Here’s how thoroughly Batman’s influence has permeated the mainstream: he’s claimed tacit ownership of the very notion of shining a light into the sky. The Bat-Signal, introduced in the comics as Gotham City’s method of summoning the Dark Knight, has been endlessly parodied in the annals of pop-culture — just earlier this month, the poster for Captain Underpants paid homage to the iconic (a word I mean here literally, and not in the ‘a photo of the Kardashians’ sense) design of the skyward spotlight. And all too appropriately, the Bat-Signal will now be used to give one former Batman, the dearly departed Adam West, a proper send-off.
It’s a tableau with which anyone who watches the news is all too familiar: police station, pair of white interrogators, terrified-looking black man. But it’s not from last night’s 10 o’clock broadcast — the year is 1967, and that’s Star Wars star John Boyega in the chair, fielding aggressive and leading questions from the stern officers. It’s a tense scene bordering on the sickening, and the trailer for Kathryn Bigelow’s supercharged period piece Detroit only get more brutal from there.
You’d have to plug your ears to be totally unaware of the many calls for increased diversity that have been sounded in Hollywood over the past few years. Representation has become the name of the game — giving women, nonwhite viewers, or LGBTQ viewers someone that they can see themselves in onscreen. But this process has mostly played out in the forum of public discourse, explicated in articles or spoken about on daytime television or uncomfortably joked about at the Oscars. After long enough, a person can lose sight of the real-world ramifications of this sea change, and forget about why we’ve collectively resolved to work toward it in the first place.
Over the past few years, the American film industry has been taken to task for — let’s call it the “straight white guy”-ness of it all. Women, queer talents, and nonwhite artists have all come out of the woodwork to demand a piece of the pie currently being gobbled up by George Lucas and people who’d fit his general physical profile. One of the more organized expressions of this sea change has been the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, an effort to shame the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the disproportionate whiteness of their nominee slate. It’d be hard to argue that it’s been anything other than a force for equitable good, but The Paperboy director Lee Daniels doesn’t quite see it that way.
Even if it feels like things are getting worse all the time, with Hollywood delivering an unholy crop of expensive flops amidst murmurs of cinema’s death in 2016, that may not be the case. At the very least, the American film industry isn’t in danger of collapsing any time soon — quite the opposite, in fact. If we’re to take the total sum of money generated by ticket sales in a given year as a barometer of the industry’s overall health, Tinseltown’s still as strong as an ox, Ben-hur remake or no.
Disney’s currently riding a wave of buzz for their latest release Moana, a delightful Polynesian adventure that ticks all the most essential boxes for the Mouse House: precocious princess, lovable animal sidekick, well-placed showtunes, the whole nine yards. With Disney fever at a relative high, there’s no better time for the happiest PR department on Earth to start drumming up enthusiasm for their next original project, a Pixar Animation production that sounds like it’ll be catnip for anyone charmed by the return to form of Moana. And what’s more, this feature will continue its predecessor’s mission to introduce even more diversity to the Disney/Pixar racial palette.
It’s the Friday before Christmas. Those of us who aren’t currently concealing the fact that we’ve slumped over at our desks in a eggnog-hangover-induced nap have glued our eyes to the clock, counting down the minutes to a leisurely holiday break. Everyone just wants to get home, gather with family or other loved ones around a crackling fire, put on the musical stylings of Burl Ives or Bing Crosby, and have a nice mug of hot cocoa. Time slows to a crawl on the Friday before a long weekend, and we both know you’re not getting any work done today, so why not kick back with the soothing sounds of Chewbacca moaning out a classic Christmas standard?
What does God look like? It’s an eternal question with which fiction has tussled on plenty of occasions, from the standard-issue “bearded white guy clad in flowing robe” to the off-beat “wordless flower child Alanis Morisette” to the factually accurate “Morgan Freeman chilling.” The upcoming faith-based drama The Shack takes a rather unusual tack in its depiction of the Lord; the film adapted from William P. Young’s best-selling novel splits the divine presence into the Trinity, with Jesus Christ as a carpenter of Middle Eastern descent, the Holy Spirit as a meek Asian-American woman named Sarayu, and God portrayed by none other than Octavia goddamn Spencer. Let the record show — God’s real, she’s black, and she’s got an Oscar.
In what we have been assured is not a particularly lively game of Mad Libs, Tyler Perry’s production company 34th Street Films has moved to remake the Korean body-switching comedy Miss Granny for English-language audiences. This explosion at the Unlikely Nouns Factory comes to us today courtesy of the Hollywood Reporter, who have noted that the popular movie will also soon receive a Spanish-language treatment as well. (All this is in addition to the Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Thai, Indonesian, and Japanese versions that already exist, officially rendering Miss Granny the most widely remade film of all time.)
Turn back the clock to 2010, and the hottest ticket on Broadway is a revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer-winning play Fences, a poignant and daring meditation on race relations in America with a focus on the hardships of the black experience. It has all the necessary qualifications for a bona fide Broadway smash: a handsome pedigree of awards and acclaim (the production took the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play in 2010), urgent social significance, and some Hollywood talent slumming it on the boards in between film projects. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis starred as the married couple at the heart of Fences, winning raves and a Tony apiece, and created a rare sensation that dazzled audiences for thirteen weeks and then vanished.
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