Emma Watson

Emma Watson as Belle is a vision of loveliness, that cannot be marveled over enough. True, Emma’s edition of Belle is so different from the one in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991) – imagine: Emma’s Belle wears boots instead of refined shoes, dons a worn outfit, paired with a crinkled blouse in the outsides, and is even a resourceful woman, who’s also a maker and a teacher, but the there is no denying Belle’s magic, and part of that reason is how brilliantly Emma portrayed the character onscreen.

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The role actually demanded a musical side of Emma to be revealed onscreen and that also for the very first time, which seems more challenging than Emma’s background in music will let on. Watson had not only spent her childhood singing songs from the 1991 Disney classic, she had also previously learnt singing (along with acting and dancing) at the UK-based part-time theatre arts school, Stagecoach Theatre Arts, in Oxford. Probably for that, Emma could do away with spending limited time separately learning the ropes of the music for the live action remake of the fairy tale, as well. Emma thinks the songs in the film are dreamlike; she’s also done five songs for the soundtrack to Beauty and the Beast.

One other fact that makes Emma’s Belle in Beauty and the Beast truly remarkable is how very different it is to one utterly ridiculous image of Belle, which has spread itself around for a long time now – that Belle must be in love with an abusive man (the Beast), as if she’s suffering from Stockholm syndrome, where a person’s character morphs into something really similar to that of the (abusive) captor and feelings of passion get borne.

Reasons why this theory has been around for such a long time is that Belle often displays anger towards the Beast and even has rows with him. But Emma (impressively) feels that that train of thought is incorrect because Belle is also an independent woman, who actually has her individual disposition and only changes her mind about Beast and develops a caring attitude towards him, when Beast manages to showcase both civility and goodwill.

It’s really such a shocking idea bouncing off a character like Belle, who Emma also perceives as sweet and a feminist of sorts. Emma’s portrayal of Belle actually reveals a woman who is ardently looking for an adventure – in her own unique way, Emma really did do absolute justice to the classic heroine of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s fairy tale.

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Gal Gadot

Gal Gadot has had the best year, last year, movies-wise: she starred in the lead in one of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters ever Wonder Woman. But her fairytale life as a Hollywood star was almost over before it even properly began: Gal nearly quit as an actress because countless auditions and callbacks had resulted in no role for her. The environment was also deeply troubling for Gal because of the strain that the constant travelling back-and-forth from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles, with no productive results in sight, was taking on her marriage.

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Actually, Gal is no stranger to challenges at all because her journey to become Wonder Woman began in the most unlikely of ways: Gadot used to be one of Israel’s biggest models, until she had to exchange her glamorous life for a military service job at the Israel Defense Force – it’s a compulsory practice in her country. During those two years, Gal had to trade her personal freedom for the learning of self-control and kindness – interesting! It probably made sense, in all likelihood, to her nation to build characters in that way.

Soon after that, the Israeli actress was chosen to audition by an LA casting agency for Quantum Of Solace. Although, Gal lost out on that role to Olga Kurylenko, she eventually earned the role of Gisele Yashar in the fourth installment from The Fast and the Furious franchise: Fast & Furious. Gal then went on to star in two further films of The Fast and the Furious franchise: Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6, reprising her role as Gisele; her military training, which was gathering rust after her time spent in service was over, must have come in handy for the three films because she chose to do all of the stunts in those films herself.

It was yet another audition for Gal which actually landed her the role of a lifetime as Wonder Woman – the iconic female superhero, who fights bad guys and is a playgirl of sorts. Gal is really nothing like Wonder Woman in the flesh: she’s married to a businessman from her nation and even has a daughter with him. Her marriage also provided her with the opportunity to change the bedsheets of a luxury hotel in Tel Aviv, which the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich reportedly bought out from her new family setting in 2015.

Gal had actually met her husband at a party on yoga, chakras and the likes, back in her nation in the mid-2000s; he’s surprisingly a decade older than her and with only two years into dating, Gal got married to him. It’s really brilliant everything worked out magically for Gal, in the end, because there’s no wondering just how different everything would be, and not only for her but also for Wonder Woman, if that role of a superhero hadn’t actually come her way.

Jessica Chastain

The roles which Jessica Chastain have been seen in lately are quite different from the unglamorous image associated with the American actress for her previous films, such as Zero Dark Thirty, Interstellar and The Martian. Whether it’s Miss Sloane, The Zookeeper’s Wife or Molly’s Game, Chastain’s move away from her previous brand of portrayal of strong women is so much more welcoming.

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Jessica spent most of her childhood getting ignored because of how different she looked: freckled and with red hair, even though it’s a perfectly pleasant combination of looks, was given simply $100 to spend on clothes (back then) over the course of a year, and also sold lemonade to fuel her creative desires by having a theater company of her own. Jessica’s childhood experiences actually were a lot less frightening than her days at college in New York, where initially she had ‘jaw tension’ because of anxiety that Jessica had to work her way through in numerous ways – in the end, personal confidence had majorly saved the day for Jessica.

