2015-02-09 Recently Read

Subtraction: Color Grading Movies
How digital color manipulation of a movie can drastically change the tone and meaning of the subject.

The Morning News: The Books
A long and fun essay on the subject of a couple combining their library after having lived together for sometime. One of the things Stephanie and I have never done is combine our books. Mine are in the library and hers are in the dining room, although both of us have books that spill out to other rooms of the house. My organizational automaton has toyed with the idea of combining our books and getting them all in order, but it’s a daunting task, and one filled with emotional pitfalls.

The New York Times: The Fire on the 57 Bus in Oakland
The emotional fallout of a teen boy who set a trans teen on fire on a bus in Oakland, California.

the head in: Chet Baker Sings
Baker first sang “My Funny Valentine” in 1954, and the rendition – a stark, melancholy one – was released on Dick Bock’s Pacific label two years later on the record Chet Baker Sings.

The Economist: Inside the box – How workers ended up in cubes—and how they could break free
Other cubicle-related health problems have taken longer to emerge. Because cubicles provide only the illusion of privacy, not the real thing, they do nothing to stop infectious diseases. Sharing an office raises the chances of getting more than two colds a year. In 2011 Danish scientists found that workers whose offices held at least six people took 62% more sick leave than those in private offices. And last year Swedish researchers studying the link between office layouts and illness found that people who worked in open-plan offices had the highest risk of becoming ill. The reason, they concluded, was more than just the easier spread of infections. Stress caused by lack of privacy and workers’ inability to control their surroundings played a part, too.

Continue Reading2015-02-09 Recently Read

2015-01-29 Recently Read

Grantland: How ‘Selma’ Got Smeared
As a member of more than one marginalized group of people, I can attest that these sorts of conversations with allies happen all the time wherein the needs of the marginalized group end up being subservient to the plans of their allies, who have more power and are able to set agendas and timelines that are at odds with those of the people they purport to aid. So the fact that Selma found a way to depict that sort of interaction is important to our understanding of the civil rights movement, and if minute historical detail was bent slightly in order to show that sort of interaction onscreen, I’m okay with that.

The Atlantic: Why I Am Not a Maker
When tech culture only celebrates creation, it risks ignoring those who teach, criticize, and take care of others.

Wikipedia: Searles Chinese Room
The Chinese room is a thought experiment presented by John Searle (b1932) to challenge the claim that it is possible for a computer running a program to have a “mind” and “consciousness” in the same sense that people do, simply by virtue of running the right program.

Good.Is: How Knitting Behind Bars Transformed Maryland Convicts
In late 2009, Lynn Zwerling stood in front of 600 male prisoners at the Pre-Release Unit in Jessup, Maryland. “Who wants to knit?” she asked the burly crowd. They looked at her like she was crazy.

Pacific Standard: The Greatest Rock Show I’d Ever Seen
How one guy’s beloved memory of a long-ago rock show turns out, when he rediscovers a record of it, to be quite different than the show as he remembered it.

Stairs upward

Continue Reading2015-01-29 Recently Read

The Gender Flipped Character in Elysium

Elysium Movie Commentary

A couple of comments I added to the article at The Mary Sue “Add Elysium’s Secretary Delacourt To The List Of Characters Written For Men And Played By Women“:

The Entertainment weekly quote from that article:

Her role was created as Secretary Rhodes, who was male. But then Blomkamp woke up one morning and it suddenly occurred to him the character could be a woman. He and one of his producers, Simon Kinberg, drew up a list of potential actresses, and Foster’s name was on it, but the director thought she would never do it. “I thought, ‘That would be f—ing awesome, but there’s just no way,” he says.

And the commentary from the Mary Sue:

It’s great that, as a young male director whose debut feature gave him a lot of Hollywood leeway to do whatever he wants next, Blomkamp decided that one of the things he’d do is put at least one prominent lady in his next blockbuster sci-fi flick. I mean, in a perfect world, it’d also be great if the movie had enough female characters that I didn’t have to go check a trailer to make sure there were any other non-minor women in the film other than Jodie Foster (there’s at least one). Either way, Elysium still has the potential to live up to the standard Blomkamp set when District 9 left me speechless.

