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How Is Steven Spielberg Going to Make a Great Movie Out of This God-Awful Book?

Charmaine Blake

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Steven Spielberg only began working on The Post in late February and shooting it in May and yet ten months after that whirlwind creative process began, its now arrived in theaters as one of the years most acclaimed films (and leading Oscar contenders). Assembling such an impressive production in that brief time frame, replete with an all-star cast led by Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, is a feat that few cinematic artists could pull off, and proves that, at age 71, the legendary director is still as formidable a behind-the-camera talent as ever.

Which is good, because his next project may be the most difficult one of his career.

Im speaking about Ready Player One, Spielbergs adaptation of Ernest Clines 2011 novel, which was shot in late 2016 and has been in effects-heavy post-production ever since and which will debut in theaters on March 30, 2018. Given how much of that tale takes place in virtual environments (and with outlandish fictional characters) that could only be created via computer animation, itll be the filmmakers largest foray to date into a digitally enhanced live-action realm. An adventure that spans vast make-believe universes culled from our collective pop-culture memory, Clines saga is a veritable smorgasbord of references to past TV shows, video games and movies (including some by Spielberg himself). Its a saga in which the boundaries between the real and the unreal have been wiped away, replaced by a new world order that stipulates that anything is possible.

Its also a terribly written piece of adolescent fantasy that, at heart, exemplifies everything wrong and repellent about modern nerd culture.

Clines story concerns a boy named Wade Watts who, in a 2044 America ravaged by war, energy shortages and environmental collapse, spends most of his days in a free virtual simulation called the OASIS, which was created by a Steve Jobs-like genius named James Halliday. When Halliday dies, he leaves behind a message revealing that somewhere deep inside the OASIS, hes hidden an Easter Egg (i.e. a special, secret surprise), and the person who finds it will be granted his entire fortune as well as full control of the OASIS. This sparks a years-long quest by all of mankind to find the three keys that will lead to the egg. And its a mission that invariably leads orphan Wade, playing in the OASIS as an avatar named Parzival, to try to unlock the riddles and beat the challenges left by Halliday, all while both collaborating with a group of comrades (including a girl he loves named Art3mis), and battling IOI, an evil anti-Net Neutrality-style corporation that wants to find the egg and turn the OASIS into a profit machine.

On the face of it, Ready Player One functions as a serviceable tween sci-fi hero quest. However, it uses its premise as a means of reveling in the 1980s entertainment that defined Clines life since, as it turns out, Halliday was fixated on (and made the OASIS a paean to) that decade, thus motivating Wade and the rest of his fellow treasure hunters to study and memorize everything 80s-related in order to succeed. The result is a stunted-adolescent story in which theres nothing greater than being an authority on Family Ties, Dungeons & Dragons, WarGames and arcade classics like Joust and Pac-Man, to name only a few of the myriad properties about which Wade proudly boasts hes an expert. To be a true champion in Clines novel requires an encyclopedic knowledge of the stuff that the author himself thinks is the apex of human civilization namely, the video games and sitcoms and teen comedies he grew up adoring.

Ready Player One validates being the sort of obsessive-compulsive geek that views Comic-Con as nirvana, and reconfigures the nerd stereotype a girlfriend-deficient loner who plays online games alone in his moms basement into a peerless paragon of all-around sexy-cool-awesomeness. Wade admits that Online, I didnt have a problem talking to people or making friends. But in the real world, interacting with other peopleespecially kids my own agemade me a nervous wreck. When it comes to Hallidays favorite arcade titles, To me, they were hallowed artifacts. Pillars of the pantheon. When I played the classics, I did so with a determined sort of reverence. And later, during an argument with Art3mis, whom he has a serious crush on, he has the following exchange:

She shook her head. You dont live in the real world, Z. From what youve told me, I dont think you ever have. Youre like me. You live inside this illusion. She motioned to our virtual surroundings. You cant possibly know what real love is.

