Entangled

Orphan Black writer Tony Elliott’s short film Entangled tells the story of woman whose lover is suffering the debilitating side effects of a quantum device he’s created. Elliott both wrote and directed the film. It features an excellent performance from Christine Horne. The film is proof than Tony Elliott is a perfect writer for Orphan Black.

This is the plot synopsis:

A scientist initiates her brain-dead partner’s secret experiment to find out what happened to him. But what she experiences is a mind-bending reality that threatens both their lives.

Also in the film are Aaron Abrams, Joey Klein, and Tennille Read.

Here’s the entire Entangled.

After watching the film, I think we can agree that Tony Elliott should not propose this solution for the multiplicity of Maslanys on Orphan Black.

Review: Transparent

Transparent was fascinating and compelling. I watched it all the first weekend it was out on Amazon Prime. It’s a coming out story for the character brilliantly played by Jeffrey Tambor.

I’ll try to review it without giving away too many surprises that can’t be gleaned from simply watching the trailer. The review has some mild spoilers.

Maura at her leisure
Maura at her leisure

Late in life, Mort decides to come out and live full time as a woman – Maura. Season 1 was about coming out. If there are hormones or other options in Maura’s future, that will come later. It’s more than Maura’s coming out story. It’s a story about the repercussions for everyone around the transgendered person, particularly the children and the ex-spouse.

Tambor plays Maura with great dignity and sadness. There is occasional joy, but also considerable pain. I’ve seen Tambor in many parts where he is ridiculous, but here he is quiet, vulnerable and stately.

Judith Light as Shelly
Judith Light as Shelly

Judith Light as the ex-wife, Shelly, is absolutely outstanding. In my opinion, it’s the best role she’s ever had in many years as an actor, and she doesn’t waste a second of it. She’s wonderful in the part.

Each of the children has their own particular anguish to deal with in addition to the big news from dad. The 3 children of Mort and Shelley are Sarah (Amy Landecker), Ali (Gaby Hoffmann) and Josh (Jay Duplass). Maura comes out to each child in a different way, and each of them deals with it in a different way. There’s a lot of gender stuff in this story, and not all from Maura.

Sarah with her kids
Sarah with her kids

Sarah leaves her husband Len (Rob Huebel). She takes up with a former lover named Tammy, who is played with verve and charisma by Melora Hardin. Melora Hardin is so good in this part I’m making up a new rule: Melora Hardin should play only butchy parts from now on! As the season progresses, Sarah wobbles a bit between Tammy and Len and the negotiations between her kids and Tammy’s kids. One of Tammy’s ex step children enters the story late in the season and may turn out to be significant in Josh’s life. That isn’t the only child who may turn out to be important in Josh’s life.

Josh and Ali bonding over old vinyl
Josh and Ali bonding over old vinyl

Josh screws just about anything that moves but not for particularly good reasons. He has sexual issues going back to his early teens that still haunt him. Toward the end of season 1 he meets and falls for a rabbi, played by Kathryn Hahn, but this romance is confused by Josh’s past. Here’s wishing Josh and the Rabbi some good luck for season 2!

Ali is the flake. Rootless, jobless, confused, frequently high, self-centered and perhaps the most loyal and loving of the bunch. She’s clueless about who she is or what she should do with her life, but she’s trying really hard to get it figured out. She might have an undiagnosed mental illness. Carrie Brownstein plays Syd, Ali’s best friend.

Jill Soloway

Transparent was created, written, produced, and sometimes directed by Jill Soloway. Soloway has a trans parent and the story has been brewing in her for years. That’s her in the photo at the top during an interview with Jeffrey Tambor.

Soloway’s other credits include Six Feet Under and United States of Tara.

Issues

The girls out shopping
The girls out shopping

Most of the issues in the series revolve around gender identity and sexual orientation, or both at once. I mentioned that a lot of the story was about the kids’ reactions to dad switching gender roles, but there are moments showing what Maura goes through. For instance, Maura, Ali and Sarah go shopping. Where does Maura go to pee without causing a riot?

