Tag Archives: feminism

Stating the Obvious

Jenny Slate in Obvious Child

Jenny Slate in Obvious Child

In the wake of Bridesmaids’ box office success three years ago, I remember a host of think pieces whose titles all asked variations on the same question: “Does this mean women will get to headline comedies now?” Well, the cinema landscape may still be overwhelmingly patriarchal, but I’ve been noticing more and more vehicles for comediennes cropping up recently. Some (Pitch PerfectThe Heat) may feature break-out Bridesmaids cast members. Others may just bear strands of its narrative DNA. Most of them, I grant you, are pretty lousy. But my observations suggest that a new-ish type of movie is emerging—or more likely, an old-ish subgenre’s becoming more commonplace—that I’ll describe with the unwieldy label of “millennial [or ‘post-Recession’?] feminist comedy.”

It’s true that values have been shifting since forever; that countless comedies from earlier decades have moved the goalposts from “Can she find a man?” to “Can she have it all?” or “Can she make it on her own?” But at least from this moviegoer’s perspective, pushback against the (once?) dominant romcom model is evolving into a loose formula of its own, with the question becoming “Can she make it as an adult?” I’m reminded here of my favorite movie from last year, Frances Ha, as well as Lake Bell’s In a World… and, of course, the movie at hand, Obvious Child.

Each of these films is, like Bridesmaids, shaped by real-world social and economic climates, wherein young women may have one-night stands and zero job security. Their lives may tarry around romantic subplots, but vocations (dancing, voice acting, comedy) or close friendships will always take precedence. Comedy of the cringe and gross-out varieties are prominent in these films, uninhibited by stereotypes about “ladylike” behavior. And in addition to starring them, the projects I’ve listed also involve women in other creative capacities: writers, directors, producers. (Not shockingly, these films are also overwhelmingly about white women who live in major metropolitan areas.) Again, none of these traits are really brand new, but they are coalescing in consistent and intriguing ways.

I’m impressed, for example, by what Obvious Child takes for granted—i.e., that women are entitled to control their own bodies and lives—as well as what it doesn’t do when Jenny Slate’s Donna discovers she’s pregnant. It doesn’t dwell on whether she’ll have the abortion or the feelings of the guy who impregnated her, nor does it devolve into a morass of twists and contrivances. Instead it stays with her, in her head, in Slate’s crumpled smile-that-wants-to-be-a-frown. All the supporting characters in Donna’s life (friends, parents, beau) are rather thinly written, serving mostly as foils and sounding boards. But that’s not disastrous, because the film’s framed by her solipsism, and its best scenes play like excerpts from a one-woman show.

These include her stand-up sets (very funny, if a little rough); a montage of a drunken night spent leaving voice mails for a hated ex; and an interview with her own brain, conducted in the three minutes before a pregnancy test yields its results. Here as elsewhere, Slate and writer-director Gillian Robespierre demonstrate a knack for words tripping over dirty words and an awareness of what an extraordinary comic tool an actress’s body and voice can be. They revel in this grotesque femininity and in visual tokens of Donna’s immaturity: a muppet designed by her dad, a cardboard box where she can hide, a pair of Crocs. The question “Can she make it as an adult?” is never answered, but it is nimbly navigated with joke after crude coping mechanism joke, until this particular set of crises has been weathered.

[Originally published on Letterboxd.]

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Candid Camera

Wanda, the first and only film by Barbara Loden, is—as Bérénice Reynaud put it in her essential essay “For Wanda”—a “small, forgotten masterpiece.” I wrote about it over at Movie Mezzanine. (You can also read more about it by critics like Richard Brody and Tony Paley.) In Wanda, Loden pins down a certain type of woman, as well as the desolate real-world spaces she lives in, and the very real kinds of sadness she experiences. The film’s so obviously drawn straight from life that you could nearly mistake it for someone’s especially depressing home movies, with the fuzziness of its 16mm images and soundtrack (the latter totally devoid of non-diegetic music) doing nothing to dispel this impression. As too with life, so much of Wanda is connective tissue. Our “heroine” walks, bedhops, idles around Scranton, and eventually has her heart broken for the umpteenth time. I’d hesitate to call any of it beautiful, but it is powerful: a movie you can’t shake, and whose like may never really come again.

