Queer Cinema: D.E.B.S.

D.E.B.S. (2004) by Angela Robinson

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Before it was a movie it was a comic and then a short film. I haven’t read the comic (there are glimpses of it on the dvd, though) but I vaguely remember having watched the short (after the feature) – so, if you’re so inclined there’s stuff to dive into after or before watching this gem. I’m calling it a gem because no matter how often I come back to this movie – and I have done so often over the years – it’s always a ride, it is always fun.

d.e.b.s.3There is a secret test in the S.A.T.s to establish a student’s ability to lie. If you’re good at it you’re invited to Jameson Academy for an education in the art of spying – that is if you’re a girl. Amy Bradshaw (Sara Foster) is one of the chosen few who studies at this institution and she is not just one of the lot, she is the perfect score, the one person who has hit all the marks in the S.A.T.s – the perfect liar. But Amy is not really happy with her life of spy-in-training which becomes perfectly clear when she falls for supervillain Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster). Lucy pulls her out of her every day life and shows her that there is something beyond everybody lying and people going through your personal files and a boyfriend who works for Homeland Security – there are dreams yet to be fulfilled. And when Amy is brought back, she finds out just how suffocating the path she had been chosen for really is. But there’s still time to change her mind.

If this sounds altogether too serious, too mundane then that’s my fault d.e.b.s.5because D.E.B.S. is everything but these things. It’s trashy, it’s colorful, it’s fun. Is it deep? No, not really. But do we really always need the tearful lesbian drama? No. A lesbian comedy is a rare thing and it needs to be cherished, at least if it’s as good as this one.

Robinson assembled a talented cast to shoot this persiflage of espionage movies: Jordana Brewster is well-known now for her role as Vin Diesel’s sister in the Fast and Furious-movies. Then there are Devon Aoki, Holland Taylor, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Jimmi Simpson in supporting roles. And they’re all wonderfully quirky and fun to watch.

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When I say the movie’s trashy, I want understood that I do believe that’s a good thing. It’s a rare occasion when a big studio produces a movie that centers around a lesbian love story but to make something that looks so good and at the same time cheap and cheesy… it takes some really talented people to do that. From the evil lair over Holland Taylor’s fabulous impersonation of vain Ms. Petrie to those short plaid shirts, the jokes hit the nerve. The music accompanying some scenes fits just as well.

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Is it all good? No, but as I said – it’s fun and sometimes that’s the best thing you can get. Will it be your new favorite movie? Probably not. It will probably not even be among your favorite movies but there will be those days you look through your dvds and come across it and be glad it’s there.

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The Thing About Batman…

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) by Christopher Nolan

So, I watched The Dark Knight Rises on Saturday. It’s actually a little weird to say that because after the last Batman-movie I promised myself to never watch another one of those. Why?

The thing about Batman is… that I really don’t like him. As a character. Bruce Wayne is altogether too serious and too snobby to be really likable. I like to compare him with Tony Stark because they are both insanely rich and orphans but Stark is sarcastic, has a wicked sense of humour, while Batman takes everything to heart, is obsessed with saving people. It seems he has to ultimately fail because he will never be able to save his parents. Of course, this comes from someone who is no expert on comic books at all.

Let’s talk a little about the movie then. It was long, and it was also good. What I take from the franchise under Christopher Nolan’s supervision is that everybody is just a person. Nobody has superpowers, some are freakishly disfigured but by some miracle still alive – and are incredibly angry. People are hurting. Our hero is hurting, too, but he still finds it in him to want to make the life of others better.

Gotham seems to be a pit really… this city seems way beyond saving.  And maybe this is another thing about the whole Batman-franchise that I do not like: the dreariness, the bleakness, the darkness. Gotham City is depressing, like some 1930s film noir New York or Chicago, it has too many shadows and in every single one of them lurks an even darker shadow that sometimes wants your money, sometimes your life.

