Friday, June 22, 2012
I assume this blog is coming to an end shortly. I enjoyed our class so much. Thank you to everyone! This was my first class after an eight year break. Thanks to Dr. Kaufmann for laying out the course in a way that made it fun to learn. Thanks to my brother Karl for taking this class with me. This class was "Yar", for sure! (For anyone that missed that on the midterm, it meant 'quick to the helm' in our film "A Philadelphia Story." I think "yar" will be replacing the word "tight" in my vocabulary.) Cheers!
Posted by Kirsten Whitsitt at 4:22 PM
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Joel and Ethan Coen are unique in that both brothers typically work as a team when directing, writing, and producing their films, but even as a pair, they exhibit a certain style throughout their films. They deal in similar characters, situations, music, and theme as their film careers progress. One of the major recurring details of many of their films is a strong female role. These strong characters come in a variety of types from feminists, to police officers, to the elderly, to children, to women who can’t get pregnant, and women who can’t seem to stop having children. O Brother, Where Art Thou, The Big Lebowski, and Intolerable Cruelty are three very different films that exemplify how the Coen’s female characters navigate through a man’s world in very different ways to obtain their desires.
O Brother seemingly portrays three men escaping from prison in order to find a treasure that will soon be covered by the flooding of a reservoir. Based on Homer’s Odyssey, O Brother depicts similar struggles endured by Odysseus through the eyes of its character Ulysses Everett McGill, but in a very different fashion. Set in the mid to late thirties, O Brother allegorically uses a one eyed man to represent the Cyclops, three singing women to for the Sirens, and the Baptists representing Homer’s Lotus Eaters (Rowell, 244-5).
Unlike the Odyssey, O Brother, revolves not around the journey, but around Penny, Everett’s ex-wife. His reason for breaking out of prison is to stop her from wedding her fiancé. Set in the backdrop of the nineteen thirties, women had little choice but to find a man to support them. Basinger points out in Woman Chases Man (1937) that Miriam Hopkins has to prove herself in some form of masculinity by telling a potential employer that she left her fiancé to pursue a career in a man’s world (451). So too does Penny by divorcing her husband after he goes to prison for fraud when he attempts to practice medicine without a license. With seven children, she is forced to seek someone who will provide for her family. She subsequently tells her children that their father was killed by a train. Upon their reuniting, Everett attempts to steal her away from her new fiancé by telling her that he has traveled far to be with his wife and daughters to which Penny replies, “Vernon (her fiancé) here’s got a job. He has prospects. He’s bona fide. What are you?” He tells her that that she can’t marry him, and she says, “I can, I am, and I will tomorrow. I got to think about the little Warvey gals. They look to me for answers. Vernon can support them, and buy them lessons on the clarinet. The only good thing you ever did for the gals was to get hit by that train” (O Brother, Where Art Thou).
Here, Penny is doing what she can to survive in a world that oppresses women. The Coens like to point out that even when men think that they run the world, women still do a fair amount of controlling. Everett later exclaims, “Woman is the most fiendish instrument of torture ever devised to bedevil the days of man” (O’ Brother Where Art Thou). He knows that he will have to conform to her wishes if he stands a chance to win her over. Later he tells her, “I want to be what you want me to be.” She refuses his advances until he is proven to have prospects. Even though Penny finally has all the control at the end, she is shown walking her seven children, each holding onto a length of twine that hearkens back to the chain gang at the beginning of the film. Even though she has some power, she is still imprisoned by her gender (Rowell, 256-7).
The Coen’s female character in The Big Lebowski, Maude, is a very strong and independent character that prides herself on the absence of men in her life. It does help that she comes from money, and it is very interesting when it is revealed that her father has no money of his own. Jeffery Lebowski assumes that her father has all of the money judging from his house, accomplishments, and position of authority, yet the money belonged to Maude’s mother. Maude gives her father an allowance because he likes to present himself in a particular fashion, but he is at the mercy of the foundation run by her. Her emasculated father also parades around his young trophy wife and porn actress, Bunny, as a badge of honor until she demands too much of his money. Maude despises Bunny, not because she is married to her father, but because she goes against everything that Maude believes in. Maude doesn’t believe in needing to obtain a man by means of sex, yet for the purposes of having a child, she is ultimately left no choice.
