It’s not been a major topic of conversation in most circles outside of the movie industry, but right now, studios and movie theaters are involved in a huge struggle over Premium Video on Demand, i.e., the window between when a movie is released in theaters and when it is available for home viewers.
Revenue from theaters has basically flatlined in recent years, and it’s only been able to maintain that because of rising ticket prices, 3D and IMAX surcharges. Meanwhile, DVD sales are in the toilet. However, revenue from digital downloads is way up — in fact, overall, studios earn about twice as much from electronic home video as they do from movie theaters.
Still, movie theaters are a crucial part of the mix, and exhibitors are trying to keep pace with expensive upgrades and remodels — comfy chairs, reserved seating, better food, alcohol, etc. Obviously, movie theaters — who are putting a lot of money into these upgrades — don’t want to be undercut by digital distribution, so they’re resisting efforts by some of the major studios — namely Warner Brothers and Universal — to shrink the release window.
What many of the movie studios want to do is offer their movies for home viewing at a premium price two weeks after a movie is released. They’re currently in negotiations with Apple and Comcast to make those movies available for around $ 30 or $ 50 ($ 50 two weeks after release; $ 30 four-to-six weeks after release).
The question is: Who is going to pay $ 30 or $ 50 to watch a movie at home two weeks after it’s released? Wealthy people with big home entertainment systems, perhaps, and maybe families, who would be spending roughly the same amount to watch the movie as they would for ticket prices (this, however, fails to take into account the movie theater experience, which for a lot of parents (including me), is the biggest draw. We’ll either see it in theaters or wait and spend $ 4 to rent it when it’s available three months after its release).
It’s probably a moot point anyway, because PVOD is unlikely to come to fruition. Movie theaters will object by boycotting certain studios’ films, and the theatrical run still makes up 50 percent of a movie’s revenue. Right now, most insiders see this as posturing, a negotiation tactic by the studios over a long-term agreement over revenue splits.
In the midst of all this, of course, Amazon and Netflix are continuing to produce their own movies, which they can release into theaters and onto their own platforms soon thereafter (Amazon’s The Big Sick, for instance, will be available on September 5th, about six weeks after it went wide in theaters). Netflix has been making its movies available day and date, although I haven’t seen much evidence that Netflix has been very successful on the movie side — Brad Pitt’s War Machine didn’t make much of a splash, but the release of Will Smith’s Bright may tell us more. Disney, meanwhile, is staying the hell out of this, because with Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel and other huge franchises, the studio obviously relies heavily on movie theaters to turn a profit. Plus, they’re in the early stages of launching their own streaming platform (and subsequently removing Disney titles from Netflix).
What is clear, however, is that consumers are coming out on top, as studios, movie theaters, and streaming services all compete to make us happy with better theaters, quicker availability to movies, and a plethora of choices.
In thoroughly not surprising news, ABC has reportedly ordered a live-action adaptation of the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Jetsons. It’s being planned as a multi-camera sitcom set 100 years in the future, and will examine the famous Jetson family through a «modern filter.» Which could mean anything — maybe they will try to inject some diversity into the characters, or maybe the whole show will go gritty and grimdark. You know, kick off with a murder mystery and end with the big reveal that Judy was a replicant the entire time. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
A pilot has been already ordered (from writer Gary Janetti, who has worked on Family Guy and Will & Grace), which means there is a strong chance that it will go through to series. The original cartoon debuted in 1962, with an optimistic view of what life would be like in the Space Age that was firmly entrenched in its time. Housewives and homemakers could rely on female robots to serve as maids and do all the actual work. Middle-class households on one income could afford a flying vehicle. Moving walkways could take you straight to your desk. And best of all — no internet!
Sure, there is a lot of wiggle room in the concept of an idealized future, and maybe now is the time to develop a Jetsons update that reflects the progress made in the past 50+ years. But then I remembered that live-action adaptation of The Flinstones…
You’re probably waiting for me to make a joke. I’m not gonna. That shit is goddamn delightful. They straight up made a weird live-action version of the cartoon, down to the tiniest details. It starred personal hero John Goodman and a pre-retirement Rick Moranis — and they made Kyle MacLachlan wear a pelt. I want ABC to do THIS kind of reboot. An unapologetic homage to the old cartoon. Sure, make it more diverse, but don’t feel the need to make a thing out of it. And don’t scrimp on the weird cartoony bits either. MOVING WALKWAYS FOR EVERYBODY!
I read a lot of fan-castings. Of the myriad ways that fandom expresses its creativity and squee, I’ve always found the art of the fan-cast to be the most fascinating aspect of it all. It’s a giddy combination of armchair executive and industry interrogation, as most of the best fan-casts question and subvert the expectations of Hollywood’s archaic methods. Often, it seems as though the big suits at the major studios only know the names of ten actors, and half of them are all Chris. The same faces come up time and time again for the biggest roles, and they’re always the first figures mentioned when a major production is coming up. The industry has a very specific model in place for what it deems to be a popular, profitable face, and that outdated bias is smothering in its limitations. That’s what makes an effective fan-cast so striking: It forces you to acknowledge how subjective and utterly discriminatory the accepted methods are. It offers a direct challenge to what the biggest and most influential entertainment forces on earth have decreed to be the default hero.
A lot of the same names come up in these detailed and varied fan-casts. Everyone knows that Idris Elba should just be cast in every role and be done with it, but a name I see mentioned with comparable frequency is John Cho. I’ve seen him fan-cast in everything from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games to Batman. As a romance reader, I’ve seen him as the model for so many novels’ dream movie cast in every mould of romantic hero, be it stoic alpha or geeky beta. He’s easily reached Internet Boyfriend status by this stage, cemented by the ultimate sign of appreciation: An ‘If John Cho Were Your Boyfriend’ post on the sadly defunct site The Toast.
