20 April 2014
Riveting. A woman prowls the streets of Glasgow in a white van, hunting for men. Gender roles are switched — she’s the predator, they the prey. She uses herbeauty, her seductiveness, to lure them.
At one point she tries out her line on a man standing near the driver’s side window, but he tries to attack her — and a crew of buddies spring out at her, too. She drives away unruffled.
You see, she’s not really a woman, even as she uses her womanliness to get them naked and erect.
I don’t have time to write a lot, lest I get bogged down and leave this in draft — I currently have 14 things in draft. Let me just say that this is worth every penny. I’m still not sure what to make of it. The arc of the story seems to take her from this womanly non-woman to a new, silent gender role; she no longer has the ammunition to be the person she becomes. Nor do we really know what she’s done with those hapless male victims along the way. But this beautifully creepy film and the blank, riveting Scarlett Johansson weave around a grim world in which they seem like only one tiny scary element.
I could say so much more, but not when I’m about to face the last week of the semester and finals and all the usual shit. Tell me what you think, though. Don’t expect to feel good, to fall in love with the protagonist, or to walk out having learned something, exactly … but you’ll want to talk.
31 March 2014
Hi. Remember me?
This is the problem with blogging: I love it, and I don’t have time to do it properly (i.e., daily/biweekly). Forgive me for being so AWOL and know well that it’s not because I’m not watching female-oriented film or foaming at the mouth about the bullshit in the media, my university, etc.
But today I have two things for you. First is a lovely, two-minute long thought-piece video on a tic in Wes Anderson’s films. Go here to Vimeo to watch “Wes Anderson | Centered” by Komogado, a video artist who also has a wonderful tribute to Ozu.
And on the subject of Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, I loved loved loved it, even though it’s not really subject matter I typically discuss here (i.e. a film about men. Anderson’s films are always really just about men).
My second link is hard to read because it’s so enraging, but it’s vital. It’s “Dear Harvard: You Win,” a letter to the editor of the Harvard Crimson from a woman sexually assaulted by a friend in her university residence house and abandoned by the university that purports to respond to such abuse.
Only 25 more weeks in April before the semester ends. This is how I comfort myself.
25 February 2014
Oh, this is my favorite thing all week: reviews written by noted New England Puritan Cotton Mather in the New Yorker. To wit:
Verily, I am of two Minds when it comes to “Catching Fire.” On the one Hand, the killing of Children is largely forbidden by Scripture. On the other, so is coddling them. All Sins being Equal before God, I will split the Difference and give this Film two Stars.
They’re almost as good as those written by Focus on the Family in the good old days, before their website clued into the snort-inducing nature of their prudery. (The site still offers enumerated lists of bad words; for example, did you know that American Hustle has more than 110 uses of the f-word?)
Ahh. Now this perks up the fact that we have one of those dread-inducing faculty meetings with an agenda full of things that make my colleagues want to throw tantrums.
18 February 2014
Very mild spoiler alert. If you, like me, are waaayyyy too busy in your work life to binge-watch and have yet to start the new season, and you don’t want to know even the slightest thing about this first episode — well, you’ve been warned.
The season opener is just as chockablock as you might imagine — intrigue undertaken by ruthless people capable of 3-D chess — all of which makes you question whether you can stand watching this level of immorality within government and media organizations.
The one thing missing: those moments when Frank breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to us, sharing his scary brilliant philosophy.
But then, at the very end, as Frank gets dressed in front of the mirror, he says in that voice, “Did you think I’d forgotten you? Perhaps you wish I had,” and he explains exactly why he committed one of the most stunning plot turns of this episode.
What he says, of course, is chilling; because Frank Underwood (that’s F.U. to you) tells it like it is. And yet. This intimate moment is like all the other ones he shares with us: he takes off his mask, reveals his thinking, rationalizes his moves. But he also frames the whole thing in an elaborate metaphor that — well, when it comes flowing out of his mouth, with all those turns of phrase and that ballsy certainty, us viewers become implicated in the crimes.
How is it possible that when he peels back the safe-for-the-public face and speaks to me directly, Frank makes me feel … relief?
How delicious. Can I also say that Claire’s clothes (and moral ambivalence) are just as gorgeous and watchable as in Season 1? I can hardly wait for more.
15 February 2014
This is not my favorite of David Thomson’s books (his New Biographical Dictionary of Film is endlessly pleasurable) but it’s certainly the most beautiful. And what an excuse to flip through these gorgeous photographs, cooing over your favorites, putting all the others on your Netflix queue.
Have I mentioned I’m grading papers this weekend?
The book also makes me want to find images of my own, exemplary of those breathtaking little moments in film that stop you short.
As a result of reading his bit about my favorite film of all time, The Third Man (1949), I found myself scrolling through images online. Thomson loves that last scene, in which the beautiful and enigmatic Alida Valli walks toward the camera and past poor Joseph Cotten, who wants her to love him. The zither music plays unrelentingly.
Tell me: do you have a favorite moment from a favorite film — a crystalline, perfect, deeply pleasurable moment that somehow brings forth all manner of emotion when you recall it?
13 February 2014
Between the guacamole and the lemony cocktails, we’re doing just fine. How are you?
Also, I’m proud to announce a new triumph in the grilled cheese sandwich: roasted jalepeños. I also used a little cream cheese, an excellent strong/aged cheddar, minced scallions, and a few pickled jalepeños to give it a little dose of something pickled. Chiles in my area are not very spicy at this time of year, and I removed the skins & seeds after roasting them, but there remained just enough of a burn in the sandwich to make them delicious with a bowl of tomato soup.
Stay warm and dry, friends. Best of luck finding a good film for this cold, wintery night — I’m thinking about watching Jane Campion’s classic An Angel at My Table. And then maybe tomorrow I’ll start grading that sad pile of papers I received from my students before the storm started.
8 February 2014
Important: can you explain it to me?
I ought to feel bewitched by this beautiful and haunting film — the debut by Julian Roman Pölsler — but I also feel annoyed, as if it circles around a metaphor or a broader statement about something that I can’t figure out. Please help.
The Wall is basically a one-woman show (streaming on Netflix right now) about a woman (Martina Gedeck) whose friends invite her to stay in their hunting cabin one summer next to a breathtaking Austrian lake, surrounded by spectacular peaks. But when she wakes up the next day, she finds that an invisible wall surrounds her, separating her from every other human being, including them.
Her story of survival goes beyond being remarkable — what would you do if you found yourself without any access to human contact? The film reminds you of the skills you probably don’t have: the ability to milk a cow, gut a deer, mow a field of hay using only a scythe, help the cow give birth. I’m not sure it’s possible to watch this film without getting a little survivalist yourself: must watch YouTube for advice on how to help cows in labor, just in case.
All of this combines a great atmosphere of dread/horror with science fiction (where did the wall come from?) and her heavily narrated tale of psychological transformation. But what does it mean, in the end?
I’m also sorry to say that huge narrative gaps. I understand the impulse to survive, but why isn’t she more interested in the metaphysical questions? Is this woman’s tale of survival intended to have a feminist edge — and if so, why can’t I find it, what with my nerve endings constantly attuned to such things? Why doesn’t she just keep the sweet little white kitty inside the house? Why do I just not buy the sudden arrival of a [identifying information withheld] later in the film?
Please tell me you’ve seen it and have ideas about What It All Means. Surely there’s something I’ve missed. I want to like this film but find myself oddly annoyed at the cloaked significance and narrative leaps.