Maude also resorts to stereotypical assumptions of men when talking to Jeffery. She assumes that men have a problem with the word “vagina,” but don’t have a problem referring to their own male member with a variety of slang names. When asked if he liked sex, a puzzled Jeffery refers back to the conversation about his rug. She has a difficult time baiting him into making sexual advances towards her, which seems to dispel her assumptions about him as a man. Even after dropping Jeffery’s robe and standing naked over him, saying, “Jeffery. Love me,” he replies, “My robe.” It would appear that he is somewhat uninterested in sex outside a drug induced hallucination when he is drugged by Jacky Treehorn.
The role reversals in this film show how far Hollywood and society has come to view women. Regardless of the sexually uninterested Jeffery, he still fears castration at the hands of the Nihilists. Man’s worst fear is also reiterated in their conversation with Larry the car thief. The male member is an extension of masculinity, but it is unclear if it has much sexual relevance for Jeffery. Of course given the opportunity for sex, he doesn’t pass it up, but he doesn’t actively solicit it. Maude on the other hand, knows that women only have to ask, but it isn’t until Jeffery is deemed suitable for procreation that she pursues the act. He initially assumes that he got lucky until she reveals her true intentions. “What did you think this was about, fun and games? I want a child.” She further exerts her independence by saying, "Look Jeffery, I don’t want a partner. In fact I don’t want the father to be someone I have to see socially, or will have any interest in raising the child himself.” This independence is in stark contrast to Bunny who owes a lot of money to known pornographers, and is owned, in a sense, by these people as well as her husband.
The idea of leading men around by their penises is also examined in Intolerable Cruelty. Marilyn marries Rex Rexroth for the sole purpose of exploiting his penchant for philandering. She plans to “have [her husband’s ass] stuffed and mounted” (Rowell, 317). However, it is understood by him that there is a mutual agreement between he and Marilyn that exists, making this type of behavior acceptable for both of them, yet she never indulges. She hires a private investigator to obtain hard evidence against her husband as a means of divorcing him and keeping a sizable portion of his estate. Marilyn’s is financially motivated and doesn’t appear to have much use for men unless there is some sort of payoff for her.
The Coen Brothers depict her as a woman who is an expert at manipulating men until they present her with a challenge. Rowels describes, “If husbands are routinely unfaithful cads or sexual perverts, women are financiers of sorts looking for ‘venture capitalist’ husbands” (318). Rex Rexroth hires Miles Massey, a highly successful divorce attorney notorious for winning divorce settlements and leaving the opposition penniless. Despite Rex Rexroth’s precarious position, he wins the case sending Marilyn out the door with nothing. During the proceedings, she becomes aware that Miles is interested in pursuing her romantically. She sets out to exploit this interest for her own personal gain again. This time, she succeeds in marrying Miles and thwarting the prenuptial agreement they had both signed by tricking him into thinking that she was so rich that she didn’t need his money. Her revenge lies in the settlement she is about to get in her divorce as well as his broken heart.
Women in this film are depicted as man eating and money hungry. Sex is meaningless. Marilyn friend Sara says, “Getting laid is like playing financial Russian roulette” (Intolerable Cruelty). Sara is perpetually sick with a stomach ulcer and has difficulty enjoying her wealth. Once a person has become rich, they become imprisoned by the wealth and condemned to celibacy. It asks the question whether one could be happy with wealth alone. When the Miles and Marilyn do get together each having significant wealth, love becomes difficult to believe when it has been completely absent throughout the film (Rowll, 324). Traditionally, it has been thought that men will give love to get sex while women will give sex to get love. In this film, women are willing to give sex and the illusion of love to get money and then throw the other two out. It is woman taking charge and refusing to get screwed for something that requires more screwing to maintain it. With money, one becomes self-sufficient and independent.
