On Halloween night in 2006, Adrienne Shelly – one of the most recognizable faces of 1990s independent cinema – was throwing a party for her three-year-old daughter. Shelly was happy and nervous: she was waiting for confirmation that her latest film Waitress, which she wrote, starred in and directed, had been selected for the Sundance Film Festival – an invitation that would take her to the next level as a director.
A few hours after the party, her husband, Andy Ostroy, found her hanging from a sheet in the bathroom of her small office in New York’s West Village, where she would go to work. The media quickly jumped on the news. The New York Post reported: “Indie film star ‘suicide’ stunner – hubby finds gal, 40, hanged in Village apt.” Police also suggested suicide: when Ostroy called them to ask how the investigation was going, he was told that no one was working on the case.
But Ostroy was convinced that Shelly hadn’t taken her life – she had a daughter she loved and was on the brink of fulfilling her dream. “She was the happiest I’d ever seen her,” he says in Adrienne, a new documentary by HBO Max, which he has directed and produced so that no one, least of all their daughter, forgets her. Through a mix of family recordings, interviews with friends like actor Paul Rudd and simple animations, Ostroy provides an intimate portrait of who Adrienne Shelly was, what really happened the day of her death and how the tragedy affected the family. Above all, it is a devastating statement about how life can change in a single moment.
Ostroy’s insistence that Shelly had not taken her life paid off. A few days later, police called him to show him the knot his wife had allegedly made to hang herself. Did she know how to tie a knot like that? Of course not. Nor did he know anybody who had the same Reebok sneakers that left a footprint in the bathroom. A forensic doctor was hired to perform an autopsy, which revealed that Shelly had been strangled. What’s more, she had “fought like a lion” – she hadn’t given up on life.
Shelly always had a clear idea of what she wanted to do in life. She studied acting and producing, then moved to Manhattan to live out her dream of working in show business. She sent her photos off to all the auditions announced in magazines, and one of these photos landed in the hands of director Hal Hartley, who gave her the leading role in his first film, The Unbelievable Truth (1989). Movie critic Roger Ebert described it as a “movie for film buffs,” while the distribution company Miramax, co-founded by convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein, offered to buy the rights if more nude scenes of Shelly were included. Hartley refused, but the experience had given Shelly a taste of what the film industry expected of her.
Her next film with Hartley, Trust (1990), was also well received by critics. It was tipped as a favorite in the Sundance Film Festival, and received the award for best script. The festival also turned Shelly into a muse of independent cinema. Critic Kent Jones described her as “the first performer in movies to suggest a truly suburban intelligence,” and Screen World included her on its 1990 list of most promising actors, alongside Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis.
Hollywood wanted her. But what she found there was disappointing. In the 2002 documentary Searching for Debra Winger, which looks at the pressures faced by female actors, Shelly tells director Rosanna Arquette that her agent once told her she had to look “fuckable” in order to land a role. She discovered that actresses in Hollywood were poorly valued, if valued at all, and set out on her own path: making movies. It was a challenge, but the only way to play good characters was for her to write them herself.
Her first films as a director were met with mixed reviews, but Shelly was confident that Waitress would mark her place in the film industry. The movie, which she wrote when she was eight months pregnant, is about a woman who is abused by her husband, and who, after falling pregnant, falls in love with her gynecologist. Actress Keri Russell was picked for the lead, while Shelly played a supporting role. From the first reading, there was a sense that the movie was going to be important.
The invitation from the Sundance Film Festival to showcase Waitress arrived on the same day that the police arrested Shelly’s killer: Diego Pilco, an undocumented 19-year-old Ecuadorian who had been doing construction work in the building. According to his first confession, Shelly had complained about the noise, and fearing that she would call the police and he would be deported, he pushed her and she fell against a table. Believing her to be dead, he tried to cover up the crime as a suicide. This version, however, was debunked at trial. The truth was that he had entered her apartment to steal from her and when she found him rummaging through her bag, he strangled her and hung her in the bathroom.
Pilco confessed it himself to Ostroy in 2019, when the widower visited him in prison “to humanize Adrienne for him, so that rather than have a lasting image in his head of this panicked woman calling out for the police, he sees a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister. That he understood all the moments in the last 14 years that Adrienne missed, that Sophie missed, that I missed, that everyone missed,” Ostroy explained to The Guardian in December.
