The Tiff Next Wave Festival, a film festival run by teens, for teens, premiered a stunning and potent film, Lily and Kat. An impressive first effort by director Michael Preysler, Lily and Kat tells the story of the two title characters (played by Jessica Rothe
and Hannah Murray respectively), who are fashion students and best
friends in New York City.
Here are few scenes that really did seem to invert the way gender stereotypically plays out, especially in big Hollywood summer blockbusters that are chock full of action.
+ Tony’s regret scene where he wishes he had told his father he loved him. This isn’t an angsty drunken confession, just a sincere and mature emotional wish. Despite this being deeply personal and despite voluntary emotional sharing being contrary to the stiff upper lip the world expects of men, Tony shares these feelings publicly. The film could easily have introduced the subject of the older Starks in more private way, but this frank emotional moment was chosen instead. This is discussed better in the positive example below.
+ The actual closeness between King T’Chaka and Prince T’Challa: hand clasping and open parent-child expressions of affection are far more common in: mother-daughter scenes, father-daughter scenes and sometimes even mother-son scenes (think of the Star Trek reboot, or how much more easily affectionate Maria Stark was with Tony, in comparison to the Father-Son relationship). We’re used to seeing love and affection when at least one of those expressing affection is a woman. Parental and specifically paternal pride is something movie-goers love to see but there is usually a sense of having to earn it first. A son receiving paternal pride and approval subsequent to some quest of right action or chivalry is something we more often see on screen. Seldom do we see it given as easily as between T’Chaka and T’Challa. T’Chaka does not behave as though he is surprised by his father’s open praise and affection. Neither man is uncomfortable about the fact that this moment is shared in a highly public place filled with important people who may not understand it.
+ The T’Challa grief scene: seldom do you see men so moved by grief in cinema - especially popular cinema of the summer blockbuster variety. When you do, they tend to be grieving over a woman or a child, never another man. It’s as though, for men, the expression of severe grief must be justified not by their relationship to the dead person, but by the helplessness or victimhood of the dead person. But King T’Chaka is a powerful world leader key to the Accords; he is not a character lacking agency. The pose given the grief-stricken prince is also an interesting choice: clutching, crying, rocking are all expressions of trauma and grief again usually reserved for women onscreen.
+ In contrast to the scene above, we are not given a flashback to Zemo’s terrible discovery of his dead wife and child. While an easy emotional trigger that can be used to justify male grief and rage, we actually only hear his wife alive on his voicemail. There are no sad physical talismans in the form of a child’s drawing in a wallet, or a too-small wedding band on a chain. We are not given the easy mental and emotional crutches used to depict and justify male grief or male rage. The characters are forced to display these feelings, not merely allude to them. Likewise, there are no flashbacks about Steve and Peggy. In part this is owing to the expectation of displaying emotion explained above but also in part because of the considerable world-building in the MCU that means we take the depth of their feeling for one another as given and consequently understand that Steve is upset.
+ Showing male heroes needing/reaching out for emotional support and receiving it. We see depressed, grieving heroes, sometimes crying or with tears in their eyes. Steve, Tony and T’Challa are big hitters, but no one jokes about this or suggests their emotions are inappropriate. More important; THEY don’t try to conceal these emotions or fob them off with humour. We get to see that Tony’s not ok about his relationship with Pepper being under strain. When he tells Steve about it, he gets nothing from Steve but sympathy. Steve does not attempt to make light of these feelings. Steve needs a hug after Peggy’s funeral - that’s a normal, human emotional need that we see being fulfilled. It’s a good companion to the scene in the First Avenger when Peggy consoles Steve over Bucky’s death. While this SOUNDS like a dumb observation to make, stop to consider how much stoic male screen grief we’re used to seeing: solitary drinking, physical rage, lone graveside vigils. Needing emotional support and actually getting it? Positively refreshing.
+ In a riff-off of the kind of emotional hurt/comfort discussed above; a woman making a man’s favourite home cooked meal/much missed meal is a common on screen trope - although more in TV than in film. Women cooking/baking comfort food in general is. Slash fandoms love to subvert this so much that romances where characters cook well, learn to cook, try to cook for the sake of another or own a cafe/bakery. However, this film shows us Vision, who presents as male at least as much as Jarvis did (more if you consider his wardrobe) tries to cook for Wanda to cheer her up. This is interesting particularly if you consider that in comic canon these two are a couple and even have children.
