sara gray

Weekend Picks: The Beguiled (1971)

Within the first few minutes of Don Siegel’s The Beguiled, Clint Eastwood looks at a little girl and asks, “How old are you?”

“Twelve,” the cherubic girl replies. “Thirteen in September!”

“Old enough for kisses.” Not only can Eastwood narrow his eyes in a squint. Somehow, he can make his voice squint, too.

The willful perversity of The Beguiled has only just begun. Yet Yankee Corporal John “McB” McBurney (Eastwood) isn’t a pedophile; he’s an opportunist. While he distracts Amy (Pamelyn Ferdin), a contingent of Rebel soldiers rides by without spotting them. Amy, flattered by McB’s attention, saves his life by leading him to the Farnsworth School for Young Ladies. Headmistress Martha (Geraldine Page) reluctantly tends to his wounds while Hallie (Mae Mercer), her cynical slave, quietly looks on. Meanwhile, his presence intrigues all the females of the school, from the virginal Edwina (Elizabeth Hartman, who provided the tremulous voice of Mrs. Frisby in The Rats of NIHM) to the resident Jezebel, Carol (Jo Ann Harris).

The Beguiled is an awkward film. Like David Lynch’s Dune, it’s plagued with unintentionally hilarious voiceover narration from each of the characters. The subtext is almost satirically Freudian, as all of McB’s trials–a broken leg, a pilfered revolver–have to do with his penis (or symbolic lack thereof). Yet the film is far too interesting to ignore.

Though it veers into Penthouse territory at times, The Beguiled treats its female protagonists with a surprising amount of respect. I expected Martha to come across as an emasculating monster a la Annie Wilkes in Misery, but instead she is portrayed as resourceful and intelligent. The film takes pains to show that the women’s greatest threat comes not from McB, an enemy soldier, but from the army ostensibly there to protect the school. But the film’s keenest subversive pleasure comes from making a sexual object out of Eastwood. It’s so rare for a film to assert a female gaze, and in this The Beguiled truly has the courage of its convictions. The film lingers on Eastwood’s angular frame with a lushness typically reserved for a Playboy centerfold. It’s also a treat to see McB use the stereotypically feminine traits of flattery and sexuality to his own selfish ends.

The Beguiled was released just months before Siegel and Eastwood’s legendary moneymaker, Dirty Harry, which galvanized audiences with macho fantasies of vigilante justice. Like audiences today, those in 1971 were struggling with recession, war, and damning governmental security leaks, so it’s not surprising that many wished to escape into Dirty Harry’s will to power. For all its lurid hothouse charms, The Beguiled was overshadowed. It’s a shame that happened, since The Beguiled criticized the hubris of those who underestimate the strength of the powerless. Those who tell sweet lies may find themselves tasting the bitter tang of a different sort of justice.

–Sara Gray

       There are so many awesome new releases to look forward to this year !!

                        What are you all looking forward to most ?! 

the raven cycle moodboards (x): dean allen a.k.a mr. gray

He hadn’t felt a thing when the screwdriver had pierced his side. It hadn’t been unbearable when he’d stitched it up as he watched The Last Knight on the television by the bed (Arbor Palace Inn and Lodging, local color!). No, it had gotten terrible only when the wound had begun to close. When he’d begun to regrow skin where it had been chewed away. Now the ragged hole in his heart was regrowing out of the scar tissue, and he couldn’t stop feeling it. 

i never know how to start these things out so i’m just gonna come out and say it ??? my dash is crap, and i’m looking for new blogs to follow (again) !! so without further ado, if you post these things, give this a reblog for me and tag specifically what you post, and i’ll check out your blog!!

