Gone Girl: Misogynist or Feminist? Who Cares?

I just watched this movie and I loved it! I was planning on reading the book first but I’m stuck in a rut lately. I’ve not finished a damn book for months; I think I need to have my internet taken away!

Anyway, I now realized what everyone was raving about. Gone Girl is an absolutely smart and unique take on the mystery and thriller genre. The plot was a bit outrageous but not entirely implausible.

Relating to the feminist context, I thought the movie is very feminist but after seeing that shocking scene with Barney, I mean Neil Patrick Harris, and Amy’s (SPOILERS!) eventual return to her husband, Nick, who’s now afraid of her, I thought that’s a bit misogynistic. But who could blame him really?

The story turns the battered wife-abusive husband trope on it’s head. In Gone Girl, it’s the wife who’s a violent pyschopath who manipulates her victims and audience to her bidding. What’s interesting is everyone’s reaction to what was happening. I’m sure that the media won’t be so forgiving if it was a man who came back bloodied after murdering a woman, even if that woman kidnapped him and used him as a sex slave, meanwhile causing his wife to become a suspect in his “murder.”

It’s fascinating how Nick (Ben Afleck) in the end, feels trapped by his marriage to a woman he’s afraid could hurt him in his sleep. It echoes the majority of battered women trapped in a loveless marriage, forced to live under the thumb of their male partners.

On the other hand, I thought that the movie is also feminist as it shows that women can take control and direct their lives to where they want to be (although faking your death to frame your husband might not be such a good example to women). She used every weapon she had, including her sexuality, to get what she wants.

The very open ending of this film might cause frustration on the part of the audience but I don’t mind it at all. It allows us to imagine how their lives would become. Would he finally get the guts to leave and get a divorce? Would she eventually get a gun and shoot him in the head as he snores? (And sing “he had it comin'” “he only got himself to blame…”) Or would the town wake up to a murder with Nick Dunne holding the box cutter, this time?

We may never know…

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Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window

I’m a fan of the Hitch. I discovered his films in VHS format at the forgotten corner of a video rental store where the classics and special interest genres were displayed. I knew his films, of course, I think I may have even watch some of his specials on TV as a kid but I was too young to remember.

In my bucket list, I’ll include, watching all the Alfred Hitchcock films I can lay my hands on. So far I’ve watched just the most notable ones: The Birds, Vertigo, and Psycho. Today, I add Rear Window. (Next stop: Strangers on a Train)

Alfred Hitchcock at Madame Tussaud's
Alfred Hitchcock at Madame Tussaud’s

I knew the premise as I’ve watched the imitation, Disturbia, starring Shia Labeouf. I must say this one is a bit slower on the pacing, no hurried action sequences necessary. It’s a little light compared to Birds and Psycho but it’s meant to be that way. I love that courtyard and how someone can make do without a television and just watch the neighborhood drama unfolding simultaneously, in 4D no less. I would love to live in a neighborhood like that but I’m betting they don’t make windows like they used to.

Rear Window stars dashing James Stewart and Grace Kelly (before she became a princess). Jeff (Stewart) is immobile with a cast on his right leg. He misses the action packed life of a press photographer who covers world events and makes do with watching other people’s lives unfold, framed in the 4 panels of his rear apartment window. His window overlooks a courtyard shared by 5(?) buildings. In plain view are windows of his neighbors: a ballet dancer who’s stupid enough to leave her windows wide open while prancing about in her undies, a nagging wife and simmering husband, another couple who sleeps on the balcony (it’s hot) and is probably the laziest dog owners around (dog in the basket with pulley to bring dog in and out of the apartment), newlyweds who didn’t leave their bed for the whole of the movie, partying composer, an artist, and probably more that I’m just forgetting.

Anyway, a lot of those neighbors are not important. The story centers on the couple with the nagging wife and a tired looking husband. Jeff got it in his head that one night, the husband killed the wife and stuffed her body in a trunk or maybe buried her under the flower beds (when the dog got killed while sniffing on the assumed burial spot). The problem is he didn’t actually see the murder, even with big ass zoom lens and big ass binoculars. He fell asleep when the deed took place, and besides, the guy had the decency to keep his blinds close.

Jeff was so engrossed with his theory, he even convinced his girlfriend and part time nanny to dig up the “grave.” His overly-attached girlfriend (Kelley) was so eager to please (or maybe just a tad high on adrenaline), she risked her life climbing over the guy’s window to get evidence. Well, the guy caught her when he returned unexpectedly to the apartment. Fortunately, the police was called beforehand, but the guy caught girlfriend signaling to boyfriend, Jeff, that she got the ring as evidence.

