After several years, a lot of script work and much trademark frenetic verbosity, writer/director Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited Inglourious Basterds – his "bunch of guys on a mission" film set during the Second World War – finally premieres on the 21st of this month.
With a nearly all-male cast it's arguably a return to the tough-guy roots of his earlier movies Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994), where manly-men bantered over such topics as the meaning of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and the global appeal of hamburgers – regardless of whether they're measured in imperial or metric units.
Though they often repeat the contradictions inherent in representations of women in Exploitation films, and thus come from already problematic source material, the kick-ass heroines of Jackie Brown (1991), Kill Bill (2003 & 2004), and Death Proof (2007) still show visceral examples of female power that women can get excited about.
So this week we'll take an in-depth look at these characters and Tarantino's work, and hopefully have a discussion regarding the question: "Is Quentin Tarantino a feminist?"
Jean Seberg is one of those fascinating Hollywood stories that reads like the plot of a dark Hollywood movie. Her tragic story is lesser known than say, Marilyn Monroe's – though she was just as great a beauty. And her politics caused more damage to her life than that of her acting contemporaries – ultimately leading to her death at the all too young age of 40.
A new documentary, Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg! shares the story of "Gertrude Berg. She was the creator, principal writer, and star of 'The Goldbergs,' a popular radio show for 17 years, which became television's very first character-driven domestic sitcom in 1949." It's not just a story of a woman making her way through Hollywood; you also get a sense of how entertainment was changing as it went from radio to television.
More attractive than tough, the sexually progressive and confident space adventurer, Barbarella was played by Jane Fonda in an eponymous 1968 film. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis and directed by her then-husband, Roger Vadim, the movie was based on the early 1960s erotic comic created by Jean-Claude Forest– who served as a set consultant on the film.
I promised that one of the themes we'd be exploring in this blog is bad movies with feminist potential. You see, in my research I've found that some of the most interesting female characters, particularly female action heroes and/or proto-feminists, are to be found in some of the most poorly-produced movies. Considering this, it is perhaps ironic that many better funded action films with A-list actresses have been flops.
Since I've been able to spend a lot of time with popcorn and a notepad, throughout the summer I'll share with you some of the most empowered (if all too often also problematic) women of the best low-budget classics of sci-fi, horror, blaxploitation, and action in a series of Grrrl on Film Cult Movie Posts!
For those of you who saw my previous post you'll know that the 1966 classic camp film, Modesty Blaise, was shown in the early morning hours on AMC. The film, based on the eponymous character of a long-running British comic strip, is of the so bad it's bad variety. But even so, this relatively obscure movie that inspires a love-it-or-hate-it reaction, as well as the enigmatic Modesty Blaise herself, has influenced subsequent gems of popular culture including the visual style of Austin Powers, the origin story of X-Men's Ororo Munroe, and the ass-kicking women of Kill Bill. Modesty was a groundbreaking and progressive character that rivaled the other Spy-Fi icons she was so often compared to, but she remains relatively unknown to the American side of the pond and is increasingly distanced from her native audience.