Now on Netflix: Resurface

Surfing has become medicine for military veterans suffering from physical and mental trauma. Resurface follows veterans who find that the ocean is the one place they can go to for peace. Click through to watch the trailer.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

A seemingly minor character in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (a Marine in Afghanistan being interviewed by embedded reporter Kim Baker) makes an offhand comment on camera about how he doesn’t even bother to load his gun every day, and gets transferred to a new unit for his sins. During an argument later in the movie, Kim Baker is informed that the soldier had both of his legs blown off as a result. Remorseful (and probably looking for an endorphin spike), Kim tracks him down and visits him back in the States, finding him riding his John Deere at home with his family, expecting him to blame her for the loss of his legs and prepared to take any sort of verbal lashing he wants to give her. But Specialist Coughlin does not conform to the disability movie stereotype of the angry amputee who seeks revenge on the person they blame for the loss of their limb:

Specialist Coughlin: “Ma’am, I lost my legs because of an IED, not because of you.”

Kim: “I appreciate that. But if I hadn’t quoted you, you wouldn’t have been transferred. No, really, you can say whatever you want to me. That’s why I’m here.”

Specialist Coughlin: “OK, then let’s say you’re right. It’s still not ’cause of you, ma’am. Some 12-year old hadji had to plant that bomb. And hell, if Bin Laden’s parents hadn’t gotten divorced, maybe none of us would have been in this damn to begin with. And the Taliban, they wouldn’t have even been there for UBL, if Breznev hadn’t gone and fouled up Afghanistan in the first place. And the British Empire. Oh, and Kim Baker.”

Kim: “OK, I deserved that.”

Specialist Coughlin: “Goddam! When you got no legs, everyone takes everything so serious! There’s only so much any of us have any control of, good or bad. If you didn’t learn that in Afghanistan, you were not paying attention. I mean, ma’am, Kim,
you gotta move on. You’re giving yourself way too much credit. You embrace the suck, you move the fuck forward. What other fucking choice do we have?”

Guardians of the Galaxy

The unnamed one-legged prisoner in Guardians of the Galaxy appears briefly and only as the butt of another character’s joke. When Rocket the raccoon devises a plan to break out of a galactic prison, one of the things he orders his companions to procure is the prosthetic leg of another prisoner. They take him seriously, probably thinking he needed the electronics from it. Peter Quill talks to the amputee prisoner, realizes the prosthetic leg is “wired in” to the man’s nervous system, and buys it off of him for 30,000 credits. (Why the man was willing to part with it for any amount was not explained, as he’ll presumably be serving out the rest of his prison term without it, and without a way to receive or spend the money.)

When Peter returns with the artificial leg, Rocket complains that he expected Peter to fight with the man over his leg, and that he had demanded it not because he actually needed it for the escape plan, but because he thought it would be funny to see the one-legged prisoner hopping around. In this way, viewers learn–if they haven’t picked up on it already–that Rocket can be a real jerk.

We can interpret the one-legged prisoner’s presence in the script as a way to show Rocket’s later personal growth, but it’s still problematic that the actor playing the prisoner is not an amputee himself… especially because Disney put out a casting call in 2013 looking for amputees and albinos to play aliens. Disney bafflingly still chose a non-disabled actor to appear as an amputee, no doubt necessitating even more CGI. So there were no amputees qualified to play the one-legged prisoner, and any actual amputees or people with non-standard pigmentation–both within the range of human variation–were relegated to the background as aliens.

Disney, you’ve been taking baby steps, but you still have a long way to go.

Robocop (2014)

The 2014 remake of RoboCop reads less like a dystopian tale of police oppression than the original, and more like contemporary tales of recovery from a spinal cord injury. Multinational conglomerate OmniCorp’s CEO Raymond Sellars has wanted to sell fully autonomous robot soldiers and police officers for some time now, but finds the public won’t accept them without the human element. He and his team evaluate a number of injured cops for possible conversion into cyborgs, but reject each candidate for various reasons: one for being overweight, another for having ataxia. A paraplegic candidate clearly into wheelchair sports is rejected for being unstable, despite the female assistant’s obvious attraction to him. It isn’t until Alex Murphy, a cop and family man, is critically injured by a car bomb that OmniCorp decides he’s the perfect candidate, pressures his wife Clara into signing all manner of consent forms, and whisks what little remains of his mortal form to their laboratories in unregulated China.

