Snarky's Cinemachine: Five Things I Learned Watching Recent Movie Trailers

Ange Anderson
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1. Katherine Heigl is contractually obligated to play the same character until the end of time.

In the recently released Killers, Heigl plays a single woman with a great career and no life partner. In Life as We Know It (scheduled for release later this year) Heigl plays–you guessed it–a single woman with a great career and no life partner. Only this time she snags Mr. Right by sharing parental duties with him after the child's parents die. Sounds like a heartwarming feminist fairy tale to me.

2. Even female action stars must submit to the Makeover trope.

The trailer for the hotly anticipated Salt finds Angelina Jolie rocking the mess out of a pencil skirt and taupe heels, only later to revamp her exterior with some snug black clothes and Miss Clairol's bluest black. While it certainly makes sense for a person to alter their looks when being chased by the CIA, I'm not sure why the trailer evoked films like Clueless, Pretty Woman and 13 Going on 30. More importantly, it's possible the audience can take for granted that Jolie has altered her appearance without being shown every detail of her transformation. The makeover trope is utilized for men, but often–even in action films–it's played for comedic effect. Harrison Ford might have grimaced his way through an application of Just for Men in 1996's The Fugitive, but it was clearly meant to be an amusing respite from all that heart pounding action. Yet Jolie's transformation feels like a rite of passage rather than a necessary element of survival.

3. Viola Davis is every white woman's magical best friend.

The spectacular privilege notwithstanding, the trailer for Eat. Pray. Love. affords Viola Davis another opportunity to reprise her "sassy black friend" role last seen midwifing another white woman (Diane Lane) through emotional rebirth in Nights in Rodanthe. In addition, the Eat. Pray. Love. trailer also works as an educational film, as the audience is show images of Julia Roberts' character faithfully engaged in every verb in the movie's title.

4. Michael Caine is the new Michael Caine.

Since 2005, Sir Michael Caine has completed ten films and has a big release, Christopher Nolan's Inception, out in July. Ten films is quite a feat for many actors, but this is Michael Caine we're talking about. Ten films is about half of his prolific output in the 80s, when he starred in a staggering 20+ films–12 of which were actually watchable.

5. 3D technology will not make films any more satisfying.

Toy Story 3D will probably be wonderful with or without the gimmick of 3D. How to Train Your Dragon, Clash of the Titans and Shrek Forever After were films whose viewing pleasure was not enhanced (for me) by the addition of 3D. As for upcoming releases The Last Airbender, Cats & Dogs: the Revenge of Kitty Galore and Step Up 3D, their 3D marketing has the same effect on me as tacking, "...On Ice" to the end of their titles. At least in the 80s we got to keep the glasses!

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14 Comments Have Been Posted

I'm a trailer fan

I like trailers because they give me the chance to see the best 30 seconds of imagery in the theater. Which saves me a lot of money. Excellent set of observations on this season's crop!

The Salt trailer was

The Salt trailer was interesting. It was edited quite cleverly. I have absolutely no idea what's involved with the movie, except Morgan Freeman is at home shaking his fists at Liev Schreiber who clearly stole his part!

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I had hoped that makeover

I had hoped that makeover scenes would have died with Mannequin II, but well, that was just too much to ask, wasn't it?

Hollywood cannot resist the

Hollywood cannot resist the urge to take an already foxy woman and tweak the va va voom setting to 11. It seems to have surpassed the gratuitous bouncing breast shots previously favored. It also seems more jarring in films where the other elements of the "makeover trope" aren't used - like, "Oh snap! She was foxy all along." Ghost World made similar use of the makeover trope, but at least it was green hair and Enid did revert to dark hair again.

Now, I ain't gotta problem with bringing teh sexy back. I just think Jolie is sexy plenty without the cheesy use of makeover tropes. I mean she was looking pretty fierce in that knit cap and raincoat.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


In defense of the makeover... Sometimes, a good makeover can be used as a tool to give a person (male/female- whatever) to push a person into a whole new persona that they've always had but needed that extra push to posess. the psychological "mask" if you will. The idea exisits in psychology and certainly in society (hasn't anyone been to one of those"dress for sucess" workshops?)- the clothes make ther person, and are simply an extention of the person we'd like society to see us as. Youth in Revolt did this pretty well with a goofy male as the main character. Given it was a male being sexualized, and he wanted to be, so it was humorous, but still. I've yet to see it be done in a pure psychological way that wasn't sexualized, unless you count The Saint, but then we get into mental dis-orders and that isn't exactly what I mena. I mean the new haircut lending confidence, a new suit, a new persona, and not to sound like a marketing ploy, but a whole new you can come with trying out a new lipstick shade or buying new underwear that only you know you have on. It can be very important to show each scene if it truly affects the main character- but I haven't seen this movie, so I really have no leg to stand on here. I'm jsut a big fan of feeling awful and washing those blues right out of my hair, in a manner of speaking.

