FlixChatter Review: LAST CHRISTMAS (2019)

Directed by Paul Feig
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh and Emma Thompson

The holidays are upon us and along with that – holiday films. From “A Christmas Carol” to “Die Hard” and even to “Eyes Wide Shut”, the genre covers a wide spectrum of styles and there is always something, some motif, setting, style or narrative that makes it what it is and marketable this time of year. Paul Feig’s latest “Last Christmas” falls within the conventional side of this spectrum and appropriately so.

Emilia Clarke plays Kate, an aspiring and struggling singer living in London who also works as an elf in a Christmas store owned by Santa (Michelle Yeoh). Kate or Katerina (her Yugoslavian namesake) is a bit of a train wreck, borderline homeless, careless, irresponsible and jaded. Along comes Tom (Henry Golding), a stranger who happens to show up when she is at her worst but seems to melt her icy cynicism little by little. Slowly, she starts to turn things around, even with a hovering mother (played by Emma Thompson) obsessively doting on her.

To say any more would be revealing too much but Last Christmas reminds us of Bill Murray’s character turn/development in Groundhog Day, another holiday classic. Last Christmas follows the holiday template almost to a T in its predictability. However, Emilia Clarke’s performance is so charming that the movie succeeds in its intention. I’d forgotten she’d been Daenarys of Game of Thrones’ fame. Her comic turn as Kate is so natural and effortless that it’s enough to carry the film throughout the clichés, forced subplots, and feel-good story. We end up rooting for her through thick and thin. Clarke’s performance proves she’s not one-dimensional – a sign she will overcome being typecast, and hopefully more opportunities for complex roles in the future.

Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding and Emma Thompson are all merely there as supporting characters but there are some nice touches here and there. Last Christmas is cognizant of the times and reflects some of the political climate of today’s Europe and the western world. This is the world of Brexit and racism. Thompson (co-writer) and the filmmakers can be commended for at least trying to present a more realistic and diverse London.

The soundtrack is rich – filled with Wham! and George Michael classics. Michael’s song is the inspiration for the story and also a tribute to the late singer. Last Christmas is a cookie cutter of a film and not quite the classic it’s striving to be but it does have its heart in the right place. For some that might be enough.

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So did you get to see LAST CHRISTMAS? Let us know what you think!

FlixChatter Review: LATE NIGHT (2019)

I watched Dame Emma Thompson on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where she described this movie as a science-fiction given that her character is a late-night talk show host. Ba da bing! She definitely has a point there, a jab at the establishment she delivered rather stealthily the only way she could.

Thompson’s character, Katherine Newbury, is the only woman ever to have a long-running program on late night in a male-dominated field, just like real life. However, the award-winning late-night talk show host has been losing her mojo. In fact, her ratings is declining so much that her network threatens to replace her with a younger, more hip male host. Portrayed as a sarcastic British icon who’s notoriously principled and detached, she’s also, as her producer points out, has a reputation as a ‘woman who hates women.’ All her writers, which Katherine herself barely even knew, are all white males. Along comes Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), a former quality control expert from a Pennsylvania chemical plan, who’s swiftly hired to fulfill the gender diversity quota.

It’s amazing how timely this film is right now, so much so that you can’t help but cringe at some of the humorous bits. Not cringing because the jokes were bad, but because they feel so true. There’s a scene when Molly came in to an office full of guys who refuse to even give her a chair to sit on that she had to sit on trash bin. Not to mention the blatant male chauvinistic remarks and how they constantly made her feel that she doesn’t belong. I find myself astonished at how Molly seems impervious to those remarks and how she’s able to deflect those harassments. But of course in real life, it’s the kind of thing many people of color have to deal with and I for one, can definitely relate to her.