Murphy wakes up from his pleasant drug-addled dream of dancing with Clara to the harsh reality of immobility and Kafkaesque conditions of the laboratory. Dr. Dennett Norton tries to ease the adjustment with a steady flow of antidepressants, but when Murphy demands to see the extent of the damage to his body the shock is overwhelming. Murphy wants to die, but Dr. Norton convinces him to see it through.

Alex Murphy: Holy Christ, there’s nothing left.
Dr. Dennett Norton: Your body may have gone, but you’re still here.
Alex Murphy: That’s not even my brain.
Dr. Dennett Norton: We had to repair the damaged areas. But we didn’t interfere with your emotion or your intellect. Do you understand me, Alex? You’re in control.
Alex Murphy: I’m in control?
Dr. Dennett Norton: Yes.
Alex Murphy: Okay. If I’m in control, then I wanna die. Just unplug whatever it is keepin’ me alive and end this nightmare.
Dr. Dennett Norton: Now, say I did that. Which as a doctor would almost be impossible for me, but say I did. What do I say to your wife? What does she say to your son?
Alex Murphy: That it didn’t work. That you tried. Somethin’ went wrong. You did everything you could, but I died.
Dr. Dennett Norton: So after all they’ve been through, all the pain, all their hope restored, we would just rip that away? Your wife loves you, Alex. She signed the consent forms herself. Otherwise, you couldn’t have undergone the procedure. She loves you and she gave you a second chance. I need you to take it.
Alex Murphy: I don’t wanna see myself like this again. Ever. And the same goes for my family. Just put me back in.

Dr. Norton is beholden to his corporate masters, though, and they have little patience for Murphy’s psychological needs or the autonomy Dr. Norton claimed to have restored. Murphy must show that all the money spent on his recovery was a worthwhile investment, and he’s brought to a military training course to demonstrate his new robotic abilities. When his trainer, Mattox, refers to Murphy as if he’s an inanimate object, Murphy offers his hand to shake and blandly remarks “It’s nice to meet you too.” Mattox doesn’t take the hint to treat Murphy like a human being, though, and later shows he’s one of the villains by referring to Murphy as “Tin Man” and taunting him by playing “If I Only Had a Heart”

Murphy makes an ill-fated attempt to re-integrate himself into his family life, which doesn’t go well at first. His young son is unprepared for all the technological innovations that now surround Daddy, and his favorite chair and marital bed weren’t designed for his sudden robotic bulkiness. Murphy is at the point of despair when he’s compelled back to the police force, and must begin to grapple with the larger questions of his injury and recovery. Did the company play a role in injuring Murphy? Does he really still have autonomy, or is he just the ghost in the machine? Murphy must adjust to his disability in order to face his oppressors and finally answer those questions.

Fill the Void

The action in Fill the Void centers older sister Esther’s death and subsequent pressure on younger Shira to marry the widower, but it’s Shira’s independent Aunt Hanna who is the strongest advocate for caution. Hanna is missing both arms and remains unmarried, but explains to Shira that she did once have a serious suitor; she called it off because she simply did not want to be married. On the advice of her rabbi, Hanna has been covering her hair like a married woman would ever since, to forestall personal questions and pity from their marriage-centric Hasidic community.

Forms of dependency other than marriage are also explored through Aunt Hanna. Hanna seems not to have any sort of paid personal assistance, instead relying on her sister Rivka and her nieces for activities of daily living, such as eating. The drawbacks of this are evident one day when Rivka is annoyed with Hanna and deliberately holds each forkful just a little bit too low, necessitating Hanna bend forward to eat it, eyes glittering with suppressed anger.

After Earth

After Earth wouldn’t be worth a mention on Disability Movies but for a brief exchange between the hero, Cypher Raige, and a wounded soldier who wants to be helped to his feet to salute him. Raige tries to dissuade him from getting up, but the soldier insists since Raige’s actions meant he lived to see his baby girl, and Raige helps the man back to his wheelchair.

We note that the soldier is using a minimalist white plastic motorized chair that looks for all the world like a lawn chair from Kmart, and wonder why wheelchair seating technology doesn’t seem to have improved much in the future. Perhaps as refugees from a polluted and dying Earth, all their assistive technology is fabricated on demand by 3D printers? At least it looks like there are no actual wheels on the base, so maybe the much longed for antigravity hoverchair has finally been invented.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 teaser trailer

Dreamworks has released the teaser trailer for How to Train Your Dragon 2, due out in the summer of 2014. Though they shied away from depicting Hiccup as an amputee in the video game that followed the hit movie, his inventive prosthetics are on full display in the trailer. Disability-friendly Dreamworks always includes captions and audio description in their animated releases, and we expect How to Train Your Dragon 2 will be no exception.