As any self-respecting guy who’s apartment just got broken into would do, he went to Jeff’s apartment to ask what’s the deal? In the confrontation, it was revealed that he did, indeed, killed his wife and stuffed her body in the trunk. Scuffles followed and Jeff ended up hanging from his window while killer tries to do him in with an alarmed neighborhood all looking in on the action happening from across their building(for once). In a miraculous coincidence(that happens only in movies), turns out the police haven’t left yet (although it seems impossible as a lot of time passed) and was there in time to save Jeff although he still fell and in a funny ending, hurt both his feet and is again confined to his apartment.

SIDE BAR: Have I mentioned the gorgeous clothes? I’m really a 50’s fashionista, at heart, deep inside, where there lies a thinner me. Sigh… If I had the body, I’d wear those gorgeous voluminous skirts all the time. I wouldn’t care if people have to give me an extra 2 feet of space in a crowded train.

SIDE BAR: I don’t know why Hitchcock prefers blondes. Is it because of the black and white format of his earlier movies? But I’m enamored by Grace Kelley’s presence on the screen. The clothes fit her perfectly and even while climbing the second story fire ladder, she was nonchalantly elegant.

I have to say, this don’t happen in the 2010s. Oh no, privacy is very much sacred in today’s society*sarcasm* Instead of windows, what we have is social media. Instead of one dashing, slightly pervy, but otherwise normal guy, the whole world is a potential peeping tom. Instead of a courtyard, we have the internet.

Alfred Hitchcock and Me
Alfred Hitchcock and Me at Madame Tussaud’s in HK

 

Try Defying Gravity

We just saw Gravity (starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) and it was hard on the heart, really. I don’t mean in a bad way but in a very good way. I was going to skip this movie but it garnered rave reviews which makes it hard to resist. And besides it just rained again in the Metro and streets were going to become parking lots in a matter of minutes so I’d rather spend 2 hours enjoying a movie than be frustrated and trapped in the pouring rain and flooded streets.

The movie is not easy to watch. It’s not some lighthearted fare you can forget about when you exit the cinema. I felt myself getting stressed out, dizzy, and I had to remind myself that Sandra Bullock is safe somewhere in the US and this is just a movie and George Clooney is probably out and about trying out his latest “girlfriend.” We watched it on a regular 2D screen. I can’t imagine how nerve wracking and disorienting the experience would be in 3D IMAX.

Critics praised the technical aspects of the movie and deservedly so. The effects were awesome. I don’t know how they shot the movie but it really felt like they were out there in space. You can almost feel the lack of gravity with all the lack of control – spinning and hurling through space. (It made me think of how I’ve taken gravity for granted, even hating it after every time I remove my bra.)

I like the injection of humor, that mostly comes from Clooney. Sandra’s character was a tad annoying at first but in the end, you’ll root for her to go home. The little twist in the story is a brilliant move as it just elevated the story more. If you think this is just a movie about an astronaut’s survival in space, you’d be so wrong.

Go see it. It’s really worth the ticket price.

 

Finally Watched Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction

Finally, I get to check that movie off my my To-Watch List. I don’t know what happened. We had the original DVD but somehow only the case remained. The actual DVD was lost.

My favorite Tarantino movie of all time is still Kill Bill (Vol 1 and Vol 2) but Pulp Fiction is definitely up there. This movie reminds me of the Big Lebowski from the Cohen brothers. Random shit happens and a lot of F-bombs and guts explode.

I really love the dialogue in Pulp Fiction. It’s the first thing I noticed. The conversation about “Royal with Cheese” made me crave burgers! It’s the whole pointlessness and delivery that made it authentic. I’ve been subjected to pointless conversations like these all the time.

The stories are amazing vignettes of the life in organized (and disorganized) crime. Totally random events that connects characters to each other. Feminist me didn’t like the portrayal of some of the women in the stories especially the sniveling Fabienne in the “Gold Watch” part of the movie, but you don’t watch this movie to see strong women characters. I was puzzled by the cab driver Esmeralda’s obsession with death though.

Send in the Gimps!

One of the most memorable scene in the movie, aside from that very famous dance sequence, is the gimp scene. I think it will forever be burned in my memory…unfortunately. I do love how Butch (Bruce Willis) refused to leave Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) to the mercy of the sick dudes. Although he probably just did that so Marsellus owes him. It’s always nice to see enemies become frenemies and bond in the face of homosexual rape.