The Coen brothers enjoy women of power in their films. Holly Hunter’s character in Raising Arizona is a police officer who marries a convict and then demands that he steal a baby for her. Francis McDormand in Fargo plays a pregnant police officer pursuing some very dangerous criminals. Hailee Steinfeld is a strong child in True Grit pushing an old U.S. Martial across the country to find her father’s murderer. The list goes on and on. The Coens continue to include these characters in their films to make the point that regardless of time, circumstance, location, and age, women have power on some level in all situations. In this regard, Joel and Ethan are broadening the possibilities for women in Hollywood.
Basinger, Jeanine. A Woman's View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-1960. Hanover,
NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1993.
Coen, Joel, dir. The Big Lebowski. Writ. Joel Coen, and Ethan Coen. 1998. Film.
Coen, Joel, dir. O Brother, Where Art Thou. Writ. Joel Coen, and Ethan Coen. 2000. Film.
Coen, Joel, dir. Intolerable Cruelty. Writ. Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, and John Romano. 2003. Film.
Rowell, Erica. The Brothers Grim, The Films Of Ethan And Joel Coen. 1st. Lanham: Scarecrow
Press, INC., 2007.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
- The people portrayed in the movie were overly nice to almost anyone they met. They were constantly head nodding to emphasize their agreement or approval or endorsement of something and said,“yah” and “you betcha,” it seemed every time they spoke using a sing-song manner. Well... almost everyone except Carl Showalter and Gaear Grimsrud that is! I know the Coen brothers grew up near the Twin Cities. Was their portrayal of the local citizens even close to reality?
- The chief of the Brainerd police, Marge Gunderson, was an extremely complex character. At first blush she seems a little plain and well suited to a sleepy Minnesota town. However, once she visits the crime scene she quickly and correctly works out the triple murder sequence of events and realizes the one clue about the car indicating that the license plate was from a dealer’s car. Do you think Gunderson was a little out of place in a town like Brainerd?
Monday, June 18, 2012
Frances Louise McDormand was the leading lady in the Coen Brothers’ film Fargo. She was born in 1957 in Chicago. A Canadian Disciples of Christ Minister by the name of Vernan McDormand and his housewife Noreen adopted and raised her in the suburbs of Pittsburgh; Monessen, Pennsylvania. She was the youngest of three adopted McDormand children.
Frances earned a bachelor’s in Theater from Bethany College in 1979 and a Master’s from Yale’s School of Drama in 1982. Her career started in theater, but she soon obtained prominent roles in movies with the first starring role being Blood Simple in 1984. She ended up marrying the filmmaker later that year, Joel Coen. Since, she has frequently collaborated with her husband and his brother, Ethan Coen, in their films. She once lived in an apartment with Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegal and Holly Hunter. Frances and Joel have one adopted son, Pedro, who was born in Paraguay, 1994.
Despite winning critical acclaim for her performance in Blood Simple, it would be four years, until a cameo in the Coen Brothers’ Raising Arizona (1987) and other various small roles, before she would be featured in another major film production. In the meatime, McDormand’s stage career flourished, and she received a Tony nomination for the 1987 Broadway production of ‘A Streetcar named Desire’. She also did periodic television work, co-starring on the short lived detective drama Legwork (1987) and appeared in a recurring role on Hill Street Blues.
In addition to many critics' awards, she has been nominated for an Academy Award four times - Mississippi Burning (1988), Fargo (1996), for which she won the Best Actress Award, Almost Famous (2000) and North Country (2005). Keenly intelligent and possessed of a sharp wit, McDormand is the opposite of the Hollywood starlet - rather than making every role about Frances McDormand, Frances McDormand dissolves into the characters she plays. Accordingly, she has expressed some reservations about the iconic recognition she has gained from her touching and amusing portrayal of Police Chief Marge Gunderson in Fargo.
