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[personal profile] helloladies
Today we're excited to welcome [tumblr.com profile] justira back to to Lady Business to talk about Mockingjay Part 1. Ira is an awesome illustrator, writer, and web developer who gained their powers by consuming the bones of their enemies. They make art, comics, and writing when they are not distracted by way too many video games. You can find more of Ira's work at their tumblr.





Mockingjay's recent release to DVD has reignited my ambivalence towards the movie— don't get me wrong, it's great having another female-led spec fic film, especially one with Natalie Dormer running support. But the film suffered a critical lack; the ghost of the movie it could have been hovered over the film for me: the film lacked confidence. The story — the book — is, at its core, part social commentary and part inspection of PTSD. But the film adaptation lacked the boldness to pull a full genre shift, or make up for Collins's shortcomings as a writer. Spoilers for the books and movies up through Mockingjay Part 1 and its equivalent part of the book follow.

What the movie should have done was listen to its own message more. It should have listened to Haymitch.

Haymitch explains how to use Katniss effectively.

Haymitch criticized Plutarch's effort at making Mockingjay propos: they were falling flat and felt artificial. What they needed to do — what the movie needed to do — was get inside Katniss's head, inspect the authentic intersection of her internal world and the world around her. Katniss's commodification had to be contingent upon her authenticity in order to function as intended. That's when the propos were the most genuine and effective. That's when the movie shone. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
I love space adventure. I love found families. When the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy dropped, it wasn't the fact it was a Marvel property that drew me in (like Iron Man and Captain America before it, I didn't even realize it was a thing), but the temptation of a story about a ragtag group of complicated individuals forming a team in space. Some of my favorite science fiction heavily features this trope: Stargate Atlantis (although I like the team dynamic better in SG-1), Firefly, The Expanse, hell, if we count one shots then there's a reason that Event Horizon, The Core, and Armageddon feature so high at the top of my list of SF films, and it isn't the rigorous science. When I found out that the script was written by Nicole Perlman, going into Guardians of the Galaxy I had high expectations for both the space adventure and the found families part. Those two elements delivered, even if space adventure and misogyhumor took precedence over found families in the end.



Plenty of other people have tackled the more sexist and nonsensical elements of the film that tossed them directly out the narrative airlock. It feels a little useless to add my voice to the pile, because the film is doing well (I'm glad it's doing well! please no more Transformers films! adapt something else!) and because it's doing well we could likely talk about these issues until we're blue in the face to unbothered shrugs from Marvel Studios. It's not that different from their constant shrugging over what the first female-led superhero film is going to be, maybe with an eye roll (none, ever, they're never doing one, not one, it's never going to happen, I am cynical and jaded and have no hope left). Whatever, it's my space adventure party, I'll cry if I want to. Read more... )
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[personal profile] renay
Recently, I listened to an episode of Friends in Your Head, titled Plot Hole Criticism. One of the hosts made the point that a lot of the time, human beings just had a problem coming out of a theater unhappy with a film and don't like to say "but I'm not sure why." because not knowing is somehow shameful! As people, some of us latch on to superficial reasons to dislike a thing and never really dig into the critical whys. I, however, am not afraid to admit I came out of the theater going, "What the hell was that? Did I like that? No? Maybe? Sure, it had good parts. But as a whole? No. BUT WHY?" Read more... )

"Belle"

Jul. 18th, 2014 11:11 am
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[personal profile] bookgazing


"Belle" is yet another answer to a common internet cry. Have you been longing for a period film which shows that chromatic people in history occupied a diverse range of roles? Well, Amma Asante’s "Belle" may just be what you’re looking for.

"Belle" was inspired by a painting of real life cousins Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and Elizabeth Murray. The painting originally hung at Kenwood House, where the real life Dido was sent by John Lindsay, her white father, in the 1765. Her father’s uncle the Earl of Hampstead, was the Lord Chief Justice of England at the time and he resided at Kenwood with his wife.

"Belle" presents a fictionalised version of Dido’s life at Kenwood. In the film Dido, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is the equal of her cousin. Although her parents were unmarried and she is of mixed race, she is acknowledged as a Lindsay by her father. When he leaves, she is cherished by her great uncle and aunt, and is encouraged to call them Papa and Mama. And when John Lindsay unfortunately dies at sea she becomes a wealthy, independent heiress.