When Waitress screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Shelly was not alive to see it. But her family and friends gathered there and turned the event into a loving farewell. Waitress would be Shelly’s most successful film. It made $25 million at the box office, and was even turned into a Broadway musical with an all-female cast.
The shocking news of her death also prompted spontaneous waves of donations, which Ostroy has put towards what Shelly would have wanted. “It became very clear that the mission should be to help people like her – struggling artists, women who didn’t get a fair shake in many ways and needed help,” he told journalist Soraya Roberts. Since then, the Adrienne Shelly Foundation has been giving out grants to female filmmakers. One of these grants was received by Chloé Zhao, who a decade on became the second woman to win an Oscar for Best Director with Nomadland. It is legacy that Adrienne Shelly would be proud of.
Mexico City, the scene of revenge, blood and torture in the new installment of ‘Saw’ | Culture
Screenwriter Leigh Whannell was unhappy with the work he was doing and began to suffer from migraines. He was convinced he might have a brain tumor and went to a neurologist for an MRI. Sitting in the office, he thought, what if you were to receive the news that you had a brain tumor and were going to die soon? How would you react to that? Those thoughts led him to create the character of John Kramer, a cancer-stricken sociopath whose resentment and inordinate attachment to life turn him into a merciless judge, jury and executioner, allowing his victims to decide their lives and the lives of others through twisted games.
Along with his colleague filmmaker James Wan, Whannel thought outside the box. Both are avid consumers of horror films, and they came up with the idea of starting a movie with two men chained in a bathroom, with a corpse in between them, not knowing what the hell had happened; Kramer is behind them, pulling the strings that decide their fate. Thus, Saw was born in 2004. The movie was well received at Sundance and the Toronto Film Festival. Lionsgate invested a budget of barely $1 million in the project and ended up making over $100 million at the box office.
Eight sequels and $1 billion in revenues at the box office later, Saw is back with a new installment. This is the franchise’s tenth movie, its first in over seven years. This time, the action takes place in Mexico City, where Kramer—better known as serial killer Jigsaw—unleashes his revenge and bloody torture games once again.
Saw X takes place between the events of Saw (2004) and Saw II (2005). Desperate and sick, John Kramer (Tobin Bell) travels to Mexico to undergo an experimental and very risky treatment in the hopes of curing his deadly cancer. However, the entire operation turns out to be a fraud to deceive the most vulnerable. Filled with rage and a lurid new purpose, his new victims will face the most ingenious, deadly and torturous traps in a visceral and ruthless game.
Actresses Renata Vaca, Paulette Hernández and actors Octavio Hinojosa and Joshua Okamoto are part of the Mexican cast who will try to survive the games that Jigsaw has in store for them in Mexico City. Saw X director Kevin Greutert, who was the editor of six Saw films and also directed Saw VI and Saw VII 3D, says that the idea in the original script was initially for the movie to be filmed in Prague and Bulgaria, but ultimately Mexico was a “great choice,” and he could not imagine another version of the film without Mexican actors.
“There’s such mythology, the city is so amazing, and we can’t say enough about it. There’s something creepy about it, a certain history; it absolutely worked for us. I’m sure everyone knows that, but it’s the first time we’ve ever said where we are in a movie [in the Saw franchise]. And we really stand behind that,” Greutert says.
Renata Vaca, 24, who is also a musician, says she was 9 years old when she first watched Saw in the U.S. She saw it with her uncle, a fan of horror movies. Billy, the puppet, Jigsaw’s avatar in the films, caught her attention. “My uncle told me, ‘Dude, don’t wuss out on me.’ So, we saw it, and I was really scared. But look, it’s intense, and now here we are.” The actress, who will soon appear with Yalitza Aparicio and Diego Calva in Midnight Family, emphasizes that the film is like a trip back to the Mexico of 20 years ago, which can be seen in certain details like the clothing and yesteryear’s green and white cabs. “I had to do a lot of research for the role. It’s cool because you’ll feel like you’re in 2000s-era Mexico,” she says.
