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A double bill to celebrate Oppenheimer and Barbie
On whether Japan will embrace Christopher Nolan’s latest, and why men should watch Greta Gerwig’s ‘feminist bimbo’ classic
Good morning! Barbenheimer is here and so are the reviews. It’s an exciting time for cinema, especially for those of us who haven’t bought double feature tickets since Om Shanti Om and Saawariya (2007). And so, we’re ushering in this weekend with not one, but two features. The first is about Oppenheimer and the Japanese film industry. The second is about some grey undertones in the very pink Barbie. As always, we’ve also curated the best longreads. Enjoy your weekend!
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While Christopher Nolan’s new film Oppenheimer is opening in much of the world this week, a Japanese release date has not yet been announced.
A delay in naming a release date is nothing new for Japan, where Hollywood releases often take place weeks or months later than other national markets.
Japan’s cinema industry is savvy enough to take a wait-and-see approach to blockbuster films. If Oppenheimer fails at the box office in other markets, then Japan may decide on a quick opening in a smaller number of cinemas. If it is the global hit the producers hope, it may open across the country.
Some have speculated the tragic history of events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki make the film too sensitive for Japanese audiences. But concerns that the film contains sensitivities to Japan’s past can be easily discarded by a quick glance through Japan’s cinematic history.
The Japanese film industry
The Japanese film industry began in 1897, developing quickly through studios such as Nikkatsu and Shochiku. In the 1930s, the industry gained international attention with emerging filmmakers such as Yasujiro Ozu.
By the late 1930s, studios and filmmakers were drafted into the war effort, making propaganda films.
Until the end of the Second World War, the Japanese government had been strictly censoring all films in line with efforts to produce this state-sanctioned propaganda. From 1945 to 1949, the US-Occupation forces set up procedures to ensure films avoided intensely nationalist or militaristic themes.
Japan’s film classification body was created in 1949 following the withdrawal of the Production Code. This gave Japanese authorities the chance to determine their own rules around film content based on themes of language, sex, nudity, violence and cruelty, horror and menace, drug use and criminal behaviour.
Japanese film was always quite progressive in terms of artistic licence, escaping the type of strictly enforced limitations found in America’s Hays Code, which put restrictions on content including nudity, profanity and depictions of crime.
Filmmakers in Japan had freedom to practice their art, so the pinku (soft pornography) films of the 1960s and 70s were the products of the major studios rather than underground independents.
These freedoms saw Japanese filmmakers absorb influences from Europe (particularly through French and Italian cinema), but saw significant content differences between Japanese and Hollywood cinema until the close of the Hays era.
Since the 1950s, censorship in the form of suggested edits or very rarely, “disallowed films”, has mostly been in response to violent or overly-explicit sexual imagery, rather than concerns over political or militaristic issues.
Japan is the third biggest box office market in the world, behind only China and North America, and cinema is dominated by local films.
While it can appear that Japanese cinema is dominated by anime and live-action remakes of manga and anime, it includes a rich array of genres and styles. The late 1990s saw a global appetite for horror films, under the mantle of J-horror. Films like Battle Royale (2000) and Ichi: The Killer (2001) created a new level of violence combining the horror genre with comic moments. Meanwhile samurai and yakuza films continue to find audiences, as do high-school-themed dramas.
Internationally, the arthouse stylistics of films by Hirokazu Kore-eda, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Naomi Kawase are feted at Cannes and Venice.
The war on screen
Many Japanese filmmakers have explored the Second World War.
As early as 1952, Kaneto Shindo’s Children of Hiroshima directly addressed the aftermath of the war through confronting imagery then with a gentle, humanist touch.
A year later, Hideo Sekigawa’s Hiroshima upped the political ante with a docudrama critical of the United States’ actions in a film that included real survivors from the nuclear blast acting as victims.
The obvious metaphorical imagery of successive Godzilla films reflect fears of the potential horrors nuclear activities could unleash.
The title of Shōhei Imamura’s Black Rain (1989, not to be confused with Ridley Scott’s yakuza film of the same name and same year) referenced the colour of the acid rain following the nuclear blast in Hiroshima, and was recognised with some of Japan’s highest film honours.
Anime has also directly shown the damage wrought by Oppenheimer’s device, most notably with Barefoot Gen in 1983, and its sequel in 1986.
In the style of Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, a young wide-eyed boy, Gen, is caught in the horrors of the conflict, watching as his mother literally melts in front of him.
Summer with Kuro (1990) and In This Corner of the World (2016) each gave their own, less graphic, anime versions of lives touched by the conflict.
Foreign films about the Second World War have also found an audience in Japan.
Alain Resnais’ intensely serious French New Wave drama, the French/Japanese co-production Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), exposed the international implications of personal relations after the bomb.
