Sunday, February 22, 2009

Calling Riot Grrls of Cinema!

I might take a nibble here or there from the ladies' plates of He's Just Not That Into You, but I'll still take Meg Ryan's entire meal in When Harry Met Sally any day of the week. She's ballsy, opinionated, and proves the skillful ease of fake orgasms. Unlike her neurotic but independent character, He's Just Not That Into You presents women who need men to tell them what women think and how to overcome their blind devotion to archaically patriarchal relationship dynamics. Can I get a "WTF?"

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed myself quite a bit watching this, and even told friends I would return to it again with them (although I thankfully never did). But for a book that shouts from the rooftop, "you are NOT the exception!," the film had no problem cradling women (and men) everywhere with the false hope that we are.

As an adaptation of a self-help book on relationships, the film proves a good narrativization of the original material. But, like my fellow feminist jouster, I couldn't help but want all the women of the film to stand up for themselves a bit more, take charge. "Pounce or bounce!" I kept silently screaming. And thank goodness a couple of them do, otherwise this film would have fallen horribly flat for me.

The cast is rather stellar, particularly for the genre (save for the never acceptable Scarlett Johannson). Justin Long and Ginnifer Goodwin have been favorites of mine since they co-starred in the 1990s television show, Ed, and Kevin Connolly from HBO's Entourage was well suited for the "nice guy." And the script was well thought out structurally - pretty well balanced and edited so as not to let any story line get too much screentime. Unfortunately, this also meant none developed too much depth, save for Ms. Goodwin's abyss of desperation.

As a date movie, I second my fellow jouster, Charley, in supporting it as a good 'cuddle up and watch other people's relationship issues and imagine you are protected from the drama of Hollywood.'

But I'll have to put a more solid foot in Linde's corner and question why in this age we couldn't have a He's Just Not That Into You where women say "F*%! this! I'm more important than a man's affection!"... whether he's into you or not.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'll Have What She's Having?

"The women of "He's Just Not That Into You" probably have never seen "Thelma and Louise," but they've seen "When Harry Met Sally" a few times," writes William C. McLean. While I agree to a certain degree, I keep asking myself, did feminism even happen?
I definitely enjoy a good rom-com and would never identify Thelma and Louise as belonging to that genre, though I do love it as an empowering, albeit tragic, women's buddy film. When Harry Met Sally, though not as kickass, still offers more empowering moments for Meg Ryan's oh-so-cute Sally, than many of the women in get in He's Just Not That Into You. Granted, a rom-com should not be judged by how empowered the female characters are, but if the women in rom-coms are constantly preoccupied with figuring out what men want and seeking their affirmation, what does that say about the women in the audience, like myself, who watch this stuff. Ok, so it's not ONLY women in the audience, but still, I would like to think me and other women are not only obsessed with figuring out men and seeking their affirmation. Because for one thing, that's assuming a lot of straightness about my sexuality.

Movies aren't life. They may reflect it sometimes but I hate it when I leave the theater and a pack of girlfriends go on and on about how this rom-com is exactly like their life. Yeah, some awkward moments that the adorable Ginnifer Goodwin had ring painfully true with the trials and tribulations of my love life, but I really need to believe that I and other women are not that insecure.

For one thing, aren't the post-feminist women in the audience and on screen presumably fans of Sex and the City and therefore realize the importance of female sexual pleasure? The film is PG-13, therefore it lacks the full-frontal fun, but is made readily available for every girl and woman's adolescent (minus the raging hormones) fantasies. Sex is removed from relationship dynamics, and when shown or hinted at are acts of desperation and usually show the male, actually just Bradley Cooper as douchebag extraordinaire, in the dominant role. If this film is supposed to be considered THE relationship/chick-flick film, which I don't think it is, shouldn't depicting a woman's sexual experience be part of what gives this rom-com preeminent status? The film is definitely engrossing and will make you laugh and maybe even tear up a bit, but I'm left wondering do I really want what she's having?

Measuring a Film's Success

For about a month I waited for the release of "He's Just Not That Into You."  A primary reason for my media diet is to escape into the fictional worlds provided.  Why escape?  These worlds are easily (a return phone call) or sometimes not-so-easily solvable (flying into an alien ship planting a virus).  But the point is that they are solvable - generally leading to a better (the scholar in me might say naive?) world.

For the past three months, local theaters put forth the Oscar bait which typically involves the melodramatic and emotionally involving.  These films strive for gold on Oscar night.  This is their goal - a ridiculously high standard.

But what about the film's that have absolutely no interest in these awards.  Some of them strive for box office clout.  I have not seen "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," but after spending two weeks at the top, something very positive for Columbia Pictures.  If you're game is comedy and reaping the rewards, then Paul Blart is a great success.  This is all it wanted.  I wonder if this means if it is a good movie.  Paul Blart made more money than Pineapple Express.

But I don't want this to turn into a box office business versus critical acclaim debate.  It's tired.  No, this is more subjective.  My subject is "He's Just Not That Into You."  I tired of the depressing Oscar fodder that made me want to guzzle whiskey (choose your vice accordingly) to feel something else.  I wanted to feel something else in the darkened theater.  "He's Just Not That Into You" provided such an experience.  With Oscar/Depressing season still in full swing, this film provided the feel-good adventure.  Manohla Dargis of the New York Times chastised "He's Just Not That Into You" by comparing its heroines to Thelma and Louise (characters in a well-received film).

I love Manohla.  She actually liked Tony Scott's "Domino" - an under-appreciated film starring Mickey Rourke for all you "Wrestler" fans.  Keira Knightley is also in it, but you knew that.  My problem with Manohla's comparison is that "He's Just Not That Into You" wants no part of Thelma or Louise.  The women in this film only want to be liked in the cutesy, call me back sort of way.  How do rom-com fans feel about the film?  I think they like it.  Ginnifer Goodwin is cuter than a button.  Justin Long works in a restaurant I want to eat in - actually I am hungry.

Soderbergh's "Ocean's Eleven" occupies the same territory.  In some respects, this is a perfect film (no scene wasted, no extra scene needed, well-executed).  Do I think Scorsese's "Casino" is better than "Ocean's Eleven?" Yes.  Do I think Mann's "Heat" is better than "Ocean's Eleven"  But the film doesn't care.  All this film wants is to be a heist movie in Las Vegas.  Cinema historians will probably tell me that I think of movies in too much of a vacuum - without any consideration for a film's potential family tree.  A deficiency? Perhaps.  An asset? Sometimes yes.

"He's Just Not That Into You" isn't trying for anything like an Academy Award.  It's a date movie.  With this is mind, it is quite successful.  Look at what a movie is trying to accomplish and then look at it.  Don't try and compare an apple with an orange.  The women of "He's Just Not That Into You" probably have never seen "Thelma and Louise," but they've seen "When Harry Met Sally" a few times.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Beef. It's the Oscar Roundup Special.

Just in time for Oscar Night, February 22, 2009, check out the Media Joust Podcast, as we go through the Academy's nominees for Best Supporting and Lead Actors and Actresses in addition to Best Director and Best Picture. We have some beef, plus a few atta-boy/girl/films. Also, make sure to check out the films that were nominated for Best Foreign Language Feature as well as Best Documentary.

Though we are incredibly affirmative of Slumdog Millionaire as a thoroughly enjoyable film, I have some hangups after learning more about how the young actors were not paid enough.

Please leave your comments, beef, rants, raves, and predictions, to the podcast below, and forgive us for a few technical difficulties as we modify the old Screen Junkies podcasts to the Media Joust name.

Have a Happy Oscar Night!

- Linde