Read more... )

Other Reviews

The Close Historian
The Guardian
Roger Ebert
The London Film Review

"Frozen"

Jan. 31st, 2014 07:37 am
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[personal profile] bookgazing
Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna's sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter. - (source)




Cut for Spoilers )

Supplementary Material

Thoughts on Frozen

Other Reviews

Reading the End
Yours?
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[personal profile] helloladies
Lady Business+ cover art


Episode #6 — Pacific Rim


Strap into your jaeger and prepare to hit the breach as Renay and Jodie team up to discuss Pacific Rim, the monsters versus robots film of our hearts. We lavish love on Mako Mori (OUR QUEEN), weep over the potential reality of Idris Elba as the Sean Bean of SF, and ponder the nature of love in action film narratives (if you don't ship Hermann/Newt, we cannot be friends). Complete spoilers for Pacific Rim, season two of Teen Wolf, and the end of Prometheus. Download the episode if your sexuality is Stacker Pentecost.

Disclaimer: this episode was recorded ten thousand years ago in Internet time.

Bonus content in the form of the 9876578 links we wanted to share but couldn't discuss in-depth. Please click all of them. )

Follow us on twitter, tumblr, via RSS, or subscribe via iTunes.

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[personal profile] helloladies
Lady Business is excited to present a guest post about Pacific Rim - one of the best films to come out of that whole sticky, summer blockbuster season- from chaila of underline everything. We're fairly confident that this post will leave you groaning about the DVD release date. Whhhy isn't it here yet?


I did not expect to love Pacific Rim, and I certainly did not expect to be bribing Jodie to ask me to do a guest post about feminist themes in Pacific Rim (this is my recollection and I’m sticking to it). I don’t usually like summer blockbusters. I do always like Idris Elba (maybe this is the time to declare my biases; if Idris Elba is in a thing, I will be interested in that thing), but I wasn’t even convinced I would see it. Then I happened to hear the director, Guillermo del Toro, talking about the movie on the radio and he made me want to like it. It seemed like more thought had been put into this movie than is usually put into summer blockbusters and I really liked the idea of original genre film trying to do a little bit better.

Spoilers: robots punch sea monsters! But this post is not very much about that )

Other reviews I liked

Pacific Rim: And why this may be the most important film you see this summer (at Gray-Eyed Filmdom on Tumblr)

Mako Mori and the Hero’s Journey (at Hello, tailor.)

The Visual Intelligence of Pacific Rim (at Storming the Ivory Tower)

'Looper'

May. 2nd, 2013 07:56 pm
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[personal profile] bookgazing


'In the year 2047 time travel has yet to be invented. Thirty years later, however, it has. Though immediately outlawed, time-travel technology is quickly appropriated by the mob, and used to cleanly dispose of anyone deemed a threat. The process is simple: When the mob wants someone to disappear, they simply send them back to the year 2047, where an assassin known as a "looper" quickly carries out the hit, and disposes of the body. Joe Simmons (Gordon-Levitt) is one of the most respected loopers around. Each kill earns him a big payday, and he's got big plans to retire to France. Then, one day, as Joe patiently awaits the appearance of his next target near the edge of a remote corn field, he's shocked to come face-to-face with his future self (Bruce Willis). When the younger Joe hesitates, the older Joe makes a daring escape. Now, in order to avoid the wrath of his underworld boss (Jeff Daniels), young Joe must "close the loop" and kill his older counterpart. Meanwhile, the revelation that a powerful crime boss in the future has set the underworld ablaze pits the two Joes on a violent collision course, with the fate of a devoted mother (Emily Blunt) and her young son hanging in the balance.' (source)


Ah time travel — the SF device that leaves as many holes in the internal logic of stories as a weevil in a ship's biscuit. Very few time travel stories even vaguely attempt a consistent approach to time travel, I assume because letting the consequences of time travel run its logical course means throwing all your plotted intentions off a bridge. There's a difference between being willing to kill your darlings and being willing to pull down the story you cared about because a fictional element won't stand up to scientific scrutiny.The second one involves a lot more drinking at midnight I imagine.

So, unsurprisingly 'Looper', the newest filmic addition to time travel canon, does not escape the weevil; like most time travel stories 'Looper' presents a logically inconsistent vision of how time travel might affect the continuity of a life. What are paradoxes? We don't need to deal with no stinking paradoxes! Never mind 'Looper', I still like you.