Dont say that! I was starting to cry and didnt bother hiding it from her. Is it because I told you Ive never had a real girlfriend? And that Im a virgin? Because

Of course not, she said. That isnt what this is about. At all.

Despite being a dorky kid whos never gotten laid and whose entire existence is spent hooked up to VR gear and shunning the real world he goes to school, hangs out with friends, dates and even orders food via the OASIS Wade is treated by Cline as an ideal: a courageous, quippy boy who prevails against insurmountable odds because hes watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail exactly 157 times. I knew every word by heart. Ready Player One is the pinnacle of nerd wish-fulfillment, one that coddles its target-audience readers with the notion that being an anti-social hermit is anything but an intellectually empty and alienating endeavor. On the contrary! Its the way you become the most powerful person in the world or, at least, the virtual world, where you dress yourself in Gandalf robes, fly spaceships, and be an invincible Han Solo wizard deity dork whos beloved and revered by all.

That includes by the ladies, of course, since Ready Player One proffers the in-your-dreams idea that Wades geekiness is catnip to female gamers, who are naturally strong, beautiful and unable to resist the charms of a guy whos literally shaved his head and locked himself away in a room for months on end to travel around virtual planets modeled after Firefly and the music of Pat Benatar. As Wade says about his darling Art3mis, We talked for hours. Long, rambling conversations about everything under the sun. Spending time with her was intoxicating. We seemed to have everything in common. We shared the same interests. We were driven by the same goal. She got all of my jokes. She made me laugh. She made me think. She changed the way I saw the world. Except, of course, that she doesnt change his worldview at all; rather, his incomparable nerd wisdom is what changes her specifically, into someone who sees him as actual boyfriend material. Which happens, after doing eye-roll-worthy things like this:

Art3mis and I even teamed up for a few quests. We visited the planet Goondocks and finished the entire Goonies quest in just one day. Arty played through it as Martha Plimptons character, Stef, while I played as Mikey, Sean Astins character. It was entirely too much fun.

As if all this fairy tale geekiness playing classic coin-ops to unlock new missions; experiencing interactive movies from the protagonists first-person perspective; fighting large-scale battles full of John Woo-ish gunplay and Ultraman-style robots werent enough to make Ready Player One an unbearable celebration of nostalgic juvenilia, the novel also turns out to be a clumsily composed book marked by its protagonists smarty-pants voice. Wades obnoxious know-it-all attitude permeates the proceedings, as when he expounds on his limitless and greater-than-you 80s-music expertise:

I memorized lyrics. Silly lyrics, by bands with names like Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Pink Floyd.

I kept at it.

I burned the midnight oil.

Did you know that Midnight Oil was an Australian band, with a 1987 hit titled Beds Are Burning?

Yes, actually, most people did know that, but thanks for asking, Wade, you self-satisfied little shut-in. Yet reading Ready Player One, its not Wade for whom one feels the most contempt; its Cline. Just as Wade uses his Parzival avatar to create a perfect version of himself, so Cline does the same with Wade since Wades boundless, super-radical-amazing 80s erudition is really Clines, and something the author cant help but brag about in detail. When Wade boasts about his virtual car (my time-traveling, Ghost Busting, Knight Riding, matter-penetrating DeLorean) one can practically hear Cline squealing with delight over the idea of owning such a fit-for-a-fourth-graders-imagination mash-up vehicle. Worse, though, is when Cline uses Wade to forward his own opinions on God and the afterlife (obviously bullshit, noobs!), or about sex, such as in this historically awful passage:

I felt no shame about masturbating. Thanks to Anoraks Almanac [Hallidays compendium of 80s favorites], I now thought of it as a normal bodily function, as necessary and natural as sleeping or eating.

