The tenderness of black women growing in self-love and self-possession is rare in modern cinema. If we are young, we are exploited (see: Precious) if we are grown and in love, black female characters are consumed with body-racking pain (see: For Colored Girls, Monster's Ball, Beloved). Caricatures of us usually dim our personal transformation from one moment to the next. On screen, the fullness of black womanhood has been flattened to a one-dimensional trope – she is rarely funny without bitterness, or lonely and sad without letting her emotions bleed into histrionics or melodrama.
Two recent documentaries, two different coasts, one scary enemy, and hundreds of hours of footage. This is the history and legacy of the AIDS crisis in North America, as told by the cameras and concerned filmmakers who were there.
Polio just got a whole lot sexier! That's because later this month The Sessions, a new film starring the always incredible John Hawkes (and directed by Ben Lewin, who's disabled) will be making the rounds in theaters. I am extremely excited.
At long last, the movie that brings us Nicole Kidman taking a piss on Zac Efron is available for your viewing pleasure (in NY and LA, with select cities this Friday). But this is not just the movie of the tinkle heard across Cannes. This subplot-ridden movie straddles a fine line between exploitation and melodrama, with mixed results. It's filmed in a grainy style that's supposed to reference the '60s and '70s exploitation genre, but rather than stay with a simple, schlocky detective plot to make a human story out of the tumultuous times, we meander through enough sexual, racial, and gender issues to weigh the film down with a sense of gravitas. It isn't pretty, and the movie sinks under the numerous cumbersome subplots. Is there a way to make heads or tails of this icky cinematic mess?
Salutations from the East Coast! My name is Monica and I'll be your resident "Backlot Bitch" for the next few months. Or more, if you like me. If you really, really like me.
Why "Backlot Bitch"? Well, it's alliteration, and literary devices. But really, I've always loved the history of old Hollywood and the studio backlots were once the hubs of the industry. As I've grown up though, like many others here, I've learned that the Hollywood fairy tale wasn't meant for everyone—and it still isn't easily accessible to everyone. And that's where I come in, and call out the bull. It's 2012, and the Oscars are only slightly more diverse than they were 50 years ago. I can still count the number of well-made mainstream movies with female protagonists on two hands. Why are we still dealing with whitewashing casting and charater stereotypes from the twenties? Why hasn't this changed? What can be done about the systemic exclusion of anyone who isn't white, heterosexual, cisgendered, and able-bodied?
Within Hollywood now, there's still a huge dearth of material that not only features disability as a normal, everyday topic, (which of course it is), but does so in a thoughtful, comical manner. Most depictions of disability in cinema continue to fall back on insidious stereotypes of disability as tragedy (The Elephant Man, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane), or someone "overcoming" their impairment to become some supercrip hero (Forrest Gump, My Left Foot). Unlike those movies, Sleepwalk With Me illustrates how Mike's disability ends up being an asset, not a liability. There is genuine humor with disability, and this particular film is an honest, earnest and entertaining reflection of that truth.
Lourdes Portillo has a decades-long film career. Her films, which tend to focus on Chicano and Latino culture and identity, range from realism to avant-garde, fiction to personal narrative, with every kind of genre-bending in between. Portillo continues her work today as a member of Xochitl Productions, a film production and distribution company that expands the dialogue around Latino and Chicano issues and identity. This past June, the Museum of Modern Art presented her work in a retrospective titled La Cineasta Inquisitiva. Here is a video montage Women Make Movies put together of some of her works, including Corpus, Columbus on Trial, Las Madres, and Señorita Extraviada. Even these snippets show the varied style of her work and how she deftly played with and melded genre. Click through for more!