Popcorn Panel: Lack of egalitarian message makes Mad Max: Fury Road’s …

23 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A Guide to the Weird, Wild World of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’.

Everyone knows it’s rude to talk during a movie, but once the credits roll, you’re bound to have an opinion that needs, nay demands, sharing. I staggered out of the auditorium during the intermission of Mad Max: Fury Road (3D), my head numbed, my ears ringing, my heart pumping, my nerves shot.At 44 years of age, I have been lucky enough to see the evolution of film directors like Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg and now George Miller, as they have been thrust into a 21st-century world complete with four-storey high movie screens, 3D glasses, computer generated special effects, movie scores that sound like rock concerts and a new generation of young viewers with three-second attention spans. I have never seen anything like Fury Road’s opening scene: rivers of boys screaming across the red desert in mutant vehicles, roaring at each other in thick Australian accents to “fang it” as they inhale silver spray paint, their eyes bright with the knowledge they have nothing to live for but death and glory. Fascinated with Miller’s previous visions of a desolate future in his first three Mad Max films, I went to see Fury Road, in IMAX 3D, with mixed expectations.

George Miller’s apocalyptic desert is a vicious salute to the dream of a red-hot Australian summer set alight by the ageless, testosterone-fuelled fantasies of youth and young manhood. Online movie-ticket sale site Fandango said the movie is still generating strong interest among fans, and it has registered an 89/100 average score at Metacritic. From its very first shot, the fourth instalment of the series is like a runaway train, slamming you back in your seat, attacking and mesmerizing your senses with stunning images, wild ideas, and eye-popping action. The female savior-hero took a while to get to cultural center stage, but in the form of Furiosa, her presence is so powerful — even with only one arm — that many male action-film fans are enraged that she has stolen the show. The story: One-armed Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has justifiably become fed-up with abuse from Immortan Joe — a horrific villain who makes Darth Vader look like a Boy Scout — and has taken a half dozen beautiful cohorts on a joyride from hell in an attempt to escape from Joe and to find the place where she was born.

It’s the Popcorn Panel. • Mike Reynolds, aka DJ Damn Aykroyd, is a Toronto-based DJ and bartender, and the host of the Hitch Video Club, a weekly Sunday night VHS movie screening at Hitch (1216 Queen St. The immersive, exhilarating experience of watching “Fury Road” in a theater should buoy enthusiasm for it over the Memorial Day weekend, said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Rentrak. It’s difficult to say what effect the backlash has had on opening weekend ticket sales, which were respectable at $44.4 million in the United States, if more than $20 million behind first-place Pitch Perfect 2. Along for the ride is Max, the quintessential, emotionally torn apart hero/victim, who is fast with his feet, hands and mouth — especially when he spits what appears to be jet fuel into a hot intake manifold. Antoinette, 63, a goddess of Afrikaans theatre and well-respected local actress, added another proudly South African element to the Hollywood blockbuster as one of the powerful Vuvalini women.

Aside from the outrageous action scenes that Miller and his crew have somehow pulled together in a movie that the viewer almost needs oxygen to watch; its bombastic, completely over-the-top violence; and its somehow redeeming ending, what sets this movie apart from its counterparts is its pornographic, horrific, voyeuristic genre that Miller has somehow defined. And yet, this troupe of bad-ass apocalypse babes is also clad in white cotton that stays pristinely white even after an explosive car chase through a sandstorm. It’s been 30 years since the last Mad Max film, and Miller returns with a sequel (though it really shouldn’t be called one, more like a re-imagining) that the cult series deserved.

The New Yorker describes the Vuvalini as a “small and leathery tribe of matriarchs”, or as they were known by the film’s production designer – a bunch of “lovely old bikie chicks”. So it’s not like Fury Road feels like some earnest egalitarian message film — it’s still totally ridiculous (the bad guy brings a guitar soloist as part of his war convoy! There are essentially two fountainheads in that narrow genre that can be described as cinema of a dystopian future—Blade Runner and the Mad Max series. Mad Max’s publicity machine has made a huge effort to attract female viewers by presenting Theron as the new benchmark for heroines in action movies and emphasising the number of female characters. Perhaps he has turned into what many of us appear to have become over the years as technology has advanced filmmaking into a kind of “horror-porn,” normal looking people who are experts at hiding their dark and disturbing sides but will let everything hang out in the safety of a dark movie theatre and behind a pair of 3D glasses.

They portray very different futures—the former a rain-drenched, technologically advanced, racially diverse urban sprawl (Los Angeles); the other, where mankind has been reduced to live a tribal existence in small settlements in desolate landscapes (the Australian desertland). The female-centric casting has earned the ire of men’s rights groups (not a thing, guys), with the truly loathsome blog, Return of the Kings, accusing Fury Road of being nothing other than “feminist propaganda posing as a guy flick.” Unfortunately, men’s rights groups needn’t have gotten their panties in a twist. Whether you’re still shell-shocked from seeing “Fury Road” or you want to be prepared as you see it for the first time, Speakeasy is here to help. According to Antoinette the whole experience left her speechless as well. “I was like a ‘plaaskind’ in New York City,” she describes the magic and awe that was the Namibian set of Mad Max. “It was such an unbelievable experience.