Spoilers from the future )


Other Reviews

Asking the Wrong Questions

Yours?
bookgazing: (revolution)
[personal profile] bookgazing
‘Silver Linings Playbook’ is the most engrossing film I’ve seen this year. It is the exceptionally charming and worrying story about whether a group of people affected by serious mental illness will ever be ok. And yet at times it is also a rather troubled, neat portrayal of those illnesses. There are many things I could pull out of this film to talk about, but as this is lady business and I am who I am I’ve decided to concentrate on the main woman in this film:



Gif of Jennifer Lawrence explainin that eating is one of her favourite parts of the day

(source)


It’s another ladybusiness post about a character played by Jennifer Lawrence! Yes, my interest is perfectly under control, thanks for asking.


Gif of Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany leaning in to talk to Pat. White text says I just got fired actually, on the line below it yellow text says Oh really? How? and on the line below that white text says By having sex with everyone in the office.

(source)


Unsurprisingly, considering the content of this scene, it’s common to find several similar gifs when searching for images of Jennifer Lawrence in ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’. Looking closely at this scene, where Tiffany and the film’s title character, Pat, go out to eat, illuminates how the film portrays the depression and grief of her character, Tiffany, who has been recently widowed.

She was very depressed after Tommy died )

I barely came up for air during ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and it’s been a long time since I was so deep into a film's world, or so concerned about the fate of two characters. There are so many ways to investigate this film and I hope it gets a lot of consideration, flaws and all, because that’s what an interesting piece of media deserves. Maybe my slant on this one particular part of the film will encourage you to take the film apart and share what you find.

shot of Tiffany and Pat holding hands, text reads What's this? shot of Tiffany looking down, text read I thought you were doing it
shot of Pat, text reads Oh, I thought you were doing it shot of Pat and Tiffany continuing to walk along holding hands

(source)


And if what you want to share is love for this screen couple who am I to stop you?:P
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[personal profile] bookgazing


‘A League of Their Own’ is one of those films I will always settle down to watch, if I find it while flicking around through television channels. It doesn’t matter what time I find it, or how much of the film I’ve missed this time. I always find myself putting the control down, curling up and willing The Rockford Peaches, a fictional female baseball team from 1950s America, on to victory. So, what exactly is it besides my usual interest in sporting narratives that makes me love this film so hard?

1.) The film is based around an episode in WWII history that isn’t mentioned that often in typical coverage of that period. During WWII, baseball teams were destroyed as men went off to fight. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was created to keep interest in baseball alive (and bring in much needed money for the male team bosses). The women involved in teams that resemble the film’s fictional Peaches, receive less main stream notice than they should considering the fascination for all aspects of baseball that appears to exist in America. Media that makes me aware of under publicised history always gives me a little thrill.

2.) Obviously, with the story of female sports players at its heart ‘A League of Their Own’ is a film that focuses on women. There are so many ladies in this film1 and they all spend time playing baseball, as well as doing other things (like sneaking out to swing dance). They talk to each other about a variety of subjects such as baseball, the war, men, family and dreams. In the past, Lady Business posts have referenced links to several sources that show the serious, sexist gender imbalance in the film industry. Personally I like to see women represented in media, because woman are awesome and y’know exist, so films featuring women generally draw me in. Films where the relationships between those women are portrayed with energy and given significance get their own room in my heart.

3.) Geena Davis, who plays the film’s main Dottie Hinson, has been involved in several films and series that either worked hard to be feminist, or contained a female-centric focus. Renay tells me she is also a political activist who gave her support to The Women’s Sports Foundation and set up The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. A feminist star in a movie about women, giving a fun, convincing character portrayal! Whichever dude was taking a snooze when that happened, I thank him because it certainly is inspiring to see Davis portray such an admirable character, so vigorously.

4.) It's a funny film. Look proof that women can be funny! Oh wait, we had lots of proof already? Well now I’m all confused. Anyway, ‘A League of Their Own’ isn’t going to win any awards for comedic originality, but it’s as gently funny as any other film Tom Hanks has starred in and it makes me laugh.

5.) It tries hard to incorporate realistic historical commentary on social issues, instead of concealing any unpleasant history with jazz hands, like some many other feel good historical films (‘Leatherheads’ you are lucky I don’t bust your nose in). Dottie has a short interaction with a black women who would not have been considered for the league the Peaches play in, despite her clear talent, because of the ‘separate, but equal’ philosophy of racial prejudice present at the time. In this moment the film acknowledges that although the story of The Peaches succeeding in a traditionally male professional arena is a story of feminist triumph, not all women would have cause to fully celebrate this particular victory.