+ Hawkeye and the power of women. Clint deliberately puts himself in harm’s way trying to talk Wanda out of her partially self-imposed prison. He knows he can’t best watchdog Vision. He knows Wanda can. He trusts entirely her ability to defend him. It is so rare, especially in an action film, for the ace up a male hero character’s sleeve to be rescue from a young woman. Rarer still for it not to be humour; a gag wherein a woman brains an antagonist with a book or frying pan and then she and/or the rescued male character quip about it. We see more of this Hawkeye (the only character with a wife and a daughter, it should be noted) in the airport fight scene. Wanda tosses Widow away from Clint. Widow and Hawkeye had been sparring and Wanda was not happy that Clint had been pulling his punches. Firstly, you believe that Clint was pulling his punches but you believe it because he and Widow are friends, not because Widow is a woman. Secondly, Clint doesn’t seem very worried about Widow being injured by Wanda (he knows how tough Natasha is and trusts Wanda). He just seems to accept the rebuke for what it is and moves on. Clint’s trust in the women around him isn’t showy, it reads more like his character than a film’s teachable moments, making them easily overlooked but more authentic.
+ A man (in this case, Steve) having a close, platonic woman friend and a romantic interest in a woman who is not that friend. There is no suggestion; as in the traditional romcom trope, that the friends will realise a latent romantic attraction to one another. They’re just friends. There is also no tense scene between the women. There is no approval or disapproval by either woman of Steve’s closeness to the other. This is not novel to the franchise considering Clint and Natasha’s friendship in no way appeared to threaten Laura in A:AOU, and also because we do see Natasha as an active matchmaker where Steve is concerned in CA:TWS, but it was nice to see a continuation in this vein nonetheless.
+ Possibly an unpopular opinion but Bucky is more mcguffin than man - traditionally a role used for women and/or children - the character of Bucky continues to lack agency.
Bucky is the only character in this film indisputedly in need of saving. He is the metaphorical princess in the tower, the relentless focus of the proposing and opposing sides of this film. By now we’ve had three films about Steve rescuing, or trying to rescue, Bucky. Bucky, while dangerous, is also unstable, afraid, physically and emotionally tortured and used as a pawn by people. While this is understandable from a canon perspective (it’s hard to have agency when you are brainwashed or are avoiding being brainwashed; something we know of the WSP and the Red Room) it is worthwhile to think about how you would feel about the character of Bucky if genderswapped? I think there would be a fair amount of blowback regarding gendered tropes if it were the case.
Anyhow, I thought these elements were interesting.
Rhetorical Ink Reviews: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!
**NOTE: SPOILERS BELOW**
My Top 10 Thoughts on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them:
10. Queenie’s character had a Luna Lovegood quality to her that I actually really liked. She seemed aloof but was actually daring, smart, and sweet. I love how Jacob is practically the Mario to her Princess Peach…except she’s the one saving him most of the time. Not that Jacob isn’t brave, though…speaking of which:
9. Jacob. Just…Jacob. I fell in love with his character. He was EXACTLY what this film needed for those watching that haven’t the foggiest about the Harry Potter universe. I love the idea of a “No-Maj” or “Muggle” being introduced to the Wizarding World alongside the audience and Dan Fogler’s performance was just so darn charming and genuine. He goes from the bumbling Kowalski to the brave and endearing Jacob. I just loved his character…honestly, though, his story had a full circle arc, so if we don’t see him in the future films should they occur, I’d be okay with that.
As long as he and Queenie get to be together, dang it.
8. I love that this movie just jumps right into the wizarding community. It knows that most of its audience have seen Harry Potter and know what Muggles are, how wands and spells work, and about elves and the systematic set up of it all. However, since this is taking place in America, there are some changes to what we already know and the movie does it all in a very easy to follow manner. Which is good; a lot of my audience were small kids, including a cousin of my own who had never seen any of the Harry Potter franchises, and some older women who seemed charmed by the film.
7. The Fantastic Beasts Themselves. Yes, they were quite obviously CGI….but to be fair, their designs were so out of this world, they were going to stick out. I will easily let the CGI animals pass on their sheer creativity alone. Going along with the movie, I wanted Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (roll credits) to be in my lap where I could read about the creatures as I watched.
