Old is new again

Somehow I’ve managed to get through life without ever seeing Groundhog Day. I never felt this lack until recently watching Edge of Tomorrow, the plot of which is similarly based on the protagonist reliving the same day over and over again.

I don’t believe Edge of Tomorrow is based at all on Groundhog Day, and in fact in reading the original book adapted for the film called All You Need is Kill (great title by the way), it’s clear that the repetitive nature of the story is based on the experience of dying over and over in a video game and not on any movie starring Bill Murray.

Still, comparisons were made, so out of curiosity I watched a movie that I’d avoided watching every time it was shown on TV – and I remember it was shown quite a lot.

Groundhog Day was okay. It’s pretty funny and enjoyable enough. Had I seen it when I was younger I might have enshrined it with nostalgia beside Home Alone, Ghostbusters, and Big. But that’s pretty much it. I think part of the reason for the regards it’s held in today is the fact that most people will have seen it multiple times over their lives. Nostalgia is built and rebuilt with each viewing.

But there are worse things to be nostalgic for. At least this thing is decent, unlike, say, Thundercats or He-Man or the like. Anyway, I can cross off another movie from my list.

Breaking news

There is a karaoke music video of the song Take My Breath Away from the movie Top Gun.

Next on Youtube’s recommendation is the song Danger Zone, also from the same movie. Then Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins. If anyone wants me, I’ll be time travelling to the 80s for the next few hours.

Back to cat videos

More thoughts on His Girl Friday. The dialogue zipped and zinged, fast and furious. It was obviously adapted from a play. I forgot how paranoid the middle and upper classes were about a Bolshevik/working class uprising in the early part of the 20th century. I do recall Hitler was trying to get the Brits to join him for a crusade against the reds before things fell out the way they did. Also, who were those speakers in the park mentioned as driving Williams insane? It sounds like they were union organizers or some kind of socialist agitators but would like to know more.

And the guy on death row killed a coloured policeman but no one seems to feel bad about it. It’s all about poor pathetic Williams who wouldn’t hurt a fly (but apparently he would kill a black guy).

Anyway, I just had my Internet finally hooked up last night. During my hiatus, when not checking email on my phone like some starving Eritrean I’d been watching highfalutin’ movies and TV shows I’d been planning to get to like His Girl Friday, Another Earth,and The Borgias. I have weeks of brain rotting to catch up on so I may need to take a sick day to watch all those Youtube videos I missed.

His Man Friday

Currently watching His Girl Friday as I type. Isn’t Hildy a man in the original play? How is the story different? I’d like to think that it’s not and in the play Hildy is also divorced from his former boss.

Tetsuo and Kaneda’s Excellent Adventure

Last weekend, I saw Akira for the first time in probably twenty years. It held up very well.

The film is essentially about Japan in the 1960s, complete with violent gangs, mass protests, and regular terrorist bombings. Despite that temporal specificity, it still feels timeless. This is impressive for a sci-fi film made in 1988, especially since a lot of cyberpunk from that era feels very dated. I think an American cyberpunk story from that time would probably be full of coded racial paranoia about the rise of Japan, or it would have embarrassing Orientalist stereotypes about honour or some shit. This movie, of course, avoids that.

Anyway, I’d forgotten that there are no heroes in Akira. Everyone is either an asshole, a fuckup, or both. The protagonists are violent bikers who gleefully engage in street duels that injure bystanders, while the climax involves a guy wanting revenge on his best friend. That best friend massacred hundreds of people and is about to kill an entire city, but as far as the participants are concerned their fight is about nothing more than their petty and personal grievances.

Plus the animation still looks incredible. A festering shithole has never looked this beautiful in cartoon form.

Overall, the movie was a worthwhile thing to revisit. I’m glad I saw it again.

The immortal Liam Neeson

Currently I’m trying to construct a theory that all of Liam Neeson’s characters are the same person. It works like this: Rob Roy was from the Scottish highlands, just like Christopher Lambert. This makes him a literal highlander. 

Thus, like the Wandering Jew, Liam Neeson walks this cursed earth, sometimes fighting and winning, sometimes loving and being loved, but always living life to all of its extremes. Obviously his Rob Roy identity wasn’t his first one, since he fathered Orlando Bloom during the Crusades, but perhaps it’s one that accidentally reveals his true nature. And taking the name Ra’s al Ghul is a sly commentary on his adventures a millennium before. Sometimes he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, like Germany in the 1940s. A life like his can be pretty stressful, so other times he takes a few decades to chill out, like when he was raising an actual red-headed stepchild who he somehow wasn’t beating nightly.

The only problem with this theory, besides its stupidity, is that I couldn’t quite reconcile Qui-Gon Jinn. How did this Neeson Earthman join a society of mystic space knights from a completely different galaxy which existed untold millennia before Camelot was built? Then I realized that this immortal was merely longer-lived than I’d initially thought. Qui-Gon was simply the earliest known identity of our immortal.

Well, glad that I figured that out. Anyway, what did you do at work today?

Hip, hip, hurray

Okay, so I’m in the movie theatre right now waiting to see Grand Budapest Hotel and the place is packed.

What the hell, peeps? I thought watching an indie movie on a Thursday night would mean copious empty seating, like when I saw Coriolanus, but we are full up. I guess every other hipster in the city had the same thought.

