The most annoying way in which this film tries to encapsulate 2011 is by making its characters as media-saturated as possible. In the twenty-first century, we have apparently transcended platitudes simply by becoming conscious of their presence in our lives. These hip young New Yorkers with their telephone cameras and their rainbow parties are too self-aware to internalize movie cliches without repeatedly making self-deprecating verbal references to said cliches in casual conversation, preferably while incorporating pop psychology terms like "emotionally damaged," "intimacy issues" and "coping mechanism." Their banter is wholly unsatisfying because it's not actually witty, it's just a bunch of semi-tactless observations and mashed-together pop culture references delivered as if they were jokes (I haven't heard Third Eye Blind mentioned this many times since... ever).
Okay, I haven't seen The Help, which hit theaters yesterday and web banners way before that, nor have I read the book by Kathryn Stockett it's based on. But based on the critical reviews it's gotten, even prior to the film release, I don't think I'll be checking out either. Here's why...
This post includes spoilers for the movies Single White Female, The Craft, and Perfect Blue. These three movies have several things in common:
The main point-of-view character in each one is what I've called "fake-out crazy." Each one exhibits some sort of behavior within the movie that could be viewed as "insane," but unlike the villains, these women end up being "strong enough" to overcome this. (Earlier in the film, the "crazy" character always accuses the "sane" one of being "too weak" or "pathetic".)
None of the characters are actually diagnosed with anything within the films, although psychiatrists are contacted in all cases. The Internet has provided the "crazy" characters with a variety of diagnoses.
Two of the movies have a red herring character who is "crazy" and is obsessed with the main character.
Each movie uses sexual behavior as a way of showing how "out of control" one of the characters has gotten.
The Thin Man gave us one of the wittiest crime-solving wife-husband duos of all time, retired detective Nick Charles and his wife Nora (Myrna Loy*), who spit one-liners, soak up a tremendous amount of alcohol and stumble around solving crime.
Despite the obvious social critiques in the books, I never consciously drew parallels between the wizarding world and my world. I wanted Harry Potter to exist in a vacuum. But as the books went on, the back stories grew more complex, the danger became more insidious and intimidating, and the fantasy world turned out to be as confusing and terrifying as my real post-9/11 adolescent world. I dreaded the release of the last two books, knowing I would endure them more than I enjoyed them, but the idea of simply abandoning the series never even crossed my mind. Not only did I not want to analyze the books as cultural products or actively criticize them, I was and still am basically incapable of doing so (if you would like a really feminism-centric response to Harry Potter, Sady Doyle has a good one). Because I grew up reading these books, I have internalized the messages that I uncritically accepted in a way I only really could when I was a kid. As far as I'm concerned, it's word of God, and I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way.
Like so many other aspects of the film industry, animation is still a male-dominated field. In the early days of the industry, women worked most often as inkers and painters, so while their work was arduous and crucial, it often went uncredited and rarely got them promoted to supervising or directing positions. Fortunately, women are constantly gaining ground in animation, especially as producers – Toy Story 3, produced by Darla K. Anderson, became the highest-grossing animated movie of all freaking time – and I'm already counting down the months until Brave, which will feature Pixar's first female lead plus is co-written by Irene Mecchi, who you might know as creator of the esteemed Recycle Rex (really) and co-writer of a little movie called The Lion King (due credit also goes to Osamu Tekuza and, uh, Shakespeare). But let's turn the clock back and pay a little homage to a woman who became an animation pioneer before 3D, before CGI, even before Mary Ellen Bute's experimental shorts or Retta Scott's Disney screen credit: Charlotte "Lotte" Reiniger (1899-1981).
Super 8 is one of the few movies I was genuinely excited to see this summer, and for the most part, it lived up to the hype. It's a consummate summer movie if there ever was one: it's got action, romance, aliens, explosions, and even takes place during summer. It's not a groundbreaking or exceptional movie by any means, but I felt fully engaged with it and enchanted by it while I watched, comforted by the familiar rhythm of cliché parent-child relationships and minor character comic relief, and viscerally thrilled by the reptilian pleasure of watching stuff blow up.
I have always had a baseless, irrational hatred for Cameron Diaz. I've never kept up with any tabloid news about her personal life, so it's not like I think she's a bad person; I don't even think she's a bad actress. I just don't like her. So it was inevitable that I would have disliked Bad Teacher, even if it hadn't been so... bad.