[Swiss Army Man]

My first thought coming out of Swiss Army Man was “So, what this movie is saying is that men are sacks of shit led around by their dicks. This is not exactly news.”*

I was predisposed to dislike this movie. I’ve had a thoroughly-admitted-to bee in my bonnet about it for some time and for reasons that have nothing to do with the movie itself and everything to do with a world where you can’t get a movie made about a woman or a person of color or a queer person (or, heaven forbid, someone who’s all three) but sure, a movie about a farting corpse, that should definitely happen.

Also this:

But free preview and friends were going and so here we are, days later, and I still don’t know what to think about this damn movie except that it’s not as gross as I expected and I don’t regret seeing it, but it’s also strong filmmaking to the purpose of telling troubling story. (Also it has a bizarre sequence that’s a direct lift from due South, which apparently is only of interest to me. But you’ll know it when you see it. Straight outta Mountie on the Bounty.)

I read this review at Seattle Screen Scene, which was very helpful in nailing down why I was both captivated and troubled by the movie. You should go read it too. I’ll wait.

So it’s clear why it worked on me. I have a tattoo that reads “tell them stories”, so obviously a film that so strongly values storytelling as a tool of creation is going to resonate. I’ve also been fat my entire life, so a movie about how bodies are gross and embarrassing also strikes home. Mine certainly is.

But then, it’s also clear why I was troubled. A film in which you find your way by literally following a penis is not a film that is interested in connecting with me. And though I was on one level pleasantly surprised that it didn’t end like you’d expect, with Hank learning to accept himself and then getting the girl as the reward, on the other, I cannot get over how *creepy* it all was about women.

“The girl” he doesn’t get is Sarah, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead** when she’s not being played by Hank (Paul Dano) as he projects his desires onto himself as he acts out a fantasy of her.

I can’t stop thinking about the story from her point of view. We the audience have the tiniest of hints about her as possibly being an actual person with her own life, but Hank is interested in the dream, his story, not the potentially-messy human she actually is.

So I wonder about her. She’s on the bus home, and there’s this guy on it sometimes who’s kind of a creeper, and she thinks about trying to take one bus later, maybe, but that means she’ll get home later and she has a husband and a daughter and already she’s away from her little girl too much, so she takes that bus anyway, but on days when she sees him she always sits further back so he can’t slip up on her.

He turns around and looks at her sometimes, but at least she can see that, and not just feel the possibility of his greasy eyes staring at the back of her head. One day she thinks maybe he took her picture, but then she thinks that’s nuts and no one would believe her anyway and she doesn’t want to cause a scene, so she turns up her podcast and imagines she’s in a bubble of calming voices, drinking tea as Cheryl Strayed sorts out personal problems in the time it takes to do the dishes***.

She hates that she has to get off the bus before him, hates that he has any idea about where she lives.

One day he’s not there, and that’s not a big deal because he’s often not there, but then he’s not there for several days and then more days still and it’s such a relief, she stops wearing headphones altogether and starts reading again because she’s not afraid he’ll use her book as an excuse to talk.

And it’s great and boring and normal and then one day she looks out into the backyard and her daughter, her precious baby girl is out there talking to a man who looks like he crawled up out of the earth, and she goes out and it’s *him* and he has a dead body with him and who knows what else and she has to stay so calm and so quiet so she doesn’t scare her daughter so she doesn’t escalate him, this man THAT MAN him from the bus who has perhaps inevitably found her.

Horrifying.

And I don’t really know how we’re supposed to feel here. It raises questions for me going back to the beginning. Now I want to know what actually happened to put Hank out on the beach, how it’s all really going to end for him, when he’s going to go into therapy, and if he’ll ever learn that women are also people.

But the buddy breathing. That was neat. By which I mean homoerotic.

::

* I wore a “feminist killjoy” and a “misandrist” button on my lanyard all through the film festival, and sometimes I feel like I should wear them every day.

** PS Please see her in 10 Cloverfield Lane, my favorite superhero origin story in ages.

*** I just really think she’d find Dear Sugar comforting like I do.

[2015 Film Roundup]

Total: 208 (full list here.)
…plus 8 other (NT Live & Doctor Who)
Revival: 45
SIFF: 63
Free: 81 (+ festival)
…all told I paid $587.75 in total for movies in 2015, giving us an average ticket price of $2.83, almost a buck more than last year. I blame Cinerama.