AA 241:87I would argue that masturbation is the human animals most important adaptation. The very cornerstone of our technological civilization. Our hands evolved to grip tools, all rightincluding our own. You see, thinkers, inventors, and scientists are usually geeks, and geeks have a harder time getting laid than anyone. Without the built-in sexual release valve provided by masturbation, its doubtful that early humans would have ever mastered the secrets of fire or discovered the wheel. And you can bet that Galileo, Newton, and Einstein never would have made their discoveries if they hadnt first been able to clear their heads by slapping the salami (or knocking a few protons off the old hydrogen atom). The same goes for Marie Curie. Before she discovered radium, you can be certain she first discovered the little man in the canoe.

Its a terribly written piece of adolescent fantasy that, at heart, exemplifies everything wrong and repellent about modern nerd culture.

Even for someone who grew up in the 80s, and who loved many of the games and films that Wade himself reveres, Ready Player One resounds as the work of a man-child who subpar prose aside believes that his most cherished old-school cartoons, comic-books and video games arent just worthwhile; theyre all that matters, and should naturally be the cornerstone of society. Its a lionization of immature things (and immaturity) as an end to itself, rather than as the building blocks of more mature and worthwhile creations. When, late in the novel, Art3mis chides her IOI adversaries for failing to figure out a puzzle by stating, DilettantesIts their own fault for not knowing all the Schoolhouse Rock! lyrics by heart. How did those fools even get this far?, Cline once again makes plain that, above all else, he values those items prized by his seven-year-old self. Who was, like most seven-year-olds, a know-nothing.

In light of Ready Player Ones cringe-inducing regressiveness, Spielberg finds himself embarking on his own burdensome quest. From a purely logistical standpoint, Clines story is so awash in pop-culture shout-outs that the directors adaptation will have to seamlessly amalgamate a bevy of licensed creative properties as well as figure out how to handle the novels plentiful references to his own oeuvre. More onerous than those obstacles, however, is the books Peter Pan-ish infatuation with childishness, which comes coated in a stench of stale Doritos, Jolt Cola, and lowbrow smugness. Once the king of adolescent fantasies, Spielberg has long since moved on to (and seemed more comfortable) making movies about the grown-up world, and in order for his forthcoming project to transcend its rotten source material, hell have to find a way to turn a more critical eye toward the pop-culture relics blindly glorified by Cline.

And if not? Then for the filmmakers Ready Player One, itll likely be to take a page from Clines own cornball playbook Game over, man!

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-is-steven-spielberg-going-to-make-a-great-movie-out-of-this-god-awful-book

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Picture of Tom Hardy as Al Capone in Upcoming Movie Fonzo

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Infamous mob boss Al Capone has an iconic look, and somehow Tom Hardy is nailing it perfectly.

A recent picture of Hardy surfaced Wednesday that shows the actor in full Capone dress and makeup for his role as the gangster in the upcoming biographical movie Fonzo (which stems from Capone’s full first name, Alphonse — not to be confused with Alfonse).

It’s almost hard to believe that’s Hardy under there.

This new picture comes a few months after Fonzo director Joshua Trank and Hardy himself shared a couple photos of Hardy as old Scarface on Instagram. Take a look:

 
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‘Thailand Cave Rescue: The Movie’ May Be Coming To A Screen Near You

Charmaine Blake

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“It hasn’t even been 24 hours since rescuers pulled the last boy of the trapped Wild Boars junior soccer team from Thailand’s Tham Luang Cave — but there’s already talk of immortalizing their incredible survival and rescue story on the silver screen.

Pure Flix Entertainment, an Arizona-based Christian film studio, said it’s seeking the movie rights to the harrowing mission to rescue the soccer team and their 25-year-old coach from the flooded cave.

“The bravery and heroism I’ve witnessed is incredibly inspiring, so, yes, this will be a movie for us,” Pure Flix co-founder and CEO Michael Scott, who is partly based in Thailand, told the Hollywood Reporter of the studio’s intentions.

No one will likely be surprised by the studio’s swift interest. Social media has been abuzz for days with chatter about the inevitable “Thailand Cave Rescue: The Movie.”

