Women in Film: a variety of reviews

In my last year of uni I realized I still had to take an elective for my major. On a whim, I took Women in Film, as it looked like the most interesting choice. It was a very informative class and we analyzed a variety of films from the silent era to modern day directed by women. The professor had a list of movies she would assign us every week to write about. They spanned all time periods and mediums.

Persepolis (2007): Based on the 2003 autobiographical comic by Marjane Satrapi, it tells the story of her childhood in Iran during the 1970’s and her teenage years in France. The use of black and white show how stark her adolescence was, simplifying elements to their most basic form. The use of color for current day scenes and traditional Arabic motifs for flashbacks are beautiful visual cues. I was a fan of the comics when I was younger and the movie was as good as I remembered it.

Valley Girl (1983): Based off of Romeo and Juliet this movie embodies everything about cliched 80’s teen flicks in a bad way. Shallow girls, pushy guys, constant talk of sex, random topless scenes, can’t say I was a fan. The romance between wealthy Julie and rough Randy was forced and their break up scene was very uncomfortable. (seeing him yell “f- you” as she says nothing and cry is disturbing) The only decent part of the movie was the fashions and big hair. The pastel colors and wild makeup are a nice departure from today’s dark colors and minimalist looks.

Cleo de 17h a 19h (1962): Singer Cleo is used to being adored by everyone and being the center of attention. After a tarot card reading hints that she might have a deadly illness she starts to reevaluate her life. A very stream of conscious film that borders on dreamy at times. The way she goes about her daily activities from buying a hat to singing in her apartment look like scenes from a daydream than real life. This is amplified by her melodramatic nature and the people around her indulging her whims. Shot in Paris we get a glimpse of the city how it was in the early 60’s, some of it unchanged today. The only thing that I didn’t like was that the translations weren’t 100% accurate and some parts were not translated at all. A very enjoyable film that is an acquired taste.

Born in Flames (1983): Shot in on 16mm film and resembling a documentary it follows an underground feminist movement in an alternate New York City. The movie explored feminism, classism, racism, and heteronormativity. It was disturbing to see the things they spoke about in the 70’s still ring true today. I have a hard time articulating about this film aside from it was an interesting and wild ride.

I am very glad I took this course. I found out many movies I thought were directed by men were by women and that we’ve been involved in film since it’s invention.

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Winter 2018 TV Roundup

Long time no blog! Life comes at you fast when you graduate college and you’re jaded by the latest scandal in the aftermath of Harvey Weinstein. I have some reviews and costume analysis lined up so look out for that. To get us started a simple roundup: For the winter season, we have “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” and another season of Comedy Central’s Another Period.

What is interesting about this isn’t the lack of historical or fantasy shows but the lack of programming overall. With peak tv doubling the number of scripted shows since 2012 it was reported the amount of scripted shows for 2018 has increased. Combined with the number of sequels and blockbusters planned for the box office it doesn’t look like the bubble is going to burst anytime soon. There is also an alarming amount of shows being canceled after one to three seasons, some getting their seasons chopped in half before they air. Netflix also appears to be withholding show information, such as announcing Cloverfield Paradox hours before it’s release.

The good news is that media is slowly getting more diverse. The CW is airing the first black superhero show and Black Panther has broken pre-sale records. Of the pilot ordered for this year, roughly half have female leads and less than that are directed by female leads. A couple movies and shows and theoreticals aren’t monumental but it’s a step in the right direction.

What does all this mean? We’re a month and a half into the year so we’ll see. It’s been predicted that the show oversaturation is going to have disastrous effects on hollywood in the long run. Hopefully, this will force tv networks and VOD services to focus on fewer shows and keep them around longer.

Regularly scheduled blogging willcommence next week!