+ seasonal anime i’m watching: 91 days, amaama to inazuma, battery, binan koukou chikyuu bouei-bu LOVE! LOVE!, cheer danshi!!d. gray-man hallow, days, ace attorney, handa-kun, love live! sunshine!!, mob psycho 100, orange, relife, re: zero, servamp, and shokugeki no souma: ni no sara 
+ d. gray-man in general, including the manga
+ shokugeki no souma in general, including the manga
+ naruto in general: original series, shippuden, manga, movies, boruto, idk man i just really love naruto leave me alone
+ hunter x hunter 
+ sports anime: haikyuu!!, free!, knb, daiya, y’all feel me
+ shoujo anime/manga in general
+ AJIN: DEMI-HUMAN (honestly if you have like… more than one ajin post on your blog i already love you… please watch/read ajin: demi human)
+ jojo’s bizarre adventure in general, any parts idc !!! 
+ this post is getting to be Too Much so here’s some more: gekkan shoujo nozaki kun, durarara!!, fullmetal alchemist, owari no seraph, fate series, anime in general idk
+ BONUS POINTS IF YOU: have a tagging system, create your own content, and/or are already following me !!

@mutuals pls boost this for me !! it would help a lot !!

Ginger Snaps (2000)

JUST SAY YOU WON’T GO AVERAGE ON ME.

by Sara Gray

From seventh grade through senior year, my best friend G and I sat together almost every day at lunch. Once, in freshman year, we made the mistake of sitting in the established territory of a bunch of Junco-clad burnouts, who jeered, “Well, look who’s sitting in my fucking spot! Aren’t you special!” I quickly moved my tray to another table, hoping G wouldn’t argue. Not rocking the boat was my tactic for such confrontations, which happened not infrequently. G, however, often stood her ground, yelled at them, threw her lunchbox, or at least gave them the stinkeye before joining me.

G was the only close friend I had for years. For hours every day—at lunch, on the bus ride to and from school, at her house, or while rambling in the pastures behind mine—we spun epic crossover fan fictions involving every one of our obsessions into a vast and baroque meta-tapestry, weaving together Star Trek: The Next Generation, Disney’s Gargoyles, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, and the musical version of The Phantom of the Opera into a cocoon that cushioned us from our less-than-understanding peers. We had been the smartest girls in every class since the fourth grade. Our contempt for almost everyone else at school was fiercely shared. We were even born on the same day, in the same year.

Right around sophomore year, however, things started to change. I made some new friends who liked to hang out in coffee shops, write poetry, and listen to Radiohead. While G still wore the khakis and wolf t-shirts she’d favored since middle school, I started venturing into the Gadzooks at the mall, buying shiny velveteen blouses covered in sequins. Once, I wanted to tell G all about stumbling upon scrambled hardcore porn on my parents’ satellite TV system, but the moment I tried, she opened her CJ Cherryh paperback and proceeded to completely ignore me until I changed the subject. I felt the guilt of one who has betrayed a deep, sustaining bond. I was angry, too—why couldn’t she grow up? Why was I changing? Why couldn’t we stay the same, together?

John Fawcett’s Ginger Snaps brought back all that frustration and pain like the throb of an old scar. As a monster movie, the film is only passable. The werewolf special effects look cheap and greasy, and the film’s climactic fight, which takes place in the protagonist’s own goddamn house in which she refuses to turn on the freaking lights, extends disbelief too much. The buckets of blood and gore fail to scare. Few films, however, achieve what Ginger Snaps does well, and that is in portraying the complex bond between two girls facing the mundane, inevitable horrors of puberty.

Like G and I once did, goth sisters Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle) see the world as a grim standoff between themselves and the rest of their hormonal, hairsprayed, hockey-playing peers. When a female bully picks on Brigitte, Ginger plans to avenge her sister by using their arsenal of red-dyed corn syrup and other props. (The girls like to take pictures of their own faked death scenes for fun). They meet at a playground at night, and it is there that they find the corpse of a mutilated dog. Simultaneously, Ginger discovers that she has started her first period. The smell of blood attracts a terrible beast, which Brigitte successfully scares off—but not before it takes a few bites out of Ginger. Her wounds heal quickly, but after a few days, it’s apparent that Ginger is changing. She’s growing hair in strange places. Certain body parts that were small and insignificant are getting bigger. She stops sneering at boys, and begins wearing tight skirts and belly shirts. She complains of intense hungers she’s never had before.