The fact that Katherine and Molly are from very different backgrounds and have led extremely different lives are played to great effect here. Naturally, culture clashes is always a potent subject for comedies, and in the right hands, they can be poignant, eye-opening as well as hilarious. Thompson is a legend on and off screen and I can’t imagine a more perfect actor for the part (apparently Kaling wrote this character specifically for her). Katherine is quite a difficult person to like at first, but then again, it’s not like she gives a hoot if you actually like her or not (so long as you watch her show), yet she made you care about her journey. Molly on the other hand, is someone you utterly sympathize with from the start, but soon you realize she doesn’t want/need your pity. She doesn’t need a savior, thank you very much. A message that’s delivered brilliantly in the ‘white savior’ bit in Katherine’s show where she basically forces herself to ‘save’ people of color in various circumstances such as hailing a cab. It’s delivered with glee but the message is utterly powerful.

The world of late-night TV feels really believable. Now, I don’t know how it actually works behind the scenes with the writers, etc. but it felt like the filmmakers spent a great deal researching it to present something that felt true. Director Nisha Ganatra keeps the flow at the right pace while balancing the funny bits with genuine emotional moments. The parts between Katherine and her husband Walter is deeply moving. John Lithgow‘s performance elevates him far above the token supportive husband role. Hugh Dancy is quite convincing as the pretty boy home-wrecker, while Reid Scott and Max Casella have some memorable scenes as two of Katherine’s writers.

Kaling and Thompson plays on the the ‘odd couple’ type that you don’t often see on screen. What an intriguing and powerful new dynamic duo who actually displays character resilience and inner strength that’s truly inspiring. It’s also refreshing to see a ‘coming of age’ story about a woman in her 60s for a change. As in real life, it’s never too late to reinvent oneself and it takes courage to admit one’s mistake and own up to it. I also appreciate the ending that offers a subtle nod to the burgeoning relationship between Molly and Scott’s character, without pandering to the fact that the leading lady wouldn’t be complete without a man in her life. We need more movies like Late Night, it proves just how satisfying AND enjoyable a movie can be when women get to be in charge of their own narrative.


Have you seen LATE NIGHT? Let me know what you think!

 

Guest Review: ALONE IN BERLIN (2016)

guestpost Directed By: Vincent Perez
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Emma Thompson, Daniel Brühl
Runtime: 1 hr 43 minutes

War films are stories writ large about aggression between nations. Few of them explore small-scale human undercurrents of suppressed dissent inside the countries at war. Alone in Berlin (2016) does this by looking at an ordinary working-class couple and their compulsion to express feelings about Hitler’s dictatorship at time when dissent meant certain death. It is also an essay on parental grief struggling to voice pain and loss.

Based on real events, the story opens in a small flat in Berlin where Otto Quangel (Brendan Gleeson) and his wife Anna (Emma Thompson) learn that their son has died in battle. In a long marriage that is under strain, the news pushes them further apart as they cannot console each other in grief. Otto had encouraged his son to join the Nazi army and now Anna blames him for their loss. Desperate to voice his rage against Hitler’s regime, he painstakingly writes postcards and secretly leaves them on stairwells and doorways where they can be seen by passers-by: he calls them “small grains of sand in Hitler’s machine”. Initially he keeps Anna away from his dangerous mission, but she insists on being involved and they both become clandestine resistance fighters whose weapons are simple messages about the evils of Nazism. They manage to write and distribute over 260 cards despite extensive investigative efforts to stop them. In the process, they resurrect their marital relationship. After almost two years of card-writing they are caught and together face Nazi justice.

This film has two parallel narratives that start in opposition and end in convergence: one is Otto and Anna’s actions, the other is the investigation. The first is focused on the smallness of the couple’s actions in contrast to the enormous risk they are taking, like a pair of mice squeaking at roaring lions. The filming, colour palette and period setting are drab and lifeless; the atmosphere is paranoid with suspicion and mistrust; and the acting is subdued and understated. Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson are actors with broad performance repertoires but here they are minimalist in expression and Spartan in dialogue, with much being conveyed through furtive glances or avoided eye-contact. It is a slow-moving story, observant of small details in an alienated world. This has the effect of amplifying the intensity of Otto and Anna’s actions. Close-ups of a pen leaving a trail of outrage on a small white card become powerful portraits of bravery that are ultimately futile as most of the cards were handed in to authorities. The couple’s nemesis is a young German investigator (Daniel Brühl) who pursues his work with ideological fervour for the Fuhrer but whose success turns into the film’s most devastating moments of despair.

