In what’s maybe the most gratifyingly funny interlude in Patty Jenkins’ new film, the Amazon — real name Diana (Gal Gadot) — tries on a series of 1910s-London-appropriate outfits at the behest of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, really as charming as he’s ever been), an American spy working for British intelligence who’s attempting to get his new colleague to do some blending in.
Diana submits herself to the doomed exercise with anthropological curiosity, hoisting up ruffled skirts to see how they perform during kicks, dismissing a high collar as itchy and confining, and finally emerging in an outfit that was clearly intended to come off as prim, but instead looks fabulously bluestocking chic. Steve retaliates by reaching for the go-to accessory of all superheroes in preposterous normcore disguise — glasses. “Really? Specs?” his beleaguered secretary Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) groans. “And suddenly she’s not the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen?”
Diana is a battle-trained, semi-divine, and, yes, statuesquely lovely princess from a mystical island inhabited only by female warriors. There is no hiding her light under a barrel in Wonder Woman, an endearingly earnest film whose biggest surprises come from how much it diverges in tone and style from the earlier superhero installments with which it shares a fictional world.
In playing catch-up with Marvel’s inescapable franchise of linked movies, DC made the pragmatic choice to skip right from Man of Steel to the big stuff, to supergroup movies Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad — cynical, aggressively dark productions plagued with confounding motivations, odd tonal choices, and too many characters to service. It was in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that Gadot’s Wonder Woman was introduced, in a set of appearances that included a scene in which she sits at a laptop and effectively watches teasers for future DC Extended Universe installments.
Elegantly done it was not, though Diana and her niftily cello-forward musical theme made an impression in even squandered screen time, there amidst the brooding men and their memories of their mothers. She seemed to enjoy herself, something neither the recent, world-weary conceptions of Batman or Superman could say.
What’s striking about her turn in the spotlight in Wonder Woman, beyond its milestone status as a female-centric studio superhero feature directed by a woman, is the movie’s sense of elated lightness. Aside from the clunky framing device featuring a present-day Diana working at the Louvre, Wonder Woman is freed up to tell a straightforward origin story that takes its title character from a childhood on the Amazon island of Themyscira into the tail end of World War I.
It’s a saga, written by Allan Heinberg, with a decent sense of humor, which any story prominently featuring Zeus and a Lasso of Truth demand. Wonder Woman is as outlandish as she is awe-inspiring, and everyone she comes into contact with from the outside world regards her with the appropriate mixture of admiration and disbelief.
That includes Steve, the first man she’s ever met and her eventual romantic interest, who brings that outside world right onto Themyscira’s unspoiled beaches when his plane plummets into the waters nearby, with German forces in pursuit. A fight between the interlopers and the Amazons, led by General Antiope (a brawny, braid-sporting Robin Wright), provides evidence of the women’s leaping, archery-enhanced prowess as well as the ugly power of guns.
It’s enough to spur Diana to act against the wishes of her mother, Queen Hippolyta’s (Connie Nielsen), and leave the island with Steve to fulfill what she believes is her duty and destiny: to kill Ares, the Greek god of war. Ares, she’s convinced, is the cause of the all-consuming conflict Steve’s described to her — World War I. She believes the only reason “the war to end all wars” could be happening is due to Ares’ influence, and that once she defeats him, the violence will be over.
DC’s Wonder Woman, like Marvel’s Captain America, was a character originally conceived during World War II, both of them brawling with Nazis and sporting outfits that evoked the American flag. Wonder Woman’s shift to the first World War feels like an attempt to create some distance from the unavoidable Captain America: The First Avenger comparisons evoked by the plunking of another superhero into period battle, finding comic book–worthy foes hiding amidst the historical ones.
Like Captain America, Diana is an idealist who’s strong in her convictions but also inexperienced, driven by an untested certainty that she knows what’s right. For someone who’s just stepping off the isolated island on which she grew up for the first time, she’s recklessly sure she knows what’s best for everyone else, that all it will take is the destruction of the right bad guy — whether it’s the German Gen. Ludendorff (Danny Huston), his poison gas-manufacturing chemist Doctor Maru (Elena Anaya), or someone else.
