CB Podcast Ep. 75 – “Wonder Woman” Review

This week, the bros bring you updates on their New Year’s Resolutions and review the highly-anticipated “Wonder Woman” from director Patty Jenkins.
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  • Hosts: Josiah Wampfler, Sam Wampfler & Jake Wampfler
  • Produced by Josiah Wampfler
  • A Cinema Bros Network Podcast
  • Theme Music by Josiah Wampfler. Film clips used under fair use. All rights belong to their respective copyright holders
  • Music clips used under fair use. All rights belong to their respective copyright holders.
  • Visit our website for show notes as well as articles covering film, television, video games, music & more!
  • Email us at cinemabrospod@gmail.com

“The Edge of Seventeen” – The Hilarious Yet Emotional Adventures of A High School Girl Told By Someone Who Actually Was One

By Josiah Wampfler

The high school comedy has become sort of a genre unto itself. You have classic films such as Ferris Bueller’s Day OffThe Breakfast Club and Heathers. Then you have more contemporary films like SuperbadMean Girls and Easy A. All of these comedies chronicle the adventures of high school teens, but they also have another similarity: They are all directed by men. In fact, if you do a quick Google search for “high school comedies,” of all the films you will see at the top of the page, only two are directed by women: Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless. Which is not to say that the rest of the films in the “genre” are inherently bad for being directed by a man or that they treat their female characters poorly (though some definitely do). Several, including Easy AMean Girls, and Dazed and Confused actually have really good female characters. But, the newest edition to the genre, The Edge of Seventeen, presents the case for why it is so important to have more women writing and directing these films about some of the most formative years of girls’ lives.

The Edge of Seventeen is the directorial debut of Kelly Fremon Craig who, knowing her film would be compared to the films of John Hughes, told Indiewire she certainly didn’t set off to make a John Hughes film. She said, “It was only just a thing in the back of my head, that those films did mean something to me, and still do. I hope this film can live on the shelf with films like those.”

And, by my estimation, Craig succeeds in spades. The Edge of Seventeen is the perfect mix of hilarious comedy and genuinely touching drama that can easily stand alongside the films of John Hughes and other great films in the genre. The characters are fantastically complex human beings backed up by truly wonderful performances and a solid script. It is a film that truly sent me on an emotional roller-coaster. And one that I hope to embark on once again very soon.

The film centers around Nadine, played by the incredibly talented Hailee Steinfeld, who, at 17, is not only dealing with the normal struggles of adolescence, but also with the death of her father three years prior. Her family life is strained as her mother (Kyra Sedgwick) is emotionally unavailable and clearly favors her brother (Blake Jenner), who seems frustratingly perfect. Add to that an event toward the beginning of the film that throws her only real friendship into question and you have one troubled young woman.

Yet many of Nadine’s problems do appear to stem from her own actions or are further exacerbated by them. She is the weird outcast with strange fashion sense that probably projects too much confidence for her own good and she talks A LOT. And she just makes some extremely poor decisions throughout the film as she trusts the wrong people, lets jealousy take hold of her and lashes out at others. But Nadine never becomes annoying or hard to root for because it is all of these very apparent flaws that make her so human. And Steinfeld’s performance is also remarkably great.

Throughout the film, Steinfeld has what I refer to as Wilder eyes, which is taken from the late Gene Wilder and the incredible sadness he could put behind his eyes throughout many of his roles. For Wilder, it was what drove much of the drama in his performances, keying the audience into some latent emotional trauma within, but he also used it to drive the comedy as well. So too does Steinfeld use her eyes in The Edge of Seventeen to drive home both the drama and the comedy. With Nadine, the eyes are what connect us to her character. Behind them we see a genuine human being who is trying to do the right thing, despite the numerous mistakes she makes. It is a classic case of a good person doing the wrong things as the audience can only watch and root for them to course correct.

The film is also bolstered by an excellent ensemble cast as well, not least of which is Woody Harrelson as Nadine’s teacher, Mr. Bruner. Much of the film’s comedy comes from this relationship as Mr. Bruner is a foil to Nadine’s excessive talkativeness with both his slow manner of speaking and his sarcasm. Yet, again, the drama creeps in as we see the sarcasm and aloofness of the character peel back ever so slightly to reveal a man who truly does care. And I would be remiss if I did not mention relative newcomer Hayden Szeto who plays a love interest of sorts. His awkward, shyness is hilarious, yet, as with all the other characters, his humanity still finds its way through the comedy.

Kelly Fremon Craig, through her stellar script, sure-handed direction and perfect casting has truly delivered one of the best additions to the high school comedy genre. She has said that she did extensive research into the subject matter, talking to many teenagers about their experiences in high school, and it shows. The Edge of Seventeen is an extremely truthful and powerful portrayal of what it is to be a teenager. It deals with themes that we all have some experience with: death, growing older, responsibility, jealousy, the difficulties and joys of many types of relationships, depression and much more. And it does all of this while also being an extremely funny movie. That is quite an achievement in my book.



Female Directors Spotlight – “Beyond the Lights”

By Josiah Wampfler

Celebrity. Fame. When most of us hear these words we think about lavish houses, expensive cars, adoring fans: the great things about stardom. What we don’t think about is the swarm of paparazzi, the tabloids that spread rumors and lies, and the vicious attacks on social media and in person. And for women, there are even more negative side effects to fame. From the vitriolic sexism on the internet to the more subtle ways the world puts pressure on women to look and act “lady-like,” women in the public eye face a constant minefield.