Films of my heart: Carol, Crimson Peak, and Sworn Virgin

Very close runners-up: 99 Homes & Spotlight, both of which are hard to watch at points, but always incredibly important. Also, Xavier Dolan’s Mommy*

Continue reading [2015 Film Roundup]

[Carol]

There’s a scene in Carol where Therese (Rooney Mara) is seated alone at small cafe table. A male character we’ve met briefly spots her and immediately sits across from her, uninvited.

Over his shoulder, we see Carol (Cate Blanchett) return to the room, register his presence, pull up a chair, and seat herself between them. They have their own intimate conversation in the spaces between his attempts to engage, not that he appears to notice.

(I’m pretty sure I said “UGH MEN” out loud right there in the theater.)

Continue reading [Carol]

[Spotlight]

I came out of Spotlight with one of those headaches that you get for trying not to cry for two hours. I’d expected it to be maybe not the most uplifting night out at the cinema, but I hadn’t expected to be so torn up emotionally by a movie that’s in a lot of ways an ode to journalism. But as I sat there watching the credits scroll up, I was glad I had gone alone. This was definitely not a movie I wanted to talk about on the walk home.

Continue reading [Spotlight]

[The Harvard Exit: All Things Must Pass]

For a while, the last film I saw at the Harvard Exit theater was Zero Motivation. It was the second film I saw in 2015. I was crushed by the sudden announcement that the theater was closing. I cried on the walk home, and I still have the quickly-fading ticket stub pinned up at my desk at work, but it all felt wrong as nearly 20 years of seeing films on Harvard & Roy came to an end.

Luckily, the Harvard Exit was briefly revived for a 25 day wake at the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. It was already not the same, but it was important to me to be there and really know everything was happening for the last time.

Continue reading [The Harvard Exit: All Things Must Pass]

[SIFF Capsule Reviews: Batch 1]

Here, have some capsule reviews from SIFF! Maybe this will be the year I post more than one batch! Maaaaaybe.

Things I liked that should be easy to find:

* The festival opened with Paul Feig’s Spy, which on one hand almost felt like a joke to me when first announced, but on the other hand I definitely applaud elevating the work of a guy putting his money where his mouth is to change the narrative around women in Hollywood. Here it was a joy to see everything from an inversion of women-in-refrigerators, to clear examples of the causes & consequences of imposter syndrome, to women supporting each other in a way that is true and earned, not sappy.

Also, the movie was great fun, as you’d expect. It’s an homage, not a spoof, and I’ll definitely be seeing it again.

Continue reading [SIFF Capsule Reviews: Batch 1]

[Tell me something to make me love you]

Note: I wrote this a year ago for reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture. As LAST NIGHT is one of my best beloved Canadian films, #CanFilmDay seems like a good time to send it out into the world.

In late 1999, we prepared for apocalypse. It was apt. I was a senior in college, majoring in English, with no prospects ahead of me beyond the single joke that exists about English majors, the one with the punch line: “Would you like fries with that?” Survivalist branches of my family stocked up for when the computers crashed and the world went haywire, and even though my uncle warned us that just being family wasn’t necessarily enough to be admitted into the bunker, a part of me still hoped for the global meltdown. If I didn’t survive it, fair enough. If I did, maybe I could just start over.

Continue reading [Tell me something to make me love you]

[2014 Film Roundup]

Total: 204 (full list here)
…plus 8 other (NT Live, etc)
Revival: 70
SIFF: 51
Other festivals (SLGFF, Noir City): 21
Free: SIFF volunteer (67 + festival), other machinations (29)
…all told I paid $376.95 in total for movies in 2014, not including Veronica Mars, giving us an average ticket price of $1.85.