The Hudsucker Negro

I saw The Hudsucker Proxy over the weekend. It’s a pretty fun film and I rather liked how it was an homage to old time movies. What was jarring was the literal Magic Negro, which felt peculiarly of its time (that time being 1994). Portraying a sympathetic black character would have probably gotten the director arrested as a Bolshevik agitator in the era the film is paying an homage to, whereas crypto-racism is at least more subtle in the 21st century. Therefore this character could only have existed at a time when white people know they shouldn’t be racist but are ignorant enough that their attempts at equal representation still come across as condescending.

The 90’s: Politically Correct enough to be ashamed of racism yet ignorant enough to perpetuate it anyway.

Other than a man

It seems that a handful of Swedish movie theatres have introduced a ratings system based on the Bechdel test. It’s just four movie theatres and they’re known for being purveyors of independent cinema, so it’s not like this is a massive revision of the current age-based ratings system. In fact, this is just a voluntary addition to the existing ratings mandated by the Swedish government. And let us not forget that the Bechdel test was originally created in service of a joke in a comic strip.

The test by itself tells you rather little in exactly how well a movie addresses gender. For example, I think Sucker Punch passes the test, and that movie was so very problematic in how it treated its mostly female cast of characters. But hey, it’s something.

Feminist horror films

Horror films and feminism don’t tend to go together. There’s nothing inherently misogynistic about horror if you simply go by its technical description: a film genre seeking to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience’s primal fears. What’s misogynistic about scary things happening? However, in practice horror films reinforce gender stereotypes and punish nonconformity.

But why should this be so? Why are horror films full of sexually licentious women being murdered as karmic punishment for their sins? Why is emasculation and violence such a large part of horror movies? Why do horror movies inevitably begin with a stereotypically peaceful and content nuclear family as a representation of the normal before having this singular perfection disordered by outsiders? Because at their core, most horror movies are based on what horrifies men.

I could go into a long screed about how Hollywood is male-dominated and how the male perspective is the default and unmarked viewpoint in most mainstream cinema. However, you should already know this, and if you don’t, then I’m telling you now that this is how it is. That isn’t what interests me right now.

Instead, I simply want to assert that this hegemony cannot apply everywhere. Surely there must be horror films where women are not mere victims. Surely there are horror films which a feminist can watch.

Of course, to have redeeming value it’s not enough for a horror film to simply have Strong Female Characters. They’re everywhere nowadays, which is rather tiresome. More importantly, they’re all the same. So what if a woman is good at violence? Is this something that’s necessarily positive? They’re not so much characters as stereotypes, and boring ones as well.

So what follows herewith is my own attempt at making a list of feminist horror, omitting those with Strong Female Characters. In no particular order:

  1. Ginger Snaps
    • The first example that springs to mind because it was specifically made to meet the challenge of making a horror film that wasn’t misogynistic. It succeeded, in spades. Briefly, it’s a werewolf movie that explicitly compares the monthly cycle to menstruation, a premise which in retrospect seems rather obvious.
  2. The Descent
    • An all-female group of spelunkers encounters monsters underground. The characters are strong and female, but they’re not Strong Female Characters. They have private griefs and unvoiced guilt and burning drives and passions. In short, they have inner universes and human feelings. I liked how subtle the movie is regarding the motivations of the women.
  3. The Company of Wolves
    • The movie is about the Little Red Riding Hood story but foregrounding the sexual terror, which to be fair is so prominent in the original that it’s barely subtext. The film ends with an admonishment towards girls to beware of men, just to remind the audience exactly what the whole thing was about.
      • Little girls, this seems to say
      • Never stop upon your way,
      • Never trust a stranger friend,
      • No-one knows how it will end,
      • As you’re pretty, so be wise,
      • Wolves may lurk in every guise.
      • Now, as then, ’tis simple truth:
      • Sweetest tongue has sharpest tooth.”
  4. Byzantium
    • A mother and daughter pair of immortal vampires in hiding make their way to a small English town on the beach. Like the previous movie, this one was also directed by Neil Jordan, though it has a more straightforward narrative and is less in the camp of magical realism. Sadly, the movie sunk into nowhere when it was released, but hopefully it’ll be discovered by more people over time.
  5. Jennifer’s Body
    • A girl is murdered by a rock band and comes back to take her revenge. It wasn’t the greatest thing ever but it wasn’t as terrible as the online consensus was saying. Probably it’s some kind of latent nerd antipathy toward Megan Fox’s presence in the cast. I’d say the movie was solid enough.
  6. Alien
    • This has an actual strong female character but is otherwise a monster movie about an alien stalking the working class crew of a starship. It doesn’t have any specific examination of feminist concerns but Ellen Ripley is now a classic character as far as female horror protagonists go so this movie gets a pass.
  7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • A stereotypically vain and vapid cheerleader becomes a champion against the supernatural. The movie is explicitly about female empowerment but of a specifically white and middle class type of female empowerment. Still, the attempt was made, so here it is on the list.
  8. Carrie
    • This last example I’m iffy on because I haven’t seen the original or the remake. However, I feel it would be remiss of me not to at least mention this movie. I even know the gist of the story: bullied girl with psychic powers takes a bloody revenge on her tormentors. Thinking on it now, the story doesn’t seem to address specifically feminist concerns. I’ll have to make this listing provisional until I’ve actually seen the movie.

Anyway, this list should be a good starting point for a marathon. One of these days I’ll try watching these all back-to-back and see how I am come out on the other end.