Cho’s fan-casting king status isn’t just an organic evolution of the fandom world; it’s a political statement, and one led with a specific intent to exact change in the industry. Last year, William Yu started the hasthag #StarringJohnCho, which sought to show the world how the biggest films on the planet would look if they cast a Asian-American actor as their lead. It showed Cho in a whole spectrum of leading men roles: As the comedy star in This Is 40 and The Nice Guys; as the dashing hero if Jurassic World and the Mission Impossible movies; As the romantic ensemble player in Mother’s Day; Even as James Bond himself. The results were striking and the intent clear: Here is Hollywood’s most obvious choice for an Asian-American leading man, a talented actor with decades of work under his belt, and he’s going to waste.
#StarringJohnCho, of course, wasn’t just about John Cho. The hashtag came at a time when the conversation over Asian-American representation in cinema was more necessary than ever. Between Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell and Emma Stone in Aloha, the industry seemed to have doubled down on Asian erasure in cinema. This erasure is always defended with the same tired arguments, but the most prominent one is thus: There aren’t any major Asian-American stars capable of opening a blockbuster at the box office. Never mind that the industry has put zero effort into making Asian-American stars, they’ve clearly demonstrated that they have no desire to do so. Why else would they keep optioning adaptations of famous anime then casting white people? It’s not as if those white A-listers are paying out much these days, if the grosses for Ghost in the Shell are anything to go by. All the old excuses are dead now, but the lie remains in place. It’s sad and lazy and also super unfair to actors like Cho, who embody all the great qualities of stardom but are deemed too risky to cast because of their race.
Having started his career in bit-part roles in films on film and TV, including American Beauty and Bowfinger, Cho made his first big impression in American Pie as the unnamed MILF Guy #2 (eventually, his character would be named John in the sequels). He landed a role as a Vietnamese restaurant owner in Off Centre (Cho is Korean-American), a WB sitcom from the Weitz Brothers, ‘from the guys who brought you American Pie‘, but that only lasted one season, which was mostly mired in controversy thanks to its raunchy content and subsequent protests from the ever-pointless Parents Television Council.
In 2002, Cho had substantial roles in two movies: The indie crime drama Better Luck Tomorrow and the teen comedy Big Fat Liar. Both films made a profit, and both revealed the contrasting attitudes towards Asian representation in American cinema. Better Luck Tomorrow, directed by Justin Lin, who would later go on to helm four films in the Fast & the Furious franchise, has a diverse Asian-American ensemble playing a group of over-achievers who dabble in petty crime for cheap thrills. Lin has stated that the film is an exploration of contemporary youth culture through an Asian-American lens, but also one that can be viewed as a universal experience. It was well received and is partly remembered today as the film that caused Roger Ebert to stand up against a white audience member at Sundance who asked Lin if he thought the film was an irresponsibly negative portrayal of his community. It’s a badass Ebert moment, but one that also highlights the impossible conundrum directors and actors of colour face: When there is so little representation of your life in pop culture, the little that gets attention must carry the unmanageable weight of generalised expectations.
For Cho, another 2002 film showed a more limiting and all too common scope for Asian-Americans on film as seen through the white gaze. Big Fat Liar is a cartoon of a movie, much in the same way most of the teen-aimed films of the mid-2000s era were. Cho’s role isn’t big but the role changed vastly under his guidance. In an AMA session on Reddit, he admitted that he had been asked to do an accent for the role, which he refused, saying, ‘I don’t want to do this role in a kid’s comedy, with an accent, because I don’t want young people laughing at an accent inadvertently.’ Director Shaun Levy agreed to make changes and so the role is without a racially charged ‘Asian accent’. Hearing that story is a sharp reminder of a crushing reality for so many actors of colour, and you can’t help but wonder how many times Cho and others like him have been asked to do that in auditions (it’s a problem Aziz Ansari tackled head-first in his Netflix series, Master of None). As noted by GQ, ‘in Cho’s entire career, he has not once played a character with a fake accent.’
2004 brought with it Cho’s first starring part, and it’s one that’s quietly revolutionary. The co-leading role of Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle was written specifically for Cho by Hayden Schlossberg, which Cho admitted to being confused about when first approached. A lot of the film is typical stoner comedy goofballs, but there’s a fascinating specificity to its humour and characters, rooted in the leading pair both being second generation sons of immigrants. Harold Lee is an investment banker dealing with the stresses of his job and being manipulated by his white co-workers, while Kumar is afraid of committing to his desire to be a doctor because he feels it will simply confirm stereotypes about Indian kids being forced into the occupation by their pushy parents. Given how many films in this genre are just about bland white kids sticking their dicks wherever they’ll fit, Harold and Kumar has the nerve to try for something deeper. It also paid off, as the film was a mild success but with the right demographics — college stoners — and the film evolved into a trilogy that’s grossed over $ 100m.
A success like that, even a modest one, would be expected to catapult its stars to the next level of fame and roles. That didn’t exactly happen with Cho. He starred in the TV series Kitchen Confidential, based on the Anthony Bourdain book, which was cancelled four episodes in. More bit-parts in film and TV followed, as well as the first Harold & Kumar sequel in 2008. It took five whole years for Cho to land the one-two punch of major exposure he deserved, and both in the sci-fi realm: The hotly hyped but quickly cancelled TV drama FlashForward and the big-screen adaptation of a little known show called Star Trek.
Hikaru Sulu, originally played by George Takei, was originally created by Gene Roddenberry as the stand-in for all of Asia in the Trek universe. For the reboot, Cho was approved by Takei himself, after director J.J. Abrams feared possible backlash to casting a Korean-American in a role originated by a Japanese-American. Cho is a damn good Sulu, but it’s easy to overlook that given how little he has to do in the first two movies. He’s driven but with that sly edge of a guy who’s probably smarter than everyone on board and knows it. Critic Elvis Mitchell had previously cited his ‘lazy magnetism’ in Better Luck Tomorrow, which captures the kind of effortless charm he exudes, even when there’s nothing to do but push a few buttons and give Chris Pine the stink-eye. He’s given far more of a role to work with in the third film, Star Trek Beyond, helmed by his old friend Justin Lin. There, we see Sulu with his husband and daughter, but we also get a richer depiction of the Enterprise’s crew, working together and each with a chance to use their own unique skills. You spend much of the films wondering why there isn’t more of Sulu, but you also know the reason why.