I read one review that seemed to hate that the cast were constantly flitting around looking for these creatures, but I didn’t really think their journey was all that repetitive. The humorous scenes with Jacob and Newt were well done and the jewelry scene with the Niffler was one of my favorites. “They went that way.”
6. The moment we enter Newt’s “home” or “habitat for fantastic beasts,” I was sold on Eddy Redmayne as Newt Scamander. His whole personality is quirky, sincere, and with a tinge of sadness beneath the surface. He seems bubbly, but we get that idea that he’s had to deal with a lot. It made for a complex character that wasn’t just a Willy Wonka for Wizardry. The passion and love he shows for his beasts was touching; It also made me wish to see more of him in other films. He’s just trying to look after his fantastic beasts and teach others about him….can we see him teach a baby Hagrid?
ALSO, just a note, but my cousin afterwards commented on how Redmayne’s performance was much like that of Doctor Who in this. I am totally on board with him playing Doctor Who at some point, or perhaps a younger version of the First Doctor if they ever decide to film it. Just saying.
5. Speaking of call backs, we get a few in the film; Dumbledore is mentioned, Hogwarts, of course. And Grindelwald more on him later... even a Lestrange! I’m assuming it’s Bellatrix’s ancestor. It was sad to hear him talk about how Ms. Lestrange, who we’re made to understand once shared a relationship with Newt “has changed.” It definitely had the Lilly/Snape vibe, except that Newt is Lilly in this case. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, the callbacks were definitely fun.
4. The Duels and Stakes. This movie reminds me of The Hobbit in the sense that the stakes “feel” a little less in this film because it’s set before Harry Potter. This movie is also a little slower paced at parts, which I didn’t mind because it meant we could settle into this world we’ve been introduced too, but also it could have also moved a little more briskly. Unlike the Hobbit, though, this film actually improves upon the battle sequences; the wand fights were some of the best I’ve seen in all the Harry Potter films; everything just looked natural.
3. Ezra Miller played the troubled Credence, whose character was so intriguing and turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the film. There’s such a complicated, painful backstory for his character and the lengths that three characters go to try and reach him is so telling. It becomes a lesson in prejudice and anger and hatred and the effects it has on not only the victim, but those involved, and even those with no connections feeling ramifications. A pretty powerful message in all reality. The intrigue and mystery surrounding that character and his backstory….very well done!
2. And now onto my favorite and least favorite part of the film: Collin Ferrel and Grindelwald.
Now, I absolutely adored Collin Ferrel’s performance as Graves in this. The complex, vague nature of his character, or at least what he was playing. I wanted him to, by the end of the film, leave New York and meet up with Grindelwald in Britain….I thought it would go that way, but alas, it did not.
Now, I wasn’t bothered by an Older Grindelwald making a cameo; not at all. He’s a big player in this story timeframe. I don’t even mind that Johnny Depp is in the role; My main issue was that we’ve spent a whole movie showing off Collin Ferrel and developing his character…only for it to be revealed that it was Grindelwald and have a different actor take his place? That just seemed like a cop out and a way to rush that you’ve been wanting to make a sequel already and wanted a “baddie” reveal before this film ended.
It just aggravated me and makes me so sad, because Colin Ferrell OWNED this role. Can he just come back in the future films, please? Have Grindelwald disguise as him again? I simply loved Colin Ferrell in this.
1. All in all, though, the ending with Grindelwald was the only part of the movie that bugged me. Everything else was, well, fantastic. If you love Harry Potter, you’re probably going to love this. Just don’t get attached to Collin Ferrell….
For a week or so now, I’ve been wanting to talk about Kingsman: The Secret Service, which I was finally able to watch, and which I genuinely loved. Not only is it an engaging, well-acted, well-scripted action movie that is funny, touching and littered with pop cultural hat-tips, but it manages the difficult trick of being both an homage to and a biting debunk of the James Bond franchise. Specifically: Kingsman takes all of Bond’s hallowed trappings – the spy gadgets, the sharp suits, the suave badassery – and explicitly removes both the misogyny and the classism that traditionally underpins them. Being a Kingsman, or gentleman spy, as explained by veteran Harry Hart to protégé Eggsy Unwin, isn’t about having the right accent or upbringing, but “being comfortable in your own skin” – the exact opposite of Bond’s womanising, macho façade and aristocratic heritage.
