Open To Criticism
Helen O'Hara: "Women vs Hollywood" and other battles....
Women have had their (brief) moments of power during the 100+ years of Hollywood, but they and other marginalised groups have never had an easy ride. Film critic Helen O'Hara's book Women vs Hollywood: the Fall and Rise of Women in Film is a must-read for understanding this history of cinema - from the perspective of those still trying to get an equal piece of the pie. She's the perfect way to kick off this podcast: from the problem with the (very white male) film canon, to how women's opinions are still shouted down, Helen is a voice of reason - and a highly engaging and entertaining one at that.
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12. Guy Lodge: Queering Critique33:40For the final episode of season 1 I dig deep into the theme of critic identity, in a bid to really illustrate how beneficial it is to gain alternative perspectives to the false norm of the straight white male. My guest Guy Lodge is a very established critic whose queer perspective challenges the heteronormative assumptions of both mainstream filmmaking and traditional criticism. This week we discuss the initially overlooked queer themes of The Power Of The Dog; queer cinema then and now - including how it might have been critically received back in the day; the surprise queer reading of The Babadook movie, the impact of AIDS on criticism at the height of the crisis, and how in general, filmmakers are still resisting realistic representations of queer sex onscreen.
11. Kaleem Aftab: Film and Criticism beyond the Western Gaze37:31This week we look at the recent explosion of quality filmmaking in Asia, Africa and across the Arab world with critic, producer and author Kaleem Aftab. Kaleem explains how cheaper technology, recent social movements and streaming are just some of the factors enabling new filmmakers from these regions to start taking ownership of their stories - stories that have often been misrepresented and exploited by Hollywood. We discuss how some notable female filmmakers from these regions are coming through, how censorship becomes a much more nuanced conversation when cultures beyond the white west are included, and how the ongoing squeeze of film critics' pay is damaging the wider film industry.
10. Hanna Flint: "Strong Female Character" and Critic Identity36:35The issue of identity and how much a critic brings theirs into their work has been a longstanding debate. Traditionally critics believed in assuming a neutral detached standpoint. Now however, that supposed 'universal' position is being challenged for actually being the white male perspective born of their domination of the field. My guest this week Hanna Flint and her book Strong Female Character are great examples of how a critic's love of film is woven into the very fabric of their life. And in turn, how our life experience from whatever background informs how we see the world and the films made about it. Hanna's also a lot of fun and provides much food for thought about the continued misrepresentations and appropriation of Arab and MENA culture onscreen, and how female archetypes are so often simplified and misused to negative effect.
9. Pamela Hutchinson: Cinema - the perfect archive of our imperfect world.35:57Rethinking criticism in the light of wider changes in the film industry - as a result of MeToo, BLM and Times Up - helps determine a way forward. But what does that mean for cinema's history? How do we now reappraise many classic films and their increasingly troublesome representations from our viewpoint of the 21st century? The person to ask is definitely this week's guest: critic and film historian Pamela Hutchinson, who authors books, curates film seasons and writes extensively on classic and silent cinema. Pamela has long argued that it's not about simply dismissing films that depict casual sexism and racism prevalent at the time. Instead we need to see old films as important archives of how things were - and what still needs to change.
8. Ashanti Omkar: Critics vs Influencers?34:57For the longest time, critics have been an important cog in the wheel of film promotion. However, film publicists are now utilising social media influencers and their huge numbers of followers. By wooing influencers and inviting them to special preview screenings, vast online attention is garnered via viral photos from these glitzy media events - with the bonus that enthusiastic influencers can help counter any potentially negative critical reviews. So are influencers and blockbuster film promotion a match made in heaven? Or are critics getting pushed out in favour of paid-for promotion that undermines critical quality control for film-goers? To lift the veil on the true impact of influencers on criticism, I'm joined by critic and industry influencer Ashanti Omkar, who has experience on both sides of this promotional fence.
7. Professor Mattias Frey: "The Permanent Crisis of Film Criticism"35:05This week I'm being a swotty fangirl, as my guest is someone whose work I've revered for several years now. Mattias Frey is a film and media industries scholar and he's Professor and Head of the Department of Media, Culture and Creative Industries at City, University of London. He's written several books, but his 2015 publication The Permanent Crisis of Film Criticism: The Anxiety of Authority was my Bible during my Masters research. So the chance to discuss his work first-hand, and pick his brains about where we're at right now - especially in the context of the history of criticism - seemed too good an opportunity to miss. If you've ever pondered the story of film criticism and how it's morphed over cinema's 100+ year history then look no further than this week's episode.
6. Karen Krizanovich: Onscreen Sex beyond the Male Gaze34:37Sex and the movies. It's a perfect combination, except when it isn't. #MeToo has prompted a realisation that onscreen depictions of sex need rethinking - especially when it comes to women. There's a wider understanding of the Male Gaze now, so how is it impacting the way we perceive and discuss female sex and nudity? And can we be more more careful about sex onscreen without losing the intended sexiness? As former sex columnist "Dear Karen" from the 90s, film critic and film production researcher Karen Krizanovich was my first port of call for an overview of onscreen sex and how we critics do - and don't - talk about it.
5. Amon Warmann: Navigating the white space of film as a Black critic34:01Amon Warmann is one of very few black male film critics in the UK, and despite having carved out an impressive career over the.past decade he can still struggle to be seen beyond his racial credentials. Amon reflects upon this in this weeks episode, along with how he found his voice in a decidedly white space, how lighthearted film chats on social media can get messy, and his frustrations with the repeated pushback against diverse casting. Our chat took place in summer 2022 and I date it, because he discusses his "BFI Greatest films of All Time" list which has since been made available online.
4. Cathy Reay: Film's inability to do Disability32:42Whilst the push for better representation for women and people of colour has become more mainstream, the disabled community are yet to be included to the same degree. This matters hugely when it comes to cinema because of its long-standing problematic history when representing disability. From failing to cast disabled actors, to entrenched tropes where disability denotes evil or societal outsiders to be avoided, we've been drip-fed many taken-for-granted representations that need significant revision. After reading journalist and author Cathy Reay's recent review of the film Champions, which features a supporting cast of learning disabled actors, I was keen to chat with her and hear firsthand the many ways non-disabled critics and filmmakers are failing the disabled community.