The action thriller flick Salt starring Angelina Jolie opens today and I plan to be there for the earliest showing possible (to avoid the crowds and I have tons of grant writing to do this weekend!) in order to vote with my dollars for the kind of movie, which while not perfect, is light years ahead of much of the other big budget releases featuring women this summer.
When questioned as to why my film criticism tends emphasize mainstream offerings, my response is usually, "Because that's where the people are." I actively consume and thoroughly appreciate obscure, art house fare where dialogue is delivered in urgent whispers; lives are complicated by eccentric passions and heartbreaking twists of fate. That said, I'm also a very pragmatic pop culture consumer, rejecting the notion that critically conscious content should be relegated to low budget art films screened far away from the masses.
Movie audiences dissatisfied with summer cinema offerings are eagerly looking towards fall releases in hopes finding a reprieve from the foul, unwatchable dreck currently polluting multiplexes. Here are two that have piqued my interest.
Talk of Christopher Nolan's latest film Inception seems inescapable; the buzz alone propelled the film into the top spot opening weekend. Granted, the only notable competition was Disney's truly dreadful Sorcerer's Apprentice. Inception isn't doing The Dark Knight numbers at the box office, but in a summer of uninspired remakes, reboots and franchises, it doesn't have to. Wildly derivative—evoking The Matrix, Minority Report, 2001: A Space Odyssey and several mediocre heist films not worth mentioning—Inception seems downright revolutionary when compared to the rest of the dreck being screened in neighborhood multiplexes this summer.
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.