This is a joyless story about humble heroism. Otto and Anna are emblematic of ordinary people dealing with tragedy and anger inside a world of fear and danger. Far from being mere victims, their small protests seriously unsettled the Nazi hierarchy and the closing scenes are a tribute to the power of two human “grains of sand”.

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cinemuseRichard Alaba, PhD
CineMuse Films
Member, Australian Film Critics Association
Sydney, Australia


Have you seen ‘Alone in Berlin’? Well, what did you think? 

Guest Review: Beauty and The Beast (2017)

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Directed By: Bill Condon
Written By: Stephen Chbosky & Evan Spiliotopoulos
Runtime: 2 hours 9 minutes

I cannot begin to explain how excited I was to get to review this movie. If I hadn’t been in a theater with about twenty-five other reviewers, I might have burst into tears as soon as the title appeared on screen. Beauty and the Beast was the first movie I ever saw in theaters, and it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s still one of my favorite movies. It’s a beautiful film, has some of the most memorable songs of all time, and features a princess whose defining characteristic is her love of reading. When I heard about the live-action remake, I was both excited and nervous. I’m not the kind of person who worries that a bad adaptation of a beloved classic will destroy my childhood, but I still wanted to like the new version. Luckily for me, I was not disappointed.

If you’ve been living under a rock your entire life and don’t know the story, Beauty and the Beast is about a beautiful bookworm named Belle (Emma Watson), who lives in a small French village with her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), where her bookish ways are misunderstood by the other townspeople, including Belle’s brawny, brutish suitor, Gaston (Luke Evans). One night, when a traveling Maurice unwittingly trespasses in a castle in the middle of the forest, he is taken prisoner by the beast (Dan Stevens), a prince who was cursed (along with his servants, who were all turned into household objects) by an enchantress. The only way to break the curse is for the beast to find true love, and to be loved in return. Belle bravely offers to trade places with her father, and, over time, begins to see what kind of man the beast can be past his appearance.

As someone who is very sentimental about the original, I can safely say this is an incredibly faithful adaptation. Much of the dialogue from the original is included verbatim in the remake, and there are lots of little moments and details from the animated version that are featured in this one, making me feel wonderfully nostalgic. At the same time, the remake offers some much-needed updates. For example, Belle is a better-developed character in this version. Besides just being a bookworm mostly interested in fairy tales, she helps her father with his creations and shows her own innovation. She’s also more relatable, showing her self-consciousness about how the other villagers view her as “odd.” The romance between Belle and the Beast is better handled as well. The movie shows how their friendship develops first, which makes the transition to romance more believable. The fact that Emma Watson and Dan Stevens have excellent chemistry helps sell it as well.

Besides the actors behind the titular characters, the rest of the cast give wonderful performances as well. Luke Evans and Josh Gad were born to play Gaston and Le Fou. Kevin Kline is a less scatterbrained (but still dreamy) Maurice, and the chemistry between him and Emma is heartwarming. The household staff all gave solid performances, and Ewan McGregor as Lumiere and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth were especially entertaining.