My comments to that, specifically because of the Entertainment Weekly article identifying the movie as being Real Life commentary on the 2008 economic crash, with some links to the content I quoted:

I’m glad that they’re casting women in roles originally written for men, but it would be nice if they just wrote them for women in the first place, given that women play less than 30% of the roles onscreen. 51% of the population, but consistently less than 30% of on-screen roles, and when Annenberg calculates the amount of screen time that the female characters get, the numbers get even worse. And given that Foster’s character is basically a class-warfare oppressing villain, is it really all that great that the role was given to a woman? Women are not historically the oppressive forces when it comes to class warfare, and women represent over 70% of the world’s poor, disproportionally specifically because of sexism leading to lack of opportunities for women in poverty. So doesn’t making Foster the villain distort the picture quite a bit? Especially when the protagonist of the piece is a white guy, who would probably not be part of a future poverty-stricken class. If they’d flipped the genders and made the protagonist a woman of color and a white guy they oppressor, I would have been TRULY impressed by their chutzpah.

And someone commented:

I agree that more roles should be originally written for women from the get go. But I also think women should be villains as much as heroes. They should be given a chance to play all kinds of roles.

My response (because she was pretty much missing the point):

Normally I’d agree with that – but in this particular instance, the role is problematic specifically because of the subject matter. They’re openly trying to make a movie about the 2008 economic crash and wage gap and the difference between the haves and the have-nots in our country – which is awesome and much needed. But if they’re trying to make commentary on that real-life issue, they CAN’T ignore where gender plays a role in that in real life, where women were massively disproportionally affected by that event in a way that men weren’t, around the globe, and where the wealthy and well-off who benefited from the crash were, in real life, disproportionally more men. The villains of the IRL story are very much men, and flipping the gender and make the villain a woman changes the IRL story they are trying to tell in a way that does a massive disservice to women.

And in general, women are not under-represented as villains on film and television. I’ll have to poke around and look at those numbers, but I’d say that women are probably represented as the bad guy pretty damned often.

Continue ReadingThe Gender Flipped Character in Elysium

Supergirl First

The case for why DC should tackle a Supergirl movie before a Wonder Woman movie.

I wrote a little bit a few weeks ago about the importance of getting the Wonder Woman storyline right when she is written in comics, books, television and movies. If I had a huge ego, I’d say the folks at DC Comics read what I wrote, (I’m sure they didn’t!) because Diane Nelson, new President of DC Comics just came out with a statement about writing Wonder Woman for the big screen in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter on DC Comics movie strategy over the next several years.

Nelson: We have to get her right, we have to. She is such an icon for both genders and all ages and for people who love the original TV show and people who read the comics now. I think one of the biggest challenges at the company is getting that right on any size screen. The reasons why are probably pretty subjective: She doesn’t have the single, clear, compelling story that everyone knows and recognizes. There are lots of facets to Wonder Woman, and I think the key is, how do you get the right facet for that right medium? What you do in TV has to be different than what you do in features. She has been, since I started, one of the top three priorities for DC and for Warner Bros. We are still trying right now, but she’s tricky.

I agree there are some pretty high stakes in getting a Wonder Woman movie off the ground. Unfortunately due to the world we live in, a failed Wonder Woman movie would be seen as the inability to sell any female superhero. Batman can bomb and get more movies. Superman can choke and still get another reboot. But Wonder Woman wouldn’t get another shot if her movie failed, because no one would be willing to take a critical look at why the movie failed; they’d just chalk it up to “women’s stories don’t sell” even though that would almost certainly not be the problem.

I don’t think the story line of Wonder Woman is all that tricky, really. For one thing – start without an origin story. Just drop her into the action – In medias res, kicking butt and taking names. Then make small references to her origin story where it’s absolutely needed, and leave the rest up in the air. Let it be a mystery you fill in about movie 2 or 3. Wouldn’t that be a fresh take on a superhero movie? Start by showing, not telling, and from the point of view of the average person on the street, who wouldn’t know or care about what’s going on on Mount Olympus, but who does give a crap about what’s happening around them.

Stop talking about gods and goddesses (especially when they get them all wrong) and just have Wonder Woman work on some issue of global injustice, especially one that relates to women. Also drop the “female superheroes get female super villains” trope (which I REALLY need to devote a whole blog post to!) and have her fighting some patriarchal cultural problem with male bad guys. Because look at the reality of the world – 85% of the time, the bad guys are men.

Go back to “the Amazons are alive and they’re good guys” stories of the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman era, but wait to reference why she left the island and all that until future movies. Then go back to the “clay baby” origin story, and the Perez origin story in particular. Compelling story lines could be made with those elements, without rubbing anyone – most especially me and other feminists – the wrong way. And really, for Batman and Superman, it’s important to tell their origin stories, because they’re pretty big babies, full of angst and woe. Wonder Woman is strong and confident and capable and doesn’t need an emotionally unstable childhood to explain her frame of reference.

