Monthly Archives: August 2010

Interviews are fun!

It’s pretty much an incontrovertible fact that if you say “Can I ask you some questions [about movies]?”, I will say, “Hell yeah!” or some variant thereof. Ergo, an interview with yours truly is now available for your reading pleasure on Only Good Movies! And since I didn’t provide them with a picture, they represented me with the above image of a cat (presumably going “Grrr!”). How awesome is that? So go read, browse, and then come back to tell me how pretentious I sound.

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Link Dump: #4

[Via matthewwatkins84]

Things have been a little slow here lately at Pussy Goes Grrr, and for that we apologize. Ashley’s starting college classes at last (wish her luck!), I’m obsessively studying the history and form of comics (and just finished Scott McCloud’s Reinventing Comics), and our blogging has suffered as a result. But worry not, fearless reader! Our posting frequency will likely enjoy a post-summer upsurge by mid-September. Plus, we watched Monster with Charlize Theron last night, and I want to write something about that.

In other news, there are people who write things and put them on the Internet. Here are some examples:

  • I will be participating in Blog Cabins’ upcoming “30 Days of Crazy Blog-a-thon” by publishing my review of Jacob’s Ladder! So take a peek at all the crazy movies being discussed, and check in on them throughout September.
  • I have some issues with this list of “25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watch” from io9 – e.g., Tron, really? But it’s knowledgeable and well-written, so give it a glance. It’s pretty limited to mainstream favorites, but it does include The Road Warrior, Star Trek II, Brazil, which a lot of similar lists would gloss over. (Plus, the more Primer love, the better!)
  • The inestimable Stacie Ponder gives us a lol-tastic flowchart that can lead us to which exorcism movie we’re currently watching.
  • Here’s a sad but fascinating New York Times article about the muted interactions between gay students at West Point. DADT just needs to end, now.
  • Speaking of intolerance, here’s a piece by Racialicious’s Thea Lim about the fetishization of Asian women. Man, when race meets gender, you get a lot of depressing, outdated stereotypes.
  • Worried about the incipient zombie apocalypse? Don’t be! As Cracked.com’s David Dietle shows, there’s nothing to fear (except, well, zombies).
  • Here’s a fun analysis of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive as a model of postmodern confusion, from Cinematical’s Monika Bartyzel.
  • And speaking of postmodernism, the Happy Postmodernists keep on coming. Rebekah wrote a humor piece on Ian McEwan that was too hot for McSweeney’s, I wrote about her great-uncle, and Emily took a decidedly anti-Eggers stance.

Finally, here’s your reward for sticking with us through the links: the week’s most hi-larious, creepy, and/or vaguely pornographic search terms!

  • First of all: Google users, please stop searching for Simpsons-themed porn. Yes, the Internet does contain yucky images in which “bart [has] sex with his little sister” and “bart eats marges pussy,” but they are not on this blog.
  • A few searches stood out not because of their content, but because of typographical oddities. For example, in what part of the world is it logical to type “pussy blög”? Furthermore, is the reduplication in “fucking fucking body” really necessary? I think “fucking body” can get pretty much the same results. (I just tested this. Actually, the extra “fucking” turns up 300,000 fewer results.)
  • For the person curious about “gender roles in superheroes,” I recommend starting out at Gail Simone’s old but still useful “Women in Refrigerators” website.
  • “ugly fat lesbians that are mean to me.” Huh.
  • And to the inquiry “how does female body fuck,” I can only say that it depends on which female body you’re talking about.

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RIP Satoshi Kon, anime dream master

Last night I learned, tragically, that anime director Satoshi Kon has died of cancer at age 47. Kon was the creative force behind some of my favorite (non-Ghibli) feature-length anime films of recent years, specifically Millennium Actress (2001), Tokyo Godfathers (2003, pictured above), and Paprika, a dream-hopping adventure I saw at MSPIFF when it premiered in 2006. He also directed the thriller Perfect Blue and the complex 13-episode series Paranoia Agent, both of which I have yet to see in their entirety. Suffice it to say that Kon’s life was cut short near the peak of his creative output, and there’s no telling how catastrophic a loss this is to the world of film.

