“From Zero to Anti-Hero: How Harley Quinn Went From Girlfriend to ‘Suicide Squad’ Star”

“Beyond the classic rock and askew appeal of the two trailers released to date, one thing is obvious about Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad: it will raise the profile of DC Entertainment’s Harley Quinn even higher, with Margot Robbie’s off-kilter take on the character that started life as a one-time sidekick of the Joker sure to push the character even further into the spotlight.

Unusually for a character so entrenched in the DC Universe, Harley’s first appearance wasn’t in a comic book – instead, she debuted in the 1993 22nd episode of the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series, “Joker’s Favor.” Quinn’s creation was an afterthought on the part of writer Paul Dini; a gag involving the Joker leaping out of a cake was deemed not fitting for the criminal, and Harley was invented to fill the role instead.

Thanks in large part to the vocal performance of Arleen Sorkin – a friend of Dini’s and, according to interviews, a model for how he envisioned the character – Harley quickly became a favorite both of viewers and those working on the series, returning a number of times both in and out of the company of the Joker. In fact, the character became so popular that she was the subject of Mad Love, a 1994 spinoff graphic novel set in the animated series’ continuity by Dini and the show’s art director Bruce Timm that revealed her origin story.

Mad Love didn’t just introduce the backstory of Harley – a former psychiatrist called Harleen Quinzel, she fell in love with the Joker while interning at Arkham Asylum and freed him in an attempt to win his heart – it also showed how easily the character could support the weight of a story by herself when given the chance. It’s unlikely to be a coincidence that she starred in her first animated episode without the Joker (Season 2’s “Harley’s Holiday”) soon after the release of the book…”



“Is The Walking Dead One of the Most Diverse Shows on TV?”

“Ok, so this is quite a hot button issue, so I’m not going to let the fact that I’m a big fan of the show get in the way, but I just want to quickly cover why I think it may or may not be one of TV’s most diverse shows.

Firstly, let’s establish that as much as anyone likes this show, it has its problems, some small, some massive. It fell down during its third season and has been slowly recovering, and now, on the 6th season, I think it’s as good as it’s ever been.

I think part of that is to do with the diversity on display, in race, sexuality and gender, and at the moment, The Walking Dead seems to be in a comfortable groove, both with its crowd-pleasing action and character drama.

The show has famously had a problem in killing off its black characters, as does it’s sister show ‘Fear the Walking Dead’, and whilst there is a strong sense that it isn’t a resolved problem, there is a stronger racial diversity than the show has yet had. This is in part to the growth of the cast with the introduction of Alexandria, and the reintroduction of fan favourite Morgan back into the cast.

The show has always had a problem with killing of its character gratuitously, such as Beth last season, as well as the fairly unnecessary deaths of both Tyreese and Noah, two black characters, who got decent send off’s, but didn’t have much of a strong legacy behind them…”


“After #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy Struggles With Diversity, Age and “Relevance”

“The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is currently reviewing the work history of its roughly 7,000 voting members. On April 25, it asked members in two of its 17 branches to provide their résumés, and by the end of July each of its branches’ executive committees will notify their members whether or not they are eligible to vote for the 89th Oscars, which will take place next Feb. 26.

The Academy’s decision to reassess its voting rolls, which grew out of its immediate response to the controversy that greeted the absence of non-white acting nominees for the 87th and 88th Oscars, has resulted in one of the most contentious and bitter episodes in the Academy’s long history. It was originally proposed in January as part of a series of initiatives designed to ensure increased diversity among both the Academy’s membership and the kinds of work the Academy honors. But it has threatened to overshadow that effort, as many older Academy members vehemently complained that they were being implicitly accused of racism and subjected to a different kind of ‘ism’ — ageism.

Since then, the Academy, attempting to quell that firestorm, has adopted more generous rules to determine voting eligibility, and it has attempted to disentangle the question of voting eligibility from its diversity push. When the Academy first announced a review of its voting rolls on Jan. 22, it introduced it as part of what it called “historic action to increase diversity,” but on April 18 the Academy’s board of governors offered the membership a new explanation of how voting rights would be determined and said the move “is actually not about diversity. We have other proposals to advance the growth of diversity. This initiative, required by our bylaws, has to do with relevance.”

As first proposed, the voting review promised the most dramatic makeover of the Academy’s rank and file since 1970, when Gregory Peck, then serving as Academy president, purged the organization of many “inactive” members in an effort to make the Academy more “relevant” amid a rapidly changing culture…”



“Film Schools Open Path to Hollywood Diversity”

“We’ve come a long way since the 1990s when many film school programs were still predominantly white, male and lacking significantly in terms of an ethnically and racially diverse student body. USC’s graduating screenwriting program in 1995, for example, consisted of almost four times as many men as women. Its film school faculty was also mostly male — and there were only three female instructors.

“When I first got to USC, I said, if I have to see one more male coming-of-age film I will scream,” says Elizabeth Daley, the longtime dean of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. “They were all the same story about young male angst. And I thought, ‘Can I just see some young female angst?’ ”

Thankfully, times have changed. The student body ratio in both SCA’s graduate and undergraduate programs is roughly 50-50 and its game design and development program currently has more women enrolled than men.

“Starting back in the mid- to late nineties, one of the first things we did was to get women alumni and faculty members to call prospective female applicants and encourage them to apply and be part of things,” says Daley. “We also agreed, as a faculty, that no list, when it came to hiring, would ever be brought in that didn’t have a woman’s name on it. They didn’t have to hire her, but that (list) had to show that they had looked. And it made a real difference to get more women faculty — the program was more welcoming to women. You just have to put your mind to it and say somehow we’re going to make this happen.”