Besides the adaptation in general, I was mostly nervous about how the singing would be. Emma Watson is a fantastic actress, but I wasn’t sure how she’d do as a singer, and she had some pretty big shoes to fill. Fortunately, she did not disappoint. Watson has a lovely, bright-toned voice, and while it’s not as full-sounding as Paige O’Hara’s was in the original, it was still an excellent fit for the character. Luke Evans gives a decent performance as well; while there isn’t as much bravado in his voice during Gaston as I would like, he really shines in Kill the Beast. Ewan McGregor nails Be Our Guest with his warm, sparkling voice, although something about the number overall feels kind of underwhelming; I’m not sure if the tempo is a little slower, or if the phrasing could be tighter, or there isn’t as much background chorus as there was in the original, but it doesn’t pack the same punch the Oscar-winning number did in the animated version, although it is still enjoyable. Emma Thompson’s rendition of Mrs. Potts’s titular song holds its own against Angela Lansbury’s, which is no small feat. Naturally, Broadway royalty Audra McDonald as Garderobe is the best singer out of the cast, and while her song at the beginning isn’t particularly memorable, she still makes it sound amazing; seriously, she could sing the dictionary and make it sound good. My last music-related critique is that the orchestra is pretty overpowering and tends to drown out the singing a bit.

Lastly, the movie is visually stunning, as anyone who has seen the trailers has probably already gathered. The big group scenes are beautifully shot and reminiscent of the original. The sets are lovely, and the castle is especially breathtaking. The CGI for the beast and the other enchanted characters is very impressive. Most memorable, though, are the costumes; they remain faithful to the animated version while still adding incredible detail. While Belle’s trademark yellow ball gown is gorgeous, my favorite is the one she wears in the final scene of the movie; if I ever get married, I will walk down the aisle in a replica of that dress. 
 While I’m sure I will continue to be skeptical of this wave of live-action remakes Disney has been churning out, Beauty and the Beast is excellent, both as an adaptation of an animated film and as a movie on its own. Whether you’re a hardcore, nostalgic Disney fan like I am or a casual movie-goer, I have no doubt you will enjoy this.

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Have you seen ‘Beauty & The Beast’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: Bridget Jones’ Baby (2016)

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To be honest with you I hadn’t paid much attention to this franchise. Yes I enjoyed the first movie but I wasn’t clamoring to see the sequel. But once I learned that Emma Thompson had written the script, well it changed everything! Her Oscar-winning script results in one of my fave film of all time, the 1995 Ang Lee’s version of Sense & Sensibility. This one also has a Jane Austen connection. Obviously w/ the main male character named after her most famous hero Mr. Darcy, but it’s also got Gemma Jones who played Emma’s mother in S&S as Bridget’s mom.

bjb_birthday

In any case, we’ve got the bumbling-but-charming heroine back and Bridget is still as endearing as ever. Renée Zellweger remains committed as she was twelve years ago in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, it’s definitely the role she’ll be most remembered for. As the film starts with the song ‘All by myself’ we know immediately what state of mind she’s in, celebrating her birthday all by herself. It’s like a bus, you wait for one for weeks and suddenly two arrive at the same time! So, as luck would have it, within a week Bridget ends up running into a new guy Jack (Patrick Dempsey) and her beloved ex Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) who’s now married to a woman named Camilla. When I said *running into* these two guys, of course it involves more than that as our protagonist got knocked up.

The film pretty much revolves around the question ‘who’s the father?’ Don’t worry, I wouldn’t spoil it for you, though even if you do know who it is, it’s not really going to spoil the movie. The ongoing rivalry between Jack and Mark isn’t as explosive as the ones between Mark and the dastardly charming Daniel (played Hugh Grant), but it’s still pretty fun to watch. It’s interesting how Bridget first saw Mark in this movie at Daniel’s funeral, where they stole glances at each other. Of course Bridget Jones movies has always had a Cinderella fantasy aspect, but they turned it up a notch in this last one. It’s certainly fairy tale territory when you’ve got a hot, rich guy falling for you after witnessing you fall smack dab into a mud, never mind the fact that she wore dainty kitten heels to a Glastonbury music festival!

