Roxane Gay presents Pretty Woman at TIFF followed by a conversation about the romantic comedy genre and how the message of the film holds up 28 years later.
Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, follows Edward, a billionaire hotshot who needs an escort for some deal-making social events, and hires Vivian, a beautiful prostitute he meets on Hollywood Blvd, only to fall in love.
Since it’s release in 1990, the film continues to find a place in the hearts of many, including Roxane Gay, who remains consistent in her love for this legendary rom-com. When asked about how that love has evolved over time, Gay says, “what I appreciated when the movie first came out was the fairy tale. I love fairy tales. What I appreciate more is the craft now. It’s actually a really well made movie despite the problematic nature of how it deals with sex work and how it deals with gender and the fact that black people are only in service roles. Other than all of that, it’s a really tight screenplay.”
In the current cultural climate, representation of both race and gender, are both very important issues. And though it’s been said before, it is important to continue talking about these issues. Gay has been covering the topics for years in her literary works such as Bad Feminist (2014), Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (2017) and Difficult Women (2017). She has become the voice of feminists everywhere, an inspiration and a leader, helping to move the conversation forward.
So how does a feminist icon rationalize her love for romantic comedies, which are typically portrayed as girlie fluff? The answer is two-fold. For one, we need to stop being ashamed of our love for the romantic-comedy genre. The problem in Gay’s opinion, is that things that women like are often treated as frivolous. “Ultimately it comes down to misogyny as usual. Because women are the primary consumers of romantic comedies and so anything that women are interested in is terrible. Romantic comedies rely on normal life and love and living and of course they have these idealized versions of life and love, but they’re still interesting.”
Secondly, Gay explains that she is, “able to love things despite their bad issues and in the spectrum of problematic pop culture, this is actually not that bad.” Immediately after saying this Gay chuckles, endearing the entire audience to her even more, as she realizes she quoted the title of a collection of essays she edited, Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (2018). And she’s right, Pretty Woman is not that bad. In fact, it’s great in the way it continually emphasizes active consent through Vivian’s repeated words, “I say who, I say when, I say how much.” The root of which says that Vivian’s body is hers to control. A message that applies to all women (and men for that matter) and that is just as important today, as it was 28 years ago.
Gay outlines that rom-coms do have a formula: boy meets girl, boy or girl falls in love, there’s an obstacle, and then a happily ever after. And that that formula is tried and true. She also expresses the lack of need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to the genre, because attempts to do so are often done badly. Instead of changing the genre, she wants to see more character development for the male leads. Often times the female lead has to be so many things, as is the case in Pretty Woman, where Julia Roberts’ character has to be charming, sexy, interesting and elegant. This is in stark contrast to Richard Gere’s character who simply has to show up in a suit. “Like, what does he do with his free time? What does he look like in jeans? I think that we’re supposed to think that she should just be grateful that this man is going to treat her with a modicum of decency. No. Let’s have some personality, some texture,” pleads Gay.
If you have trouble with the endless options on Netflix, then look no further. Here are Roxane Gay’s top five romantic comedies, outside of Pretty Woman, along with the reasons that she loves them:
- Imagine Me & You (2005), because it’s so sweet and tender.
- No Strings Attached (2011), because she loves when people say “I’m not going to have in love” and then they fall in love.
- Love Jones (1997), because it’s sexy.
- You’ve Got Mail (1998), because it was like a cultural critique of Barnes and Noble.
- Something’s Gotta Give (2003), because it shows that you can be older and have just as messy a love life as someone forty years younger.
Or perhaps you’d like to revisit Pretty Woman. You won’t be sorry you did. If not for the fairy tale romance, then for the wonderfully 80s soundtrack. Here Gay talks about why she still loves the movie today:
Pretty Woman is my favorite movie and has been since I first saw it, in the theatre, in 1990. Back then, I thought Pretty Woman was so romantic. What’s not to love about a down-on-her-luck, charming sex worker meeting a handsome billionaire and the two of them having a whirlwind romance, falling in love, and rescuing each other, as Vivian (Julia Roberts) suggests at the end of the movie? I am older now. I am a feminist. I recognize the problematic nature of Pretty Woman‘s story. I recognize the fallacy of fairy tales, and still, I believe in them. Still, I love romantic comedies and how they make it seem that life and love are not nearly as complicated as we make them out to be. I love all the moments in Pretty Woman that make my heart swell: when Edward (Richard Gere) takes Vivian shopping to ensure she receives better treatment than she did when she went shopping on her own; the warm relationship Vivian develops with hotel manager Barney; how she handles the snobby women at the polo match; and Kit (Laura San Giacomo) and Vivian’s realness as they navigate life on the margins. But most of all, there is the romance, the sex on the piano, the night at the opera, the wild implausibility of this love story — and how willing the movie makes us to believe in that story anyhow. —Roxane Gay
Gay currently has multiple projects in the works including a book of writing advice, an essay collection, and a YA novel entitled The Year I Learned Everything. She would also like to write a romantic-comedy of her own and has her eyes on a dream cast that includes Bad Times at the El Royale’s Cynthia Erivo and Creed II’s Florian Munteanu.
‘It must Schwing! The Blue Note Story’ Review: A tale of love, loyalty, and the pursuit of Jazz
Does the fate of Black man’s music career still lie in the hands of the Jewish? While dozens augment the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews controlling the music industry amid lacking respect for its culture, a new documentary debunks the exploitative and capitalistic rhetoric.
‘It must Schwing! The Blue Note’ story unpacks the journey of two German friends with one common goal –– introduce the world to the sound of Black Jazz. The film was directed by Eric Friedler and executive produced by Wim Wenders.
Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff fled from Berlin before the Nazi reign and emigrated to New York. They founded the legendary Blue Note Records label in 1939, which later became one of the most respected recording company’s for contemporary jazz in the country, and they had one hell of a roster to back up the notoriety.
The documentary captured the stories of some of the most influential Jazz musicians and their ties to Blue Note, which felt more like a family reunion. From Herbie Handcock to Quincy Jones to George Benson, the cameos played a key role in reviving the glory days –– well, kind of.
Friedler and Wenders narrated the story with subtle, Jazz cadences over classic, white and black animation resemblant of a French cartoon. The approach presented a buoyant element while exploring the dark history of discrimination, race relations, and inhumanity.
Lion and Wolff were no stranger to racism which caused them both to sympathize with the struggles of the Black musicians signed to their label. They didn’t see color –– all that mattered was the music and how alive it made them feel. Their love for Jazz guided them to take risks on a genre not yet explored.
Wolff frequently took blows to the head every time he ventured into the streets of Harlem to purchase the vibrant notes of Black, Jazz artists. He even chose his love for the genre over his marriage with his first wife, which showed the correlation between the beauty and suffering of Jazz.
His dedication to the art was both disturbing and inspiring. Now, Lion, on the other hand, brought in the same passion but quietly through his camera lens –– photographing candids of the artists is what made the label stand out.
Lion was like a silent assassin –– he didn’t say much but they knew he liked the music by his uncontrollable foot taps, even if he was offbeat the artists noted. His photographs became the artwork for their artist’s iconic album covers. The art was a reflection of the time. Before the spoiled era of Adobe software, there was Reid Miles, who was Blue Note’s graphic designer.
Miles progressive design skills along Lions standout still frames amplified the label’s message. Blue Note was ahead of its time, but, yet still light years behind in terms of revenue. While Lions and Wolff were never in it for the money, their pursuit to give their Black artists a voice wasn’t paying their bills.
Wolff eventually sold Blue Note to Liberty Records in 1965, which was the first time they saw any kind of real income, although it still wasn’t much to brag about.
So what happened to the artists post-acquisition? It left a bit of a cliff hanger for the audience as the documentary concluded. I can only assume there is more to the story, which I give it four stars.
It is worth seeing? Definitely, but be prepared to leave the theater wishing they dug deeper into Blue Note’s overall biography.
‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ returns to theaters for 35th anniversary
“A Nightmare on Elm Street” will exclusively return to Regal theatres Tuesday, Feb. 12, for a special 35th anniversary screening. Since his theatre debut in 1984, slasher villain Freddy Kreugerhas become one of the most recognizable faces in horror history. Movie fans can experience his return to the big screen for only $5, exclusively at Regal. Additionally, Regal Crown Club members can also enjoy a $5 soft drink and popcorn combo per ticket purchased.
“We are thrilled to welcome fans to Regal for the 35th anniversary of this classic horror film,” said Ken Thewes, CMO at Regal. “Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep when watching Freddy return to the big screen! And through our industry-leading Regal Crown Club, members can bring the nightmare to life with exclusive rewards and an incredible concessions deal.”
Regal will feature A Nightmare on Elm Street screenings at participating locations only on Feb. 12. For more information or to purchase $5 tickets, please download the Regal mobile app or visit www.regmovies.com.
Source: PR Newswire
New Amsterdam tops off SCAD aTVFest with humor and sage advice
The male members of the hit NBC hospital drama New Amsterdam were in rare form at the finale SCAD’s aTVFest along with the show’s creator David Schulner who penned the show two years ago during America’s downward spiral of healthcare reform.
Supporting cast members Anupam Kher and Jocko Sims (Jarhead) discussed how they were moved by a recent visit to Grady Hospital here in downtown Atlanta. They even invited Grady staff who were pointed out in the audience to a well-deserved round of applause. Unfortunately, the female co-stars weren’t available for the appearance but their precence was definitely felt in the room at the latest episode preview.
aTVFest honored the crew with Best Cast which marked as Jocko Sims acting first award. The whole evening felt like a close knit family gathering due to their undeniable chemistry.
For example, Ryan Eggold who serves as the show frontrunner was the only member of the ensemble who lived in New York while the rest of the cast had to relocate. They teased about going out to dinner and other events without him. Ryan was the only original cast member and was the first to see the script inspired by the book 12 Patients: Life and Death at Bellvue Hospital written by Eric Manheimer. All of the cast expressed gratitude for being able to bring the stories of the underserved to life.
When giving advice to those not yet in the industry, they pointed out David Schulner as a reference of how a solid script attracts great talent. “Everything starts with the script.” And that if you “Write something great the people will come, he said.”
It doesn’t hurt that the show’s casting director is his wife Liz Dean. The talent professed of being in awe of each other and it was easy to see why.
In the Q&A portion when filmmakers were told by Anumpam Kher to make sure to listen to their actors, that skill is the most important. There was also a lively debate about social media which cast member Tyler Labine who plays psychiatrist Dr. Iggy Frome, recently abandoned so he can have more time for his wife and three kids. The cast playfully asked him if he deleted it entirely to which he admitted he did not. When asked about working with actors, Jocko cited the book Friendly Enemies: The Director-Actor Relationship by Delia Salvey as a must read.
The highlight of the Q&A was when a SCAD film student stated that she wanted Anumpam to be in her film and he told her he would. Anumpam has an acting school in India and came to the United States to jump into another world, the Hollywood of the United States a far cry from Bollywood where he’s quite famous. Jocko is delighted to finally play a doctor after 16 years in the game, since he actually at one point considered going to medical school, even putting the symbol for medicine on his high school class ring.
The whole evening was delightful to witness and very educational for those in attendance. Make sure to tune in for the next episode of NBC’s New Amsterdam, Feb. 12 at 10 pm/et.
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