The original Mad Max (1979), a low-budget Australian film, became a surprise worldwide hit, leaving audiences and critics cheering the brilliant imagining of a dismal world (yet, minimalistic, because of budget constraints), and some of the best car-chase sequences in history. I was lucky that I had the physical attributes they were looking for in the character with my long grey hair,” Antoinette humbly deflects the praise I send her way for landing a role alongside the A-list elite. “The day I met Charlize on the set there was a sandstorm in the desert. Mike: Trailer Voice: In a world plagued by second-rate remakes, the cinematic landscape is a dry saltine withered by focus groups and marketing analysis. Miller was so eager to present the female perspective that he hired Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, to coach the actresses on how to express the horror of rape and impregnation by a monster.

There is a semblance of law and order in the cities, but the highways and the outback are constantly under threat from marauding bike-riding gangs of hoodlums. She was sick with the stomach flu but nevertheless came to meet us. “She held out her hand and I instinctively introduced myself in Afrikaans; ‘Ek is Antoinette Kellerman’. Although she’s the ultimate warrior, she’s not one-dimensional – there are moments in the film where her sense of duty to her young dependants results in palpable emotional frustration. A few men may be helpful to the cause, but it is a matriarchal band known as the Vulvani who will ultimately save society from evil oppressors in this flick. In the 21st century, as terrorist attacks, climate change and global financial horrors breed widespread anxiety, the female savior has grown in significance.

Furiosa ends covered in dirt, one eye swollen shut, the stump of her amputated arm exposed, standing exhausted in front of the young women she fought so desperately to protect. She is such a down to earth real person who still knows how to swear in Afrikaans,” Antoinette explains with a smile. “The Vuvalini women travel on motorbikes. Like Lisbeth Salandar in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, she is sinewy, defiant and sports a look that is more Goth than glam, her eyes blazing resistance through the smear of black grease she uses as war paint. In 2010, a Time magazine cover featured Elizabeth Warren, then head of the congressional panel monitoring Wall Street’s financial bailout; Sheila Bair, then head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Mary Schapiro, then head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, as the “New Sheriffs of Wall Street” taking on villains in the financial sector.

In 2010, Phillip Noyce, the director of the spy thriller Salt, asked Angelina Jolie to play a part originally written for Tom Cruise; CIA agent Edwin Salt turned into Evelyn Salt, a formidable female action hero. From the vision of a bleak world, to the design of vehicles in the badlands, to the costumes—not so much in the first film, but certainly in the others—and even the names of the villains. Like the flame guitar player, I wasn’t sure how to take the Victoria’s-Secret-models-as-captive-fertile-breeders, or Mad Max stumbling upon them in the dessert being hosed down in their all-white flowing garb. In Thunderdome, the frontier settlement Bartertown is ruled by Aunty Entity, and her rivals are an entity called Master Blaster—Master being a brainy dwarf, and Blaster being a mentally challenged giant on whose shoulders Master rides.

Even in the high-octane, muscle-bound Fast and Furious franchise, racecar driver Letty Ortiz, portrayed by Michelle Rodriguez, is the equal of her male colleagues on a dream team of good guys saving the world. My character had six costumes and I had people on standby to assist me in-between takes when I had to exchange the dummy firearm for the real, much heavier, thing. “Everything was amazingly put together and the attention to detail and safety was insane. Anyone who has watched Beyond Thunderdome, I am sure, will always remember the chant of the bloodthirsty crowd as Max enters the gladiatorial cage of Thunderdome for a fight to the death with Master Blaster: “Two men enter, one man leaves!” And of course, there is Max—the tough loner, brooding about his tragic past and with no illusions left, never settling anywhere, always the wanderer. Researchers tracking the work of Congress from 1973 to 2008, for example, recently found that women are more successful than men at getting their bills through the House of Representatives.

Studies have also shown that stocks perform better when women sit on company boards, and some business experts argue that women make better bosses because they are especially good at motivating employees, offer superior creativity and care less about the status quo. Besides Furiosa, the one notable female warrior is Valkyrie, played by Megan Gale (and even she had to spend some screen time naked before earning her right to party with the War Boys). Viewers will be hooked from the first second when a two-headed lizard pops out from behind a rock as Max (Tom Hardy) looks out over the endless nothingness that would play host to the film’s chaos that is about to kick off.

What follows is an eruption of exploding car crashes that will catapult you into a 3D experience that will literally leave you feeling breathless while dodging flying bits of possible head crushing scrap metal. Almost every movie set in a dystopian future made after Miller created his world, has referenced or taken a little bit—from plot device to visual style to technical tricks—from the series (unless the future they portray is urban and hi-tech, inevitably with something first done in Blade Runner). It’s great to know that both South Africa and Namibia play a big role in the final product that we see on screen with most of the crew also from these two countries. For instance, something seemingly insignificant, but quite important culturally is that in almost every film, which has a sufficient number of action scenes, characters dress in leather. Unlike Mad Max, who is more of a loner cowboy, they excel in collaboration. “My name is Max,” he says at the start of the film. “My world is reduced to a single instinct: survive.” In the end, he does not join the women poised to rebuild society.

