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Body of Work Rosario Dawson

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Body of Work: Rosario Dawson

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Body of Work: Rosario Dawson

The story of Rosario Dawson’s discovery speaks to her enduringly cool credibility as an actress. A New York native who grew up in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Dawson had only a Sesame Street appearance under her belt when she was spotted, on her stoop, by budding director Larry Clark, who, at the urging of then-fledgling screenwriter Harmony Korine, went on to cast her in Kids. She was 15. Just as it did for fellow hip starlet Chloë Sevigny, Kids proved a major launchpad for Dawson, rather literally moving her from her doorstep and shuffling her into the public consciousness. She began attracting other directors in search of gals for urban dramas, and starred in Spike Lee’s He Got Game and Craig Bolotin’s Light It Up, a 1999 flick that took cues from Kids and Dangerous Minds.

But Dawson didn’t wait long to buck her impending typecasting. However unsavory the results, she pulled a 180 and took a part in Josie and the Pussycats, a—ahem—wannabe Spice Girls comedy for the MTV generation. The movie hardly soared, but it was an early indication of Dawson’s deft, enthusiastic knack for diversity, not to mention a taste of the fine musicality that’s periodically weaved its way into her work. Dawson has her limits. One of her virtues is also something of a hindrance: She’s a thoroughly modern actress, and give or take Roxana, her Persian princess in Alexander, she’s not quite cut our for period fare—corsets and all of that. But that hasn’t stopped her from building a terrifically varied filmography, or kept her from emitting a regal fire on screen.

Femme Modernes Julie Grossman’s Rethinking the Femme Fatale: Ready for Her Close-Up

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Femme Modernes: Julie Grossman’s Rethinking the Femme Fatale: Ready for Her Close-Up
Femme Modernes: Julie Grossman’s Rethinking the Femme Fatale: Ready for Her Close-Up

Has there been a film genre/style more fervently written about, debated, and theorized than film noir? Not just a staple of cinephilic lexicon (choosing between 1948’s They Live By Night and 1949’s Thieves’ Highway will define who you really are), but an ongoing source of inspiration for New Hollywood to present-day filmmakers (see Ruben Fleischer’s Gangster Squad for the latest, and questionable, iteration), film noir has been and remains the quintessential cinematic forum to synthesize form and content, either in theory or practice. Thus, when a revisionist film or academic text attempts to realign the axis from which one comprehends these films, it should necessarily raise eyebrows. When that film or text succeeds, however, it’s cause for immediate attention and debate. Julie Grossman’s Rethinking the Femme Fatale attempts to be such a redefining work.

Seeking to dislodge more narrow-minded understandings of film noir as yielding readily identifiable archetypes, Grossman devotes a book-length analysis to accurately defining women’s roles in classical film noir while convincingly revealing the fallacy behind a long-standing myth of the genre: that its women are deceitful, malevolent, and hell-bent on male destruction. Rather, Grossman claims, careful examination and close readings reveal a dearth of femme fatales in most films noir; instead of simply attempting to rotely psychologize the women in these films as “fatal,” which “abstracts gender representation from the social world,” more attention to narrative detail and setting demonstrate the underlying factors that have led to this misrepresentation.

15 Famous Fights to the Death

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15 Famous Fights to the Death
15 Famous Fights to the Death

Nearly two dozen teens bite the big one in The Hunger Games, sure to be cinema’s most popular source of adolescent bloodshed. There’s no darker vicarious thrill than watching someone perish on screen, as many an action junkie will certainly tell you. In light of Jennifer Lawrence’s blockbuster standoff against her oppressed peers, we’ve got 15 Famous Fights to the Death, which, together, should sate even the bloodthirstiest film fans.

