I have an up-and-down sorta relationship with the Scissors Sisters. Less because I like some stuff of them and then some other not so much, rather me forgetting about them, rediscovering them, thinking “they are the greatest band evah” and then forgetting again. So recently I re-stumbled upon the gloriousness that is “Invisible Light” from their album “Night Work”. And I really love love love the video which made me actually like the song. Wanna know why? Sure you do!
Yeah, this is the clean version – go and watch the dirty one.
#1 So conflicted
I am really conflicted about the question if I find the video sexist and classist or actually subverting sexist and classist constructions. Ultimately, if that even makes sense, I think it is kind of both? And that is why I love it? Cause, ambiguity, y’all? The author is dead, it’s all in your head. It certainly is a music video that is open for your reading.
I just like the fact that the video can be both this grand narrative and at the same time not. All the bits and pieces can (and are probably supposed to) make the story, but at the same time it can also only be a disjointed mindfuck and be enjoyed as such. Wikipedia teaches me that the video draws inspiration from the nightmares of Mia Farrow in “Rosemary’s Baby” (great movie!) and of Catherine Deneuve in “Belle De Jour” (never seen it, sorriez!).
And there are three small scenes that I love in particular:
#3 Cleopatra, coming atcha
The scene with the Egyptian goddess (the Elizabeth Taylor version of Cleopatra, thanks Wikipedia) taking the gold nugget out of the girl’s hand and “screaming” a beam of light in her face at the 2:32 mark. Love. That. Scene.
#4 Grab dat ass
The scene at the 2:02 mark where our protagonist woman stands there watching the handyman chop the wood and then she grabs her own ass in those skin-tight white equestrian pants. Not that I have ever done it, but “girl, I know what you are trying to say here”.
#5 To the grave
Love the short glimpse on our protagonist lady carrying the coffin along a stretch of beautiful greenery at the 1:44 mark. In equal parts because the nature is beautiful, it’s very Jesus-y in its way and because it is sort of fucked up.
Time to delve into the depth of the wonderfulness of music videos again. Especially since I am absolutely infatuated with the song and the video lately. So without further ado I give you: Beyoncé’s little sister! Yeah, that’s right, honey, Solange Knowles is my topic of choice today. Granted, her career has been burning a little less bright than that of her older sister, but that don’t mean that girl cannot do right, right?
So let us take a look at a video that put her on a lot more people’s radars in 2012: Losing You.
#1 – The song
Let’s start with an obvious reason: I love the song. But, and that is what is so great about the video, I wouldn’t really have noticed the song if it weren’t for the video. But because I liked the video so much, I actually listened to the song, and now I love it and of course that makes me love the video even more, period.
#2 – The setting
I really like where the scenes of the video are taking place, in front of that tailor’s container-shop, inside a small barely furnished living room, on the seats of a stadium… Perfect. Probably because many of the settings – especially the scene in the little bus – take me back to my trip to Kenya in 2006 and the scenes that I encountered in Kibera, the slum-area of Nairobi. Plus, squeezing all the people into a small bus – very Matatu. The thing is, these settings are often associated with poverty and misery, but there is also infinite beauty in them, I think this video does a marvellous job of showing that.
#3 – The styling
Underlining the beauty of the setting is the fantastic styling of this video. The suits, the colors, the accessories, the hair, even down to the make-up – the styling in this video is just impeccable and I wish I had one of those bold-colored well-tailored suits to call it my own.
#4 – The dance moves
I love the beat of the song, and I love how all of Solange’s dance moves pick it up so effortlessly. I really especially dig the dance moves in front of the container towards the beginning of minute 3. The energy the dance exudes is incredible while still totally being in tune with the subdued nature of the whole song. It is just another layer of fantastic that has been put on top of the gorgeousness that is that video and I cannot help but shake my shoulders Solange-style now.
Also: the casualness with which she drops in and out of choreography. Love.
#5 – The category
What the hell is “the category?” Well, let me tell y’all, I love the video so much because it also reminds me of another video that I totally love and would have done an extra post on if it wouldn’t have fit so amazingly into this one: Janet Jackson’s ‘Got ‘til it’s gone.’ What the two videos share is not only being produced for awesome songs and two black female singers, but of course they share their celebration of black culture. In a very stylized way, mind you. I am fully aware of the fantasy-land quality of what is being depicted here, but nonetheless I appreciate the celebration of the positivity that is to be found within the black community. A sense of solidarity, a nod towards the history that influenced black culture and defined many of its styles, a sense of origin, of depicting places and areas that bear meaning for identification. Take it with a grain of salt though, I am not a black man, and I am unsure of how my appreciation of these videos resonate with black people and how easy I fall into the trap of buying romanticized versions of harsher realities here. Having said that, I still love both videos wholeheartedly, so here is Miss Janet:
Batman, you superhero of the superheroes. Don’t roll your eyes! Yadda yadda Superman yadda yadda Spiderman blabla Iron Man yap yap Avenger what? Let us face an eternal truth – cause of course it is not just my mere opinion – the best superhero movie that has ever graced this planet with its presence is none other than *drumroll* Batman Returns!
Yeaha, that’s right, bitches, Batman Fucking Returns directed by Tim Fucking Burton and featuring Michell Pfeiffer as Cat F… ermh, let us not go there. I will gush about how amazingly awesomely gorgeously fantastic Batman Returns is and why at some other place some other time, but it needs to be stated here to make clear what I compare every other Batman moment ever to. The Dark Knight compared pretty well. The Dark Knight Rises oh so doesn’t and Imma gonna give you a rant as to why that be.