But then there are also things I like about Batman: Everybody is wonderfully three-dimensional. The character development within the franchise is great. The villains are evil because they actually do evil – not like some wannabes who never get their act on (right, Loki?). And then there are some who are not even evil but merely… criminals. Like Catwoman/Selina Kyle in this new installment. And let me tell you – she is glorious. But then she always was. Think Eartha Kitt, think Michelle Pfeiffer, okay, don’t think Halle Berry… Anne Hathaway owns the catsuit and she looks mighty fine in it. She was the reason I watched the movie and I am not even a little disappointed – she can act and she does and she looks good doing it. The one regret I have about her – she and Bruce/Christian Bale had zero chemistry… it happens and maybe it shouldn’t be forced…

Marion Cotillard’s role as Miranda certainly was surprising but it was also very well acted. At first I thought she was wasted as love interest but I had another thing coming and it was gooooood. I guess it is not really surprising that I found the women of the movie more compelling than the males. Though I must say: Blake (or Robin)… Joseph Gordon-Levitt has becomes such a capable actor. And why not continue with only him and have a Robin-movie. This is actually something I would like to watch – despite my misgivings about Gotham City. And I guess I don’t have to mention the awesomeness that were both Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, right? I mean with those two it’s a given.

So, yeah, it was a good movie. It sure had its lengths but I liked the various topics within the movie about whether the Dent-Act is still valuable even if Dent was not the hero they made him into. And also the socialist component, the question if people like Wayne (rich people) have any purpose…

And then there was this and it made a good movie into a great one:

Marvel’s The Avengers

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) by Joss Whedon

It’s funny but I don’t know why I watched this. I didn’t want to, I actually wasn’t the least bit tempted after I saw the trailer. And then I stood infront of the movie theater yesterday and I could have watched Spiderman or W./E. but instead I watched The Avengers. I am still a little astounded by this turn of events… but, well, so I watched it.

I guess I had forgotten that it was directed and written by Joss Whedon but when I saw that it had been done by Whedon I was a little bit peeved. I mean, Whedon gave us one of the best female action tv heroes of the nineties, then he tried to give us fabulous shows like Firefly and Dollhouse and for no apparent reason failed… they were very good shows. And now he gives us The Avengers and my surprise is that it is mostly a make-no-prisoners-dick-flick. Sure, he tried to integrate The Female into this film but with all the phallic imagery (the same as when I wrote about Thor) and male heroes and male villains it kinda got… c**k-blocked.

What we saw of female hero-ship was mostly Scarlett Johansson looking verrry goood (men got over-the-shoulder-shots, Scarlett got full-ass-shots) in catsuit. The same could be said about what little we saw of Gwyneth Paltrow (those cut-offs, dayam!). There was only one female character who seemed almost too much of a character and that was Agent Hill (Colbie Smulders). And this is probably the difference between Whedon and any other director – he actually thinks female characters are important. Other than that, well, Captain America (Chris Evans) seems a little creepy, I never liked Mark Ruffalo, though his Banner was okay, I guees. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is still the coolest superhero Marvel has (I love Stark, and I love Downey playing him), and the Loki-guy (Tom Hiddleston) is so hilarious… he’s such a bad villain, and I mean bad not in evil but just plain bad, almost trashy, because he so isn’t evil enough but still he gets the upper hand sometimes – and he’s so pretty.

Mainly this movie is a pissing contest – hell, that lengthy fight between Iron Man and Thor (Chris Hemsworth)! See me still rolling my eyes as I think about it. When it was over, I actually asked the characters to rezip their pants, because really… really…

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t detest it, it was entertainment. Some things were fun, others were totally geeky. But at the end of the day, this is not the kind of movie I want to watch anymore. And not because I think myself too old or too mature (or whatever) to geek out over an action movie – I am not above geekdom, at all – I am just not willing to pay 13 Euros to watch men being heroes and women being eyecandy. Given, the women in this film weren’t just eyecandy but they weren’t quite the heroes the men were… or maybe I just don’t get the whole world domination/war theme that sells us that there actually are heroes in something as pointless as war.