‘A League of Their Own’ also shows awareness of other compromises that would have been made as women tried to establish their right to play baseball. There are scenes where Dottie dramatically showboats to keep crowds interested. I assume a male player would have been disciplined for unnecessarily endangering score lines if he’d pulled similar tricks, but Dottie has no choice. She needs to win over crowds conditioned to be uninterested in women playing sports, or the women’s league will be wound up on the grounds that girls playing baseball doesn’t sell tickets. Other player’s must use flirtatious tactics to fill stadiums, which is a feminist compromise you perhaps wouldn’t expect of women fighting for equality, but again the Peaches have little choice. They need to fill stadiums if they want to keep playing (they really want to keep playing) and promises of kisses from pretty girls will put paying men in seats.

Here’s a feel good movie that is comfortable acknowledging the problems any historical feminist struggle has faced; the compromises made and the common place exclusion, without worrying that this will jeopardise the viewer’s support for the characters’ journey. It’s not perfect, but it has a good go at nosing some true representations towards its viewers. Tom Hank’s character, Jimmy Dugan, isn’t an instantly progressive male coach. Despite her consistent pro-female stance Dottie isn’t able to push back against the cultural conditioning that tells her being a wife is ‘enough’ once her husband returns home. Only through the depiction of the messy reality of history, can we see the true importance of the gains made in socio-political struggles.

There you go then, my reasons for shaking off the world’s claims whenever this film appears on television. Does anybody else have a bit of a thing for this film?

1 Including Madonna - I love early Madonna films
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[personal profile] nymeth
500 Days of Summer


A slightly different version of the following review was originally posted on my tumblr in August 2010. Also, be warned that it contains spoilers.

There’s something really disappointing about disliking something you were convinced you were going to love, be it a movie, a book, or a new album by a favourite band. And in some cases, for reasons that I hope will become clear as this post progresses, there’s something really lonely about it too.

My issues with (500) Days of Summer go beyond the random sexist one-liners, the fact that it reinforces double standards, the manic pixie dream girl syndrome, or the fact that the story is told solely from a male perspective. I’ve seen the film criticised on all these grounds, and while I think they’re all very fair points, I won’t repeat them here because they’ve been written about extensively by people more knowledgeable and articulate than I am. A quick comment on that last point in particular: I think that yes, we do need more movies from the point of view of girls and women, and yes, the absence of their voices is a problem. But I think this is more of a problem with cinema as a whole than with each individual story told from the point of view of a man, if that makes sense. I could write a whole other post on this topic (ETA: and now I have!), though, so I’ll leave it alone for now. I just hope I don’t sound dismissive of people who get tired of only ever hearing the same old straight white male voices, because as I said, I really do think that’s a very valid point.

But anyway: this movie made me feel cheated in a way that no story had in a long, long time. Obviously the screenwriter sees the world very differently than I do, but that isn’t really a problem in itself, as I don’t need every story I’m exposed to reflect my exact set of values. The problem is that this is also a story that misrepresents and dismisses people like me; a story that only subverts tired old Hallmark clichés on the surface; a story that unforgivably reduces the world’s complexity and the myriad ways people approach romantic relationships to, once again, the same old clichés and stereotypes.

I’m going to assume that anyone who’s reading this has either seen the movie or read a quick synopsis, so I won’t go over the plot. (500) Days of Summer didn’t ever really strike me as an amazing movie, but until the final ten minutes or so, I thought that though it had some major issues I might still like it. All the way through I got mixed signs about how the narrative framed Summer’s position, but somehow I didn’t for a moment doubt that she was not going to be portrayed as a heartless monster in the end. So much for wishful thinking. In retrospect maybe I should have expected it, as the mixed signs and creepy moments really were abundant, but somehow I didn’t see the train wreck that was the ending coming at all.