What I thought would be my major problem with this movie turned out to be one of its nicer features – Catwoman. I am such a hardcore sucker when it comes to Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. From her backstory, to her costume, to her behavior and the way she “disappears”. Everything about that character I think is written and performed incredibly well. So naturally I was very afraid of Anne Hathaway, even though I generally like her actually, as Catwoman, given past disasters with that character (Halle Berry. I can’t. Even.). BUT to my very surprise I felt her character was not only well performed but also very well written. And let us be very clear about one thing: Hers was the only character well written in this mess of a movie. Yessir, I just called this a mess of a movie.
Gosh, I feel like a broken record, but why oh why keep studios releasing movies with characters that lack any sort of plausible motivation?
I could go on and on about how the villains this time around are just plain boring. Bane and Talia al Ghul? Really? That’s the epic conclusion of this trilogy? Blergh. But my, if they at least had some sort of understandable motif to do what they do. They fucking don’t. So they were all kinda love-birdy, except not, cause protector and girl sorta relationship and then they went to super-evil organization of her father, cause of course, and then father is kind of a dick to Bane and they decide: fuck this shit, we’re out and we hate you for like ever and then? Batman kills daddy whom we hate for like ever and first thing you know Talia and Bane turn around and she feels it’s her duty as a daughter to fulfill his evil plans of massive destruction of Gotham. Even if we ignored all that supposed backstory shit – why would she even be interested in destroying Gotham? What’s in it for her? What’s in it for Bane? Fucking nothing is what it is. The Joker at least was crazy and wanted anarchy and that is why he started shit, but these two? They get nothing out of this except a whole lot of trouble for a whole lot of destruction of a city that they probably don’t even care about. What sort of connection would they have with Gotham? No fucking clue.
And let’s stick with The Joker for a minute here: He wanted to unleash anarchy and handed the people and prisoners of Gotham a tool to destroy each other. What did they do? They rose above it and proved to be better human beings than he ever imagined them to be. That is what made The Dark Knight so outstanding in the end – that the tale being told was not just about all the crazy and the evil and the struggle, but also a moral tale about what it means to be humane and respect the order of society and its functioning because ultimately it boils down to respect for your fellow human beings. And that is some seriously wicked shit for something fluffy as a superhero move – oh and again, don’t roll your eyes to me, cause superhero movies tend to be about nothing really, except for poor hero suffering or his love interest in dangerous situations, which: yawn.
In The Dark Knight Rises we get none of that grandeur. Bane and his minions swarm the city and all of a sudden people go all crazy for no apparent reason whatsoever. Why do they all look like they spent the last three months hungry in the desert? Why do they listen to the judgment of lunatics released from prison? Why does it feel like this movie wants to act as if these people were the Occupy movement and it needs major capital a.k.a. billionaire Bruce Wayne to save our precious society?
Well, not only is there a classist subtext that really unnerves me, but there is also no visible gain for the masses of people who suddenly turn berserk on Gotham. Just like Talia and Bane, suddenly most of Gotham’s population acts on behalf of motivations that we can only guess at and that seem contrived at best.
The core of the problem of the whole Batman saga is IMO that his motivation always falls back on the very-hated-by-me “because my parents” trope. Same with Talia. And in Nolan’s trilogy it seems to be taken a step further. All heroes must fit the parent mold. We don’t question them and they should be dead, because then we can glorify them without any shame. That was the quibble with the predecessor The Dark Knight – this whole “Harvey Dent must be remembered as a hero” thing seemed really weird and totally illogical. And I thought “the heck, sure they’ll resolve it in the next instalment”. Except for they don’t. Only lame ass attempts to connect this plot with the one in the last movie and it falls all flat. That is why found the Catwoman character surprisingly refreshing. She seems to be the only one not motivated by avenging her parents, plus her actions contained a kernel of social critique and she – kinda – stands up for that.
I also have to bemoan the absolute randomness of things in this one. What’s with the bomb? Oh, super powerful, could produce energy, yadda yadda. Dude, if that shit is so mega-dangerous, why do you build it in the first place. And hide it beneath the city? As if water would really be a major obstacle hindering determined individuals to get that thing out there and working. And even if you flood the room – isn’t there still the slightest possibility that by some mistake the thing might go off? Then again, I am clearly not a physicist.
Then the prison. Where is that even? Who puts the prisoners in there? Why is there a fucking TV? And really, only Talia and Batman make it out of there, cause those steps they is oh so dangerous. The Fuck What? Not to mention that Batman is outta there and next thing we know pops up on some random street in Gotham, just in time to have a little chat with Catwoman who just defended herself against some muggers. Whud?
And please explain the subtext of Thalia being a political activist for the environment and then turning mega-villainess to me. Sustainability is evil? Protecting the environment means you have daddy issues? Yuck. But fits right in with the classist shit concerning major capital rescuing the world from evil protesters against socio-political conditions. Oh movie, anti-elitist you are clearly not.
I actually liked a few things. GASP!! Yep, even beyond Catwoman.
Another thing I wasn’t even expecting but would have dreaded if I had known: Robin. The Robin character in the whole Batman mythology does ABSOLUTELY ZERO as in NOTHING WHATSOEVER for me. And every time somebody starts saying: “Robin should be in the next…” I just switch off and go like “lalalalala”. Cause I don’t wanna hear it, that’s why. But here: actually pretty nicely done. Whoda thunk it?
I also liked the twist to the prison escape story, even if I thought the prison itself was ridiculous. How we were all like: ah, yeah, right, Bane made it. But then the movie is like: Suckers, haha, sitting there thinking it was Bane but it wasn’t, it was TALIA!! I thought that was really well executed. Oh and yes, the list ends here. Alfred was too emo in this one to make it. Sorriez.
