography, editing, scoring and set design are crucial to the final product depicted on screen, and a lapse of quality in one of these elements can significantly effect a film’s credibility. For example, consideration should be given to the visuals that you see on screen. The style and execution of the camera work, as well as the cinematography, can directly influence an audience’s thoughts and feelings. Editing and the music score are also crucial elements in a film’s production. Editing helps drive the plot along whilst simultaneously sustaining emotions in the audience. Music is used to compliment the visuals of a scene and convey different ideas and emotions. Filmmakers are aware of all these different production tools whilst creating a film, so critics should be too.. This can be as simple as dissecting whether the music in a scene is appropriately conveying emotion and complimenting a scene as well as the editing.

Finally, the last major consideration a critic should be giving a film comes down to genre conventions. In cinema, film’s are classified into different groups depending on it’s style and subject. With each different classification comes a set of guidelines that filmmakers take into consideration when developing a project. These conventions can directly affect the different elements of a production, such as the cinematography, acting, editing and music. For example, a particular acting performance may be seen as of a high quality in a comedy, but when transitioned to a drama film, the same performance could be seen as inappropriate and degrading.

Film criticism requires a lot of attention to a variety of details. It is the job of a director to find an appropriate balance between cinematic and genre conventions, and create a film that is appropriately grabs and maintains the attention and pleasure of the audience. A good critic shouldn’t just be able to tell you why a film was good, or bad, but should be able to break a film down and tell you why.

THE COMPLEX WORLD OF (MAD) MEN.

July 2007.

This was a scary time in the world of television. A month before, The Soprano’s had permanently departed the screen, during the process redefining the format of cable television and paving the way for successes such as Dexter, Breaking Bad, Homeland and Game Of Thrones. No other drama series at the time had as much appeal and accolades as this famous Mob drama, and it was unforeseen whether a series, on cable or network television, would ever again rise to the heights of Tony Soprano.

Enter Matthew Weiner, an executive on The Soprano’s. Weiner had sold a pilot to AMC, the future home of critically acclaimed hits The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. This pilot, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, was the critically acclaimed first installment of Period drama series Mad Men.  Directed by Alan Taylor, future director of Thor: The Dark World, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” expertly provides a welcoming, broad introduction into the world of advertising in New York City.

One catch. It’s 1960.

We are introduced to our Don Draper, an advertising executive in a bit of a pickle. The world has (finally) caught onto the fact that smoking is bad for your health, and Draper is struggling to maintain the stock price of ‘Lucky Strike’. Throughout the episode, we see Draper’s assistant enter Draper’s world, in a time where sexism is very present in the workplace. In Draper’s personal life, we meet his mistress, an artist by the name of Midge. Oh, and it turns out that, as revealed in the final moments of the pilot, Draper actually has a wife and kids at home.

What is interesting about the episode is how Weiner (the episode’s writer) and Taylor are able to incorporate a variety of characters, social issues and plots whilst simultaneously spending time welcoming viewers into an authentically depicted time period. The costumes and sets appear realistic, helping to not only establish the world that the show is set in, but also compliment the concepts introduced throughout the plot. We see Draper’s new assistant, Peggy, treated hostile by her male co-workers, which not only draws the audience into Peggy’s journey, but addresses social standings in the 1960’s and reignites feminist debates in audiences.

Everything about the show, from the production, sets, costumes, and music, screams “authenticity”. Everything about the cinematography and lighting perfectly compliments the feel of the time, using contrasting colours against a black-white palette to invite the viewer into the show’s world. Perhaps the smartest move was featuring period music that compliments the production values, helps compliment the show, and in itself attracts the viewer. The music adds depth to some of the episode’s defining and perhaps most important moments.

Whilst the sets and costumes of the show are an important drawing card of the show, and the camera work, lighting an cinematography are used to expertly showcase these elements, it is fact the writing and acting that is the strongest throughout the production. Draper, as played by Jon Hamm, is revealed throughout the episode as a complex man with many different sides. The viewer isn’t quite sure how much they are supposed to like or dislike him, and this in itself is a powerful reason for viewers to continue with the series. Perhaps one of the episode’s most all-around well-produced scenes is the reveal that Draper is secretly both a husband and a father. Hamm’s acting, combined with an intelligently introduced music track, perfectly convey the character’s conflict and lack of purpose.

“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” is an intelligent, powerful introduction to the world of Mad Men. The plot moves at a steady pace, introducing characters whilst not allowing the viewers to forget about the 1960’s world constructed around these characters. Each character is perfectly designed as a piece of the puzzle peace, representing a stereotype and feeling that allows the viewer to feel the world of 1960’s New York City as realistically as the characters are meant to. Each character is complex, each one showing positives and negatives, and the confict over to fall into a good or bad direction makes the show hard to resist.