Japan warmly welcomed Clint Eastwood’s 2006 twin-release of Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, which showed the battle from the views of Japanese and US soldiers, respectively.
Both films would go on to win Outstanding Foreign Language Film at the prestigious Japan Academy Awards.
Stories of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not a taboo topic in Japan. Of all the nations in the world to be banning films, Japan must surely be near the bottom of the list.
Whether there’s a release date or not, Oppenheimer must have the appeal to be a box office hit to determine its suitability for release in Japan.
Peter C. Pugley is Associate professor at the Department of English, Creative Writing and Film, University of Adelaide.
This article is republished from https://theconversation.com under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article at https://theconversation.com/yes-oppenheimer-isnt-opening-in-japan-this-week-but-the-country-has-a-long-history-of-cinema-about-the-war-209876
The following article contains spoilers for Barbie.
For some, Barbie is the ultimate “girlboss” – she’s glamourous, successful and owns her own DreamHouse. For others, Barbie represents an outdated female stereotype – a “blonde bimbo girl in a fantasy world”, according to Aqua’s 1997 hit song Barbie Girl.
Just ask the man with the megaphone stand outside the press screening of the new Barbie film that I attended in Leicester Square. Vehemently protesting the film, he insisted that Barbie is a bad role model and a danger to young women.
But Barbie fits perfectly into director Greta Gerwig’s repertoire of women-focused stories, which includes two Oscar-nominated coming of age films, Ladybird (2017) and Little Women (2019). Gerwig is a feminist filmmaker whose characters are curious, transgressive and rebel against their restrictive circumstances. Barbie is no exception.
The film follows Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie), whose perfect life in Barbieland is gradually falling apart because the humans playing with her in the real world are sad. Her arched Barbie feet become flat, she gets cellulite on her thighs and becomes troubled by thoughts of death.
With the help of Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) – comically styled as if a child “played with her too hard” – Stereotypical Barbie is tasked with entering the real world to find her human family and solve their problems.
The film opens with a parody of a famous scene from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The world is thrown into disarray when a giant Barbie doll lands in the desert like a UFO. Through Helen Mirren’s terrific narration, we are told that the inhabitants of this barren wasteland are a hoard of little girls who only have baby dolls to play with. The girls are liberated by the arrival of their exciting new friend and, tired of playing at being mothers, they smash up their bland baby dolls for good.
This opening positions Barbieland as a feminist utopia. In Barbieland, women can do anything: become president, win literary awards and throw fabulous parties.
Barbie in the real world
Gerwig’s take on Barbie is timely. My research explores the recent feminist reclamation of the “bimbo” figure. On TikTok, the #Bimbo trend sees feminine-presenting content creators reclaiming the once derogatory “bimbo” label and aesthetic. Instead of abandoning femininity to succeed in a patriarchal society, bimbo feminism embraces femininity while supporting women’s advancement.
In the real world, Barbie is shocked to find that things are a little different than in Barbieland. She is harassed while roller skating and catcalled by male construction workers. A 2021 survey found that four-fifths of young women in the UK have been sexually harassed in public spaces. While Barbie says she feels “ill at ease” in these situations, Ken (Ryan Gosling) feels “admired”.
When Barbie finds her human family, she is met with hostility from teenage daughter Sasha, who claims that Barbie is nothing more than a “professional bimbo” whose perfect body and privileged lifestyle have been making women feel bad about themselves for decades.
Like real women, Barbie is faced with objectification and criticism. The film knows its audience and makes smart and accurate commentaries about women’s experiences.
In Barbieland, Barbie’s beach-dwelling boyfriend is “just Ken”. In the real world, he discovers a society where men reign supreme. It is not long before Ken’s endearing innocence is tainted by a concept that is novel where he comes from: patriarchy.
Ken becomes intoxicated by male dominance and the film takes every opportunity to lampoon it. Ryan Gosling excels in these comedy moments. At one point, Ken barges into a hospital and demands to perform surgery despite having no qualifications – other than being a man of course.
Back in Barbieland, Ken enforces his own vision of patriarchy. Every night is “boys night”. Every Barbie exists to be ogled, serve beers and nurture men’s fragile egos. Under Ken’s rule, the former female president of Barbieland serves drinks to macho guys on the beach. The all-female Supreme Court are demoted to a cheerleading squad.
In her 2020 book Men Who Hate Women, founder of the Everyday Sexism project Laura Bates examines what she terms the “manosphere”. In other words, the many faces of radical misogyny in modern society, from men’s rights activists to incels.
In its portrayal of the Kens, Gerwig’s film confronts the manosphere head on. Much like the men who are indoctrinated into these radical groups, the Kens are led to believe that their rights are being eclipsed by women’s and find themselves conforming to toxic male stereotypes to regain a sense of control.