I really expected a grand old BANG! for the conclusion of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. What I got was a “meep” and it sucked hard. Having all those expectations shattered. The problem is that I don’t even know how they could have saved it. Nothing in The Dark Knight Rises reeks of plausible story or interesting plot to me. It’s not that they should have just fixed some minor things. I wanted something entirely different. But oh, who knows, maybe the next director will surprise us with awesome Batman movies again. Pretty please?
Oh, Ridley Scott. There you are looking back on your career thinking: “Yeah, Alien rocked. And yeah, Blade Runner totally rocked, too!” And you know what, Ridley, you are actually right. They are both fantastic films. I would argue that Alien is far more fantastic than Blade Runner, but because Alien is so fucking out there mega-fantastic that is like saying “Blade Runner is better than 99.9 percent of all films ever made”. And then Ridley? Then you’re all like: “Yeah, let’s revisit this and make another epic Sci-Fi action flick!” Did I mention that you probably look back on films like Gladiator and think that it was equally as awesome? Now there is the problem. Sometimes your films fucking stink. So, let’s talk about Prometheus, shall we?
Nothing in Prometheus makes any sense. Whatsoever.
Yup, it’s all a big bag of bullshit. Oh, a nice and pretty bag of bullshit. So shiny you need to look at it. And amidst all the shit squishing and squashing in there we find ideas and performances that are brilliant. But what makes this movie such a bag of bullshit is the problem that many films have: They could be so fucking awesome but somewhere along the way people started to make mistakes and didn’t stop with them. Prometheus is such a case.
Everyone and their grandmother has said it by now, but it is worth repeating: The idea that these characters on this ship are scientist is laughable at best. Offensive really, cause what it shows is that obviously no one involved with this project had any idea of scientific work whatsoever. Or they must have hit their heads really hard. From the dumbass boyfriend being all sulky cause he just discovered alien life-forms on another planet and cannot ask them why they made him (not to mention taking off his helmet, cause he just ‘felt’ that he could probably breathe the air) to the “biologist” whose first instinct upon meeting new and aggressive life forms is to touch them in the face. And dear Elizabeth, our supposed heroine, she is what exactly? An archeologist / medical doctor /biologist /geneticist /what the hell? Girl can do it all. Cause she probably studied science. And when you studied a term that encompasses all the sciences ever, you can, of course, do everything that all sciences ever found out and use as their scientific instruments. Cause you’re fucking scientist, duh!
Ok, we could roll our eyes forever because of how hard these people are clearly not scientists. Shall we look at the supposed science then? There is no use averting our eyes, the crap will still get through. The operation super-capsule thingy. WTF? Can do whatever operation needs to be done if you just press a few buttons and hop in. But oh, damn, thing is gender-programmed. Only works on men… For whatever fucking reason. Cause the hard-drive was too small to fit in the program for women? Are you kidding me? And then of course it also works on women, cause wouldn’t you know, just a dramatic effect. So thing operates a squid alien out of Elizabeth Shaw (and boy will we get to how she is not Ellen Motherfucking Ripley) and stitches her belly so that girl can run and jump and crunch and do whatnot AFTER HAVING HER BELLY BEING OPENED BY A LASER-BEAM AND BARELY STITCHED TOGETHER!! She should collapse within 20 centimeters of that damn machine and bleed out is what she should if that movie had any idea of how human bodies work.
But oh, this film so doesn’t. Guess what: the god-alien-whatever-beings DNA matches 100 percent with human DNA! Whoa! Except for no human beings have DNA matching a hundred percent (ok, twins do) and then again every living being on this planet shares a pretty large percentage of their DNA with ours. So instead of being all like: they created us! And they even kinda somewhat look like us! We should really wonder how the hell these beings are related to chicken, and cheetahs and chimpanzees. There is your scientific question, movie, you can run as fast as you want into the other direction, you won’t escape it.
And please, film, Ridely, whoever, tell me: If these beings come to a planet, dissolve and by that create life on a planet – how do they end up being pictured by cavemen? Did they wait for a few million years to come back and say Hi, uh, by the way look at these stars, if you ever figure out what we mean come and visit us there? Oh yeah, that seems to make so much sense, EXCEPT FOR IT FUCKING DOESN’T. The inconsistencies of this movie are to frustrating, it’s almost painful. Just like having just had an operation and then having to …run? jump? fall? scream? Right, Elizabeth?
It’s frustrating because the movie plays this “uh, we’re asking the big and important questions” card but instead of attempting to answer them they fall short of answering even the simplest questions that just derive from the plot and the actions. How come the black liquid goo thing kills Elizabeths boyfriend but turns the other one into a killing monster? Why would it even? Makes no fucking sense. Completely unnecessary, strengthens my disbelief and makes me wonder: if the black goo thingy can turn people so easily into whatever fucking monster it wants them to be, why does it have to go to such great lengths to create super-complicated reproduction cycles like the one of the alien? Tell you why: cause black goo and monsters and alien aren’t really logically related and shouldn’t be related in a movie that has no idea of what it is doing.
What I hate hate hate in movies is the parents-complex thing. So many movies think they provide their protagoinists with motivation because they do what their parents said, or exactly the opposite or something to get their attention. It is there in the recently reviewed Snow White, it lies at the core of The Dark Knight Rises, which I intend to review next and we find it here with Elizabeth Shaw, David the Android, Charlize Theron’s character and oh, basically all mankind, cause we no have to think of those milky white muscle hunks as our daddies. I fucking hate this shit. Having no other motivation for things than you’re parents is the lamest story-telling device in the history of everything ever. Like Elizabeth Shaw is a scientist because of her father, but also religious, because of him, and neither is she a believable scientist nor does her faith have any effect on the plot whatsoever and is nothing but backstory we’re supposed to swallow to think that she is deep and shit, but really it’s just superficial nonsense. Meredith Vickers relationship with her father is so irrelevant, because we have no clue what is going on, we have no clue what her motivation is, and ultimately none of it plays any role in how these events unfold. It is just there and irritating. Granted, it could have been so much more interesting, if the film had focused on the sibling rivalry between Ms. Vickers and David, but we only get glimpses of that. Waste.
