March 3rd, 2014
While I know I am not a cultural commentator with any weight whatsoever, and I know social media has sort of ruined the art of sustained thought through 140 snarky characters, but I’m going to ramble on about some stuff, and feel free to ignore me.
First, I’m a feminist. There are no modifications to that statement, I am, and, like Caitlyn Moran, I’ll stand on a chair and shout it, if you can’t quite hear me: I AM A FEMINIST.
So, too, apparently is Cate Blanchett, and I admired her speech last night for it’s obvious stump-like quality of suggesting, broadly, that women want to see movies with other women in them. And I loved her comment, as above in the title of this post, “the world is round people,” when referring to the fact that it’s more and more apparent that there are juicier roles available to actresses that don’t involve being half-naked and chasing around after men. But here’s where the whole thing fell down for me–I find it hard, and harder still, to stomach, that Blanchett, who has played some kick-ass women in her career, was pontificating for Blue Jasmine, which contained two of the most appallingly-non-feminist, anti-women, even, characters to grace the screen in a long, long time. Woody Allen’s personal issues aside, and they are legion, celebrating the great opportunities for women from a movie that demoralizes our gender so insultingly, well, it gave me pause.
Just because there are female roles doesn’t necessarily mean that they are role models for females. I found the same thing with Gravity, which I enjoyed far, far more than I did Blue Jasmine–yes, Sally Hawkins and Cate Blanchett played the hell out of those characters, but they were not real women. They were not even approximations of real women. They were one-notes played on a sliding scale of bad decisions, and the sexism displayed in that film honestly shocked me. Never, not once, at any point in that film do either of the characters step outside of being defined by the men in their lives–they allow men to walk all over them, in multiple ways, their children are plot points, and their whole perception of the world around them is clouded by a desperation, which is seemingly of their own making.
But back to Gravity–a film celebrated for both its technical complexity and its brevity–not to mention the fact that Sandra Bullock plays an astronaut trapped in a terrifying situation (lost in space, even the thought of it freaks me out!). Why does Bullock’s character have to be “damaged” (SPOILER ALERT) because she’s lost her only child? Why does she need some emotionally cloying backstory? Does George Clooney’s character have any other reason for being in space than the fact that he’s a scientist? Why couldn’t the George Clooney character be played by a women too–at least we’d be seriously challenging some gender stereotypes there in a meaningful way.
So while Hollywood was all “whoo-hoo!” look at all these great roles for women–let’s break it down to see what kind of roles they actually were: Amy Adams plays a women who uses her sexuality for criminal purposes; she’s a grifter. Cate Blanchett plays a women whose husband cheats on her, and then Bernie Madoff’s a whole pile of people, and she can’t stand on her own two feet. I haven’t seen the film that Meryl Streep was nominated for, so I can’t comment on her character. The same goes for Judi Dench in Philomena–I haven’t seen the film, and don’t want to make assumptions (especially, again, because it’s based on a true story). And then Sandra Bullock plays an emotionally damaged scientist who is only up in space because she can’t stand life on earth.
Forgive me for insisting that great roles celebrating women actually portray women who are changing the conversation in any feasible way? Just because the character is female isn’t cause for celebration–why can’t we be pushing the boundaries a little bit further and actually have roles that are good for our gender, and not just roles because of our gender.
I’ve included an image of Julie Delpy for a very specific reason. I loved Before Midnight to distraction, and it got my vote for best adapted screenplay even though I knew it wasn’t going to win. Why? Because that character was a real woman–in almost every way. The only bone of contention I had with that script was how (SPOILER), while arguing, Ethan Hawke’s character kept referring to Delpy’s character as “crazy,” which I hate–it’s an easy way of doing away with a woman’s feelings, going back to hysteria, etc., etc., but her Celine was the most modern, well rounded (with flaws, of course) female character I’d seen on the big screen in a very, very long time. Everything she said rang true, rang authentic, and I didn’t feel like her gender was a plot point to be exploited, and nor was she emotionally manipulated for the purposes of audience enjoyment.
It’s wonderful to see the rich and varied performances of some of the greatest actresses of my generation doing such vivid work, I just wish that there was an equal veracity applied to the scripts as is applied to the conversations about the shifting nature of Hollywood. It’s not enough to be present on screen and winning awards. The words matter. The context matters. And that’s what I found so frustrating about much of what was celebrated last night.
February 1st, 2008
The end of the rope is nigh now that almost a week has passed and the sickness has evolved as such (and for those of you who don’t care, please skip this post):
1. Slight tickle in the throat on the plane + no sleep + massive cold sore = the ominous beginning. When we exited the plane last Saturday at 5 AM Toronto time, my RRHB said: “WHAT is that?” This was followed by a look that can only be described as disgust.
2. Needle on Saturday AM + no sleep = feeling like I’ve been run over by the kind of truck that evens out pavement. Coughing, coughing, coughing, coughing, rinse, repeat.