I know, I always promise myself: no more dick flicks, but then I end up seeing some anyways… I don’t know. I should have watched Madonna’s W./E...

Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens (2011) by Jon Favreau

Well, if you know me a little you might guess why I watched this movie. Right, I watched it for Olivia Wilde. Also, because I think it is a great idea. Some people might think that this is a genre clash that cannot go well but think about this: why should our time (a post E.T.-time, if you want) be the only time that aliens visited. So, maybe there have been ufo sightings back in the days – people just may not have thought they were aliens… I don’t know what they thought they were seeing, maybe they thought they were just incredibly drunk, who knows… where was I, yeah, I liked the idea from that standpoint.

And the movie delivered on it: we had cowboys and we had aliens and they fought each other in an epic battle. I love westerns. I like the premise of good versus evil when you can tell the evil just by the clothes it wears. But this is another ball game and the hero may not have been the best choice of hero but then… in a hard world a good hero is hard to find. And I really like Daniel Craig… so, yeah, he is always a kind of unlikely hero. And he surely can pull off that chaps-look.

The problem with a genre that is so overdone as westerns, is the many stereotypes it serves. I don’t know what was with the Natives/First Nation aka Indians but they have been portrayed less stereotypical warpainty and battlecryey… this was a little disappointing but probably inevitable with this being made from a comic/graphic novel/or whatever the pc for this one is. I can look past that and say, yes, it was a good movie. It has its fun parts, it has its horror, yak, ugly parts and it got some strange no-I-don’t-get-it parts, too. So, in all it is watchable.

But this is me talking, so, you already know that there is something else coming. The part where I say: no, sorry, but that was not okay. And most of the time this has to do with the depiction of women in movies. And yes, this part is coming. It is not too bad in this movie. I was just disappointed, is all. If you look at the poster left, there are three heroes on it, the movie only delivered on two, unfortunately. If you live in my head and you see a poster like that, you already make up the story in your head and it does not register in my head why Olivia Wilde should be less of a hero than Daniel Craig or Harrison Ford (I actually thought Ford was miscast, but that’s another story). In my head she is not just Craig’s love interest, she holds her own with a gun. Why couldn’t she? I know what you’re thinking: I am being too critical, too feminist, why don’t I just shut up? I cannot. This annoyed the heck out of me. Because the whole film worked on the premise of what that guy said when the troups started to fight: we already have a kid and a dog, why not take a woman, too?

Y’know, to hell with the machismo of the whole thing. Just once, I would like Hollywood to measure up to my standards. They have done that in the past, there are female action heroes out there (Ripley, Sarah Connor) but it’s been a while since we have seen a female action hero that was a hero not despite being a woman but just because somebody had to do the job and she was there. We are too stuck on gender these days and we shouldn’t be. And Olivia Wilde could pull it off, too…

Okay, I will stop. I know no one’s listening. I liked the film although it was sometimes too heavy on the machism and on stereotypes. But I guess that’s what you get when comic book meets western meets evil aliens… and I will just wait patiently for the next female action hero. She’s due.

X-Men: First Class – a coming-out story

X-Men: First Class (2011) by Matthew Vaughn

It has probably the worst title addition ever (surprisingly enough the additional title of First Class and the German one, Erste Entscheidung, are equally silly, that is a first… usually the German title and addition are much worse than the English ones), but that is no reason not to watch it. I think in my life there is actually only one reason I would not watch a film for: if I don’t like any actor/acress in it. What can I say, I am a judgemental bitch (I actually would like to propose boycots on some actors but that would call for actual active and political engagement on my part and I am not that interested, really).

Luckily for me, you don’t need much background information. Since I had watched the first two movies and the Wolverine-movie, I had some of that which means, I remembered Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen’s characters and that was enough preparation (for those, who hope for an in-depth comparison of comic and film or anything like it: sorry, haven’t read the comics, never will).

Well, it is not a new story: there are mutants, they are different, they are hiding but then the world needs them to prevent a nuclear war (same old, same old). After they have done that the former allies turn on the mutants because they are different. They want to destroy them but that backfires, because… hello!.. THEY ARE MUTANTS! So much for the plot.