The biggest waste in this movie is David, who is also one of the redeeming qualities. Of course the movie looks fantastic, it is beautiful cinematography, the effects are neat. I like how the aliens look, and even though I find it totally absurd, I like how the aliens evolve throughout the movie. But what is really a saving grace and at the same time the major issue is Michael Fassbender as the android David. Because his performance is brilliant and because his character is actually interesting. All the questions that dumb scientist boyfriend mumbles about are just that same that he asks, but he really asks them and he acts on the impulse to want to find out. And along the way he does dubious things, in full knowledge of their dubiousness. Had the movie about him for 2 hours it would probably have been a better movie.
BUT this movie wanted to hold on to the alien tradition of strong female character with the introduction of Elizabeth Shaw and FAILED. Now, mind you, I like Noomi Rapace and I think her performance was good. And even though I thought “girl, really?” practically every two seconds I still found her character engaging. But my oh my, does the writing on this character sabotage her. We’re supposed to be thinking of her as Ellen Ripley and then again not, cause she is caring, and crying, has a relationship, is compassionate, is religious, yadda yadda. Then we give her some monsters to run from, some gross beings to kill and everyone will think that she is just as badass as Ellen Ripley. Right? RIGHT?????
Hell to the no. Because that was the brilliance of Alien. For a long time it wasn’t even clear that Ellen Ripley was going to be our protagonist. First she is somewhat of a cold bitch and only after some time we find out that we are probably going to spend the rest of this movie – and the rest of the fight against the alien – with her. And she did kick ass with the weapons she found, with the information she gathered. She sweated and screamed and was terrified yet acted on her instinct to survive. In short: She acted like a human being. She felt like a human being. Like the other characters in Alien. In Prometheus we have none of that. They are all tools. Like characters from any CSI series out there we are meant to think of them as real and deep characters because they have a tattoo, or they like to scream out loud when happy or cry because they can’t have babies and nothing in the world is more terrible for the existence of a woman (and in case you don’t notice, I’m being sarcastic here). That is all bullshit. That is all just nonsense, covering up for the fact that none of these people act like real people would. They make stupid decisions because the plot requires them to and none of it stems from any sort of believable motivation. And if you’re characters are void of believable motivations then your film is, ermh, bordering irrelevance.
It is pretty to look at, it sounds nice. I can appreciate that there were good ideas, that some parts were written well (David spending his time alone on board of the ship). As an Alien mega-fan I appreciate going back to that story, to this being. Re-discovering the jockey on that planet. Seeing the alien again, connecting its birth with the terror that awaits Ellen Ripley in the future. But that is all just intellectual meta-level shit. That’s appreciation for what this movie accidentally got right. All in all it got pretty much everything it had going for it wrong. Nonetheless I don’t want to give up hope. The ending screams sequel and you never know, they might just end up making a better movie when we follow Elizabeth Shaw and David the android to the corners of the universe to find out where the creator-beings came from .
Until then we can imagine how other scientists would behave in a movie like this. Mathematicians probably wouldn’t know fractions. Egyptologist would probably never had heard of the pyramids – or would want to blow them up. Directors would make good movies with a coherent plot – oops, wait. That’s no science. Or is it now?
Ok, well, before I bury myself under a huge pile of shit I’m gonna backpedal a little and make my claim not about Afghanistan as a whole, but about my very limited impression of its capital city – Kabul. Now I’ve been here for about four weeks, so it is of course high tide for my oh so valuable evaluation of the situation as a whole (meaning only certain very random aspects of it. of course.).
Oh, the hell. Think about all the images of Afghanistan you have seen so far (try to dismiss the ones about war) and tell me what you think of. Forests and green pastures? Rivers and flowers and shit? Yeah, no. Most probably not. Cause land is bleak, y’all. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is very beautiful, but in a very grey and beige sort of way. Kabul looks like it had been a desert in between some rocks and people decided: nice place for a city! So a city is. But it seems like all rocks and stones and earth and stuff want to remind you: we’re still playing desert here. And there is dust EVERY-effin-WHERE. Often it is visible in the air, but you mostly notice because it creeps in everywhere. Literally everywhere. After a few days everything is covered in a thin layer of grey/beige dust. Even inside of a box, cause this dust here knows how to find its way. It’s partly impressive, partly annoying (not to mention you have to wash your hands a gazillion times a day cause every time you touch something you, well, touch dust).
The color green (color of Islam, y’all) is kinda missing in action here in Kabul. At least that is what it looks like at first glance. Houses, or rather compounds, present themselves as mini-fortresses all walled and fenced in picking up the ever popular color-scheme of grey and beige and brown. Bu-hut! Once you enter a compound usually a pretty surprising oasis awaits you. Our compound hides a beautiful garden in the backyard. Complete with flowers, zucchini, apple trees and a lawn. And it is very common, several houses that I’ve visited so far exhibit the same secret garden within the confines of their compound walls. There is a beautiful restaurant called Le Jardin du Taimani where you have to pass by 5 or 6 walls ‘til you find yourself in a vast and lush garden (and I was told that most restaurants have that, some even more beautiful).
