‘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.’
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?’
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
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.
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.
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.
- Marshall Fine: HuffPost Review: Easy A (huffingtonpost.com)
Seminal Television – Blowing Smoke
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.
- “Mad Men Sneak Peek: Episode 12 “Blowing Smoke”” and related posts (busybeeblogger.com)
Cher tries to set up people in couples and boxes, but Clueless subverts assigned stereotypes, the most obvious one being that ‘clueless’ newcomer Tai (Brittany Murphy) is sluttier and bitchier than she looks. There’s more.
Dionne is not Mammy. Dionne (Stacey Dash), is a true Beverly Hills girl with mood swings, which is why I love her. If writer-director Amy Heckerling was a worse writer, Dionne would only serve as life support to Cher. Dionne has juicy scenes like crying in the bathroom in a party when she finds out that Murray (Donald Faison) – who isn’t threatening because he wears braces – shaved his head, or slightly betraying Cher by huddling around Tai (Brittany Murphy), or freaking out on the freeway. I especially love how the film sets up the latter scene. Her line reading of ‘What if he was really tired?’ is both deadpan and camp, both levels played well together. Dionne and Cher talk like that throughout the film, like a Whit Stilman film where all the character wear pink. And the deadpan aspect of the line readings prepare you for the hilarity that’s gonna ensue. Also, she is older than Paul Rudd. Speaking of minorities,
I couldn’t tell if Christian was gay neither. The Jason Priestley lookalike’s pleated pants and old man abs made it more difficult, if you must know. And yes, the film deceives us when Christian acts a bit combative towards Mel (Dan Hedaya), while gay boys successfully befriend parents. Although ‘hagsville,’ Tony Curtis RIP and ‘Aww, honey, you baked’ should have rung alarm bells. Which brings me to why I didn’t wanna bury this section as a third item. I’m a Filipino gay man in my twenties who writes about film instead of a white straight male critic over 40, and for some reason, I feel more personally about characters who fall in whatever bracket I share him or her with. That’s something I don’t see too blatantly in 40-year-old straight white men, or at least their character critiques are more general. I think. In layman’s terms, I kept comparing Christian to myself, or who I was when I was the same age as he is. Can someone back me up on this? Christian dances with another guy in that party, something I would never try to do unless I was in a predominantly gay area. But then he’s a classical film lover and a bit of a ‘art fag,’ written by a woman, based on a source material from the Regency period. Christian makes me curious about what ‘gay guys’ have been like in 1995 or the early 1800’s. And how could Murray have known and not Cher nor Dionne? Don’t women have better gaydars than straight men. Or maybe Cher and Dionne just don’t.
If you pay attention to the film, you’ll know how it might end. I also really like this scene/shot/movie because of the generational divide, Josh (Paul Rudd) looking at Cher with such reverence while Mel’s being stern towards Christian. And Josh is aware of this generational divide, telling Mel not to let Cher go out looking like ‘that.’ Josh is in between, the bridge between Cher and Mel, old enough to know better, young enough to know that Cher isn’t so vacuous as others might think. Although he distractingly sounds a bit like Christopher Walken in one of the last scenes. Also, did anyone see this movie and think ‘Josh is gonna be ubiquitous,’ because I didn’t.
Cher isn’t always perky, but some of you might have known this already. Yes, her arguments about violence in the media is considerable, but her knowledge of ‘Haitians,’ jazz and art criticism needs work. If any of my professors heard ‘Monet’ defined like that, they would pop a blood vessel. She drops the Beverly Hills accent once in a while, which surprisingly makes both inflated and deflated Cher more convincing. And is that a Kollwitz sculpture behind her? I imagine her being a philanthropist, if she’s not misled.
New York Tristate in the house. Timothy Findley who first talked to me about the New York exodus to California in the early days of cinema. Apparently Tai and Mel has kept that tradition alive, their accents representing as prominently as the California accent.
