Saturday, March 24, 2007

Prepare for Glory! The feminist fangirl reviews the 300!

So, I adore Frank Miller. He is an innovator, a brilliant artist and a great storyteller. Miller’s world is highly a stylized and codified one, and when I read one of his books, I have come to expect certain things about the story I am being told. The ladies that Frank gives us are generally well muscled, well endowed, and often unclothed specimens, but I’ve always considered his mode to be tongue-in-cheek, and accepted it for what it was.

Miller tells stories in which women are often the objects, but rarely the subjects, and yet the actions of his protagonists are always, in one way or another, dictated by his women. Miller’s 300 is a story about men striving hopelessly to protect their lands and wives from pillage and rape, and the film does a competent job of bringing this to life, without really adding anything of value to the translation. The entire enterprise felt a bit joyless…perhaps because it lacked the charisma and depth which the stellar cast of Sin City brought to the screen.

So forgive me for not being delighted that the makers of the film version of The 300 chose to tack on a subplot following the homefront tribulations of Queen Gorgo, (played by Lena Heady.) Heady was extremely toned for the role and looked great in a series of costumes apparently constructed from belts and bedsheets. (After a montage depicting the training regimen required of Spartan men and boys, but no equivalent explanation for the physical perfection the women, I couldn’t help but wonder where Gorgo was hiding her Stairmaster in the royal compound). Heady’s Gorgo stoically endures a rape, the inevitability of the death of her husband and her own pending estrangement with her son. When she stabs her smarmy attacker on the floor of the forum, many people in the theatre where I was watching the film cheered and applauded; but why? What about this robotic woman could they possibly have identified with?

Ultimately the “home-front” subplot somehow left me feeling both cheated and pandered to. It added a stale second dimension to a plot that was already stretched wafer-thin by the feature-film format. This was one story that I felt was best left in the capable hands of the boys club that created it.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Random Thought About "Heroes"...

“Heroes” is a great show. Of course, most of the powers and maybe even a few of the plotlines are lifted wholesale from The X-Men…anyone who tries to tell you different is just too blinded by their own geek zeal to admit the truth. On the other hand, "Heroes" is freshly delivered to your T.V. set every Monday night, and the X-Men franchise is not. Therefore “Heroes” rules. The end.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Sugar Rush

The new cycle of America’s Next Top Model premiered last Wednesday, amidst criticism that the honor granted to past winners was, in fact, meaningless, and that contestants on the show tend to fail to find the success that the title promises.

Why then do I, and educated and self-respecting woman, love this show so much? Is it because of Tyra Bank’s unintentionally hilarious narcissism? The Jays’ caustic bitchiness? Nigel Barker’s withering criticisms, delivered in his oh-so-sexy accent? No. Perhaps it is just because the show is on right before Lost? Nope. The answer is much simpler than that.

ANTM is eye candy in its most unadulterated form. For one hour pretty, pretty, girls prance around a pretty house, dress up in pretty clothes, take pretty pictures, and get in stupid arguments with each other while making mascara-stained declarations in the ‘confessional booth’ about ‘how badly they want this.’ At the end of the hour, one girl is declared not pretty enough, and is sent home.

What’s not to love? The principal of eye candy applies equally to a stupid show like ANTM and a smartly executed flick like Sophia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette,” (which I also adored). High culture, low culture; it’s all culture baby. So let them eat cake…just don’t come knocking on the bathroom door afterwards.


Friday, March 02, 2007

A Heads Up for Seattle Literary Types

As I was perusing the Seattle Public Library’s website today, I realized that it is once again time for “Seattle Reads.” Is it possible that it has been nearly a year since I blogged about Marjane Stratapi? Amazing but true. Anyway, this year’s book is The Namesake, and I couldn’t be more psyched about it. The Interpreter of Maladies was incredible, and I can’t wait to read Jhumpa Lahiri’s second book and hear her speak. Lahiri will be in Seattle May 14-15.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Bride

Has anyone seen a crazy-ass Frankenstein flick called “The Bride”? Cameron and I watched it last night, and its pretty wacky, but interesting. This movie, I shit you not, stars Sting as doctor Frankenstein, Clancy Brown as the monster, and Jennifer Beals as “Eva” the bride to be of the monster. Throw in a wise midget with an accent, and you’ve got one heady brew.

Basically, Dr. Frankenstein attempts, per the request of his original monster, to create a bride for him out of reanimated girl-parts. He doesn’t count on the fact that #1-The Bride will have a instantaneous fear reaction to the uncouth firstborn, causing a major ruckus which leaves his workshop in ashes, his monster hightailing it to Budapest with the afore mentioned little person, and the Bride alone with him in his castle. #2-his second creation will be a vast improvement on his first, and that he will develop a full 19th century hard-on for it.

Faced with this predicament, Dr. Frankenstein decides to mold his lovely homunculus into the “perfect woman”; beautiful, intelligent, athletic, spirited, cultured, well mannered, articulate, not to mention independent and a free thinker. Not much to live up to eh? So, when Dr. F is eventually revealed for the maniacal control-freak/rapist that he really is, and the MONSTER turns out to have heart of gold, you can pretty much guess which one Eva is going to punt off into the Venetian sunset with.

At first, I wrote this movie off as a quirky “Bride of Frankenstein” remake with a few boobs and circus freaks, (along with a dash of pseudo-feminism), stirred in for good measure. Then, in one pivotal scene, Doctor Frankenstein (here called “Charles”…Victor is the monster’s name. Must’ve been a copyright thing,) misquotes from Shelly’s “Prometheus Unbound”, attributing it to Keats. Eva, his protégé, corrects him proving once and for all that she has surpassed her creator/mentor in intellect. For any viewer who has had a survey course in the Romantics (thanks again Prof. Skarda!) this is a pretty “meta” moment.

It got me thinking. If the makers of this film had more than a passing interest in telling the story of Romantic literature itself, then perhaps this film could be read as a veiled retelling of Mary Shelley’s early life.

Like Eva, Mary Godwin (later Shelley) was motherless almost from birth. She was raised in a tyrannical household with a repressive stepmother and a father that she adored with a devotion that bordered on both the fanatical and the sexual. When young Mary’s secret liaisons with Percy Shelly became know to her father, he had a complete meltdown. Apparently Godwin expected his daughter to be both a forward thinking feminist genius (like her mother) and Daddy’s Little Princess. A bit hypocritical for a committed anarchist if you ask me, but there you have it. Mary finally eloped with Percy to warmer climes...and uh, their marriage was annulled a of couple times, but that’s another story…

Speaking of which, the next Shelly themed film of the 80’s that I’d like to see is “Gothic”, about time that the Shelleys, Byron, and their doctor spent at that Swiss villa. Netflix doesn’t have it though…thoughts?