I'm a big personal fan of

I'm a big personal fan of reinvention, but the way it's often framed in films is terribly sexist and is used in a reductive way. It rarely denotes a psychological shift, but is usually concerned with the external and the male response to that external transformation.

Salt is already a badass - as noted by her fierce skirt/heels. No amount of costuming is needed to clarify that.

Salt is about a CIA agent who is complicated and possibly naughty. I mean it's nice that she's foxy, but I don't need her psychological shift (if that's what's happening) to be reduced to a montage of her selecting hot outfits with discards piling on the bed, set to some happening pop tune. To be fair it's not that bad, but it <em>felt</em> that way to me, which was the point.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Math much?

Not to be a stickler, but if Michael Caine has done 10 movies in five years, he's on exactly the same pace as the 20 in the ten years of the 80s (kind of depends on how many are suggested by the plus).

He did around 24 roles

He did around 24 roles between 1980 and 1989. He's got 9 films under his belt now and has 3 in the hopper - including Batman Sequel, a handful in "production" and still more in "development" (those are hit or miss). This doesn't include the last minute roles he might take when the original actor doesn't cut it (he's been blessed with many roles in this manner) or if he decides he ought to remodel his bathroom.

Of his role in Jaws: The Revenge he said, "I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific."

Of his prolific 1980s era he said, "First of all, I choose the great roles, and if none of these come, I choose the mediocre ones, and if they don't come, I choose the ones that pay the rent"

And actually, I didn't even count Caine's television appearances, of which there are MANY.

In any event, your point is taken. I didn't realize Caine had so many devoted fans! Cool!

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Hrm...I didn't think it was

Hrm...I didn't think it was possible, but now I've found yet another reason to not watch "Eat. Pray. Love." other than I can't stand Julia Roberts and I can't stand books written by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Toy Story and the ubiquitous glasses

I've seen the new <i>Toy Story</i> already, and your predictions are dead-on: it's wonderful*, but skillful as the 3D effects are, they're not at all necessary. The 3D phenomenon is bizarre for me, because I always thought of that gimmick as terrain for TV promotions and guilty pleasure movies: the cheesy horror sequels that everyone expects to be chock-full of camp made all the more awesome/awful by 3D punches flying at the screen. Recent quality animated films like <i>Up</i> and <i>Coraline</i> didn't need it at all. I hope the trend dies soon, because at this point it seems to just be an excuse to charge several dollars more per ticket. Besides, they're unwieldy when you have to use, y'know, *actual* glasses!
* I did have some issues with the way the feyness of the Ken doll is ridiculed, but at least it's never implied that he's not heterosexual because of it. I have more thoughts on this, but it isn't the place, I suppose...

I never found Katherine

I never found Katherine Heigl that great of an actress. I guess liked Knocked Up overall, but her performance wasn't special (I'm not sure there's been a well-developed interesting female character in a Judd Apatow project since Lindsay Weir). And every movie she's been in since has looked really bad.

An entire subgenre follows these story models (chick-lit/chick-flicks) and they can be interesting. Despite the dull repetition of a straight, white, privileged perspective, it's certainly a legitimate concern for a woman to search for love while maintaining her career; that storyline no doubt connects with a lot of people. But Heigl's movies seem more like Hollywood ploys to squeeze a lot of money out of the female demographic, rather than interesting explorations of complex characters, like say, Bridget Jones.

It says it all that Viola Davis hasn't found a major leading role (that I know of) after her exquisite performance in Doubt, and her apparent prowess on stage. Not terribly hard for me to imagine why.

And I certainly agree about 3D. Alice in Wonderland, the 2-d is brighter and more colorful (As Ebert points out in his review). and that is much more pleasant viewing than a cheap 3-D gimmick.

The Same Character

I agree that Katherine Heigl has been a bit one-note lately. But this happens to a lot of actors, male and female. I have very little idea of how the acting field operates, but it seems that many actors settle into similar roles for large portions, or even the entirety, of their career, perhaps because it offers some form of job security? Or maybe it's just easier to do something one knows well over and over? (cough, cough, Hugh Grant, cough, cough)

I've never been one to tag

sentences with "That's what SHE said!" or " BED!"

But, I think I may just start a little habit with "on ICE!"

Thank you

A bitch blogger with an actual sense of humor, how refreshing! Thanks so much for this post, it made my day - particularly number 3.

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