Her Oscar-winning role in Fargo as Marge Gunderson was ranked #33 in the American Film Institute's Heroes list in their 100 years of The Greatest Screen Heroes and Villains, and is ranked #27 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Movie Characters of all Time
Recently she has worked in Madagascar 3 (2012), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon (2011) and Burn After Reading (2008).
Information gathered on www.imdb.com and www.fandango.com
Posted by Bart Hess at 9:12 PM
Friday, June 15, 2012
I noted Phyllis in Double Indemnity as a woman in a "man's" film, and the same can be said of Jackie Brown, even if the film bears her name. Unlike Phyllis, however, I don't think Jackie is inherently dangerous to anyone who comes in contact with her. I don't think, for example, that Max needs to worry about her. The fact that he survives the final encounter unscathed more or less proves that. Max certainly doesn't blame her, as he says, "I'm 56 I can't blame anybody for anything I do." He had accepted the danger he knew helping her would entail--and knows the danger doesn't come from her (unlike Phyllis), but from her situation and her struggle to extricate herself from it.
Melanie might be a better candidate for femme fatale if we felt the need for one. She's clearly looking out for no. 1 and actively working against Ordell. Significantly, Louis is trustworthy--even if not bright enough to be of much use when it's needed--and immediately reports Mel's treachery. Mel is no Phyllis. She seems more a danger to herself than others. Interestingly, what does her in is her insistence on flaunting her superiority to the men and open defiance of their orders. It's hard to imagine Phyllis getting shot as the result of a tiff over parking, though it's also the nature of Tarantino's more mundane and ultimately more chaotic cinematic world.
Notice also that Jackie's deception is more sleight of hand magic than outright deceit. One of the surprising elements of her plan is that she tells everyone what she's doing (except for the crucial part of course where she fails to hand over the cash, or at least the bulk of it). Remember Ordell's dismay when she mentions that she's divulged Ordell's plan to the Feds--yet convinces him it's the only course that will accomplish his aims. Again, unlike the usual femme fatales, who always play their cards close to the vest, Jackie holds hers for all to see. Her game is more a three card monte which has everyone looking everywhere except where the money really is.
Some of this is predicated on perspective: if this were Ordell's story, for example, she could be seen as the femme fatale, though from that view she's more of an adversary from the beginning (he does initially try to murder her after all) than the alluring woman who leads him to his doom.
Grier's film debut came in 1971 in the film Big Doll House as a prison inmate. Prior to that, she was in a couple beauty pageants, including the 1967 Colorado competition for Miss Universe where she placed third. Her breakthrough role came in 1973 in the film Coffy, as a nurse turned vigilante who goes after drug dealers when her sister becomes addicted. The film's slogan is "the baddest one-chick hit-squad that ever hit town". Later on, she starred in Foxy Brown as a high-class hooker seeking revenge after her boyfriend is murdered. Another notable film is 1975's Sheba Baby. During this part of the 1970s, Grier was a staple of the "blaxploitation" genre of films that highlighted the society ills that still were happening in black neighborhoods - drugs, violence, prostitution - well into the civil rights era and beyond. After the film genre was no longer popular, Grier had a low period in her career with few notable films.
During the 1980s, Grier was in Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981) with Paul Newman and Above the Law (1988) with Steven Seagal. She also had roles in the television shows Crime Story and Miami Vice. In 1988, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which she talks about in her 2010 memoir, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts (written with Andrea Cagan) and is currently in remission.
In the 1990s, Grier's career was in another low period without any standout roles. In 1996, she was in Tim Burton's Mars Attacks. Her career was revitalized in 1997 with the release of Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, where she is an airline attendant who gets caught in the middle of drug and violence issues. She received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. In the 2000s, she had roles in the television shows The L-Word and Smallville.
In 2010, Grier released her aforementioned memoir, in which she gave details about her personal life that had not been shared before. When she was young, she had two incidences of sexual assault which she had not discussed prior to writing the book. Grier's memoir also talks about her former paramours, which include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Richard Pryor, and Freddie Prinze.