War has yet to be eradicated from either the movieverse or the real one, so it’s not news that the situation ends up being more complicated than she assumed. Which comes as a shock to no one but Diana herself, after she finagles a way out to the front with Steve and his trustiest mercenary friends — the silver-tongued Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), the Scottish sharpshooter Charlie (Ewen Bremner), and the Native American smuggler Chief (Eugene Brave Rock). They’re a seen-it-all crew who, of course, reveal their hearts of gold right when Diana’s confidence is shaken and, along with it, her conception of mankind as fundamentally good unless tainted by forces of evil.
Diana, with her fantastical Hellenic backstory, has less explicitly patriotic roots than the military-created Captain America, but in Wonder Woman she serves as an affecting riff on American ideology anyway: She’s a well-intended but naive interventionist, an outsider crashing into a political quagmire she doesn’t really understand but is certain she can fix anyway, sure the solution is as simple as the correct baddie getting killed off.
That’s why, perhaps, her first appearance on the battlefield is so moving (while her climactic conflict is bigger but comparatively underwhelming): Stepping out onto no-man’s-land in full regalia and facing down enemy machine guns in order to free an occupied village, she could be a fantasy of the US as we’d like to imagine ourselves — larger than life, always able to ascertain the truth, and driven by a desire to help that is pure and conveniently unambiguous (no endless counterinsurgency campaigns for her!).
It’s the kind of sequence that can give you goosebumps and provoke a few tears — Wonder Woman emerging from the trenches to save the day. She has the staunchness of someone who sees the world in neat black and white…until she’s forced to consider whether she still feels invested in a humanity capable of doing harm without the influence of a god. Naturally, that god does eventually turn up, because a movie like this needs closure, even if the lesson its heroine learns is that there’s no such thing.
Who knows how Diana will handle it when the Nazis — in whose shadow she was created — come along, or what she does during the murky global conflicts that follow World War II. Fortunately for her, for now, the DCEU is intent on skipping forward to the present day to Justice League, and then Aquaman, and on and on to the less defined future, presuming the world doesn’t end. Because of Wonder Woman, the film and the character, that grand corporate plan doesn’t seem quite as hubristic; she doesn’t feel like another bewilderingly warped, barely recognizable take on an iconic character. She feels like a genuine superhero, intent on protecting those in need — you can tell, even when she’s wearing glasses.
“If you’re feeling the weight of expectation—whether it be from your parents, your school, your teachers, or even yourself—please remember you’re worth more than a mark, and there’s a big future ahead waiting for you,” Langford wrote.
“Good luck, and take care of yourselves — you got this!”
When Fox first announced the limited-run series Shots Fired, Barack Obama was president, Loretta Lynch was in charge of the Department of Justice, and the tragic deaths of black people in the US, like Alton Sterling and Terence Crutcher, at the hands of cops put police and prison reform at the forefront of national conversation. Fast-forward seven months, one Trump inauguration, and 10 episodes later, when Shots Fired, which explored the relationship between law enforcement and civilians, came to a striking conclusion in a very different environment. From March through May, it seemed like the longest and most nuanced discussion about discrimination against black people was happening on the series.
While there are subjects Shots Fired only touched on, like Twitter’s role in social justice, husband-and-wife producing team Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood captured many subtleties in their exploration of community organization. In its story of two DOJ employees investigating the shootings of two unarmed teenagers (one white, one black), Shots Fired addressed both the way the black community tends to feel — no matter how they organize, it’ll be an issue for conservative America — and how criticisms of black people protesting often steer close to respectability politics.
Throughout its run, Shots Fired showed step by step how tension within the fictional Gate Station, North Carolina, bubbled up until riots erupted in the “The Fire This Time” episode, directed by the late Jonathan Demme. Rock Bythewood told BuzzFeed News the riot was a moment earned after the first half of the series provided “insight into the frustration that a community can feel leading to that.” He added that he and Prince-Bythewood were “inspired by the Dr. King quote, ‘A riot is a language of the unheard,’” a concept they embraced throughout the series.
Another moment that toed the line of those respectability politics was when Shameeka Campbell (DeWanda Wise), the mother of one of the slain teenagers the show focused on, scolded her fellow protesters for suggesting another riot after a court decision did not go in her favor. The moment didn’t suggest Shameeka was diminishing the crowd’s anger, but rather focused on her awakening as an activist, Rock Bythewood noted. To create the character of Shameeka, the couple visited and had conversations with Wanda Johnson, the mother of Oscar Grant III, who was killed by police on a BART Station platform after a cop mistakenly grabbed his gun instead of his taser. Shameeka represented all the mothers of slain unarmed black civilians who were “thrust into the limelight and had to transition from being mothers to activists,” Rock Bythewood said.