In contrast to his treatment of his beautiful young female cast, he’s not afraid to get the Vuvalini dirty, or hurt – probably because their faces are already pretty battered. To some extent, the concubines’ behaviour can be explained by their backgrounds – they were sheltered and enslaved, raised to be subservient breeders. The fan backlash against Fury Road, despite the critical acclaim, may reflect another societal shift in which many men feel that their social and economic power has been threatened. The only difference is that the latter was set on a post-apocalyptic earth that is almost all desert land, and Waterworld is set on a future earth that is now almost entirely sea, after the polar ice caps have melted. However, throughout the film the young runaways are protected by strong older female characters – they are never really allowed to be or become strong women.

More and more, they end up behind the counter in service jobs at Wal-Mart instead of working in more “manly” traditional roles as builders or physical laborers. When Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s character takes initiative and performs an independent act of extreme bravery, Miller rewards her for her efforts by flinging her from the war rig, an event that kills both her and her unborn child. In addition, Congress seems uninterested in funding infrastructure projects that would create the sorts of high-paying construction jobs wiped out by the Great Recession.

Indeed, costume design became a critical element of these films, after The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome set new benchmarks of weirdness, and the looks and clothes of the characters startled audiences and became talking points. I was surprised that I didn’t find the caesarean itself particularly shocking – it was contextualised by the brutalising, misogynistic, male-centric, apocalyptic performative space. What was disconcerting was the pitifulness of the short-lived attempt to disguise Huntington-Whiteley’s character as a heroine, when she was destined to simply present another covert example of why young girls shouldn’t play outside their comfort zone. is fantastic to look at. As researchers June Carbon and Naomi Cahn have pointed out, many working women who are not affluent are deciding not to marry because dealing with an unemployed or underemployed male is too much of a risk. The Atlantic’s Hanna Rosin published a book in 2012 that calls up anxiety about how men fit into the new millennium, or rather how they don’t: The End of Men: And the Rise of Women.

Although Imperator Furiosa ranks among the top blockbuster heroes of the cinematic age, largely stereotypes young women as annoyingly hopeless and in need of rescue. But there is excitement percolating about what women can accomplish at the highest levels of responsibility and what they have to offer both men and women who follow them. Even Mad Max, the epitome of ornery and damaged masculinity, responds to Furiosa’s call through the chaos of fiery destruction. “Wanna get through this?” she demands. “Let’s go!”

When the 37-year-old Maggie Gyllenhaal is refused a role as the love interest opposite a 55-year-old male actor for being “too old”, you can understand why actresses like Rebel Wilson may be reluctant to reveal their real age. Today’s pop stars and fashion designers have certainly been influenced by the “apocalyptic punk” style introduced by the series, even though some of them may not even be aware of this, and may have taken inspiration from second-or third-level references. The Oscar-nominated star of films including The Dark Knight and Secretary and television series including The Honorable Woman made the revelation in an interview with The Wrap magazine, a portion of which was published this week.

While her male contemporaries like Bradley Cooper or Leonardo DiCaprio, both 40, continue to be cast opposite actresses in their 20s, Gyllenhaal said her age had been a barrier to a recent role, even though her potential co-star was 18 years her senior. Culture website Vulture observed in 2013 that “as leading men age, their love interests stay the same,” in an analysis that looked at the age disparities in Hollywood films. They found Harrison Ford is routinely paired with women 20 or 30 years his junior, from 29-year-old Anne Heche in Six Days, Seven Nights, when Ford was 55, to 39-year-old Kristin Scott Thomas in Random Hearts, when Ford was 57. Kristen Scott Thomas, now 54, recently said the dearth of roles for women her age was a “disaster.” “I won’t bore you with all the stories of older women not getting jobs in film because it’s so boring. With a $150 million (around Rs.960 crore) budget at his disposal and access to 3D technology, Miller has scaled everything up by several orders of magnitude.

Though there are rare exceptions, the phenomenon of women over 40 no longer being considered for leading, romantic parts was skewered in a recent episode of Inside Amy Schumer, which showed Tina Fey, 44 and Patricia Arquette, 47 at a picnic with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, celebrating the 54-year-old actress’ “Last F..kable Day”. “A lot of actresses are doing incredible work right now, playing real women, complicated women,” she said. “I don’t feel despairing at all. But in Fury Road, which has chase after chase after chase, every time one finishes, you think that was one crazy fever dream, and the next one comes along and it’s crazier. The other important difference—I did some reading up—is that the Matrix Reloaded sequence used computer generated imagery (CGI) very heavily, while Miller has kept that to a minimum. The ferocious speed and relentless, throbbing, screaming, disorienting imagery and high-octane soundtrack of Fury Road may well be overwhelming for them. As I said right in the beginning, by intermission, I was nearly bouncing off the walls, and needed to drink almost a whole bottle of water before I was back to normal again.

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