It has been a good year for female leads in Hollywood, as a multitude of blockbusters feature heroines and strong, complex women who eclipse whoever might oppose them. In July, the Ghostbusters remake co-written by Katie Dipplod aired, while earlier in April, Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron, and Emily Blunt enchanted the audience as they were facing Chris Hemsworth, in The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Of course, these are just a few examples of the many great films written, co-written, or directed by women which were brought to our screens this year. Thankfully the old men’s club of Hollywood is seemingly becoming more available to talented and brilliant women who would previously have been likely to see more shut doors than open.
Andrea Arnold’s American Honey perhaps exemplifies this as the film won the Jury Prize in this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Andrea’s vision and excellent eye for detail and cinematography demonstrates a visible trend of highly skilled professional women breaking into otherwise heavily male-dominated professions. It is a testament to the times that the resources making it possible to emulate such feats are now much more readily available for anyone pursuing a career in film. Even online courses like those at San Francisco State University offer the basic means of opening such paths.
That is not to say that in 2016 there is not more work to be done to elevate women in traditionally male professions. However, 2016 is demonstrating a broader trend of women having their say and having a greater influence than previously, while undoubtedly demonstrating their worth in their respective fields.
In our Woman Around Town section you see portraits of so many brilliant professionals and their success. Among many, a recap of Rosslyn Business Improvement District spear-headed by president Mary-Claire Burick serves as an excellent demonstration of this general trend. Having been integral in launching the Fox News Channel, Mary-Claire went on to exceed in her communications and change management advisory firm, to be recruited for her current role. She explains in our post that she is a life-long learner and gained her certificate in Organizational Consulting and Change Leadership from Georgetown University. And it is this focus on continuous development that is important for aspiring professionals to evolve in their career and as individuals.
It should, nevertheless, be said that learning and skill development can come from many areas in life. One such underdog story is when the 18 year old Norwegian, Annette Obrestad, became the youngest player ever to win the World Series of Poker bracelet almost 10 years ago. Having only had previous experience in online poker, she took her seasoned professional competitors by storm with a sharp mind. Annette’s story is a testament to the fact that whatever your passion may be, there is room to excel. Though not many universities might specialize in fine-tuning poker skills, other options are available. If you have the same passions as Annette, then you’ll enjoy this post by Lucky Nugget, as they offer insights into video poker – should you wish to take on the WSOP yourself one day.
It’s an exciting time for anyone with high ambitions seeking to excel and demonstrate their strengths across any field or profession. It is this nuanced search and development of one’s identity, development of character, and learning from all areas of life that is mirrored in women’s rise in male dominated professions.
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It’s not as bad as some (mostly male) critics have predicted. But it’s not as good as it might have been. By including scenes, themes, the logo, settings, even spirits from the original Ghostbusters, the new Ghostbusters misses an opportunity to present something fresh and innovative and even – dare we say – go on to become a cult hit on its own merits. While the all female cast has been touted, what does it say that perhaps the best performance in the film is by a guy? Chris Hemsworth seems to be having the time of his life playing the ditsy receptionist, Kevin, hired not for his skills but for his hunky eye candy appeal.
That’s not to say that this film isn’t fun and enjoyable. (Particularly this summer when so many hyped sequels have fallen flat.) Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones have chemistry and superb comic timing. Yet these talented actresses are hamstrung by a script that often falls flat and doesn’t allow them to truly bring their characters alive. McKinnon, who never lets what’s on the page hold her back, manages to stand out as the quirky, eccentric scientist Jillian Holtzmann. McCarthy and Wiig are fine, but at times seem to be walking through their parts. As for Jones, casting her as a blue-collar worker, is probably not what Jada Pinkett Smith had in mind when she was arguing for more high profile roles for black actors. Jones is terrific as a bad ass MTA worker, but why couldn’t she have been a bad ass scientist?
McCarthy and Wiig play Abby Yates and Erin Gilbert, former colleagues who once wrote a book on the paranormal. Now that Gilbert is up for tenure at Columbia University, she goes to Yates’ lab, asking her to stop selling the book on Amazon, fearing it will damage her reputation as a serious scientist. When Yates and Holtzmann receive a call to investigate the paranormal activity at a Manhattan mansion, Gilbert can’t resist going along. After the ghost makes an appearance, Gilbert’s fate is sealed. The event makes it onto the internet, she’s fired from Columbia and agrees to join Yates and Holtzmann’s lab. Jones’ character, Patty Tolan, comes on board after witnessing ghostly activity on the subway tracks.
What the film lacks is a compelling plot and a real villain. The bad guy here is Rowan North (Neil Casey), a hotel worker who is somehow collecting bad spirits to create chaos with a big attack. (How and why he’s doing this is never fully explained.) Rowan comes off as a sad sack who is disgruntled but never appears very threatening. He does manage, however, to unleash a firestorm which manifests itself on the screen with an unending barrage of ghosts. There’s a lot of activity, but never a center for the attack. It just appears as computer imaging run amok. Once Rowan disappears, there’s no real villain to take his place. (One longs for the more creative plot in the original which at least made it clear who and what Bill Murray and company were fighting.)
Speaking of Murray, he makes the obligatory cameo as a professor out to discredit this new all-woman team. Dan Ackroyd turns up as a cab driver who refuses to take Wiig’s Gilbert to Chinatown and gets to deliver the expected line: “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.” Ernie Hudson appears as Tolan’s uncle whose hearse the team has been using. The fourth member of the original crew, Harold Ramis, died last year. (Stay for the credits to catch Sigourney Weaver.)
While all these star turns are fun to watch (Annie Potts, the original receptionist, is seen here as a hotel clerk), they keep reminding us that this Ghostbusters is not that Ghostbusters. Director Paul Feig, who co-wrote the screenplay with Katie Dippold, seems to be trying too hard to appease those critics who trashed this reboot based solely on the all-female cast. Feig worked with McCarthy and Wiig on Bridesmaids while Dippold delivered a terrific script for The Heat’s female pair of McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. Both films were critical and box office winners. They missed an opportunity to create another winner here.
Ghostbusters opens nationwide July 15, 2016.
Photos courtesy of Columbia Pictures.