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Link Dump: #86

Upper-crust telephone KITTY!

Our first fluffy kitty of 2013 is from Busby Berkeley’s The Gang’s All Here, which I wrote about yesterday. Aww, it looks like it’s waiting for a phone call! Aren’t cats just the cutest? And now, links:

Two pornographic search terms this week, and I don’t want to know what either sentence means: “making love videos of loving blacks and white cuckold” and “real hidden camera in a restaurant bathrooms and pussy the advent of the menstrual cycle.” Yikes.

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Link Dump: #35

This pretty white kitty comes courtesy of Lee Grant, playing the wealthy matriarch in Hal Ashby’s debut The Landlord. It’s a very underrated satire of class warfare and racial tension in the early ’70s. It’s also includes a kitty. Now here are some links!

We had a pretty fantastic assortment of gross/bizarre search terms this week, like the vaginally themed “cunt eat mouse” and “bloddin on pussy.” We had the aggressive “bash your fucking skull,” and the gentler “pornfor a nice man.” My absolute favorite, though, was definitely “tutu fecal.” Seriously. What in the world does that mean? I’ll let you ponder that one.

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Feminist Film Smackdown: Zombieland

By Ashley

[Note: this article is written under the assumption that those who read it have already seen it. Spoilers.]

On a whim, Andreas and I decided to watch Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland; we love zombies, we love parody, so it seems logical. After coming to the sobering conclusion that zombies have been so parodied and so ingrained into our pop culture that there’s no way they can be scary again (barring some intense, 28 Days Later-esque film coming out and completely rejuvenating the genre) we hunkered down for what we thought would be a relatively good, funny zombie parody. Overall it delivered on the funny (and the blaahhhh when it wasn’t funny) but it also delivered on a few other things: plot holes, sexism, and gender stereotypes.

Hit the jump to see me unload the snark…

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Wandering Uterus #1: Wee Feminst

By Ashley

As promised before, I’m going to post the stories from my graphic memoir (which I just got my grade for today; 100%, whoo!). These first four pages are my least favorite; I want to completely redo them. Click for bigger, easier to read images!

See more about me as a young, budding feminist (in comic form!) after the jump…

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Link Dump: #24

In light of Lady Gaga’s recent high-profile cover of it, along with the music video’s director David Fincher being Oscar-nominated, we figured it was time to revisit Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” which features—you guessed it!—lots of kitties. And half-naked men. The best of all worlds, really. So! Sit back, listen to Madonna expressing herself, and read over some vintage links…

  • If you’re like me, you love reading about retro sex ed videos. Now’s your chance, thanks to a long, dense conversation about them recently conducted by Farran Smith Nehme and Vadim Rizov, two ultra-perceptive film folks!
  • The Australian has a fascinating interview with filmmaker and special effects expert Douglas Trumbull (of 2001 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind fame) that goes over his career and influence. I especially liked this part:

Projection in 3-D, he believes, should be reserved for “alternate reality”. “It’s great for a movie like Alice in Wonderland, but maybe not for a love story, or even The Great Gatsby.”

As far as search terms go, we had a few wacky, outlandish, and gross ones like “bread in a vagina” (speaking of yeast infections…) and “syringe douche anal mistress.” The search “fucking happily movies” could, I think, have a few different meanings: movies with happy fucking in them? Good movies to watch while fucking happily? Did they mistype “fucking happy movies”? Lastly, we had another search term in Arab, “سكس كرتون كايوتك,” which Google Translate renders as “Sex Cartoon Cayotk.” I still don’t know what that means.

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