Rob Edelman: Year Of The Woman
So many films released in 2018 reflect on the massive, endlessly evolving depictions of women and men in American culture. So many are offshoots of Donald Trump’s now-infamous “Access Hollywood” appearance.
Let’s begin with onscreen portrayals by both sexes. Year after year, there have been far more potential male Academy Award contenders. But not in 2018... Sure, there have been topflight male performances. Such a list only begins with Bradley Cooper in A STAR IS BORN, Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in GREEN BOOK, Rami Malek in BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, Christian Bale in VICE, Ryan Gosling in FIRST MAN, Hugh Jackman in THE FRONT RUNNER... However, among women actors, you have Lady Gaga in A STAR IS BORN, Rosamund Pike in A PRIVATE WAR, Glenn Close in THE WIFE, Melissa McCarthy in CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?, Felicity Jones in ON THE BASIS OF SEX, Nicole Kidman in DESTROYER, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie in MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz in THE FAVOURITE...
And lest we forget Yalitza Aparacio, the star of Alfonso Cuaron’s ROMA, one of the top films of 2018. Aparicio’s character mirrors present-day female-male portrayals. She plays a genuinely nice woman, a hardworking maid who is ignored and abused by the men in her midst. ROMA is a film that should be seen and appreciated and, as for Aparicio, I would bet that she and any number of otherwise deserving females will not be among the Top 5 Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress nominees. This is a rarity.
But just as significantly, so many 2018 films feature women who are more than wives and girlfriends who are ruled by their emotions, and who sob unashamedly at least once per reel. In decades past, so many female characters are passive. They stand aside with their hands covering their faces as their heroes battle it out with the villains. However, plenty of onscreen women now are three-dimensional, and heroic. Such interpretations are way past due.
Additionally, three high-profile end-of-the-year releases reflect on the difference between men and women in 2018. All are biopics, and all are portraits of politics American-style. Upon initially hearing that a new film would be titled VICE, I assumed that it would be a crime drama exploring any number of lawbreaking. But no. VICE may as well be short for “vice president.” It is the story of Dick Cheney, George W. Bush’s veep. Cheney and Bush are respectively played by two Oscar winners: Christian Bale and Sam Rockwell. VICE would make an intriguing double bill with W, Oliver Stone’s 2008 George W. Bush biopic.
And not all 2018 films only skewer Republicans. In the aforementioned THE FRONT RUNNER, Hugh Jackman stars as Gary Hart. VICE and THE FRONT RUNNER feature male politicians who never would be confused with Abraham Lincoln. Then there is the third feature, which charts the plight of a woman who is immersed in politics American-style. She is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, played by Felicity Jones in the aforementioned ON THE BASIS OF SEX. Unlike Gary Hart and George W. Bush, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a true American hero.
Rob Edelman teaches film history courses at the University at Albany. He has contributed to many arts and baseball-related publications; his latest book, which he co-edited, is From Spring Training To Screen Test: Baseball Players Turned Actors. His frequent collaborator is his wife, fellow WAMC film commentator Audrey Kupferberg.
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