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Horror Movie Double Feature: Foreign Movie Edition

It fills me with sadness to say it’s Halloween weekend and my spooky movie viewing has been minimal, aside from American Horror Story. Usually, I look to Tim Burton’s dark lush movies, which are synonymous with Halloween. However it’s been over a year since he dropped the bombshell basically stating that he thinks the inclusion of poc in his movies is pandering. Being told by someone you genuinely enjoy that your existence is pc culture is upsetting at best. It also means I’m not supporting or watching his films anymore. I’m not a fan of gory horror films and prefer the moody goth aesthetic which leaves me with few options. Enter the Silenced and the House at the end of Time.

The Silenced, set in 1930’s South Korea, follows Ju-ran (rename Shizuko) as she is sent to an isolated sanitorium. While she receives her treatments for sickness she notices changes in herself and her fellow classmates gradually disappearing. There are scenes of blood and mild gore but they are brief and never gratuitous. These 13-16-year-old girls are never sexualized or framed by the male gaze, not even in the sole dressing scene where they’re all in modest bloomers and chemises. I don’t know much about this era of Korean history so it was an interesting and insightful look.

The second film I watched was the Venezuelan The House at the end of Time. After a woman is released from jail for murdering her husband and son the truth about that night starts to come to light. The movie switches between present day and the 80’s, slowly building up to the aforementioned night. It drags at some points but the plot is fantastic and the ending is well done. Usually, I don’t stick around for films that drag on but this one is worth it for the ending alone.

I highly recommend both if you prefer buildup, atmosphere, and great cinematography to standard shock gore. Both are currently streaming on Netlifx.

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Lizzie Borden Chronicles (2015): Victorian Murder for the 21st Century

When we think of a show about a Victorian-era ax murderess several channels come to mind, such as A&E or FX. Surprisingly, I am talking about the 2015 Lifetime limited-series, the Lizzie Borden Chronicles. A continuation of a 2014 movie and set a year later in 1893 it follows the titular Lizzie Borden after she was acquitted of the murder or her father and stepmother. I was interested to see how a violent story would be adapted for a channel known for its romance and feel good shows. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite reach it’s potential.

While the outfits are not exact replicas of French fashion plates they are accurate and capture the essence of early 1890’s fashion.The s-shape silhouette, black mourning walking dresses, shirtwaists, and hatpins are all present. I liked how clothes were used to visually characterize Lizzie and her sister Emma. Lizzie is a fashionable woman with a taste for fine things while older Emma is frugal and reserved. This is represented visually with their clothes.

 

For example, Emma’s shirtwaist is plain with minimal pintucks down the middle. Contrasted with Lizzie who has lace detailing at the yoke and down the middle. Another example is their outing outfits. Lizzie’s is brightly patterned with lace and other details while Emma’s is navy and utilitarian. Even their umbrellas reflect this. The only discrepancy is the limp hairstyles and leg-of-mutton sleeves. These missing finer details could be because it’s on cable tv and not being backed by a channel like HBO.

Needless to say, it was a chore to get through the first episode. Perhaps it was the constant shakey cam that made it difficult to focus on anything (including text close-ups), or the constant angle changes in a single scene, or the inappropriate music choices including a song that mentioned Greyhound buses (shout out for being one of the most inappropriate song choices I’ve endured). These things distracted me far too much to engage me or form any solid opinions on the plot or acting. As much as I enjoy empowered period heroines I’m going to have to sit this one out.

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Harry Potter or How I Should Have Kept my Rose-Tinted Glasses on

Today is a very special day for the Harry Potter fandom. Today Harry’s son Scorpius is sent off to Hogwarts for his first year! Like most people my age, I love this series. This series was a huge part of my childhood; dressing up and going to the book releases, seeing the movies with friends, and talking about theories. It got me back into reading and sparked my creativity. It also helped me through some difficult times and gave me lots of good memories. With the release of the new movie, screenplay, and Pottermore website part of me wishes I could send a warning to 10 year old me and tell her she doesn’t want these.