Women empowerment is something Chastain has always done remarkably well, glamour or no-glamour, despite having had such a mixed bag of a personal life, previous to stardom knocking on her door: in The Zookepers Wife, Chastain plays the role of a Jewish woman, Antonina Zabinska. Antonia worked in the Warsaw Zoo (in Poland) during the Second World War and at this time, she had saved the lives of many Jewish people. Jessica remarked on this experience of portraying such a strong (and fearless) female figure on film, that it was something she found interesting to do – cherish such women from the pages of the history.

Jessica has this outlook that women should be regarded as irreplaceable people in the world, and this thought clashes with the prevailing outlook which is in the opposite. With Molly’s Game, there is an overwhelming amount of just that as Molly (Jessica Chastain) shelters men but not because of a marriage or living in a patriarchal society, which reeks of replaceability in today’s society but because she’s a strong woman, with goal-oriented objectives, who manages to be successful in a man’s world. In Molly’s Game, Jessica also breaks all kinds of stereotypes by being a fashionable woman who doesn’t find satisfaction in only serving her male counterparts, she actually cultivates separate interests of her own and is an intelligent person, as well.

Elle Fanning

Elle Fanning, in recent years came to attention, for her work in films such as Maleficent (2014), The Boxtrolls (2014) and 20th Century Women (2016). But last year and the early part of this year, was undoubtedly professionally her breakthrough point, having starred in Live by Night and The Beguiled. In Live By Night, Elle gives a compelling performance as a woman who becomes a star after getting saved from a brothel, whilst in The Beguiled, Elle Fanning plays a boarding school student in Virginia, who employs seduction tactics on a Union soldier and also competes with other women for his affection.

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As both Live By Night and The Beguiled demonstrated, Elle likes to break free from the traditional image often associated with her innocent looks and waif-like figure, and pick roles which demonstrate breadth, Elle’s love for the varied and also a willingness to take risks. Elle is also something of a family-oriented person – the young actress lives with her family, in the same bedroom she has spent growing up in, and actually takes professional decisions which sit well with family-held perspectives.

Moulin Rouge – that film about a love affair between a courtesan and a poet, is Elle’s favourite film, her favourite food is (fresh) salmon and she actually knows how to play the piano, which is so remarkable given that Elle has a professional calling that is so separate from music. Elle’s experiences with starring in The Beguiled involved working with a female director, and watching Ben Affleck direct Live By Night raised her inspirations to be on the director’s chair herself – she likes to dream of becoming a director, so this atmosphere might just propel Elle to do just that and go ahead with directorially realizing her perspective, which is something wonderful to look forward to.

Winona Ryder

Winona Ryder’s fame comes from great movies such as Little Women, How to Make an American Quilt and Black Swan. And now Winona for the past year or so has been inviting attention on television, too, with Stranger Things – one of the hottest things on (web) television, right now. This year, Stranger Things won a SAG for ‘Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series’ – the show is about a missing boy and this happens in the eighties in a fictitious town in Indiana; mysteriously, supernatural episodes are about in the town, as well, and Winona plays the mother of the young boy in the show.

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How Winona managed to get cast in the production is a mystery because she didn’t have plenty of experience in television to boast about, previously, but I am going to guess it has something to do with the fact that she has starred in many great films too. Winona was sent the script because the people behind the production wanted to bring to television their love for cinema, with classic films like E.T. and Close Encounters picturing during their adolescent formative years – E.T. even appeared as a part of the Duffer brothers’ show.

Winona hasn’t been at the receiving end of this much attention for something she’s starred in, for a while and nowadays, in the age of social networks, everything happens so fast. Winona remembers that, back in the day, the experience of starring in a production entailed some three papers really, which as an actor she hoped would have included a satisfactory response, in the fold – such small expectations.

Winona’s character in Stranger Things, Joyce Byers, is first of all, the right idea of what a mother’s supposed to be like. She comes across as a happy person, and yet her emotions instantly gets deflated when she learns that her son is in trouble, which tragically she is powerless to do anything about. Winona has never played a role of a mother like this before and, I must add, it’s refreshing too see her in a brand new avatar: Joyce comes across as that American woman working at a convenience store that you probably saw a lot during your weekly shopping-necessities; it really makes Stranger Things a lot more wholesome and relatable despite the constant throw around of everything paranormal.

Jessica Alba

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A movie star, a mother and a unicorn retail brand (of her own): Jessica Alba seems to have a myriad of interesting avatars.