Gone Away, Come Back: Mickey Rourke

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Gone Away, Come Back: Mickey Rourke

TriStar Pictures

Gone Away, Come Back: Mickey Rourke

It hasn’t been easy for Mickey Rourke fans over the last 15 years. He’s given us much cause for complaint, and even despair. He has forced us to defend the indefensible, and say things to our scornful friends along the lines of, “I think there’s a lot to like in Exit In Red.” I have grasped at straws, I have seen terrible straight-to-video movies and soft-core porn, I even suffered through the abysmal Another 9 1/2 Weeks which actually caused me pain because of how tired and defeated he seemed. I have stuck up for him in the face of dwindling evidence of his genius, but I am not a fair-weather fan. Fifteen years of badness is difficult to withstand. His early promise was such that it galvanized an entire generation of young actors, making them want to do better, push harder, take more risks, and then, it felt like overnight, he left us. Where did he go? The details are coming out now, and much was obvious at the time as well. He flamed out publicly. He got involved in a crazy-making tabloid-frenzy marriage. He hated acting, became bored with it, so went back to being a boxer (his first love). Then followed the strange (and tragic, to me) morphing of his face into something unrecognizable. He had multiple operations on his face due to his boxing, but I think there was a little lip-and-cheek-plumping action going on before that. Something happened to him in the early 90s, and you can see it unfold if you watch his films in chronological order. It made me really sad at the time.

Comics Column #1 Windows on the Other Art

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Comics Column #1: Windows on the Other Art
Comics Column #1: Windows on the Other Art

The old saw about how many words an image speaks—do you add or multiply when there’s a few of them in a row?

Keith has been gracious enough to invite me to crash the party every two weeks and talk about the comic medium. I don’t know, I guess maybe it’s come up here once or twice lately. In the last few years, the relationship between movies and comics—graphic novels, sequential art, choose your buzzwords and tap gloves—has gotten pretty complicated, at least in comparison to what it had been. And while I’ve been for many years a vocal advocate for the argument that comics have won the “fight” that many fans seem to think they’re having with the rest of polite society, there’s still some critical discussion regarding what is and is not possible with comics, and its nature as an occasional (or, as it seems these days, very frequent) source material for other media.

I study comics, and I have for over ten years. This is not the same as being a comic fan, although I most certainly am that as well—I’ve been reading comics since before I could walk; I study comics, or at least I try to, the way that many people here at The House Next Door study film (something that, obviously, I also do, though I’m still more of an exuberant freshman in that particular curriculum). This is an ongoing column about comics of all kinds, how they work, their relationship to their audiences, and other subjects. In keeping with the primary nature of this site, oftentimes it will be about comics and their relationship to film, though the link will wax and wane as the subject dictates. But I hope I’ll keep things interesting.

GTA, B.C.: Zack Snyder’s 300

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GTA, B.C.: Zack Snyder’s 300
GTA, B.C.: Zack Snyder’s 300

Zack Snyder’s 300, which depicts the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. between a small company of Spartan soldiers and a couple hundred thousand invading Persians, is a twin fount of humorlessness and turgidity (the logical amalgam of these being humidity; wholly appropriate given the number of sweat-drenched soliders on display).

Like Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City (2004), the film is an adaptation of a graphic novel by industry titan Frank Miller, and as in Sin City, the celluloid canvas proves unsuited to conveying the artist’s vision. On the page, Miller’s hyper-real compositions—all jagged landscapes and hard, stately silhouettes—can seem exhilaratingly cinematic, but with the exception of Tim Burton, whose two Batman pictures unofficially and successfully subsumed the dark tone and punchy visual language of the author’s vaunted Dark Knight series, no filmmaker has yet found a satisfactory way to bring Miller’s still-lifes to movie life.

The Grainy Haze of Dreams: Movie Year 2006, and the Death and Rebirth of Cinema

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The Grainy Haze of Dreams: Movie Year 2006, and the Death and Rebirth of Cinema
The Grainy Haze of Dreams: Movie Year 2006, and the Death and Rebirth of Cinema

1. CINEMA: DEAD AGAIN

MZS: We just came through a pretty tumultuous year for movies, and for the media and the entertainment industry in general. Although it’s not possible to cover everything, I’d like for us to at least touch on some of what I think were evolutionary highlights—moments, movements, trends or developments that altered movies, or how we perceive movies.

Right after the first of the year, David Denby tried to to get at a big part of this—specifically the effect of technological change—in his New Yorker piece “Big Pictures.” But it didn’t satisfy me. In fact, parts of it were so out-of-it that they reminded me of an old episode of Gilligan’s Island where the castaways run into a Japanese soldier who wanders out of the bushes where he’s been for 20 years not knowing that the war is over.