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I think the funniest bits involve Emma Thompson as Bridget’s OB/GYN, especially when she realized Bridget didn’t know who the baby daddy is. I wish she had more screen time as she’s always a hoot to watch. Whilst Thompson is new to the franchise, director Sharon Maguire is back again after directing the first Bridget Jones movie. I’d say this movie still delivers (pardon the pun) the laugh from start to finish, even if the movie itself might be uneven and some of the jokes feel past its sell-by date (Gangnam style? Hitler cats??) It’s ironic given the character actually says those exact words in the movie. But when the jokes are spot on, it’s thigh-slappingly hilarious. From the scene in the birthing class to the moment the two guys have to take turns carrying her to the hospital, they had me in stitches. The slapstick comedy involving a heavily pregnant Bridget and a revolving door is a moment of comedic gold. There’s also an amusing bit when Bridget and her anchor friend Miranda (Sarah Solemani) ended up bringing the wrong guest on the air for their cable news program. I certainly find myself laughing much more watching this than another female-centered British comedy Absolutely Fabulous.
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Zellweger’s still fun to watch as Bridget, even though her looks has changed so much since the last movie. It’s not a criticism of how Reneé looks at all. It’s just an observation that she might’ve done something to her face, and a testament of the pressure for actresses in Hollywood to defy aging. Dempsey as the new guy is quite a pleasant surprise to me, as I’m not his biggest fan of McDreamy. He’s actually got some comedic chops and his Jack is quite a contrast to the stiff-upper-lip Mark. Firth’s certainly got that perpetually-exasperated expression down pat ever since he played Mr. Darcy in 1995! He’s still Bridget’s ‘knight in shining armor.’ There’s even a scene of him coming through the fog in his long overcoat to *rescue* the damsel in distress, well it’s just Bridget being locked out of her own apartment. It’s so ridiculously over-the-top but in a cheeky kind of way.

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The supporting cast is great all around, from Bridget’s parents (Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones), and her trio of friends (Sally Phillips, Shirley Henderson and James Callis) are all back albeit briefly. There’s a funny cameo in the beginning of Ed Sheeran but I actually didn’t recognize him as I don’t really listen to current pop music.

I laughed quite a bit watching this, so all things considered, this sequel is still riotously entertaining. The cast look like they’re having fun with this, especially Zellweger herself who’s still fun to watch as Bridget. I still think sequels are generally extraneous, but if you’re gonna do one anyway, better make it worth your while. I actually don’t mind watching this again when it’s out on rental, it’ll make for a fun girls’ movie night 😉

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Have you seen ‘Bridget Jones’ Baby’? Well, what did YOU think?

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Five for the Fifth: OCTOBER 2016 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Well, it’s October and a lot of bloggers are dedicating their sites to horror films for the entire month. If you’ve been on this blog often enough you’ll know that isn’t going to happen here on FlixChatter. I have such feeble nerves that I almost always avoid horror films, even though I have appreciated some horror films in the past, i.e. The Sixth Sense, Silence of the Lambs, Devil’s Advocate, etc.

Byzantium6
A scene from Byzantium

I actually quite like vampire films, i.e. Interviews With the Vampire, Byzantium, Daybreakers, etc. But seeing The Exorcist back in college still terrified me to this day so I generally avoid anything dealing with people being possessed. But I might be persuaded to see something once in a while if it isn’t overly gory or extremely disturbing.

So my first question to you is… what horror/scary thriller would you recommend to someone like me who aren’t into the genre? 

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2. As for the trailers I’m highlighting in this edition, let’s start with the Kristen Stewart‘s movie that was booed at Cannes: Personal Shopper. Interesting because just the year before, she became the first American actress to win a Cesar [for Best Supporting Performance] for Clouds of Sils Maria which was also directed by Olivier Assayas. It’s been five months since Cannes and now we finally got the trailer:

I have to admit I wasn’t Kirsten’s biggest fan, but I thought she’s terrific in Clouds of Sils Maria, so I might check this one out. I know I just said I’m not into horror films, but this one felt more like a mysterious ghost story involving her dead twin brother than a bloody/gory horror flick.

Woo hoo!! Clive Owen is back as The Driver in BMW short film The Escape trailer!

The short film is presented as an homage to the 15th anniversary of the original BMW Film series, and it also stars Dakota Fanning, Jon Bernthal, and Vera Farmiga. It’s directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium). I’ve highlighted some of my fave BMW films here. The Escape will premiere on Sunday, October 23, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. EST on BMWFilms.com.

