Weekly Roundup is a feature posted each weekend on I Wonder if You Wonder. It gives me a chance to react to the week’s industry news and to provide some quick thoughts about the films and TV shows I’ve been watching. (Plus it’ll give you some idea of the sheer amount of stuff I watch!) Let’s dive right in.
BAFTAs: The British Academy of Film and Television Arts handed out their annual awards last weekend. They don’t hold much in the way of predictive value for the Oscars if that’s all you’re interested in, but they are considered to be one of the more respectable awards shows out there. Unsurprisingly, The Artist won for Best Film – it would be a huge upset if anything else won the Oscar at this point – and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy won for Best British Film in what was something of a down year for British cinema (at least for me).
Berlinale Results: The Taviani Brothers – who I mentioned in last week’s Weekly Roundup – walked away with the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, winning the Golden Bear for their film Caesar Must Die. The result was something of a surprise after the film received lukewarm reviews, but I suspect that the film world’s universal respect for the Tavianis and their decades of exemplary work may have helped them with the Jury.
Bechdel Test: Not exactly news per se, but this video is fascinating. In short, the Bechdel Test is a super quick way of determining the extent to which a film includes reasonably prominent and well-rounded female characters. It asks three simple questions: 1) Are there at least two female characters in the movie with speaking roles? 2) Do these characters talk to each other? And 3) Do they talk about anything other than a man? This is obviously a pretty low bar to set, but it’s positively scary how many movies don’t reach it. In the following video from FeministFrequency.com, the Bechdel Test is applied to this year’s nominees for Best Picture. Let’s just say that they don’t do so well:
Amanda Lucas: MMA Star: Another offbeat story, this one from the world of Mixed Martial Arts (which I happen to be a huge fan of, for what it’s worth). Amanda Lucas, the daughter of Star Wars creator George Lucas, is now a professional fighter, and just a couple of days ago she won the Women’s Openweight Title in Japan’s Deep promotion. Check out this great article from Sports Illustrated about her fighting career and how she constantly has to deal with her father’s legacy (the article was written before the fight in Japan). It’s hard to tell if Amanda is really a world-class fighter – so far she’s only fought lower-ranked opponents and women’s MMA is still very much a developing sport, so quality opponents are hard to come by – but hers is a career that will be well worth watching for MMA and Star Wars fans alike.
And if you’re interested, here’s one of Amanda’s earlier fights, in which she completely destroys a Japanese fighter named Mika Hargai:
Viewings & Reactions:
The Skin I Live In: This is the latest film by Spanish filmmaking legend Pedro Almodovar, and it’s a doozie.
Here’s the best way I can describe the film’s tone and style: in 1971, Belgian director Harry Kumel made a great lesbian vampire movie called Daughters of Darkness. I don’t know much about Kumel, but prior to Daughters of Darkness he was apparently known mostly as a French New Wave-style art house director, and it seems he made the movie as an attempt to make a bunch of money to fund his more respectable projects. Daughters has a lot of what you’d expect from a lesbian vampire movie, but it’s also got a lot more: it’s beautifully shot, it’s got all sorts of wacky story points, and it’s never too frantic or exploitative. Kumel tried to make a straightforward genre picture, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it, and the movie is far richer and more interesting as a result. The moral of the story is simple: you can take the director out of the art house, but you can’t take the art house out of the director.
That’s exactly the case with The Skin I Live In. If I were to simply describe the basics of the movie’s plot, the film would sound like typical torture porn. But that’s not it at all. All of the themes that Almodovar likes to explore in his other films are there – gender, sexuality, family – but they’re wrapped up in this horror movie package that I found to be completely enthralling. It’s a huge risk for someone like Almodovar to take, and I love that he had the cojones to do it. Throw in one of the best plot twists I’ve ever seen in a movie – I’m happy to admit that I didn’t see it coming – and you’ve got one of my favorite movies of the year.
Star Wars Prequels: I’ve spent a fair amount of time this week re-watching the Star Wars prequels for an article I hope to begin work on in the next couple of weeks. I won’t give too much away, but I will say this: The Phantom Menace is BRUTAL, Attack of the Clones is troubled more by execution than concept, and Revenge of Sith is surprisingly watchable in spite of a few stylistic choices I’m not a fan of (“Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo….”).
The Walking Dead: While others have found this season to be a bit slow for their tastes, I think it’s been pitch-perfect. The best quality of the show is that it isn’t the usual cavalcade of blood and gore that you find in most zombie movies. The characters are three-dimensional and realistic, and this season we’ve had a chance to get to know all of them a LOT better. The build-up to the fall’s mid-season finale was perfectly plotted, and so far the second half to the season is off to a roaring start (and one that’s likely to quiet down a lot of the people who think the show’s become too boring).
Cougar Town: Our long national nightmare is over: Cougar Town is back. It embarrasses me to say something nice about a show with such an awful title, but Cougar Town is one of the more interesting sitcoms on TV today. It’s got a great balance of quirky-but-lovable characters and entertaining weekly stories, and there’s no shortage of running gags and general awkwardness, which is always a plus for me when it comes to TV comedies. Put aside your reservations and watch it.
Ringer: I note this week’s Ringer for no reason other than to point out that the B story in this week’s episode (involving Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character’s stepdaughter lying and saying that she was raped by her high school teacher) was a near-100% rip-off of the plot of the cult classic movie Wild Things (which is actually a pretty good movie in spite of the fact that it’s mostly known for its sex scenes). Seriously: there’s the scene where the character is crying while going through her testimony, the scene where she shows up in a hotel room with the supposed rapist and another accuser and it’s revealed that it was all a hoax to get at the settlement money from a lawsuit – and the hotel room scene is even shot the same way! You’ve got some big balls there, Ringer.
Funny side note: the actress who plays the stepdaughter in Ringer, Zoey Deutch, is the real-life daughter of actress Lea Thompson, who is most famous for playing Marty’s mom in the Back to the Future movies. I feel old.
Suburgatory: I don’t have much to say about Suburgatory other than to declare that it’s one of the best new shows on television and that you should be watching it. It’s consistently funny and surprisingly insightful, especially for someone who grew up in the suburbs and went to high school with a whole bunch of rich kids. (It’s on at a different day and time as Cougar Town, so we’re cool… watch them both.)
Revenge: Speaking of rich kids: this week’s episode was nothing short of a schlocky, over-the-top, soap opera-y masterpiece. The show’s narrative finally caught up with the flash-forward scene shown at the very beginning of the pilot, and the return of the show’s most annoying character aside, the results were well worth the wait. I’m just worried about where they go from here.
Previewing features and articles I’m working on for I Wonder if You Wonder, some of which will be posted this week, some in weeks ahead, and others that’ll be abandoned due to laziness or frustration. (Hey, at least I’m up front about it.)
- The Fincher/Reznor thing. (This might wind up being the first one I totally abandon. Or not. We’ll see.)
- Part II of “Vertical Exploitation” (see my last article if you haven’t already read it)
- My personal year-end Top 10 list. It’s Oscars week, so I thought I’d give a run-down of my favorite movies of 2011 just like the real critics do. It’ll be the first in a (hopefully) weekly series of lists of various kinds – something that should prove to be fun for me to write, enjoyable for people to read (and disagree with), and useful in attracting new viewers to the blog (because people really seem to love reading lists on the internet).
Have a great week, everybody!