Nothing is tricky about all that. What’s tricky is that there are a bunch of men involved in DC Comics who really don’t want any of those story lines to happen, because they’re pretty sexist and can’t manage to reconcile good storytelling, what the public wants to see in a superhero movie, and what they need to uphold for the integrity of Wonder Woman as a cultural icon. That’s not a problem with Wonder Woman; that’s a failure of imagination with DC Comics staff. If I were a betting sort of girl, I’d bet that the Joss Whedon story that got canned was something along the lines of what I outlined above. (I am a betting sort of girl, BTW.)

I kind of agree that I’d rather not see them bomb with Wonder Woman. So I’ve been writing in every comments section I can find about what I think they should do – start with another female character. Specifically; start with Supergirl.

Supergirl by Chillyplasma
Supergirl by Chillyplasma

There are some good reasons for doing it that way:

  1. Supergirl already had a fairly successful movie that people like many years ago.
  2. They just had a very successful Superman movie come out recently.
  3. Supergirl is pretty straightforward, if they use the very popular Candor/Identity origin story. The advantage of that would also be Angry Supergirl, and nothing is better than Angry Supergirl. If you’re writing Angry Supergirl, she can be “Ripley in Aliens” badass, and she could tackle a lot of cool global issues story lines.
  4. Casting would be easy, because they answer is a really obvious one: Dianna Agron. She looks the part, and she does Angry Face really well. She’s also a competent actress that could carry a movie if she’s given a consistent and well-written role, unlike anything she was handed on Glee.
  5. I love Supergirl almost as much as I love Batgirl, and slightly more than I love Wonder Woman. And everyone should make me happy at all times.
  6. A good Supergirl movie would set the stage for Wonder Woman nicely. You could do something interesting like just have Wonder Woman show up at the end of the movie to invite Kara Zor-El to hang out at Paradise Island for awhile, setting up the “in medias res” story for Wonder Woman that I outlined above.

Dianna Agron

Who knows, maybe the powers at DC Comics are reading my blog and some of these ideas will wind up on screen. Probably not. But I can dream.

Continue ReadingSupergirl First

How Movies Teach Manhood: Colin Stokes

More about this TED Talk:

When Colin Stokes’ 3-year-old son caught a glimpse of Star Wars, he was instantly obsessed. But what messages did he absorb from the sci-fi classic? Stokes asks for more movies that send positive messages to boys: that cooperation is heroic, and respecting women is as manly as defeating the villain.

Why you should listen to him:
Colin Stokes divides his time between parenting and building the brand of Citizen Schools, a non-profit that reimagines the school day for middle school students in low-income communities in eight states. As Managing Director of Brand & Communications, Colin helps people within the organization find the ideas, words and stories that will connect with more and more people. He believes that understanding the human mind is a force that can be used for good and seeks to take advantage of our innate and learned tendencies to bring out the best in each other and our culture.

Before starting a family, Colin was an actor and graphic designer in New York City. He starred in the long-running off-Broadway musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, as well is in several musicals and Shakespeare stagings. But he jokes that he seems to have achieved more renown (and considerably more revenue) for his brief appearances on two Law & Order episodes.

Continue ReadingHow Movies Teach Manhood: Colin Stokes

Golden Globes Nominations 2012. Wha?

Looking over the list of nominations for the Golden Globes for 2012 is just oddness. I’ve read an number of allegations that this particular awards ceremony is basically just bought and sold pretty freely, and it somewhat makes sense looking at the nominations. How on earth is New Girl nominated but for “Best Television Series — Comedy or Musical” and not Parks and Recreation? And Zooey Deschanel for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Comedy or Musical but not Lea Michele for Glee?

New Girl is a pretty big pile of crap. The last two episodes have been unwatchable. The scenes with Zooey and Justin Long really just make me want to shoot them both. It’s just rank. How is this supposed to be funny? And Lea Michele is just underrated and undercut on Glee. Poor writing for her character aside, her performance during the Christmas episode was hilarious, especially during the Judy Garland Special parody. She does goofy comic stuff very similarly to Barbra Streisand – but better, which is one of the few areas where I’d give her the prize over Barbra. It’ll be nice when she gets a show of her own to do and can break away from the ensemble stuff and the horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad writing on that otherwise enjoyable show.

Amy Poehler better win that award over Zooey. Seriously, Golden Globes, or I’ll be accusing you of fraud, too.