3. Good night’s sleep + good book + my own bed = waking up Sunday morning feeling refreshed, renewed and actually better. Go visiting, go grocery shopping, do all the laundry. See, I’m better!
4. Coughing + coughing (see above) – good night’s sleep + 250+ emails = feeling worse on Monday morning and call in sick to school. Manage to make it through a whole day’s work but walk home from the bus stop with legs so wobbly I am afraid I won’t actually cross the threshold of our house.
5. See #4 + a fever – any sleep = sleeping in and heading to work late, but feeling actually well enough to make it through the rest of the day and attend every meeting I actually had so far in the week. But have possibly infected entire office. Perhaps not so smart.
6. 5 days of coughing + wicked sinus headaches + runny nose – any solid rest = doctor’s appointment on Wednesday.
7. Ordered into quarantine for Thursday and Friday which means I’ve missed or am missing the following: The Book Lover’s Ball (I was actually looking forward to dressing up like Sylvia Plath in my red dress and Mexican beads), two days of work, lunch with Sam and Chico, and quite possibly The Weakerthans outdoor show at Nathan Phillips Square tomorrow night. But forced quarantine means that I’ve caught up on all the TV on the PVR. Have now seen all the episodes of jPod (which looks, acts and smells a lot like the book, yes, that’s a given, but the feature film Everything’s Gone Green, right down to the set decoration and the secondary characters) and am enjoying it, quite liked Eli Stone, am shocked and dismayed by Paul’s extra-curricular activities on Corrie Street, and was reduced to watching Wild Hogs (absolutely embarrassingly awful) and semi-delighted to see The Science of Sleep, which then led me to searching out Serge Gainsbourg on YouTube and falling into an internet coma (damn you Ethan Hawke, damn you for pulling me back into the spoils of celebrity gossip if only for a second) until I recovered enough to catch up somewhat on my posts since we’ve been back from vacation.
8. This morning: coughing up a bit of blood + meds + exhaustion + good night’s sleep + a dry house = feeling better but not 100% and when will it end? Stupid disease medication. Stupid immune system. Bah! But isn’t the snow pretty?
How is everyone else?
January 3rd, 2008
Goodness. I don’t know why I watched this movie. I mean, I know why I watched the movie, as many of you can guess, but it was just so annoying on so many levels. First off, I think it tried too hard to sell the story of a young actor who gets his heart broken for the first time on the path to adulthood. And secondly, the whole film would have gone down better if the characters weren’t caricatures — and if there wasn’t all the quasi-deep crap surrounding everything they said. Honestly, it was a little like watching an episode of Dawson’s Creek where you barely believe a word that comes out of everyone’s mouths they’re so bloody serious all the time.
But that’s not to say that the movie doesn’t have its moments. Any time Laura Linney’s on screen for one thing, and the relationship she has with her son, the main character, William, is quite lovely. Oh, and I adored the soundtrack, with its lovely Emmylou Harris song, and I think it was shot beautifully, all golden and glowing, like the idea of youth itself. I just think that the words might have needed a bit of a second draft. And the female character, Sarah, was really underdeveloped, her actions mimicking the idea of an independent spirit rather than imbuing them with the strength Hawke obviously meant to infer within her character. I think I would have much preferred the movie between William and Michelle Williams’ character, Samantha, she has such a lovely depth to her that made me want to see more of how damaged the two of them would have been to one another.
So some good, some bad, but nothing to deserve the absolute ire from Scott Brown over at EW. Harsh.
November 25th, 2007
My RRHB is away in Sudbury recording, so I decided to do something completely and utterly out of character: I went to the movies by myself. At night. On a Friday. I had a book (in a very Rory Gilmore moment) for the pre-show annoying commercials, I had popcorn, and I had a ridiculous urge to see Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Not simply for the whole Ethan Hawke factor, but more so because I had heard and read so many great things about the film, that I wanted to see it before it disappears from theatres in Toronto. My poor aunt, with whom I had plans to see the movie in the first place, fell ill with a nasty case of pneumonia, which meant that she needed to stay home in bed. I was looking forward to seeing her, but of course, I’m wishing she gets better by resting up. So, I went alone. It’s character building right?
Annnywaaay, that got me out in relative suburbia by 7 PM on a Friday night with hundreds of other happy movie goers. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel too weird being there by myself, happily lined up, got my ticket, the good seat by the railing and settled in with The Luxe before the movie started. It being Friday, there were tonnes of people around me, too much perfume, too much chatting, and I got stuck in a slightly broken chair. Not off to a good start, but the film soon sucked me in so much that it wouldn’t have mattered where I ended up sitting and how uncomfortable I was by the end.
And when the movie starts, it’s deceptively quiet. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Andy, a relatively successful accountant whose desperately in love with Gina, his wife, played by Marisa Tomei. While on vacation in Brazil, they seem to reconnect, to discover what’s important, even if it soon becomes apparent that they’re both moving in different directions. Once home, Andy feels that getting back to Brazil and starting all over again will save their marriage. He sets out on a dangerous course to try and get them there, involving his younger brother Hank (Ethan Hawke) in a plot meant to knock off their parents jewelry store. Money problems solved, right?