Yeah, okay, I oversimplified because there are actually bad mutants and good mutants and there’s also another fight going on between them but, hey, I am a simple kinda… person. So, what with all that hiding and being discriminated against-stuff that is going on, people have suggested that X-Men is really a coming-out story. And, yeah, I mean, great metaphor and all. Do I believe that the mutants are actually all gay? No, but wouldn’t it be fun if they were? Also, I do believe that homos are more evolved than heteros (you just have to look at hetero couples on the street to know that)… we are the next step, people, no wonder everybody is freaking out. So, this part of the story hit home.

Am I being a little sarcastic, here? Yes, so put the stakes away again. I don’t think that any human being is particularly evolved. We are all f**ked up. But I do think that we should all have the same opportunities and rights – but that is just not happening, so it is nice to IMAGINE that we could be better than y’all folks…

And I do think that Emma Frost would be a wonderful addition to our team… Kevin Bacon, well, I love his wife but that’s another story. In all, there is not much to talk about. It is not extraordinary movie-making we are meeting here. I enjoyed the movie, yes, but it falls in line with other forgettable movies. In fact, I have already moved on from watching it last week and can hardly remember anything now. What I remember, is this: it looked good! I love the 60s look of the whole thing and that we get to experience on different continents and to different nationalities. Very nice. Yet, with the 60s looks comes the 60s sexism and no matter how evolved even mutants indulge in that one. Ouch!

Then, I remember the silliest one gesture that a character has accomplished since Picard:

And… Rose Byrne. I don’t even remember where I know her from but has she ever been this hot before?

Also, the German that was being spoken was without grammatical errors which is a rare occasion but everybody supposedly German had a thick accent of some kind… in their German. Just cast German actors next time, maybe?

Thor – and phallic imagery

Thor (2011) by Kenneth Branagh

Okay, I should write this blog before I forget everything about the movie – because really, it is not that memorable. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: is there actually a movie I will talk well about or is this just about ranting for me? It is not, and I liked Thor, still, it is not exactly Shakespeare (although a friend said that there was something Shakespearean to it and I kind of agree).

I like Kenneth Branagh’s movies a lot. They are aesthetically impressive, all of them. One likes looking at them, they are not complicated – visually. They are beautiful and opulent – I don’t need some artsy camera shots, I am old school. Branagh certainly has a knack for stories of epic proportions , still, I was a little surprised when I read he would make a comic into a movie – without having known anything about the story. But it turned out to be a wise decision for both the director and the producers. Thor is stunning, I like pretty much everything about it.

You think: Yeah, right! Just because I think a movie is forgettable does not mean, that I consider it a bad movie. I will think about this movie at some point and remember that I liked it and maybe even watch it again – rented on dvd. But maybe I will not. I don’t think the world a worse place for forgettable movies, they give us pleasure for the time being, that is certainly a good thing. That I will not owe it on dvd at some point does not mean I did not enjoy watching it. It is like The Lord of the Rings – trilogy. I watched them, I liked them, I do not feel the need to buy any of the dvd boxes.

Still, you are right about one thing: I am going to nag about something now. It is in the title so I forwarned you. The phallic imagery in this movie is… well, it mostly is there. In one’s face, so to speak (which is a disgusting phrasing, at least for me it is). Pretty much all of Ansgard consists of phalli, then we have swords, the hammer, speers, you name it, it’s all there.

I know very little about nordic mythology – aside from the fact that Xena kicked Odin’s ass back in the days, I know pretty much nothing. I have heard about the main players and mostly laughed at some rediculous names – Frigga? Really? – but that’s about it. Yes, I was probably on some subconscious level (I don’t know much about Freud either so I don’t care what he said about the subconscious) aware that this would be a movie telling a story that is based on patriarchal ideology… but could you, Ken Branagh, have gone a little bit lighter on the phalli? I know, you could have… you chose not to.

