Less than a week left in the “Mother’s Day Confessions” Challenge at Vocal

The deadline is May 30. If you feel so inclined, enter today for a chance to win!

“I’m sorry, Mama… I never meant to hurt you… I never meant to make you cry…”

These Eminem lyrics inspired the title of my entry in Vocal’s “Mother’s Day Confessions” Challenge, “Cleaning Out My Closet.” In this personal essay,I come out as gay to her.

Writing competitions are key to gaining exposure for both emerging as well as established authors. The “Mother’s Day Confessions” Challenge encourages entrants to write either a nonfictional or fictional open letter between six hundred and five thousand words based on the prompt, “Hey, Mom. I never told you this before, but…”

The first-place winner walks away with two thousand five hundred dollars; second place, one thousand; and fifteen runners-up will receive fifty dollars each.

In the interest of full transparency, you do have to pay for a Vocal membership to participate in their challenges. Mine costs me ten dollars per month. But they do pay you three dollars and eighty cents for every thousand reads, and the audience who finds you through one of their communities can tip you directly.

If this sounds like a worthwhile investment for you, then I encourage you to visit vocal.media.

Film at Lincoln Center magazine to go on hiatus

 

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Film at Lincoln Center’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema and Mapping Bacurau events have been cut short, and its New Directors/New Films series with the Museum of Modern Art was postponed; the center’s annual Chaplin Awards Gala fundraiser has also been postponed until this fall. (Image Courtesy: Variety).

 

On Friday, Film at Lincoln Center executive director Lesli Klainberg released a memo announcing the organization would be furloughing or laying off half of its fifty-person full-time staff and all of its part-time employees, according to Variety. While continuing to provide health insurance for the furloughed full-timers, the company (which has published Film Comment since 1962) will release the May/June issue of the cinema and arts magazine digitally, after which time it will be placed on an indefinite hiatus. As per recommendations from the Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control, the center already suspended its theater operations March 12.

Garry Marshall’s “Pretty Woman” (1990) turns thirty

The Guardian critic Scott Tobias writes that Garry Marshall’s Pretty Woman (1990) may have been released in the 1990s, but it is very 1980s with its “greed is good,” Reaganomics materialism, as well as its ultraconservative sexual politics. After all, it is about a Hollywood Boulevard prostitute named Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) – who is new to streetwalking, does no drugs, and doesn’t have a pimp – snagging a wealthy out-of-towner named Edward Lewis (Richard Gere), who innocently meets her asking for directions. According to Tobias, Roberts’s star-making turn, which made her America’s sweetheart overnight, elevates the film beyond its shortcomings.

“Ready or Not” directors attached to “Scream” reboot

Spyglass Media Group is rebooting Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) in partnership with Matthew Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who directed Ready or Not (2019), according to Variety. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett are part of filmmaking group Radio Silence with Chad Villella, who will serve as one of the producers behind the untitled Scream reboot; Radio Silence produced V/H/S (2012), Devil’s Due (2014), and Southbound (2015). As for Spyglass, they were organized a year ago with former MGM executive Gary Barber and Lantern Entertainment co-presidents Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic, who took over the rights to Scream from the Weinstein Co. in 2018.

Netflix review: David Lean’s “Doctor Zhivago” (1965)

The Golden Age of Classical Hollywood effectively ended with the Paramount Decree in 1948, when an antitrust United States Supreme Court divested the studios of their theater holdings.

Forced to compete for screen space to compensate for the lost revenue, producers and executives resorted to gimmickry to attract audiences.

Then, with the advent of television around the same time, the cinematic arts were faced with an identity crisis as they recalibrated into technically ambitious, colorful melodramas TV simply couldn’t emulate at the time.

David Lean was the master of such large-scale spectacles, and his Doctor Zhivago (1965) is one of the last of its kind before the Second Golden Age of Hollywood took root later in the decade.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Doctor Zhivago is available to stream on Netflix. The epic romantic drama is based on the 1957 novel of the same name by Boris Pasternak, which was banned in the Soviet Union, so shooting largely took place in Spain.

It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won five, all technical.

Functioning as a narrative framing device, KGB Lieutenant General Yevgraf Andreyevich Zhivago (Sir Alec Guinness) believes he has found the daughter of his half-brother, Doctor Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago (Omar Sharif), and his lover, Larissa “Lara” Antipova (Julie Christie).

It is the late 1940s or early 1950s Soviet Union, and as Yevgraf tells Tanya Komarova (Rita Tushingham) the story of Yuri’s life, we learn, via flashback, about his marriage to Tonya Gromeko (Geraldine Chaplin) during the Russian Revolution, and his love affair with Lara.

Lara’s husband, Pavel “Pasha” Antipova (Tom Courtenay), is a Red Army commander, and Yuri – a poet at heart – must flee for his life with his family when the new Communist government condemns his art as anti-leftist.

At a three-and-a-half-hour runtime with a period piece dramatization spanning two generations over half a century in a setting as culturally and historically rich as Russia, Doctor Zhivago is over the top and larger than life in all the best ways.

Freddie Young’s Oscar-winning photography as well as Maurice Jarre’s award-winning score mix together into a heady cinematic cocktail with the drama of Robert Bolt’s Best Adapted Screenplay.

The USSR of Doctor Zhivago sweeps across the screen as continentally as the Russian Empire itself. And, politically, it is a bold piece of filmmaking to come out of Cold War Europe (the picture is not a Hollywood production, but, rather, British and Italian).

It decries the totalitarian Soviet Union at a time when tensions between East and West were heating up in Vietnam.