Cho continued to work steadily on film in between Sulu obligations, but it was TV that gave him something meatier. There was a supporting part on Go On, another one season wonder, then irregular appearances on the first season of Sleepy Hollow, but Selfie was the crowning moment, albeit one that will forever remain sinfully underrated. ABC’s modern retelling of Pygmalion suffered before its premiere due to an admittedly ropey title and a set-up that reeked of millennial stereotyping gone sentient. That’s seriously disappointing because the show itself is much savvier than was anticipated, but also an unabashed rom-com that allows Cho to don the mantle of romantic hero, and boy is he great at it. As Henry Higgs, the marketing image guru who takes the social media obsessed Eliza Dooley under his wing, Cho is charismatic to the hilt.
While many critics viewed the show as frivolous fluff, Cho knew the weight the role carried as a rare opportunity for an Asian-American man to be the romantic lead, something that hadn’t happened on American TV up to that point. Cho called it ‘revolutionary’, noting that ‘Asians narratively in shows are insignificant. They’re the cop, or the waitress, or whatever it is. You see them in the background. So to be in this position… is a bit of a landmark.’ It’s also a landmark to see a major network show portray an Asian-American man as sexual and sexy. Cho is unabashedly hot as Henry Higgs, and the series takes full advantage of that, with gif-friendly scenes of him lying on the bed with a champagne glass in hand as he coyly bites his lip. He pulls Karen Gillan close to him, the heat between them palpable, and it’s utterly seductive for Gillan and viewers alike. Sam Levin in the Guardian documented the limited on-screen opportunities for Asian actors, most of which are ‘highly emasculated, desexualised characters’ for men, while Asian women ‘regularly go up for parts as masseuses and sex workers or characters described as submissive, fragile or quiet.’ As actor Pun Bandhu laments to Levin, ‘We’re the information givers. We’re the geeks. We’re the prostitutes.’
The industry has created a harsher route to success for actors of colour, particularly Asian actors who make up a paltry 1% of lead roles in Hollywood, and it seems dead set on making the road even harder to navigate. The markers of success are higher for someone like Cho than any white actor of comparable success: Even two $ 100m+ trilogies with his name over the banner don’t count as much as being a mediocre white dude with ‘potential’. Cho also has to deal with being one of the few prominent Asian-American actors in the industry. #StarringJohnCho was part of that, and Cho himself has thought a lot about what that means. In an interview with Vulture, he noted, regarding the hashtag and its movement:
‘I really feel like it’s this collective dream that we all want to be a part of. Culture is this thing that exists apart from our real life but is something we all have tacitly agreed to in America. And what film and television do, particularly in this country, is lay out the characters involved in this invisible agreement, and dictate who and what can participate. So I feel like it’s tied up in this idea of personhood, that Asian-Americans are looking to be affirmed as real people.’
Koganada, the director of Cho’s latest film, the critically acclaimed drama Columbus, sums up Cho’s career succinctly in an interview with Vulture: He’s a hard worker and committed professional who people enjoy working with, one who loves his job and has the sufficient range to try it all, but not one to suffer fools gladly. His career has been limited by the industry’s racism, but that hasn’t limited his talent. Cho is always a joy to watch, even in the most thankless roles, and you constantly hunger for more from him because you know he’s capable of much more than he’s offered.
John Cho has a good career, but dammit, it could be great if Hollywood let it. Maybe they should check out a few fan-casts for inspiration.
Image Source: Sony Music As soon as May rolls around, the music industry’s best and brightest start releasing fresh tracks in hopes of getting one of their hits crowned «Song of the Summer.» Since we can’t possibly narrow down our favorite song out of all the incredible jams that have come out the last few months, we’re leaving it up to you: of the 10 songs ahead, which do you think deserves the elusive title of 2017’s Song of the Summer? Vote now! POPSUGAR Celebrity
There was a moment in Saturday’s DuckTales premiere that spoke to me. Donald Duck is all dressed up and sitting in a lobby, waiting for a job interview. He’s got pages in his hands (an application, or a resume? who knows!), and he attempts to staple them. The stapler doesn’t work, so he gets agitated, in that uniquely Donald Duck fashion. You know, with the angry quacking and the arm-flailing. And eventually he gets so worked up that he manages to staple himself to the wall.
I felt like Donald Duck all weekend. Just jumping on chairs, flapping my arms and frantically quacking into the ether. I am a useless volcano of rage.
Point is, I needed the return of DuckTales more than I realized. And while a fucking cartoon is nothing compared to the racism and domestic terrorism we witnessed over the weekend, I’m still going to thank the Disney corporate overlords for giving us something to balm our bruised souls. We’d been waiting for months, and it came at the perfect time.
So what’s the verdict? Is the reboot everything fans of the original could have hoped for, or was it just riding the wave of the insane voice cast? It’s both! Look, there was no way the cast would be a letdown, unless they all decided to record their lines after getting their wisdom teeth removed. David Tennant doesn’t just leverage his natural Scottish accent as Scrooge McDuck, he practically purrs. And let’s be honest — the man has a knack for injecting charm into the role of an old wandering adventurer. Danny Pudi, Ben Schwartz, and Bobby Moynihan bring their own distinct shades to Huey, Dewey, and Louie — and for once you won’t have to rely on their shirt colors to tell them apart. Kate Micucci helps transform Webby into the surprise backbone of the group: capable, intelligent, completely earnest, and a little awkward. And while Toks Olagundoye and Beck Bennett don’t get as much time to shine as Mrs. Beakley and Launchpad McQuack, respectively, they are already positioned to be the perfect comedic foils: Beakley for her no-nonsense dedication (and insistence that she is NOT Scrooge’s secretary), and Launchpad for his optimistic claims that he is a pilot (despite never seeming to drive anything terribly well).
