Saturday, June 25, 2022

Roe vs Wade overturned, Juno's commentary

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the ruling of Roe v. Wade "such an insult, a slap in the face to women." "There's no point in saying good morning, because it certainly is not one," she said. "This morning the radical Supreme Court is eviscerating women's rights and endangering their health and safety. Today the Republican-controlled courts achieve their extreme goal of repealing a woman's right to make their own health decisions." Former President Barack Obama criticized the decision, saying the high court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent but it "relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues -- attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans." Hillary Clinton wrote: "Today's Supreme Court opinion will live in infamy as a step backward for women's rights and human rights." Source:

The writer of the film Juno has referred to abortion state bans as a “hellish alternate reality”, adding that she wouldn’t write the same movie nowadays. 
“I don’t even know if I would have written a movie like Juno if I had known that the world was going to spiral into this hellish alternate reality that we now seem to be stuck in, it sucks so fucking bad,” Diablo Cody shared. During their first meeting, Juno and Mark Loring strike up an instant connection and friendship that builds throughout the film. Mark (Jason Bateman) is a grown-up version of Juno. Just like her, he's into all that counter culture stuff, and he's taken on an ironic detachment, just like Juno. It doesn't help Juno makes some barbed comments to Mark such as "What would The Melvins think? You are quite the sellout!" 

Mark’s outfits throughout the film change according to where he is, mentally, in his marriage. His respetable clothes at the beginning of the film seem to be picked out by Vanessa, who favors a classical style. As the story progresses, Mark begins to dress in a more comfortable manner, opting for flannels and jeans before completely turning the page with a Soundgarden t-shirt layered over a long-sleeved shirt and a color scheme that complements Juno’s wardrobe. It can be said that Mark undergoes a negative character development, his underlying resentment towards Vanessa ruining his friendship with Juno at the end. So why is it until Juno comes into the picture that Mark finally chooses to break his silence? Back in the audio commentary of the film, Reitman and Cody comment that despite Mark and Juno having feelings for each other, Juno is in love with the idea of being an adult while Mark is in love with the idea of being young. And it isn’t until Mark reveals he’s leaving Vanessa that their worldviews clash and these feelings projected onto each other are unable to find any solid basis or hold, and they crumble. Source:

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Stranger Things Part 2, Dark Triad

Netflix has released images from the final hours of Stranger Things, which drop July 1. Two episodes totaling nearly four hours make up Volume 2 of the drama’s fourth on the streamer. Episode 408 will clock in at 1 hour, 25 minutes, while 409 will run 2 hours, 20 minutes. Last week, Netflix released a teaser for the final s4 hours of the drama created by The Duffer Brothers. During Netflix’s Geeked Week, Ross Duffer said he and his brother can now put the young stars in a lot more danger. Season four, up until this point, has been markedly darker than several of the preceding seasons. While the show always had one foot in the macabre, season four has been even harsher on the harried Hawkinites. A lot of this horror can be attributed to this season's newly introduced enemy, the villainous Vecna.

A trait consistently found to have a negative correlation with enjoyment of watching a horror film is empathy (Tamborini et al, 1990; Johnston, 1995; Lynch & Martins, 2015). People who report through self questionnaire higher empathy tend to sympathize more with characters they see on screen who are in danger than people with lower empathy (Davis et al., 1987). Therefore, viewers who are very empathetic should have the most negative effects when watching horror movies and would be expected not to enjoy them. Consistent with this, a meta analysis of experiments using horror movies showed that empathetic concern was negatively correlated with enjoyment of frightening and violent media (Hoffner & Levine, 2005). These robust findings of high sensation seeking and low empathy predicting horror movie enjoyment have led to my hypothesis that scoring high on Dark Triad traits can also be used as a predictor for horror movie enjoyment. Low empathy and high sensation seeking are both tendencies found among the personality types of the Dark Triad. The Dark Triad was identified as such in 2002 by Paulhus and Williams as three personality variables that are distinct but have some overlap and are all considered anti-social. These three traits are psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism. While narcissism and psychopathy were both originally identified as clinical personality disorders and identified as such in the DSMIV, they also exist at the subclinical level. Psychopathy is usually considered the most dangerous of the Dark Triad traits (Rauthman, 2012) Psychopaths by definition have low empathy (Del Gaizo & Falkenbach, 2008; Mahmut, Homewood & Stevenson, 2008) and would therefore be less likely to empathize with victims in horror films. Psychopathy is of particular interest to the study of horror movies because of their noteworthy relationship with fear. Psychopaths are often characterized as having no fear (Hosker-Field, Gauthier & Book, 2016) Source:

Monday, June 20, 2022

Ana de Armas in "Blonde": Marilyn Monroe

As the 60th anniversary of Marilyn’s death approaches, she is once again in the headlines. All too often, however, the stories shed little light on the lady herself. In the Sunday Times, Rosamund Urwin explores what Marilyn means to us in 2022. “Few stars have cast such a long shadow. Andrew Wilson, a novelist and biographer whose next book is about the actress, said that this stems from her mystique, which allows fans to have their own view of who she was. Plain Norma Jeane Mortenson could go almost unnoticed, but then transformed into the movie goddess Monroe, the character she created, who was luminescent on screen. ‘She is so open for interpretation and reinterpretation — anyone can project anything they want onto Marilyn and get something back,’ Wilson said. ‘That’s the classic definition of a star.’ Wilson added that Monroe was ahead of her time, too. 