Favorite films (which this year means films which haunted me the most): Ida, Force Majeure, and Foxcatcher

Honorable mention: the Tilda Swinton Trilogy of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Only Lovers Left Alive, and Snowpiercer

Continue reading [2014 Film Roundup]

[hashtag queer it up]

Here, have some capsule reviews from the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival:

* The festival had an unofficial kickoff one week early with a benefit screening Pride, a blue collar ensemble film very much in the tradition of The Full Monty. Set in 1984, it follows a group of London queer folks who raise money to support striking miners in a small town in Wales. Pride treats everyone with respect, and displays the strength & growth that comes when marginalized groups begin to learn from each other. I laughed, I cried, I was so glad I saw it in a theater full of other queer people.

Pretty much every one of the twelve living UK actors is in it, and in a film full of many showier roles, I was particularly taken with a quiet, delicate performance from Bill Nighy. The heart of the film is the barely-out George McKay, who knocked my socks off in the devastating For Those In Peril earlier this year, and I was also quite taken with Jessica Gunning as Sian, a Welsh woman empowered by the strike and her interaction with the Londoners.

Plus, if you’ve ever wondered what Detective McNulty dancing with Dolores Umbridge might look like, Pride has got that sorted too.

* Hedwig and the Angry Inch was a treat to see as a midnight singalong, especially so soon after it was a movie of the week at The Dissolve. Here, have some links full of Hedwig thinky thoughts by smarter people: day one, day two, and day three.

* Dual was a bit of an impulsive choice, and it was oversold by a program book comparison to my beloved Before Sunrise. When Iben’s flight is cancelled, she easily convinces Tina to kick around town overnight. Both actresses are appealing, but the film is full of moments that would never happen and decisions that real people would never make. All of this is summed up in a scene where they play with a box full of kittens mysteriously left in a boxcar because the plot demanded it be so and for no other apparent reason. Cute in places, but wholly unbelievable, and not in a Hollywood trope sort of way.

* In the Turn is a tricky one. It’s a documentary about…ah. Therein lies the issue. It’s sort of a documentary about the Vagine Regime, a loosely affiliated worldwide group of queer & queer-friendly roller derby folks, and it seems as if they decided to start shooting a documentary and hoped a story would emerge in editing. Sometimes that works, but this time it didn’t so much.

However, it’s an important piece because it amplifies the voices of multiple transgender people, including a young trans girl. Far too often in this sort of thing there’s a token trans voice (if even that!), but In the Turn includes several trans voices and thus several trans stories, and that has huge value.

* The Closing Night film, Life Partners is what happens to an intense friendship when one person in it acquires a serious partner. Starring Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs, and Adam Brody, it was cute enough, but Frances Ha did the same thing but better (Oh, I hear you say, but Frances Ha wasn’t a queer movie, to which I reply, that’s only because you haven’t seen it with me). Life Partners also totally wasted Gabourey Sidibe, not giving her anything to do other than deliver one liners over a Bloody Mary.

It certainly had some moments that rang true, and I appreciated the fact that, like in Bridesmaids there’s never a question if the guy is right for the girl. Adam Brody is much more appealing (to me, anyway) than Dougie was, but the point of both films is the inevitable changing relationship between the girls. I’m a sucker for that story, because I wind up living it over and over again, and eventually I’d like to learn to live it better.

As a bonus, there were two films in the program which I saw when they screened at SIFF earlier in the year.

* The Circle is another of those films which I’m not sure is entirely successful, blending as it does documentary footage and re-enactment. However, it tells an important story about early queer activism via a 1950s gay rights organization in Zurich, and the present day interview footage of a couple who met through the group is utterly charming.

* And speaking of charming, The Way He Looks charmed my socks right off. It’s a Brazilian coming-of-age movie about Leonardo, a blind teenager who is trying to navigate his relationships with his overprotective family and his best friend as he’s yearning for a bit more freedom. This all gets more challenging when a new student joins their class. I’m always all in for a good boy-girl friendship, plus the honest portrayal of how a new relationship, no matter how great it is, can be painful for the one suddenly on the outside. As we saw above. It’s a theme.

While I’m at it, here are the other queer films I’ve loved this year that I can remember at the moment: Lilting (a quietly beautiful cross-culture film about grief, a new sort of coming out story in the vein of Undertow), The Skeleton Twins (obviously), Love Is Strange, and the Swedish miniseries Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves. Lotsa boy movies. That’s just the way it is, unfortunately. The closest thing to a girl movie is probably Obvious Child, but I definitely recommend that too.