However, these may not be the exact characters you remember from the old days. Scrooge is still capable of some nastiness, but so far he doesn’t seem to be driven by his iconic need to accumulate more gold for his Money Bin. This time around, his goal is simply to reclaim the adrenaline-fueled adventures of his youth — and if treasure just happens to fall into his lap along the way, well at least he knows where to store it. Donald Duck is poised to be more of a permanent fixture in the proceedings, as he moves into Scrooge’s mansion along with the boys by the end of the premiere. He also may prove to be the voice of reason (?!?!?!), provided you can understand what he’s saying. In fact, the whole family dynamic looks like it will be deepened and explored, thanks to core mystery surrounding the past adventures that Scrooge shared with Donald and his sister (the mother of Huey, Dewey, and Louie), which led to some sort of falling out. And, presumably, may explain why Donald is now in charge of his nephews.
Considering the show was always about a rascally set of triplets who go off to stay with their rich great-uncle, the best change may simply be the effort the writers have invested in making the boys stand out from each other. Sure, the voice talent helps, but the actors are really just perfectly cast for the distinct roles they play. Pudi’s Huey is the by-the-books Boy Scout, who is always prepared. Schwartz’s Dewey is being set up as the mini-Scrooge, all gung-ho derring-do. And Moynihan’s Louie, despite being tagged by his brothers as the evil one, seems like the easygoing optimist of the crew. Together they are troublemakers, but they aren’t one indistinguishable unit. And the premiere lays out just why the family is coming together — basically, to give the boys the chance to learn how to get themselves OUT of trouble from their great-uncle Scrooge.
The plot of the premiere covers the introductions and then gives us a taste of the sort of adventures we’ll be able to expect when the series returns next month — namely, they go to Atlantis. And it features the sorts of humor and hijinx you’d expect, while also establishing the characters and their world. What surprised me was that, as a person who grew up watching the original cartoon, I was primed to enjoy this show — but it still went above and beyond to make me care about this ITERATION of the show. It wasn’t just the comfort of returning to a long lost element of my youth. It was the joy of discovering something new that felt like home.
Look, don’t get me wrong — this is absolutely a children’s cartoon. It’s not exactly Mad Men, or Proust, or even Hamilton (where were you, Lin-Manuel?!). And yet, I am an adult who will definitely be watching this cartoon for the foreseeable future. Because I have zero shame.
The abject horror of the last 36 hours or so, which is still coming in waves, strong and forceful, allowing none of us to so much as catch a breath, even compared to what little breath we were able to take in in the seven months preceding, it’s been impossible. Impossible to wrap our heads around, impossible to face, but also necessary to do both and beyond, even as we exist in this fight or flight crisis mode that we’ve come to know as daily existence. And while there have been jokes and memes, none of it has been funny. Even a moment of amusement is swiftly destroyed by the deep hollow sorrow accompanying every internal giggle, and a pang of regret for even allowing yourself to feel it, if you ever did at all.
One of the more common jokes has been the easiest, lowest hanging fruit of them all: these men are virgins, they’re ugly, they’ll never satisfy another human being, parents’ basements, the usual. And those jokes diminish the sheer awfulness of their movement, the very real and very embedded racism and xenophobia that exists in America down to our bedrock.
It’s not funny. None of this is funny. The fuckability of Nazis and white supremacists is nothing I feel like even attempting to muster up a thought toward.
But. They started it.
To those of you in Charlottesville, go out and enjoy yourselves.
If you’re at a bar in a group, random girls will want to have sex with you. Because you’re the bad boys. The ultimate enemy of the state. Every girl on the planet wants your dick now.
Let’s ignore for a second the fact that every single man and woman at this event looks like they were sculpted with old mashed potatoes and slightly yellowed mayonnaise. Let’s ignore they probably all have hands that are both too warm and moist with a sweat that is too cold. Let’s ignore that when faced with a penis or a vagina in a sexual encounter, their response would likely be an aggressive slapping that their red pained faces tell you they mean to be erotic but most assuredly is NOT. Let’s pretend instead they all look like a veritable Pajiba 10 meet-up at a hot people bar none of us reading this are attractive enough to attend, least of all this mediocre human wine bottle writing this. Gillian Anderson herself could appear to us in a thin white T-shirt, lips pouted, and start reading that word for word, and I speak for every person on this planet, our bodies in unison would dry up, flaccify, fizzle and absorb themselves into a rolled-up husk like a dried out corpse of a pill bug.
No one. NO ONE. No one wants to fuck you, Nazis. No one except your own Nazi kind. Have fun at this «bar» in a «group» (sure, Jans) but no girl on the planet wants your dick now. Or before. Or ever. Unless it’s to watch it melt off Raiders-style.
But let’s move on a bit more in the missive.
And to everyone, know this: we are now at war.
And we are not going to back down.
There will be more events. Soon. We are going to start doing this nonstop. Across the country. I’m going to arrange them myself. Others will too, I’m sure, but I’m telling you now: I am going to start arranging my own events. We are going to go bigger than Charlottesville. We are going to go huge.»
Charlottesville is not the only. It’s the beginning. This is the time you pick a side.
Pick the right one, and speak out. But definitely don’t fuck a Nazi.
We all have hobbies. For Stellan Skarsgård, award winning Swedish actor, his seems to be keeping the population of his beloved homeland steady. In between being in basically every movie, working with legends like Lars Von Trier and Miloš Forman, and getting naked for Marvel, Stellan has given the world no fewer than eight of his offspring, and it just so happens that a bunch of them are also actors. Truly, he is a generous soul.
You have probably seen at least one Skarsgård at any given time in whatever you’re watching. Geographically speaking, you’re never more than five miles away from one. You may have watch a film or TV show and thought ‘he looks familiar’. Perhaps you included one of them in your Pajiba 10 rankings (Alex, it was probably Alexander you included, let’s be honest). Whatever the case, if you don’t like one Skarsgård, never fear because there’s plenty to choose from, and since we at Pajiba HQ are considerate and intellectual souls, we have decided to rank them for your consideration.
