Annie Remake to Star Quvenzhané Wallis

A delightful looking remake of Annie is schedule for release on Christmas. It stars Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie with Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, and Cameron Diaz.

The producers are Jay Z and Will Smith. The director is Will Gluck.

It’s wonderful to see young Quvenzhané Wallis in a role that has traditionally gone to white actors. Ditto for Jamie Foxx. Looks like a fabulous film and one that I think everyone in my family will enjoy seeing on Christmas Day on our yearly holiday movie outing together.

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Watch This: First 2 Minutes of Veronica Mars, the Movie

Just in case you wanted to go see the movie Veronica Mars and don’t know the TV series that spawned this lady detective tale of female empowerment, here is the whole story. It will be the first two minutes of the new Veronica Mars movie.

Now you know the rest of the story, you are free to attend the movie.

What the Ellen Selfie at the Oscars was Really About

I’ve seen all sorts of snarky comments about how the star-studded selfie tweeted by Ellen during the Oscar show was about product placement or self-indulgence. Or how it was a waste of time and only made the Oscars longer and more boring.

But the fact is, it worked. People responded. There were more retweets of that moment than of anything that has ever happened on Twitter before.

If it was such a bad idea, such a waste of time, why did it work?

All the snarky pundits are missing a key point about social media. It’s social. It’s community. It’s shared experience. When Ellen asked the audience to retweet her selfie to set a new record on Twitter, it was something that everyone watching the Oscars could participate in together. An audience, a socially engaged audience, could make something happen together. It was a moment of community engagement and action.

It was the most brilliantly successful thing ever accomplished with social media. Could it be reproduced in other ways, at other times, by other people?

There were some built in advantages for this particular selfie.

  • There was a huge audience for the tweet watching on TV and already engaged on Twitter
  • People like Ellen. When she asks for something, giving an affirmative response is easy.

If you didn’t start off with those advantages would you be able to pull off a successful social media event? Maybe someone else couldn’t set a new record like Ellen can, but someone else could come up with a creative idea and get a large response. Stuff goes viral all the time. This event was viral times infinity.

Can we learn lessons from this selfie phenomenon that could be applied to more serious situations? Hurricane relief, citizen uprisings, floods, crimes, causes?

Who will the next social media genius to mimic an effect like this be? Are you thinking about how to do it?

Review: The Guilt Trip

Generally speaking, I don’t like Seth Rogan movies. I know he’s supposed to be funny, but I think he’s mainly funny to 20 something guys, and not to elder women. On the other hand, I love Barbra Streisand. I’ve been a devoted Streisand fan since the 1960’s when those 3 one hour specials she did on TV just blew my mind completely. Streisand and I have grown old together and my love for her talent has never wavered.

Along comes The Guilt Trip, starring exactly two people: Seth Rogan and Barbra Streisand. Obviously, I watched it, or I wouldn’t be typing about it right now. It was excellent. It didn’t make me a big Seth Rogan fan, but it does force me to admit that he’s good at what he does. Rogan and Streisand are fabulous together as a mother and son – a Jewish mother and her long-suffering son – which is a good thing because the two of them are pretty much the whole movie.

The Guilt Trip poster
The Guilt Trip poster

They drive in a small car, share hotel rooms, talk, argue, kvetch, reminisce, reach some understanding with each other, and find a way to be a new version of mother and son. It’s lovely. That’s my final judgement: lovely. A lovely movie. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Here’s one of the trailers for the film.

One other thing I learned from watching this film: Barbra Streisand remains fabulous!

Review: And While We Were Here

And While We Were Here is set on the Italian island of Ischia. It’s full of picture postcard views and gorgeous scenery. The film stars Kate Bosworth as Jane, Iddo Goldberg as her viola playing husband, and Jamie Blackley as a young American slacker Jane meets while in Italy.

Kate Bosworth and Jamie Blackley in And While We Were Here
Kate Bosworth and Jamie Blackley in And While We Were Here

Overall, And While We Were Here is subdued and reflective. Even the “fun” escapades Jane has with her young American are muted. The story, seemingly about a love affair, is really about loss and the letting go of loss.

The young American lover is merely a way for Jane to accept the inevitable consequences of her losses and move on with her life. He’s a way to unlock from the past and move toward the future.

As the film ended, I decided I would give the film a rating of 3 out of 5 stars, meaning it was worth watching but not fabulous. Then the credits rolled and Jennifer Warnes starting singing “Famous Blue Raincoat” and the whole story suddenly made sense. It was a movie version of “Famous Blue Raincoat.” I looked the film up and, indeed, the writer and director Kat Coiro was quoted as saying that she was inspired by the Leonard Cohen song. This knowledge doesn’t make we want to improve my rating, but it certainly puts the film into context and deepens my understanding.

If you enjoy introspective films that unfold slowly and deal with human efforts to “go clear,” you will enjoy this film.

Here’s the trailer.

The film was released in 2012. I found it on Netflix, so I’m sure it’s available on other streaming services as well.

Looking for More Diversity? A Consumer Can Help. UPDATED

Let’s start with this infographic from Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? 85 Years of the Academy Awards from Lee and Low Books. This information is from a study of 85 years of awards and reveals the lack of diversity in the Oscar Awards.

We, as consumers, can do something about this lack of diversity. I’ll get to how in a minute.

Diversity in The Academy Awards
Diversity in the Academy Awards infographic from Lee and Low Books. Click for full size.