Ooh, I wonder if they have that in my size. If this movie’s setting is 2010, she wouldn’t need to ask that question because she’d be a size 0. Or maybe not being size 0 makes her better than the average airhead.
Starbucks? That existed before the 1999 Seattle riots?
The world goes on despite of Cher. So this is the third movie I’ve seen this year about the Bosnian War, although I’ve seen Clueless before. The Bosnia reference also shows how 90’s it is, a great addition to other 90’s references like Ren and Stimpy, Radiohead, Alaia. Also, is that a flower-pot? How much did Mel let her decorate in the house? Cher’s very girl for a girl raised by a single parent. This movie is about Cher becoming more well-rounded. It also helps that she has people like Josh around her, correcting her without being condescending. And Christian ‘educating’ her about film and art. And Mel who’s an art collector himself. And Miss Geist (Twink Caplan).
I also watched the television series, where Caplan, Dash and Faison among others took the roles they had in the film, but you knew that already.
Also, Scott Rudin prouced this movie. Respect. Silverstone and Heckerling, also the director of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, are reuniting to make Vamps, about vampires on the prowl in the city a la “Sex and the City.” I’m worried.
- Scenes We Love: Clueless (cinematical.com)
TIFF: Rabbit Hole
In John Cameron Mitchell‘s adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire Pulitzer winning Rabbit Hole, Nicole Kidman plays perfect modern wife Becca Corbett, and the film can serve as a primer for what Kidman can do. In describing Becca, the people in her life – her husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart – not a good yeller) her mother Nat (Dianne Wiest), her sister Izzie, Jason, the people in her God-fearing support group – would give different answers. The audience can watch Becca pretend to be normal as she does her chores. You can also watch her giddily hopping down the streets of Manhattan in high heels as she goes back to her old turf at Sotheby’s. And almost get turned on by Al Green. And make drug jokes. And cry while watching teenager Jason be driven off to prom.
Abaire re-imagines the characters in his play. Becca, Howie and Nat are intact, he waters down Izzie’s confrontational trashiness while Auggie and Howie’s SPOILER alleged mistress (Sandra Oh) END SPOILER appears in the film. Like Becca and the principal characters in her life, the film never reuses the same emotion or depicts every scene in the same way. Sometimes the cloud hanging above Becca and Howie, perceived by others, lifts and humour finds its way into their natural conversations. Rabbit Hole, shot colourfully without being too artificial, is not one of those movies that try to change your life. However, it can change the way one thinks of emotion and the permanence of one’s loss. 4.5/5.
- TIFF: A Glimpse of Rabbit Hole Enthusiasm To Come? (filmexperience.blogspot.com)
TIFF: Black Swan
Black Swan fits director Darren Aronofksy’s other work, with an obsession with the body and performance, close-ups of Nina’s (Natalie Portman) feet and ballet flats being warmed up. There’s CGI, grainy digital photography, and uncompromising close-ups of her face. Like other Aronofsky’s protagonists, she embraces quick success without anticipating her antagonists, like rival Lily (Mila Kunis), choreographer Thomas (Vincent Cassel) Nina’s mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), and all the voices in her head.
The actresses also do great work here. Portman interestingly interprets her character as a virginal girl without confidence, panting at every step, obeying Aronofsky’s pendulum swing vision of her character. It’s probably the first time I’ve seen Portman attack cruelty in its basic form, scratching and clawing away at herself, as if a demon is possessing her. Kunis is smooth and elastic as she dances and seduces everyone, deserving the Marcello Mastroianni award she got this past week.
The inconsistent characters, are my big complaint. I don’t mean the other dancers’ double pronged admiration and bitchitude, from what I heard normally directed to women from women. I’m talking about malleable Nina, mentally unready to become Swan Queen, despite having a ‘flash’ of it in her. Or how the ‘prick’ Thomas still has his job. We are perceiving them through Nina’s warped state of mind, but I’m not sure if that’s justifiable enough. The film’s ending feels invigorating, but still, 3/5.
p.s. Just realized that the douche-y blonde guy from Hot Tub Time Machine is one of Nina’s dancing partners.