Thoughts about either one of these trailers?

3. It’s gotta be good to be Christopher Nolan. Per THR, the British auteur is said to be getting $20 million upfront and 20 percent of the gross for his upcoming World War II epic Dunkirk. Considering that the average director salary for a studio film is in the $750,000 to $1.5 million range, depending on the number of past credits, the $20 mil payday is astounding.

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But hey, I think Nolan deserved it, though he’s already one of the wealthiest filmmakers working today thanks to the over $1 billion gross of his Batman trilogy alone.

I’ve posted the Dunkirk teaser trailer here and it looks epic! I guess we’ll find out on July 2017 just how epic it will be.

Thoughts on Christopher Nolan huge payday?
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4. This edition’s casting news feature a double from Emma Thompson and having just finished my review of Bridget Jones’ Baby this weekend (it’s still in my draft folder), we definitely need more of her in movies!

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Let’s start with the first project which will have Emma teaming up with Mindy Kaling. What a duo it’ll be! Though I actually haven’t seen her show The Mindy Project, I really like her and I’m glad she’s making her foray into films!

The story follows a venerated late-night talk show host, played by Thompson, who’s in danger of losing her long-running show right when she hires her first female writer, played by Kaling. Sources describe the film as The Devil Wears Prada meets Broadcast News. I’m so there!

Source: Variety

The second project is an adaptation of author Ian McEwan’s novel.

Thompson plays Fiona Maye, an eminent judge in London presiding with wisdom and compassion over ethically complex cases of family law. But she has paid a heavy personal price for her workload, and her marriage to American professor Jack (Stanley Tucci) is at breaking point.

Filming will take place on location in London from mid-October. Also starring is newcomer Fionn Whitehead, who appears in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Dunkirk. I love Stanley Tucci too, he’s a terrific character actor, so this is another screen match up I look forward to seeing.

Source: Variety

Thoughts on these possible new projects for Emma Thompson?

5. This month Five for the Fifth‘s guest is Jay from the awesome blog Assholes Watching Movies!

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I saw Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children this weekend and wasn’t overly impressed. It pairs well enough with Tim Burton’s visual style of story-telling, big on surrealism and whimsy but a little lacking in actual story. Overshadowing the film, however, are Burton’s recent comments about diversity in film, and in his films in particular. As wildly inventive as some of Burton’s creations are, his films remain peopled by white characters. Casting non-whites is where his imagination draws a line in the sand, apparently. Dude with scissors for hands? Sure. Talking caterpillar? Demon barber? Obsessive candy man? All okay. Black guy playing any of those? Don’t be crazy. Or as Burton put it himself “Things either call for things, or they don’t” – meaning, if a script says “African American”, he’ll cast an African American. But if a script says “person”, Burton reads it as “white person.” And that’s exactly the kind of inherent bias we most especially have to watch for. There’s no reason why all the peculiar children were white, no reason at all. Perhaps the script did not demand it, but society does. Audiences are as diverse as they come and deserve to see themselves represented on screen. Lazy racism like Burton’s is no excuse; it’s 2016 and it’s time to stop casting like movies are segregated. Samuel L. Jackson has a sizable role in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Jackson being the first person of colour to take on a lead role in any of Burton’s films. I’d celebrate that more if he wasn’t playing a villain.

As if Burton’s all-white IMDB listing isn’t damning enough, he’s nailed himself into his own coffin with these words:

I remember back when I was a child watching “The Brady Bunch” and they started to get all politically correct, like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a black — I used to get more offended by that than just — I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.

Never mind that Blaxploitation movies were born in response to systemic racism and preached empowerment. Let’s just take his statement for what it is: white privilege, white ignorance, and an embarrassing amount of #alllivesmatter racist thinking. Tim Burton needs to pull his white head out of his white ass, and we all need to hold him accountable.

Have you seen ‘Miss Peregrine’? What do you think about Tim Burton’s racist remarks?