The article containing this infographic talks how independent films and filmmakers can bring about change in what we see in movies. Four independent filmmakers are interviewed in the article. They talk about what they are doing and how they use crowd sourced fundraising tools like Kickstarter to get films made.

The filmmakers interviewed also talk about watching films from other countries in languages other than English. Several people talked about rejecting attempts from directors and writers to create stereotypes rather than more realistic characters.

IndieWire picked up the infographic, as I did, and wrote about it The Diversity Gap in the Academy Awards in Infographic Form. This article emphasized that the box office drives which films get made.

The situation right now is that when a film with a female lead such as The Hunger Games or Bridesmaids takes the box office the Hollywood power structure is as surprised as Fox News was when President Obama was reelected in 2012. It shouldn’t be a surprise, it should be expected.

How Consumers Can Help

We, as consumers, are the ones spending the dollars at the box office. We, as consumers, are the ones choosing the channel on the TV or setting the DVR to record. What can we do to increase diversity?

Here are a few ideas.

  • Pay attention to Kickstarter or other fund raising campaigns for indie films and support them with a few bucks. It costs you $10 to go out to a movie, $20 if you buy a drink and some popcorn. Why not give that amount to a filmmaker who is struggling to create a film with a more diverse outlook and cast than what you’ll see at the local multiplex? For a while now, I’ve been promoting a Paper.li publication about Women Directors. Perhaps you’ve noticed links to it in my Twitter stream. Many times you’ll find links to fund raising campaigns mentioned in this publication. Start reading it.
  • Support indie filmmakers by watching their work. Sometimes you have to work a bit to find it. It might be shown as a web series or on Vimeo or in only one theater in your town that isn’t the biggest multiplex. Find it and go.
  • Look for stereotypes and stop supporting films and TV shows that support stereotypes. Talk about why you’re doing it on your blog or Twitter. Demand diversity.
  • Make your viewership for movies and TV shows and web series count. Make your eyeballs register numbers and stats in the places where diversity is done right.
  • Use Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu to watch foreign films of quality. There are plenty of them. You can read. Use that skill to read subtitles and you’ll see some amazing stories.

Lee and Low Books have done similar studies of The Tony Awards, The Emmy Awards, the children’s book industry, The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List, and US politics. Thanks to them for organizing this information and making accessible visuals to help us understand the stats.

UPDATE

The Representation Blog published The Representation Test on 2/28/2014. This is a downloadable test that,

. . . gives films points for representations of people which avoid harmful and limiting stereotypes, as well as for having diversity behind-the-camera. There are 27 possible points in the test, but any film scoring 11 or above receives an “A” for representation.

Downloading and using this test, and talking about your scores in public places such as your blog and Twitter is another good way that you as a consumer can help change the status quo. You may want to to check back for new versions of the test from time to time, because the creators say it will evolve over time.

Image credit: Diversity Quilt via Flickr.

Watch This: Teaser Trailer for Tammy

Melissa McCarthy is coming our way again in July in Tammy. The teaser trailer is here now. Not only is McCarthy the star, she’s the writer.

Also starring in this extravaganza of funny are Susan Sarandon, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd and Kathy Bates. What a cast!

Ben Falcone directs. He’s Melissa McCarthy’s husband.

What do you think? I think it looks fabulous!

Watch This: Trailer for Frankie & Alice

Frankie & Alice stars Halle Berry, Phylicia Rashad, and Stellan Skarsgard. It’s been finished since 2011 and is just now being released in the U.S. It will appear in theaters on April 4.

The film is based on a true story. Halle Berry plays a woman with multiple personality disorder. One of her personalities is racist.

The performance we see in this brief preview looks masterful and worthy of award nominations. This film looks like an exciting showcase for Halle Berry to show once again what a powerful actress she is. I’m not sure why it took so long to be released in the U.S., but it’s coming soon and it looks good.

Image credit of Halle Berry in Frankie & Alice © 2010 – Freestyle Releasing

Watch This: Unbroken Olympics Preview

Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie, is based on the true story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini. The movie isn’t due out until December, but this preview emphasizes Zamperini’s Olympic career and was released during the Olympics.

I read the book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, on which the movie is based, and found it an inspiring and amazing story of courage, determination and survival. I’m looking forward to the movie.

Indies and Unfamiliar Faces: The Second Time Around

I often have a problem with films when the faces are unfamiliar. This applies to an awful lot of indie films I see. The problem is that I have trouble keeping track of who the characters are and what their contribution to the story is because I don’t recognize the faces. It makes it hard for me to keep everyone organized in my head.

I don’t blame this on the filmmakers or on the stories they are telling. It’s probably some brain glitch on my part that takes me a while to learn to distinguish faces. Slow synapses or some such.

Last night I watched a movie that had a whole lot of female characters. (How unusual for me!) Only the main character was an actress I’d seen and heard of before. And her face only looked identifiable from certain angles, because I hadn’t seen a lot of her. I couldn’t keep her interactions with all the other characters sorted because I had trouble remembering who everyone was. It’s not like watching August: Osage County, where every person on the screen is someone I’d seen dozens of times before.

The particular indie I saw last night was a good movie about a marriage gone stale, and I wanted to get more out of it.

I found a solution. I watched the film twice. The second time through I had better luck keeping track of who was who and what their particular part of the story meant in the overall scheme of things.

Now that I’ve discovered this trick, I will used it again on indie films with cast members I might not know so well (yet) and on foreign films with unfamiliar actors, too.

Do you have a trick for keeping the characters organized in your head when the faces are all unfamiliar to you?

Photo credit: The Kheel Center via Flickr