Many other leading film schools are following suit. At American Film Institute, the number of women in the directing discipline has grown from 21% in 2010 to 38% in 2015, and 36% of AFI’s fellows are international, coming from countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Israel and Poland. The MFA in writing for screen and television program at Pepperdine University’s Seaver College is currently about 60% female; about 30% of its students hail from minority groups…”



“Barack and Michelle Obama Are Two Adorable Young Lovebirds in Southside with You’s First Trailer”

“Ah, first dates. They’re one of the few events that seem tailor-made for movies—laughably awkward at worst, usually, and enchantingly imbued with promise at best. But of course, Southside with You is not about a date—just ask Tika Sumpter’s Michelle Robinson, who spends most of the biopic’s first trailer informing anyone who will listen that her day about the town with a young man named Barack Obama is most certainly not a date. The biopic, coming to theaters August 26, offers a charming backstory to one of the White House’s most charming couples, with no shortage of nods to what the future holds.

As Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson noted in his review from the Sundance Film Festival, the movie doesn’t make the most satisfying biography. Parker Sawyers plays an easy, endearing Obama, but as Lawson wrote in his review, Sumpter’s more stilted part, shortchanges viewers on what could have been a fascinating peek into the young, ambitious Michelle Robinson’s inner life before she became Michelle Obama. Still, writer/director Richard Tanne said in January that the real-life Obamas are “excited” by the film, although they’re “also a little baffled by its existence.”

The movie is set for wide release in August, and screened at Sundance to mostly positive reviews. Lawson compared the movie to Before Sunset (2004), while Variety’s Justin Chang compared the Tanne’s feature writing/directing debut to Before Sunrise (1995), adding that in addition to the film’s romantic allure, the movie also touches on a number of other themes including “the many challenges (and varieties) of African-American identity,” and a tension Obama is now quite familiar with from his tenure in the White House, “the need for both idealism and compromise.”

But let’s not discount the value of the romance itself. The Obamas have been a singular First Couple in many ways—not the least of which is the way they translate to the public as a relatable, appealing family…”



“Alicia Vikander’s Casting As Lara Croft Shows The ‘Tomb Raider’ Movie Is On The Right Track”

Video game movies may have the deck stacked against them from the start, but it sure helps out to have one of the most popular new actresses in the world as your star. And the Tomb Raider film has just landed Alicia Vikander, who will lead as the young adventurer, Lara Croft.

Vikander had an absolutely blockbuster 2015, winning an Oscar for her supporting role in The Danish Girl, turning heads as an AI in Ex Machina, and appearing in the rather good The Man from UNCLE. This year, she’s going to be in the new Jason Bourne film, and will star opposite Assassin’s Creed’s Michael Fassbender in The Light Between Oceans.

A few weeks ago, it was rumored that The Force Awakens’ Daisy Ridley was in negotiations to star as Lara Croft, and perhaps that was potentially in the cards, but the role ultimately went to Vikander. Either actress would have been a big get, but Vikander may be the bigger fish at this point, with her Oscar win and current ultra-“it” status.

But of course, it’s not just the actress starring in the films that matters, it’s who is making the films themselves. Director Roar Uthaug is a bit of an unknown, as he’s best known for his Norwegian disaster film, The Wave. Screenwriter Evan Daugherty may be a little more worrisome, given that his past work includes recent disaster Snow White and the Huntsman HUN -1.46%, along with Divergent and the 2014 Ninja Turtles reboot.

Obviously whatever Tomb Raider movie is made now is going to be compared to the two previous Angelina Jolie films, which were lambasted by critics, but ultimately rather profitable worldwide. In the eternal search for “good” video game movies, I don’t think any fans would hold those films up as prime examples, though at the time, Jolie did seem like the natural fit for the sultry Lara Croft…”


“David Wnendt on filming Look Who’s Back: ‘Our Idea Was to See How People React to Hitler’

“As he walked through the Brandenburg Gate, looking a little stunned and grubby, scores of the tourists gathered there with selfie sticks and phones to capture Berlin’s most famous landmark quickly turned their attention to him.

Suddenly Adolf Hitler was surrounded by everyone from German teenagers to giggling Japanese holidaymakers. But the bodyguards accompanying him need not have worried. Some onlookers put their arms around him as they posed for selfies, others pouted and pretended to kiss him on the cheek.

“It was incredible, I was suddenly the attraction, like a popstar,” said Oliver Masucci, the latest actor to play Hitler for the big screen, in the film adaptation of Timur Vermes’s 2012 bestselling fictional satire Er ist Wieder Da (Look Who’s Back).

“People clustered around me. One told me she loved me, and asked me to hug her. One, to my relief, started hitting me. There was also a black woman who said I scared her,” Masucci added, recalling the making of one of the film’s opening scenes last autumn.

On general release across Germany on Thursday, Look Who’s Back offers a sharp departure from a string of previous Hitler depictions, starting with Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 hit The Great Dictator and through to the 2004 German-made Downfall, because it captures the reactions of present-day Germans towards him – or rather towards a man who bears a striking resemblance to the figure who once terrorised Europe – and weaves them into the fictional scenes in the film.

Look Who’s Back imagines that, 70 years since his demise, Hitler awakes from a coma on the site of his former bunker, now a residential area of Berlin, to find himself in the present – a Germany at peace, with Angela Merkel at the helm and a society so multicultural he does not recognise it. He is taken to be an impersonator or a method actor of the highest calibre, who subsequently makes a successful television career for himself, using that as a springboard to enter politics…”