The Bythewoods also took inspiration from a real-life case in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the sheriff’s department had a program through which wealthy donors were given police-issued guns and tasers, and the chance to police black neighborhoods, until one of the participants, referred to as “reserve deputies,” killed an unarmed man — and the sheriff’s department staged a massive coverup. Rock Bythewood said that while the investigation brought the sheriff down, “clearly there were a lot of people within the police department that knew about it and covered it up.”
One of the biggest rewards for Rock Bythewood in making Shots Fired was the way it resonated with people in that Tulsa community. “There’s a former DOJ official who is working to use Shots Fired as learning tool for police officers, and we love that,” Rock Bythewood said. “It’s something that we never saw coming, but that would be very gratifying.”
Prince-Bythewood said she and Rock Bythewood were not interested in creating a television series; it wasn’t even on their radar. But with the recent popularity of limited series like Top of the Lake and True Detective, the Bythewoods realized TV would give them the space to tell the stories they had been developing in a more fruitful way. “The fact that we had this opportunity to tell a story like this about the subject matter the way we wanted to tell it. … It’s just been a really incredible experience,” Prince-Bythewood said. Rock Bythewood used to think that there were things film could do that television just couldn’t. “But in this limited series, it’s actually flipped,” he said. “What we’re able to do in this limited series is something we couldn’t do in film.” The plan was to look at Shots Fired as “as a 10-hour film, a 10-hour series,” Prince-Bythewood said. “That dictated the way we wrote it and the way we cast it, the directors that we brought in.”
The Bythewoods needed the extra hours to dissect the complicated issues Shots Fired ultimately tackles. By the finale — which aired on May 24 and cut between the court decisions for the indictments of the teen boys’ killers and flashbacks of what actually happened those nights — they had successfully “dug deep into all the characters and gave them all great arcs, gave every character a beginning, middle, and end,” Rock Bythewood said.
Even though Shots Fired is over, Rock Bythewood said the bigger fight is not. The Department of Justice under Lynch, he said, knew to “not just speak with officers, but to speak with members of the community, speak with activists that are really concerned with policing in communities of color,” and to start “looking at various police departments and their patterns of practice.” But, Rock Bythewood added, “it is very important for people to be mindful of the fact that Jeff Sessions is pulling back on that.”
Anderson stars as the New God Media in the show, which is based on Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel. Media assumes whatever form will deliver her message most effectively and is often personified by iconic celebrities. During Episode 2, she took on the form of Lucille Ball.
“I pitched them that I wanted to do Romeo and Juliet. I wanted Jane to be stuck on Earth and Thor to be stuck where he is. And Thor to be forbidden to come and save Jane because Earth doesn’t matter. And then by coming to save her … they end up discovering that Malekith is hiding the dark energy inside of Earth because he knows that Odin doesn’t care about Earth, and so he’s using Odin’s disinterest in Earth to trick him,” she said.
“And so it was like, I wanted it to be a grand [movie] based on Romeo and Juliet … a war between the gods and the earthlings, and Thor saves the day and ends up saving Earth.”
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Marvel for comment.
Brad Pitt is a military man in his new movie War Machine. The actor, who also produced the new Netflix film, plays Gen. Glenn McMahon, a headstrong leader with a lot of bravado and a bevy of die-hard loyalists. The character — who is based on the real-life Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal — is called into the war in Afghanistan, which by then had been raging for eight years. Tasked to “assess” the ongoing conflict, McMahon soon promises to do what no one else could do in that country: win the war.
The movie, set in 2009, plays out after the White House gives Gen. McMahon more than 30,000 US and NATO troops, a number he claims can end the war. Skepticism abounds, and the surge only ends up serving to highlight the hubris fueling the war.
War Machine is proving to be prescient.
Post-surge in real life, Taliban emerged stronger, ISIS moved into Afghanistan, and the Afghan troops have struggled to secure their country. Now, the US is again considering sending more troops to Afghanistan. This time, the US military has concluded that roughly 5,000 more troops can end what the current top commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Nicholson, called a “stalemate.” The Trump administration is expected to formally announce its strategy shortly after today’s NATO meeting in Brussels.
War Machine, which is out in select theaters and on Netflix tomorrow (May 26), is based on “The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan” by journalist Michael Hastings, whose 2010 story in Rolling Stone led to McChrystal’s resignation.