Pulp Fiction is on every list of must see movies and I’ve got to say, it deserves to be there. I think Quentin Tarantino is one of the most unpretentious genius in cinema today.

P.S. It was hilarious as hell!

Stoker: The Most Un-Funny Uncle Ever

Did you know Wentworth Miller is now a screenwriter? Well, I certainly didn’t! He wrote the screenplay for Stoker and I’ve got to say, I’m impressed! He’s not just a good looking, crazy good actor, he’s also an intelligent writer as this movie shows.

Stoker stars Mathew Goode (he’s such a darling!), Mia Wasikowska, and Nicole Kidman. It was directed by South Korean, Park Chan-wook, the dude who directed 2009’s Thirst (which is on my list of movies to see). I though for a while the setting was in England but it’s not. It’s just plain old US.  Goode don on his American accent and was fabulous and dashing as always.

The film starts with the death of India’s (Mia) father. She meets her only uncle(Goode), whose existence was revealed to her only at the funeral. Evelyn, the mother (Kidman), immediately falls for Charlie (and ladies, can we blame her? Have you seen how fine Mathew Goode looks?). India, on the other hand, was being her cold aloof self. I was thinking she may have some sort of autism or asperger-syndrome but it was not mentioned. She hates being touch and is apparently “different” from other teens. By the way she dresses (she wears the same shoes from a small child to age 18, sent to her every birthday) and her hobbies (piano, hunting, and being generally mysterious and deep :) we can conclude she’s an old soul.

The movie is a slow burn, but with some level of suspense, still. It’s not referred to as a psychological thriller but rather a psychological drama. It’s not a film that everyone will enjoy. But I liked it. 1. Mathew Goode (gotta be honest) 2.  Mia Wasikowska’s parted hair, kidding! India is my kind of character. I always have someone like this in my head as a character for a story. 3. Mystery (I love mysteries!) 4. Nicole Kidman’s costumes! (Hey I love fashion too so I pay attention to these things.)

Nicole Kidman was her fabulous self as always, no surprise. I love how she’s willing to make these kinds of “indie” films. I’ve yet to see Dogville but I’ve seen her in Rabbit Hole and Birth and she’s brilliant. She also starred in The Human Stain which is probably where Wentworth Miller and she became friends. Wenworth starred as the half-black half-white boxer in Human Stain.

I’d recommend this movie to anyone who’s not suffering from a short attention span. If you liked Melancholia, you’ll like this one better.

Pinoy Indie Sundays: Confusing Summer

Review: Kaleldo (Summer Heat)

I was in Video City yesterday, deciding on which Pinoy indie film to rent when I realize how limited my options are. Either the filmmakers didn’t bother putting their films to video or Video City didn’t bother to offer them to their customers.

What’s in fashion, apparently, are gay “indie” films. All featuring scenes of gay lovin’. Now, I have nothing against gays. In fact, my best friend is gay. But the notion of producing movies for the express purpose of making gay love scenes that can be called art film instead of porn is abhorrent to me.

In all fairness, I have not seen all these films so I can’t say for certain that all of it are indeed gay-porn in disguise but from what I did see, like the film, Ang Lalake sa Parola (Man in the Lighthouse), the gay-porn industry have infiltrated the indie scene. I don’t know what possessed me to rent it; the title alone screamed phallic!

I was considering Brillante Mendoza’s earlier works since I have yet to find a copy of Kinatay (Butchered). Video City had two of his earlier movies – Kaleldo(Summer Heat) and the other was Masahista (The Masseur). I guess before Kinatay, Mendoza was riding the explicit-sex-scenes-for-art wagon. I haven’t seen Kinatay so I’m not sure if he used sexually graphic scenes there too.

I decided to see Kaleldo since Masahista had that gay-porn action I was talking about. One of these days, I’m gonna summon the courage to rent more gay-porn/gay art films to see if I’m right. For now, Kaleldo will have to do.

The Story:

The story centers on the family of woodcarver, Mang Rudy, played by Johnny Delgado. Mang Rudy is a widower who had raised 3 daughters with an iron fist. The eldest daughter, Jess(Cherie Pie Picache), is a lesbian with a girlfriend, Weng, played by Criselda Volks. She’s the favorite punching bag of her father who can’t accept her for her unusual sexual preference.

The second daughter, Lourdes(Angel Aquino) is the favorite, although in one scene, she didn’t escape her father’s very fast right palm. She’s married to Andy, a feeble mouse of a man who fails at everything he does. Lourdes seemed like a perfect wife and daughter but later shows that she can be ruthless in getting what she wants.

