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Daily Reads: What the Hell Happened to John Travolta, ‘Ghostbusters’ Gender Issues, and More

Daily Reads: What the Hell Happened to John Travolta, 'Ghostbusters' Gender Issues, and More

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

1. Sony Gave “Ghostbusters” a Gender Problem. There’s going to be another “Ghostbusters” movie other than the all-female “Ghostbusters,” and Genevieve Koski of The Dissolve writes that this gives the series a familiar gender problem.

The idea that there is “girl entertainment” and “boy entertainment” is outmoded but annoyingly persistent, based more in advertising opportunities than how most people actually consume entertainment. It’s not just film where we see this—the toy industry, with its insidiously color-coded products, is a particularly guilty party—but this “Ghostbusters” hubbub provides a much-needed opportunity to question why we as a culture continue to feel the need to cater individually to boys and girls, or men and women, based on their gender first and foremost. Feig’s “Ghostbusters” has now become the cinematic equivalent of a pink razor: an inherently gender-neutral entity gussied up in a gender-specific way that tells women, “This is for you, not for boys.” By offering a Ghostbusters for boys and a Ghostbusters for girls, Sony is implicitly telling potential audiences, “This is for you, not for them.” Read more.

2. The Greatness of “Death Proof.” Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” is his oddest film, which has led to its being underrated. Michael Koresky of Reverse Shot writes about the film’s greatness:

As with so many of his films, “Death Proof” functions as both a winking throwback to and a commentary on the genres and forms it fetishizes. With “Jackie Brown” it was Blaxploitation, “Kill Bill” a kung-fu/yakuza/anime mash-up, “Inglourious” the World War II action picture, “Django” the western. “Death Proof” takes the gear-shredding seventies car chase movie as its starting point, but what it really has on its mind is the even less reputable rape-revenge genre. “Death Proof’s” amalgamation of these two types of exploitation movie made a lot of sense in the film’s original context: the film was first released, in a much shorter version, as part of the double-bill experiment “Grindhouse,” Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s attempt to evoke the experience of watching decidedly non-prestige films in sticky-floored theaters during the seventies. But what may have seemed on first glance like just a feature-length gimmick is perhaps Tarantino’s purest, even most radical film, made up of a complex interplay of gazes and perspective shifts and whose narrative effectively functions as two mirrored halves gazing at one another. Read more.

3. Melanie Lynskey Talks “Togetherness.” In an interview with The Guardian’s Alexander Bisley, Melanie Lynskey talks about her show “Togetherness,” her 20 years in showbusiness, and “radical nudity.”

Is your character Michelle’s full frontal scene in “Togetherness” another example of that realism?

When people have sex, they’re naked. It’s not supposed to be turning everyone on. We’re not showing perfectly manicured porn bodies – people are used to seeing that kind of image of sexuality, especially of the female body. It feels really exciting to me to be naked and be like: “Hey, that’s what some people look like!” It feels radical. Read more.

4. Ghosts of “Grey Gardens.” Movie Mezzanine’s Mallory Andrews talks about “Grey Gardens'” place in Albert Maysles legacy.

Developing out of European-style cinema vérité, practitioners of Direct Cinema took advantage of new-at-the-time lightweight camera and sound equipment to capture events as they happened in an attempt to preserve total objectivity. The result tended to be an unpolished aesthetic that gave the illusion of events unfolding with little to no filmmaker intervention. The Maysles, however, did not hold themselves to such standards. As Albert himself explains on the Maysles Films website, “It’s not “fly-on-the-wall.” That would be mindless. You need to establish rapport even without saying so, but through eye contact and empathy.” Repeat viewings of “Grey Gardens” reveals a narratively complex structure that is equal parts journalistic, modernist, Gothic, and melodramatic. Read more.

5. Cronenberg and “Maps to the Stars”. Filmmaker Magazine’s Matt Mulcahey spoke with David Cronenberg’s Peter Suschitzky about the process of making “Maps to the Stars,” Cronenberg’s economical set-ups, and whether or not Cronenberg will make another film.

Filmmaker: You’ve now been working together more than 25 years. How has Cronenberg changed as a filmmaker over that period?

Suschitzky: When I first met him he shot fairly unusual subjects, but he approached them in a classical way in that he would shoot a wide shot, a medium shot and several close-ups for each scene, covering the scene from each angle. Slowly over the years he’s become increasingly economical until we got to “Maps to the Stars,” when he became super economical and shot very few angles, sometimes only one or two [set-ups] in a scene. He would almost challenge himself to be as spare and sparse as possible. We never covered a scene [from the beginning to end] in each shot. Read more.

6. What the Hell Happened to John Travolta? In the days of “Saturday Night Fever” and “Blow Out,” and again with his “Pulp Fiction” and “Get Shorty” comeback, John Travolta was a god. Now he’s seen as weird and creepy. Steven Hyden of Grantland tries to suss out what the hell happened.

The simpler, more practical explanation for Travolta being perceived as a weirdo creep is his alleged weirdo creep behavior offscreen — the face touchingthe face kissing, those allegations about unseemly touching on land and in the air. Then there’s the patina of strangeness that surrounds Scientology. It’s especially evident around Travolta, who even more than Tom Cruise now appears to be The Man In The Cult-Constructed Bubble. Clearly the waxy, awkward figure Travolta now cuts has overshadowed the hip-swinging paragon of cocksure coolness he once signified. I don’t think it’s a complete coincidence that as our view of Travolta has taken a turn toward the odd and discomfiting, so have his roles. For some reason, John Travolta can’t stop embodying the repellent version of himself onscreen that we’ve come to imagine in real life. He keeps giving the people what they don’t want — it’s been more than six years since a Travolta film grossed more than $100 million. Read more.

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