NYFF Review: Foxcatcher

Based on the true story of the Shultz brothers and multi-millionaire John Du Pont; Director Bennett Miller uses an all-star cast to tell a tale of drugs, money, professional wrestling and murder in the late 1990’s. Miller studied old footage, interviewed the numerous people involved in the story including the DuPont family, and introduced his actors to their real life counterparts so as to get a well informed view of the incidents that occurred. His dedication to telling true life stories about events, people and their circumstances brings a real sense of authenticity and fidelity to his films.

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Channing Tatum plays Mark Shultz, an Olympic medalist and two-time world champion in freestyle wrestling. Tatum may be notoriously known for his blockbuster comedies and stripper moves but he proves his acting chops with fierce intensity as he transforms himself into a cauliflower eared, sensitive souled, professional wrestler with apparent ease. While preparing for the role, Tatum met Shultz for dinner in New York and was taken by how the man moved, saying:

“Look at the way he walks, it’s such a beautiful indication of how he goes into the world. I just started studying everything about his movements and I found that was just the way in for me to such an emotional, physical and tangible person. I didn’t try to get into his intellectual side because he’s just such an emotional person.”

Mark’s brother Dave Shultz is played by the skilled Mark Ruffalo who slips into his fighter’s pose with heartfelt sincerity as he becomes the ultimate hero of this enticing piece. A humble coach, talented athlete and all around family man; Dave steps in as a father figure to the lost souls that surround him. He is a rare character in that his nobility is not marred by a pretentious nature or an overtly sentimental tone; he is quite simply a good man with kind intentions. Next to him his wife Nancy, played by Sienna Miller, is the ultimate American housewife – sweet, loving, and scrunchie wearing. Together, they stand as the stable and loving family that their fellow characters so desperately crave.

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Tatum and Ruffalo are inspired in their performances; they lace their relationship with such candor and authenticity that the audience can’t help but feel won over by them both. Despite this, however, it is Steve Carrell that steals the show. The funny man might best be known for his roles in movies such as Anchorman and The 40-Year-Old Virgin but his role as Du Pont proves that he can morph into any role. Perhaps it is because of his comedic fame that Carrel can hook his audience so efficiently. He manages to delude them into believing that John “Golden Eagle” du Pont is merely an eccentric oddball with a humorous style and super ego. It is the viewer’s familiarity with Carrel’s inherent likability that becomes their ultimate downfall. When Du Pont’s manner seamlessly slides from eccentric to awkward to frightening with unbearable ease, the audience can do nothing but squirm in their chairs, and watch as their protagonist unhinges. Carrel brings drugs, sex, wealth, Hitchcockian mother issues and an air of delusional fantasy to his character that the audience can’t help but become transfixed by. They are left in awe of his looks, his oddity and his terrifying descent into violent madness.

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A morality tale at it’s core, Foxcatcher will enchant and entice it’s viewers from beginning to end. Miller’s insistence that film should imitate life in its ambiguity pays off enormously as he pulls his viewers into another character’s existence. Undetermined sexuality, blatant drug abuse, complicated relationships and the complexities of self-worth are all on the table for Miller. He drags his character’s stories across the screen and into each other so beautifully that you will begin to understand the world through their eyes.

- Sinann Fetherston (A)

Netflix will be there for you…

In 2015 Netflix is bringing FRIENDS to your laptop screens, and yes TV addicts and future insomniacs, that means every episode ever made. To celebrate the occasion The Rembrandts, who created the iconic I’ll Be There For You theme song, performed the hit inside “Central Perk” (which I think may be the location of the pop-up happening in Soho NYC this month) with Gunther the ever-dutiful barista in the background.

So what does this mean for Netflix subscribers? Well, my best predictions include: sleep deprivation, acute nostalgia, lust for Rachel’s hair, an increase in Chandler-like sarcasm, and the phrase “we were on a break” along with many other quotable lines being parroted amongst the general public. You’re social life will fade away and you’re bank account will slowly but surely drain into online take away orders but remember everyone; FRIENDS will be there for you.

In Conversation

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As an idea ‘InConversation’ is simple – have a conversation and record it. The company intends to range their podcast conversations from film to art, politics to sport, and general news and lifestyle. Their aim is to accumulate a rich and varied database of conversations with all manner of people. Ireland has a phenomenal culture of literature, film, music, and theatre and these folks are ready to tap into it all.

You can listen to their podcast with director Lenny Abrahmson (Frank, What Richard Did, Adam and Paul) here.

Jennifer Lawrence to Vanity Fair – “It’s not a scandal. It’s a sex crime”

Jennifer Lawrence has spoken to Vanity Fair about the recent violation of her privacy by an anonymous hacker. Below are some comments from her interview.

5433f861ce0bae4a31c9139a_20-j-law-cover-no-lines“Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this,” she says. “It does not mean that it comes with the territory. It’s my body, and it should be my choice, and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting. I can’t believe that we even live in that kind of world. ”

“It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime,” she tells Kashner. “It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change. That’s why these Web sites are responsible. Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that crosses somebody’s mind is to make a profit from it. It’s so beyond me. I just can’t imagine being that detached from humanity. I can’t imagine being that thoughtless and careless and so empty inside.”

In the cover story, the Hunger Games star vents her frustration not just with the offending hackers but also with those—including people she knows—who viewed the images online. “Anybody who looked at those pictures, you’re perpetuating a sexual offense. You should cower with shame. Even people who I know and love say, ‘Oh, yeah, I looked at the pictures.’ I don’t want to get mad, but at the same time I’m thinking, I didn’t tell you that you could look at my naked body.”