- Black Swans’ difficult takeoff (theglobeandmail.com)
In between watching movies from the Wright Stuff series and watching Scott Pilgrim, I watched another hipster romance movie – Marie Antoinette. Before I get to the meat of this post, I just wanna say that I have to discuss the traces of what I have read or heard about the woman whose life this movie is depicting, and how true this movie is to the life of said murdered queen – if I used the word executed it means she deserved it, which she partly didn’t. Some people believe that the dead are fair game, but then we’re talking about one of the most slandered women in history, so every time Coppola or the film trips, we deduct a point.
I remember the pre-blogging glory days of trying to defend this movie while calling out the royalists who trolled the Marie Antoinette forum on iMDb. That was where I read someone who compared the movie to a series of paintings. And probably where I read someone mistake Marie Antoinette’s (Kirsten Dunst) alleged Swedish boy toy Count Axel von Fersen (Jamie Dornan) as Napoleon. And/or make a comparison between Madame du Barry (Asia Argento) as a Disney evil queen – she did NOT look like that nor act like she was depicted in the film, by the way. There are other directors who make a collage of pop culture references in their work. Those anonymous readings, however, show that Coppola isn’t able to mold those separate images and/or incorporate them into what should be a believable and seamless biopic. I don’t fully believe that it would have been a better decision to invent her own images of these people instead recycling old/different/inaccurate ones, but I’d imagine there’s some who watched this movie who would choose the former over the latter.The movie has always felt like ‘This is what I imagine her life to be,’ which has driven a lot of history nuts crazy.
Need to remind you guys that Coppola’s direction of the character Marie Antoinette evoked Paris Hilton. And being inundated by that comparison by the media, oh my God. Which leads us to Coppola’s apparent aim of turning Marie Antoinette’s story as a satire of the nepotism – biting the hand – and decadence of the government and celebrity culture of Bush-era US. Which is great, but why can’t Marie Antoinette simply be Marie Antoinette?
What is different between 18th century Versailles and 21st century America is the treatment of children’s sexuality. Adults both blue and red-blooded obsessed over Marie Antoinette as a sexual being. It’s tragic how her mother, Maria Theresa (Marianne Faithful) has fought for and keep the crown of the Holy Roman Empire as a woman and became the most powerful woman in Europe after Catherine the Great, only for her daughter to be trampled so easily. Coppola gets it right in this movie by actually showing the ‘people of France’s’ real problem with Marie Antoinette – that it dragged on before she was able to produce an heir. And how full the operating room was when Marie gave birth to, unfortunately, Therese. Also consider the hypocrisy of spying on adolescents’ bedroom action and the Christian notion of not talking about sex and not teaching the poor couple how to have sex.
Marie eventually becomes corrupted by this oversexualized society, having knowledge of her grandfather-in-law King Louis XIV’s (Rip Torn) affair with Du Barry. Marie then derides this fake aristocrat. In Coppola’s film, she unknowingly she becomes just like Du Barry, carrying out her own affair with the Swede.
Today, a 14 year old’s responsibility is his or her homework and some household chore. Marie, turning 14 when she did, has had a quick transition between childhood and adulthood, just like that insufficient carriage ride to the French border. At least two years into adulthood in that day’s standards, she has a responsibility that reminds her that she is still a second class citizen under Salic law. No wonder, as Coppola shows in the film, Marie regresses.
Flaw – The scene when Marie walks with Austrian Ambassador Mercy (Steve Coogan) and Therese in the gardens. The Princess du Lamballe (Mary Nighy) runs to the three and informs them of the Austrian Empress’s death. How did the Austrian ambassador not know that first?