I’ve been meaning to write about Kon for a while; I’m just sad that these have to be the circumstances in which I do it. I wrote a short piece on Millennium Actress a couple years ago; it’s none too insightful or well-written, but it’s a useful jumping-off point, so I’ll reprint it here:

One film whose existence was only made known to me recently is Millennium Actress (2001). From Satoshi Kon, director of great anime like the series Paranoia Agent and the film Paprika, it’s infused with his unique brand of surrealism, but put toward a more coherent purpose: deconstructing the life of a reclusive Japanese actress, as seen through the eyes of an admiring documentary filmmaker. The narrative intermingles her memories of 20th century Japan with images of her film career (including pastiches of Throne of Blood and Godzilla), and concerns her relationship with a political prisoner, who gives her the key “to the most important thing.” As it traces the actress’s struggle to find her lost love, it also examines the connection between real life and the dream lives portrayed in film, leading to a bittersweet finale. Between its multifarious animation styles and compelling subject matter, I find Millennium Actress just as beautiful as the much-praised works of Miyazaki.

This snippet hints at some of Kon’s inimitable strengths: he could blend an acute cultural awareness and a slightly wacky sense of humor with faith in the infinite (and phantasmagoric) capacities of animation. I’ve only seen Paranoia Agent‘s first episode, but even that lone half-hour displays Kon’s extensive talent for unpacking dense narratives with both impressive (sometimes disturbing) visuals and extreme, sometimes painful psychological detail. Although renowned for his forays into dream imagery (most explicitly Paprika), Kon always maintained an intense focus on those dreams’ emotional underpinnings and his characters’ rich internal lives. At the end of a summer so dominated by Inception, it’s refreshing to look at a dream-weaving director whose characters had personalities and a pulse.

Tokyo Godfathers, which I watched a few weeks ago, was a delightful surprise and demonstrated Kon’s sheer versatility. Although much of his work consists of probing, stylized peeks into the psyches of fragile individuals, Godfathers proved that he was equally adept at marrying urban drama with broad comedy. In American films, homelessness is too often the substance of saccharine, Oscar-baity melodramas; Kon, however, sympathetically observes his poverty-ridden (but still dignified) characters – a grizzled, middle-aged man, a flamboyant trans woman, and a teenage runaway – as they form a strange but functional family unit, interacting naturalistically and coping with hardships that range from hunger to tuberculosis to their dirty, hidden pasts.

Kon deftly balances the gravity of their collective situation with the lightness of their madcap chases and slapstick collisions (as when an assassin accidentally prevents one of them from making a potentially fatal mistake). And although the film indulges in a number of anime clichés, they never threaten to constrain it, since it’s always buoyed by its fundamental soulfulness and self-awareness. Tokyo Godfathers is volatile in mood and style, but Kon handles these rapid transitions masterfully. It’s a film that’s integrates cartoonish extravagances with Tokyo’s physical realities, and a must-see for any fan of Kon’s other films.

However, I think Millennium Actress is Kon’s best work, and possibly one of the best animated films from any nation. It’s so alive with the power and history of cinema; how could I not love it? (For Ozu lovers, its title character is also loosely based on the enigmatic Setsuko Hara.) I’m sure Kon’s critical legacy will be hotly debated over the coming years – and as we debate it, we’ll be mourning the future films he could have made. He did leave an unfinished film, The Dream Machines, at his death; perhaps it’ll be visible someday. In the meantime, here are a couple of helpful Kon-centric links: 1) an extensive interview with Kon from around the time Paprika was released and 2) Film Studies For Free‘s round-up of resources and academic papers on Kon. Or else you can hit YouTube and start watching Paranoia Agent.

Addendum: While glancing through this retrospective on Kon’s career, I saw a description of Tokyo Godfathers as “saccharine melodrama.” Clearly I disagree (I think Godfathers is pretty underrated); still, the piece by Grady Hendrix of the New York Sun has a lot of great insights and is very worth reading.

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Saturday Theme Songs: DuckTales

Ah, the DuckTales theme song. In the minds of our generation, it has easily outlasted the series it accompanied with its ultra-catchy “Whoo-oo” refrain. My memories of that series (which ran from 1987-90) are limited mostly to what’s in the opening sequence: Donald Duck’s nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie would go on adventures with his uncle, the fabulously wealthy Scrooge McDuck; they’d sometimes be aided by Launchpad McQuack or Donald himself; they’d occasionally solve mysteries or rewrite history. I remember watching the feature-length final episode, Treasure of the Lost Lamp, at Club Kid (a glorified daycare) very early in my life.