Lawrence also shares a message for the tabloid community: “You have a choice. You don’t have to be a person who spreads negativity and lies for a living. You can do something good. You can be good. Let’s just make that choice and—it feels better.”

Lawrence speaks of the wrenching moment when she had to call her father about the hack. “When I have to make that phone call to my dad and tell him what’s happened … I don’t care how much money I get for The Hunger Games,” she says. “I promise you, anybody given the choice of that kind of money or having to make a phone call to tell your dad that something like that has happened, it’s not worth it.” She allows herself to joke a little about that terrible moment: “Fortunately, he was playing golf, so he was in a good mood.”

With her words now out in the open, the F.B.I. on the case, and a billion-dollar franchise to carry over the finish line, Lawrence seems to be regaining her footing. “Time does heal, you know,” she tells Kashner. “I’m not crying about it anymore. I can’t be angry anymore. I can’t have my happiness rest on these people being caught, because they might not be. I need to just find my own peace.”

Baby Got Back

Women’s body parts are often used as inspiration in pop music. In particular, the ass has been used by men to climb the charts within the music industry; Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girl, Sir Mixalot’s Baby Got Back and Sisquo’s Thong Song are all classics in the booty loving genre. However, in more recent years it seems to be women dominating the ass inspired tracks. I like to think Destiny’s Child started it all with Bootylicious, because it’s the first time I remember hearing women singing about their jelly, and because I like to think Beyonce is key to any movement. In more recent times Fergie has sang about her humps with The Black Eyed Peas,  Jennifer Lopez sang about her now famous derriere in Booty with Iggy Azalea, and Nicki Minaj has taken things to the next level with Anaconda.

I think it’s fantastic that women have claimed ownership of the subject as opposed to leaving it to be part of the male gaze. It’s rare that a woman is really sang about in hip-hop as it’s usually a single body part that is favored, and for women to claim that back is empowering. However, what is not empowering is the mainstream media’s view that women’s butts are a trend or a fashionable talking piece. Worse still is the idea that white people were the ones to discover it; Jen Selter featuring as the Queen of “belfies”, Miley Cyrus twerking at the VMAs and Sports Illustrated showcasing models from the back are all signs that white people have found their butts.

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However, they’re a little late to the party and Vogue’s article “The Dawn of the Butt: We’re officially in the era of the big booty” is painful evidence of that. As it says “For years it was exactly the opposite; a large butt was not something one aspired to, rather something one tried to tame in countless exercise classes.” Really though? It seems that the want for a small butt is the same as the want for straight blonde hair and a tan: white girl problems. Vogue doesn’t take any culture other than that of white women into account. It even goes on to say that Lopez’s behind was “unique” and that she might be to “thank (or blame) for starting the booty movement.” It’s true that Jennifer Lopez is famous for her body and she did indeed spark a trend, but it was within the mainstream media mostly comprised of caucasians, not a spark within the actual world of numerous races and culures.

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Women of colour have been twerking, aspiring to curves and heralding a big butt as a thing of beauty long before anyone else.  As Yomi Adegoke says in her aptly named “Why does a black butt only look good in white skin” piece for The Guardian “Yet now, brands puff behind us as they desperately try to catch up, tippex in hand, ready to white up things that have always existed among the minorities they have continually chosen to ignore.” This idea of white culture taking trends, ideas and fashions from other cultures and calling it their own is nothing new. College Humor would call it Columbusing.

Nicki Minaj’s latest hit Anaconda has got people talking about everything from race, culture, feminism and fashion. Many are questioning the rappers motives; some say she is gaining ownership and agency over her body while others say she’s perpetuating the objectification and hyper-sexualisation of women of colour in music videos. Personally, I would argue that Minaj knows exactly what she’s doing with her image; she is claiming twerking, big butts and cultural stereotypes back as her own. Once upon a time it was only men like Sir Mix A Lot who could sing about women’s bodies but now she’s using his lyrics as back up to her own thoughts on the subject.

In the video she dresses up as a fantasy; cooking in the kitchen with her maid uniform and whipped cream she represents everything that men want her to be, but rather than drape herself on the kitchen counter as decoration she takes control, chops up the phallic fruit and laughs manically. Toward the end of the video she dances provocatively for Drake while he sits in a chair waiting for her to perform for him, but just as they get close she turns around and walks out of the room, keeping her body and her sexuality for herself.

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The one section of the song I didn’t agree with was when Minaj says “Fuck those skinny bitches in the club”. Standing up for one body type while shunning another is like taking one step forward and two steps back. When Minaj says “I wanna see all the big fat ass bitches in the motherfucking club” she’s calling to women who have previously been shunned by the mainstream media and asking them to celebrate their shape, which is fantastic, but telling “skinny bitches” that they don’t have an ass and should get out of the club is less so. However this dig may have more to do with other female pop stars than women in general, as it could be argued that Anaconda is the unofficial response to videos like Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off where the skinny white singer’s jaw drops as she watches a line of faceless black women twerking.

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Minaj also used her Instagram to show how ridiculous society’s views are towards women’s bodies. In one photo she shows the “angelic” thin, conventionally approved models doing their best butt shot for Sports Illustrated which she captioned “Acceptable”. Next, she posted her own cover art showing her self in a squat pose which she captioned “Unacceptable”. Having the two photos side by side shows just how ridiculous it is to have society and the main stream media deem one woman’s butt more acceptable than the other, especially when the “unacceptable” woman is almost always of colour. Minaj says it best when she repeats the famous line back to white society in her best sarcastic tone “Oh my God. Look at her butt”.

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 – Sínann Fetherston