Burqa: Not all women in them
I guess when most people think of Afghanistan, they think of women wearing the burqa. Granted, I see some of them every day, but not wearing a burqa is way more common. Also granted, there is no women not wearing the Hijab, a veil to cover her hair, at least partially. Indoors at the office e.g. you will meet Afghan women without the veil, but not so on the streets. I suspect that once you get into more rural areas the sight of a woman on the street and of a woman on the street not wearing a burqa will be much rarer. But for Kabul, there is little burqa but much suspicion on my part that the image of women in Afghanistan that I constructed in my head – and the ideas that I had been fed with throughout several conversations and trainings – needs a substantial adjustment. I’m very “better don’t start a conversation cause it might be misinterpreted” (really, you have no idea how much every sort of training and book and documentary etc tells you as a western man that you should absolutely not randomly start a conversation with an Afghan muslima) so especially in the office I still have trouble figuring out what is acceptable and what is not. And my impression is: there is a lot more acceptable than I initially though. So they probably all think I’m really weird. And coming here with a head full of feminist ideals it feels really weird to be all cautious and gender-segregating. I’ll monitor the progress of this shit and let you know.
Violence: Lurking (apparently)
Ok, besides dust and burqa the most prominent images of Afghanistan are those of war and Taliban and death. And just a few days ago on Massoud Day (a Mujahedin who advanced to national hero status, read more HERE) a suicide bomber killed five other people while people of Pashtun ethnicity celebrated, went into a quarter where mostly people of Hazara ethnicity live and killed a shopkeeper because they didn’t find it appropriate that he would not close his shop in honor of Massoud. They just gave him a blow on the head with a wooden stick and he was dead and then of course the Hazara went after them and killed a policeman (I think). I heard gunshots, sitting on my terrace, because we were not allowed to go out. That’s called “white city” which pushes all my wrong buttons concerning racism and colonialism, but the hell.
It’s just really crazy to hear that and hear about what happened. Cause let’s face it – these people have witnessed basically nothing but war for the last 30 to 40 years. With three quarters of the population being under 25 that means that all Afghans basically know nothing but war or at least times of violent conflicts. I don’t encounter it personally – except for armed guards at my office and the supermarket I shop in, and the streets I drive through, and the hotel-restaurant I go to… ah well, you get the point – but it is kinda scary to wonder about basically everyone you meet how far they would go if a conflict would occur. One of my first days here I saw a kid of maybe 15 beat another one with a wooden stick. These were obviously two groups of school-kids and stuff like that happens between boys of that age everywhere in the world. But how often does it happen here? I’m afraid that it is very common, and for me coming form basically safe old Germany that is plain crazy.
Excitement: Small things
I’m not allowed to walk in the streets. Not even down the street to buy a Pepsi. I am picked up by a driver in a car no matter where I want to go. Sneaky as I am I kinda bent the rule on this one and had a little walk with Afghan colleagues from a lunch-restaurant to our office. It was basically two minutes walking down the lamest of streets. But lemme tell y’all: I was super excited. Both in a “oh, that’s how that looks and feels” and a “hopefully I don’t get shot” kinda way. Of course I didn’t get shot, because while I think there is a higher tolerance for violence, I think that 95 percent of the population have no interest in seeing me killed whatsoever (and the other 5 percent probably aren’t either). But such a random thing like just walking down a block becomes such a delight all of a sudden – it’s kinda heartwarming. And batshit crazy.
And yep, that’s my sum-up: Heartwarming and batshit crazy. Xept for some stuff, I really kinda like it here.
I’m not really a huntsman. But I am really a feminist. Snow White and the Huntsman is really not a feminist (movie), but it acts and poses like it is. And you know what? It ain’t even that bad. It’s just… here and there the movie would have needed some minor changes (and more inspired writing) and it could have been a pretty powerful and dare I even say – feminist – tale.
Let’s get it out of the way first: the huntsman is really unnecessary. Like really really really unnecessary. The only redeeming quality of the character is that they don’t get all couply and happily ever after on our asses, but that is sort of a paradox, because there is really not much other reason for him to be in the movie than to be played up as a potential love interest. But what is his character really there for? To have us identify with him instead of Snow White? I’d give the thought more credit if I believed that they decided to do so to give Snow White the mysterious factor. But let’s be real, they just wanted to get male asses in cinema seats so they decided to put Thor in there and have him roar a little, otherwise people might mistake it for a chick flick.
And that’s really the major problem of the movie. It is too afraid to be a chick flick – because, you know there are women, yep, notice the plural, and Hollywood movies never have several women in leading roles who even interact – and thus they try to act all non-chick-flicky. Even though it could be such a great movie about intriguing female characters. But it is too afraid to go there. I wouldn’t even really mind a companion-style huntsman character. But there is no reason to act as if the plot depended on him (though, ok, it does. Making her choke up the apple). And there is certainly no reason for the love triangle that never was, introducing Snow White’s friend from childhood, who has been boo-hoo all those years cause he couldn’t rescue the princess, but now he’s handsome and she’s pretty so let us have them maybe hook up. Urgh. Why, movie, why?
But the fault of this not being T.H.E. feminist re-telling of a classic fairy tale lies not only with the insertion of male characters. We have two major female characters who drive the plot as protagonist and antagonist. There is a lot in these characters that hints at unbelievable potential, yet it never gets fully realized. The most horrible thing is that this film stumbles over its own premise and falls into the trap of the age-old stereotype: women need to be beautiful and women don’t want to be anything but beautiful.