 


Well, that’s it for the OCTOBER edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Take part by picking a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 

Guest Post: Gender and Hollywood Scriptwriting – “Houston, we have a problem”

Happy Thursday everyone! Today we’ve got a special guest post from Yorkshire. Izzy is writing about a topic that’s dear to my heart and an important discussion point.

So without further ado, let’s dive into Izzy’s post…

GenderAndHollywoodScriptwriting

How many times in a day do you quote the lines of a TV program or movie? Personally I wouldn’t be able to count the number as my days are littered with “Houston, we have a problem” (Apollo 13, 1995) and “I’ll be back.”  (The Terminator, 1984) sometimes I don’t even realise I’m doing it and I bet you’re the same!

So, when this quiz landed in my inbox:  I thought nothing of it other than ‘I love quotes! I’ll be good at this!’ (As it turns out I didn’t score as well as I’d hoped but that’s irrelevant for now.)

It wasn’t until I was thinking about the quiz a few hours later that I put my literature degree head on (I only recently graduated) and began to analyse the quiz how I had been taught by lecturers, in a way that delves deeper than face-value.

What did I discover?

Well, after some further Googling I compiled this:

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The most obvious revelation is that male characters are written more memorable lines.

My second discovery was that a high proportion (but by no means all) of the famous lines spoken by male characters are fueled with aggression, whereas five out of the seven most memorable female lines are projected through love of either a man or family life. 

The questions is, ‘Why?’

In 2014 only 15% of Hollywood film script writers were female (with numbers fluctuating around that figure, if not lower, for decades). Again in 2014, females made up only ‘12% of protagonists featured in the top 100 grossing films.’ Again, this percentage seems to have always been the norm.

Those stats can help to explain my findings.

• If 80-90% of Hollywood film script writers are male then it is understandable that they will write male-centric stories with male protagonists.

• If 80-90% of protagonists are male then they are likely to have the most lines in a movie, therefore increasing their chances of having a memorable one.

• We can also assume that 80-90% of characters in Hollywood have had their lines written by a man. This may explain why famous female lines are written with the intention of underlining their affectionate personality- because women are stereotypically affectionate and as a male writer it is easier to write stereotypes than it is to dedicate time to researching the female psyche.

My last thought is a little more obscure and far more open to debate.

HeresJohnnyJack Nicholson came up with ‘Here’s Johnny’ (The Shining) on the spot, as did Robert De Niro with his famous line “You talkin’ to me?” (Taxi Driver). This opens the debate of if male actors embody their characters with more vigour and intensity than their female counterparts. Do they ‘feel’ their characters on a more personal level? Do they have a closer relationships with the people they are playing? Or, as only 2 out of the 18 male lines equals to 11% and 11% of the 7 female lines is 0.77, maybe an incredible, unscripted female line is yet to come…..

This article by Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Labrecque [in regards to Maggie Gyllenhaal being deemed too old to play the love-interest of a 55-year-old man – ed] highlights that male ‘tastes,’ i.e. a preference to date significantly younger women, is embodied across the cinematic world in terms of casting. It can then only be assumed that male scriptwriters also write female character’s lines in relation to their ‘taste’, as well as based on assumptions as mentioned earlier.

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I have great respect for the likes of Emma Thompson who write screenplays such as Nanny McPhee presumably so that she has the opportunity to play a leading Hollywood role regardless of her age, and most definitely without a male screenwriter’s sexual agenda. I cannot wait to see more of the same and experience Hollywood productions written by women for female actors of ‘a certain age’ or otherwise. Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, writers of Saving Mr Banks, wrote their P.L. Travers beautifully- highlighting their female characters’ insecurities as well as defiance, likeability as well as unpleasantness. It is safe to say that they wrote a well-rounded and very human character, and the sooner this sort of female characterisation becomes the Hollywood norm the better.

Sources:

 


IzzyS


Izzy S. is a drama graduate with an interest
in literature and screenwriting

Check out Izzy’s blog
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