And you thought ranking the Chrises was easy. Amateurs! Now, it’s all relative!
This list will only focus on the Skarsgård clan members who are actors and in the public eye. Of the eight siblings, that includes half of them, and the others have better things to do or are under the age of ten. This is from least best to top best, because you’re never truly the worst when you’re a Skarsgård, and we don’t want to start any brotherly tiffs. Just put on some ABBA and appreciate the Scandinavian delights.
This isn’t personal. Being the youngest of the actors just means we haven’t had enough time to get to know Valter, and so we must rank him lowest. No worries though, he seems to be doing pretty well for himself. He’s got a solid acting resume under his belt, including time in a Metallica music video. He’s also a Twitch streamer of games like Rocket League and Call of Duty. As far as I can tell, he’s also the only one who’s really active on social media, where he’s as hungry as the rest of us for a follow-back from Mark Hamill, a level of thirst I deeply respect (and it worked! Nice one, Valter, you live your dreams). I can’t help but root for a kid who has reaction gifs of himself, so the future looks bright for the young Skarsgård. Just please don’t turn into one of those Twitch gamers.
A post shared by Valter Skarsgård (@valterskarsgard) on
I must admit that I haven’t seen a single episode of Vikings, of which Gustaf is part of the main cast, but I have heard surprisingly positive things and it’s been successful enough to garner a sizeable fanbase. Gustaf does have the distinction of being the only Skarsgård son to win a Guldbagge Award, the Swedish equivalent of an Oscar. He’s super tall, handsome, looks good in crazy Viking attire, and he’s going to be in Westworld. Not too shabby. Perhaps I should watch either of those shows so I can have more to say about him.
Okay, here’s the thing: I have spent way too much of my free time trying to figure out if I find Bill Skarsgård hot or not. This is way more difficult than you imagine for various reasons. If I were 15 again, he’s the Skarsgård I’d have on my wall (somewhere in-between Joaquin Phoenix and the lead singer of Franz Ferdinand). He’s definitely got something I can’t quite put my finger on, but all of this conversation is hampered by the fact that when I try to Google him for Research Purposes, I keep running across photos of him dressed as a FUCKING CLOWN!
I won’t be seeing IT, as you can imagine. He seems to be doing a stellar job in the role by the looks of the trailers, and I’ve liked him in other things (oh Hemlock Grove, you were so awful but I watched a lot of you anyway). The entire ‘deep eyed and pale and interesting’ thing was definitely for me once upon a time and may still be now, but the FUCKING CLOWN keeps getting in the way. This will require further research.
Ah, the original flavour. The Skarsgård who started it all. The hard working star of stage and screens big and small, the one who will seemingly do anything and ensure that he can take his clothes off for it all too. Did Mamma Mia need an arse shot of Stellan? Probably not, but we were still blessed. Did he need to wave it all about in Thor: The Dark World? Once again, such questions are irrelevant, because Stellan will always rise to the occasion. According to his oldest son, the patriarch of the family enjoys good clean nude living around the house, to the point where Alexander Skarsgård didn’t see him wearing trousers until he was in his teens. I mean, have you seen Nymphomaniac? Any actor who keeps working with Lars Von Trier and surviving the process is a mighty force indeed. He’s got the range. And the arse.
I mean, come on. Look at him.
Did you really expect me to pick anyone else? Alexander Johan Hjalmar Skarsgård is like the platonic ideal of a handsome man. I’ve never heard so many ostensibly straight dudes do the «Well, I’m not gay but if I were» conversation in regards to one man as much as I have with Alexander. He’s just that hot. Watch Generation Kill, or skip to all his scenes in True Blood (the dick-shot is in season 6), or, if you can, watch freaking The Legend of Tarzan, where he’s so buff that you could use his abs to grate cheese.
Of course, those blessed looks can be a distraction. The greatest distraction ever, mind you, but one that detracts from a simple fact: Alexander’s a bloody good actor. While it was Big Little Lies that woke up the general public to that little detail — and got him an Emmy nomination in the process — he’s been putting in impressive work in little-seen indies like The Diary of a Teenage Girl for ages now. He’s a quirky character actor in the package of a leading man. What a struggle to live with. A struggle I am happy to intently watch whenever the occasion calls for it.
Did I mention he’s ridiculously attractive? And that he seems to have inherited his father’s penchant for public nudity? Godspeed, Sweden.
Look, I don’t know about you guys, but it’s Wednesday and North Korea is getting all nukey and I’m just tired. So I thought I’d share with you, my closest internet acquaintances, one of my favorite time-wasting activities: making up names for weird hybrid animals.
The rules are simple. Pick an animal. Then pick another animal that you think would sound cool if its name was combined into that of the first animal. The goal here isn’t so much about the «reality» of what the hybrid animal would look like, though coming up with a cool hybrid creature concept is a bonus. The goal really is just to come up with neat-sounding names. Names that could headline the next Syfy original movie (I’m pretty sure this game came about after a late-nite viewing session of Mansquito).
Names like Platypigeon.
I usually stick to actual creatures, but if your interests tend toward the cryptozoological then feel free to throw in a unicorn or two. For example, what would you call a unicorn crossed with a narwhal? A unicornarwhal? No, I’d call it a bicornarwhal, because obviously the hybrid would inherit the horns from both parents. I mean, duh.
So if you’re in the mood to stare at a wall, ignore your work emails, and hide inside your mental menagerie for a bit, join me! I’ll kick things off with a SERIOUSLY seriously random list of hybrid animal names, and you can add more in the comments. Remember, there is no winner. Except science, or maybe Syfy. If they take these hybrid suggestions seriously.
I usually start with variations of «lobster» as a warm-up, because the name combines well and also CLAWS:
Cowster (which sounds DELICIOUS)
Crocobster (or Lobsterdile, either one sounds like a fun/terrible time)
And then I move into the cute/creepy territory:
Morse (I think of it as a mouse-sized horse, but it could go either way way)
Sharkakapo (The Kakapo is a nocturnal, flightless, ground-dwelling parrot from New Zealand and I love it)
And then into the realm of shit that will kill you twice:
Vipulture (viper + vulture, because seriously flying death-snakes would be the worst)
Rattle Snark (snake + shark)
Brown Reclobster Spider (ok, there is more to be done with lobsters)
Anyway, you get the idea. What hybrid animals can you come up with?