And oh, look, David Duchovny, Californication nominated for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Comedy or Musical.” Shouldn’t that be the category of “fictionalized real-life as a cautionary tale?” What an odd nomination. I haven’t seen the show past the first season, but it didn’t strike me as a comedy at all, and I can think of bigger performances that have received a lot more attention that his.

Continue ReadingGolden Globes Nominations 2012. Wha?

links for 2011-08-31

Continue Readinglinks for 2011-08-31

Lesbian Web Series

There aren’t too many mainstream television shows with lesbian main characters, but there is no shortage of online web series and shorts. Many of them are independently produced and rely on viewer contributions to keep production going. I’ve only seen the Girl Trash series so far, but have read reviews here and there — enough to assemble this list so I can start watching. I’m betting maybe you’ll be interested in watching, too.

Anyone But Me
Introducing a new generation: gay, straight, and ethnically diverse struggling with identity and modern relationships. From the Executive Producer/Writer team of Susan Miller (L Word and Thirtysomething) and Tina Cesa Ward (In Their Absence) Anyone But Me is shot on location in New York City and Los Angeles.
Seasons On, Two and Three are complete.

A 9-episode web series by Angela Robinson, the sequel Girltrash! All Night Long is in production as a movie. It appears that the series is temporarily offline while the site is under construction. Robinson is a director and screen writer who worked on a number of series including The L-Word.

Out With Dad
A teenage girl and her single father. Rose is coming of age and coming out of the closet. All he wants is for her to be happy, and out with Dad.
Season One is complete, Season Two is coming shortly.

We Have to Stop Now
Dyna, sleek and cerebral, and Kit, quirky and spontaneous, are a couple. They are also a couple of therapists. And despite their wildly different methods, they’ve written a singular book on marriage called “How To Succeed In Marriage Without Even Trying”. Trouble is, their own marriage is falling apart, even after years of work with their own therapist, Susan. So, they’ve decided to call it quits. However, once their book hits No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list, they’re both not so sure that “quits” is a good idea…
Season One is available to watch free, Season Two is by subscription.

Vag Magazine
VAG MAGAZINE is not your grandma’s feminist magazine, though we support her as a woman. Go behind the scenes at this hipster third-wave feminist magazine with founders FENNEL, SYLVIE, and BETHANY, staffers HEAVY FLO (a hero on the roller derby circuit), REBA (truly a legend of gonzo feminist pop culture journalism), and MEGHAN (the lone holdover from fashion magazine Gemma, which the Vag founders bought out with the proceeds from their Etsy shop), as well as enthusiastic intern KIT, as they teach you how to be a better woman. This six-part web series stars and was created, written, directed, and produced by comedians from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

B.J. Fletcher: Private Eye
With an all Canadian cast and crew, featuring Lindy Zucker and Dana Puddicombe in the leading roles, B.J. Fletcher: Private Eye is a distinctly new and unique production bringing to life strong female characters with the right balance of action, comedy, and diversity.
Seasons One and Two.

The Real Girl’s Guide to Everything Else
A journalist, nearly dropped by her agent because her work is too smart, political, lesbian and feminist, goes undercover as a glitter-wearing, shoe-obsessed, Cosmo-drinking straight girl.
Season One (Six Episodes) is available, with season 2 coming soon.

Seeking Simone – The Web Series
Seeking Simone is a lesbian web series about online dating. Follow the adventures of Simone Selkin as she dates her way through gay Toronto!
Season One and Two appear to be complete.

Girl/Girl Scene
Based on the lives and loves of four young friends, this series boldly goes where no other has gone before: between the sheets and into the minds and hearts of unapologetically queer women living in middle America. But underlying the many shocking and controversial moments is an important drama exploring the intoxicating extremes of modern day life and love.
Season One – Episodes 1 – 5 are available

Cat on The Prowl
A weekly video blog chronicling the attempts of out comedian Cat Davis to meet women in L.A. Part interview show and part comedy show, the series aired over 40 episodes in 2008 and 2009.

Venice is a web soap opera series and the creative concept of long time friends and artistic partners Crystal Chappell and Kimmy Turrisi. Venice focuses on the life of Gina Brogno — a single, gay, self-made interior designer — living and working in Venice Beach, California. The plot follows Gina’s human experience in connection with her various love interests, brother Owen, father The Colonel and myriad other characters that make up Gina’s network of relationships.
12 Episodes are available via subscription

Continue ReadingLesbian Web Series