Watch This: Trailer for Our Brand is Crisis

You’ve probably seen the trailer for Our Brand is Crisis 15 times on your TV already, because it’s heavily promoted there. I wanted to mention it and include the trailer here because it looks interesting.

It’s interesting because it stars Sandra Bullock in a role written for a man. A great move by the film’s producers and and an example that others should follow more often.

Sandra Bullock and Zoe Kazan in a scene from "Our Brand is Crisis"
Sandra Bullock and Zoe Kazan in a scene from “Our Brand is Crisis”

It’s interesting because it’s loosely based on a real election in Bolivia, suggested by the 2005 documentary by Rachel Boynton about campaign master James Carville’s manipulations in that election.

It’s interesting because we are in the middle of an election cycle with all its spin and manipulation and over-abundant candidates.

It’s interesting because it looks like a powerhouse performance from Sandra Bullock.

Early reviews of the film mention that it’s hilarious. Here’s the description of the film:

A Bolivian presidential candidate failing badly in the polls enlists the firepower of an elite American management team, led by the deeply damaged but still brilliant strategist “Calamity” Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock). In self-imposed retirement following a scandal that earned her nickname and rocked her to her core, Jane is coaxed back into the game for the chance to beat her professional nemesis, the loathsome Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), now coaching the opposition.

But as Candy zeroes in on every vulnerability – both on and off the campaign trail – Jane is plunged into a personal crisis as intense as the one her team exploits nationally to boost their numbers. Dramatic, rapid-fire and laced with satire, “Our Brand is Crisis” reveals the cynical machinations and private battles of world-class political consultants for whom nothing is sacred and winning is all that matters.

The drama also stars Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Joaquim de Almeida, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy, and Zoe Kazan. David Gordon Green is the director.

The film will be in theaters everywhere on October 30, 2015.

A Personal Manifesto

A couple of decades ago I realized everything in my life up to that point had been determined by men. I can hear my friend Denise shouting, “It’s the patriarchy, stupid!” That’s not it – at least not completely. The patriarchy is still with us. But inside my head, things have changed.

Let’s start with ancient history. I grew up when the movies were westerns with Roy Rogers or Gene Autry. Or they were war movies with Aldo Ray and Montgomery Clift. Stories were about men. Books were about men. In college, I majored in English and I read dozens of books by dead white men. Men were supposed to rule the world and women were supposed to let them. I lived with a man who controlled and manipulated everything about my life. And I let him.

Then I stopped letting him.

After that, I wanted to think some new thoughts. I wanted to learn about feminism, which had passed me by. I wanted to read books by women, I wanted to see movies about women, hear songs sung by women, and see TV shows about women.

I’m not saying I started hating men. I like men. I have a son who is the finest man you could ever know. It wasn’t about men. It was about women, about finding the feminine, about understanding the female heart and mind, about finding the essence of what it is to be a woman.

The first thing I did was start reading books by women: Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Edwidge Danicatt, Margaret Atwood, Sara Paretsky, Amy Tan, Mary McCarthy, Annie Proulx, Leslie Marmon Silko, Jeanette Winterson, Sandra Cisneros, Dana Stabenow, Rita Mae Brown, Zora Neale Hurston, Joan Didion, Gloria Steinem, Diana Galbaldon, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Berg, Janet Evanovich, Sarah Waters, Rita Dove. I didn’t care if it was great literature or a speed-readable romance as long as it was by a woman.

No more war movies, no more westerns, no more guys coming of age (girls coming of age are acceptable), no more buddy films about guys. I became attached to films like “The Secret of Roan Inish” and “Practical Magic” and “Thelma and Louise” and “How to Make an American Quilt” that told stories about women. I decided what to go see based on who the female star was – the male star didn’t matter. Did it have Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Queen Latifa, Sandra Bullock, Meg Ryan, Julie Christie, Angela Bassett, Shirley MacLaine, Holly Hunter, Halle Berry, Alfre Woodard, Julia Roberts? I was there.

I started to get a bit picky, a little more demanding. The woman had to really be there. Be a person who added to the film. If “The Fugitive” advertised Sela Ward and she got offed in the beginning so all we could do was watch the hero run around, I was pissed.

