I almost never root for a movie to fail with critics or at the box office. Hundreds of people work on movies, and regardless of my personal tastes or filmmaking trends I would like to see come to an end I wouldn’t wish failure on all of the artists involved in creating a film. On the other hand, I occasionally find myself rooting for a film to succeed, sometimes even in spite of my own feelings about the film itself, because that film’s success might have a positive impact on the film industry or the world as a whole. And so, I find myself absolutely thrilled with Wonder Woman’s reception, both its strong showing at the box office and it’s nearly universal praise among critics and audiences. The feminist in me knows what it means for a studio to release a big budget superhero film with a female director and have it be such a smash hit, and the film fan in me loves that the DC Universe has finally found some heart and joy after their recent misfires. Having said all of that, while I may be wholeheartedly cheering for Wonder Woman, and while I think it is an excellent film, it didn’t resonate with me as fully as I had hoped.
The world doesn’t need another article today memorializing Carrie Fisher by focusing on her role as Leia Organa in the Star Wars saga, so I apologize that this post adds to the seemingly endless recollections of Fisher’s most famous role. She should be, and thankfully has been, celebrated worldwide today as much for her abilities as a novelist and screenwriter, particularly her semi-autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge along with the film it was based on and the countless scripts she worked on and improved throughout her career, as for her performance as Leia. She should be remembered for her biting sense of humor, her eagerness to call out bullshit wherever she saw it, especially in the world of movies and celebrities, and her bravery in openly discussing her battles with addiction and bipolar disorder, giving a voice to struggles that are all too common yet which we frequently pretend don’t exist. And of course her career as an actress was far more diverse and expansive than just Star Wars, with supporting roles in classics like When Harry Met Sally…, Hannah and Her Sisters, and The Blues Brothers to countless appearances on television. Carrie Fisher was far, far more than Leia, and yet the role that she so expertly defined will be the one that will forever define her, just as the character of Leia helped to define my views of what a hero should look like. Through Leia, Carrie Fisher taught me to be a feminist, long before I even knew what a feminist was.
I never lived in a world without Ghostbusters. The original film was #1 at the box office the day I was born (although my parents decided to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom that day), and it and its sequel have been movie viewing constants all my life. I yearned for a sequel for years and years, only to be disappointed when it finally became clear that that was never going to happen. Instead we were given a remake with an all-female cast, which unfortunately still brings out the worst in a certain segment of the population who can’t stand to see women in positions where they feel only men should reside. The result is both an important milestone for women in cinema, a big-budget, sci-fi, action comedy based on a beloved franchise resting solely on the backs of four talented women, and the internet firestorm that’s come to surround the film shouldn’t detract from the fact that it’s nevertheless shattered some glass ceilings. But the question of the film still remains, whether it can both hold up on its own and live up to the legacy that goes along with the name. Could it ever be as funny as the classic from 1984? Well, the answer to the second question is no, it’s frankly not as funny. But better than funny, it gives us deeper characters, more exciting action, and a more interesting world than we’ve ever seen under the Ghostbusters banner. It might not be the non-stop laugh riot we might have hoped, though it is still frequently hilarious, but it just might be a better all-around film.
My relationship with the new Ghostbusters film has been a bit of a roller coaster. Ghostbusters was the #1 movie at the box office the day I was born back in 1984 (though my parents decided to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom instead, which caused my mom to go into labor with me), and I’ve been a fan of the original and its sequel since the first time I saw them. As a longtime fan, I of course followed the various news about a potential third film over the last couple decades in the hopes of seeing the team reunited on the big screen. So when the new Ghostbusters was announced I was thrilled, even as it was clear that it would not star the original cast. I absolutely loved the idea of an all-female team, especially when we learned that Melissa McCarthy would be in it (of whom I’ve been a fan since the Gilmore Girls days). The early teases of the look and feel of the film, particularly its production design, got me even more excited, as did the news that Chris Hemsworth had been cast as the Ghostbusters’ receptionist in the new film, a great continuation of the gender reversal.
Cinderella has generally received good reviews (currently at 84% on Rotten Tomatoes), but it’s had its fair share of detractors, particularly when it comes to how the film relates to feminism. I consider myself a feminist, as equality for women is one of my core beliefs and goals, so I’ve found myself in the week after seeing Cinderella asking a question: “Is there a feminist interpretation of Cinderella?” Many people probably already have an answer to that question, formed without having seen the movie. Some will answer, “No, of course there isn’t,” as everyone knows the story and most of us have seen the 1950 Disney animated version and can base an opinion from that. Others will answer, “Who cares?” either because they’re not interested in feminism, or they actually dislike feminist ideas entirely. This article isn’t for them, but it’s for people like me, who passionately support feminism but who also loved Cinderella. The question is whether we can reconcile these two, seemingly mutually exclusive, views.
The Thanksgiving holiday still has my schedule screwed up, so there won’t be a Friday Favorite today (not that many people will be disappointed by that). Instead, I present the infographic below produced by the New York Film Academy about inequality in the film industry. While this isn’t exactly news, it’s still shocking and disheartening to see these statistics all grouped together. While I appreciate the Bechdel Test for its ideals, we have to understand that there are plenty of films that pass the test but are derogatory towards women, while some films that feature complex and interesting women characters may not pass the test (Gravity). But the problems that created a need for the Bechdel test go much deeper, and this infographic really shows how far we still have to go for women to be equally represented in the film industry. What are your thoughts? Continue reading →
In a World… is funny, random, charmingly sweet, a little romantic and an impressive feature length writing, producing and directing debut by star Lake Bell. It’s also strongly feminist, but in a way that feels realistic while still sending a clear message. The film, which was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival, tells the story of Carol Solomon, a struggling vocal coach whose father, Sam Soto, is one of the famous kings of the movie trailer voice-over industry. You would think with a father who is a legend in the industry that Carol would have an easy way into the business, too, but her father not only is uninterested in giving her handouts (which his therapist tells him is just enabling Carol) but also doesn’t think women have any place in the industry. It’s a boy’s only club, with Sam spending his time and energy promoting sleazeball Guztav Warner as the next generation of voice over powerhouse instead of his own daughter. Sam makes his opinions clear to Carol before kicking her out of the house so that Sam’s groupie girlfriend can move in instead (nevermind the fact that she’s a year younger than his daughter.)
I had every intention of writing an article exploring Joss Whedon’s treatment of sex in his various works, and then I started doing some research online. When I write articles like the one I was envisioning, I worry about unintentionally copying someone else’s ideas, so do a bit of searching to make sure that I still have something new to say. Sometimes I find that someone else has put out an essay that says exactly what I wanted, only better, and I’ll simply abandon my idea. Other times, I’ll find an article arguing the opposite of what I want to say, but in a way that allows me to write my opinions as a rebuttal (this worked really well for my Star Wars prequel analysis). It’s important to read a variety of opinions, because challenging ourselves is the best way to grow, both as a writer/blogger and as a person.
But something different happened to me when I started searching for articles about Joss Whedon and sex. I still have a lot to say, and maybe I’ll write that analysis soon, but for the moment I’m giving up on it. Continue reading →