In Roger Ebert‘s review of this film, his second point called Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette as ‘pitch-perfect casting.’ It’s not Interview with a Vampire, or to compare it to the other performances that year, she’s no Penelope Cruz. It’s wonderful watching Dunst’s face react to her husband King Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman) wolf down his food, or how her face reaches us through that infamous zoom out, saying a lot while standing still. Having to go across the palace to a private room where she could cry or fawn – a measured release of emotion from one place to another. Worn down after the deaths in her family. Her poised diplomatic voice as she talks to her husband’s cabinet and even to her own brother, the Holy Roman Emperor (Danny Huston). As some blog I used to read has said in defense of her performance, Dunst was obedient to Coppola’s vision.
Feminism and Autumn Sonata
If it was only as instinctual as Helene, a disabled young woman, calling out for her mother, Charlotte (Ingrid Bergman). But Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata is about Helene’s sister Eva (Liv Ullmann), who sees an opportunity in seeing Charlotte again and she has a lot to say. What drives Bergman’s characters are emotion and memory, and therefore the possible social and political ideologies behind them get more ambiguous.
In a scene where Eva takes Charlotte to her room, we find out that she is and can be beautiful, sorrowful, vain, demanding, impatient and cruel, and she is all those things throughout the film. Eva, however, takes on her mother’s attributes in parts of the film, especially when she feels in control of the situation.
What makes the film just as ambiguous, then is how similar they are despite their different appearances and chosen paths.
I wanted to discuss its political interpretation because of a certain shocker spoiler. We can’t fully talk about artistic intentions here, but when a movie, a script or a book brings up a learned woman’s stance supporting abortion, she ends up looking like a babbling shrew. I suppose my discomfort comes from the later texts that had a less complex interpretation of the issue. In this movie, its hard to map out what it means for Eva to rid of a child under Charlotte’s orders, that Charlotte’s taking away Eva’s right to become a mother, that it is never explicitly said whether Charlotte is pro-choice, when the operation is allegedly forced, or if the child is presumable conceived out-of-wedlock.
By the end of the film, Eva’s husband seems to have questioned his unadulterated worship towards her. Watching and listening in the hall whether Eva is alone or with Charlotte, he’s the stand-in for the movie’s audience. We’re asking questions too, which is another thing I love about this movie.
Waitress shows pie maker Jenna’s (Keri Russell) unhappy, unique life and family through filters of both comedy and tragedy. I understand that the decision to portray such a life might repel some viewers, but both can coexist is life and it makes sense for both to harmoniously coexist within the same film. The kooky cast of characters entering and exiting Jenna’s hospital room, no matter how set-up it is, has the same emotional gravity as the scene when Jenna’s husband, Earl (Jeremy Sisto), hits her in his car, discovering her plan to run away from him.
The little sociologist within me has seen within this movie the trials of a woman in her situation. The long times in rural areas to wait for a bus to either get to or from work – in so-obvious studio set pieces, nonetheless – or to get away from an abusive husband. Possibilities that a double-income partnership may still be in danger of the man controlling the money and the woman having to hide money all over the house. Resenting her unborn child. Justifications in being disloyal in loveless marriages and having affairs clumsy guys like Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion). Too real for some people who will be watching this movie.
The film also shows the beginning of the cycle through Jenna’s coworker, Dawn (Adrienne Shelley) and the latter’s persistent admirer, Ogie. He courts her through phone calls and visits to the pie place where they work, and declares that he won’t stop until she says yes. I don’t know if I’m the only one who did a face-palm when she relents. Ogie’s presented in the movie as a gentle soul with his terrible poetry, and pardon the meanness, but he looks more like a beggar than a chooser, so we know he’ll be forever grateful. However, Jenna also talks about how Earl has changed, which makes Dawn and Ogie’s early stages of love seem more suspect.
Don’t, however, forget the comedy. This movie depicts people – as a T.S. Eliot expert on my iPod has said – who either don’t write or can’t write or won’t write. They deal with their neurotic doctors and business owners their own way. Not every abused wife lives like a LifeTime TV movie nor centres her life on her husband. Women like her may have other people in their lives. Adrienne Shelley, who also wrote and directed the film, must have dug into a nice place in conjuring these characters. Sadly, we’ll never know where.