Earlier this month, BuzzFeed News presented a screening of War Machine and a moderated Q&A with Pitt, national security journalist and Hastings’ widow Elise Jordan, and with other War Machine filmmakers. NYU undergrads studying media to politics were invited to observe the discussion about the movie and what it portends for the way ahead in America’s longest war.
In the clip above, Pitt and Jordan talk about why the surge didn’t work then – and what War Machine says about repeating that strategy again.
The Alamo offered additional details via its website about the women-centered events, saying, “And when we say ‘Women (and People Who Identify As Women) Only,’ we mean it. Everyone working at this screening — venue staff, projectionist, and culinary team — will be female.”
Jill Soloway’s I Love Dick feels like something beamed in from an alternate reality in which Hillary Clinton is president.
Which is probably a reflection of when it was made — the rollout of the series straddled the 2016 presidential election like a pair of proudly unshaven legs. The pilot premiered on Amazon, already home to Soloway’s acclaimed Transparent, in August of last year, and it was ordered to series in September, when the potential for the country to be getting its first female president seemed very real. But by the time the first season was unleashed online earlier this May, Donald Trump had been in the White House for months, and the mood has become very different.
I Love Dick, which creators Soloway and Sarah Gubbins adapted from Chris Kraus’s experimental novel of the same name, is a series out of time — a heady, horny comedy about gender and authorship arriving at a time in which people seem more inclined to relate to the dystopian oppressions of The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s a celebration of “weird girls,” to borrow the phrase from an episode title, who’ve grown into unquestionably ascendant adults.
“We are not far from your doorstep,” the ambitious Toby (India Menuez) — who received a Guggenheim for her work “look[ing] at hardcore porn without judgment, so I reduce it to its shapes” — cautions the title character (Kevin Bacon). Dick is a rugged area art star, a renowned sculptor of minimalist works that Toby sums up as “everything anyone has ever wanted from a late-20th-century alpha-male artist and scholar.” She doesn’t need to point out how many years removed we now are from the 20th century.
The whole series, which is fueled by the all-consuming crush that married filmmaker-in-crisis Chris (Kathryn Hahn) develops on Dick and starts chronicling in a series of letters, is built on the certainty of the gradual toppling of patriarchy. That’s something that not only comes across as unhappily premature in the shadow of Trump and Mike Pence, it also plays as downright wistful. Which is why, maybe, I Love Dick ends up being comforting even though it aims to be challenging.
The episodes, almost all of them directed by women (among them Andrea Arnold and Soloway herself), spike clips of video art into scenes and splash intertitles from Chris’s letters on screen. The best installment is a nonlinear one in which four of the female characters take the viewer on a tour of their formative experiences with desire while staring down the camera. But all of that formal and thematic boundary-busting takes place under the unspoken assumption that a degree of space and safety have been secured for its characters to hash out the intricacies of their feelings about being the subject of art versus being its creator, about what constitutes good and important art, and about who gets to play gatekeeper in that.
At a moment when subjects like masculinity, femininity, and authority all but demand a hard edge and shriek of urgency, I Love Dick is forthright but ultimately gentle in the way it takes them on — like it can afford to be, like a major milestone has been passed, like forward progress, however slow and imperfect, is an inevitability. It is the strangest sort of escapist television.
That’s true of the way it treats the art world it inhabits, too, one that’s allowed to be silly but that is taken very seriously. Its artists can be pretentious, self-important, flaky, and awful, but there’s never any question of whether art itself has value and relevance. Art can change the world in I Love Dick, even if that world is restricted to the bubble of Marfa, Texas, a bohemian oasis with complicated class dynamics. Or, in the words of Sylvere (Griffin Dunne), Chris’s writer husband whose research fellowship at the local art center is the reason they’re in town, a place “both dumpy and hip.”
It’s a place that, at the series’ start, is in the thrall of Dick, the professor-prince who quickly becomes the focus of Chris’s all-consuming obsession. But it doesn’t stay that way, thanks in part to how Chris, who’s “straddling 40ish” and questioning her career and romantic choices, ends up unleashing her debilitating-crush-as-midlife-crisis on the community and unsettling its power structures.
By the season’s end, men are joyfully submitting themselves to being the stuff of genderqueer artist’s Devon (Roberta Colindrez) work, in front of a cheering, hooting female crowd, while gallery curator Paula (Lily Mojekwu), finally free to choose the art she wants, ecstatically takes down paintings and slaps aspirational Post-its in their place that read “Kara Walker” and “Laura Aguilar.” I Love Dick is generous with its male characters in the way that feels directly related to its conviction that the supremacy they have — apologetically, obliviously, or gladly — enjoyed is slipping from their hands. It takes place in the twilight of machismo.