Pure Flix’s co-founder David White told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that the studio had already started talking to…….”

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/thailand-cave-rescue-movie-tham-luang-cave_us_5b45bcc4e4b07aea7545a157

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These tweets Show the Backlash to Casting Scarlett Johansson in a Trans Role

Charmaine Blake

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Did you hear about the latest Scarlett Johansson casting debacle?

Here’s how a good portion of the internet reacted to the news:

In case you missed it, here’s a brief recap:

ScarJo was recently cast as Dante “Tex” Gill, a real-life transgender man who oversaw a massage parlor and sex work business in Pittsburgh in the ’70s and ’80s. A new film about his life, currently titled “Rub & Tug,” is being co-produced by Johansson — and, conveniently enough, stars her as well.

But as the previous tweet not-so subtly suggested, many people aren’t thrilled about Johansson, who is cisgender, portraying Gill, who was transgender. And rightfully so.

But wait! Before you argue, “Well, isn’t that what acting is all about — pretending to be somebody you’re not?” hear what a few trans actors had to say about the news. Because if anyone should be heard on this issue, it’s them.

Jamie Clayton, who starred in “Sense8,” wasn’t thrilled.

Trans actors don’t get nearly the same opportunity as cis artists, she argued, which gets at the heart of the issue.

Trace Lysette, known for her role in “Transparent,” also made a similar argument.

If she were getting a seat at the table, things would be different. But those seats are reserved for cis women.

It makes matters worse when those same cis actors are celebrated for playing trans characters when actual trans actors never even had a shot, Lysette continued in a follow-up tweet.

They make a great point.

Very few transgender characters make it onto the big screen, period. But even when they do, those characters are often defined solely by their gender identities, fall into harmful stereotypes, or serve no purpose to the plot other than to be the butt of transphobic jokes.

In recent years, more fully realized trans characters made it into Hollywood narratives. But when they do, too often they’re still portrayed by cisgender actors, like Matt Bomer, Jeffrey Tambor — and now Scarlett Johansson.

As Lysette and Clayton noted, it’s still rare (read: basically impossible) for trans actors to be cast in cisgender roles. So it’s understandably infuriating when the few opportunities that do arise for them are snatched away by cis Hollywood heavyweights who no doubt have a plethora of scripts to choose from.

Beyond affecting the opportunities for trans actors, though, these casting decisions have real-world ramifications as well.

When cisgender actors are cast in transgender roles, it perpetuates the harmful myth that transgender people are simply “in drag” — that they’re really just pretending or performing, GLAAD’s Nick Adams argued in The Hollywood Reporter:

“Hollywood is having a very difficult time letting go of the idea that putting a male actor in a dress, wig and makeup is an accurate portrayal of a transgender woman. … It’s yet another painful reminder that, in the eyes of so many people, transgender women are really just men. That message is toxic and dangerous.”

It’s a notion, he argued, that attempts to justify bigoted bathroom laws and fuels violence against the transgender community.

Casting decisions on Hollywood sets do make a difference in real life, whether we believe it or not.

But maybe there’s a way out of this latest casting mess.

First, Johansson can apologize for her incredibly insensitive response to the criticism, as well as her defensive alignment with cis actor Jeffrey Tambor’s role as a trans woman in “Transparent” (remember, he allegedly sexually harassed then-assistant Trace Lysette).

Then she can take YouTuber Grace Randolph’s idea and run with it:

“I hope the Scarlett Johansson controversy doesn’t keep the amazing story of Jean Marie Gill aka Dante ‘Tex’ Gill from being told. If Johansson was smart, she’d find a new director, take the role of Tex’s girlfriend Cynthia, and give a trans actor a big break.”

That’s not a bad idea, really. Hopefully someone in Hollywood is listening.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/these-tweets-nailed-why-casting-scarlett-johansson-in-a-trans-role-is-not-so-great

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