‘She was one of the first stars of the public era who examined herself — almost having therapy in the full view of the public eye — making her a very modern celebrity,’ he said. ‘She was always asking, “What does it mean to be Marilyn Monroe?” Long viewed as a victim, Monroe’s life is also being re-appraised in light of the MeToo movement, Wilson said. ‘There was always this argument about was Marilyn a victim or a manipulator?’ he said. ‘It would be easy to interpret her as a victim of Hollywood at its worst, but at the same time, she was very savvy when it comes to business… She is one of those stars who resists binary interpretation, because she’s not “either, or”: she contains multitudes.’ Amy Greene, the wife of the late photographer Milton Greene and a friend of the actress, has spent six decades trying to make the case that Monroe was not a passive person. ‘She was never a victim… never in a million years,’ she told Vanity Fair. Source:

Ana de Armas is set to play Marilyn Monroe in Blonde, the adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 book. Norma Jeane Baker was Monroe’s real name purposefully misspelled by Oates with an extra “e” at the end of Jean. Director Dominik selected de Armas after almost a decade of trying to cast the lead role. Jessica Chastain and Naomi Watts had reportedly been attached to the film, which was in development since 2010. De Armas snagged the role in 2019. Oates first conceived of the novel after seeing a photograph of Norma Jean Baker winning a beauty contest in California in 1941. Director Dominik knew that Cuban actress de Armas was “the one” to play Monroe after just a single audition. De Armas gushed to Vanity Fair that the opportunity to take on the legendary star is a career-making task.

“I knew I could do it. Playing Marilyn was groundbreaking, a Cuban playing Marilyn Monroe,” de Armas said in 2020. “I wanted it so badly. You see that famous photo of her and she is smiling in the moment, but that’s just a slice of what she was really going through at the time.” De Armas’ “Knives Out” co-star Jamie Lee Curtis, whose father Tony Curtis starred opposite Monroe in “Some Like It Hot,” praised de Armas’ portrayal, saying, “I dropped to the floor. I couldn’t believe it. Ana was completely gone. She was Marilyn.” De Armas revealed to Byrdie that she wore a bald cap to conceal her natural brunette shade while starring as the titular blonde bombshell. Dominik also called de Armas “fucking amazing” as Monroe, telling Screen Daily, “The one thing nobody’s going to complain about is Ana’s performance.” Dominik told Collider that he thinks “Blonde” will be “one of the 10 best movies ever made” since it’s about the human condition. “It tells the story of how a childhood trauma shapes an adult who’s split between a public and a private self. It’s basically the story of every human being, but it’s using a certain sense of association that we have with something very familiar, just through media exposure,” Dominik said. Blonde will be released on Netflix on September 23, 2022.  Source:

Arthur Miller reminisced about Marilyn in an interview to Vanity Fair in 1991: “She was a lost child; she was also a tough character. As it turned out, she was tougher on herself than anybody else. She killed herself, finally. That’s how tough she was. And then when we broke up, I was left with the taxes. On both our salaries. I was dead broke by the time we parted. My plays were bringing in enough for the bread and butter. But I had alimony to pay. And I had to pay taxes on the place in Roxbury. He looks somewhere into the middle distance. “So she came to New York to learn how to act. She felt she’d never acted. She got into the Actors Studio. I thought, I’m going to take this extraordinary child of nature and lead her to the light of day. And then I discovered you can’t play God.” Miller says, “I began to dream that with her I could do what seemed to me would be the most wonderful thing of all—have my work, and all that implied, and someone I just simply adored.”

“I thought I could solve it all with this marriage. I was very idealistic. And she was simply overwhelming. As I guess I was to her, for a while. She had so much promise. It seemed to me that she could be really a great kind of phenomenon. She could be a terrific artist; she was endlessly fascinating as a person; she was full of original observations. Crazy as a coot, but there wasn’t a conventional bone in her body. Her reaction when she was down was to lash out at foes imaginary and real. Her dependence on pills grew, as did her reliance on her Actors Studio gurus, Lee and Paula Strasberg. I saw the Strasbergs as poisonous and vacuous, almost instrumental in Marilyn’s dissolution. Because they helped to justify her worst self-defeating strategies. In order to continue to have power over her, they would justify anything. With a large dose of intellectualization. When, if they really had her welfare at heart, they’d have tried to draw her gently closer and closer to reality. And the reality was what she ultimately faced, which was a studio that fired her. Because she wouldn’t appear to make the film. 

Had it been an ordinary situation on The Misfits, she probably would’ve come close to being fired then. ‘Cause we were up there on this dry lake, with some pretty big stars, sitting around for days at a time waiting for her to appear. Marilyn always—as I learned later—she would exhaust areas of her life. Simply exhaust them. And I was one of them. Then she’d go on. It's hard reading about her because you never can really figure her out. I don't think she had an integrated personality or knew what she wanted. Well, the whole idea of a domestic existence. I mean, I couldn’t live for too long in a tent and on the road. I have to have a steady domicile, and some peace and quiet, or I can’t work. And she wanted that, too, with part of her psyche. But she also wanted something that made that very difficult to have. Which was this power. Star power. Because the opposite was to be destroyed.” Source:

Thursday, June 16, 2022

"Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge" by Joseph McBride, Poetics of Aristotle

Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge (2022) by film historian, critic, academic and biographer Joseph McBride, is a comprehensive, invaluable critical study of one of the most admired and enduring filmmaker-satirists of the post-World War II era. Wilder, born in what is now Poland in 1906, is best known for his Hollywood-made films, Double Indemnity (1944), Sunset Blvd. (1950), Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment (1960), Irma La Douce (1963) and Kiss Me, Stupid (1964). It would be difficult to make sense of popular culture in America over the course of several decades without taking Wilder’s efforts into account. Though an influential fixture in Hollywood, Wilder always saw himself as an outsider. Wilder’s films are full, McBride points out, of “hotel and train settings as his characters race from place to place, attempting to find their bearings.” His “bustling energy and impatience were a symptom of enduring anxiety over his rootless condition, his unconscious need to keep moving in order to avoid being trapped.” After an unstable upbringing, “and far more deeply after he fled Hitler in 1933 and emigrated to the United States, Wilder experienced the exile’s essential feeling of never quite belonging or knowing a firm identity, always having to be ready to move again, no matter how safe you might feel at the moment.

In contrast to the widespread view of Wilder as a hardened cynic, McBride reveals him to be a disappointed romantic. Wilder's experiences as an exile led him to mask his sensitivity beneath a veneer of wisecracking that made him a celebrated caustic wit. Amid the satirical barbs and exposure of social hypocrisies, Wilder’s films are marked by intense compassion and a profound understanding of the human condition. McBride writes further on that “Wilder’s habitual feeling of being ausländisch (foreign or alien) deeply influenced his work as a filmmaker. “Wilder’s characters,” the author comments, “cross boundaries of every kind, physical, social, and psychological. They challenge and violate social mores, operate on the edges of the law, transgress what is considered proper behavior.” 

In The Lost Weekend (1945) Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett’s script conveys perfectly the feeling of irreversibility, the spiral of self-destruction that leads Don Birnam (Ray Milland) to continue his clinical alcoholism. The film’s relentless depiction of Birnam’s moral decline explains why it has held up particularly well. Wilder admitted to having developed the film “as a way to explain Raymond Chandler to himself.” Paramount convinced Wilder that a matinée idol would be necessary for the leading role, so the audience would not be revolted by the sordid experience. Robert Montgomery, Cary Grant and Alan Ladd refused to tackle such a risky role. "Birnam is both tragic clown and audience staring back at the performer in silent contempt and ridicule."

McBride also reviews Wilder's acerbic noir film Ace in the Hole (1951), which he calls “boldly uncompromising” and “Wilder’s bleakest view of human venality . . . so grim in its indictment of the public for its heartless enjoyment of morbid spectacle that American audiences rejected the film for holding a mirror up to them”; the unfairly maligned sex comedy Kiss Me, Stupid (1964), which McBride prefers to call “Rabelaisian”; and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), butchered by its own studio in a manner that broke Wilder’s spirit. Despite their tendency “toward satire and ridicule,” he writes, Wilder’s films “do not simply deride or discredit moral principles; instead they explore moral issues and deplore or mock the way principles are often violated. Anyone who comes away from a Wilder film thinking the director believes that life is meaningless is projecting on it the kind of film the spectator fears. As cold-blooded as Wilder’s characters and situations can be, as skeptical and pessimistic as he is, there is always emotion or humor in his viewpoint.” Source:

If you wanted to write a screenplay for a blockbuster film, Aristotle is the last person you might ask for advice. He lived more than 2,000 years ago, spent his days lecturing on ethics and never saw a movie in his life. But some of the best contemporary writers of stage and screen think that this ancient Greek philosopher knew exactly how to tell a gripping story for any age. ‘The rulebook is the Poetics of Aristotle,’ Aaron Sorkin said. ‘All the rules are there.’ Art is not a simple mirror of reality – far from it – for we shape the images or words to make some particular point. In one of the most famous statements from the Poetics, what you want to achieve most as a writer of drama is to evoke pity in your viewers – that is, empathetic pity followed by jolting realisation. When you do this right, your audience walks out of the theatre different from when they entered, having experienced an emotional cleansing of sorts – what the Greeks called Catharsis

This is the true power of storytelling. The first of his key concepts of storytelling is quite simple but too frequently ignored in modern scripts: "A story that is complete must have a beginning, middle, and ending." Now consider how many movies you’ve seen that lack a clear and logical beginning to introduce the action and characters. Audiences will allow you some leeway if you want to reveal a backstory in flashbacks, but if you don’t cover the basics at the start of your story, the viewers could become confused. There are also plenty of films that start with a strong premise but lose their steam somewhere in the middle – a fundamental mistake according to Aristotle. But the most common error in films that the Greek philosopher would condemn is a weak ending, in which the screenwriters don’t know how to bring the story to a proper close. Another key point is how the characters should fare overall in the arc of a dramatic plot. It is important for a character to change from the beginning to the end of a story to achieve the maximum effect on an audience. Aristotle also wrote that you could have a truly good person suffer a terrible ending, but this will leave your audience full of shock and disgust. Similarly, if you have a really evil person triumph at the end of your story, the viewers will throw popcorn at the screen. What remains is the character change that Aristotle says works best. So we are left then with the best tragic characters being someone in-between – that is, neither terribly wicked nor a shining example of virtue. During the story, this character undergoes a downfall not through great wickedness or vice, but because of some mistake or weakness. Source:

Friday, June 10, 2022

Michael Cera becomes a father, Jason Bateman, Elliot Page, Juno Outtakes

Amy Schumer revealed in an interview with Entertainment Tonight that Michael Cera recently welcomed his first child. Schumer was speaking about lessons for her 2-year-old son, Gene, when she said, "Michael has a baby, too." She continued, "Is that public knowledge? I just outed him, I just outed his baby." Cera didn't officially confirm Schumer's statement, but said, "We're right at the beginning of it. We're doing the very basics right now." Representatives for Schumer and Cera did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. The 33-year-old actor is known to keep the details of his personal life private. ET Canada reported in 2018 that the actor had married his longtime girlfriend Nadine after he was seen wearing a gold wedding band. The outlet also reported that he was first seen wearing the ring in January 2017. “He’s just a little 6-month-old baby,” the 33-year-old Superbad star told Extra of his son on Monday, March 7. Us Weekly confirmed in 2018 that the Tony nominee married his partner, Nadine, whose last name has not been revealed. 

Michael Cera had previously dated fellow actress Aubrey Plaza after the pair met on the set of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010). “Oh, Michael. I dated him for a long time,” Plaza revealed in May 2021 during a “What’s the Tee” podcast episode. “A year and a half. We drove across the country after we shot that movie and almost got married in Vegas.” Cera and Plaza had remained “really good friends,” the Delaware native said at the time, adding, “We love each other. He’s just a weird little freak, and we speak the same language. He’s one of the funniest people I know.” Source:

"It doesn’t matter if older critics like The Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt don’t get it, because they’re from a generation that’s largely incapable of “getting it”. That’s not a knock against the 40 and older folk—it’s simply a cultural incompatability, as proven by nearly every single negative review of the film. When Honeycutt criticizes the film (and, strangely, Michael Cera) for having a protagonist that “sort of drifts, not really attached to any idea or goal other than winning the heart of a girl,” he doesn’t seem to realize that he’s paying a compliment to both Cera and co-writer/director Edgar Wright, both of whom faithfully maintain the essence of the source material’s titular role."

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) earned only $10.6 million over its debut weekend. Scott Wampler of Comedy Examiner put Pilgrim’s flopping down to “Michael Cera fatigue”, which Josh Tyler of Cinema Blend also touched on, calling it 'not just a flop, one of the biggest bombs'. People Hate Michael Cera, wrote Josh Tyler: "While he has his fans, people hate Michael Cera a lot. In particular they hate that he always plays the same character and he did it again in Scott Pilgrim. Audiences are sick of it. They're sick of him. They're especially sick of him as a leading man. Maybe that's not fair. I think what people are really sick of is the whole faux hipster/poseur subculture, a group which has been in many cases been confused by Hollywood with geeks, when they're not." Source:
Mitch Hurwitz, the creator of the acclaimed sitcom "Arrested Development", indicated to Fancast that at least one cast member of the show is holding out on the idea of the movie. Asked about rumors that both Will Arnett and Michael Cera are the lone hold outs, Hurwitz says "I don't want to talk about who is holding out right now because we might still work that out and I don't want to pressure anyone through the press... Although I will say that Will Arnett is gung-ho, so there's a big clue." Hurwitz also admits that because the film is for fan service, its budget will be quite limited - "The fans have been so sincere in their fondness for it. That's really the big motivation to make the film." Source:

"I'm always so hesitant in saying anything about the movie", Jason Bateman said in March 2011. "Because even if I say I have no comment, then that is a headline: 'Jason Bateman Talks About The Arrested Development Movie! He Said He Had No Comment!' I always feel so bad, because we're not trying to perpetuate no news at all. But we politely answer when we're asked, and there is no update." Still, just like the ever-resilient Michael Bluth, Jason Bateman had high hopes for the eventual film. Rumor has it there were abundant tensions on the set of Arrested Development, and even Michael Cera once called Jason Bateman 'a major asshole,' probably because some critic considered Bateman as the original deadpan straightman. Also, in May 2018, Jessica Walter became part of an on-set controversy regarding harassment she said she had received from Arrested Development co-star Jeffrey Tambor. During a cast interview with the New York Times, Walter was asked about an incident which Tambor had alluded to. Walter stated that "In like almost 60 years of working, I've never had anybody yell at me like that on a set. And it's hard to deal with, but I'm over it now", while also noting that Tambor had apologized and that she would work with him again. Source:

Juno (2007) - Outtakes. During the scene in which Juno talks with Mark and Vanessa Loring for the first time, and she asks the couple why they don't have any plans to invite their friends for a baby shower, Elliot Page gets constantly stuck in a loop, laughing uncontrollably. Only with the humorous help from Jason Bateman (who is heard to say: 'Third time is the charm' and 'is tea what is in your cup?'), Page manages to resume Juno's scene withouth losing her continuity.

In December 2020, after disclosing that he is transgender, the Oscar-nominated actor and star of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy Elliot Page became the most famous trans man on the planet. In Esquire, Page has opened up about just how difficult this time was and how the movie studio went so far as to control his clothing during the press tour. “I think of times when people actively were like, ‘No, you need to wear a dress,’ in very, very, very pivotal moments. I remember the premiere of Juno at the Toronto International Film Festival. Previously…I dressed how I wanted to dress – not dissimilar to now…I said I wanted to wear a suit, and Fox Searchlight was basically like, ‘No, you need to wear a dress.’ And they took me in a big rush to one of those fancy stores on Floor Street. And then all the Juno press, all the photo shoots – Michael Cera was in slacks and sneakers. I look back at the photos, and I’m like…?” Page also detailed the pressure that comes with starring in a hit movie, “This sounds strange to people, and I get that people don’t understand. Oh, fuck you, you’re famous, and you have money, and you had to wear a dress, boo-hoo. I don’t not understand that reaction. But that’s mixed with: I wish people would understand that that shit literally did almost kill me.” 

