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Sucker Punch (#110 of 4)

On the Rise Oscar Isaac

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On the Rise: Oscar Isaac

CBS Films

On the Rise: Oscar Isaac

You know Oscar Isaac’s face. You’ve seen him in one film or another over the last 10 years (including 2012’s high-school-reunion dramedy 10 Years). He’s the guy with the forceful presence and dark, gruffly handsome features, who always makes a memorable impact on the sidelines. Maybe he’s your favorite actor to tell your friends about. Born in Guatemala and raised in Miami, this 33-year-old Juilliard grad has an early filmography that’s fairly stereotypical, listing a single-episode arc on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and bit parts in the Ice Cube actioner All About the Benjamins and something called Pu-239, directed by Scott Z. Burns. That Isaac had never emerged from the supporting-actor ranks before this year is what had some viewers gobsmacked at Cannes, where he knocked them flat with his title role in the Palme d’Or frontrunner Inside Llewyn Davis. Gifted the part by the film’s directors, Joel and Ethan Coen, after sending in a highly convincing audition tape, the actor is suddenly gaining the most press of his career, and if the Oscar buzz is legit, it’s not likely to stop soon. As noted in a piece in The Guardian that ran amid the festival, even journalists were stumped after the movie made its debut. “Where have you come from?” a press-conference attendee reportedly asked. But fans who’ve been watching Isaac already know the answer to that.

Sucker Punch and the Fetishized Image

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<em>Sucker Punch</em> and the Fetishized Image
<em>Sucker Punch</em> and the Fetishized Image

Sucker Punch has received widespread dismissal from film critics, many of whom have used their reviews as opportunities to crack jokes about teenage boys, masturbation, or masturbating teenage boys—or to make puns about the film’s title. A.O. Scott at The New York Times slammed the film’s “pretense that this fantasia of misogyny is really a feminist fable of empowerment,” while Sady Doyle at The Atlantic declared that director “Zack Snyder’s gooey mix of fetish gear, rape fantasies, and girls-with-guns action sequences represents the nadir of a long, slow, steady decline in action films starring women.”

This critical paroxysm against Sucker Punch is quite possibly the most colossal collective misreading of satire since Paul Verhoeven was accused of being a fascist for Starship Troopers. With this film, critics are making the same mistake of confusing depiction for endorsement, but more importantly, they seem continually befuddled by Snyder’s manipulation of one of the most powerful cornerstones of mainstream cinema—the fetishized image.

Sucker Punch Lets Audiences Eat Fruitcake

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Sucker Punch Lets Audiences Eat Fruitcake
Sucker Punch Lets Audiences Eat Fruitcake

So try this scenario on for size: You’re just a regular guy who likes to look at porn on the Internet. The phrase “barely legal,” the prospect of 20-year-old ladies (Too old! Try not to think about it!) prancing around in pigtails and Catholic schoolgirl uniforms, their contorted faces and twisted bodies, gives you just cause to whip out your credit card and, at the moment of truth, punch in the three-digit security code.

Fast-forward 10 minutes. Now sated, your attention turns to other priorities: violent anime, Guillermo del Toro films, Boris Vallejo artwork, Heavy Metal magazine, Peter Jackson’s Tolkien trilogy, Alan Moore novels, etc. As you look back over your day—and, hey man, no shame—you run a quick census of your two most prized entertainments: a) barely-legal girls taking it in every conceivable hole, and b) epic fantasies of limitless awesomeness, violence, and spectacle. Two great things that go great together, right? You ask yourself, can’t someone, anyone, with limitless funding and all the latest developments in computer-generated special effects, make one movie that combines both of my passions?