Last week, after a courageous and years-long battle with cancer, feminist filmmaker and activist Audrey Wells passed away at 58 years old.
Wells was a screenwriter for The Hate U Give, in theaters now. The film, an adaptation of an Angie Thomas novel, is about a young black woman who is called to action after she watches police officers unjustly kill her best friend. Discussing such serious issues through her work was no new task for Wells, who always focused on representing characters multi-dimensionally and writing strong female leads. (Wells was perhaps best known for writing and directing the 2003 film Under the Tuscan Sun, which followed a woman intent on rebuilding her own life as she traveled to Italy for solace.)
We are simply heartbroken. Audrey's was a voice of empowerment and courage, and her words will live on through the strong, determined female characters she brought to life. Our thoughts are with all of Audrey's family and friends at this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/mPh2RxGDGu
Wells began her life as Audrey Ann Lederer. Born in San Francisco, California, in 1960, she grew up in a loving home with her parents who sparked her imagination and passion for learning. She received an undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkley, and held jobs in radio before pursuing film; she ultimately obtained a graduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Creative, innovative, unique and progressive are some of the words that were often used to describe her films and Wells herself—but words alone cannot do justice to her work or her passion for social justice. Wells was an outspoken feminist intent on changing culture through her art, and a vocal supporter of feminist organizations. She was known in her field for leveraging a feminist lens in her work and using media to stand up for what she believed in.
Miranda Martin is a feminist writer and activist and an editorial intern at Ms. She has written for a variety of publications and been published by The Unedit and Project Consent. Miranda recently graduated from University of Wisconsin La Crosse with a major in Interpersonal Communications and a double minor in Creative Writing and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She loves to travel, read, exercise and daydream about the fall of the patriarchy.
Seventy-eight years is a hell of a run for a character that was supposed to be limited to one appearance — in issue one of Batman in 1940, alongside Catwoman, no less — but all these years later and The Joker is still with us. Still causing mayhem for Batman. Still his greatest adversary. Still, to paraphrase the words of the great Alfred Pennyworth, ‘watching the world burn’.
Created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane or Jerry Robinson (or more likely, all of the above – as with all classic DC creations, there’s some argument about who exactly did what), next year sees the release of Joker, the first in a series of DC-based films separate from the DC Extended Universe, recently officially renamed Worlds of DC. This time, Joaquin Phoenix plays The Crown Prince Of Crime. You’ve probably seen the test footage doing the rounds, with Phoenix in clown make-up, set to the song “Laughing” by The Guess Who.
What better time then, to look at some classic screen Jokers – not an exhaustive list, but the principal depictions from cinema and television (apologies to the Joker from The Lego Batman Movie) — and advise Joaquin what he maybe should and shouldn’t do when putting the iconic face-paint on…
DO… Have Some Fun
He’s called The Joker for a reason. Played by Cuban-American actor Cesar Romero, The Joker of the 1960s’ live-action Batman TV series was camp, colourful, and due to Romero’s insistence on not shaving his moustache off and covering it up with stodgy white face paint instead, rather more hirsute than interpretations to come. The first ever live-action Joker, Cesar’s take was essentially a clown in a comedy. Executive producer William Dozier, who’d never read the comics before coming onboard, once described the show as the only situation comedy on the air at the time without a laugh track. Romero’s Joker’s mirth may have been mild, but the gleeful mania he brought to the role was an influence on all that followed. As Romero’s Joker was fond of saying, “A joke a day keeps the gloom away!”
DON’T… Get a Grill
It’s not completely fair to wade in on Jared Leto’s street-smart take on The Joker, the rotten garnish on a bad movie, which allegedly, is some distance from what Leto expected 2016’s Suicide Squad to be. Leto later said he’d felt “tricked into doing something that had been pitched to him very differently”.
Tattooed and emaciated, it’s a portrayal that’s been divisive. Leto describes his take as “nearly Shakespearian”. Other influences include Mexican cartel bosses, the avant-garde films of the creative polymath Alejandro Jodorowsky and, according to make-up artist Alessandro Bertolazzi, the 1928 silent romantic drama (viewed by many as a horror movie) The Man Who Laughs. David Bowie is another influence, whom Bertolazzi has described as “the best Joker ever”. It’s certainly an arresting take. Either way, everyone agrees the grill was too much, right?