Story time: When I was When I was 15, I took my younger sister to see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which I thoroughly enjoyed, as did my sister. The defining moment of that screening, however, came when the character of Mr. Tumnus appeared, played by James McAvoy. Never mind that the character was a faun, and the beacon of C.S. Lewis style innocence; when he came on screen, a woman behind my loudly whispered, ‘Fuck, I’d drop my knickers for him.’
This moment stuck out in my mind for many reasons, as you can imagine, but one memory it evoked was of an article I’d read the previous year in Empire Magazine, reporting on the Joel Schumacher directed adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber mega-musical The Phantom of the Opera. Amidst the several pages long spread of glossy on-set photographs, there was a shot from the masquerade scene showcasing the new Red Death outfit worn by the Phantom, as played by Gerard Butler. Accompanying it was a paragraph of text informing the reader that a set dresser had appeared on set that day, and the quaint old woman, upon seeing Butler in the outfit, immediately said she would drop her knickers for him.
I’m reasonably sure I’m the only person to remember these two moments, bound by nothing other than coincidence and my penchant for moments of spontaneously confessed passion. Whatever the case, as I grew up and delved deeper into the world of film, the entertainment industry and the ecosystem of celebrity, I have always kept an eye on Butler and McAvoy, as well as any Scot with the tenacity and luck to make it big across the border and the pond. These two actors, in particular, have presented a fascinating contrast on the ways Hollywood consumes maleness through the intersections of Scottishness, class, talent, and beauty. Both men can act, look good in a suit (or out of it), are fetishized to various degrees based on their Scottish identities, but both find themselves to the side of how America prefers its Brits. By birth, they possess many of the privileges that allow for a smoother journey to stardom, but it’s clear that, compared to many of their contemporaries, they’re not playing with a full deck.
Both McAvoy and Butler grew up on the West coast of Scotland — McAvoy in Glasgow and Butler in Paisley. McAvoy’s upbringing was decidedly working class, defined by his parents’ divorce, his mother’s ill health, and growing up raised by his grandparents. Butler’s parents also divorced, and he didn’t see his father again until he was 18 (McAvoy does not see his dad either). Both attended Catholic High Schools and attended youth theatres as teens. McAvoy moved onto higher education in the arts, attending Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (whose graduates include David Tennant, Robert Carlyle, Alan Cumming and Billy Boyd), but Butler took a more traditional route and went to law school.
He attended Glasgow University and even got elected to President of its law society, although he says now that he ‘kind of blagged my way into’ it. For a man defined in his current career by a certain assumption of being a rock-headed action man, Butler’s actually got one hell of an education behind him. Getting there, however, was tough. After his dad died when he turned 22, he took time off before his final year of studies and lived in Venice Beach, working various jobs and drinking too much. That would carry over once he graduated and began work as a trainee solicitor in Edinburgh, and he was fired one week before he could fully qualify due to missed work and general revelry. With nothing left to lose, he packed up his things and went to London, where all the acting work is.
McAvoy headed to London too, doing the usual bit-parts in TV and performing on stage to critical acclaim. He caught the eye of both Sam Mendes and Joe Wright, performed on the West End, appeared in Band of Brothers and the TV adaptation of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. McAvoy’s career was a slow-burn: There was no instant success, there was no glorious leading performance that dazzled the world, and his ‘breakout’ came after several years of work across film, TV and stage, where he’d already made a name for himself to those who paid attention. After all, he was a classically trained actor, but the education provided by the Scottish arts scene carries less weight and prestige than that of the London-based drama schools like RADA.
Butler didn’t go to drama school. The law career didn’t pay off and now, like every other actor-in-waiting, he found himself doing odd jobs and auditioning in the big city, a city so immense and a world away from anything in Scotland. There are more people in London than our entire country. It doesn’t carry the dream-like glitz of potential Los Angeles does, but any Scottish actor worth their salt knows the city is their only hope for making it to the next step. For Butler, that included striving in auditions and missed opportunities until he landed his first professional acting job in the ensemble of Coriolanus at the age of 27. By that age, McAvoy had done over 10 films. Stardom is seen as the privilege of the young, but that narrative doesn’t always stick, or at least it has more leeway if you’re a white dude.
Scottishness wasn’t a massive part of McAvoy’s career in the early days as most of his more substantive roles were English or neutrally accented. Butler was more evidently Scottish in his early roles, getting to keep his accent throughout the beginning of his career. He made his big screen debut in a Scottish role as Billy Connolly’s brother in Mrs Brown, and did local projects, including One More Kiss. He also did the sequel to Tomb Raider and appeared in the deceptively marketed dragon action film Reign of Fire, both of which allowed him to play Scottish. These weren’t Scottish films though. The Scottish film and TV industry is not a flourishing field, unless you’re a big-budget American project scouring the glens for historical accuracy or one of the rare films made here by local talents like Lynne Ramsay and David MacKenzie. The funding and provisions needed for a structurally sound industry aren’t in place, and similarly picturesque locations like Ireland offered better tax breaks. There were exceptions, like Trainspotting, which revolutionised British independent film, but there’s still a preconception that you can’t make a major career for yourself through this route.
Both men ‘broke out’ around the same time, although their routes were very different, the perceptions of each of them sharply contrasting, and the roles presenting different routes into Hollywood stardom. It’s interesting that Butler’s build-up was more invested in that notion of Scottishness. The roles allowed for it, mainly because by and large they were action focused. A Scottish accent, especially one as strong and rumbly as a Glasgow-adjacent one, is great for being romantic and heroic. It’s tough but warm, intriguing and familiar but alien to so many. It inspires excited sighs for countless women before they work up the nerve to ask what you just said. You can get away with that accent more when you’re a gruff action dude because people expect that kind of accent for such occasions. As we talked about before with the tropes of Highlander romance novels, the aura of Scottishness to non-Scots is placed firmly in the context of fantasy, albeit one more accessible than swords and sorcery. Butler’s a good fit for that: He’s tall, handsome, level with Sean Connery in terms of an inability to hide the accent, and it’s easy to imagine him toting a machine gun while wearing a vest.