Fawcett and screenwriter Karen Walton do wonderfully well at describing the unsettling nature of puberty from a female perspective, and they handle Ginger and Brigitte’s changing relationship with a sure touch. Intellectually precocious, yet physically underdeveloped Brigitte marks Ginger’s changes with increasing confusion; while she is disgusted by the transformation of Ginger’s body and personality, she also feels left out, betrayed by her own difference. Ginger’s emotional plight—bad werewolf makeup notwithstanding—is evocative, too. While she wishes to break free of her suffocating bond with Brigitte, she also depends upon her younger sister as the only person who loves her unconditionally, even when her hungers lead to violence. The film is a teenage girl version of David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, and like the Mantle brothers, the Fitzgerald sisters’ attempts at staying on the same page lead to tragedy.

While the schlock at the climax detracts from the film’s successes, the final scene more than makes up for the missteps. One of the reasons why I’m drawn to horror movies is that they, more often than other genre films, look at the inevitable decay of life straight on without flinching. Amid the fabulous transformations and gallons of gore in Ginger Snaps is something very real, and very sad. No matter what you do, or how hard you try, you can’t go back to the days when you were a child, and your best friend shared a fantasy world with you. We grow, and paths diverge. All that can be done is to mourn what was lost.

Sara Gray is a writer living in Austin, Texas. She tumbls here.

Sight & Sound List #8: Man With a Movie Camera (1929)

QUICKER THAN A RAY OF LIGHT: Dziga Vertov and Man With a Movie Camera

by Sara Gray

I have my own personal reasons why I value certain movies over others. I grew up watching Xanadu with my family over bowls of popcorn, and that nostalgia still makes me warm years afterwards, even when I try to show the film to friends and rediscover just how gobsmackingly awful it is. I remember the wistfulness of my college years every time my Tumblr dashboard feeds me stills from Memento, Requiem for a Dream, or Being John Malkovich, all of which I first watched from a crooked seat in Austin’s tiny Dobie Theater. Even trash like The Chronicles of Riddick rekindles the apathy I suffered during a particularly dysfunctional relationship, when hits from a former boyfriend’s bong inured me to three months of unemployment.

Such emotional echoes, while mine alone, aren’t unique to me. Each of us is a special snowflake, of course, but piled together, our tastes form vast hills of sentiment. We watch films for their emotional impact upon us. As every Oscar teleprompter has dictated since the dawn of awards ceremonies, films are there to challenge us, to comfort us, to “show us our dreams.” Prurient or intellectual, high or low, Michael Fassbender’s physique or Rainer Fassbinder’s turmoil—it’s all grist for the feelings mill. What, then, separates Sight and Sound’s Top Ten from the hundreds of thousands of other films ever made?

The answer partially lies in Man with a Movie Camera, canonized by Sight and Sound for the very first time in its 2012 list. Though the other nine films are amongst the most affecting ever put to celluloid (I dare anyone not to weep at the end of The Searchers), they all exhibit a technical ingenuity that went on to influence hundreds of later movies. Yet Camera stands apart, as it alone focuses purely upon how the camera itself can be used to generate feeling instead of a film’s plot or acting. Its director—who loved filmmaking so much, he changed his name from David Kaufman to Dziga Vertov, which loosely translates to “the cranking sound of a silent film camera”—sought to free the camera from the tethers of story entirely. His experiment helped to create the language of angles, shots, and editing techniques that all modern filmgoers now take for granted when sitting down to watch a movie.

As a viewer, it can be difficult to appreciate a vanguard work of art when one has already seen dozens of its derivatives. When I first read William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”, I kept getting bored and thinking, “Geez, this shit is just like The Matrix,” until I reminded myself that this was the first time some hacker bro teamed up with a badass ninja chick to blow up the internet. Similarly, Camera features hundreds of startling jump cuts, surreal juxtapositions, and other tricks later used by every film editor from Breathless to Snatch. The result is sensory overload. There’s so much going on, so quickly, that I soon felt the exhausted panic I suffer when I watch films by Michael Bay—until I remembered that Camera was released in 1929. The future is then, my friends. We’ve been here for a while.