I really don’t think Tom can rightfully accuse Summer of any wrongdoing – she was completely honest with him about the fact that she wasn’t looking for a serious commitment from the very beginning, and she trusted him to be an adult and actually mean it when he said he was okay with that. The story more or less acknowledges this several times, which was what I was hoping it would do, but then it blows it by presenting her as someone who, as Tom tells her in that cringeworthy final scene in the park, just “does whatever she wants”, with no regard whatsoever for other people’s feelings. This appalled me for several reasons, one of them being the fact that, as this post so well puts it, there are some serious sexual double standards at work here:
If Zooey Deschanel were actually a boy, and in this situation, most people would not perceive her as the problem. She wouldn’t be a monster, a whore, a freak; she’d just be a dude. And she’d get to complain about the clingy psycho bitch she fucked who’s now, like, putting all this pressure on, that bitch is fucking CRAZY, she just hooked up with the girl, she didn’t buy her an engagement ring, etc. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt, were he an actual girl, would be getting some sympathy from his lady friends, true, but he would also be getting well-meaning lectures about how Dudes Are Like That, and what did he expect, and he needs to be more cautious about these things and not put out so easily, and has he ever read a book called “He’s Just Not That Into You?” He should read that book. He would be told, to be blunt, that he was the real problem in this situation.
Then there’s also the fact that Tom’s huge entitlement issues are never properly addressed, and are in fact pretty much legitimatised by the ending of the movie. This is extra disappointing because there are so many scenes where the film almost acknowledges them; where it very nearly presents Tom as the huge jerk he often is, only to turn things around at the last moment and present him as the victim of a cruel and fickle pretty girl.

Summer never lied to him, and she doesn’t really owe him anything. No, people shouldn’t be careless with other people’s feelings, and yes, it's unfortunate that he wants more from the relationship than she does. It's unfortunate that their emotional needs and expectations are so mismatched and that he gets hurt, but she isn’t to blame for that. These things happen all the time. The fact that a girl doesn’t love him the way he wants to be loved does NOT make her a heartless monster, and it doesn’t mean she wronged him – just like it wouldn’t if he were a girl and she a guy. I just can’t wrap my mind around resenting people for not feeling about you as you wish they did. Feeling hurt, yes. Feeling lonely and miserable and rejected—of course. But the vicious resentment Tom so often expresses just makes no sense to me at all.

(Also, while I’m at it, why on earth did Summer apologise to Tom after getting mad at him for punching a guy who was hitting on her at a bar, supposedly to “protect” her? She didn’t ask to be protected, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw her apologise. What exactly did she do wrong? Does her mere existence mean that she’s to blame when Tom stupidly gets into a fight because of her, in a situation in which she was under no physical danger whatsoever and that she very clearly could handle on her own?)

Even more disappointing than that, though, is the way that the film’s final scenes completely undermine all the character development that took place until then. Summer is a girl who enjoys being independent and who isn’t looking for a serious relationship. This is unusual for a pop culture portrayal of a woman. And even more unusual is the fact that at first the story seems to frame this as – gasp! – a perfect valid position, as something worthy of respect. So far so good. But then Summer meets The One. In fact, before she even meets The One, we see her crying as she watches a wedding scene in a movie. Well, of course. The only possible reason why someone, especially a woman, would reject the dominant relationship model would be because she hasn’t met The Right Man yet. Deep down she’s aching for him and secretly dying to get married. Aren’t we all? As Summer tells Tom in the park in those disastrous final ten minutes of the film, once Prince Charming entered her life she realised that she had been wrong all along, while he, Tom, had been right. Yes, there is such a thing as a soul mate and true love. But the two of them weren’t each other’s soul mates, and that’s the real reason why things didn’t work out. It just wasn’t Meant To Be.

….

I swear, I felt like crying as I watched that scene. I can’t remember the last time a story disappointed me this much. I should tell you up front that I hate the idea of “true” love – the idea that we can only form one real connection in our lives; that we can only be happy with one specific person; that relationships don’t take any work, and if things don’t go well, it can only mean that your current partner is not The One. The whole myth irks me beyond belief. Much to my dismay, in the end (500) Days of Summer reinforces this myth, even as it appears to subvert it on the surface. But this still isn't what bothered me the most. As much as I hate this way of looking at romance, I fully respect people who believe those things, and I can very well see myself enjoying a story that included them if I felt that it came from an emotionally honest and resonant place.

What really got to me was the way the movie presented sceptics like Summer—or me. The subtext tells us that clearly anyone who’s uncomfortable with neatly labelling every relationship is cynical, bitter, immature, and will sooner or later realise that they’re wrong. Why couldn’t Summer have said all those things and meant them? Why did she have to change her mind so completely? You know, the movie could even have ended the as it did, with Summer getting married and Tom meeting someone new, if only it hadn’t framed those events the way it did. It’s perfectly possible that someone who never wanted to get married could meet a person who made them change their mind. That’s absolutely fine, but it doesn’t mean they were wrong before, or that their previous position was immature and silly. Sadly, those final scenes reduce the whole movie to this tired stereotype. The immature one grows up and settles down, and the romantic one is rewarded with Princess Charming. But look, the usual gender roles are inverted! How very original.

