Thursday, February 24, 2011

Movie Potpourri II

More movies I liked:

TRON Legacy:  I remember thinking when I saw the original that nobody seemed to notice the obviously Christian allegory.  This wasn’t true exactly, it was just that all the pre-internet Christian pop-culture commentary was occupied with the other Christian allegory that came out that year.  This long-awaited sequel supposedly mixes in a number of Buddhist themes which, not being a Buddhist, I fail to appreciate.  But it does make profound point about the superiority of evolved or emergent systems which, whatever their imperfections in real life, inevitably work better than the top-down designs of imperfect human beings.  A lesson we would do well to remember as we try to impose in Afghanistan by design what we ourselves came to by social evolution.

Chloe / But I’m a Cheerleader:  I happened to watch these two movies back to back, and they nicely illustrate something that I wanted to say about the movie rating system.  A while back, I watched This Film Is Not Yet Rated, an self-purported exposé of the MPAA featuring a lot of independent filmmakers complaining that children aren’t allowed to watch their gay art-house porn.   The movie made a big to-do over supposed inconsistencies:  some films earning NC-17 ratings for content for which other films only got an R.  At first glance, Chloe / BIaC supports this complaint.  The scene with Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried in Chloe is vastly more explicit than that between Natasha Lyonne and Michelle Williams in BIaC; in fact, this latter film doesn’t even have any actual nudity that I can recall.  But what it does have is a miasma of didactic creepiness that made me wince throughout most of the film.  The sex scene in Chloe, in contrast, is (depending on your perspective) either garden-variety soft core porn or, in context, an affirmation of the heterosexual love that one of the women has for her husband.  Perhaps we should chalk up the rating difference to the ten years separating the release of the two films, and a more relaxed attitude toward “lesbian”* scenes; I don’t know.  But it looks to me like the MPAA did its job correctly.

Winter’s Bone:  Many aspects of this depiction of rural life along the Missouri – Arkansas border feel authentic based on my own exposure to it at an elementary school servicing a rural community.  Especially familiar was its portrayal of women:  on the one hand, they occupy sex-specific roles; on the other, they seem purged of all traces of femininity, both in dress (I didn’t see a single skirt the whole movie, just lots of poorly fitting jeans, flannel, and work boots) and manners (get ready for the female hillbilly version of a curb stomp).  Frankly, considering how poorly each sex treats the other, it’s not clear to me under what circumstances the mating ever takes place.  And yet the younger children, who don’t know they’re poor, seem happy to be growing up in the country with room to run around.

The Fighter:  While I’m on the subject of dysfunctional white people, I should warn you that this biographical account of “Irish” Micky Ward and his vampiric family was painful to watch for the first 15 minutes, shot as a shaky-cam documentary so authentic that it was indistinguishable from any other shaky-cam documentary.  But I’m glad I stuck with it.  Christian Bale’s obnoxious performance became tolerable once it became clear that it was tied to his character’s drug addiction, and that this would ultimately be an occasion for self-awareness.  Amy Adams here reveals herself to be a versatile actress; unfortunately, that versatility meant that I got to see only a glimmer of the vulnerable, innocent girl I have come to love.

* I don’t actually know what real-life lesbian activity looks like, but I’m pretty sure that its depiction in general-audience (i.e., male heterosexual) entertainment is a pretty poor guide to it.

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