Pam Grier - IMDb
Pam Grier - Biography.com
Pam Grier - New York Times
Pam Grier - MSBush Wikispaces (Link from Google Image Search)
Posted by Hannah Z. at 1:10 PM
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Mike Nichols an actor, American motion picture film, television, stage director, writer, producer and comedian; was born in Berlin, Germany November 6, 1931 with the name Michael Igor Peschkowsky. His grandparents had moved to Germany in 1917 from Russia as Jews and were allowed to leave Germany during Hitler’s rule just before the war started, due to a treaty with Russia (Beloff, 2007). As an immigrant at the age of seven he and his family sought a better life in the United States. As a child he attended a school with poor boys and wealthy girls, so he remembers. His first recollection of a film was a classmates mother gave them tickets to “A Streetcar Named Desire”, which he was so enthralled with he didn’t even get up or talk during either of the two intermissions (Nichols Director, 2012). His father a doctor and a mother who was always ill and in the hospital, he lived a disconnected life, always searching for a connection to parents. His father died due to radiation contracted while treating patients, not knowing what the effects of radiation would due (Berloff, 2007).
He later became a citizen of the United States in 1944. His formal education was at the University of Chicago in 1550-53 and later studied acting with a renowned instructor Lee Strasberg in 1954 in New York (Beloff, 2007). During school he met a lady named Elaine May in which they became very good friends and soon turned their comedic fascinations and anomalies into a traveling comedy production. As the years progressed he developed a love for directing productions as he learned from Lee Stasberg.
Within his personal life, he has been married four times and has three children. His present wife, whom he married in 1988, is news anchor: Diane Sawyer (Mike Nichols Director, 2012). His career has spanned 60 years, with a large arsenal of awards and recognitions including one of a handful of celebrities to have garnered the coveted quartet of an Oscar(2), Grammy, Tony (7) and Emmy(2) throughout his career. Receiving the Kennedy Center Honors in 2003; chairing the emeritus non-profit organization Friends in Deed, founded in 1991 to provide support for individuals of life –threatening illnesses (Berloff, 2007). As a developed writer, Nichols wrote: Women are from Pluto, and Men are from Uranus (1996), Real Men Bealch Downward (1993), and Life and Other Ways to Kill Time (1988) (Berloff, 2007).
Nichols decorated with directing and producing awards, numbering 35 plus; his accomplishments contained 16 Broadway acting and directing series; 17 films, and 3 TV movie series that won him a wealth of awards. A list of comedy productions include: Barefoot in the Park (1963), Luv (1964), The Odd Couple (1965, Plaza Suite (19680, The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971), The Real Thing (1984) and Monty Python’s Spamolot (2005), The Gin Game (1977) and the latest Death of A Salesmen (2012) (Britannica,2012). His films include: Who’d afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), The Graduate (1967), Catch-22 (1970), Knowledge (1971), Silkwood (1983), edge (1990), Wolf (1994), The Birdcage (1996), Closer (2004), Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) (Britannica, 2012). His works in TV included Wit (2001), Angels in America (2003) (Britannica, 2012).
His focuses within his productions have a common denominator of “absurdities and horrors of modern life relative to his personal relationships” (Mike Nichols Director, 2012). Marked with a cynical commentary on contemporary life, Nicholas typically often underlined his movies with humor (Britannica, 2012). As J. Rank commented in his article, so well written, “In clubs, recording, radio, television or Broadway, Nichols aimed at literate, self-awareness with the audiences, gleeful anatomized family relationships, with men and women dueling in post-Freudian combat, by turns straying from the marriage bond and clinging to it for dear life” (Rank, 2012). Nicholas was a skilled Broadway director devising a particular flair for innovative stage business and eliciting unusually polished performances (Rank, 2012). Generally dissections of the American psyche; Nicholas begins several of his comedies, and then evolves into mordant individual characters isolated from the landscapes of their lives. Manufacturing illusions to shield themselves against the realities of society whose values they alone perceive as neurotic or murderous (Rank, 2012).