This makes me feel terribly lonely, but I suspect that that most people would think that my objections to the movie mean that I’m as cynical and immature as Summer was until she met The One, and that one day I too will grow up and learn better. The thing is, I’m not bitter in the least, and in fact couldn’t be happier in my love life. And no, obviously I shouldn't have to bring any of this up to justify my position - the way I feel wouldn't be any less valid even if I were coming from a place of anger and hurt. But because the ways in which the film disappointed me hae to do with my experiences, here it goes: I’ve been with my boyfriend (a word I’m not crazy about, by the way, but which I use for convenience’s sake) for six years and a half now. No, I don’t think he’s the only person in the world who could ever make me happy, and neither am I the only person out there for him. But we happened to have met and fallen in love, we enjoy each other’s company immensely, and so we choose to stay together and do our best to make sharing our lives with each other as pleasant as possible. Not believing that there’s any cosmic significance to our relationship doesn’t make us bitter, it doesn’t make it “casual” (whatever that means), it doesn’t make us cruel or careless with each other, and it doesn’t at all make us dismiss the concept of love. My boyfriend is one of the most important people in my life, but not because fate decided this would be so. It’s because of what we have built together, every day, for all the years that I’ve had him in my life. Being this close to someone takes daily work, and isn’t always easy, but it’s extremely precious for that very reason.

This brings me to yet another point I wanted to make: even if the movie had ended as I hoped it would, with an acknowledgement of Tom’s entitlement issues and both characters trying to make the best of things with the new people in their lives, I’d still have a problem with the fact that two very extreme positions are presented as the only ways to approach romantic relationships. I’m sorry, but real life is not a matter of either/or. You don’t either dismiss the whole idea of love or believe in soul mates. You’re not either a believer in fate and love at first sight, or a character from a Beckett play. There’s a middle ground somewhere in there, a middle ground I very happily inhabit, and I really wish the movie had acknowledged it. Not to do so is – I kind of hate this word because I’ve seen people who like to pat themselves on the back for being so clever use it one time too many, but I really can’t think of  another – inexcusably simplistic.

Even if I try to read the ending generously (not as an ending that reinforces the idea of fate, soul mates and true love at the exclusion of anything but loneliness and bleak bitterness, but rather as an ending meant to illustrate that it’s only human to behave foolishly and hastily when you’re in love), it still bothers me that it gives Tom a free pass for his jerkface behaviour, it still portrays Summer as callous and fickle because she hadn’t met her Prince yet, and it still completely fails to address the whole issue of entitlement. ARGH.

As NPR put it (and I can’t tell you how very, very comforting it was to read these words), “For all its rhetorical whimsy and hipster dressings, (500) Days of Summer is a thoroughly conservative affair, as culturally and romantically status quo as any Jennifer Aniston vehicle (…). Its vision of the sexes, human bonding and the workplace are laughably superficial.” That’s what it comes down to, really: apparently, deep down we all just want to get married, and if we dare conceive of relationships in a different mould, well, we just haven’t met our one true love yet.

I keep wondering if I shouldn’t generalise; if maybe I should simply see Tom and Summer as two flawed people, and think that their stories are not meant to be taken as universal illustrations of love. But sadly, the movie’s constant use of voiceover to make generalisations and drop aphorisms on The Nature of Love makes this reading kind of impossible, no matter how charitable I’m feeling. (Also, the tagline is “This is not a love story. This is a story about love”. I rest my case.)

I think I feel so strongly about this movie because it could have been good. If only it had left more room for nuance and complexity; if only it hadn’t been so dismissive of anything that falls outside a very limited way of looking at gender or romantic love. If only it had really subverted all those old clichés instead of beginning to do so but then giving up halfway through. The music was so wonderful, the cinematography was so beautiful, and the potential was very much there. But then the story had to go and completely STOMP on my heart. Dramatic as it sounds, watching it was really a painful and very lonely experience. It made me feel – me and my way of experiencing the world – dismissed and erased.

