…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “female characters

‘Does he play baseball,…’


‘…does he wear dresses?’

‘He doesn’t wear dresses. You’ll find out all the details when it’s your turn to see him.’

‘Don’t write this book, it’s a humiliating experience.’

‘It’s an honest account of our breakup.’

ph. United Artists

Meryl Streep looks so beautiful here in Manhattan, although a bit cold and mannered. I wonder what would have happened if Woody Allen had scooped her up and made her his muse for ten years.


‘Ian, you put a greased…’


‘…naked woman on all fours with a dog collar around her neck, and a leash. And a man – ‘

‘And a man…’

‘A man’s arm extended out up to here holding on to the leash and pushing a black glove on her face to sniff it. You don’t find that offensive?’

ph. MGM

‘No.’

I saw This is Spinal Tap at the Revue a long time ago with my mom. I couldn’t tell her what a love pump was.


Image Erudition: Thelma and Louise


ph. MGM

I first saw Thelma and Louise in its entirety on AMC. Rape scenes should make the most of us uncomfortable, but what makes this one so unsettling is how its choereographed and lit. Medium close-up of Thelma (Geena Davis), medium close-up of salivating skeevy rapist Harlan, close-up of Thelma’s bum, close-up of feet as the two go on an unconsented paso doble, all of them back-lit. The third thing on the list got to my nerves because we’re watching the light fabric of her dress caressing her body, if you know what I mean. I haven’t watched the channel in a long time, but it has a glare-y finish than other channels, this scene is bright and for that matter the desert scenes are more arid. The second time I watched this was in CTV, and this time there’s less lighting in that scene and I notice the lighthing elsewhere.

Oh, and that Thelma’s body is depicted in the same objectified way when she makes love to a hitchhiker JD (Brad Pitt). Both men exploit her. I’m not sure how aware director Ridley Scott is of the similarities between the two scenes.

Jonathan Rosenbaum talked about the unpredictable verve that Davis and Susan Sarandon being in their nuanced performances, which matches the film’s electric unpredictability. The average shot length of the film is slightly more than six seconds and we can actually hear the dialogue, so the film is THAT set up. But the film produces a documentary tone with the cars and trucks along the road, like when the titular Thelma and Louise (Sarandon) make a pit stop while escaping the crime scene.  On the interstate, their conversations with JD get interrupted by the trucks honking while they’re passing by.

Speaking of their first pit stop, there’s a lot of abject in this movie. Salivating men, vomit, the women’s faces bloodied or with stained make-up or dirty since they haven’t had a proper shower in forever, Thelma’s husband stepping on his pizza. Which also reminds me of their two transformations. One, that Thelma goes from being the one who has to hand over the money and dependence to Louise to being the gun-brandishing store robber. Two, that they came from dress-and-headscarf wearing Southern belles to women you’ve avoid if you happen to walk in to a Lynrd Skynrd concert, not that the latter is a bad thing, mind you.

I also noticed while screen capping the movie that the characters spend a lot of time talking on the phone, the women mostly talking to men (Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen). Unfortunately the women don’t hang up on time.


Canada’s Top Ten: Incendies


Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal) leaves a will to her fraternal twin children. She gives each of them a letter, one for their father and another for their half-brother and tells her children to give those family members the corresponding letters. Her son Simon (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) hates his mother and doesn’t want to follow the will’s instructions, while daughter Jeanne (Maxim Gaudette) is dutiful enough to do her part.

The film, essentially, would cross-cut between the siblings’ and their mother in her youth, both stories paralleling in the same, storied homeland. Thankfully the boring first five to ten minutes end with a gunshot killing the Christian Nawal’s Muslim refugee boyfriend Wahab. This act of violence gripped my attention for the rest of the film. They try to kill her too but her grandmother intercedes. Finding out that she’s pregnant, her grandmother takes her in to seclude her until delivery. She is then told to leave for a bigger town.

ph. TIFF

Azabal’s a regular player in films about the Middle East that get some recognition outside that region. The foreign-educated, rational Palestinian who has a quick relationship with a terrorist in Paradise Now. The guarded sister to the Iranian woman being romanced by Leonardo di Caprio in Body of Lies. She does some of the same things here as she would on those two movies, crossing borders, argue ideas, live through political conflict. The most popular image of the film, her face brushed with blood, fires burning behind her, suggest many things but subtle. Yes, the film has its decrescendos but the film still embodies the insanity of war within one woman. As she puts on different hats while trying to survive within the war-torn area, she convinces both as victim and victimizer. We’re thankful that she’s getting a vehicle in the form of this movie.

As this film fits well with Azabal’s characters it does the same with Denis Villeneuve’s other film Polytechnique, as both concern violence against women. The clean cinematography in the earlier film reflects the Canadian scenes in Incendies, while it’s more textural in the Middle Eastern scenes, the latter reflecting the violence in that area.

Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s play, the film is far away from a ‘theatre film,’ making me curious to compare the two versions. The Greek tragedy elements, especially with the shocking revelations, still resonates within this adaptation.