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SIFF roundup 2017

It’s that time of year where SIFF is in town! Unlike last year I was pleased to find films I was interested in. Unfortunately, I have a heavy workload this quarter and I won’t have the time to attend these films. (alas, cruel fate!) Here are the ones I want to look at at a future time:

  • Maurice: Released in 1987 and set in pre-WWI, England it tells the story of two college lads and their attraction to each other. When a friend is arrested for being gay they have to deal with hiding their affection and marrying wives. Pre-2000 period films of old tend to be lush and ornate, which is how they should be.
  • Lady Macbeth: Based on the Russian novel it is about a young Kathrine who is given away to a wealthy man, bundled with land. Her marriage is miserable and unfulfilling, forced to stay indoors at all times. When her husband goes away on business she starts an affair with a handsome stranger. I first heard about this film because it is very diverse, which is unheard of in Victorian period pieces. The scenery is drab and bleak, so don’t expect any gilding or pomp here.
  • The Suffering of Ninko: Fantasy story about Ninko, a dedicated novice Buddist monk. There is only one problem: ladies find him irresistible. He struggles with his newfound desires and erotic hallucinations. It combines live action with animated scenes done in ukiyo-e style.

Overall the selection of fantasy and period films were small. It looks like public tastes have settled on gritty and hard-hitting than the melodramatic. While I can see the annoyance with ostentatious extravagance it provides a good escape. Then again, with the current political climate and housing market woes in the area, I can understand why people don’t want to see that.

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Spring tv Roundup: Moments Before Disaster edition

With the writer’s strike looming on the horizon threatening to cut summer and fall viewing short I am reminded to make one of these. EDIT: Writer strike averted! Summer and fall programming has been saved.

First order of business: the glut of time traveling shows. Two I thought premiered last year premiered this spring. Production issues? Reshooting due to test audiences? Networks realizing that period pieces are more expensive than regular shows? I’m not sure. The first one, Making History, had its season cut in half and had some minor plot changes. Described as plot-heavy it appears to be doing okay in ratings. The second show, Time After Time, unfortunately, was canceled and pulled five episodes into the season. The third show Timeless is the only one that suceeded and will likely get a second season. A fourth series, Class, a spin-off from Dr. Who joins the frey on BBC America and will no doubt last for five seasons.

Now onto the shows:

  • American Gods: Adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel of the same name produced by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green with an all-star cast. (whew!) In a word where gods and mythological creatures exist due to everyone’s belief in them. As technology becomes popular belief in these gods wain. Norse god Odin, known as  Mr. Wendsday, prepares for war with the new gods.
  • Still-Star Crossed: We finally have an air date! May 29 you better believe I’m watching this live. I have waited too long for a diverse poc-lead historical drama that wasn’t about slaves or the Civil Rights movement to see this flop. While important stories to tell, Black people deserve to be seen in different historical contexts besides suffering and subservient.
  • Feud: Bette and Joan: This follows the feud between Golden Age movie Stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during the filming of their 1962 film. Written by Ryan Murphy of AHS fame we know this will be a historically accurate and compelling series.
  • Anne: Based on the novel Anne of Green Gables it follows an orphan girl as she tries to fit in with her new life.  The head writer is a Breaking Bad alum so I’m not expecting a fluffy lighthearted adaptation.
  • Harlots (PG-13 trailer): Set in Gregorian London it follows a madame trying to keep her brothel afloat and the rivalry with another brothel. Yes, you read that correctly and yes, it is historically accurate. I never thought I’d see a historically accurate 1790’s series about prostitutes but Hulu delivered. Written by and from the point of view of women the show veers away from the male gaze and being voyeuristic. There also appears to be two named black characters who have multiple speaking roles. I’m sold.

Final thoughts: All of these series (except American Gods) have female leads which is unexpected. The spring preview overall has about 1/3 of the shows with female leads in various genres. I have no doubt the VOD series will do well but I hope the network shows succeed as well. No fantasy shows this time but the amount of historical pieces makes up for it.

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