Director Jonathan Glazer's 'Under the Skin' stars Scarlett Johansson as an apathetic alien named Laura, who uses her earthly female body to seduce men and lead them to their death. The film is an oft abstract and unnerving experience (especially in the wonderfully bizarre first hour), and when Laura makes a surprising decision, 'Under the Skin' shifts from examining ideas of subjective and intangible attraction to the tragedy of Johansson's femme fatale trying to claim her sexuality -- and her body -- as her own.
At the annual CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas this week, the MPAA released its annual report of box office statistics. Among its findings, most moviegoers are women. But if women are making up the majority of moviegoing audiences, then why are we still underrepresented in film? Perhaps the answer lies in other recent alarming statistics about women both behind and in front of the scenes. Something has to change, and we can start by putting more women in creative roles in Hollywood.
Eliza Hittman's debut feature, 'It Felt Like Love,' follows 14-year-old Lila, who watches longingly as her more developed and experienced best friend hooks up with boyfriends as she herself is painfully trapped in that teen purgatory of "not quite." After meeting a college boy named Sammy, Lila's seemingly harmless lies about her own experience take her into new, dangerous and exceedingly uncomfortable territory in this film that, like recent Israeli import 'S#x Acts' ('Six Acts'), challenges our perceptions of the propriety and responsibility of teen girls in the midst of coming of age, and the sad learned behaviors of gender dynamics.
The new documentary 'Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,' chronicles the Broadway legend and actress as she takes the stage to sing some of Stephen Sondheim's classics, boldly faces her own mortality, and continues to defy conventions both as a woman and as an older woman in the entertainment industry -- and she makes it look so damn effortless with her brassiness, her courage, and her relentless honesty. Stritch removes the novelty from the idea of a living legend, and remains one of the most inspirational role models for women in entertainment.
This week, James Franco, the multi-hyphenate talent and student of all things art, finally chimed in on the ongoing shenanigans (Shia-nanigans?) of Shia LaBeouf -- from his plagiarism of Daniel Clowes, to his plagiarized apologies for his plagiarism, to his bizarre public appearances wearing a bag over his head declaring "I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE," among various other ridiculous things. Franco's op-ed in The New York Times read like a myopic declaration of male actor privilege, particularly because you'll never see actresses pulling the same stunts LaBeouf's been pulling (or that their other male counterparts have, for that matter) -- and if they have or had, they certainly wouldn't have a career afterward.
News broke this week that indie darling and 'Frances Ha' star Greta Gerwig is headed to CBS to write, produce and star in the new sorta-spinoff of 'How I Met Your Mother,' titled 'How I Met Your Dad.' Cue surprising controversy as fans lashed out at the precious star: is she selling her soul to the home of lesser cable programming, or is this an opportunity for Gerwig to line her pockets and make more of the films she wants to make? Should we feel angry and betrayed, or thrilled and supportive? Why can't we have mixed feelings about it? In the realm of the internet, our reactions can only ever be extreme.
Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer -- better known for their spoof comedies like 'Meet the Spartans' and the recent 'Hunger Games' riff, 'The Starving Games' -- try their hand at found footage with 'Best Night Ever,' an attempt to level the gender playing field with a plot similar to 'The Hangover.' Rather than follow around a quartet of men on their outlandish adventures through Vegas, however, the film follows a quartet of women on one wild and crazy evening as they celebrate their BFF's last night of freedom. The end result is a clumsy, often tedious chore of a film that tries too hard to prove that women can be just as raunchy as men. Yes, ladies, we can all relax now: sexism has been solved.
It's that time of the year: time for top 10 lists, time to start gearing up for awards season, and picking the contenders and ensuring we shout their names in all caps from behind our laptops, and a time for critics to champion our favorite movies and performances -- which is why I think it's time to take a look back at my favorite female-centric (and gender politic-centric) films and female performances of 2013.
Neil LaBute's 'Some Velvet Morning' stars Alice Eve as Velvet, a high-priced escort treated to a surprise afternoon visit by her former love interest, Fred (Stanley Tucci), who has just left his wife. But as the afternoon progresses and the history between the two comes into focus, a darkness blooms. This clever, jarring film examines the expectations placed on women, the roles we choose for ourselves, relationship ideology, and if our allowances entitle others to more than we are willing to give.
'S#x Acts' ('Six Acts'), the Israeli drama so provocatively named as to immediately and directly conjure the title 'Sex Acts,' follows teenager Gili, a new high school transfer who sets about trying to charm the boys at her school by seducing them. Her story is told in chapters, punctuated by sexual encounters that escalate in their increasing intensity and discomfort. 'S#x Acts' is a subtle film that provokes questions about female agency and pressure, and investigates what happens when the lines between "want," "desire" and "should" on a young woman's moral compass become hopelessly blurred.