Okamoto, who was in the sequel to Sexo, pudor y lágrimas (Sex, Shame & Tears) and has Netflix and HBO Max projects in the works, admits that he hadn’t had a chance to see Saw before he was cast in the film. However, he does remember the Saw promotional poster and how it was illustrated: it had the piece of a calf with a foot and the fragment of a hand. “I felt very frightened when I saw the poster, and it left a very unpleasant feeling in my chest and stomach,” he recalls.
The first Saw film began with touches of gore and, according to several specialists, it later evolved into torture porn, because it uses violence to titillate the audience as if they were experiencing a sexual act.
In Saw X, Mexico becomes another character and influences different aspects of the narrative. “One of the great successes of this latest installment is that they manage to portray Mexico as another character. You can feel the city in the background, the textures, the colors. We are not only a country…there is a very folkloric culture, from the rituals of the Aztecs onward [and] some elements naturally sneak into the plot. In the traps, there are also, let’s say mythological, references that are part of urban legends, iconography, evidence of pre-Hispanic influences,” Okamoto explains.
With the exception of Octavio Hinojosa, none of the actors had ever been in a horror film before. All three agree that the biggest challenge in this film was keeping their emotions at full throttle during the 12-hour call. “That’s screaming, running, sweating, hyperventilating. The most difficult thing was to sustain those states,” says Okamoto. Vaca agrees with him: “You have to be all in, with your entire body, [and be] very open to what is happening in the moment, because sometimes what happens goes beyond what you had thought.”
“It was like doing theater… being there all the time, being seen all the time. It was very tiring, very exhausting. Emotions become real when they go through one’s body. There’s a part of you that says, ‘I’m in a [fictional story],’ but you do get upset. You do get scared. You do cry and you do experience it. That is very, very exhausting, but we actors are a little masochistic; we enjoy being on the edge of emotions, and at the end of a call, when you do things right you say: ‘Very good, I did it. That’s great,’” Hinojosa concludes.
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“The Creator”: A Glimpse Into A Future Defined By Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare
By Cindy Porter
In “The Creator” visionary director Gareth Edwards thrusts us into the heart of a dystopian future, where the battle lines are drawn between artificial intelligence and the free Western world.
Set against the backdrop of a post-rebellion Los Angeles, the film grapples with pressing questions about the role of AI in our society.
A Fusion of Genres
Edwards embarks on an ambitious endeavor, blending elements of science fiction classics with contemporary themes.
The result is a cinematic stew reminiscent of James Cameron’s “Aliens” tinged with shades of “Blade Runner” a dash of “Children of Men,” and a sprinkle of “Akira” This concoction, while intriguing, occasionally veers toward familiarity rather than forging its own distinct identity.
Edwards’ Cinematic Journey
The British filmmaker, known for his foray into doomsday scenarios with the BBC docudrama “End Day” in 2005, has traversed a path from indie gem “Monsters” (2010) to the expansive Star Wars universe with “Rogue One” (2016).
“The Creator” marks another bold step in his repertoire. The film introduces compelling concepts like the posthumous donation of personality traits, punctuated by impactful visuals, and raises pertinent ethical dilemmas. It stands as a commendable endeavor, even if it occasionally falters in execution.
In his pursuit of depth, Edwards at times stumbles into the realm of convolution, leaving the audience grappling with intricacies rather than immersing in the narrative.
While adept at crafting visual spectacles and orchestrating soundscapes, the film occasionally falters in the art of storytelling.
In an era where classic storytelling is seemingly on the wane, some may argue that this approach is emblematic of the times.
AI: Savior or Peril?
“The Creator” leaves us with a question that resonates long after the credits roll: Will artificial intelligence be humanity’s salvation or its undoing? The film’s take on machine ethics leans toward simplicity, attributing AI emotions to programmed responses.
This portrayal encapsulates the film’s stance on the subject – a theme as enigmatic as the AI it grapples with.
Director: Gareth Edwards.
Starring: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Madeleine Yuna Boyles, Ken Watanabe.
Genre: Science fiction.
Release Year: 2023.
Duration: 133 minutes.
Premiere Date: September 29.