For Page, Catherine Keener and Jason Bateman were a few people he could talk to about such struggles, which came to impact all areas of life including not only mental health but also diet, sleep and work. “I struggled with food. Intense depression, anxiety, severe panic attacks. I couldn’t function. There were days when I’d only have one meeting, and I’d leave my house to go to the meeting and have to turn around. Not being able to get through a script – could not. I couldn’t read, couldn’t get through a paragraph.” Source:

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Working Class in US's slight uplift, Ozark

The poorest half of Americans—the much-discussed but largely powerless US working class—are in the strongest financial position in a generation. The bottom 50%, generally households with net worth of $166,000 or less before the pandemic, now hold a bigger share of the nation’s wealth than they’ve had for 20 years, the Federal Reserve estimates. Their collective net worth, $3.73 trillion, has almost doubled in two years and is more than 10 times higher than in 2011, the nadir after the last recession. The improvement is a result of trillions of dollars in Covid-19 relief and a strong labor market that remains hottest for the lowest-income workers. “For the first time since the late 1990s, low-wage workers are gaining ground compared to other workers,” says Columbia University economics professor Suresh Naidu. “If we’re able to have tight labor markets for another year or so, you can imagine a lot of low-wage workers in previously dead-end jobs are going to be able to break into something new—saving, relocating, going to school, and opening up a path into the middle class.” An analysis of Fed data shows the average household in the bottom 50% saw its net worth rise to $57,346 at the end of 2021, from $30,378 at the end of 2019. The number of job postings requiring “minimal” qualifications has surged 53% since early 2020, according to a real-time tracker created by Harvard’s Opportunity Insights. The trend accelerated through the first several months of 2022. 

The intense competition for so-called unskilled labor has pushed up pay: Wages have risen the most for the bottom quarter of the workforce, 6.4% in the 12 months through April, according to Atlanta Fed data, almost three points more than for the best-paid quartile. The inflation spike after the Ukraine invasion ate up many recent gains, but at the bottom of the wage scale, pay has been rising faster than prices. An inflation-adjusted measure of income by the University of California at Berkeley’s Realtime Inequality site shows the bottom 50%’s pay climbing at an annualized rate of 3.4% in the first quarter of 2022 even as other groups lost ground. Source:

creator Chris Mundy details what the future looks like for Marty and the rest of the Byrde family, 5 years after the events of the finale. Mundy explains that he thinks the Byrde family will have moved out of the Ozarks and gone to the Midwest, where they will continue to use their political influence, but now on a national scale: "The Byrdes run to the Midwest, and in some ways, they're going to have the political clout to dictate national politics." Although Mundy's explanation is short on details, it's very clear the Byrdes remain a family unit and they continue to exert influence on the political stage. It remains to be seen whether Ozark will ever return, either as a movie, or revival series, but Mundy's explanation is sure to be interesting to fans of the show looking to know what's next for the Byrde family. Fortunately, Mundy's explanation does leave plenty of room for the characters to return in some form, making clear that the Byrdes aren't finished blazing new trails and likely making a few enemies in the process. 

Also, Mundy felt the final moment of the popular Netflix drama was, to him, “pretty unambiguous.” While some fans believe young Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), son of lakeside kingpins Marty and Wendy Byrde (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney), shot down the cookie jar full of incriminating evidence, Mundy said “No, I think he shot Mel [the cop], and Mel is dead. And I think they went to their crematorium, just off screen.” Playfully throwing in his interpretation of the ending, Jason Bateman, who also directed the final episode, said the gun the young man was holding “was probably a buckshot too, so the cookie jar went down as well. There’s a lot of scattering.” Source:

Ozark actress Julia Garner has been offered the role of Madonna in a forthcoming biopic about the pop icon, sources familiar with the project told Variety. Garner has emerged the favorite from over a dozen candidates, one insider added, and has for months been speculated as a frontrunner for the part—a performance Madonna will shepherd herself as director. The film is set up at Universal Pictures, and will follow the early days of the oft-controversial artist and queen of perpetual reinvention. Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley won the script in a multi-studio bidding war, and Amy Pascal is attached as a producer. Upon announcement, Madonna said she hoped to “convey the incredible journey that life has taken me on as an artist, a musician, a dancer—a human being, trying to make her way in this world. The focus of this film will always be music. Music has kept me going and art has kept me alive. There are so many untold and inspiring stories and who better to tell it than me. It’s essential to share the roller coaster ride of my life with my voice and vision.” Langley praised Madonna as “the ultimate icon, humanitarian, artist and rebel.” Source:

Jason Bateman has exited from the director’s chair on Project Artemis, the big feature film package starring Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans that Deadline detailed in March that Apple had swooped in to acquire a $100 million-plus deal. Scarlett Johansson is producing with Jonathan Lia and Keenan Flynn through their These Pictures production company, which commissioned and developed the script. We’re hearing from several sources that Jason Bateman and These Pictures amicably and mutually have chosen to part ways on the film due to creative differences. Plot details for Artemis are being kept tightly under wraps, but the project is set against the space race. The screenplay hails from Rose Gilroy, daughter of writer-director Dan Gilroy and actress René Russo. Bateman just wrapped the fourth and final season of his Netflix series Ozark. Source:

Thinking about female characters like Wendy Byrde (Ozark) it comes to mind the odd Warramaba virgo grasshoppers, which are exclusively females and they have an ability to create perfect clones of themselves. According to CBC Radio, Scientists at the University of Melbourne did a deep dive on the Warramaba virgo, a type of grasshopper that's been reproducing asexually for 250,000 years, in a phenomenon known as parthenogenesis. Parthenogenesis is a form of asexual reproduction in which an embryo develops without fertilization from sperm. It is extremely rare in the animal kingdom, though not unheard of. Kearney estimates it occurs in about one in 1,000 species.  Mammals can't do it at all. On rare occasions, birds can adopt this technique when the females don't have access to males, though it tends to result in short-lived and unhealthy offspring. But W. virgo has got it down to a science. "It's evolved a way of getting rid of the males. It's actually tweaked its meiosis, which is the way the sex cells are produced, so that it it actually doubles the chromosomes," Kearney said. 

"It basically means perfect cloning. So they are able to just produce eggs that are all female, that are identical to themselves, with no males necessary." And they really are identical, he said. A genetic examination of the population suggests they've all evolved from a single female, about quarter of a million years ago. That female, Kearney said, was the product of hybridization, or cross-mating, between two similar grasshopper species. What's more, sexual reproduction has its disadvantages. "Finding a mate takes time and energy," Ary Hoffman, a co-author of the study, said in a press release. "If we can do away with males and still have viable offspring and the species thrives, then why do we bother with sex at all?" Source:

“The Switch” takes a sitcom concept and humanizes it to a lovely degree. It’s not the funniest film or the most emotionally engaging, but there’s a charisma in play that keeps it awake, boosted by efforts from Jennifer Aniston and especially Jason Bateman, who brings a good amount of personality to a potentially virulent comedy. Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) and Wally (Jason Bateman) have been together for quite some time, finding life easier more as close friends than lovers. When Kassie announces her intention to have a baby, the move triggers odd feelings inside Wally, who can’t quite come to grips with her decision. Screenwriter Allen Loeb (adapting a story by Jeffrey Eugenides), takes special care of this delicate situation. Much of The Swtich stays examining wacky miscommunications along with issues of jealousy and longing. The picture offers an unexpected sweet side, exploring the experience of newfound parenthood. Finding the needed colors to pull off such a neurotic, lonely guy, Bateman makes Wally a believably conflicted character, not just a sarcastic fellow playing hard to get. I was won over by Bateman’s performance, enhanced greatly by his chemistry with co-star Aniston, who also provides a good comedic pulse in a less complicated role. Though sold as pure silliness, the picture has an encouraging weight to it that makes it float evenly, pushed along by actors and filmmakers invested in extracting the sincerity out of a coldly wacky premise. Source:

Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy are so fabulous, and obviously above the material, that they do not warrant the treatment they get in Identity Thief. Bateman's character's manhood is denigrated because of his allegedly girlish name (Sandy) or mocked because he’s cautious and gentle. Note to Hollywood: Jason Bateman is sexy. Because he’s attractive, smart and funny. Stop acting like he isn’t. True, he's a bit of a dork, he said he would like to have lunch with Beethoven if time travel was possible and his favorite TV show was Treehouse Masters. But his leading man potential has been overlooked. McCarthy's character is portrayed as a cartoonish caricature of consumerism run amok… until she’s suddenly supposed to be an authentic and sympathetic person. At the flip of a tonal switch, she goes from a sociopath who couldn’t care less about the people she’s been hurting (Sandy is not the first person whose identity she has stolen), to a wounded creature? The “comedy” here comes down to a lot of on-the-road stuff that Midnight Run did much better 20 years ago. Poor Jason Bateman. How did an actor so charming, talented, and handsome get stuck in so much dreck? Identity theft is a real plague that is happening so often that people tremble every time they approach an ATM. It’s a deserving subject that should be explored in a more viable film, but Identity Thief is so boorish it’s hard to believe it wasn’t directed by Judd Apatow or the Farrelly Brothers. Source:

Sunday, June 05, 2022

David Graeber, Michel Foucault, Parasocial Interaction, Ozark's dastardly characters