So: why is this an awesome opening? Because it succinctly and appealingly conveys the nature of the series. DuckTales, loosely based on Carl Barks’ duck-centric Disney comics, was pretty much an old-fashioned adventure serial about the McDuck clan and their various quests – whether geared toward protecting Scrooge’s present lucre, or obtaining more. The opening gets this across through a fast-paced best-of montage, demonstrating the sheer scope of these tales – which, mind you, are not “pony tails or cotton tails.” They’re duck tales, a fact that’s emphasized through most characters (and the town and world in which they live) having “duck” somewhere in their names.

It’s genuinely impressive how many kinds of adventures are on display here: we’ve got dragons, mummies, lava pits, sharks, aliens, tigers, robots, and more. DuckTales was at once all-inclusive and unfocused, skipping from one realm of magic and fantasy to another. Where most such children’s shows confined themselves by setting or genre, it grabbed freely from sci-fi, Arabian Nights, Tarzan, Kipling, Arthurian legend, etc. – basically plundering western literature for all available exoticism or dangerous Others, who became the “stranger[s] juts behind you.”

All this was (from what little I know), more or less, in keeping with Barks’ original comics, which engaged in innocent Tintin-style globetrotting while blending eras and technologies (like “race cars, lasers, aeroplanes”). And DuckTales‘ 100 episodes became a condensed, TV-friendly way to absorb Barks’ many decades of stories. The comics (and DuckTales by extension) are a sort of underexplored mini-domain under the Disney umbrella, jumping into very traditional, vaguely imperialist adventure stories; through this opening sequence, we get a little taste of this. And it’s a duck blur.

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Great new movies: Ozark poverty and Italian opulence

Two Saturdays ago, I went with Rebekah of Happy Postmodernists to our local arthouse theater. We saw two movies, both fantastic, and you should go see both of them as soon as you can. The first was Winter’s Bone, the second film from director Debra Granik. It’s a disturbingly realist mystery set amidst the backwoods of Missouri, where 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) must find her meth-dealing father or risk losing the house where she cares for her two younger siblings and catatonic mom. This material could have made for a sappy melodrama, or maybe a pedestrian thriller set in Deliverance country. Instead, it’s a starkly observational masterpiece, ably meshing the perilous investigation and moral uncertainties of a film noir like The Third Man with the everyday drama of raising children and surviving without a reliable income.

The style of Winter’s Bone is just extraordinary: it’s moody without being overwrought and suspenseful without being manipulative. Through Granik’s lens, rural Missouri is a dreary, desolate place, but always totally believable. And while many of the characters may be addicts or pathetic rednecks, they’re always discernibly human; especially memorable are Ree’s loose-cannon uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) and Merab (Dale Dickey), the grimy matriarch who obstructs her search. Although they may live in barely habitable shacks, snort coke, and speak with molasses-thick drawls, the country dwellers of Winter’s Bone retain a past and a sense of belonging. In one particularly poignant scene, Ree and her siblings page through an old photo album and see Teardrop and their father as children. It’s details like this that root the film deep within the Dolly family, whose blood is shared by many of Ree’s potential enemies.

At heart, Winter’s Bone is a movie about a place, a people, and most of all a girl burdened by her diseased lineage and bravely facing a painful future. With its teenage detective, Winter’s Bone will probably earn comparisons to Rian Johnson’s high school neo-noir Brick. But as Rebekah and I concluded, Brick‘s delicious novelty and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s deadpan performance are totally blown away by the laconic but unrelenting power that Jennifer Lawrence brings to Ree. Winter’s Bone is as sharp and harrowing as its title, and in its best moments, its story acquires a semi-mythical quality, as if Ree and Teardrop were characters from forgotten folklore buried deep in America’s heartland. I hope to write more about Winter’s Bone later (and see it again!), but in the meantime, take my advice: it was very, very worth the $9.

The second half of our double feature was, in terms of style and content, on the opposite end of the spectrum from Winter’s Bone. While Ree & co. were so destitute that the idea of a sex life was out of the question, the Recchis in Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love take sensuality and eroticism as givens. The film is a luscious, sweeping melodrama about a dynasty of Milanese industrialists led by the sturdy Tancredi (Pippo Delbono) and his wife Emma (Tilda Swinton, who also co-produced), a Russian émigré. But as corporate dynamics start to shift – Tancredi’s father retires and the son Edoardo steps up to help manage the company – so do the family’s emotional balances, and soon Emma flings herself into an explosive liaison with Edoardo’s best friend, a skilled chef named Antonio.

