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Daily Reads: How Sundance Exposes Hollywood’s ‘White Guy Problem,’ When Plot Twists Go Bad, and More

Daily Reads: How Sundance Exposes Hollywood's 'White Guy Problem,' When Plot Twists Go Bad, and More

Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential
news stories and critical pieces to you.

1. Why Female Directors Are Never Part of a “Scene.” Whenever a filmmaking movement like mumblecore starts up, female directors aren’t considered official parts of the scene. Flavorwire’s Elisabeth Donnelly explains:

As a result, when filmmakers — especially younger filmmakers — are written about, they’re far more appealing if there’s a story behind them. Look at the “birth” of “mumblecore” in 2007. It took its name from a term dropped by one of the young directors, Andrew Bujalski, in an early interview, and soon there was a mumblecore “series” programmed at IFC in New York City in 2007. This led to a phalanx of no-budget movies made by twentysomething directors (including Joe Swanberg and the Duplass Brothers, with Greta Gerwig as the token female “muse”) being proclaimed a “scene” and getting into a variety of film festivals, from Sundance to South by Southwest. (In 2015, Gerwig has moved onto collaborating with her partner Noah Baumbach, but the results still treat her as a “muse.”) Read more.

2. Sundance Exposes Hollywood’s White Guy Problem. Sundance alumni Colin Trevorrow and Jordan Vogt-Roberts are now directing major blockbusters (“Jurassic World,” “Kong: Skull Island”), but the same opportunities aren’t being offered to persons of color or women. Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan examines this problem.

This article is no knock at either of those talented men. But it is indicative of the way that major studios tend to approach Sundance: They swoop in, pluck up all the white-guy directors, and leave all the talented female and nonwhite helmers to fend for themselves. If you’re a white dude who made a micro-budget Sundance movie with some visual panache, you’re sure to end up on studio short lists; if you’re not, you’ll struggle to even get financing for your next project. Read more.

3. The Underrated “Joe vs. the Volcano.” John Patrick Shanley has had some Oscar successes with “Moonstruck” and “Doubt,” but his best and most distinctive film is the underrated comedy “Joe vs. the Volcano.” At RogerEbert.com, Scout Tafoya included the film in his “The Unloved” video series while Matt Zoller Seitz interviewed Shanley.

Why did you decide to have all three significant women in Joe’s life be played by the same person, Meg Ryan? I’ve found that many men and women, when dealing with different people, are always basically—in romantic situations—dealing with the one woman in their head that they’re struggling to get right, or the one man in their head they’re just struggling to get right.  And I thought I could make that point very nicely by having three roles played by the same woman.  To my surprise, Warner Bros. thought that was a great idea!  And Steven did as well. Read more.

4. How Bradford Young Revolutionizes Women on Film. Bradford Young shot two high-profile films last year (“Selma” and “A Most Violent Year”), but more notable is how he’s changing the way women are viewed on film. Decider’s Olivia Armstrong explains:

In “A Most Violent Year,” Jessica Chastain plays Anna, the brilliant, manipulative wife of immigrant business mogul Abel (Isaac); together they face government crackdowns, potential bankruptcy, and dangerous threats from competitors who are desperate for a bigger slice of the pie during the most cutthroat year in NYC’s history. Anna is a whirlwind of contradictions, and we want to know everything about her. She’s a force that refuses to be put in the corner, even within this story about power-hungry men and their guns. She’s dutiful, but falls on the opposite end of the spectrum as, say, Karen Hill in “Goodfellas.” During a late night fight with her husband, we get to know Anna more intimately, and in this moment Young switches the power dynamic from Abel to Anna through subtly intricate lighting, lifting Chastain’s performance to another level. As a woman, all I could think as I watched her was how I’d want to act solely so Bradford Young could frame me like he did Chastain. Read more.

5. How to Judge a Great Plot Twist. What separates a good plot twist from a not-so-good one? i09’s Charlie Anders argues that good twists pull the rug out from under the characters instead of just the audience.

The first kind of twist is just pulling one over on the viewers, or readers. The second is creating a situation where the characters themselves believe that something is the case, and then find out they were wrong. The latter kind of twist is always going to have more emotional impact, because it actually affects the characters in a visceral way. We care about people who make mistakes, and we root for people who screw up for the best possible reasons. We also feel a surprise a lot more when it’s just as much a surprise to the characters as it is to us. Read more.

6. Oscars Prefer Subservient Black Men. David Oyelowo theorized that Oscar voters prefer subservient black men in their movies. Jason Bailey of Flavorwire looked at the data and found that Oyelowo is right.

“We have been slaves, we have been domestic servants, we have been criminals, we have been all of those things,” Oyelowo told the audience in Santa Barbara. “But we have been leaders, we have been kings, we’ve been those who changed the world.” And that, ultimately, is what stings about Oyelowo getting the cold shoulder in favor of a millionaire murderer, a sniper, a nutty actor, and two troubled British geniuses. Read more.

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