Television had some women to offer. There was Mary Tyler Moore. Carol Burnett. There were shows with a lot of male characters and a few memorable female characters. “China Beach” had both Dana Delany and Marg Helgenberger. “Northern Exposure” had Janine Turner and several other interesting women. “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd” was all Blair Brown. “Cagney and Lacey” – Woohaw! “Any Day Now” with Annie Potts and Lorraine Toussaint – double woohaw! The four fabulous women on “Sisters” – a quadruple woohaw.

In the last couple of years some really good female led TV has come along. “Saving Grace,” “The Closer,” “In Plain Sight,” “Hawthorne,” “The Good Wife,” “Weeds.” I’m loving it.

And, there was “The L Word.” A show that was practically all women. I so, so loved it. I thought I loved it because I liked Jennifer Beals. I watched every old Jennifer Beals movie that I’d missed over the years. I found dancers, cops, crooks, a naive housewife, a madam, a psychic, a blind wise woman, singers, liars, the bride of Frankenstein and a whole lot of other people, but I didn’t find Jennifer Beals. I only found characters. That’s when I realized the thing that really attracted me was the character of Bette Porter on “The L Word.”

Bette Porter. A strong woman who stands up for herself. She’s not perfect, but she’s powerful and inspiring and a leader. She seems very real there inside the TV.  She’s who I’ve been looking for in all the books, in all the movies, in all the TV shows. She’s in the courageous politicians I look up to. She’s in the tech savvy leaders I admire like the founders of BlogHer. She’s in the organizers for charity and the women who fight against injustice. She’s in the writers who tell stories that change the world. She’s in my daughter, who’s raising a kid with no help from the father. She’s in my granddaughters, who don’t take shit from anybody.

Real women I know have courage and strength and power. Maybe even I do. I’ve been trying to figure that one out for about 20 years. I could be close to an answer.

[Reprinted from Two decades of women on First 50 Words.  This post was first written in August 2010. I decided to repost it here as well because it’s relevant to why I started this blog.]

Last Tango in Halifax might be Last Tango in Santa Fe

The Guardian tells us that Diane Keaton plans US remake of BBC’s Last Tango in Halifax. It will air on HBO. Sally Wainwright, the creator of the show, says she will be a producer of the American version but will not have a huge role in the production.

I know I have lots of feelings about this news, and I’m sure the dedicated Last Tango fans do, too.

First, where would it be set? I just made up the part about Santa Fe. It’s a cool place, there are ranches surrounding it, and a lot of films get made in New Mexico. It might be a sensible location for a series that needs both urban and rural settings along with great scenery. Diane Keaton has not asked for my opinion in this matter, however.

Who would be in it? Would Diane Keaton play Celia? She’s 67. What American actresses are in their 70s? Shirley MacLaine, Barbra Streisand, Faye Dunaway, Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn, Olympia Dukakis, Julie Christie, Candice Bergen are a few possible names. So we have talent in that age category, but American women don’t look their age. That’s a bit of a problem. Do we want to see anyone who doesn’t look as genuine Anne Reid in the role?

Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi in Last Tango in Halifax
Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi in Last Tango in Halifax

There are simply tons of older men to choose from for Alan. Robert DeNiro, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, Peter Coyote and dozens more. But I so like Derek Jacobi’s sweet and loving Alan. Some swaggering American who is used to waving a gun around just doesn’t feel right. And 70 year-old American men still fancy themselves leading men who should be snaring women 30 and 40 years younger than themselves. That’s a bit of a problem, too. As for the feckless John, Tony Gardner was perfection in this part. Who could equal that?

What about Caroline and Gillian and Kate? Remember my dream actress pairing of Ashley Judd and Jennifer Beals? Think they’d make a good Caroline and Kate? Other actresses in their 40s abound, include Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Garner, Renée Zellweger and lots more. But I’m sort of convinced that Sarah Lancashire is irreplaceable as Caroline. Nicola Walker in her jeans and Converse sneakers brings such nuance and subtlety to Gillian.

Casting is a challenge. Adapting the dialog and locations will be a challenge as well. Diane Keaton has taken on a huge task to make this wonderful story American. I wish her well, and I wish her great luck finding the right people to do the writing and casting and create the sets.

I’m really attached to Last Tango in Halifax. Even so, Diane Keaton is trustworthy, in my opinion. If anyone can make a love story about older adults shine, it should be Diane Keaton. Who knows, I may love the American version of this tale of second chances as much as I do the British one.

When I get attached to a show, like the Millennium series in Swedish (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest) I feel a vague dread at the arrival of American versions. Then I go see it (of course) and I like it on it’s own merit. It isn’t the same as the original, but it still has the characters and the story and I end up enjoying both versions. I’m ready to see what happens to this lovely British tale of second chances. Go, Diane!