However, any given plot development in I Am Love is less important than the fleeting emotions and sensory experiences that set it in motion. No pleasure is too small for I Am Love to express cinematically, and taste and touch are given just as much emphasis as sight. Emma’s first real awakening comes when she bites into Antonio’s exquisitely prepared prawn, and the world literally darkens around her as she feels it against her tongue. Later, her orgasm receives just as much attention, as it’s accompanied by shots of the surrounding countryside, a swell of John Adams’ minimalist score, and a cut to the London skyline. The ecstasies of food and sex are manifested through the most lavish visual and musical analogues possible, and it’s to the movie’s credit. Fuck the misguided 3D that’s plagued theaters (and ticket prices) this summer; I Am Love‘s resiliently traditional photography really does pop off the screen.

The broad, magnificent brush strokes that fill I Am Love‘s canvas leave little room for interpersonal intricacies, which is a shame; Rebekah and I were both disappointed that the movie didn’t delve further into the relationship between Emma and Edoardo (and the significance of the ukha, an emotionally fraught, translucent Russian soup). But the film, unsurprisingly, does an enormous amount with body language, conveying enough for a whole conversation with a single motion of Tilda Swinton’s hand. Turning individual sensations into panoramic landscapes, I Am Love is a triumph of expansive artistry that’s even more enthralling on the big screen.

So if you’re in the mood for a great movie experience, don’t settle for whatever bullshit’s just been released (and besides, I Am Love has more to say about eating, praying, and loving than a million Julia Roberts movies). Instead, run to your nearest theater that’s willing to show subtitled films, and watch either Winter’s Bone or I Am Love! One’s a chilling, brutal document of poor midwestern life; the other’s overflowing with fine Italian food and Tilda Swinton’s nipples. Both unquestionably have my seal of approval, and are movies by and about fascinating, well-written women. Take your pick.

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Images of Danger: Diabolik

I recently wrote a review of Mario Bava’s swinging ’60s super-thief romp Danger: Diabolik for 366 Weird Movies. Go check it out! And in the meantime, here’s some equally groovy images of John Phillip Law having the romp of his life in wacky costumes, wielding gadgets that would put Q to shame.

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Link Dump: #3

[Via Esteemed.]

Welcome to the mid-August edition of the somewhat-weekly-but-not-really Pussy Goes Grrr Link Dump! Since I’m here in PA with Ashley, new posts may be more frequent. Or less frequent. Guess you’ll just have to keep reading and find out! We’ve been trawling high and low on the Internet lately, finding it to be equal parts enlightening and infuriating. So here’s some of the best of that.

  • Our mutual friend Rebekah has recently been sharing her ultra-zeal for McSweeney’s Panorama, which holds a little bit of everything amazing from the world of cosmopolitan comics & short fiction. Check it out. She also met character actor James Cromwell this morning. Go her!
  • Since I go to a college that self-identifies as “quirky,” I was instantly drawn to this great, in-depth essay on “the quirky” in contemporary indie films, from Charlie Kaufman to Diablo Cody to Wes Anderson and beyond, located at Notes on metamodernism. (For an unabridged version of the essay in .pdf form, see here.)
  • The AV Club’s Tasha Robinson wrote a hilarious (and strangely revealing) Commentary Tracks of the Damned column about Troy Duffy and The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day. If you’ve ever wanted to learn first-hand about the misogyny of a scuzzy Bostonian filmmaker, here’s your chance.
  • While many of Armond White’s recent film reviews have contained just the right proportion of nonsense and pretentiousness, his take on Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups might be the best. My favorite line: “One ploy of Sandler and Fred Wolf’s screenplay is to democratize humor—spread affectionate derision all around—by repeating jokes that grow into an appreciation of our full humanity.” But it’s all golden.
  • Want to talk about when you realized part of your identity? Then send in a submission for Happy Bodies’ “When did you know…?” series!
  • Finally, Ashley discovered [via thoudostwish] this awesome Russian photography project, which includes some pin-up-style images like a tribute to Bride of Frankenstein.

Ashley says:

Here’s this week’s collection of the scariest/funniest/weirdest search terms that have led people to our blog. Having the word ‘pussy’ in your blog title really brings out the creeps.

  • “pussy ripped apart gore” and “women rape and murdered”
  • “oskar sees elis pussy”-for those that don’t know, Eli from Let the Right One In does not have a pussy.
  • “play mulan disney princess sex fuck game” and “fairy fucks the beast while bell watches””
  • “sheep’s vagina resembles a woman’s”
  • “sister using barbie doll to masterbate”
  • “fucked up pussy she died”

What the fuck is wrong with you, Internet surfers?

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