Even though I was too busy the last couple months moving and working and traveling and whatever else to broadcast my reactions on the Interwebs, I still wasn’t too busy to make it to the movie theater. I’m very rarely too busy for that. So here is a quick run-down of the new releases I’ve seen recently, along with the 30-second version of my verdicts on them. I do feel wistful that I’m not taking more time to engage in meaningful conversation about some of these titles – particularly Man of Steel. My complex emotions about just that one could probably fill an entire book. But realistically, more movies get released each and every weekend, I’ve started watching a new-to-me show (more on this later), and this fall television season just might see a genuine attempt by me to watch a current show or two for the first time in a very long while. So this is all you get.
A couple days ago NPR’s pop culture blog, Monkey See, published a sort of half-developed think piece/rant about the options available this weekend for someone who wants to see a movie prominently featuring female character(s). Spoiler alert! There aren’t many.
I get that the intent of the article was to point out the issue and raise a question that may not be answerable right now or possibly at all. But even so, it was dissatisfying for me. Mainly because I feel like Linda Holmes does have a valid concern. She’s on to something important, but by tossing it out there rather superficially, it provides an opportunity for dismissive types to jump in and slam the door shut on the conversation. As evidenced by some of the comments NPR readers left.
I think an easy criticism to which the piece leaves itself open is the lack of acknowledgement that it’s summer. The movie-going year is segmented into distinct seasons. Mid-June finds us solidly entrenched in the blockbuster season, and that’s when the boys come out to play. When it’s time to trot out the autumnal Oscar bait, I doubt the situation will be as grim as the one Holmes paints for this weekend. *
But really it isn’t just a summer-only problem. As the New York Times reported earlier this month:
A recently published study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism showed that the percentage of female characters with a speaking part in the nation’s top movies each year reached its lowest point in the past five years in 2012, at 28 percent.
There are probably a lot of different forces at play in creating this phenomenon, but that article and several others bemoaning the end of the “movie star” concept as we know it might hold the key for unlocking at least one facet of the explanation. In a world where (for various complicated market reasons) bankable stars no longer fill theaters by their names alone, studios rely more heavily on franchise concepts to sell tickets. As the Atlantic Wire article linked above notes:
Small movies soldier on and enormous ones flourish, but everything in the middle begins to evaporate.
And my theory is that the middle is where chick flicks have historically thrived.
However, it must be said, that the single most unavoidably ubiquitous ad campaign for any movie right now is for The Heat, a gal-pal cop comedy with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. Somebody somewhere is obviously expecting to make scads of money on this movie with a pair of female leads. Which should fill me hope, right? Except The Heat looks painfully awful.
Which brings up another topic that requires discussing, even if it makes me feel dirty to bring it up. And that’s the matter of quality. Why are women’s movies getting stupider? Why are they getting progressively more unpleasant all the freaking time? In her article, Holmes trumpets the success of Bridesmaids. I haven’t seen it (and I actually do try really hard not to have opinions about movies I haven’t seen, but it’s difficult because my natural inclination is to have an opinion about everything). So let’s just charitably say that nothing I’ve seen or heard about it has given me any reason to think it would be up my alley at all. I passed on it mainly because the appeal of Kristen Wiig has always been largely lost on me, but should I feel guilty about that? If the movies Hollywood condescends to make about women fail, then when will they ever spend money to make the movies I want to see? Sigh. I’m still not plunking hard-earned dollars down for The Heat, but it’s food for thought.
There’s a lot going on when we discuss where all the ladies have gone. Market forces, cultural drivers, and so on. I guess I don’t want to slam the NPR blog, so much as I just want to take a time out to acknowledge the soupy complexity of the issue and get the ball rolling towards a more comprehensive discussion. So what do you all think?
* I admit this also leads to an equally easy counterargument. Why are the summer tent poles always male-centric? Beyond the occasional Angelina Jolie title, where are the female actioners? Personally I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to see a Wonder Woman movie (for whatever reason, I’ve never latched onto her as a character), but I find the length of time the project has languished in development hell equal parts fascinating and appalling.
No one who isn’t me cares that I procrastinated on this, but I still feel bad about waiting so long. Mainly because I missed the opportunity to join the conversation as it was happening just because I psyched myself out over my imagined need to come up with something completely fascinating to say about it. Lesson learned: advertise sparingly. If I don’t promise to write about something, then I won’t feel bad if I decide to skip it.
So, IM3. It is completely the Iron Man I would expect from Shane Black. It has his schtick all over it.
- It takes place at Christmas
- It upends classic film tropes, including…
- Unconventional voice-over narration and…
- Hilarious one-liners from…
- A protagonist exorcising inner demons…
- As a noir-ish mystery unfolds
Last time on Full Stream Ahead: You were all breathless in anticipation of my review Iron Man 3 (yeah, right!). I did, in fact, see it opening weekend. But I decided I wanted to mull over my reaction for a bit so I would actually have something interesting to say about it. And then I got distracted by my mom’s extended visit around Mother’s Day weekend. But stay tuned because I’ll be picking up steam with some new content this week.
As an apology for being a deadbeat blogger, I offer this genuinely terrible photo from when I attended the panel promoting the original Iron Man at the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con. What can I say? The legendary Hall H doesn’t lend itself to lovely photography, but it was an amazing time. Even though at that time I knew next to nothing about the source material, I’d still rate seeing the first footage from Iron Man at the convention one of the absolute high points from my life as a fangirl.
Iron Man 3 review, naturally
Recap of a Mother’s Day marathon of streaming activity
A family-friendly Deathmatch
And I still need to watch In Bruges. Seriously. Dude, why do I even have a Netflix disc subscription?
I loved Iron Man. Loooooved it. Naturally I saw Iron Man 2 as soon it opened back in 2010. Unfortunately, the chief impression I carried away from the theater was of disappointment. Because the sequel didn’t live up to my expectations, the weight of my anticipation collapsed in on itself and became a disappointment that was shallow but wide. Not an intense disappointment (for I wouldn’t have characterized it as a bad movie per se), but it still rendered in me a profound indifference that managed to cloud my memory of the movie to the point that I could barely recall the plot. And note, I typically have a scary-sharp memory for movies.* Continue reading