For such a commercial feature, cashing in on that era’s craze for Technicolor, CinemaScope releases, what sets it apart from, say, Viktor Fleming’s Gone with the Wind (1939), is its commentary on a contemporaneous superpower.

Conversely, though, the movie depoliticizes the title character from page to screen. In the book, Yuri supports the Revolution, just not the direction it takes.

In an effort to make him a more marketable hero to Western viewers, Lean offers a more unambiguous anticommunist critique, which oversimplifies Pasternak’s source material into a capitalistically friendly cash grab.

It stops short of becoming right-wing propaganda, though, which is why Doctor Zhivago has aged into a classic for the old-fashioned streamer. It is excessive and self-indulgent, but only because there’s more for the cinephile to get lost in.

As one of the highest-grossing releases of all time (adjusted for inflation), it is an important part of cinematic history as the events it reconstructs are world history.

Max von Sydow dies at 90

Swedish film and stage star Max von Sydow, known for his collaborations with filmmaker Ingmar Bergman on stage as well as onscreen, has died at ninety years old, according to The Guardian. Born Carl Adolph Von Sydow to a family of academics in Lund, he was a Catholic school student before serving in the military, after which time, he attended the acting school at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm from 1948 to 1951. He would go on to be nominated for two Academy Awards, for Bille August’s Pelle the Conqueror (1987) and Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011).

The advent of “extreme film criticism”

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Review aggregate sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic have also degraded long-form analysis. (Image Courtesy: The Los Angeles Review of Books).

With the rise of home video, film criticism (as per the French New Wave filmmakers behind the Parisian Cahiers du cinema in the 1950s) democratized, and to compete against the amateurs, professionals resort to “extreme film criticism,” according to the Los Angeles Review of Books. When AMC theaters screened all twelve Marvel movies leading up to the release of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War (2018) that April, IndieWire reviewer David Ehrlich as well as The New York Times critic John Bailey subjected themselves to the thirty-one-hour marathon. Even this practice harkens back to François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Éric Rohmer, who would spend entire days at the Cinémathèque Française bingeing the American masterpieces over and over again.

Hulu review: Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg’s “Pocahontas” (1995)

Beginning with Ron Clements and John Musker’s The Little Mermaid (1989) and ending with Kevin Lima and Chris Buck’s Tarzan (1999), the Disney Renaissance is to Disney what the Hollywood Renaissance is to Golden Age Hollywood.

Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise’s Beauty and the Beast (1991) may be the first animated film ever eligible for the Best Picture Academy Award, but Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff’s The Lion King (1994) is the studio’s masterstroke.

With Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg’s Pocahontas (1995), the overpowered media conglomerate attempts to recapture the prestige of Beauty and the Beast as well as the success of its predecessor, The Lion King, the top-grossing traditionally animated movie of all time.

Ambition paints every frame with all the colors of the wind, but ambition can also dance perilously close to pretension, and one misstep can spell disaster.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Pocahontas is available to stream on Hulu.

The animated musical romantic drama won Best Original Song for “Colors of the Wind,” and composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz were honored a second time that year with the Oscar for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score.

The eponymous hero would go on to become the first Native American Disney Princess and the first woman of color to lead a cast of Disney characters.

Set in 1607, Captain John Smith (voiced by Mel Gibson) sails with the Virginia Company to the New World in search of adventure.

Once landing in Tsenacommacah, he meets and falls in love with Pocahontas (Irene Bedard, with Judy Kuhn as the singing voice), the free-spirited daughter of Chief Powhatan (Russell Means, with vocals from Jim Cummings).

But the greedy, genocidal Governor Ratcliffe (David Ogden Stiers) is obsessed with pillaging the Powhatan tribe’s land for gold, and his conquest threatens to make a tragedy out of the star-crossed lovers’ forbidden romance.

Artistic liberties are taken in almost all works of historical fiction – to quote Sir Alfred Hitchcock, “Drama is life with all the dull bits cut out” – but the sanitization and whitewashing found in Pocahontas have aged the text poorly.

The real Pocahontas was not a “magical minority,” but, rather, a child bride, and the colonizers didn’t make peace with her people after she learned how to speak English by “listening with her heart.”

As for John Smith, his “exploration” was more correctly an “invasion,” an “imperialization,” and it shouldn’t have taken a “noble savage” like Pocahontas to humanize First Nation people in his eyes (through her sexuality, no less).

This problematic, post-Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves (1990) white savior narrative of exotification crystallizes at its most egregious in the musical number, “Savages.”

The back-and-forth parallelism of the song conflates the white supremacy of the European settlers alongside the self-defensive resistance from the indigenous groups, drawing a false equivalency between the two that the First Americans were as intolerant as the British Empire.

Intentionalism is a critical fallacy, and Disney’s white liberal, apologistic intentions here are irrelevant.

If the true story of Pocahontas is too upsetting for their key demographic to understand without reducing the Powhatan culture to something that existed only for white men to appropriate it, then it’s a story that never should be told to children.

But, for what it is within the context of the Disney canon, Pocahontas is an epic entertainment. The soundtrack raises goosebumps, and the animation is as colorful as the signature song.

Apolitically, the love story between John Smith and Pocahontas is one of the most mature and affecting in the Disney universe, and, hey, if nothing else, Ratcliffe is shown to be more villainous than Powhatan.

If your child is too young to learn the real history behind Pocahontas, then at least take care to teach them what reel history means. The insultingly oversimplified themes of the picture will be digestible enough to entertain them, but the more harmlessly so, the better.

And as far as Disney fare goes, its family-friendliness is just as accessible for adults looking to enjoy a more grownup tale of intercultural (though largely fictionalized) romance, as it is for kids looking to sing along to some catchy tunes.