It has been with a depressing familiarity that Hollywood has got itself in a mess this Oscar season about the lack of racial diversity in its nominees. Not only is this the second year without any non-white nominees for the key awards, it smacks of the same attitudes present since Hattie McDaniel accepted her Oscar in a Whites Only hotel for a film that painted slavery as not that bad and a nice backdrop to the problems of wealthy white people. Meanwhile the argument about equal pay for women goes on, spearheaded by Jennifer Lawrence, and the startling lack of  female directors is still to be noted (it’s worth listening to this excellent interview with Lexi Alexender on the topic) while male directors with a history of failures keep getting work.

All this came together in my mind while watching the execrable Pixels directed by journeyman Chris Columbus who has had some success (most notably with the first two, most boring, Harry Potters, Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire) and some sizable flops (the $100 million Bicentennial Man being the most offensive). That Columbus gets a budget of $88 million for this dross when directors like Kathryn Bigelow and Mary Harron have barely made any films in the past 10 years shows how much the gender problem lingers throughout the Hollywood system. God knows how much Adam Sandler got for his lazy performance, but I’ve no doubt he probably made double the money that Michelle Monaghan received. Worse still this film puts a capable actress through the indignity of playing an horrific male-fantasy of rebound MILF; the sort of woman who goes for men who basically harass her when she’s in a fragile emotional state. Watch as Sandler, playing a TV repair guy, literally says “Wow” as she enters and then proceeds to explain that he’s shocked that any man would leave her because she’s so hot! Instead of, like a real person, phoning his boss and getting him sacked, she tolerates this eventually deciding that the schlub has potential. The rest of the film is lazy as hell, and continues to demean women throughout, seeing them exclusively as the reward for male effort – including one character having a threesome arranged for him by the President because he helped save the world. In a kids movie. It’s also an incredibly white film, with non-white characters limited to support (in fact the only two significant non-whites, both male, need to be rescued by our white heroes in the film’s tepid denouement). The only engaging character in the film is Q*bert, an animated sidekick – and even he is transformed into a sexy-hot-female-warrior so one hero can live his weird cyber-sex fantasies. Did I mention it’s, y’know, for kids?

Generally considered as a flop Pixels managed to drag in $244 million globally, meaning it probably covered it’s costs. But it stands as an excellent expression of all that’s wrong with Hollywood – a story conceived around a cool idea, but one that no-one thought through; misogyny from the get go (the cast has two characters called Cyber Chick #1, and Cyber Chick #2); lack of diversity; and a horrible view of its audience.

Yes the Oscars are an affront. Yes the pay-gap is wrong. But the problem will not be solved by a few awards, or a few pay rises. Until it hits the execs who put this tripe together, who treat their audience as a bunch of idiots with the emotional intelligence of zero, nothing changes. Please stop spending your money on this stuff – seek out the work of female directors, make an effort to watch films made by, and for, diverse people. Otherwise there’s another 100 years of this.

Having scandalized a nation with the excellent Dressed to Kill (1980) De Palma planned to go one better with his next Body Double, this time re-mixing Vertigo and Rear Window and then adding some madness that’s all his own. It’s more polished than its predecessor, but lacks the visceral shocks, although much is made up by the gleeful deconstruction of male spectatorship in a film in which a crime is solved because the protagonist (Craig Wasson as a loser B-Movie actor) surfs porn channels at night. The twist is so ludicrous it trumps all other elements in this thriller that once again throws the audience a dirty look and suggest that watching films might just be a bit perverted.

Wasson is Jake Scully an actor fired from a terrible vampire film because he suffers from claustrophobia. He goes home and finds his wife in bed with another man (worse than that, he makes her “Glow”). A new friend (Gregg Henry) offers him a place to stay, in what must be the most 1980s location ever, the Ultramodern Chemosphere complete with rotating bed and a telescope that spies on the hot woman dancing opposite. Mix in a mysterious Native American TV engineer and a murder plot soon hatches in which, in the least subtly phallic way imaginable, a woman is killed by a very large drill. Haunted by this woman Jake cracks up, watches porn and spies Melanie Griffith (as porn-star Holly Body) who has some familiar dance moves. Jake, being a bit mad, decides the best way to follow up his observation is to star in a porn-film opposite Holly, a scene which includes Frankie Goes to Hollywood singing their subtle anthem Relax (and I mean the actual band turns up, not just the song).

On paper nothing should work about this film. The protagonist is unlikable, the plot hinges on ludicrous behavior and coincidences and the finale involves a dog misidentifying his owner, but the whole is done with such (heavily 1980s) style and verve that it works, dashing though its running time at breakneck speed. It also makes some neat observations about the male audience, and the differences between being a Peeping Tom and watching porn. Just as in Dressed to Kill women are not represented well, there are only two really, but the men are far worse: a bunch of selfish, obsessive voyeurs. And De Palma’s willingness to throw in every thriller trick makes it hypnotic watching.

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