Top 5 Movies by Gareth Edwards:
1. “Monsters” (2010)
– A breakout hit, “Monsters” showcases Edwards’ talent for blending intimate human drama with towering sci-fi spectacles. Set in a world recovering from an alien invasion, it’s a poignant tale of love amidst chaos.
2. “Rogue One” (2016)
– Edwards helms this epic Star Wars installment, seamlessly integrating new characters with the beloved original trilogy. It’s a testament to his ability to navigate complex narratives on a grand scale.
3. “End Day” (2005)
– This BBC docudrama marked Edwards’ entry into the world of speculative storytelling. Presenting five doomsday scenarios, it set the stage for his later exploration of dystopian futures.
4. “The Creator” (2023)
– Edwards’ latest venture, “The Creator,” immerses audiences in a future fraught with AI warfare. While not without its challenges, it boldly tackles pertinent questions about the role of artificial intelligence in our lives.
5. Potential Future Project
– As Edwards continues to push the boundaries of speculative cinema, audiences eagerly anticipate his next cinematic endeavor, poised to be another thought-provoking addition to his illustrious filmography.
“The Creator” stands as a testament to Gareth Edwards’ unyielding vision and his penchant for exploring the frontiers of speculative cinema.
While it doesn’t shy away from the complexities of AI, it occasionally falters in navigating its intricate narrative.
As we peer into this cinematic crystal ball, we’re left with a stark question: Will artificial intelligence be our beacon of hope, or will it cast a shadow over humanity’s future? Only time will unveil the answer.
We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!
— By Cindy Porter
— For more information & news submissions: info@VoiceOfEU.com
— Anonymous news submissions: press@VoiceOfEU.com
Why Most Men Don’t Carry A Purse
Men do not carry purses; that much is clear. In the last century or two they have carried wallets, briefcases, satchels or backpacks, always associated with their activity or profession, but never a purse, a bag with straps or handles full of their personal effects. Perhaps that is why, nowadays, a man hanging a purse from his shoulder unleashes some kind of physical phenomenon, a whirlwind of comments, raised eyebrows and criticism that, depending on the protagonist’s profile, can become more or less violent.
The case of some celebrities is different (just take a look at examples like actor Jacob Elordi and his Bottega Veneta Cassette Bag, or singer Harry Styles with his Gucci Jackie); after all, they live in another plane of existence and can do whatever they want. But why can they carry a purse and regular people can’t? Why is it so difficult to find an ordinary citizen who has incorporated a handbag into their daily life? Don’t they need to carry Kleenex, glasses, a charger, eye drops or any personal items?
The fact is that men’s bags went out of fashion more than 300 years ago, right around the time when pants began to become tight and one of the most practical inventions in the history of clothing became a regular feature: pockets. Up until then, men did carry bags, as ornate and spectacular as their social position demanded. “From classical antiquity to the Renaissance, small bags were a common accessory for men and women to carry coins,” explains Rosa Moreno Laorga, trend analyst, fashion consultant, teacher of art and fashion and sociology of fashion at the European Institute of Design in Madrid, Spain and author of Hacer de lo cotidiano un ritual contemporáneo: Ensayo sobre el origen de las tendencias (Turning the Everyday into a Contemporary Ritual, An Essay on the Origin of Trends). In fact, for much of history men were the ones who carried the purse, as they were the ones who carried the money. Women did not need one because they did not venture too far from home.
An independent accessory
At the end of the 19th century, the Rational Dress Society was founded in London. Along with the burgeoning women’s suffrage movement, it argued that women’s independence could not be achieved in a tight-fitting, pocketless dress. True liberation required loose clothing that allowed freedom of movement and pockets to keep necessities close at hand — including a revolver, if necessary. The movement did not address the matter of purses, but fashion knew how to read the times and when at the end of the century women were allowed to travel alone, Louis Vuitton began to sell large bags for women, positioning their products as a sign of female independence. They had compartments and zippers and radiated luxury.
The 20th century gave an important boost to the purse as a feminine accessory. In February 1955, Gabrielle Chanel created the 2.55 (a name inspired by the date of its creation). The bag, merely 7.5 inches long, was made of black padded leather with three pockets inside, two at both ends and a smaller one in the middle to store lipstick. That was the first modern handbag, a pioneer that included a revolutionary detail: two chains made of flat metal links that freed up the hands. That model, which continues to be reinvented today in different finishes, colors and materials, is still the French firm’s best-seller.