James Cameron’s television series¬†Dark Angel was one of the most kick-ass television shows on the planet. In the series, the protagonist, Max Guevara – this dark-haired and genetically enhanced soldier, who’s like a superwoman, was played by Jessica Alba. In the new millennium, it was very refreshing to have¬†a character that was really¬†attractive and ballsy, for a change. Max’s background read very differently too and it had a thrilling angle to it: as a child, at the young age of nine, Guevara¬†liberates herself from an American government facility, where people are trained to be soldiers/assassins. Hailing from California, Alba later starred in several blockbuster movies too, from Sin City (2005) to Fantastic Four (2005).

Nowadays, Alba doubles up both as a movie star and a businesswoman: she co-founded The Honest Company in 2012 – it’s a retail brand with an ethical consumerist focus, which stocks non-toxic household products as suppliers for the marketplace. After a three-year long search for business partners, Jessica got her big business idea to take flight and these days The Honest Company boasts as a start-up business valued at $1bn. As a mother, Jessica prioritizes looking after her kids the most because if her kids are having happy days then it¬†means Jessica can make time more for other important things in her life, as well – unwell children of her own, wouldn’t allow Jessica to do plenty of¬†other things.

The continuous life of tending to the kids and looking after the house makes Jessica appreciate mothers who stay at home, and get busy with the same sets of tasks. According to her, it’s¬†all got something to do with having a personal life because time management is crucial when you do have one. Sometimes, Jessica experiences the blues (particularly at night) probably because her days are so rushed – Jessica doesn‚Äôt have a lot of people around her, who are structured and into good daily habits so it’s tough for her to chill out and incorporate all that in her life, and every time she’s tried it, it went nowhere. For the American star, The Honest Company is more than just a business – it’s also a business where Jessica’s employed people she has been with for five long years and her employees have their own dreams too. Jessica thoughtfully manages all of this by helping all these people to balance the act of running through daily activities, with looking towards the stars and getting hopeful regarding the future.

Jessica began her journey in Hollywood because she didn’t feel comfortable with herself – she wanted to step into someone else’s shoes and make a career of it, and also be part of something so brilliant. When Jessica was about 18 (she’s 36 now), she saw that there was a chance for women (and women of colour too) to be something so much more than a damsel in distress – women could now also be a hero and the very reason that people were even bothering with turning up at the movies. Jessica’s also got a love for storytelling and her life as a teen star entailed being happy and making good use of¬†what she’s got in the moment, right there and then, since¬†it’s going to all disappear soon – great that, that never happened.

Jennifer Aniston

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There is more to Jennifer Aniston than her marriages, a divorce and the (mad) public scrutiny of her private life. Jennifer’s roles both in films and on television are really some of the most memorable ones I can think of, particularly in comedy. Her recent Hollywood project, Office Christmas Party, reunited Aniston with Jason Bateman (she had co-stared with him in The Switch) and the plot of the film revolved around an impromptu Christmas party at an office which is aimed at saving jobs.

Bateman found Aniston very comfortable and easy to work with, so much so that on-set and on-the-job he felt that he had absolute freedom to, for laughter’s sake, look like a fool. To me, Aniston comes across as this woman with an oddly lively spirit sometimes; she makes a big deal out of scripts not a lot of people seem to be interested in and likes to celebrate the ordinary a lot, from the people to the circumstances. Aniston’s life however, is anything but ordinary: a lot of negative attention often peaks surrounding Jennifer Aniston’s private choices in life with questions being thrown around over whether or not she is married yet, divorced yet or has got a baby yet.

Recently, all of that touched a nerve with the 48-year old star and she penned down an elaborate opinion piece in a local newspaper regarding the plight that women often have over private decisions of that sorts. In the piece, Aniston nicely displayed her fighting spirit as she spoke out against bad ideas circulating that she isn’t a sad person without a baby and that spending time hanging out with her doesn’t involve that experience.

Some of Aniston’s friends include Jason Bateman and his wife, Portia de Rossi and her partner, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow (both are co-stars from a television show she had starred in,¬†Friends). Jennifer¬†has three dogs as well, which are called Clyde, Sophie and Dolly, respectively.

Jennifer Aniston recently wed Justin Theroux who she had met whilst working on her film, Wanderlust (2010). Jennifer describes her relationship with Justin as a wonderful thing. This is because in it she feels seen, loved and also free to display herself just the way she is; the relationship sounds like it has all the perfect ingredients to make it a good celebrity marriage.

What keeps her life as a celebrity afloat are the Hollywood projects she signs up for which Aniston has expansively been getting picky over, plus numerous brand endorsements. The American star will next be seen in a film on NFL worker Denise White and in¬†The Goree Girls – a film on a country/western band made up of Texan prison inmates; the band had first performed in the forties. Aniston’s films have a good range this year but something¬†remarkable that she did this year was put this out there that a¬†woman does not need to be a mother to be happy in life, in spite of having a fear of public speaking.