Y Tu Mama Tambien
My TA John was talking about subtext in film and talked about this movie in how Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) are using Luisa’s (Maribel Verdu) sexually to hide their feelings for each other. Annoyingly I interject ‘But isn’t it also about the history and sociology of Mexico undergoing generational and political change?’ He, like a saint, replies something in the lines of ‘Yes, as well as about two dudes who secretly wanna fuck each other.’
The second time around, I appreciated how much Luisa rubs that subtext in the guys’ faces.
My mom walked into the scene when Tenoch was having sex with Luisa. And apparently my aunt was ‘shocked,’ even though the latter quipped that my viewing of it was ‘educational.’ That went well.
The first time I full watched this movie was thankfully by the time I was in college, since nudity would be close to nothing to me and just cared about the bleak Mexican landscapes. And this movie also taught me what ‘pendejo’ means.
The second time around might feel like grasping at straws, but when you’re watching a movie the second time do you just look at things like the characters’ tastes in interior design, books, music, etc.? This is a movie about teenage boys, a social demographic that barely if ever cleans their house or are tacky enough to put lots of stickers in their cars. Like the anarchy sticker on the right hind (?) windows, showing how Julio shares his car with his college activist sister. That we’re always looking out through the right set of windows to be reminded of that sticker once in a while. Or, most likely unrelated to teenage aesthetics, that I’m kinda angry that I can’t tell who the girl is in that Vogue Eyewear ad campaign at the background in the end of the movies. Or that Luisa hasn’t touched that Yeats book that her pretentious, cheating ass fiance owns. Or that there’s a hotel in rural Mexico with nice beds and a shitty pool. Or, as Lars pointed out the Jules et Jim and Harold and Maude poster and in the room where Tenoch is fucking either Ana or Ceci. Both posters also foreshadow the film’s plot.
Also, where is Maribel Verdu’s ticket to Hollywood? Yes, she has Pan’s Labyrinth, but where’s her Bad Education or Milk or Vicky Cristina Barcelona? Verdu can tell Debbie Downer stories without sounding like Debbie Downer herself.
Speaking of Debbie Downer, I’m trying to fully articulate what I think about Luisa. She’s receptive of the adolescent goofiness of Tweedele-boi and Tweedle-bum, cries in private, receptive again – no pun intended, then she blows up on them, then receptive again. It’s difficult to believe that she easily adapted a Hanna Schmitz-like role towards these boys and/or that she only came out with them as a now-or-never thing. Tenoch lightly accuses Julio of being a leech, but she partakes in the leechiness too. Sexual favours, her escape towards a paradise death – dying in Heaven’s Mouth, so to speak. And that we only see her cry once without having a barrier between her and the camera shows how we’re seeing this woman from a man’s gaze – we pity her but we will never understand her, and it’s a bit frustrating but thankfully not distracting from the film’s merits.
Bechdel time! Luisa asks tour guide Chuy’s wife Mabel for travel tips for where the other beaches are, and she also asks about the beautiful native names of the beaches and towns. Pass!
And not the biggest fan of the shakycam.
Lastly, I also wonder whether Julio and Tenoch would ever friend each other on Facebook.
But Melanie … Ralston … Is A Badass Too
I love how every stoner posits him or herself as a medical or legal expert, such as Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda) in Jackie Brown. You’ve had one of those in your social circle.
Coughing’s good! It opens up the capillaries. You know, when you cough you’re pulling in air, or in this case – smoke, into parts of the lungs that don’t normally get used. So, coughing’s good, it gets you higher.
I mean, she’s white. She must have gone to college or something. And Fonda never hesitates nor clings on a word and just lets them fly out of her mouth with such certainty and security. While depicting drug addicts or questionables or damaged an actress can either go shrew or 33 variations of victim, and thankfully she’s neither.