There are issues with getting the right gendered pronoun, questions about what you call your dad when dad is a woman or when Uncle Mort is now – what – Uncle Maura?

Maura and friend Marcy (Bradley Whitford) have some wonderful scenes in flashbacks to the 80s when they identified as cross dressers. Marcy thinks he’s a man who likes dressing up like a woman. But Maura doesn’t feel like a man and she doesn’t know what to do about it when cross-dressing is as close as she can come to what feels real. The flashbacks add understanding to what Mort had to endure to finally decide to become Maura to the entire world.

Jeffrey Tambor is not a Trans Actor

Before the series came out, there was a considerable amount of criticism because Jeffrey Tambor is not a trans actor. There were, in fact, 12 speaking parts for trans actors in the series. Among them, Alexandra Billings plays Davina, one of Maura’s closest friends in the trans community and the trans support group Maura attends.

Soloway has been quoted as saying that she always had Tambor in mind for the part because he reminds her of her father. Her father came out as transgender several years ago, just as Maura struggles to do in the series.

After seeing all of season 1, I think the criticism over the choice of Tambor will fade away. So much of the story is flashbacks to times when Tambor is seen as Mort. Even as the story begins, Mort is still there, struggling to explain to his 3 adult children that he is actually she.

Soloway was quoted on NPR saying about the criticism,

The world knows so little about being trans, and I know very little about being trans — I just know what it’s like to be the child of a trans person. But there’s so little trans representation [and] so few trans people who are creating content, so we really depend on the trans community to help us get it right.

If you have Amazon Prime you should definitely watch this series. It’s listed as a comedy and has comic moments, but it’s also about real and powerful issues that are much on the national consciousness now. Every performance is masterful, the writing is brilliant. As a bonus, the music choices for every episode were perfect. This show needs a soundtrack album. Watch it if you can.

Update

I just discovered this short video, which I think is relevant to the review and adds to it.

That Magic Moment When I Fell for Lost Girl

I saw a tweet the other day recalling when someone first got hooked on Lost Girl. It included a photo of Bo and Lauren. It started me thinking about when that moment was for me – when did I know that this show, this character, would be one I would really like?

For me, that moment came about 3 minutes into episode 1 of season 1. At that point we didn’t know any character names. All we knew was that a gorgeous bartender served two drinks to a creepy guy. Creepy guy secretly tossed a pill in one of them and then drugged a young woman who was pickpocketing wallets as she toured the bar. The bartender watched as creepy guy followed the young woman out of the bar.

Creepy guy followed young woman into the elevator, where she reeled from the drug and he prepared to rape her. Ding goes the elevator, the doors open, and there’s the gorgeous bartender.

Love at not quite first sight with Bo in Lost Girl
Love at not quite first sight with Bo in Lost Girl

Gorgeous bartender leans against the wall, looking kickass and dangerous as hell. She enters the elevator and checks on the young woman. On my gosh, gorgeous bartender is a savior, a protector, a promise of hope for mistreated and misguided young women. That’s it. That’s the moment. I’m Bo’s forever. She’s my hero. She’s my woman. She’s my avatar. I will watch anything she wants to do until the end of time (or for 5 seasons, sob).

Of course, immediately after I swear fealty to her forever, she succubus kisses creepy guy to death and things get complicated.

I had so much fun thinking about this magic moment. It’s something that happens early in any show you commit to. Something grabs you. We could play the magic moment game for any show, but I thought it would be interesting to play it for Lost Girl.

Do you remember? What was your magic moment?

Watch This: Big Eyes

Big Eyes is a biopic directed by Tim Burton. It’s about Margaret Keene (Amy Adams) an artist who painted big eyed children famous in the 1950s and 60s. Her husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) took credit for her work.

This plot is so 1950s and 1960s! I speak from experience when I tell you that the legal struggles Margaret Keene had with her husband were typical of the way men treated their wives during that time. I’m looking forward to seeing the shy artist step into her power and claim her own fame in this film.

