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Snarky's Cinemachine: Why I Watch What I Watch

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. On my recent post about Inception a commenter named Elise said:

Well, I guess if we are frustrated with one-dimensional female characters written by men, who don't even attempt to write convincing female characters because hey, how could they possibly understand the intricate nature of what it is to be a woman, we should make a concerted effort to go out and support and buy tickets to films written and directed by women!

It's a sentiment I thoroughly support and have expressed myself, but it doesn't always acknowledge some of the realities of how and why films get made. If it was merely a matter of box office receipts Stallone would not have a film scheduled for released in less than two weeks, given he has not been a bankable box office draw with any consistency since the mid 90s. So it's not merely a matter of supporting content made by marginalized groups, there also needs to be effort to challenge the -ism fail in wildly popular films too. Moreover, some of the films suggested as alternatives to big budget fare simply don't appeal to me or the films reinforce the kyriarchy in a manner similar to mainstream Hollywood releases. And honestly, sometimes I watch films to take a break from the realities of being marginalized in society, so sometimes watching filmed versions of it are the last thing I want to do.

So, if you don't mind, I'm going to go check out Salt and give a full report in my next post!

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Comments

4 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Finally, an action/adventure film

Salt looks to be the kind of summertime rollercoaster ride I've been wanting. I read that it was originally conceived as a vehicle for Tom Cruise. If that's true, well then I applaud the filmmakers for figuring out that Ms. Jolie can do anything Mr. Cruise can. Backwards. In heels.

Some films by women directors should be mainstream

There are women directors who make what would be mainstream films if they got the same marketing budget. I like to seek out those films because they are fun.

But you also don't have to take your commenters too seriously. You can never please everyone, especially on the internet.

Helen, it's not about the

Helen, it's not about the internet; it goes beyond the notion of pleasing people. The comment I selected was an example of the kinds of statements I've heard in and outside the academic discourse regarding pop culture consumption and a prescriptive notion of what critically conscious folks ought to be consuming.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

not prescriptive!

Hi Snarky! I made that comment, but I fear I wasn't clear enough in exactly what I was responding to. I was absolutely not saying that you should only concentrate on films directed by women, commercial or otherwise. There is absolutely a need to examine pop cultural products and hold them up to the light to discuss how they perpetuate (or challenge) problematic ideas. I always look forward to your blog posts!

When I said that we should support women-directed films, I was specifically responding to the commenter who said (I'm paraphrasing) how brave it was that Christopher Nolan was somehow admitting that he couldn't write a convincing female character, something about the "intricacies" of womanhood. That was when I made my suggestion, in response to this reductionist idea that no one can really understand what it's like to be the other gender, so we should give male screenwriters and directors a pass on creating, or even attempting to create, complex female characters.

Anyway, what did you think of Salt? I saw it and thought that on its own terms, it was a more successful movie than Inception. I had a feminist quibble about a bizarre line of dialogue, but I'll save it for the official discussion...