Charlize Theron’s evil step-mom/with character is of course visually stunning and yeah, you could argue that this whole movie is really just a celebration of how good Ms. Theron and well rendered CGI look on the big screen. But really, she is evil and crazy and whatnot because her beauty fades and that is all she ever had? The thing is, her backstory is actually pretty neat. Having been blessed/cursed with beauty and its power and subsequently taking down one kingdom after another, that is pretty hardcore shit. But it’s so lame that there is not an ounce of self-reflection to be found. I mean, I get the feeling that her character knows and considers it to be curse rather than a blessing, but why the hell doesn’t the movie and have her hate herself for depending on her beauty instead of going where ALL other movies have gone and be like “uuuh, she’s old, so she’s automatically ugly, gross, lines, eek”. That is not only so been done it is also so not empowering it is not even funny.
Plus, it would maybe be bearable if the movie had introduced a more progressive concept and have her beauty not only be the power she has over mighty men but have her beauty be actually directly connected to military and magic powers? Oh and the heck, girl kills king after king but never in the movie gets to go all out and state how fucking sick and dumb patriarchy is? Puhleaze, I say to that.
And then there is Snow White. Oh, Kirsten Stewart, what could I say about your acting abilities that has not already been said? I’ll leave it at that. Her character is funnily falling in the same trap. We’re told that she is super-special and The One because – yep, go ahead, guess – she is so beautiful. Ermh, whud? You know, but even then, when all the smitten dwarves are like “dude, she is JESUS!” her character remains passive and never brings the full “hit evil on the head and preach love for all” kind of thing. She is angry cause Charlize killed her dad so she leads people back to the bleak ol’ castle and because she does so … the country grows green again! Oh the happiness of simple storytelling that required minimum effort on the writer’s part. If Snow White really is Jesus, could you not just mobilize ALL LIVING BEINGS EVER to fight on her side and have the majorest battle of ‘em all down on the beach beneath the castle? Maybe let the whale of “Free Willy” jump out of the sea and bite of evil stepma’s head? Pretty please?
And just when you thought: “Wow, her character and the whole savior thing were really underwhelming” – there she is in front of the evil mirror and stares into it and my heart jumps and I scream from the top of my lungs: “YEAH! Now SHE will be the evil queen! You were all wrong, you were! HA!”. And really, what a fucking super-neat conclusion would that have been. Criticizing the pressure to be beautiful for women in patriarchal societies by symbolically making the evil mirror responsible for the moral decay of the women that stare into it. But WTF? she just stares and next thing you know, she is crowned and people cheer, and happiness and glimpse on huntsman, end of story. Even Lily Cole is young again. Oh movie, the chances you wasted! Countless they are.
Yeah, I still enjoyed it. It was entertaining which owes mostly to the stunning visuals. And while we are discussing visuals: Did you all also think: “Really, Princess Mononoke?” when they come up with the white stag and his massive antlers? Cause that shit is taken directly out of Mononoke, down to the shooting of him. And for what exactly? This event – neither her meeting him not the shooting of the stag– has any effect whatsoever on the story. Wasted chances, I reiterate, wasted fucking chances.
Well, thanks movie. You could have been great, but admittedly you could have sucked sooooo much harder. So: thank you?
Just to make a point and prove that this blog is not dead I will post an awesome picture that ties in with the unofficial theme of this blog – the alien franchise, mind you – and sweeten all of our days.
Enjoy the gloriousness of Ellen Ripley and baby Alien byzantine icon style:
This gem can be purchased over HERE. The illustration was made by artist Jska Priebe, whose website you can visit by clicking THIS LINK.
I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty excited for the Hunger Games movie. Oh, I know, I’m a little late with a review, but then again, whatever. Admittedly, I haven’t read the books, and I am still not sure if I actually want to. I thought it was a pretty decent movie. WHAAAAT? Y’all are screaming now, cause how can I think it was only decent? Well, let me explain.
I have exactly three problems with the movie. Two minor ones and one major big-ass problem.
The first minor one concerns the characterization of the people living in the capitol. For my taste it steers a little to far into the territory of glorifying simplicity (apparently equaling plain fashion and little make-up) as a sign of moral superiority. I get it, the people in the capitol are supposed to be over the top and their running after the latest fashion fad is supposed to underline how they have lost sight for what is really important. But then again, we are watching the movie in our days, and that sort of statement seems to imply that people who are interested in fashion and whose style is unconventional by most standards are – what? Stupid, selfish, ignorant? I am sorry, but wearing a pair of jeans and a black T-shirt does not signify that you are a better person. Nor does wearing Haute Couture by Alexander McQueen and shaving your head signify that you have no respect for the life and fate of others. It’s a twisted and complicated message, which is not helped AT ALL that the men are portrayed as more effeminate than their counterparts in the outer districts. It all reeks of a pretty conservative worldview. Work hard, dress plain and adhere to gender-conventions – then you’ll be the perfect human being. Ermh, whud?
The second minor problem is the love-story bullshit. Now, having not read the book I only heard that in the novel she fakes the affection for Peeta in order to gain the viewers’ sympathy and thus medicine and gets confused over her own actions. In the movie that does not come across. Neither does the supposed relationship with her buddy Gale. I am mostly ok with the portrayal of the relationships here, and I think the complexity of the relationship between Katniss and Peeta is delivered rather well, but I cringe at the love-triangle crap that awaits us in future instalments of the series. Cause they are just too predictable. Now throw me a twist and I’m in, but seeing her be like “oh, Peeta?” or “oh, Gale?” is boring before it even happens.
The major problem is on a whole different level. It’s the movies supposed message of how perverted the Hunger Games as an event are, how the viewers are jaded and emotionally blind, because they accept and celebrate the violence and don’t bother for a second to question the games and their problematic morale. While that is what the movie is trying to get across –it makes the same mistake. There are deaths we are supposed to feel sad about and those characters get a sympathetic characterization. But then, when Katniss has to actually kill someone, it is always the ones who have been portrayed as assholes. The movie, via its characterizations, tries to justify why she kills the ones she kills instead of daring to ask the question why it should be ok for her to do it – when it is not for the others and it is actually not ok at all. Her killings are portrayed as a necessity, as self-defense, as acts of selflessness, but with the right backstory and editing that would have worked for every tribute, but just like in the reality TV formats of our time, it doesn’t happen, because the story and the way it is told, relies on the editing to create pro- and antagonists to make us care for some and hate others.