In the 1980s, when women entered the workplace en masse, they adopted men’s clothing (blazers, suits, pants). That was not only a practical decision, but also a reflection of the time (there were hardly any models of female leadership to draw inspiration from, or any corporate uniform comparable to the men’s suit). Work-related films of that era clearly reflect this aesthetic: while Melanie Griffith carried a huge brown leather bag all the way to the office in Working Girl (she needed something to carry the high heels she would wear at the office instead of the Reebok sneakers she arrived in), none of Tom Cruise’s bosses in The Firm had to carry anything in their hands. They simply did not need it: they had assistants — all women — to carry things for them.
The image of a man in a suit with nothing in his hands became the picture of success. Will we have to wait for the balance of power to shift for good before they are the ones to adopt feminine clothing as a symbol of power? Will those feminine items remain imbued with a certain disempowerment until then? Ana Velasco Molpeceres, journalist, professor at the Complutense University of Madrid and historian specialized in communication and fashion, who recently published Ropa vieja: Historia de las prendas que vestimos (Old Clothes: The History of the Clothes We Wear) finds in history the answers to why men still do not use purses: “Since the 19th century, bags have been associated with women. Therefore, they are categorized as a feminine accessory. For women, carrying a bag simply means being dressed like a woman and being able to carry their things comfortably. For men, carrying a bag means adopting a garment that is ‘problematic,’ because it is gendered.”
A symbol of male liberation?
Today, the big luxury brands are determined to get men to carry bags. Could this accessory become a symbol of male liberation, overcoming some stereotypes about how a man is supposed to act, dress and present himself to the world? Many young men, men involved in fashion and men who do not dress according to gender conventions do use it, but it is a minority.
“Without a doubt, breaking the norm regarding what is traditionally feminine or masculine always entails a new vision and a clear evolution in terms of the perception of conventional roles. These changes help to get rid of many limiting, harmful stereotypes, and I think using fashion as a tool that helps us be free is always commendable. A purse can be a symbol that helps us break the molds instead of fitting into them; don’t forget that Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent were the first to break sexual dimorphism by migrating garments from the male to the female wardrobe, thus creating new ways of being in the world for the women who took part in this transformation,” reflects Moreno Laorga.
Fashion is considered a language within an evolving culture; perhaps that is why it has been championing genderless styles and garments for several years now. We see artists, music stars and models carrying handbags at events and red carpets. Still, the reactions we see on social media reveal that, in some particularly conservative sectors, a man walking around with a bag is still not widely accepted.
“Gender roles continue to have a key and important weight in the media, advertising, movies and more. At first, an image whose pieces are not as expected is always disruptive, in this case a handbag (which is traditionally associated with the female universe) in the hands of a straight, cis man, but time will normalize the use of this accessory, in case it becomes popular and enters the norm,” says Moreno Laorga.
“Soccer players and other men wear sling bags, because they are part of the culture of luxury and opulence. In their case, carrying a bag is masculine because, in their iconography, it is something expensive and branded. It is associated with power. Just like jewelry or exaggerated hairstyles and aesthetics [tattoos],” explains Velasco Molpeceres.
“Currently, the trend towards genderless fashion leads us to think that whether it is a woman or a man, the symbolic weight of this accessory will be associated with its appearance, the value of the materials, the design style… aspects related to the object itself, more than the gender of the person who wears it. A good example of this is Telfar, the New York fashion brand that has managed to elevate its unisex bags to the category of icons by using this discourse,” says this expert.
Handbags belong to a category of accessories that respond to a certain functionality; a functionality that, in certain cases (as in the example of JW Anderson’s viral clutch bags that look like pigeons, cushions and more), evolves to the point of becoming decoration, points out Moreno Laorga. “Perhaps in the future, the handbag will go from being a container of belongings to a container of identities; a non-verbal language tool that serves to express aspects about the person who carries it and how they decide to carry it,” she says. Maybe, in the future, a bag will not aggravate people so much.
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