the mother of all fears

Bunny Lake dolls

“Movies about mothers – mothers’ relationship with their children, children’s relationship with their mothers – can trade in easy sentiment or melodrama. But motherhood isn’t all swaddling and coddling and comfortable archetypes. In the rough terrain where a woman becomes a mother, she can feel she’s been corralled, her personality, her persona, her entire independent self suddenly defined largely by her actual or idealized connection to a child. These three thrillers tap into the poignancy and pressures that many mothers face, digging into the complicated web of social expectations in a world that both mythologizes and devalues motherhood, while translating the everyday tensions of caregiving into the language of the fantastic and the grotesque.”

Today at The Toast, my essay about motherhood as depicted in Bunny Lake Is Missing, The Others, and El Orfanato.

Silence of the Lambs

A sort of Babette’s Feast of the American West, Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs shows how the strength of one determined woman can save a ranch, a flock of sickly sheep, and a family – with a little bit of help, and a lot of quid pro quo.

Determined to save her elderly uncle’s foundering sheep ranch, Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) gives up her demanding training with the FBI and moves to rural Montana to take over the operation. The opening scene shows that, however out of her element she may be, Starling knows how to show up when duty calls: rough, unsteady, but rugged and ready for action.

When the struggle becomes too much for one set of hands, veterinarian and father-figure Dr. Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) pitches in, joining her on the lonely landscape of the isolated ranch, and proves to be as adept in the field and the kitchen as he is in the clinic. Be sure to have a good Chianti on hand for the luscious dinner scene.

Check out all this week’s movie recommendations in the newest VideoReport!

Jaws

Jaws screencapA sort of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead for the super-spy set, Steven Spielberg’s 1975 Jaws is a witty, bittersweet character study of the often-disregarded henchman, Jaws (Richard Kiel).

The James Bond franchise typically focused on Jaws’ attention-grabbing superficial attributes and abilities: his towering height and massive strength, his nine-lives-style survival skills, and, of course, the steel-capped teeth that allow him to bite through metal cables and human bones alike. But Jaws is more than a pair of murderously-powerful hands and a terrifying bite radius.

More than any other character in the 007 universe, Jaws has insight into the daily lives, motives, and machinations of the most elite villains ever to threaten the earth’s very existence. He’s been employed at high levels in at least three different supervillain consortia, yet never before has a film addressed the ins and outs of Jaws’ fascinating life.

Check out all our movie recommendations in this week’s VideoReport!

Dial M for Motif

Dial M scissors“Superficially, Dial M for Murder (1954) looks unambitious, a simple stage-to-set recreation of Frederick Knott’s hit play. Even Hitchcock, perhaps disingenuously, described it as a phoned-in effort knocked off between the location shooting of I, Confess and the elaborate staging of Rear Window. But the tightly-staged thriller bristles with symbols of objectification and possession, reducing Margot Wendice to a property passed from hand to hand, from man to man, as readily as the key around which the plot revolves.”

Today at The Toast, my analysis of symbols in Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder.