Women-directed horror films are finally getting the (blood) red-carpet treatment! The Viscera Film Festival, showcasing women-made horror shorts, is this Saturday, July 17th in Los Angeles. The film festival came about through the team-up of Shannon Lark, who started the Chainsaw Mafia to encourage independent filmmakers to produce (and whose email signature reads, "Never forget, if a woman can go through the process of pushing out a baby, she can make a horror film!") and Heidi Martinuzzi, a film journalist and director, and founder of Pretty-Scary.net which covered women in horror films (behind and in front of the camera). Besides the film festival, Martinuzzi and Lark are combining powers (well, websites) to make Fangirltastic.com (still under construction) to keep the spirit of Viscera alive all year-round. I asked Lark and Martinuzzi about the festival and how feminism and horror overlap.
On July 2, 1996 I was nearly trampled by an enthused crowd of action film fanatics as we raced to snag the best seats for the midnight premiere of Independence Day. I remember everything about that night: what I wore (Charlie's Angels ringer t-shirt, Dickies, cha cha heels), what the kid kicking the back of my seat wore (surf shorts and Metallica t-shirt) and that first thrilling moment of seeing Jeff Goldblum playing chess with that guy from Taxi.
To be fair, based on the above image alone, I did not fully appreciate the outrage. It appeared Wonder Woman's ass kicking capabilities did not seem diminished despite the lack of star spangled panties and glamorous accessories. However, when I saw this picture of the new costume, then the ire made a lot more sense. The new Wonder Woman looks like an extra on the 90s version of Melrose Place with her small hair and velvet choker.
Helen Mirren keeps popping up in my daily conversations and I am doing my best to resist this wave of Helen Fever. I had a strain of Helen Fever in 1995 (while sick with an actual fever and accompanied by marathons of Prime Suspect) so I felt this time around I was somewhat immune.
I love movies, and I am more than interested in politics. So it behooves me to think about the sizable overlap between the two. One of the things I love about political movies (and heck, political television shows, too) are the tropes they include and play to, especially as tropes reveal something about an era's ideology around politics. There's something different in the feel and mood, for example, in the original and remake of The Manchurian Candidate that goes to the heart of 1962's understanding of the Korean War and the just-after 9/11 tragedy zeitgeist's take on the first Gulf War, respectively, but both take on conspiracy theory and the presidency.
Whenever I am asked to name a film whose female actor's performance lifted me out of the recliner I immediately think of Angela Lansbury's chilling turn as Eleanor Iselin in the 1962 John Frankenheimer film The Manchurian Candidate. (Don't bother with the soggy 2004 remake, which is awful in every way imaginable) The Manchurian Candidate is a palate cleansing suspense thriller worlds away from Lansbury's sweet, meddling mystery writer J.B. Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote.
At some point between the release of 1996's Mission: Impossible and Jerry Maguire I discovered I could predict future Tom Cruise trends based on what I knew about his upcoming releases. Granted, I could not give pertinent details such as box office grosses or where he might holiday with his family, but I could predict things such as potential co-stars (I had Thandie Newton as his M:I2 co-star before I'd even left the screening of the first installment of the franchise) and general trends. I have always believed Cruise's persona was carefully constructed in a way that is much more sophisticated than many stars' audiences are used to. Personally, I don't think any incarnation of Cruise's persona is in fact representative of Cruise himself, but I do think they tend to represent areas of concern he opts to explore on screen.