 (I'll finish this by saying that a lot of people I really respect [including John Green!] loved this film, and it goes without saying that I don't think any less of them because of it. At the time when I originally posted this on tumblr I had some interesting conversations about the film with friends who interpreted it differently, and I'm always open to doing that again.)
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[personal profile] nymeth
An Education

An Education is a 2009 film by Lone Scherfig based on the real story of journalist Lynn Barber: as a teenager in the 1960’s, she got romantically involved with an older man, and as a result considered giving up her plans to go to Oxford and getting married instead. Barber has published a memoir of the same title, but the film is not actually an adaptation of the book. Nick Hornby, who wrote the screenplay, based his research on an article by Lynn Barber, which was only expanded into a full-length book at the same time as the film was being produced. (Needless to say, I’m quite interested in reading it to see how the two compare.)

What I liked the most about An Education was the fact that it came close to being the sort of story I’m constantly on the lookout for: a story about a woman looking back on a relationship that ended badly without regretting that it happened to begin with, and fully and unapologetically acknowledging that her experiences mattered to her regardless of the break-up. This aspect of the film is more implied than explicit, and it’s possible that the fact that the script was penned by an author I love and trust influenced how I read it. But at the very least the story doesn’t disallow this interpretation, which is more than I can say of a lot of what is out there.

I don’t want to say too much about the end of Jenny and David’s relationship in case you haven’t watched An Education, so suffice to say that she goes through the kind of disappointment that could easily taint a person’s whole memories of someone who once mattered to them. And yet when all is said and done, she reclaims her experiences as her own. Despite everything that happens, she’s able to hold on to the bits of it that obviously changed her as a person.

Of course, there’s a lot more to An Education than the failure of Jenny and David’s relationship. The story is predominantly about, well, education, and life choices, and gender and opportunities, and most of all about someone struggling against the tiny confines of their world. Which brings me to favourite thing number two: Jenny is clearly an intelligent young woman, and the film never portrays her as anything but. This isn’t a “silly teen girl makes dumb decision and almost wrecks her life” kind of story, though it very easily could have been. Fortunately, the film never downplays the complexity of Jenny’s life circumstances, nor does it portray any of the characters with anything less than the full nuance of a real human being. The result is the vivid evocation of a social world where people and their relationships are intricate, and things happen for multiple and often messy reasons.

You can see what motivates Jenny, and why something that in retrospect wasn’t the best of decisions did in fact have a lot of appeal. Towards the end of the film, Jenny says that she has finally realised that there were no shortcuts to the kind of life she wanted – but the thing is, you can clearly see what made her believe there were. The question the story deals with most consistently is what an education meant for a girl in the 1960’s. Today we see an education as something to be got for its own sake – it may or may not open doors for you in the job market (I am not bitter about my soon-to-be three degrees and complete lack of prospects, nope, not at all), but it will change and challenge and enrich you as a person. I believe in this (though obviously traditional education is not the only valid path to said personal enrichment), but I understand why Jenny didn’t. This was very much not the idea being sold to her. Prestigious education or not, nobody but one of her teachers seemed to see her as anything other than a prop.

Jenny has a father who desperately wants her to go to Oxford: he monitors her extracurricular activities, controls her study time, and buys her Latin dictionaries for her birthday. As the story progresses, however, it becomes clear that he doesn’t want her to go to Oxford for its own sake, but because it would increase her chances of being “settled” in life, i.e., of finding a rich and well-connected husband. Therefore, an early marriage to a well-off man will do just as well. To paraphrase Jenny, he saw Oxford as the 1960’s equivalent of the Victorian ballroom. This is the implicit attitude of most of the adults who surround her. Although the film is intelligent and generous enough to portray someone like Jenny’s father in a nuanced way, in these circumstances you can’t not respect her or fail to sympathise with her when she dismisses what education means or can achieve. This isn’t the result of stupidity, but of a mind constantly engaged that cannot help but ask why.

More than being a person, David represents excitement, possibility; a life that Jenny fears is forever beyond her reach. We know the dangers of relying on a single person to provide that for you, let alone a man with whom you can’t really have a relationship that stands on equal terms – the power gap is too wide. But in a story told as respectfully as this, we can also see what drove her to attempt a shortcut; what drove so many girls in her position over time: almost everyone around her communicated and reinforced the idea that she couldn’t be or do things for her own sake, that no other doors were open to her. Sadly it took heartbreak for her to learn otherwise, but still she was luckier than countless other girls.

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