“With Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson accomplished two personal firsts: He adapted someone else’s work—in this case, Roald Dahl’s children’s novel, enhanced with details from Dahl’s Danny The Champion Of The World and the author’s life—and he tried his hand at stop-motion animation. Giving himself over to Dahl and a team of puppeteers and animators might seem like a departure for Anderson—a necessary one, according to the detractors who harp on his insularity—but Fantastic Mr. Fox is as much “A Wes Anderson Film” as anything else he’s done to date. Part of that is owed to the extraordinary control Anderson exerts over all his productions, an auteur stamp so distinctive that it can be recognized from the first frame. But the film also doubles as a Wes Anderson origin story: Dahl’s influence on the director is so immense that the deeper he gets into Dahl’s world, the deeper viewers get into the roots of his sensibility.”
The new Criterion release of West Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is, well, fantastic. Read the full review.
Zero Day (Ben Coccio, 2003) follows two boys’ lives in the weeks leading up to a tragic school shooting. This pair, however, happen to be the antagonists in their own story.
Shot in a mockumentary/found-footage format, we step into the daily affairs of Cal and Andre (Cal Robertson and Andre Keuck, respectively), two adolescents who never appear to suggest any underlying delusions or hints of insanity. They start the film off by deciding upon carrying out a goal and spend the rest of the film living out their lives as their goal gets pushed further and further away. Where they see intent and ambition, we see horror and regret. It is due to this that the film manages to be far more poignant and frightening than the vast majority of thrillers gracing our theaters.
Shot not long after the Columbine Massacre (and closer still, to the events of September 11th), audiences were still quite uneasy with the idea of humanizing two individuals who could be capable of causing such great harm to others. Seemingly trivializing the events, film like these were shunned. However, as we have come to learn, the awareness raised by these films surpasses any harm that could possibly be done by the cast or creators.
Apart from humanizing these killers, we slowly come to find numerous similarities between them and ourselves. Juxtaposing circumstances and events, we can clearly begin to relate to and admire these two boys as they begin their attempt to make sense of the world that they were placed into.
Regardless of intent or time and release, this film serves as an important reminder that those who commit even the most heinous crimes are not too far off from the people who inhabit our very homes.
4. The Invitation: The Invitation sits more on the psychological thriller of the line but is close enough to count. It’s about a man and his girlfriend who go to a ridiculously extravagant dinner party at the home of his ex-wife. Throughout the movie, he becomes increasingly paranoid that something isn’t right with the hosts.
This movie took awhile to hit me. I think it was the next night that I decided yes, I liked it, I actually liked it a lot. It’s subtle without being boring and the lead performance drew me in within the first scene. Also the ending is sort of bitchin.
3. They Look Like People: They Look Like People is about a man who thinks that the people around him are turning into evil creatures. That’s all I’m going to tell you. Also you should know that he’s staying with an old friend during all of this.
I loved it. I loved it. My whole heart was in this movie. I usually don’t look for that in horror, but it simply happened and was unavoidable. It was also one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen and the ending had me on the edge of my seat.
2. The Witch: The Witch is about a family in 1630s New England who live on an isolated creepy farm on the edge of a massive creepy forest wherein lives honestly the scariest fucking witch I have ever seen. The family becomes plagued by witchcraft and possession as the children begin to go missing.
There aren’t enough good things to say about The Witch. From the atmosphere to the cast performances, it was perfect. It stuck in my mind, it freaked me out, and I can’t recommend it to you enough.
1. Southbound: Southbound is a horror anthology film that takes place on a long unnamed highway in the middle of nowhere. The four interwoven stories tell the tales of two men who are running from some floating grim reaper type things, a trio of girls whose van gets a flat tire who are forced to catch a ride with a strange couple, a brutal car accident, and a home invasion.
Southbound probably isn’t technically the best film on this list, I guess, but it’s my favorite. It may be one of my long-time favorites. The music is perfect, the flow of the segments, the gore and the subtlety. I’ve seen it six times. Six. The accident segment alone is worth sitting through the entire movie.
Blue Is the Warmest Colour is an unfortunate title for a great film… The story is deceptively simple: Adèle a high-school student, meets Emma an advanced Fine Art student with blue hair at a lesbian bar, they fall in love, have incredibly hot sex, live together, and eventually break up … In the deafening cacophony of OMG, there are naked women having sex here are some absurd and reactionary comments —
Almost every review and headline has characterized this film as a “lesbian love story”. Emma may be lesbian. We learn that she has had relationships only with women. But the film deliberately avoids labeling Adèle’s identity.