And that is weak, because it diminishes the message the movie is trying to get across. If a movie tries to tell you how this whole reality-TV stuff is horrible and how it creates viewers that are emotional monsters and then employs just the very same techniques without questioning them – then that is just bigoted. It acts like it wants to stand in for something but does exactly the opposite, act the way it allegedly wants to criticize. And that leaves a horribly bitter taste in my mouth, because if they had avoided that route in the making of this movie it would actually have a really powerful message and would be a great feature film instead of a merely decent one which is nice to watch but extremely problematic in what it is trying to say.
All of this, plus the love-triangle-crapfest awaiting us, make me wait for the sequels with a little fear in my innocent little heart.
I guess I wasn’t the only person who was a bit surprised how quickly Tyra threw another ANTM cycle our ways this time. But BAM! out of the blue: America’s Next Top Model – British Invasion. Did you think that the last All-Star-Cycle was a step back and a little crappy? You haven’t seen nothing yet, honey, cause this time they lowered the bar even further. Oh, but let us get to it in an orderly fashion.
Ok, legitimately you are all like “why in the world would anyone watch this nonsense?” but then again, addiction is addiction is addiction and even though reality TV is really trashy most of the time always it is still a lot of fun. Both emotionally and intellectually, and I really wish it would be more of the latter and less of the former but, oh. And: why am I even defending myself? It’s freaking America’s Next Top Model, that’s like the Jurassic Park of television. Not only because Tyra = Tyrannosaurus, but also because just like said movie it spawned sequel after sequel and a whole craze for suddenly wanting to become a model through a casting show (instead of, ermh, wanting to clone dinosaur DNA…you get the point, right?).
So apparently Tyra was all over the usual cycle-crap and wants to put each new one under a lame theme, therefore: British Invasion. And yes, it turned out to be the nationalistic crapfest that it promised to be. Not that there was any critical thinking about the respective cultures, their interrelations and their differences. It was all: Ha, those Brits, they sure talk funny!
And acting like winning a modeling competition on TV with a minimal viewership is like defending the honor of your home country. And as if defending the honor of your home country would be anything positive in the first place. Urgh. Yep, there is so much wrong with this concept from the get-go it is only a small wonder that the cycle turned out to be as shitty as it was.
Having complained all along I do have to admit though that I still kinda enjoyed it in a “what fuckery are they up to now?” kind of way. And yes, I do feel a little guilty about it. But then again, I feel guilty about ANTM anyways, so that wasn’t really a change.
Can we address the obvious first? AzMarie should have won this, and we all know it. Looked like girl had it in the bag, but then again she didn’t bring the TV nonsense that producers wanted to see and enraged Tyra by refusing the booty-tooch-pads. Which, yeah, the hell, of course she should. But on the other hand, if you’re trying to fight sexism and the objectification of women you probably shouldn’t sign up for a reality TV show searching for fashion models anyways. Seems a little half-assed (hehe, funny, because ass, you know, and booty tooch…ok, I’ll stop). So AzMarie was stellar, but thrown out, and so goes another lesbian that I desperately wanted to win (Hi Kayla, thinking of you!).
Can I just say that I was really surprised by how unlikeable the US-American contestants seemed? This whole Brits vs. Yanks theme sucked, but boy, they all seemed like terrible personalities while I was all super-yay for the British girls. Seriously, apart from AzMarie I wanted all American contestants to leave in week one. And on the other hand, I really enjoyed all the British contestants. Maybe they just knew how to present themselves better due to having been on Britain’s and Ireland’s Next Top Model before. Mmmh, we’ll never know.
I’m mostly reconciled with this cycle, because ultimately Sophie won. Besides AzMarie and Anneliese she was my favorite and I wanted her to win, and she did. Which came as sort of a surprise, because I didn’t think Tyra would have it in her to give the title to a Brit. But yeah, she did, so kudos Tyra for for once not fucking up a thing on your show.
So what’s all my blabbering about how this cycle sucked? Well, back in the day, America’s Next Top Model really brought the big shoots. Outdoors or indoors they had elaborate sets and scenery, interesting styling and good concepts. This time they mostly shot in the same lame-ass studio complex we’ve seen last cycle (I believe…?) and most of those shoots were just plain boring. I really can’t get over the shoot with the silk-worms. WTF? What was the point even? You cannot really see them in the pictures, there is no connection between model and worms besides the worm hanging on the model and it didn’t do anything but look weird on the photos. Super-strange. Or the shooting on Macau-Tower? Granted, the weather was bad, but why go through all the hassle when the final shots all look like they were taken in front of a grey wall in a studio? I shouldn’t even bitch about the mini-challenges, because they have always been on the rather sucky side. Although, the fortune-teller crap with the “change your aura with a scarf”? Please. I can’t. Even.
I will say though, I am a little surprised by how high the standards of the prizes still are. After they introduced the high fashion cycle in cycle 15 Italian Vogue surprisingly remained on board with the whole endeavor. I also liked that this time there was a lot more go sees and castings, which seemed more real and felt more like it was telling us about the strengths of the contestants as models. My guess is, that this is all thanks to Kelly Cutrone and her connections. And I must admit, I like her as a judge, probably because I love to hate her, sorta. Girl is bitchy, and her fight with Louise – priceless. I lost all respect I probably had for her, when I saw her youtube video response to that (HERE is the link), which is so immature and embarrassing, it kinda hurts. But for TV fun, it’s gold and I enjoyed hearing her honest opinions on panel.