All that makes the reality of his career breakthrough all the weirder, even more so given that playing the Phantom of the Opera would require at least basic musical talent, of which Butler is sadly lacking. He may have performed in a rock band during his student days, but his strengths do not lie in the vocal theatrics of the West End and Broadway. Director Joel Schumacher, a man never know to align himself with competence, decided that he wanted the central pair to be youthful and fresh, hence the casting of Butler and Emmy Rossum. The film itself, which was a long time in the making since the musical premiered to instant success in the ’80s, is a strange failure. Everything about it is off, and it’s fascinating to watch a film wherein almost every decision made is the wrong one: The basic blocking of shots is skewed, the cinematography is drab and barely conceals how small many of the sets are, Schumacher can’t decide if he wants to stylistically evoke gothic melodrama or drab realism, none of the actors have the necessary pipes for the songs (aside from Patrick Wilson and his terrible wig), and one of the masquerade dancers is Voguing. Putting Butler in all that and making him play this deceptively difficult part of an emotionally stunted stalker who happens to be millions of women’s sexual fantasy wouldn’t be the worst idea if he didn’t have to sing.
Bless Butler for trying as hard as he does in The Phantom of the Opera, because everyone is certainly trying but that doesn’t stop the inevitable failure. He just didn’t have the range. Still, as much as the film under-performed and his work in it was less than beloved, the film did give Butler a solid launching pad onto bigger things.
Meanwhile, McAvoy’s profile also grew. He starred in the first two seasons of the British comedy Shameless, where he met his future wife (now ex-wife), Anne Marie-Duff, and then reached his biggest audiences with Narnia. McAvoy’s appeal lay in a different kind of masculinity to Butler. He’s shorter, sweeter, and more likely to be called cute than handsome. The character actor mould is a better fit for him. Already by this point in his career, McAvoy had stretched himself in an array of roles, from a punk rocker with muscular dystrophy (Inside I’m Dancing) to high society gossip columnist (Bright Young Things) to son of Paul Atreides himself (Children of Dune). He had the physicality to remould his body as necessary, be it to play a well-muscled tennis player or a severely disabled man; he could shift accents easily, including English ones of various dialects; he had warmth and approachability, even making the CGI legs of a faun seem authentic. McAvoy is definitely a better actor than Butler, but he was also less easy to box into a type than Butler, who seemed tailor made to be sold as an action star from the beginning. If Butler was a movie-star, McAvoy was an actor.
McAvoy’s stature as an actor grew over the next couple of years, bouncing from comedy (Starter for 10) to drama (The Last King of Scotland) to romance (Becoming Jane), with 2007 seeing him receive the crowning achievement of becoming the first actor to win the BAFTA Rising Star Award, the only award of the ceremony voted on by the British public. His public visibility remained strong over the next few years, bolstered by a career best performance in Joe Wright’s Atonement, which went on to garner seven Oscar nominations, fourteen BAFTA nominations, and seven Golden Globe nominations, with McAvoy being nominated in the latter two for lead actor. Atonement isn’t necessarily discussed as rapturously these days as it was in 2007, and even then it was overshadowed by the one-two critical punch of No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood, but it remains a real peak for everyone involved, including McAvoy. It’s a role he fought for, and he knew how special that part was, treading the lines of class, duty and gender to devastating effect. It was also a leading role, something he’d experienced less of in earlier years, working his way through supporting parts in crowded ensembles. He’d proven to Hollywood that he could command the screen front and centre.
For Butler, 2007 offered him the ultimate leading man role too, albeit one with a more striking physicality than McAvoy’s tenderness in Atonement. Zack Snyder’s 300 is arguably the ultimate Snyder film: Purely stylistic, visually striking, more self-knowing than it’s ever given credit for, and wildly fun to watch. It’s completely ludicrous but everyone involved is so balls-to-the-wall committed to the premise that you can’t even mock it because it’s mocking itself. Butler, as Leonidas, is so muscled that it looks like it hurts to be him. It’s a caricature of masculinity, where thundering thighs bump together and the light achingly captures the shadows of the 8-pack. He screams and growls and puts every inch of his focus into those scowls, all while remaining resolutely Scottish. If you must have a 6 ft tall actor with biceps that can crack walnuts bellowing ‘This is SPARTA!’ in your face, make sure he’s from Scotland, you won’t regret it. Let’s not overlook how good Butler is in it too. It’s a full-on commanding performance of alpha leadership, the kind of action hero roles that died out many decades ago, if they ever truly existed. It opened many doors for Butler. The sad thing is he ended up picking a ton of really shit doors to walk through.
As Butler did terrible action film after terrible rom-com, McAvoy found his own foothold into the action genre, through the burgeoning universe of superhero franchises and the revival of the X-Men series. The Avengers was a year away but Fox had the foresight to see where Marvel wanted to take that franchise following the success of Iron Man, so what better way to breathe life into an existing IP than giving it a prequel? As the iconic Charles Xavier, the soon-to-be Professor X, McAvoy had major shoes to fill, given the way Sir Patrick Stewart utterly dominated the role in the earlier films. The younger Charles is less worldly and not the kindly force of unflinching goodness he would become; This Xavier fucks. By the time the three films wrapped up, McAvoy had made the role his own as much as the movies were willing to allow. He was never going to be a Captain America type — his part in Wanted is probably the closest he would get to that but even then, that’s a Mark Millar adaptation where such tropes are filtered through exhausting nihilism. Attempts to fit a more traditional action mould as perfected by the British film industry, like 2013’s middling thriller Welcome to the Punch and Danny Boyle’s post-Oscar art heist drama Trance, fizzled on arrival. Xavier works for McAvoy because it gives him range for dramatic chops in an action-focused genre, but does not require him to embody that kind of masculinity. He’s cute but he can’t pull that off.