Well, whatever. On the whole, I enjoyed the movie. As you might know, I think Natalie Portman an acting genius – or maybe an acting genius – and I enjoyed her playing a genius… so there. Of course, the acting was great. Anthony Hopkins alone would have justified that statement, but then there were Natalie Portman, Rene Russo (I love Rene Russo), Stellan Skargard, and Kat Dennings, so it was even better. And I finally had explained to me why Samuel Jackson was in that short sequence at the end… not that I am keeping up with comic book wars, and sequels, and what-nots, ’cause I am simply too poor to read that many comic books – especially comic books about male heroes which would also bore me to pieces.

So, yeah, good movie, go watch.

Just dropping a note: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) by Edgar Wright

I don’t know if you know days like this but there are days when I crave going to the movies – and there’s nothing on. And even I didn’t want to see ‘Salt’ again (yes, I have watched it and not written about it but I still have the perfect headline for a blog-post: ‘Salt – or was it Bond, ca. 1980’ – can you envision the post from that headline?) so I picked what Germans call ‘das geringste Übel’ – the minor evil (which is not a good translation at all). Well, the least likely to be a total disaster (other than the Heigl-movie) was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I had seen the trailer (which didn’t do it for me at all) and for me it was just another movie about a loser getting a hip girl – so unlikely.

Fortunately, the makers of Scott Pilgrim did not think it any more likely than me and left the trashy grphic novel look about it all which made it more surreal than real. And it is fun, too. At first, of course, you think, wtf but then the dorky character of Scott (Michael Cera) grows on you (much like he did in Juno where the idea of him impregnating Ellen Page is quite disturbing). And not just him. I must say that Kieran Culkin is by far my favorite Culkin and seeing him play gay is even better than watching his brother Macauley in Party Animals.

It was fun watching it, not especially deep or moving or whatever, just fun. It did not make me want to read the comic, and it did not make me want to write a paper about it, which is a good thing since I’ve got far too many papers planned that I will probably never write. It also did not make me want to write a long blog-post which you have probably already gathered since I am rambling.

Bottom line is: Good movie, watch!

Iron Man 2 – yeah, well…

Iron Man 2 (2010) by Jon Favreau

It’s been a while since I have seen it but I still wanted to write something short about it. It was good – and that’s all one can say about it, I guess. It was as good as the first one but not that much different if I remember correctly.

The thing is: I really like Iron Man / Tony Stark. He does not have super-powers, per se, he is a snob, he is a little like Batman. But (and it is one of those huge BUTs that deem capital letters necessary), so, BUT I never liked Batman. Strange, I only found out that I don’t like him when Christian Bale played him the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I have liked Christian Bale since I first saw him in Henry V but I don’t like Batman… he is too serious, takes himself to serious. Tony Stark on the other hand is a snob and he is constantly mocking himself and everybody around him. He’s snarky and cynical. And of course, Robert Downey jr. is a brilliant actor (so brilliant, in fact, that one has to wonder why he is playing a superhero and not Shakespeare).

The cast is great, too. We have Downey and Paltrow (I am not necessarily a fan of Paltrow’s but there are movies where I can stand her and this is one of them), and Scarlett Johansson (always stunning and a good actress) and Samuel L. Jackson – and to see those two together again after The Spirit is really great, they are an unlikely pairing but a good one (and yes, I am aware that The Spirit is quite a silly movie but who says silly is bad – I loved it… and Eva Mendes!), Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle and Sam Rockwell.

What put me off  a little were the faces of both Mickey Rourke and Garry Shandling. Ouch. Plastic surgery is really a sad admission to one’s vanity and it looks painful. I don’t think that it’s worse with men – or women – I think it is always ill advised. I mean, if you have two noses in your face or are so disfigured you cannot live with yourself, or it is actually affecting your health (women can get serious problems with their back if their boobs are to big and I sympathize) then it is okay but getting older is not something to fret about. We are all getting older – go deal!  And let’s face it there are few women more sexy than Meryl Streep…

Okay, good movie…