Megan Fox is no Brigitte Bardot.

Megan Fox is no Brigitte Bardot. (photo)

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Brigitte Bardot, screen goddess, national icon and late-life bigot, is nearing her 75th birthday. As the Guardian notes in an audio slideshow tribute, Charles de Gaulle once compared her importance as a French export to that of Renault cars.

Meanwhile, over at the Los Angeles Times, Chris Lee attempts to name her successor, a starlet on the path to becoming “a sex symbol of the highest order: a woman whose hotness has become emblematic of a specific era. Call Megan Fox the first bona fide sex symbol of the 21st century.” Somehow… it’s not quite the same.

For one thing, these days the idea of a “sex symbol” seems anachronistic. Fox might be obsessed with Marilyn Monroe, but she’s never going to date JFK or redefine blondness. Lee compares her to the late Farrah Fawcett, whose fame peaked with a poster, a kind of one-shot iconography that’s no longer an option. And Pamela Anderson, his other parallel, is a genial self-spoofer famous for understanding exactly how to market her outrageous measurements and for having one of the first major celebrity sex tapes.

How can Fox compete with all that? There are no boundaries left to shatter, whatever Fox’s debatable merits as a physical specimen/actress/celebrity/provider of quotable copy. A “sex symbol” has to represent something both concrete and boundary-shattering. Fox is basically just the prototypical pretty girl bending over to sell a car in an ad; it’s just that the cars are Transformers.

If anything, “Jennifer’s Body” writer Diablo Cody — annoying as I find her — is a better candidate for Lee’s designation. She’s a singular figure, parlaying a career as a stripper (something people used to want to keep quiet) into an eminently mainstream career, trading on her unique sexuality for the kind of publicity that’s proven near-impossible for anyone else in her field.

[Photo: Megan Fox in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” Paramount Pictures, 2009]


Under Your Spell

10 Otherworldly Romances That’ll Melt Your Heart

Spend Valentine's Day weekend with IFC's Underworld movie marathon.

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Photo Credit: Screen Gems/courtesy Everett Collection

Romance takes many forms, and that is especially true when you have a thirst for blood or laser beams coming out of your eyes.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a werewolf, a superhero, a clone, a time-traveler, or a vampire, love is the one thing that infects us all.  Read on to find out why Romeo and Juliet have nothing on these supernatural star-crossed lovers, and be sure to catch IFC’s Underworld movie marathon this Valentine’s Day weekend.

1. Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine, X-Men series

The X-Men franchise is rife with romance, but the steamiest “ménage à mutant” may just be the one between Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Their triangle is a complicated one as Jean finds herself torn between the two very different men while also trying to control her darker side, the Phoenix. This leads to Jean killing Cyclops and eventually getting stabbed through her heart by Wolverine in X-Men: The Last Stand. Yikes!  Maybe they should change the name to Ex-Men instead?

2. Willow/Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon gave audiences some great romances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer — including the central triangle of Buffy, Angel, and Spike — but it was the love between witches Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) that broke new ground for its sensitive and nuanced portrayal of a LGBT relationship.

Willow is smart and confident and isn’t even sure of her sexuality when she first meets Tara at college in a Wiccan campus group. As the two begin experimenting with spells, they realize they’re also falling for one another and become the show’s most enduring, happy couple. At least until Tara’s death in season six, a moment that still brings on the feels.

3. Selene/Michael, Underworld series

The Twilight gang pales in comparison (both literally and metaphorically) to the Lycans and Vampires of the stylish Underworld franchise. If you’re looking for an epic vampire/werewolf romance set amidst an epic vampire/werewolf war, Underworld handily delivers in the form of leather catsuited Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and shaggy blonde hunk Michael (a post-Felicity Scott Speedman). As they work together to stop the Vampire/Lycan war, they give into their passions while also kicking butt in skintight leather. Love at first bite indeed.

4. Spider-man/Mary Jane Watson, Spider-man

After rushing to the aid of beautiful girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the Amazing Spider-man is rewarded with an upside-down kiss that is still one of the most romantic moments in comic book movie history. For Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), the shy, lovable dork beneath the mask, his rain-soaked makeout session is the culmination of years of unrequited love and one very powerful spider bite. As the films progress, Peter tries pushing MJ away in an attempt to protect her from his enemies, but their web of love is just too powerful. And you know, with great power, comes great responsibility.