Or maybe it’s better put as the liberation of machismo, since we see it wielded just as comfortably by Devon, who admired Dick’s cowboy swagger, then borrowed and adapted and embraced it. Chris appropriates and lays claim to something traditionally male, too: the idea of a muse. “There are 500 times as many female nudes in art history textbooks as there are female artists,” Toby observes at one point. Chris seems intent on making up ground and turning that ratio around. She utilizes Dick — that Marlboro Man of MFAs, with a penis for a name, with his sculpture that’s a literal brick (“I love a straight line,” he says, “a straight line is perfection”) — as not only an object of desire but also a source of inspiration. He fuels the outpouring of love letters, profane and profound in their rawness, that she ends up posting around town.
Chris’s lust is not just symbolic — it’s very genuine, and I Love Dick has gottenattentionfor the way it translates that giddy lechery in its gaze, the ways its lens glides along the planes of Bacon’s face and body like it has nerves and they’re all lit up, for its incredible fantasy of Bacon sensually shearing a lamb. But Chris’s lust can’t be separated out from the feverish creative spell with which she’s gripped — the writing she’s doing is both addressed to Dick (“Dear Dick: Game on”) and not about him at all. Her desire and how it makes her feel is an end unto itself — “I don’t care how you see me. I don’t care if you want me. It’s better that you don’t. It’s enough that I want you,” she writes.
He’s distressed and undone to find himself placed so unwittingly in her spotlight. “She has violated my privacy!” he yelps at one point, a strange sort of protest, since Chris knows nothing at all about him, and since her work is all about how she feels and what she knows she’s projecting on him. Though Dick, grudging, agrees the writing’s good, he adds, “So what? It’s still fucked up.”
Maybe it is, and maybe what’s most disturbing to Dick is how little agency in or ownership he has over this art that invokes him while belonging to someone else — the muse’s lament. But Chris writes because she’s driven to create, not because she wanted to humiliate him, despite their first encounters. It’s the moment Dick first looked at her, rather than the other way around, in which her life went off the rails, when everything temporarily went quiet in the embrace of his ever-so-valued attention.
Then at dinner, later, Dick dismissed Chris’s work without ever having seen it. Not just her work, but that of her entire gender. “I think it’s really pretty rare for a woman to make a good film because they have to work from behind their oppression, which makes for some bummer movies,” he drawls, daring her to get angry, leaving her spitting names (Jane Campion! Chantal Akerman!) in her own flustered defense, trying not to let him see how badly he’s skewered her current insecurities.
From then on, Chris is consumed, wanting to fuck and to fight Dick, to gain his approval and to devour him whole. But in the end, she gets the best revenge by not thinking about revenge at all. Instead, she makes something real and good and marked by a whole other sort of authenticity than the kind Dick signals with his hand-rolled cigarettes and his refusal to explain his art. When looked at from the heart of 2017, that may be the show’s most plaintive aspiration of them all, the part that’s most out of sync with the sometimes merited and sometimes pandering go-girl defiance that has marked other recent series with overtly feminist bents, your Jessica Joneses and Girlbosses.
Chris’s desire to prove herself to Dick shifts to the understanding that, actually, she doesn’t need to, that she doesn’t require his validation or a spot in his prestigious, sparsely attended gallery — that rather than battling him to be seen, she pins her letters to public walls. She makes a sort of peace with Dick, allowing him to emerge from object to flesh-and-blood person who’s acutely aware that his moment is over — in some ways, it’s her biggest power move of all. But it’s a microcosmic shift dependent on the idea that the larger world has changed, which is why I Love Dick‘s freaky, free-dancing looseness has ended up unintentionally shot through with sadness. The world can change, but as everyone’s been reminded, it’s also capable of changing back.
All right, now we finally have shots of Tom Holland, our newest Spider-man. Holland looks like he’s about to kick ass, take names, and do it all before he has to be home for dinner. Then we have a whole angel and demon vibe going on to Holland’s left and right.
On the left we have a giant, full costumed Spider-Man and on the right is Robert Downey Jr. aka Iron Man. Not gonna lie, RDJ totally looks like Holland’s disapproving father, and it’s pretty great.