Compared to the rest of the world, American television is infamous for its glossiness. Whereas British soaps and Italian reality TV shows tend to feature girls-next-door and regular Joes (Giuseppes?), US shows are chock-full of toned abs, low-cut tops, gleaming white teeth and other trademarks of the young and fit.
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One of the most talked-about films of this past year is undoubtedly Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” (2023). The public consensus on the film’s politics is divided: In one camp, many praise it for portraying their experiences and highlighting feminist principles; in another, they complain of its attacks on patriarchy and toxic masculinity.
I’ve said before that film production is about collaboration. If you can’t work with others, inspire them and bond with them, film is not the career for you.
As an American abroad, you hear a lot of stereotypes: Americans are loud, narcissistic, obsessed with guns and can’t even point out another country on a map. There’s a whole host of often unflattering adjectives that come with the territory of “American.”
When people say study abroad, they envision art museums, brunch in quaint cafes and tall men with French accents. But studying in a foreign country has highs and lows like any other experience, and it isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
Have you ever sat through the credits after a movie and watched thousands of names roll across the screen? I used to think there couldn’t be that many people in the country, let alone on a set. There are millions of titles I don’t even know the meaning of — key grip, best boy, script supervisor — all coming together to make one 90-minute feature.
Although I decided to study film in Prague for a semester, I’ve always been nervous abroad — a byproduct of my woefully American fashion sense and drawl. Despite possessing an English mother, I’ve found my accent does me no favors in Europe; my brother and I joke that as soon as we dare to speak within London, the surrounding passersby’s estimation of our IQ drops by 30 points. At times, it’s difficult to not feel judged.
The “Scream” franchise has always been self-reflective. Since “Scream” (1996), the movies have reflected, subverted and, at times, invoked various horror tropes. Throughout the initial installment and four sequels later, it has been praised for its clever — and at times feminist — genre commentary. But the newest flick, “Scream” (2022), the first in the installment not directed by Wes Craven, has perhaps taken the schtick one film too far.
People have long stopped discussing Tom Hooper’s infamous “Cats” (2019), which features flat jokes, horrifying visuals and an Idris Elba cat that somehow manages to be so much more naked than any of the other cats. And I’m here to do the thing nobody asked for: bring it back.
Every time I watch another superhero blockbuster, I can’t help but imagine the producers sitting around a table, breathing down the screenwriters’ necks as they decide which social issues to water down, aestheticize and shoehorn in. Will it be something contemporary, like the pandemic? A timeless classic, like misogyny? Or a safe choice, like wealth inequality?
I will admit I love Hulu’s “The Dropout” (2022), a highly-anticipated miniseries on Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. It’s beautifully written, beautifully shot and beautifully acted. Even teachers at my high school, Holmes’ alma mater, have commented on how well the miniseries captured Holmes’ eccentric character. But the show occasionally falls into the pothole of becoming what it means to analyze: America’s obsession with narrative smoke and mirrors.
I’m growing weary of the current Hollywood craze for substandard movies that play up righteous messages to overshadow their flaws. Call it callous, but it’s difficult to subdue my cynicism towards films pushing truisms like ‘obviously bad thing … is bad,’ especially when creators then weaponize the message, accusing their movie’s critics of stupidity or of opposing its banal, virtuous axiom.
It’s no secret that there isn’t love lost between America and China. While currently civil, the two are competitors in every aspect. But what happens when art is employed to further hostility?
Every teen drama criticized for graphic portrayals of sex is met with arguments that many teenagers do have sex lives, and that these shows’ portrayals are realistic and refreshing. Although many high schoolers are indeed sexually active, the casting of adult actors by shows like "Euphoria" (2019–) and "Riverdale" (2017–) can quickly become distasteful. While I don’t believe in pearl-clutching over teenage sexuality nor in not portraying it at all, I am disturbed by Hollywood’s tendency to cast adult actors to play minors. The fine line between a realistic portrayal of teenagers and oversexualization is found in how teenage sex is portrayed, and the current, popular teen drama "Euphoria" fails on many counts.
I have always loved that moment when the lights go down in a movie theater. Whether you’re watching a summer blockbuster with friends, laughing and sharing popcorn or absorbing the newest avant-garde French feature straight from Cannes, moviegoing transports you into another place, another life, another mind. I’ve spent my life captivated by the art, from begging my grandma to let me watch Tim Burton’s vampire flick at nine years old to memorizing the "Teen Beach Movie" (2013) soundtrack as a tween to watching "Parasite" (2019) every day for a week straight during quarantine. I am a political science major because of Armando Iannucci, and I don’t know how much of my personality developed naturally and how much I stole from "Megamind" (2010). The art of film and television is beautiful, fascinating and complex, and every time I watch a new favorite movie, it feels like the director is peeling back the layers of my heart.