An inquire after the origins of inequality necessarily means creating a myth, a fall from grace, a technological transposition of the Book of Genesis – which, in most contemporary versions, takes the form of a mythical narrative stripped of any prospect of redemption. In these accounts, the best we humans can hope for is some modest tinkering with our inherently squalid condition – and hopefully, dramatic action to prevent any looming, absolute disaster. The only other theory on offer to date has been to assume that humans are naturally somewhat thuggish creatures and our beginnings were a miserable, violent affair; in which case ‘progress’ or ‘civilization’ was itself redemptive. It’s hardly surprising that most people feel a spontaneous affinity with this tragic version of the story, and not just because of its scriptural roots. The more rosy, optimistic narrative – whereby the progress of Western civilization inevitably makes everyone happier, wealthier and more secure – had also its disadvantages. During the nineteenth-century heyday of European imperialism, everyone seemed more keenly aware of it. While we remember that age as one of naive faith in ‘the inevitable march of progress’, Turgot-style liberal progress was actually never really the dominant narrative in Victorian social theory, let alone political thought. Few nowadays read the ‘traditionalists’ of the nineteenth century, but they’re actually important since it is they, not the Enlightenment philosophes, who are really responsible for modern social theory. It’s long been recognized that almost all the great issues of modern social science – tradition, solidarity, authority, status, alienation – were first raised in the works of authors like the theocratic Vicomte de Bonald, or the philosopher Edmund Burke as examples of the kind of stubborn social realities which they felt that Enlightenment thinkers (Rousseau in particular) had refused to take seriously, with (they insisted) disastrous results. These nineteenth-century debates between radicals and reactionaries never really ended; they keep resurfacing in different forms now. By embracing the notion that events unfold in cumulative sequences, as opposed to recapitulating some deeper pattern, has rendered us less able to weather the vicissitudes of war, injustice and misfortune, plunging us instead into an age of unprecedented anxiety and, ultimately, nihilism. The political implications of this position are, to say the least, unsettling. Historian Mircea Eliade had been close to the fascist Iron Guard in his student days, and his basic argument was that the ‘terror of history’ had been introduced by Judaism and the Old Testament – which he saw as paving the way for the further disasters after the Enlightenment thought. What we can now see is that the first two freedoms – to relocate, and to disobey commands – often acted as a kind of scaffolding for the third (freedom to create or transform social relationships). It’s clear that something about human societies really has changed, and quite profoundly. The three basic freedoms have gradually receded, to the point where a majority of people living today can barely comprehend what it might be like to live in a social order based on them. How did it happen? How did we get stuck? How did we find ourselves stuck in this form of social reality, and how did relations based ultimately on violence and domination come to be normalized within it? Perhaps the scholar who most closely approached this question in the last century was an anthropologist and polymath named Franz Steiner, who died in Oxford (UK) in 1952. In essence, Steiner's theory appears to be precisely about the collapse of what we would term the first basic freedom (to move away or relocate), and how this paved the way for the loss of the second (the freedom to disobey). Steiner's observations are also directly relevant to debates about the origins of patriarchy. Social theorists have a tendency to write about the past as if everything that happened could have been predicted beforehand. This is somewhat dishonest, since we’re all aware that when we actually try to predict the future we almost invariably get it wrong. Participatory democracy is natural in small groups but cannot possibly scale up to anything like a city or a nation state. —A New History of Humanity (2021) by David Graeber

Michel Foucault's overarching contribution to post-modernism is his theory on the way that power circulates in a society, not just the way power is delivered top down, but the ways in which people on the bottom actually subject themselves to power. Therefore, Foucault was also critical of the popular discourse that dominated the debate over sexuality during the 1960s and 1970s. During this time, the popular discourse argued for a "liberation" of sexuality from a cultural and capitalistic oppression. Foucault, however, argues that peoples' opinions about and experiences of sexuality are always a result of cultural and power mechanisms. To "liberate" sexuality from one group of norms only means that another group of norms takes its place. Although Foucault considered it impossible to step outside of power-networks, he thought it is always possible to change these networks or navigate them differently. According to Foucault, the body is not only an "obedient and passive object" that is dominated by discourses and power. The body can also be the "seed" to resistance against dominant discourses and power techniques. "The body is never fully compliant, and experiences can't fully be reduced to linguistic descriptions. There is always a possibility to experience something that is not possible to describe with words, and in this discrepancy there is also a possibility for resistance against dominant discourses." —The History of Sexuality (1976) by Michel Foucault

Parasocial interaction (PSI) refers to a kind of psychological relationship experienced by an audience in their mediated encounters with performers from the mass media, particularly on television and on online platforms. Some viewers even come to consider a few of these media personalities as friends, despite having no real interactions with them. PSI is described as an illusionary experience, such that media audiences interact with personas (celebrities, fictional characters) as if they are engaged in a reciprocal relationship with them. The term was coined by Donald Horton and Richard Wohl in 1956. A parasocial interaction, an exposure that garners interest in a persona, becomes a parasocial relationship after repeated exposure causes the media user to develop some type of identification. Positive information learned about the media persona results in increased attraction, and the relationship progresses, by observing and interpreting their appearance, gestures, conversation, and conduct. Noticing the importance of media in the area of psychological research, academic David Giles (University of Winchester) asserted in his 2002 paper that there is a need for PSI research to move away from the field of mass communication and into the field of psychology. In the past two decades, people have become increasingly interested in the potential negative impacts media personalities have on people's behavior. A study done by Keren Eyal and Alan M. Rubin in 2003 examined aggressive and violent television characters and the potential negative impacts they may have on viewers. The study found that more aggressive viewers were more likely to identify with aggressive characters and further develop parasocial relationships with them. More skeptical researchers share the idea of current Hollywood/TV as a social instrument mainly designed to "generate apathy or discord" through exhibitionism and mass manipulation.

Parasocial interaction has been linked to psychological attachment theory and its consequences have seen the same dramatic effects as real relationship breakups. However, the emotional distress experienced after the parasocial breakup was usually weaker than that of a real life interpersonal relationship. Though PSI with disliked figures occurs less likely than with heroes and positive characters, the situation of "love/hate" relationship with disliked characters still occurs. The positive aspects of PSI: media user's bond with media personas can lead to higher self-confidence, a stronger perception of their problems, and a stronger sense of belonging. Some results indicate that parasocial relationships with media personas intensify because the media user is lonely, dissatisfied, emotionally unstable, and/or has unattractive relationship alternatives. Experiencing negative emotional responses as a result of an ending parasocial relationship, i.e. death of a television persona in a series, is known as a parasocial breakup. 

