Damon, Bale, Pacino, De Niro: The Movie Man-Wave Is Here

Heads-up, the long-expected man-wave is breaking in and around the film awards season.

Those who keep an eye on film festivals and release schedules could see the weather buoys bobbing months ago. Still, it was a jolt to spot that Ford v Ferrari billboard on Lincoln Blvd. the other day, with its tanned, taut images of Matt Damon and Christian Bale, jaws set, dark glasses in place, staring down from a place that not so long ago was inhabited by Brie Larson and her Unicorn Store.

Who knew that manly images still sold movies? But someone must think so, as Mandy Moore, the lone woman on Monday’s emailed “junket blast” poster for Roland Emmerich’s Midway, was outnumbered by her male co-stars, eight-to-one. My favorite of the bunch was Woody Harrelson’s knit-browed Admiral Chester Nimitz, though Dennis Quaid appears to make one mean “Bull” Halsey, and Patrick Wilson glowers with the best of them as the intelligence expert Edward Layton.

Speaking of men, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman screened up the street at Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre this week. Someone on Craigslist was offering $300 for a ticket. Apparently, guys as seasoned as Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci (the youngest of whom, De Niro, turned 76 in August) still have their fans.

That the season would have a strong male presence had been apparent at least since July, when Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio did their unabashed turn as bad-boy buddies in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. It seems safe to assume that one will be around through the Oscars.

Pitt impressed less in Ad Astra, as did Will Smith in Gemini Man. But Joaquin Phoenix raised the year’s man-factor several degrees with his twisted performance in Joker. And now Richard Jewell, 1917, and the much-delayed Current War will bring another large batch of male actors and filmmakers to the fore.

The cinematic pendulum, it appears, has swung slightly back from those seasons in which more gender-balanced films like La La Land, The Shape Of Water, and Roma dominated the pre-Oscar conversation (but didn’t always win the top award). Even while Hollywood resolved to make more room for women, established directors like Scorsese, Tarantino, Emmerich, Clint Eastwood, Sam Mendes and James Mangold—among those represented in the current mix—didn’t stop working.

They were bound to contribute a next wave of films. And that wave is now beginning to crest, which is good news for their fans, though perhaps a bit awkward for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has been at pains to reward and promote female talent.

In early July, the Academy was proud to note that exactly half of its 842 new invitees for the year were women, and that the female share of membership had risen to 32 percent, from 25 percent in 2015.

So, a lot more women will be voting for the Oscars this year. But they’ll be watching more than a few movies from those left-over men.

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