One extra good piece of good news from The Guardian post is,

The second series of Last Tango In Halifax, one of BBC1’s biggest-rating new shows of 2012, launches next month and a third is planned.

A big hurrah for season 3.

Diane Keaton image © 2003 Columbia Pictures

Outtakes from The Heat

I loved The Heat. It’s now out on DVD. If you didn’t see it in theaters, you must see it now. Enjoy these outtakes and funny moments between Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.

Video via USA Today.

 

The Heat: LMAO

This movie is hilarious, profane, packed with purposely clumsy action stunts. Add in two top notch actresses who bring the full power of their multi-talented punch to every scene. That’s The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.

The trailer was cleaned up for language a bit, and hammed up a bit, but it gives you the basic idea.

Width = 500px Height = 282px

Bullock plays Ashburn, an uptight FBI agent, McCarthy is Mullins, a never-mind-the-rules Boston cop. The two get off to a rocky start when Ashburn takes the parking space Mullins had her eye on. Mullins is super mouthy and she lets Ashburn have the whole verbal barrage. Then, of course, they get assigned to work together on a case.

Everything about Melissa McCarthy is funny in this picture. They way she’s dressed, the car she drives, the foul-mouthed verbal assaults she is capable of delivering, and the incredulity she expresses over the character portrayed by Sandra Bullock. These two are an outstanding match – both are willing to go anywhere for a laugh, both are nuanced actors, and both are capable of carrying a film on their own. Together they are perfection.

Some Plot Points (Spoilers, too)

In one scene our two law officers go to Mullins grungy one-room apartment where they bond over the contents of Mullins’ refrigerator. It’s full of pistols, rifles, rocket launchers, ammo, grenades (one very important, sometimes ticking, grenade) and other gun-related paraphernalia. Ashburn makes appreciative comments about several of the deadly items stored in the fridge, and we know these two are a matched pair despite their apparent incompatibility.

Among the mayhem, the two actresses are allowed to have some quiet moments in which we glimpse what the characters are made of, where they come from, and who they care about. In between trying to catch the bad guys, they fend off men, they get drunk, and they visit Mullins’ crazed and hilarious family. Here’s the wonderful part. It isn’t just Sandra Bullock who is getting hit on by men. Melissa McCarthy is, too. And McCarthy is the one who plants a big wet one on a guy. I love that.

Mullins’ family includes Michael Rapaport as her brother and an underused Jane Curtain as her mother. Just having Jane Curtain show up in this film is a bonus: she’s one of the all-time funniest actors around. If all she did was pose as a statue it would be a plus for the film. Mullins put her brother Jason (Rapaport) into prison because he was doing/dealing drugs. He’s just out of jail and trying to behave, but the family won’t forgive her. Melissa McCarthy is brilliant at letting us see how this hurts while maintaining her tough bitch facade. Not-quite-going-straight-yet brother Jason is once again see in the company of the drug dealers our heroines are trying to lasso. Ah, plot complications.

Because of threats from the drug dealing mobsters they are trying to put in jail, the duo have to move Mullins’ whole loud-mouthed, ungrateful family and assorted girlfriends into a safe place. This maneuver includes a monstrous dog who should win an Oscar for best supporting actor for his interactions with Sandra Bullock.

They think they have the whole case wrapped up thanks to the use of the suspiciously ticking grenade, but even more bad guys show up after the grenade goes BLAM. Brother Jason gets shot but not killed. Ashburn gets stabbed in the leg – once by a bad guy and once by Mullins who is attempting to insert the knife back in the same wound so the bad guy won’t know they took it out to cut their bonds.

Width = 300px Height = 128pxthe heat

This being a action comedy, I don’t think I’m revealing any terrible spoilers to say that eventually all the bad guys are caught, all the wounds are under a doctor’s care, and our two heroines admit their admiration and respect for each other (sisterhood, even). With all this bonding, could we have a sequel please? The Heat 2 sounds perfect. Ready by next summer would be nice, too.

The movie was written by Katie Dippold who worked on Parks and Recreation and directed by Paul Feig, who also directed McCarthy in 2011’s Bridesmaids.

We need about a million more movies like this. Blockbuster summer fare starring two top names who are buddies fighting the bad guys. But the buddies must be women. Must be.