Dr. Pepper Schwartz, sexologist and Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington, made this emphatic claim in an article for CNN: “The chilling part of this film is that it’s basically the story of an adult woman poaching on a high-schooler". Like countless critics, Dr. Schwartz reduces the film to porn that she would not recommend to teenagers … Dr. Schwartz seems unconcerned by the fact that Adèle chain-smokes but warns that Adèle’s lovemaking with a woman who is her partner is too damaging for us to watch …
Then there are those saying the sex is unreal, too clinical, filmed through a male gaze, blah, blah, blah. Why aren’t we celebrating the fact that these scenes even exist? There are three explicit sex scenes adding up to nearly 10 full minutes of nude, girl-on-girl action in an award winning film …
And finally, the ugly truth that no one wants to admit. The film beautifully explores how the sexual barometer can grow cold and change the nature of a relationship. For those who have not seen the film, minor spoiler alert for what follows. In a harrowing scene, Emma breaks up with Adèle for reasons that would be devastating to any relationship but pose a particular challenge to same-sex relationships: class difference and biphobia …
Few films have accurately captured the quotidian life of the French middle class … The more successful and profitable that Emma becomes as an artist the more she shuts down emotionally. She also begins to feel shame about Adèle’s modest ambition to become a schoolteacher … Is Emma furious that Adèle cheated on her? Or that Adèle had sex with a man? Or is Emma simply jealous that Adèle hasn’t reached emotional frigidity like she has?
The film offers no easy answers. It simply documents the devastation on Adèle and, in the end, only hints at a brighter future for her.
Anil Vora is a principal partner at Indian Tiger Films, a film production company spotlighting films about LGBTQ people of color. A self-confessed geek, VORAcious in his consumption of books and films, Anil is also an actor and playwright, and teaches private classes on the history, symbolism, and appreciation of Bollywood films.
I went to see Maleficent with my boyfriend today, mostly because I grew up with a nostalgic attachment to the original Disney adaptation and felt compelled to revisit the svelte villainess. Both of us went to the show expecting to be disappointed. Reviews on the film are split roughly 50/50, and we weren’t thrilled with the idea of another classic story being dredged out of the vaults for a whiz-bang reboot that nobody asked for.
We were entirely surprised by the emotional and thought-provoking feminist fairy tale that unfolded before us. We had a long discussion about the film over dinner, and the gist of our conversation was this:
Some “classics” could use a good reboot. Heck, a kick in the pants, even. We don’t live in the dark ages anymore.
-I didn’t mind Blendedoot Cumblesnort as Doctor Strange at all.
-I didn’t mind Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. I’m aware there was a lot of upset surrounding casting a white person as the Ancient One but I think they were pretty good about not trying to pass her off as appropriating the role of an ancient Chinese master (like they explicitly mentioned her being of Celtic descent etc.) and I don’t think it detracted in any way by not having what has become a trope of the “Ancient Chinese wise master”. (In fact there was one interaction where they tried to dispel that trope which I thought was nice.)
-From a feminist perspective, I was glad to see the mandatory love interest part of the film handled quite well (i.e. Strange was shown sympathy following his redemption arc but his love interest didn’t drop everything and run back to him, instead forgiving him and still moving on without him.)
-The magic (what I was most interested in tbh) was interesting and had a lot of potential.
-Following on from the last point, I am consistently let down by superhero movies from an artistic perspective because I feel like they’re still all trying to stick to a formula too much that leaves them predictable and not reaching the full potential of the story. I would much prefer to see these stories told in a different medium, such as a TV show, where you have the time to be able to explore every aspect. I’m interested in the world building that the film simply doesn’t have the time to delve into.
-Despite the above point, as far as superhero movies went it was enjoyable.
-I think the Tumblr criticism of the film before it was even released is mostly unfair, unwarranted and not well thought out.
-I’m really glad that we are finally seeing some superhero movies that deal more with magic and the supernatural as opposed to super sciency explanations for everything - I just really like the idea of and going into magic and the mystic and stuff.
-I’m excited to see Doctor Strange fitting into the wider Marvel film universe.