Fame has its benefits, but it obviously is not all it is cracked up to be. Our society seems to fetishize and fantasize the downfall of our biggest stars. We love to see someone knocked off their pedestal. And like the screaming masses in Caesar’s Colosseum, cheering for the lions to tear the gladiators apart, sometimes we get what we want.

Beyond the Lights is a film about the things celebrities face each and every day. It follows a superstar singer, Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who is overwhelmed by her life and attempts suicide one night. As she goes over the edge of the balcony though, Officer Kaz (Nate Parker) is there to save her. A relationship between the two blossoms as Noni starts a journey to find who she really is and what she wants out of life.

Directed and written by Gina Prince-Blythewood, Beyond the Lights is a wonderful film about the importance of staying true to yourself and the dangers of fame. Prince-Blythewood takes a fairly simple story and elevates it beyond just another love story. She manages to infuse the complexity of life into the film with fully fleshed-out characters and well-written dialogue.

And all of this is supported by a wonderful cast. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a revelation as an actress and singer in the film. She breaths life into the character of Noni and brings a character full of complexity. She can be sexy and strong but also completely vulnerable and there are several emotional scenes that really impressed me. Plus, her chemistry with her co-star, Nate Parker (who is equally as wonderful), is palpable.

Minnie Driver and Danny Glover deliver great performances as well, with Driver playing Noni’s mother and Glover playing Kaz’s father. Driver is especially excellent as the overbearing mother/manager, bringing an extremely intense character to the screen. And there are some great emotional moments between her and Mbatha-Raw that simply wowed me.

Beyond the Lights is not a perfect film and there are moments here and there that feel a bit cheesy, but overall I thought it was an emotionally impacting film. While Noni certainly lives a life most of us will never know, Prince-Blythewood manages to make her completely relatable. Her pain and her struggles feel genuine and through this we start to see how dehumanizing fame can be for a person. But, we also start to see Noni’s true self emerge. Thankfully, unlike so many other celebrities who faced the dehumanizing power of fame, Noni is able to escape the tragic fate the tabloids thirst for and become the artist she always wanted to be.

It’s 2016, So Where are All the Female Directors?

By Josiah Wampfler

In 1896, Alice Guy-Blache became the first female film director with the release of La Fee aux Choux. A pioneer of French cinema, she directed all the films released by the Gaumont Film Company until 1905 and is credited as one of the first filmmakers to produce narrative films. Her filmography includes over 1,000 films and she was the first woman to manage and own her own film studio.

One would think that if the industry had been inclusive as early as 1896, that today we would have a bevy of films directed, produced and written by women. One would expect that the number of women in behind-the-scenes roles in the industry would be at least about level with the number of men. Unfortunately, one would be very, very wrong.

Despite Blache’s accomplishments, she is rarely mentioned among the pioneers of cinema and I had personally never heard of her before writing this article. Like so many women from the early days of cinema, she has been lost to time while her male counterparts are celebrated.

Today, the representation of women in Hollywood is in some ways worse than at the beginning. The Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film recently released its 2015 Celluloid Ceiling Report that details the amount of women working in major behind-the-scenes roles in the industry. The report found that only 12 percent of the top 500 films in 2015 were directed by a woman. Of the top 250 films, only 9 percent had a female director and of the top 100 films, only 7 percent had a female director.

Last year was marginally better than 2014 when 7 percent of the top 250 films were directed by women, but that is clearly not enough. In fact, the 9 percent we saw in 2015 was the same number of female directors the industry had in 1998. In 18 years, the industry has not improved at all.

And it is not just female directors that are lacking. The report also found that of the top 250 films of 2015, only 15 percent of writers, 26 percent of producers, 21 percent of editors and 10 percent of cinematographers were female. All together, 81 percent of the behind-the-scenes roles on the top 250 films of 2015 were filled by men. Another number that is the same as it was in 1998.

It is painfully obvious that the industry has a problem. In the United States, 51 percent of the population is female, so why is one of our most influential industries dominated by male voices? Some may think that there just aren’t enough women pursuing a career in filmmaking, but that is simply not true.

Last year, MTV News reported that nearly half the student populations at USC and NYU – two major film schools – were women. The problem isn’t that women aren’t pursuing careers in film, it is that they aren’t getting jobs once they get out of school; a stark contrast from their male counterparts. After all, we live in a time where filmmakers like Colin Trevorrow make one independent film and are then handed the keys to the Jurassic Park franchise.

Huge changes need to be made in the film industry. It should not be more difficult to become a filmmaker just because you are a woman. That is completely ludicrous. But, unfortunately I cannot make these changes and they won’t come overnight. Pressure needs to be continually put on Hollywood to change its act. They need to see that people are fed up with sexism in the industry and they want change.

That is one of the reasons I am starting a series on our site called the “Female Directors Spotlight.” Every month, I will highlight one or two films directed by women that I think you should check out. The films will range from small independent films to large studio films. You may not even have known that some of these films were directed by women. I will be highlighting as many great films as possible and my hope is that more people will start to recognize the talent of these directors. This series will not end the horrible sexism in the film industry, but I hope that this article and the series will help to continue the much-needed discussion about the lack of gender diversity in the industry.