Therapy Content Secures Life Rights to Terry Fox Story

Therapy Content Secures Life Rights to Terry Fox Story
10:47 AM PDT 4/12/2013 by Etan Vlessing
The indie producer plans a theatrical feature based on the young Canadian amputee’s 1980s cross-country marathon interrupted by a return bout with cancer and eventual death.

TORONTO — Canadian hero Terry Fox, who made a 1980s run across Canada on one leg before his death due to a return bout with cancer, is getting another biopic made of his historic journey.

Los Angeles-based producer Kelly Slattery of Therapy Content is working with the Fox family and foundation after securing the life rights to develop a feature film based on the young amputee’s story.

STORY: Hollywood Production Workflow Outfit DAX Launches in Canada [3]

The indie producer, which made the announcement Friday on the 33rd anniversary of Fox starting his cross-Canada marathon, is closing financing for the project and expects to start shooting here in 2014.

Profits from the international release of the film are to go entirely to the Terry Fox Foundation and cancer research.

The Hollywood treatment for Fox follows a host of homegrown biopics.

Canadian NBA star-turned-filmmaker Steve Nash’s documentary about Fox, In the Wind, aired on ESPN as part of its “30 for 30” strand.

Fox’s story also was captured by the 1983 HBO and CTV TV movie The Terry Fox Story, and the 2005 Canadian TV movie for CTV, Terry, produced by Shaftesbury Films.


Sport Doesn’t Care Who You Are

Samsung commercial in support of the London 2012 Paralympics. Sport doesn’t care where you’re from, if you’re a man or a woman, tall, thin, big or short. Sport doesn’t care how you got here, how much money you make, what you believe in or not. It doesn’t care if you have two legs, one leg or wheels. Sport only cares that you’re here to take part and give your all to win.

Marion Cotillard on Rust and Bone, Playing a Double Amputee, and Hating the Zoo

You saw her in this summer’s very American blockbuster, The Dark Knight Rises. But come fall, Marion Cotillard will be getting buzz for playing a double-­amputee killer-whale trainer (yes, a double-amputee killer-whale trainer) in Jacques Audiard’s très français drama Rust and Bone. Jada Yuan spoke to the actress for New York magazine’s “Fall Preview” issue. Vulture got its hands on the complete transcript; highlights, below.

I read that you do a lot of research for your movies. What did you do to get ready for your role in Rust and Bone?
Well, I did kind of technical research, because I just had to find the physicality of the body language of someone who’s lost her legs. I wanted to find the authenticity of what it feels like, even though I will never, never know how it feels. But then about this character … most of the time, I read a script and then I understand the character right away — not everything about the character, otherwise it would be boring, maybe. But sometimes you have right away kind of a … you understand a lot about a person, and you understand the soul of this person, and then you will have to meet this person to learn more. With the character I have in Rust and Bone, I read the script and then I thought, My God, I don’t really understand her. And so that’s what I told Jacques Audiard, and I was kind of scared he would freak out. But that was what I felt, so that was what I had to share with him after I read the script. I was anxious about his reaction, and he told me, “Well, you know, I don’t understand her either. But that’s a good thing. We will have to take the road together, you and me, and find her, find who she is.” So that was kind of an amazing experience I was really looking forward to.

Let’s talk about the physicality of it, because I think that’s really interesting. When you say you did technical research to sort of know how it would feel to be without legs, what did you do?
Well, I don’t know if it’s very interesting, but I watched videos of people with no legs. I mean, each time I have to enter into a character and give life to a character, I do my best to believe that I’m old, or that I’m, I don’t know, desperate.

Your character has an affair in the movie. How did you do the sex scenes?
Well, with my legs, obviously [laughs].

Do they wrap them in tape and then green screen them out? I loved the sex scenes. It’s something you don’t see with disabled people in movies very much.
Well, we didn’t really think about the technique, because Jacques Audiard is … I remember when he was preparing the movie, he was writing e-mails to me, and he was [saying], “I spent an hour with the special effects, and I don’t want to spend anything. I just want you guys to be there with me, and we’re going to just give life to those characters.” So the technical part — we were lucky to work with amazing, amazing technicians. But then it felt like something real. You have to have a certain position with your legs not to make shadows and everything, but it’s not what is very important about the work we did. The most important was the director’s poetry, the way he filled this in with poetry and his vision of those people.