Gerwig’s Barbie does a stellar job of exposing how damaging patriarchal ideology is to society. While the film obviously appeals to women, it is men who really need to watch it. Barbie makes a point that Leicester Square-megaphone-man really needs to hear: it’s not a Barbie doll that threatens women’s rights, opportunities and safety – it’s the patriarchy.
Barbie is one of the most surprising and daring films of the year. What could have been a frivolous flop succeeds in being a substantial, important and poignant piece of filmmaking – as well as tremendous fun to watch.
Harriet Fletcher is Lecturer in Media and Communication at the Anglia Ruskin University.
This article is republished from https://theconversation.com under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article at https://theconversation.com/greta-gerwigs-barbie-movie-is-a-feminist-bimbo-classic-and-no-thats-not-an-oxymoron-210069
Lights, camera, action: The year is 2041. Movies are being written and directed by AI, and it’s just a matter of time before an AI-created film with multiple outcomes wins an Oscar for Best Picture.
That’s a prediction by the Big Four firm KPMG. We daresay that AI-created movies and shows will become a reality even sooner. In this week’s TechTonic Shift, Rajneil and Roshni discuss the ongoing Hollywood strikes, the problem with streaming, and how AI may kill entertainment as we know it. New episodes drop every Saturday at 8 am. Available on Spotify, Apple, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts.
The problem with eco-friendly fashion: Would you buy a pair of sneakers made from eco-friendly wool instead of synthetic materials, with no flashy logo and edgy design? Just plain, simple, solid-coloured woollen sneakers? Oh, and they cost upwards of $100. If you would, you’re a rare breed. American footwear brand Allbirds learnt it the hard way—that environmental concerns are among the least important attributes consumers look for when buying shoes and clothes. It’s all about comfort and price. Allbirds had a devoted following for its first product, the Wool Runners, made from merino wool. Everyone, from Barack Obama to Silicon Valley tech bros, was wearing them during the pandemic. But as the company diversified into more eco-friendly products, it lost the plot. Apart from quality complaints, it found environmental sustainability a tough sell. The Wall Street Journal details how Allbirds lost its way.
Crocodile tears: Is it a matter of pride that India supplies a fifth of the world’s generic drugs? Especially after the country’s serious manufacturing lapses in cancer drugs, cough syrups, and eye drops? Cornered by the WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the governments of The Gambia and Uzbekistan for deaths caused by Indian-made cough syrup, India’s health ministry has demanded higher manufacturing standards for drugmakers. But India hasn’t done anything about Global Pharma yet. The FDA recalled the company’s eyedrops after finding that an antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the product caused scores of infections, 18 cases of vision loss, and four deaths in the US in 2022. When the inspectors visited Global Pharma’s facility in Tamil Nadu, they were horrified at what they found. What did they find, and how easy is it to launch an over-the-counter product in a country as stringent as the US? Read this Bloomberg Businessweek feature to find out.
The Making of an ethnic conflict: It’s one thing to understand how ethnic violence occurs; it’s quite another to watch it unfold in real time. We are getting only barebones news updates from Manipur, where the Meitei and Kuki tribes are engaged in bloody conflict. Earlier this week, a horrific video of Kuki women being sexually assaulted by a mob went viral, finally prompting the government to do something after months of ignoring the issue. This story in the BBC recounts how Kukis attacked Meitei-dominated villages in the valley, forcing thousands of people to leave everything behind and flee. It also explains how Manipur’s BJP-led government began a crackdown on poppy farming in Kuki-dominated hills, and why the policy exacerbated tensions between the largely-Christian Kukis and largely-Hindu Meiteis who dominate the valley.
Also, the first in this two-part series recounts how the violence first broke out in Manipur’s Churachandpur district over the dominant Meiteis’ demand for ‘Scheduled Tribe’ status.
Bot about us?: Google anything, and chances are that a Wikipedia page or snippet is the first result you’ll come across. Not without reason. For 22 years and counting, the internet’s encyclopaedia has painstakingly curated all human knowledge… by holding on to its non-profit, open-source ideals. Today, the platform is an indispensable tool for the generative AI bots that may one day replace it. Wikipedia’s massive datasets are being used to train large language models. As the likes of ChatGPT and Bard threaten to gobble up the internet, Wikipedians are asking: where do we go from here? For now, it’s making plugins for chatbots to keep them from “hallucinating” (which drives home the point that human editing will always be critical). Wikipedia also has a machine learning team, and people who are beginning to wonder if the time has come to ask AI companies for some due desserts. This in-depth story in The New York Times not only breaks it down, but also doubles as a love letter to the last holdout of an idealistic internet.