For some reason, everybody watched Jackie Brown last Tuesday or Thursday nights when it was on at CBC at one in the morning. I only caught the last two hours of it, but I remember past viewings when Samuel L. Jackson shoots Chris Tucker. And by watching the rest, I guess I get the picture. I just love Bridget Fonda’s performance and character here so much. I’m not alone. She’s well-traveled, liberated, subversive. I had to blog her.
Quentin Tarantino is a great director in a technical side, deftly showing his audience the shot-counter shot relationship through Melanie, such as shot.
Stop hating, Jackie.
Hey, girl, what’s up?
Hey, are you getting that suit?
Yeah. You like it?
It looks really good on you.
You got something for me?
I put a cherry on top. Booh-yah!
Melanie the character also has one of the greatest swan song in movies. Melanie started this precedent of women dying awesome in Tarantino’s oeuvre. O-Ren Ishii’s (Lucy Liu) decapitation, Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah) losing an eye, Bridget von Hammersmarck (Diane Kruger) getting strangled. For Melanie it all started with ‘Louisss…Lou-isss…’
And she gets shot. The end!
I’m trying to be nicer to this movie because what Roger Ebert and Liza Schwarzbaum and one other critic I can’t find have said about this movie are valid. Girls like sisters Elena, 15 and the titular fat girl Anais, 12, or at least adolescents, can be cruel to each other and then hug and comfort each other the next morning as if nothing happened. And yes, what happened in the ending can happen. You can’t blame the mother (Arsinee Khanjian) for making her choice because motels are just as creepy.
But there’s three things that bugged me during the movie. First is the mother’s thin characterization Her blase response to her husband’s question that “young people meet” makes her a passive accomplice to Elena and Anais’ sexual misadventures. Elena flirts with law student Fernando while Anais is the same room, while the parents are in the same house. Fernando and Elena opens doors, they converse, the smoke cigarettes, Elena has anal sex with Fernando for the first time. The first thing on that list should have woken the parents up. Then when Fernando’s mother reveals the relationship, both mothers are shocked as if nobody knew what was going on.
Second, that Elena is stupid enough to fall for Fernando’s lies. Anais is Elena’s foil in that she’s smarter and more jaded about sex despite being a virgin. She represents the contemporary adolescent, in theory smarter than their predecessors. Elena’s smitten by Fernando, and she really wants the experience. But she doesn’t even listen to reason, even from Fernando. When I was watching this movie, the future parent in me came out in full fury.
Lastly, there were parts when I felt there wasn’t enough of Anais. She is the fat girl in the title, why can’t she have her own misadventures? And the ending doesn’t count as one.
Ran – a movie about an aging Japanese warlord Lord Hidetora “Tora” Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai), patterned after the Shakespearean tragedy King Lear – stayed on the grassy hilltops for twenty minutes. I would like to think that I can bear with long scenes with just dialogue but maybe this movie might prove that I just can’t. Is it Kurosawa’s meditative pace again, or the language barrier?
The film’s galvanizing point is when Tora’s ex-right hand man Tango tells him that the latter’s eldest son Taro barred the villages from serving him rice just after he ordered to burn said villages for being presumptuous in their ‘charity.’ He also hears Tango’s interpretation of the third son Saburo’s actions after the latter’s estrangement. His actions alienates the villagers just as it does to his sons. The movie becomes a great one with that scene and every other scene that follows that.
I was also utterly disappointed with the replacement of daughters with sons. The only Kurosawa film I know that has the most/best female characters is his adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. I’m not an expert of Japanese culture so I wouldn’t know what would have happened to Tora’s daughters, or he married off those daughters, or if he had to made his wife and concubines suffer to produce three sons. I concede that I like the characterization of the sons. Taro is ambitious,disrespectful and affected. Jiro is weak. Saburo is coarse yet loyal. I vaguely remember Shakespeare’s characterization of Regan and Goneril, except for evil and more evil. From what I remember, Regan asks “What need one [attendant for Lear],” which can either be interpreted as cruel or cowering. She shares one or two more bitter arguments with Lear than Goneril did. And Cordelia’s, you know, silent. Back to the film, this was a wasted opportunity for Kurosawa to explore female characters.