DO… Steal the Show
Tim Burton’s 1989 screen version of Batman was quite unlike anything that had been seen at the time, and is arguably responsible for the superhero-movie mania that remains to this day. Key to the movie’s goth grandeur was the casting of Jack Nicolson as The Joker. Nicolson’s Joker got a new origin story – in Burton’s world, it was his pre-Joker self, the gangster Jack Napier, who pulled the trigger on Bruce Wayne’s parents – but the silliness of Romero’s take 21 years prior remained, only this time with a genuinely psychotic edge. Of course, Michael Keaton, excellent as the film’s lead, played the role of a straight Caped Crusader with stoic grit, amplifying the mania of Nicolson’s part. But while the movie was called Batman, it really could have been named after his arch nemesis, and nobody would have batted an eyelid (pun intended).
DON’T… Use the Force
Few expected great things when Mark Hamill came onboard as the voice of the Joker in 1992’s brilliant Batman: The Animated Series. You can’t blame them. Few would have expected the man who was Luke Skywalker, arguably the most wholesome character in all of genre movie-making, to be the voice that would define the animated Joker for years to come (and in video games, providing the voice for Mr J in 2009’s Arkham Asylum and 2011’s Arkham City).
Hamill exceeded all expectations, drawing upon Hannibal Lecter and the (really quite creepy) rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis for inspiration. He’s cited the influence of The Invisible Man actor Claude Rains as well as the comedian Jay Leno. There’s a bit of Noel Coward in there too. A little bit of Robin Williams at his most manic, even. If you were in any doubt at all about Hamill’s brilliance at nailing the part of a deranged maniac, YouTube the recording of him reading the tweets of Donald Trump in his Joker voice. Chilling stuff. In short, Joaquin needs to shrug off any previous roles he’s known for and take a whole new approach. Just like Hamill.
DO… Be In Sync With the Age
It’s hard to view Heath Ledger’s Joker independent of the real-world tragedy that befell him. Released six months after his tragic passing at the age of 28, there’s a poignancy to the Australian actor’s take on the character in Christopher Nolan’s second movie, The Dark Knight, that is all about circumstance. We are watching one of the greatest movie performances ever, a one-act deal, never to be repeated.
Not that Ledger’s version doesn’t define what the character means in 2018. It was certainly on the button in 2008, the year The Dark Knight first hit screens. The actor played the character as a terrorist, only interested in sadism, in making people hurt in ingenious ways. As Alfred says, “Some people just want to watch the world burn”. It was a performance that could only be conjured up by staring into the abyss… and laughing at it. Fittingly, Ledger posthumously won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2009 at the 81st Academy Awards, his daughter Matilda collecting his award onstage in his much-felt absence.
Meet Richard Berner, the host of this month’s Live Edition Printing evening with The Private Press.
What links Audrey Hepburn, Amy Winehouse, the Houses of Parliament and a tentacle-wielding creature from the deep? Unless you have any other (we’d like to say unlikely) suggestions, the answer to that would be Brighton-based artist Richard Berner.
A regular feature on the walls at artrepublic Brighton, Berner’s work blends fine ink work and cultural iconography with a dusting of dark humour. While some of his images are straight-up homages to famous figures, such as David Bowie, Charlie Chaplin and, erm, Storm Troopers, each finished with watercolour hues, drips and splodges, others have the hallmarks of those classic political caricatures found in famous international newspapers and journals for centuries. You know, the ones that take familiar forms and figures but toy with them just enough to make a clever commentary or subtle joke.
Whether it’s a beautiful moth that turns out to be made up of hundreds of tiny skeletons and ghoulish creatures, or a King Kong-like figure ascending Big Ben, drawn in a way that references Dali’s dripping clocks, Berner’s illustrative images definitely reward close inspection. The great news is, you can get up really close to the artist’s next limited edition, as he’s producing it at this month’s Live Edition Printing evening at the gallery, run in collaboration with The Private Press.
Join us at artrepublic Brighton on 26 October, from 6-8pm, as Berner unveils, hand-finishes and signs an edition of just 50 prints, which you can buy there and then. As usual, the after-work creative session will also feature drinks at the gallery and a chance to meet the artist and have a chat about his work.
One of Apple’s strengths is that it doesn’t acquire companies without a mapped out strategy in mind. Every time Apple makes an acquisition, it’s because Apple has a specific idea of how to incorporate the target company’s technology into its own line of products and services. In stark contrast, some other tech giants — like Google, for example — tend to go on acquisition sprees and snatch up companies without really thinking about or expressing an end-goal. Google’s 2013 acquisition of Boston Dynamics is a prime example.
With that said, every Apple acquisition tends to be big news because it can often signal the type of features we might eventually see in future Apple products. When Apple purchased AuthenTec in 2012, for example, the company’s fingerprint authentication technology was built into the Touch ID feature that shipped on the 2013 iPhone 5s. With that said, Apple a few months ago made a rather interesting acquisition that hasn’t been made public until now.