Saturday 25 November 2017

Declan Cashin: Reel Life

Flying colours: Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel
Flying colours: Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel
An act of murder: Matt Smith plays a convincing psycho

This year's Oscar nominations have shown what a strong (and fiercely competitive) past year it was for male roles, but the same can hardly be said of those for actresses.

With that in mind, the website Vocativ recently analysed the top 50 biggest box office movies of last year to see if they passed the Bechdel test.

This is a popular formula used to measure the quality – and sometimes quantity – of roles for actresses in mainstream cinema. In order to pass the test, a movie has to have (1) at least two women in it, who (2) talk to each other about (3) something besides a man.

Of the 50 flicks, 17 (34pc) passed, while an additional seven technically passed, but were deemed "dubious" because of certain dialogue that involved reference to male characters.

Those that unequivocally passed the test included The Heat, Frozen, Oz: The Great And Powerful, Man Of Steel, Elysium, The Butler, The Conjuring and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

And what ones totally flunked? Star Trek: Into Darkness, This Is The End, Now You See Me, Captain Phillips, Pacific Rim and The Lone Ranger are among the Bechdel fails.

But perhaps the most distressing finding from the site's research was that only one of the top 50 films had a female director (Jennifer Lee, co-director of Frozen).

Still, the combined US box office of all the films that passed the test ($4.22bn) far outstripped the total of all those that fell short ($2.66bn). There's a financial lesson there for Hollywood about respecting its female demographic.

Q More academic-type movie research: Social Science Quarterly has published a study arguing that watching certain movies can have an effect on viewers' political attitudes – specifically making them more liberal.

The study, entitled 'Moving Pictures? Experimental Evidence of Cinematic Influence on Political Attitudes' by Todd Adkins and Jeremiah Castle of the University of Notre Dame, revealed that people who watched movies with a strong plot strand about healthcare (namely As Good As It Gets and The Rainmaker) became more supportive of Obama's healthcare reform campaign within two weeks of watching the films.

The authors concluded: "Such evidence strongly supports our contention that popular films possess the capability to change attitudes on political issues."

They might have a point – watching Frozen has definitely changed Reel Life's once-romantic view of Disney princes.

Q Finally, Reel Life was lucky enough to nab a ticket to see the new stage musical version of American Psycho in London over Christmas.

I didn't think anyone could top Christian Bale's performance as Patrick Bateman in the 2000 movie, but Matt Smith really made the part his own.

The Doctor Who-Emeritus is suitably charming, boyish, twitchy, dead-eyed and distracted as the '80s sociopath – he's more than able to hold a note too.

The violence is creatively rendered with visual and sound effects, and overall it's a very different beast than the movie, returning more to Bret Easton Ellis' book to provide the narrative skeleton for the stage show.

The result is a stylish, clever, topical, inventive and always entertaining depiction of a drawn-out nervous breakdown.

The show ends its run next week (and only day tickets are available, at best) but chances are high it will transfer to the West End for a proper run later this year.

Irish Independent

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