You rarely see a double amputee played in such a sexy way. Do you know what I mean? She has this thriving sex life, and a man who falls in love with her. Was that important to you? Did you respond to that?
Yeah, well, because this is a movie about rust, bone, flesh, blood, and love. And they’re young, they’re lost, but they’re beautiful, and they’re coming back to life, and in a big way they’re really coming back to life. And life with surrender is beautiful.


Cannes, Day Deux: Marion Cotillard’s Whale of a Movie

from The New York Observer:
Cannes, Day Deux: Marion Cotillard’s Whale of a Movie
By Stephen Garrett 5/19 3:28pm
CANNES, FRANCE, MAY 19— Love is in the air here at Cannes, and so is at least one Oscar prospect. Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard is first out of the gate this year with a riveting performance as a double amputee in Jacques Audiard’s tough, achingly beautiful drama Rust and Bone. Crippled by a freak killer whale accident in the south of France (yeah, I just wrote that), Orca trainer Cotillard mends a shattered life by finding mutual redemption in the arms of a stoic single father and amateur kickboxer (played with muscular intensity by human bicep Matthias Schoenaerts). On paper—and in lesser hands—this Riviera romance would seem preposterous. But Mr. Audiard, an alchemist of character studies, conjures up his world with expert flair, and creates a stunning, deeply felt portrait of passion and compassion between a woman aching to connect and a man hiding behind his brute strength. And the broken but gingerly resolute Ms. Cotillard is commanding in a legless role considerably sexier than Gary Sinise’s bitter Vietnam vet from Forrest Gump, aided by breathtakingly seamless digital technology that makes Lieutenant Dan look like the victim of a bad eraser attack.

Veteran’s battle to survive carries him to Hollywood

from USA Today:
Veteran’s battle to survive carries him to Hollywood
By Scott Bowles, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES – Greg Gadson’s departure from Baghdad was a sudden one.
Gadson, a lieutenant colonel with the Second Battalion and 32nd Field Artillery, was returning from a memorial service for two soldiers when his vehicle passed a roadside bomb on May 7, 2007.

Gadson remembers the detonation sending his body tumbling through rubble, then medics placing him on a stretcher in a helicopter, his severed feet sitting in his lap. He awakened days later at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., his legs amputated above the knees.
“When you come to grips with the injuries like that, you don’t think of anything in your future,” he says. “I never imagined anyone outside the military would be interested in me.”

Turns out a lot of folks were, including the New York Giants and now Hollywood. Gadson makes his acting debut in Battleship, playing Lt. Col. Mick Canales, a vet struggling with recovery much as Gadson did.
A 24-year veteran and director of the Army’s Wounded Warrior program, Gadson says his goal in rehabilitation was never to become a spokesman for the wounded. It was just to walk again.

Not only would he regain mobility on “power prosthetic” legs — artificial limbs equipped with gyroscopes, accelerators and hydraulics to emulate a knee — Gadson would become a symbol of recovery. After the news media picked up his story, he began fielding offers to be a motivational speaker.

His accepted, including making a pregame speech to the Giants before they won the 2008 Super Bowl.

Gadson tailored a simple but resonant theme: “Whenever you have a formidable task, instead of looking up, look down. Literally take it one step at a time. You’ll be overwhelmed by the broader view.”

Battleship director Peter Berg was overwhelmed by Gadson’s story. He read an article about the soldier in National Geographic and tried for three weeks to offer him a part in the movie. But every time he called, Berg — who is built like a lineman and cusses like a sailor — was met with skepticism.

“He kept thinking I was an Army buddy trying to prank him,” says Berg, who introduced Gadson at Battleship’s L.A. premiere to a standing ovation. “I finally had to fly out to D.C. to convince him. He’s a badass.”

A former West Point football player, Gadson waved off his double for the movie’s stunts, including a fight scene with an alien.

“I know it’s clichéd, but this guy is a walking example of positive energy,” Berg says. “He has no sense of self-pity. You wouldn’t believe the energy he brought to the set.”

Gadson says he is open to more film roles, as long as they don’t interfere with his current mission.

“As a service member, there are a lot of people who have endured what I have, but their paths won’t be highlighted,” Gadson says. “I want to speak up for them. I know we’re not promised tomorrow. But there is a road ahead.”