According to Professor Jonathan Cohen (from the Department of Communications in University of Haifa), the level of distress to the individuals experiencing parasocial breakup depends on the strength of their bond. For other people, parasocial breakups can be as simple as avoiding the content concerning the subject of their parasocial bond. The most used measurement is the Parasocial Interaction Scale (PSI Scale), which was developed by Rubin, Perse, and Powell in 1985 to assess interpersonal relationships with media personalities. In 2012, Mina Tsay and Brianna Bodine developed a updated version of Rubin's scale by addressing that parasocial relationship engagement is dictated by the media user's motivations. They identified four distinct dimensions that address engagement with media personas from cognitive, affective, behavioral and moral perspectives. For example, if a scandal were to occur with an actor, individuals who had parasocial connections to the character they played, the media users may reevaluate their opinions on the fictional character. A parasocial breakup may occur with a fictional character, as a result of a scandal. However, the reverse, where a positive impression of an actor is created, does not apply the same way. Fictional characters, in this case, are seen as separate from the actor's good personality or behaviour outside of their role. Source:

There’s been a lot of talk about why we watch (maybe even root for) dastardly characters, and the answer is because they’re such nuanced, compelling figures we become magnetized by their contradictions and mixture of charm and malice. Ozark challenges that assumption by giving us an antihero so plainly ordinary that there’s no sheer glee or revulsion in watching Marty try to outsmart his foes. When Mason tells Marty, “There’s gotta be a god, because there’s the devil. I think you’re the fucking devil.” That statement is a shock to Marty—and maybe the audience too. Marty is a drab fellow whose best quality is his ability to lie his way out of conflict. Jason Bateman takes his usual dry comedy style and turns it into a darker, more bitter tone. His forte is showcasing a non-chalant pessimism, delivered in a furtive manner that actually deepens it. Bateman addresses the possibility of a season 5 of Ozark or a movie down the line. First airing on Netflix in 2017, Ozark quickly became one of the streamer's most critically-acclaimed series. Much to the surprise of many viewers, the Ozark finale sees the entire Byrde family make it through alive, with Jonah shooting private investigator Mel Sattem. While the Ozark season 4 ending isn't what many audiences would call "happy," it does certainly leave the door open for additional stories in the Ozark universe.

Jason Bateman touches on the possibility of an Ozark revival, saying he's receptive to the idea. Bateman, who also served as executive producer on the show, explains: "Any job or work environment that was positive, and where you loved the people you were working with and you loved the product you were creating, you’d love to return to it. It’s hard to maintain something that is really pleasurable all the time. And we had that with Ozark. So I’d do it again in a second, because what we had just doesn’t happen often." Ozark season 5 or even an Ozark movie would provide the opportunity to further explore the Byrde family, since Jonah shooting Mel in Ozark's final moments sets up potential trouble for the Byrde family down the line. Source:

Justine Bateman: "The top TV Netflix show right now has numbers that would have had it cancelled after its first episode had it aired in the ’80s. Family Ties had a 32.7 rating at its height, meaning 32.7 percent of all Americans who owned a TV set (practically every household) had the show on every week during that period. The population in the US then was about 242 million, so that’s about 62 million people watching me every week. It was the Emmys, 1987. My second nomination. My companion was my younger brother Jason. I had bought my gold dress in the Mark Wong Nark store on Beverly Boulevard. Designers didn’t send you dresses for the awards shows yet. No one had stylists back then for awards shows. My Gold Dress landed me on the dreaded Richard Blackwell’s worst-dressed list. But this photo has been the identifying Wikipedia entry for “1980s in Western Fashion” for years. A real honor. Just sorry Mr. Blackwell isn’t alive to see that. One day, I’m in a movie theater, there by myself. I notice that a very famous actress is sitting in the row in front of me. This is a pretty big “sighting.” I lurch forward and tap her on the shoulder. “I love your work,” in a loud whisper. “Thank you,” she smiles back. Now, I didn’t like her work at all. So why did I do that weird thing? What was with the sycophantic “I love your work” from me? Regardless of my opinion of her work, she was spectacularly famous. I guess I just reached out compulsively, because it was Fame, right in front of me. It happens. 

Writer Buck Henry told me about this time he was at one of Colleen Camp’s famed parties at the Sunset Tower. Lots of actors and actresses there. He finds himself face to face with a very famous blonde star. He says that a few minutes later, he felt like he was “having an out-of-body experience.” He was there, outside of himself, watching himself, prattling on and on with this star who didn’t know who Buck Henry was. The prolific Buck Henry (The Graduate, What’s Up Doc?, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Heaven Can Wait, The Player)? So he can’t stop talking to her, outside himself. Fame is just this strange, societally made structure we keep alive so that we can have the hope that things can get better for us. The Fame structure in our society is really just us imposing our self-will, trying to force some “nice provision” for ourselves. As if to say, “I heard your music/I watched your film. I opened a vulnerable part in myself and I let you in. You are some artist that I don’t know, someone who acted vulnerable through their music, their acting. You and me, meeting in that place. I let you in and we felt safe.” That’s the best part of Fame. That creative identifier." —"Fame: The Hijacking of Reality" (2018) by Justine Bateman