But fine, Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada) is an audience favourite. Having read a lot about her explosive, gutsy performance from Sarah Boslaugh, Harada impresses when she reveals her hatred against Tora. I kept wondering where she was through the stretches of bloodshed that the men have committed. Then she lunges at Jiro. She closes the doors to the Lord’s room while she laughs, not caring if anyone in the palace might hear her. She blackmails Jiro, tears her own kimono with a knife, then kisses Jiro and the wounds she gave him. It’s an extraordinary scene and it feels like watching something demonic for the very first time.
Kaede, then, is Goneril and Regan lumped into one, having to marry to satisfy the lord of the household and therefore appease a patriarchal society, conniving herself from husband, finally owning her family’s castle for at least a short while. She’s also one of the characters that remind the audience of the Shakespearean tragedy’s worldview. Nothing that the hero or anti-hero owns is rightfully theirs, that any property has a lengthy history of thefts, and that just as many wars have conquered nations and killed kings, vengeance after vengeance will come. She’s also a Lady MacBeth in a sense that she’s chosen to become this evil and ruthless to survive the society that would otherwise spit her out. Lady MacBeth because Ran has a Lady MacDuff in the form of Lady Sue, the latter being pure, forgiving and altruistic even if she goes through the same thing as Kaede. The film has one great female character and her foil, but there could have been more.
Unlike Lear and the Fool, Tora and Kyoami have a strained relationship. Tora hits him. Kyoami’s the only person who calls Hidetora ‘Tora.’ At first, Kyoami is able to joke about Tora’s madness, but frustration sets in. Tango and Saburo are loyal to Tora, but it’s like Kyoami’s the only person who actually loves Tora. He wants to leave but can’t. Tora’s death devastates Kyoami while Tango’s stoic. Kyoami’s adrogyny – and Tora’s ghostly concubines – lets him emote unlike the other male characters in the film and puts a bit of subtext to the relationship, if you’re looking for one.
Almost every shot in this movie is a painting.
This was pretty badass.
I guess beginning the film in grassy hilltops makes sense. We drink in the scenery. In the end all we have are red crags, where Lady Sue’s blinded brother is stranded. He gets his land back but it feels more like limbo instead of a vindicated end. He’s a footnote in this land’s bloody history.
Inception and the Bechdel Test
Christopher Nolan’s Inception has garnered a lot of discussion, mainly about ‘is it real or is it a dream’ by Brad Brevet. The film made me think about other categories, and I’ll go with the most coherent. Spoilers ahead. (p.s. And fine, just in case don’t wanna read everything, just scroll down until you see Joe Levitt’s picture.)
So does Inception pass the Bechdel test, a test that Nolan’s earlier works like “The Dark Knight” or ‘The Prestige” have failed?
Inception has a reputation of becoming inscrutable, or most critics believe this. What most hyped, inscrutable films can legitimately be criticized about is its depiction of gender, since women in films are underrepresented after the era of Julia Roberts. Nolan could do a lot better in writing roles for women, since they’re mostly at the back seat, but I’m grateful enough for what he’s given us. From “Memento,” Natalie (Carrie Ann Moss) avenges her husband’s death by playing cruel tricks on Leonard (Guy Pearce). In “The Prestige” are Sarah (Rebecca Hall) and Olivia Winscombe (Scarlett Johannson), well-written polar opposites of tragedy and survival (p.s. Actually, let me retract that. If Sarah was gonna kill herself, at least show her relationship with her child and nephew before she does so. Or at least show said relationships more blatantly. Great performances though. I’ll defend Scarlett’s performance but not with my life). His two Rachel Dawes have either given us tough love or sunshine.