5. Molly/Sam, Ghost

When it comes to supernatural romance, you really can’t beat Molly and Sam from the 1990 hit film Ghost. Demi Moore goes crazy for Swayze like the rest of us, and the pair make pottery sexier than it’s ever been.

When Sam is murdered, he’s forced to communicate through con artist turned real psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg in her Academy Award-winning role) to warn Molly she is still in danger from his co-worker, Carl (a pre-Scandal Tony Goldwyn). Molly doesn’t believe Oda is telling the truth, so Sam proves it by sliding a penny up the wall and then possessing Oda so he and Molly can share one last romantic dance together (but not the dirty kind). We’d pay a penny for a dance with Patrick Swayze ANY day.

6. Cosima/Delphine, Orphan Black

It stands to reason there would be at least one complicated romance on a show about clones, and none more complicated than the one between clone Cosima (Tatiana Maslany) and Dr. Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu) on BBC America’s hit drama Orphan Black.

Cosima is a PhD student focusing on evolutionary developmental biology at the University of Minnesota when she meets Delphine, a research associate from the nefarious Dyad Institute, posing as a fellow immunology student. The two fall in love, but their happiness is brief once Dyad and the other members of Clone Club get involved. Here’s hoping Cosima finds love in season four of Orphan Black. Girlfriend could use a break.

7. Aragorn/Arwen, Lord of the Rings

On a picturesque bridge in Rivendell amidst some stellar mood-lighting and dreamy Elvish language with English subtitles for us non-Middle Earthlings, Arwen (Liv Tyler) and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) bind their souls to one another, pledging to love each other no matter what befalls them.

Their courtship is a matter of contention with Arwen’s father, Elrond (Hugo Weaving), who doesn’t wish to see his daughter suffer over Aragorn’s future death. The two marry after the conclusion of the War of the Ring, with Aragorn assuming his throne as King of Gondor, and Arwen forgoing her immortality to become his Queen. Is it too much to assume they asked Frodo to be their wedding ring-bearer?

8. Lafayette/Jesus, True Blood

True Blood quickly became the go-to show for supernatural sex scenes featuring future Magic Mike strippers (Joe Manganiello) and pale Nordic men with washboard abs (Hi Alexander Skarsgård!), but honestly, there was a little something for everyone, including fan favorite Bon Temps medium, Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis).

In season three, Lafayette met his mother’s nurse, Jesus, and the two began a relationship. As they spend more time together and start doing V (short for Vampire Blood), they learn Jesus is descended from a long line of witches and that Lafayette himself has magical abilities. However, supernatural love is anything but simple, and after the pair join a coven, Lafayette becomes possessed by the dead spirit of its former leader. This relationship certainly puts a whole new spin on possessive love.

9. Nymphadora Tonks/Remus Lupin, Harry Potter series

There are lots of sad characters in the Harry Potter series, but Remus Lupin ranks among the saddest. He was bitten by a werewolf as a child, his best friend was murdered and his other best friend was wrongly imprisoned in Azkaban for it, then THAT best friend was killed by a Death Eater at the Ministry of Magic as Remus looked on. So when Lupin unexpectedly found himself in love with badass Auror and Metamorphmagus Nymphadora Tonks (she prefers to be called by her surname ONLY, thank you very much), pretty much everyone, including Lupin himself, was both elated and cautiously hopeful about their romance and eventual marriage.

Sadly, the pair met a tragic ending when both were killed by Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts, leaving their son, Teddy, orphaned much like his godfather Harry Potter. Accio hankies!

10. The Doctor/Rose Tyler, Doctor Who

Speaking of wolves, Rose “Bad Wolf” Tyler (Billie Piper) captured the Doctor’s hearts from the moment he told her to “Run!” in the very first episode of the re-booted Doctor Who series. Their affection for one another grew steadily deeper during their travels in the TARDIS, whether they were stuck in 1950s London, facing down pure evil in the Satan Pit, or battling Cybermen.

But their relationship took a tragic turn during the season two finale episode, “Doomsday,” when the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose found themselves separated in parallel universes with no way of being reunited (lest two universes collapse as a result of a paradox). A sobbing Rose told a holographic transmission of the Doctor she loved him, but before he could reply, the transmission cut out, leaving our beloved Time Lord (and most of the audience) with a tear-stained face and two broken hearts all alone in the TARDIS.