Even Butler, who fits that mould to a tee, really only excels in that styling when it’s done so with tongue firmly in cheek. Trying to find a Butler film after 300 that’s legitimately worth your time is not easy. The How To Train Your Dragon films are wonderful and his gruff voice work lends itself well to that world, and he’s legitimately great in Ralph Fiennes’ alternate world modern-day take on Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, a film that moves Rome to an Eastern European style warzone and has the ensemble clad in bulletproof vests while toting machine guns. Watching it is almost aggravating because Butler finally has an opportunity to do great work and you wonder why nobody else lets him to this. Is the money from inept and jingoistic nonsense like London Has Fallen and Gods of Egypt so enticing that Butler can’t say no to evidently terrible material? Or is he just not getting the scripts McAvoy is having sent his way?
One of McAvoy’s best performances sees him return to Scotland, but this is no manicured tourist fantasy. Filth, based on the novel by Irvine Welsh of Trainspotting fame, is as gross as the title suggests. Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson is a sexist, racist, homophobic drug addicted misanthrope who manipulates everyone around him for cheap thrills and delights in the power his occupation gives him to revel in corruption. It’s a deliberately tough watch and McAvoy is purposefully tough to look at; bloated and pale and on the verge of either vomiting or collapsing at any given moment. McAvoy hasn’t been defined in bad terms through his roles. He’s not a stock British villain like many contemporaries; he’s an ally and hero and nice guy. With Filth, he clearly loved being free of those restraints, and the performance won him a Scottish BAFTA. It didn’t go over so well in America, where the critics took a much less favourable stance to the material, but that almost feels like the point. Finally, McAvoy did something for us Scots. The filthier, the better.
The British film industry, like basically everything else here, is defined harshly by class. It remains the preferred fetish of our nation, and the primary marker of power. The sad truth of the arts in Britain — and I imagine everywhere else — is that money talks, and having the ‘right’ education will give you the step up you need. Did you go to Oxbridge? Was your primary education privately funded? Did you attend drama school in London, particularly RADA? Can you afford to live in London and either have work flexible enough to allow you to attend auditions regularly or live without paying bills? Congratulations, you’re halfway there. Now imagine getting your foot in the door as a working class Scottish kid and being told you’re not ‘right’ for the role, whereas the poshest person in the room is always the ‘right’ one. Arts funding for state schools is being slashed to pieces, and it’s helping to exacerbate the class gap in those industries today. Hollywood has a way it likes to imagine Britishness, and it just so happens to be the narrowest definition of such — very upper-class London-based Englishness, whiter than the flesh of an apple, classically trained with Shakespeare on the brain, and preferably wearing a cravat. It’s a stereotype the British industry is happy to perpetuate. So you can’t afford to go to the super expensive drama school, even though you’re immensely talented? That’s fine, there are twenty people behind you whose parents have bottomless pockets, and they’re happy to take your place because they’re already halfway there.
British actors don’t talk about this. We all like to pretend that everyone got where they were based solely on merit and not because they embody how the world prefers to consume Britishness. That’s what’s so rare about James McAvoy — he doesn’t just call it out; he names it. On Stephen Colbert’s show, he candidly discussed the ‘class ceiling’ that holds back kids with backgrounds similar to his. As a Scot, he has that luxury because the world will seldom code him as British unless he explicitly demands it. He’s not just doing the talk on this: He’s also committed £125,000 of his own money for aspiring young Scottish actors to get help to attend his old drama school. He’s keeping the money in Scotland and creating the opportunities where there weren’t any before. I cannot undersell the magnitude of this. Poshness dominates the arts, and it’s the working-class Glaswegian kid who’s going to help re-balance the scales.
That hunger for poshness may be what has kept Butler boxed into such a limiting stereotype of maleness and Scottishness. If he spoke like Benedict Cumberbatch, I don’t think he would be languishing in such shoddy work. Hell, if Benedict Cumberbatch was called Ben Cowan and came from Paisley, I highly doubt he’d be the star he is today, regardless of talent. You hear an accent like Butler’s and you immediately jump to certain conclusions about what kind of man speaks like that. How educated is he? Has he ever gotten violent? Am I safe around him? Hell, I’m born and bred here and we still harbour those stereotypes. Butler is by no means the best actor out there, but he does have talent and has demonstrated such in the right roles, so why not give him a chance to do so where his physicality and nationality aren’t the defining factors? He may not get his own McConaissance, but surely there’s a chance for Butler to have fun with a Jason Statham style mockery of his own image in Spy?
Neither actors are in danger of running out of work any time soon. McAvoy’s back on the X-Men bandwagon, and his performance in Split brought him rave reviews, while Butler has four films in the pipeline that inspire varying degrees or curiosity and wincing. There will always be room in Hollywood for cute straight white dudes, and Scotland will always welcome this pair back to our shores for the rare movies we make ourselves. I think a lot about how people see me and my country through the lens of pop culture, mostly because I spend so much of my own time consuming it, so watching our lot succeed worldwide always inspires much debate. You probably have opinions on this pair too, along with others from our shores, so the next time you see them in a film or doing the talk-show circuit, perhaps take the time to question what kind of Scotland it is that you see through their lens. What you do with your knickers is fine either way. We won’t judge.
Long before the Hemsworth and Jonas brothers became the objects of your affection, Hollywood was obsessed with a different set of celebrity siblings: the Lawrence brothers. The eldest, Joey, first got his start on shows like Gimme a Break! and Blossom, but is well-known for starring alongside his younger brothers, Matthew and Andrew, on the sitcom Brotherly Love. Aside from sharing the screen in Disney Channel original movies like Horse Sense and its sequel, Jumping Ship, the brothers have also shared a number of sweet moments together on the red carpet. And to top it all off? They might have another TV series underway! Get ready to feel incredibly nostalgic as you check out their Hollywood evolution ahead.