Big Eyes is set for a December 2014 release – on Christmas Day, actually.

Images © 2014 – The Weinstein Company

International Study on Gender Images in Global Films

In a press release on September 22, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, UN Women and The Rockefeller Foundation presented an international study on gender images in global films. There was a press conference to share the information from the study.

UN Women Releases Global Study on Women Characters in Film with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and The Rockefeller Foundation

Geena Davis spoke at the press conference. She said,

The fact is – women are seriously under-represented across nearly all sectors of society around the globe, not just on-screen, but for the most part we’re simply not aware of the extent. And media images exert a powerful influence in creating and perpetuating our unconscious biases.

Here are some of the key findings. The information is also available in an Infographic, which I put in a separate post because it’s large.

  • less than one third of all speaking characters in film are female.
  • less than a quarter of the fictional on-screen workforce is comprised of women
  • female characters are largely absent from powerful positions
  • women characters represent less than 15 per cent of business executives, political figures, or science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) employees
  • male characters outnumber female characters as attorneys and judges (13 to 1), professors (16 to 1), and doctors (5 to 1)
  • girls and women were over twice as likely as boys and men to be shown in sexualized attire or with some nudity
  • females are missing in action films, being only 23 per cent of speaking characters in this genre
  • films with a female director or female writer had more girls and women on-screen than did those without a female director or writer

If She Can See It, She Can Be It

Speaking at the press conference, Geena Davis said,

. . . media images can also have a very positive impact on our perceptions. In the time it takes to make a movie, we can change what the future looks like. There are woefully few women CEOs in the world, but there can be lots of them in films. How do we encourage a lot more girls to pursue science, technology and engineering careers? By casting droves of women in STEM, politics, law and other professions today in movies.

I’ve been harping on this same theme for quite some time.

The press release event was chronicled on Storify.  It includes lots of photos and tweets describing much more of what happened at the event.

The study was conducted by Stacy L. Smith (PhD), Marc Choueiti, & Katherine Pieper (PhD) at the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California. You can download the full report.

Images from UN Women on Flickr

Gender Bias in Media (Infographic)

The infographic relates to the news in International Study on Gender Images in Global Films. Please see that post for more information.

Gender Bias without Borders

CBS Sunday: Madam Secretary & The Good Wife

Madam Secretary promises to be good. What it does not seem to be is some kind of pre election exploration, either good or bad, of Hillary Clinton. It’s more of an underdog story.

Téa Leoni in Madam Secretary
Téa Leoni in Madam Secretary

Téa Leoni as Elizabeth McCord is not a politician. She comes from a background in the CIA. The President (Keith Carradine) came from a background in the CIA himself. When the current Secretary of State dies under mysterious circumstances, the POTUS asks Elizabeth McCord to take over. She does. If the first episode is any indication, she’s a rule breaker who finds ways to do what she knows is right whether the political machine – in the person of the President’s Chief of Staff (Zeljko Ivanek) – likes it or not.

She comes to Washington from a bucolic life on a horse farm. With her are a husband (Tim Daly) and her two teenaged kids (Kathrine Herzer and Evan Roe). The relationship between Elizabeth and Henry McCord seems solid. The family dynamics seem solid. Son Jason has declared himself an anarchist, yet seems awfully interested in politics. We didn’t see much of the daughter in the first episode.

The series is a great concept. We’ve had several female Secretaries of State. It’s not such a shocking idea as a female president. It’s a good place to put a smart woman who can exercise power and write stories around what she does with it.

The Good Wife

Returning for a 6th season, The Good Wife gets off to a rip-roaring start.

