• art,  culture,  film

    Catching the Thieves

    I don’t often sit down to watch a movie, but when I have been watching movies lately, they’ve been from the In Technicolor! era. Recent watches have been For Love of Ivy, Arsenic and Old Lace, Sunset Boulevard and Mogambo. Tonight I’m watching To Catch a Thief. I’ve been enjoying the conventions of older movies, which seem to be much closer to their theatrical origins. The zoom-ins to newspapers that further the plot and the music (which seems to be the same in every movie) that point out when the romantic leads encounter each other are endearing. The clothes where men always wore suits and women were always in absolutely gorgeous ball gowns always make me wonder if that’s how it really was or if it’s just a Hollywood convention. Part of me appreciates a more formal world, even while I’m laughing at the sudden bursts of passion that cause Clark Gable to go marching over to a leading lady and push his face forcefully against hers. Is that a kiss? If so, I hope never to have one. Sorry Clark.

    Actors, is there a name for this old style of acting? The conventions are hilarious.

    Of course, the films that I’m watching are the ones that have survived through the years and have made it to DVD. I never studied film in school, other than one art history class that was a survey of Korean film. (A class in which I learned that Attack the Gas Station! is actually a remake.) I know very little about cinematography or film history. But still, I find I’m enjoying the look back at, what is to me, a very foreign time and place. It’s similar to when I watch foreign movies, where I only understand the cultural references because I’ve studied the time and place. And yet, I’ve been picking these movies because I want to understand the references of my own culture. Grace Kelly, Clark Gable, Sidney Poitier, Gloria Swanson, Ava Gardner — all names I’ve known for years without faces. And now I’ve got the reference.

  • art,  film

    Ninja Assassin: Five Lessons for Girl Ninjas

    Last Thursday night, I sat down with my little family and watched Ninja Assassin, which was precisely as good as you’d imagine it to be.  (A coworker wonders why they cast a Korean pop star as the awesomest ninja of all; I wonder why we cast American actors as South Africans.  But neither here nor there.)

    But this movie drew on so many How Not to Make a Feminist Film tropes that I just couldn’t stop laughing.  So, young women, if you want to know what it’s really like to be a professional (ninja or otherwise), let’s watch this movie for some lessons.

    Lesson One: You might have good ideas, but your boss will only listen to them if he’s attracted to you.  He’ll even tell you so, at which point you will blush and lower your head, while prettily thinking about how much you’d like to stick a knife in his guts for belittling you, if only you didn’t need to pay your mortgage.  Except in real life, your boss probably won’t look like a movie star.  Sorry.

    Lesson Two: Even if you are kidnapped as a child and raised in the super secret ninja assassin school, you will be the one person not hardened by years of psychological abuse.  Girls are made of sugar and spice.

    Lesson Three: Even though you’re an okay ninja (for a girl), having been raised to be one from birth and all, you’re going to be the one who just can’t hack it.  So you’ll run away, get caught and be murdered.  This is absolutely critical so that you can be avenged by our hero, who we know is worth cheering for because he didn’t just like, forget you existed after watching you get murdered, because he’s a super special dude.  You’ve served your purposes…and with about six lines of dialogue!

    Lesson Four: If you’re an extra and you have boobs, you’re also going to be murdered.  Because only real big jerks murder women, children or kittens.  So it helps prove that the baddie is a real baddie with an absolute minimum of creativity.  Next time, bring kittens.

    Lesson Five: Women are inherently good.  Of the two, count ’em, two women in Ninja Assassin that actually get to speak, both are recognized for being “different” and “special”.  That’s what happens when you can only hire two women for the fifty roles in your movie.  Being average is something that can only be achieved by people in greater numbers.

    On one hand, Ninja Assassin was awesome in fulfilling the ketchup blood spewing quotient– so don’t accuse me of having a dislike for the genre.  I like watching the human body being pushed to extremes and doing it gracefully and beautifully.  Martial arts films tend to be pretty awesome that way.  But for the love of all that’s badass and ninja, give me a little original plot, would you?

  • art,  feminism,  film

    Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

    Warning: I will spoil the plot. You may not want to read further.

    I watched Perfume: The Story of a Murderer the other night, after renting it because Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman are in it and it looked like it would have an interesting plot.

    And, well, yes, if horrific means interesting, it certainly does. I am a little dismayed because, on top of having such talent in the cast, it won a whole bunch of awards.

    I think I was just unable to discount the fact that murdering women for beauty is really never okay. You have to buy into that concept to understand the main character of the movie, which was just too hard for me to do. I couldn’t understand him or relate to him and as a result, the movie bored the heck out of me. I also was really, really disturbed that the response of a crowd to the fact that the main character had a perfume made out of the essence of twelve beautiful women was to have a massive orgy.

    Really?!? And this movie won awards? I really don’t grok the world.