But before we put check marks on the Bechdel test, let’s now discuss the characters in question.
There’s Mal (Marion Cotillard), Dom Cobb’s (Leonardo di Caprio) wife who commits suicide, believing that doing so is just another kick up from the dream world back up to reality. And as Mr. Pattern Ramin Setoodeh has pointed out, this is suicidal wife number 3 for Leo.
(p.s. As Cobb says, Mal as a femme fatale is his projection, man’s projection. Cobb incepts an idea within Mal’s head that her world isn’t real, an idea that she carries through the dream levels then up to the real world. If we take the plain interpretation of the film, the negative ideas the female might have and the consequences of said ideas is because of man’s doing. Mal That either makes men monsters or women passive or both, take from that what you will.
Here’s Bilge Ebiri‘s piece that reminded me of the ideas within the paragraph.)
Another theory about Mal’s presence in Cobb’s dreams – she functions as Cobb’s antibodies, separating Cobb’s subconscious from the subconscious of his marks. She prevents him from stealing Saito’s (Ken Watanabe) ideas. She stabs Ariadne (Ellen Page) for breaking the rules. She shoots Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy) so Cobb won’t do an inception on him like the latter did hers. In essence, she’s protecting Cobb from himself. If this is correct, Ariadne’s plea to Cobb to forget Ariadne might have been the wrong move.
With the IVs involved with sharing dreams, it might just be biologically possible that Mal with her own free will actually exists within Cobb’s head. As Cobb tells his father(in-law?) Miles (Michael Caine), Mal is powerful enough to interfere with Cobb’s work and ability to structure other people’s dreams.
And we go to Ariadne, Miles’ student in architecture. I’ll go out of my way to say that Ellen Page’s performance is more geared towards reaction instead of original action, as written for her role. Nonetheless, Nolan beautifully misdirects us with Ariadne, since I viewed her inquisitiveness with suspicion. Red from Brad’s discussion, among others believe that she’s Miles’s spy. Cobb opens up to her, she’s genuinely concerned about his mental well-being, there’s a bit of sexual tension between them that thankfully didn’t get more blatant. She uses the information to hustle herself into Cobb’s team and as far as we know, hasn’t told any other character within or outside the crew.
In Devin Faraci‘s ‘Inception as metaphor of filmmaking’ post, he posits Mal as the muse and Ariadne as the screenwriter. As I said earlier, Ariadne adapts this predilection of telling Cobb what to do, in a sense, directing him. Ariadne and Cobb both feed off each other – he exposes, she regurgitates, he practices what she preaches.
Mal is Cobb’s conscience since she stops him for what he shouldn’t do or Ariadne is his conscience for telling him what to do, or if you believe Virgil in Brad Brevet’s site, Mal and Ariadne are the same person. Under this interpretation, the female’s function is to help the male, no matter how much Cobb tries to make it look like the other way around. Nathaniel Rogers uses the phrase ‘window dressing,’ and I’m seeing that in other reviews too.
Now that that’s over. Check one – Mal and Ariadne have names, overtly symbolic ones and no family names but names nonetheless. Check two – They meet three times. The last time is in the fourth dream level, where they don’t even talk to each other. The second time they meet is in Cobb and Mal’s dream basement/anniversary suite and talk. Their conversation, check three, is where it gets complex, especially since there’s no script/DVD of this movie that’s readily available to me. I don’t recall either of them saying Cobb’s name nor a masculine pronoun. If we take the plain interpretation of the film, it’s obvious that they’re talking about him, and even struggling to have him on their respective side. I don’t wanna sound like an apologist but they’re talking about themselves too, a battle between Mal, the dream world and Ariadne, a detached, outsider symbol of reality.
Then there’s the aspect that they always meet in someone’s dream, whether Cobb’s or Fischer’s.
Lastly, Mal stabbing Ariadne is the first time they meet. If that’s not interaction, I don’t know what is.