Julianna Margulies and Christine Baranski in The Good Wife
Julianna Margulies and Christine Baranski in The Good Wife
  • Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry) is tossed in jail on trumped up charges and the police and the judge seem out to get him
  • Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) decides to join Florrick and Agos
  • Alicia Florrick ( Julianna Margulies) gets pestered to run for State’s Attorney while trying to raise Cary’s bail and bring Diane Lockhart into the firm
  • Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) misses a date with Cary, but gets hit on by Sophia (Kelli Giddish), who hasn’t been around for two years and whom Kalinda no longer trusts

The fast paced, multiplexed stories go on with this series. I do hope we get to see more of Kalinda. Diane made it a condition of her coming in with Florrick and Agos that Kalinda come too. Much as I love Alicia and Diane, Kalinda is so much more interesting. The possibility of Kelli Giddish coming back is exciting. Kalinda and Sophia were good together and more fun than Kalinda and Cary’s current romance. Having said that, Sophia’s contact with Kalinda in this episode was 100% hidden motivation, so there’s a lot to process before it could happen.

There’s potentially a very interesting turn on The Good Wife because Taye Diggs is joining the cast in the next episode. If he stays around all season I have my fingers crossed that he and Alicia will make sparks. Not sparks. Fireworks. Will is gone. Alicia has stopped boffing her hubby and kicked him out again. Bring on Mr. Diggs!

Review: This is Where I Leave You

This is Where I Leave You is so rich and messy and complicated, I won’t even try to give you the details of the story. You get the basic story watching the trailer, which is that a family comes together to sit shiva for 7 days because of the death of the father.

Jason Bateman
Jason Bateman

In many ways, this is Jason Bateman’s film. As Judd Altman, the eldest brother, he carries us into and out of the story. His particular character gets more development than anyone else’s.

Writer Jonathan Tropper is an absolute genius at creating real feeling characters with just a few brush strokes.

Old man furry slippers do mean something.
Old man furry slippers do mean something.

Tina Fey as Wendy Altman is the big sister. She has two young children of her own. She’s the only sibling with kids – so far. Her son, played by Cade Lappin, regularly steals scenes with his potty chair and his attitude. She knows her brothers better than she knows herself, although she does make an effort to uncover some of her baggage while sitting on the roof with Judd.

Tina Fey and Jane Fonda
Tina Fey and Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda is the mother. She’s famous for writing a book about the foibles and intimate details of her 4 children. She overshares everything but the most important facts. She brings her children home and enforces her demand that they stay there for 7 days to sit shiva knowing how explosive and inappropriate it will get, but knowing it needs to happen.

Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll
Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll

There’s the responsible middle child played by Corey Stoll and the irresponsible baby brother, played by Adam Driver. They bring home with them assorted spouses, girlfriends, children, impending children, and discarded spouses. Once they are home they have to deal with old girlfriends, old boyfriends, surprising new girlfriends and many degrees of overshared sex.

Debra Monk, Kathryn Hahn and Connie Britton
Debra Monk, Kathryn Hahn and Connie Britton

As I mentioned, every character feels real. They may not have many moments of screen time, but every one of these actors knows how to make something big out of small moments. Especially the smaller parts, played by Connie Britton, Kathryn Hahn, Rose Byrne, Debra Monk, Abigail Spencer and Dax Shepard. Even as minor characters, they were nuanced people. I want Connie Britton’s character to have a whole movie of her own.

The only character that felt off was the Rabbi, played for comic relief by Ben Schwartz. The fact that everyone in the family insisted on calling him by his childhood nickname, Boner, even in Temple, tells you how that went. There was plenty going on that was truly laugh-out-loud funny without making the Rabbi into a joke.

With so many characters, each with their individual stories, the interactions were complicated. Each of the siblings had personal issues and responses to the loss of their father. The plot had lots of twists and turns and some elegant surprises. The film had humor, emotion, and touching moments of love and connection.

The beautiful thing about family dramas is there are no gun battles, no explosions, and no car chases. Instead, there are meaningful talks on the roof, ineffectual fisticuffs on the front lawn, and shared moments of revelation. This film has heart. It’s as good as any family drama you will ever see, probably better.

All images © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.