It’s been twenty years this spring since three Albright College students invented “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” and the game is still going strong. And why not? Its premise — that anyone in the movie business could be linked to Bacon in six or less steps — is brilliant in its snarky simplicity. And with the advent of such websites as IMDB.com, it’s only become simpler. But why Kevin Bacon? Sure, in 1994 he declared to the now-defunct Premiere magazine that he’d “worked with everybody in Hollywood or someone who’s worked with them.” But even if he hadn’t made that claim, it’s hard to imagine this game built around any other ubiquitous actor. “Six Degrees of Toni Collette?” Ho hum. “Six Degrees of James Franco?” Way too meta. “Six Degrees of Woody Harrelson?” Yikes. No, it had to be Bacon, a man as appealing and accessible as the foodstuff that shares his name. For Word and Film, I outline six reasons why We Need To Talk About Kevin.
Ever since the approach of 2012, the once-predicted date of the Rapture, we’ve been deluged with apocalypse movies. But only writer-director Darren Aronofsky, that famously big-scale thinker, has displayed the temerity to tackle the mother lode of apocalypse stories. I wrote about his Noah in my latest Word and Film essay. An excerpt:
Really, “Noah” works so well because it is such a personal take on this biblical story. All of Aronofsky’s favorite themes — the fine line between soothsaying and madness; the intersection of spirit and science; the wretched state of humanity; the potential meaninglessness of our existences — are writ large here. And to project our trepidations and obsessions upon the fate of the entire world is the ultimate Hollywood endeavor, which explains the proliferation of all these apocalypse movies. (That, and the satisfaction we secretly feel when our fears are realized.) “Noah” is the origin apocalypse movie, and in making it Aronofsky has called all of our bluffs.
Divergent’s high box-office numbers, sparkly pink weaponry, Disney’s smash hit Frozen, the unprecedented role model that is Katniss Everdeen: I’m obsessed with the rise of girl-positive YA in America’s moviehouses. An excerpt from my latest Word and Film essay:
“Divergent, the adaptation released last week of the bestselling dystopian YA novel, is no great shakes. It is faithful enough to the book – capturing protagonist Tris’ radicalization in a post-war Chicago divided into factions based upon personality traits – but doesn’t work well unto itself. The big news is it performed like gangbusters anyway, especially for box office-inhospitable March. Chalk up the success partly to the power of Shailene Woodley, whose high-octane earnestness proves ideal for Tris’ evolution from wallflower to warrior. But the strong numbers may stem from something even more significant. The fact that “Divergent” received justifiably tepid reviews but is still soaring with audiences tells us female-empowering YA films have a built-in base now. We are in the dawn of a new cinema genre, one in which girls kick ass.”