China doesn’t need your ticket.

China doesn’t need your ticket. (photo)

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On the heels of China’s announcement that it’s planning 50 films to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Chinese Revolution, Newsweek‘s Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop reports on the rapidly changing face of the film industry there from the set of “Bodyguards and Assassins,” a big-budget, star-studded action film about a group of bodyguards hired to protect Sun Yat-sen from assassins in 1905 Hong Kong.

While, as Kolesnikov-Jessop points out, mainland China only has 4,100 movie screens (as compared to 38,834 in the U.S.), its domestic box office has risen from $117 million five years ago to a predicted $800 million this year, thanks to “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” That’s enough to make it so that Chinese filmmakers no longer have to consider the outside world as a major source of revenue; the homeland audience is big enough to support films like the $25 million “Bodyguards and Assassins.”

Used to be, “banned in China” was consider a reliable indicator of worth; major Chinese filmmakers like Zhang Yimou and Jia Zhangke were once announced with the approving note that their work couldn’t be officially shown in their homeland. Now Zhang organizes the Olympics for Beijing and Jia withdraws his movie from festivals whose agendas don’t coincide with China’s. Clearly, the value of working within the system (and therefore getting shown on local screens) has shifted.

Critics wanting to give Zhang and his contemporaries (once rebels) the benefit of the doubt have never really figured out, this last decade, how to parse mandated propaganda from artistic expression. More and more, China seems to be giving notice that it no longer needs those viewers; it’s gotten its major filmmakers to join the pipeline, and a fair amount of the underground stragglers (like Lou Ye’s latest “Spring Fever”) are more notable for rebelliousness than talent.

It’s a remarkable consolidation of widely recognized talent into one monolith. And that an industry can be so self-supporting on such a lavish scale (and expand!) is new; even Bollywood films make an effort to target expatriates in the US and elsewhere. Will China build a capitalistically self-sustaining Bollywood? Will the underground persist or join? Stay tuned.

[Photo: “Bodyguards and Assassins,” We Distribution, 2009]

There & Back: Diablo Cody.

There & Back: Diablo Cody. (photo)

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Unless she changes her schtick, Diablo Cody, last year’s fresh face of screenwriting success, could become next year’s Shane Black or Joe Eszterhas, screenwriters who were briefly brand names until too many of their films tanked. In Cody’s case, the rise/fall cycle’s accelerated by the way she served as the main talking point related to “Juno.” With a stripper backstory and a pin-up girl tattoo, she was a journalist’s dream, shot to fame fast, and just as quickly sparked a backlash and sophomore slump anticipation.

Five months ago, the New York Times was profiling Cody and her posse as the hot young vanguards of female Hollywood. But now Cody’s plowed that power into “Jennifer’s Body,” which has received some rough reviews at Toronto.

“Jennifer’s Body” is a slightly more mainstream replication of the elements of “Juno”‘s formula for success: starlet Megan Fox instead of starlet Ellen Page, horror comedy instead of quirky comedy, Dashboard Confessional on the soundtrack instead of Belle & Sebastian. But Cody’s signature remains her dialogue, which transcends genres and presumably just needs a more commercial facade to really make bank: a hard-to-describe amalgam of purposefully outdated vernacular, incongruous pop culture references and sarcasm all mashing up against itself.

As Steven Zeitchik notes at the Hollywood Reporter‘s “Risky Business” blog, “Body” is replete new Cody quotebombs like “Jesus fries” and “What’s up, Vagisil?” And if you wonder what that means, it appears the cast and crew didn’t know either. It’s actually kind of remarkable that Fox stood up in public and admitted that at times, neither she nor director Karyn Kusama knew what they were filming. Fox: “I’d say to Karyn ‘What does that mean?’ And she’d say, ‘I don’t know, but let’s shoot it anyway.'” Nice.

Being able to get your screenplay filmed absolutely unaltered — even when it’s a patently terrible idea — requires an almost-impossible-to-get amount of clout. When, in all probability, audiences respond underwhelmingly to Fox trying to sound acerbic and funny without necessarily understanding what she’s saying, it’ll be the last time Cody gets that kind of unfettered opportunity. Her signature will be her undoing — now that’s a cautionary whale.

[Photo: “Jennifer’s Body,” Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 2009]

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