The story actually begins with the youngest daughter, Grace (Juliana Palermo) who married Conrad, a quintessential mama’s boy. She’s conflicted about leaving their ancestral house to moving to her suffocating in-laws, so she escapes whenever she can. Conrad obeys whatever his mother commands of him while Grace willfully defies her father.

Kaleldo is divided into chapters with each chapter taking the point of view of the different sisters. Each chapter also represents the elements of the earth: Wind, Fire, Water. There was no mention of Earth but the audience can glean what it represented at the end.

First of all, I’m suspicious of this movie making device of dividing a film by chapters. I thought the whole idea was a bit hokey. I mean, the four earth elements? I don’t get it. Sure if your philosophized real deep, anybody would see insights as to how it relates to the characters. But I’m a lazy movie-goer. I need for my movies to make sense at least a few seconds after the whole concept is presented.

I was avoiding gay love scenes but apparently, when the premise includes a lesbian, then they have to show that they are indeed, lesbians. There really are plenty unnecessary scenes here than I can count some of them are the sex scenes.

I like it when indie films show a slice of Filipino life instead of the film showing the whole messy cake. Kaleldo tries to bite more than it can chew, I think. I mean, the Filipino life is so full of drama, you have to anchor yourself or you’ll get dizzy.

The actors were superb most of the time but with the intense scenes, they could dial the over-acting down a notch. I’ve seen this before in Filipino actors, some wouldn’t know subtlety if it bit them in the ass. The very great actors can convey emotion through very slight movement and in the eyes, but our actors have to have big gestures and erratic movements. They exaggerate their lines instead of talking normally.

This movie is confusing. There are a lot of elements crammed together and I did not fully comprehend the characters’ motivation and actions.

The good thing about Kaleldo is I watched it to the end. I did not feel the need to think about it after and was not excited enough to blog about it immediately but I did not give up on it. For a Tagalog film, that’s enough for me.

Rating:

2 out of 5 reels

Pinoy Indie Sundays: Life is not Pawn-y

Review: Sanglaan (The Pawnshop)

I Googled this movie after watching it and found out that it just won another European Filmfest Award – Jury award in Paris, France. I must say, it was well deserved.

The Story:

The movie centers on one setting, the pawnshop and the residences above it. Tessie Tomas is Tita Olivia, owner of an independent pawnshop and the apartment above it. She only has two employees, Amy (Ina Feleo), the appraiser and Kanor (Jess Evardone) the guard.

Olivia is a strict disciplinarian but she cares for Amy, who when her parents died, treated Olivia like her real aunt. They live together above the Pawnshop and the guard with his wife lives on the other side of the apartment.

Amy is a pretty but socially inept wallflower who was being courted by the neighborhood loan shark, Henry (Neil Rryan Sese). She rebuffs him and preferred a newcomer, David (Joem Bascon), a seaman waiting for a job opportunity.

David rents the extra room meant for Kanor’s son who early on, we find out gets killed in a military mission.

Olivia is offered a chance to live in the US but she’s reluctant to leave the business she shared with her husband who passed away. Amy keep pining her hopes that David would love her more than just friends. Kanor is desperately trying to keep his wife from falling apart after the death of their son.

Everybody has something to lose and they pawn their treasures in hopes that they keep safe what is most important.

Review:

I’ve never had to pawn anything in my life although in the Philippines, it’s a very common thing. In our town alone, I can’t count the number of pawnshops scattered around.

I count myself lucky that I never had to give up a treasured possession to get a few bucks to continue to survive. I couldn’t imagine having to give up something as sentimental as the ring your mother gave you, as she lay dying, to give to the woman who was going to be your wife. Or the TV your dead son provided before he got killed.

I like that the movie was not over dramatic. The story is quite believable and the acting, impeccable.

Although some critics might think that the story is very slow-paced, I didn’t get bored at all by the simplicity of the story. I liked that it didn’t delve too deep with other subplots.

There were unexpected moments; the confrontational scenes were not cliche at all. There are few things not to like about it: the slow mo, fast forward scenes, I think were necessary. Also, the wailing scenes (both mother and Olivia) could probably be better. But these were minor compared to the over all feel of the movie.

Milo Sogueco’s first film is deserving of all the accolades it garnered. I really wish that Pinoys would appreciate his work as much as foreigners do.
Ratings:
4 out of 5 reels