Both brothers are stuck in situations entirely of their own making: Andy addicted to various substances, including his wife; Hank suffering the fall-out of a truly bad marriage who can’t quite keep away from the drink long enough to actually be a man and stand up for himself. Things go from bad to worse when all the plans for their so-called victimless crime wreck havoc on the lives of everyone around them, and then some. There’s not a single character in the film that makes you feel any kind of sympathy, even when Andy pours his broken heart out to his dealer in a pristine environment to shoot yuppie smack, you’re shouting at him in your mind to just do the right thing, to not let what’s about to happen happen. And as the situation goes from very bad to worse than one could possibly imagine, you desperately want them all to wake up and face their lives with a level of honesty that might redeem them in the end.
On the outside, everything looks great, if life were all about appearances. Andy and Hank wear their suits well, and they go through the motions, either truly able to weather the line between right and wrong with any kind of cold-hearted integrity. While the film’s really about the men, it’s a bit of a shame that all the female characters, with the exception of the mother (and for reasons that I won’t spoil here), feel overplayed and under-written, Gina’s all body with no heart, and Amy Ryan (who plays Hank’s beleaguered ex-wife) doesn’t do much more than swear (rightfully so) at her ex. As well, at first I was put off by the terribly derivative way of storytelling, of showing one event and then switching back to the “2 days before the robbery.”
But as the film progresses, the device becomes more and more effective, a way for the film to show the events from multiple perspectives, fitting everything back together with a point of view that only a skilled filmmaker like Lumet could pull off. Kelly Masterson, the film’s screenwriter, has created a terrifyingly bleak world with a cast of characters who cut so close to the bone of the human condition that they become more compelling the worse they act, each personifying an age-old sin representing all that’s wrong with our world. Events of the film are so shocking that at one point, a woman behind me shouted, “OH MY GOD!” when something particularly awful took place.
It’s an excellent film that explores right and wrong, good and bad, and all of the other black and white morals that refuse to let the characters out of their grasp for a second. Regardless of the unlikable nature of any of the characters, the performances in the film are riveting, and as much as I never want to inhabit that kind of a world, I do have to admit that it makes for one hell of a movie.
November 10th, 2007
We saw them. The show was very good. Andre Ethier was incredible. And then fellow who I am not familiar with took the stage, maybe he could have brushed his hair, but whatever, I felt like I was in Singles. That’s no comment on the quality of his performance, just that after Andre Ethier, it seemed incongruent.
Regardless, that’s not the point of the post. In speaking with a friend of ours, the RRHB said something about Ethan Hawke. To which, said friend said, “What a [insert derogatory comment here].”
Apparently, he and his wife had seen Ethan Hawke at the Toronto airport around the time of the festival surrounded by his “people,” barking on the phone and wearing a baseball cap. Tucked sideways. Yes, sideways. I can’t help but have preconceived notions, such as the aforementioned feeling as though I was in Singles when a guy with long, scraggly hair came on stage and got all emotional. Really? Sideways?
The Sadies rocked though. It was packed, and we were both tired from moving furniture all day, the RRHB having injured himself in the process, so we only managed to stay until mid way through their set, which was still 12:30 AM. All in all, a good night for fun.
October 9th, 2007
A journalist friend of mine covering TIFF last month reveals this about Ethan Hawke:
Ethan Hawke came out of the interview suite and saw me and about four other journalists waiting in the hall and he said, ‘What, they can’t get chairs for you guys? They make you wait in the hall?’ Then, he added, ‘Man, this festival is getting too big’.
Sigh. Stuff like that makes me think that I should become a journalist and start standing in hallways just so he could worry about the state of my butt.
September 5th, 2007
Just a quickie post to say that I am utterly engrossed by Mad Men. I love the attention to detail, the wonderful period costumes and situations, the brilliant dialogue, and the bloody fascinating ‘ad men’. It’s not reaching Flight of the Conchords-levels in terms of the actual obsession, but it’s a good, solid drama to take up the place of the bloody awful Grey’s Anatomy that I have now permanently broken up with and will not reunite with this fall under any circumstances.
I am going to desperately try to limit the amount of television I watch this TV season. I found watching more movies (even older ones, shocking, I know for those of you who know me, non-virtually) and picking up more books this summer because we’ve been away from the television has actually been a really positive thing in my life.
It’s a battle I have constantly, the TV-no TV argument, and I can see both sides, but then I sit down and get sucked into a world like the one they’ve created in Mad Men and think, wow, this is a hundred times better than a) that terrible Halle Berry film that the RRHB downloaded for me that I watched on Sunday in a computer coma and b) more engaging than half the films we watched this weekend, yes Fracture, I’m looking at you—while trying to ignore the obvious heat resonating from Ryan Gosling.