So, YAY!, Sophie, you go!
Next season there are big changes awaiting us. Apart from being the college edition (and does that sound like … fun?) Nigel Barker and the Jays won’t be there anymore. I cannot really mourn the loss of Nigel Barker, cause girl was boring and brought exactly nothing to the panel, but the Jays? Tyra, are you crazy? I feel like the Jays are even so much more part of this show than Tyra herself. Well, let’s wait and see how things turn out. I only have one photo left in my hands.
Yeah, yeah, apologies for not updating etc. BUT! We have to talk about how Tim Burton just keeps disappointing us (meaning me) constantly (meaning every now and then) and how we cannot deal with it (meaning, you know…). Of course I am talking about Dark Shadows and of course I am going to rip it a new one.
My disdain for Dark Shadow stems from the fact that the trailer actually looked very promising and like the movie would be a lot of fun. Granted, that’s what trailers are supposed to do, but in the case of Tim Burton we have to consider the history of his filmmaking. Which basically means that there are some beautiful gems and masterpieces alongside some horrible failures. One of the biggest failures is also his second most recent film – Alice in Wonderland. Which was a disappointment, because you know, Alice in Wonderland, the story where he could go all out visually and story-telling wise and he sort of didn’t. So, my hopes were high, that his new feature Dark Shadows would bring back Burton the Masterpiece Maker a la Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollows etc. But, my oh my, he didn’t and it was painful to watch. Actually, for a lot of the same reasons that Alice didn’t work for me.
The reason I expect so much from a Burton movie is mostly my undying love for Batman Returns where the superhero-movie genre gets an infusion of Burton visuals, which are at the least creative in an out of the box sort of way plus a rock-solid characterization of the main protagonists and antagonists. I believe in what they say and do, even though it might seem ridiculous, because their motivation seems real and grounded in their experiences and feelings. Over the top characters like Catwoman and Penguin work, because their backstories, their characters and ultimately their motivations make them believable within the surroundings of the story.
Sad to say, but all of this does not take place in Dark Shadows. Characterization does not happen, or rather only to the extent that someone says: “Look, he is a strange boy” and we are supposed to base our judgement of the boy and other chraracters reacting to him on that statement. Instead of, you know, seeing him behave strange. My biggest problem with the movie is how it wastes it characters. There are so many of them, but none of them get enough time, nor enough backbone to their story to make them round characters with believable motivations.
It’s not that these are boring characters – I mean, who is Elizabeth and how come she is such a determined woman? Why is her daughter a werewolf and whats the relationship with her mother? Why is her brother Roger such a douchebag and steals from people? How is it, that he neglects his son? Why is Dr. Hoffman drinking like a maniac and behaving the way she does? All of this questions are actually interesting and some answers and insights would not only deepen our understanding of the characters, but make us actually care for them.
That is the major problem with the main protagonists Barnabas and Victoria and the antagonist Angelique. We know basically nothing about them as human beings. Ok, Angie is in love with Barnabas and a witch. And ok, Barnabas is in love with Josette and then Victoria and thinks family comes always first. That’s nothing. Like, there is not even a reason given for these character traits. Why does Angelique love him so much? Why does he think family comes first? Cause his father told him so? Weak. Why not give a few examples of how the family held together and formed strong ties? The weakest link in this non-explanation territory of the movie is Barnabas’ love for Josette. Why the hell does he love her? We don’t even know her. She gets about one minute screentime and we’re supposed to buy that this is the greatest romance of them all and care about her as a character? Sorry, but bullshit. The entire movie is based upon how Angelique is in love with Barnabas and how he denies her. There is your big love story, there is what is driving the plot. The character of Angelique and her motivation are so much more interesting and even though they are explored far too little, they are infinitely more believable than all that talk of the great love for Josette.
Which ties in with the sub-plot of Barnabas falling in love with Victoria. He falls in love with her because she looks like Josette? And that is why we’re supposed to care even though him and Angelique have a real history of relationship and drama going? And ultimately it is supposed to be a happy ending, that Victoria isn’t even really Victoria but just a reincarnation of Josette? This infuriates me, cause yet again, a potentially interesting character is completely wasted for the sake of a really lame plot twist that had better been avoided. The fuck, the movie only takes seconds to explore how Victoria talked to the ghost of Josette and got abused in a mental institution. Which is a wicked story in itself and it would have been fantastic to see how she deals with it and overcame all that. But in the end, it doesn’t even matter, because her tragic life is annihilated by the fact that she just stands up and IS Josette from that moment on. All the experiences we should and could have cared about are thrown overboard. None of it actually mattered and the person we were introduced to in the movie doesn’t actually exist anymore. Because the movie, just like the doctors in the mental institution, didn’t care about her as a human being. And that is really infuriating on a variety of levels.
Granted, the movie looks cool. I like the overall Seventies style, Barnabas and Dr. Hoffman just look great as characters. And Michelle Pfeiffer gets to showcase how hot she still is and is allowed to have the camera linger on her face, her precious blond curls and those impeccable outfits. Now, I love Michelle Pfeiffer, but Burton should just take her and make that Catwoman movie he always wanted to make with her. And he better not ruin that fantasy for me. And before I go, one more complaint: Why have Helena Bonham Carter in your movies in such potentially interesting roles as a crazy character and then make absolutely no use of it? Every time she looks great and could go all crazy on everyone’s asses, but then she never gets to realize the potential. Tragic waste.
All in all: Super-Blargh. That one could have been so much better and turned out to focus on all the boring nonsense instead of what it had going for itself. Yea: I expected more!
How about you?