brb, changing my Twitter bio to “drooling pervert.”
brb, changing my Twitter bio to “drooling pervert.”
Over at The A.V. Club, I’m covering Stranger Things, Netflix’s nostalgic summer series full of thrills and throwbacks. Look for my episodic reviews every 48 hours (“Chapter Five: The Flea And The Acrobat” goes up today!) until I’ve covered the entire series, which is all available for streaming at Netflix right now.
Not sure where to start? This sci-fi/horror bonanza needs to be watched in order. Start with “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers”:
From its opening sequence in the corridors under Hawkins National Laboratory, Stranger Things is dark, and not just visually. The most obvious influence on the Duffer brothers’ ’80s-inspired series is E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, but under that layer of comfortable fun lurk more ominous allusions, from Tolkien to King to Carpenter.
My affection and respect for this reference-rich, gratifyingly taut story grows with each episode. In my review of “Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly” (remember, all these reviews contain spoilers for their respective episodes), I discuss how Stranger Things manages to make a virtue out of most of its lapses:
The show is occasionally clunky or trite, but its failing are weirdly appropriate, even endearing. It’s hard to distinguish between flaws that arise from Stranger Things’ writing […] and those inherent in its source material—the pulpy, sometimes hackneyed genre films, novels, and shows it so deftly recombines.
“Emily, we care about you and the memories that you share here,” SPLAT! Seems about right.But it’s true that I was (and am) pleased with my article highlighted there, on television’s role as a household disruption. [spoilers for Poltergeist, The Ring, and Videodrome]
Over at The VideoReport, fearless leader Bill Duggan has an announcement to make, former VideoReporters of years past have some memories to share, your tireless editor keeps on highlighting new releases, and I have one last recommendation for a free rental that will break your heart, and it should.
I’ve been trying to count up how many friendships, marriages, partnerships, and careers Videoport nurtured in that cool, well-stocked cellar, and I can’t even begin to tally ’em all up. Thank you, Videoport, for everything — for even more than the movies, when just the movies would have been gift enough.
When The Fella and I saw Mad Max: Fury Road this week, we first sat through a series of trailers for action franchises, each featuring men in elegant suits and their (much younger) female stars stripped down to underpants, backs turned demurely to the camera but bodies oiled up with the promise of shining treasures to come.
In these trailers, women were reduced to glamorous cuts of meat: a gleaming leg in a high-cut dress, a shimmering shoulder emerging from a bed sheet, water-beaded flanks stepping out of a pool, often with no face in evidence.
By the time the feature started, I was more than annoyed. I was more than frustrated. I was more than furious. I was dehumanized. Frankly, I was primed to see the worst in in Fury Road‘s first act. So when the film presented a bevy of distressed women, scantily clad and bathing in the desert, I drew in a long, angry breath.
Then that scene upends itself, tossing aside the male gaze that most film privileges without even thinking, and the handful of women who drive this story start breathing on their own — not damsels, not trophies, not eye candy. They’re people.
Their bodies are valued in the world of the film, and so is their beauty (and there’s a complicated conversation to have about uncritically reiterating contemporary standards of beauty in apocalyptic film), but Fury Road recognizes what Immortan Joe’s society never does: These women are more than their beauty, more than their bodies. And finally, their bodies are theirs.
They’re clearly survivors of sustained sexual slavery and repeated rape, but there’s no on-screen sexual violence, no threat of rape, no gruesomely told backstories, no lingering detailed flashbacks. The film is violent, extravagantly so, but that violence is never lascivious.
It’s a narrative predicated entirely on the rescue of women held in life-long sexual slavery that never portrays or reenacts the atrocity of rape. In Mad Max: Fury Road, survivors of sexual violence don’t have to persuade the protagonists or the audience of the horrors they suffered. The film believes them, and — overturning the real-world rape-culture narratives we’re steeped in — it expects us to believe them, too.
It’s a tight story economically told. It’s a thrilling explosion of action that never fumbles its narrative thread. It’s a tale that knows how much to say and when to let us fill in the blanks. It’s a rumination on primal connection, the corruption of power on weak and strong alike, and the terrible road to redemption. It’s a woman’s story in which a man tags along for the ride, offering support and help, knowing when to simply sit still and let her take the wheel, or the gun, or the lead. It’s a world in which Furiosa can pay Max and Nux the deceptively deep compliment of deeming them “reliable.” It’s a world in which men and women alike are reduced to things, liberate themselves, and reclaim for their own purposes the attributes that made them prized objects.
And that’s why George Miller’s films will get ALL MY MONEY and — just to pick one trailer we sat through — Mission Impossible never will.
Orson Welles’ iconic “Citizen Kane” has been set for its first-ever showing at Hearst Castle on March 13 as part of the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.
The movie will be screened at the private theater at the massive hilltop estate — the inspiration for Xanadu in “Citizen Kane” — for about 50 people. Tickets will cost $1,000 each and proceeds will benefit the festival and The Friends of Hearst Castle preservation group.
No, wait, there’s more. It’s not just that the Hearst Castle is hosting an elaborate, expensive screening of Citizen Kane, the film William Randolph Hearst famously tried to suppress, using every threat and contrivance at his considerable command.
The event will also include live auctions of a pair of Hearst Castle party packages — a movie night for 10 and a pool party for 10 at the indoor Roman Pool — with bidding starting at $7,000.
Because if there’s one message to take from Citizen Kane, it’s that extravagant outings and ostentatious gestures lead to happiness.
“Sure, ya gimme things! But that don’t mean nothing to you!”
Other suggested auction items for the Hearst/Kane pleasure parties:
Starting at $50: One good cigar, wrapped up to look like toothpaste or somethin’, delivered to your door.
Starting at $5,000: Enjoy a week of private lessons from Signore Matiste, vocal coach to the stars. His motto: Some people can sing, some can’t. 10 packages available, schedule inflexible.
Starting at $20,000: Spend one thrilling night as the star of your very own opera house! Only one package available! Bid early, bid often!
Flat $1 donation: An anonymous account will tweet @ you, then delete, an image of a girl in a white dress holding a white parasol. You will see it only for a moment, but you may revisit the image as often as you like for a lifetime.
An evil old house, the kind some people call ‘haunted,’ is like an undiscovered country waiting to be explored.
Robert Wise’s 1963 The Haunting (adapted from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House) is a masterpiece of measured suspense, a truly haunting portrait of repression and anxiety mounting from dread to outright terror. It’s also the bittersweet tale of a young woman struggling to overcome a lifetime of isolation and alienation, determined to see a slice of the world and find adventure, love, and somewhere she belongs.
Then during Halloween week, visit The Toast for my analysis of late-bloomers, love, and friendship The Haunting and Lucky McKee’s 2002 May, a genre-straddling horror-romance story of a lonely woman seeking company and comfort. (And join the May live-tweet on Monday, October 27th!)
The Haunting will play on Turner Classic Movies at 8:00 Eastern on Saturday, October 25th. You can check out the Facebook event for live-tweet, where I’ve posted plenty streaming options, or look for The Haunting in independent video stores everywhere. We’ll be live-tweeting the 1963 original, not the 1999 remake.
“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a romping example of female agency in limited circumstances. These women work and play together, wresting their power and pleasures from the hands of men with relish.” Gentlemen Prefer Blondes upends tired sexist tropes, indulges the female gaze, and showcases fierce female friendship. My new essay, today at The Toast!
I like big muscles and red corpuscles
I like a beautiful hunk o’ man
[Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) and nameless Olympian from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes number “Ain’t There Anyone Here For Love?”]
“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.