Being a good Soviet in 1920’s Russia (before Communism had been wholly swallowed by Daddy Stalin’s fascism), Vertov was more interested in documenting the realities of Russian civic life than anything else. Though Camera doesn’t have a plot per se, it does tell a story: that of a day in the life of a typical Russian city. His camera captures the quiet dawn hours before the morning rush, including everyone from early commuters to hungover hobos sleeping in parks. Then the film surges onward, relentlessly cutting to people at various jobsswitchboard operators, coal miners, foundry workers, doctors, office wonks—before closing with a frenzied onrush of clips showing what these workers do for fun. If this sounds familiar, then yes, you too have just realized how much Madonna’s “Ray of Light” music video owes to Soviet propaganda.

Though Vertov’s mastery and his wife Elizaveta Svilova’s editing skills are still fresh enough to transcend Camera’s 83 years of age, its ideological approach hasn’t fared so well. In one scene, Vertov focuses on a young worker at a cigarette factory. She smiles gleefully as she packs and folds dozens of cigarette boxes in an increasingly manic pace, becoming a grotesque human machine. It left me feeling queasy, as it was similar to several dread-inducing scenes from later “day in the life” documentaries like Koyaanisqatsi or Samsara. In those films, the mass mechanization of chicken processing plants (and their resulting effluvia) require the doleful yodeling of Lisa Gerrard on the soundtrack, as little else could describe the awesome terror at What We Hath Wrought. In 1929, Vertov’s view of machines was guileless, almost ecstatic. He called the camera his “second eye,” after all, so he saw no problem with humans transforming themselves and their world via machines. In 2012, things are decidedly more complicated.

Despite all that, there’s a playful energy in Camera that’s impossible not to enjoy. It reminded me of my own film experiments in seventh grade, when a friend and I borrowed my parents’ handheld Sony and tried to make our own Star Trek episode. Our best shot featured a pink Slinky that we taped to the camera’s body. Once set, the lens then opened into a vortex of rings, into which we placed an Enterprise-shaped Micro Machine. Instant wormhole! I like to think Vertov and his brother, Mikhail Kaufman (who appears in Camera as its titular Man), felt the same sense of giddy excitement as they asked each other, “What would it look like if we put a camera under a speeding train? Or over a waterfall? Or on a motorcycle?! Holy shit, THIS IS AWESOME!”

Ironically, it was Vertov’s dedication that eventually landed him on Stalin’s shit list. By showing Kaufman venturing everywhere, filming everything he saw with equal interest, Vertov elevated the role of cameraman (and, by proxy, all filmmakers) into that of a god. Nowhere is this more evident than in a superimposed shot of Kaufman towering like an auteur Godzilla over a crowd of thousands, seeing all, filming all. Stalin and his cronies didn’t like the sound of that; they knew more than most that power hinges on keeping certain things hidden. As World War II ground to a start, the Russian government discredited and censored Vertov’s work, keeping it from the people that Vertov sought to champion.

But Vertov’s vision has triumphed. On the commentary track, available on the DVD of Camera I rented, scholar Yuri Tsivian mentions that Vertov hoped cameras would become accessible to all members of Russian society, so that everyone could be their own director in a true people’s cinema. That dream has come to pass, as now anyone with a smartphone (or even a decent dumbphone like mine) can take pictures and movies with ease. And we do: of our lunches, our spouses, tornadoes, cats, the space shuttle Endeavor, fashionable strangers, police brutality. Everyone, and everything. So many of us have “second eyes.” I don’t know what this cinema of the people will entail, but in watching Man with a Movie Camera, I had sudden feeling: like I just got home, through the endless years.

Sara Gray lives in Austin, Texas, and she still thinks that “Ray of Light” is one sick jam. She tumbls here.