Nichols movies are normally pure fiction, yet in the movie Silkwood, he changed his standards and moved into reality, being closer to the surface of the plots (Rank, 2012). Silkwood is a movie he directed with writer Alice Arien and Nora Ephron. He co-produced with Buzz Hirsch, Joel Tuber, Larry Cano, Michael Hausman and tom Stovall (Silkwood, 2012). The main actress is Meryl Streep playing Karen Silkwood, who a twenty- eight year old laboratory technician was working at Kerr-McGee, an Oklahoma plant, producing fuel rods (Maychick, 1984). She died under mysterious circumstances surrounding a car crash, after contracting and being diagnosed, with contamination of nuclear radioactivity. Unsolved is her death, centering around the mystery of hushing her outspoken voice as she was spreading word throughout the factory and state about the dangers of nuclear energy. Her co-star is Cher playing her girlfriend and roommate, as well as Kurt Russell playing her boyfriend and second roommate. In the movie she is a mother, yet her children live with their father.
Viewers all had a different opinion about the movie, about who Silkwood was. A great deal of special interest group painted her as a woman with a halo around her head a savior, a martyr for telling what she believed the truth. Others, believed she was not completely clean and clear of all her faults, nor was she telling the truth, due to not having her children in her life, as well as her promiscuity in relationships. Karen’s parents didn’t understand the entire situation, nor thought Meryl played their daughter, as intelligent as what they thought she was in life. The acceptance of movie viewers, due to Meryl Streep’s performance, gained movie mainstream reviews in the first month of release. In the end, the movie cost twelve million dollars to make back in 1983, which is what it made within the first month. January 11, 1984, The U.S. Supreme Court decision to reinstate the ten-million dollar award against Silkwood’s employer, The Kerr-McGee Corporation was finalized, thus this helped the box office grossed sales. The actors and actresses felt very strong about the movie due to the deep stake it played in the actual safety of lives across the country centering around the dangers of nuclear radioactivity these plants have on society’s health and longevity.
In conclusion, Mike Nichols as a well decorated and diverse actor, comedian, director, producer, and writer has had a fascinating, and wonderfully filled career with lots of individuals who have touched his life in so many ways unimaginable, reaching to so many in society. He has brought rip roaring laughs, sad tears of the harsh realities of life, yet opened people’s eyes up to the possibilities that are. Whether in a negative or a positive place, in this world we can all share a story with one another, and find perhaps ourselves or someone we know lingering in the shadows on stage of a screen. Silkwood is a movie not for the faint at heart, yet it shows the hardships people endure to have a job in this world whether they like it or not, they have a job that pays the bills. Should a person keep working in a place that deems dangerous situations on their employees without their knowledge, or do we all have a choice to be told the truth?
Beloff, Ruth. "Mike Nichols." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 5 June 2012.
Gale Document Number: GALE|K2587514824
Gallaway, Stephanie. “Director Mike Nichols On His 60-Year Career: Trouble Always Seemed Glamorous”. The Hollywood Reporter Online, 18 May. 2012. Web. 5 June. 2012. <http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/mike-nichols-death-salesman-career-322677>.
Maychick, Diana. The Reluctant Superstar: Meryl Streep. New York: St. Martins Press, 1984. Print.
“Mike Nichols”. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 05 June. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/414197/ Mike -Nichols>.
“Mike Nichols Director – Films as Director:, Publications.” J. Rank. Web. 5 June, 2012. <http://www.filmreference.com/Directors-Mi-Pe/Nichols-Mike.html>.
Rank, J. “Mike Nichols”. Film Rank. Film Rank Online. Films 101, 2012. Web. 25 May. 2012. <http://www.films101.com/d11219r.htm>.
“Silkwood”. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica
Posted by Rebecca at 7:43 PM