Jafar Panahi: Offside


Offside reminds me when a friend of mine who visited Saudi Arabia disguised herself as a boy so that she could play tennis. She called herself Muhammad because there is a Muhammad in her name somewhere. Yes, Muslim girls get away with stuff all the time. Restriction always leads to rebellion. This film shows the apartheid between men and women in Iran, but it’s just as much about the joy these girls have in almost having something inches away from their fingertips.

ph. SPC via thecia.com.au

Offside begins with a father looking within crowds watching a qualifying futbol game between Iran and Bahrain in 2006. He  doesn’t notice the girls in disguise. This film is translatable to any other about a city, depicted by a film packed with many themes. The frustration of not seeing balanced with the game’s energy emanating through the stadium walls and bars. Soldiers from the country who are outsiders like the women they’re guarding in a makeshift prison. Independent Tehrani girls who come from respectable families, can go to the movies, can go to college and want to cheer for their country that oppresses them even if it means a criminal record.

This is the definition of gonzo, new generation neo-realist film making, having to make it in real-time, a movie about breaking the law while actually breaking the law. And yet there’s time for shot countershots and great amateur actors playing off each other so well. You can’t help but sympathize for all the characters, even the cute, grouchy soldier.


Easy A


ph. Sony

Welcome to family friendly Ojai, California, where the sun always shines on the auburn hair of a snarky girl named Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) who everyone suddenly thinks is a trollope. Director Will Gluck and screenwriter Bert V. Royal know that Easy A is telling a story told before, and with sharper scripts. The film is full of references of cellphone culture and slightly grainy webcams and grainier clips of John Hughes films and a homosexual rendering of Huckleberry Finn’s interracial friendship. Speaking of old, hallowed American narratives, Olive is our Hester Prynne, a fictional character whose archaic treatment disgusts her English teacher (Thomas Haden Church) but we and the teenagers know that a woman’s purity – or appearance of purity – is still placed on high regard.

This film has the best gags I’ve seen in a while, like one involving a Natasha Bedingfield song and another one about Olive adopted brother. However, it’s crueller than your average teen flick. Stone’s husky voice still sounds more mature, which slightly takes off the willing suspension of disbelief. And I spent the first act of the film wishing I saw her with her parents (Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci) simply because her comic chemistry with them is that good. Stone also has believable rapport with supporting characters like her enemy Marianne (Amanda Bynes) who surprises us with her vulnerability, Brandon (Dan Byrd) who’s confused about his sexuality, a guidance counselor who doesn’t listen to her (Lisa Kudrow) and Woodchuck Todd (Penn Badgely) who balances good looks with wearing goofy costumes. A silver lining on being ostracized is an assumed altruism that she adapts like Hester and that the other characters secretly relate to her when they’re down.

Despite a few hurdles, Stone owns this movie. Her world is one with bullying, obsession on teenage sexuality and where teenagers can frighteningly perform that sexuality as Olive does because of peer pressure. Olive tells her webcam viewers that books and movies can’t put across ‘how shitty it feels to be an outcast.’ Yet she makes us know how it feels. The film doesn’t judge her. Yes, I can’t help but feel slightly old while watching the movie, but for the first time in a while, I watched a teen movie that has enough spark and humour and didn’t make me feel like a parent.


Seminal Television – Blowing Smoke


ph. AMCTV

Like Buffy needed two men to save the world, the women in Don’s life help him get where he is and do what he does in the summer of 1965. There’s Faye, who helps him get into a meeting with a representative of Heinz Beans in a secluded restaurant. The representative tells Don to wait for six months. I should start using that to turn down guys, like I’m turning down guys now.

Then there’s Midge (Rosemarie DeWitt), who still paints canvases based on what she sees when she closes her eyes. Apparently, as shown by her #4, she sees snowmen. Midge for some reason looks like Liz Lemon, although Liz would never do heroin. This scene feels slightly PSA, but Midge, a girl who has only gotten lukewarm reaction from audiences, is now a character both love and pitied. Out of pity, Don buys #4 and inadvertently supports her habit, the painting and the woman both inspire him.

Peggy also becomes ones of Don’s fairy godmothers, giving him inspiration twice. The most obvious instance is when Peggy reminds her ninja master of his own wisdom – ‘change the conversation.’ He disappoints her by being unable to change said conversation, but they’re smirking at each other later. She also drops a line earlier about how pointless it is to convince women to change brands. This line makes Don develop the idea that tobacco advertising is also pointless. The thankless work Don and SCDP have had to keeping and advertising Lucky Strike, the rules already in place against how to advertise it. Instead of fighting for Virginia Slims, Don types away, the caper music playing. He runs a full-page ad that makes Pete hold on to his toast. Nobody else pats him on the back with this move but Peggy.

Thanks to Don’s ad, Faye has to resign from her assignment at SCDP, in conflict with her firm wanting to keep cigarette accounts. Since they don’t work together anymore, they can go out in the open now. She also stakes her claim to him, telling him to have Megan make reservations. And she knows.

Also, Trudy puts her foot down, the women of CGC are uglier than the ones at SCDP, SCDP has an inexhaustible pool of good-looking receptionists, Joan still hates Lane, Sally’s addicted to creepy Glen, Betty’s addicted to Dr. Edna. Because of the latter items, for the first time in forever, Betty was better than Sally at something.