2006's The Pursuit of Happyness [sic] is one of a handful of movies that bucks the trend — as well as a rare example of a single dad of color. Based on the rags-to-riches story of Chris Gardner, it stars Will Smith as a down-on-his luck striver, struggling in his business selling bone density scanners to hospitals, while taking care of his five year old son following his wife's departure. He lands a prestigious stockbroker internship with a 1 in 20 chance of leading to a job, but it's six months of grueling, unpaid work (plus studying for an exam) leaving him to fit all his sales calls into the weekend, when he doesn't have childcare.
But even before he becomes a single parent, he plays an active role in his son's care, drilling Chris Jr. on spelling and math, and asking him about his day. Contrast this with 1979's Kramer vs. Kramer, where Dustin Hoffman's Ted Kramer has little insight into his son Billy's daily life before his wife leaves them. When he cooks breakfast for Billy for the first time, he doesn't know where anything is kept, and keeps saying that not only does he bring home the bacon but: "I gotta cook it, too!". (He'd clearly quite like a medal.)
Several lines in When Love is Not Enough pay lip service to feminism or to the idea of women's independence (Lois' mother tells her, "You might find your own life"; a fellow Al-Anon wife says, "I think our husbands are doing the best they can for themselves, and so should we"). But if the movie means to communicate that the partners of alcoholics—maybe particularly the female partners of alcoholics (AA and Al-Anon became more gender-inclusive over time, though that process is not portrayed in this movie)—live so much at the mercy of their loved ones' addictions that they can't have their own lives, it does a better job than it means to.
A discussion of alcohol and gender politics is pretty much incomplete without a discussion about the space where many of us take our first drinks (not to mention our first women's studies classes): college. I decided to rent the two movies that (for better or for worse) shaped my youthful expectations about college life, and my understanding of Greek life, which are at least perceived as the center of alcohol consumption on many campuses. I was interested in seeing if the sexual politics, and portrayal of college drinking (and other drug use) would be more or less palatable to my crotchety 30-something self versus my young, impressionable self. But I was also interested in whether popular portrayal of the Greek system matches up with history: that is, were Greek societies always centers of hedonism on college campuses? And why does pop culture so often portray fraternity guys as underdogs?
While Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds ostensibly portray two different types of male cliques, they had, I realized, a startling number of things in common: first, they both portray groups of college men who are "outsiders" within the Greek system, though for very different reasons. Animal House consists of a bunch of guys who are too goofy or too underachieving (and, one suspects, too working class) to get into the other houses (which consist of "legacy" blue bloods); the university administration dislikes not the Greek system in general, but Animal House in specific. The guys in Revenge of the Nerds are better liked by the university administration, presumably for their high GPAs, but actively hated by other Greeks, most of whom play on the football team (coached by a very young John Goodman).
A film critic quits after his new publisher objects to reviews of movies with strong female leads, "fuzzy feminist thinking," and "pandering to creepy hollywood mores produced by metrosexual imbeciles."
The first time we see Bill Sanford in Coyote Ugly, his daughter Violet is cooking him egg whites and urging him to stick to his diet. The first time we see Mel Horowitz in Clueless, his daughter Cher is telling him to drink his orange juice and reminding him about his doctor's appointment that afternoon. At different times, both of these men act like overprotective fathers uncomfortable with their daughters' sexuality, but that isn't the primary dynamic in either of these stories.
No, these young women are daughter-wives, or maybe daughter-moms. Each young woman's relationship with her father is based around the idea that (releatively healthy, able-bodied) men need looking after by their daughters. Sure, Clueless is satirical, but so are 10 Things I Hate About You and Suburgatory, both of which feature girls of around the same age, and fathers who act like an actual parents.
In its heyday, Dazzled by Twilight operated two stores, a performance space, and a tour of Twilight-related sites around Forks, Washington (population 3,175 and 8.5 Vampires), the former logging town–turned–Twilight fan mecca. Amidst fake conifers (including one carved with "Bella loves Edward" on the trunk), an Astroturf grass floor, and fountains, frenzied fans swooped up shirts emblazoned with slogans like "Bite Me" and "Vampires Only, Please," as well as posters, mugs, bumper stickers, and jewelry. On Oct 29th, the entire store was demolished in a fire. However, Dazzled had already shuttered its doors the previous January.
At the peak of Twlight mania, in 2010, there were close to 73,000 pilgrimages to Forks; by the following year, the numbers dwindled to half that amount. With Breaking Dawn – Part 2, the final film in the series, opening later tonight, Forks is a bleak reminder of what the end of Twilight mania portends. During the boom years, longtime residents were alternately bemused and resentful by the spotlight on their town, but the attention of fans—and their money—enabled Forks to survive a brutal recession. One t-shirt designed by a local featured a logger bearing an axe in one hand and a struggling vampire writhing in the other.
When a Man Loves a Woman opens with one of the oddest (and, frankly, creepiest) meet-cutes I have ever seen in a movie: Alice (Meg Ryan), sitting at a bar in broad daylight (it looks like she's just finished lunch), already wincing at unwanted attention from the guy sitting to her left at the counter, is approached by Michael (Andy Garcia), who asks her to pick up his laundry for him, bring it to his hotel room later that night. "I'll pay you," he says. "Thirty bucks. That oughta cover it." At first, she's irritated, and then she's amused, flirting back.
Then – right after my boyfriend shouted, "Oh, come on, Meg!" and I scribbled something in my notebook about how women alone in bars are always assumed to be prostitutes – the scene takes a cutesy, unexpected turn.
There are movies you see once and you never want to see again. Other movies require multiple viewings in order to pick up on the subtext and subtitles. And then there are the enjoyable enough movies to leave on the TV over and over again just because they're fun. Wreck-It Ralph is one of those rare movies that's fun for a revisit yet is peppered with enough hidden references to make to make the rewatch worthwhile. After a second viewing this weekend, I still walked away impressed. Ralph keeps to the 8-bit world of old-school arcade games and moves flawlessly into the HD gaming experience that was starting to take root when I stopped going to my local arcade.