Friday, December 30, 2016

Carrie Fisher One With the Force

It's virtually impossible at this point to overstate the cultural impact that Star Wars has had. Its iconography has become a permanent part of our cultural landscape and has had an influence on the lives of millions of people across the world. There's something eternal about the mythology now, something that transcends time, which is maybe why it was all the more shocking to learn of Carrie Fisher's death on December 27, 2016. Official reports were saying that she died of a heart attack, but as the evidence mounts, it has become clear that she drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra. As part of the Star Wars mythology, there was something timeless about her. Death seems like too mundane a thing for stars that shine that bright.

Fisher was (by far) best known for portraying Princess Leia in the Star Wars saga (and also that nun who lived by a slightly different Book than George Carlin and Jay and Silent Bob). Aside from Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise, there are few other iconic women ass-kickers than immediately come to mind, due in large part to Fisher's performance, which had no shortage of strength and tenacity. This speaks volumes about both the positive influence Fisher had as a strong female character and, conversely, the state of the film industry (both in 1977 and in 2016) where strong female characters are few and far between. Princess Leia never went full Ripley, but she kicked her fair share of ass, and most importantly never took any shit from anybody.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Skyfell: An Ode to a Bygone Era... Some Things Always Never Change

I've always had a soft spot for James Bond. I've never been a huge fan like my brother Chris who still has the entire script of Goldeneye memorized, but Bond is an undeniable cinematic icon. I have fond memories of watching movies like Dr. No and From Russia With Love in my grandparents' basement on VHS while all the adults were upstairs talking about adult bullshit. My grandfather was a huge James Bond fan, and he really was the one to initiate our education in that regard. I remember that at my grandfather's funeral there was a picture of my him in his heyday wearing a white tux and looking every inch a clear Sean Connery doppelganger.

But I am also the first to admit that there are some very legitimate criticisms that can be leveled at the James Bond franchise. James Bond is a curious cultural artifact that feels like a holdover from a previous era, and for good reason. The character is a product of the 1950s and 60s, and more and more this is becoming glaringly obvious. Aside from Bond's appeal to British imperialism as well as his cavalier attitudes to alcohol consumption and his complete disregard for the sanctity of human life, the most conspicuous cultural relic old 007 carries from that era is the misogyny. Oh, the misogyny. And it's not like this is incidental baggage. The reason the misogyny and all the other bullshit are still present is that they are all integral parts of the character of James Bond. If nothing else, it cannot be argued that the character was not a man of his time. Likely for some, the ultimate man of his time. Bond represents an ideal of masculinity that falls apart under even the slightest scrutiny by 2016 standards. And that's saying a lot considering that the US President-Elect, Donald Trump, (still having trouble processing that one) was able to ascend to one of the most politically powerful offices in the free and un-free world alike atop a wave of blatantly sexist comments and incredibly misogynistic campaign promises. (Wait, where was I going with this again...?)

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

To the Depths, with Sharks and Everything

The Shallows presents perhaps some of the greatest bang for your buck in recent memory. It is both a loving, meticulously constructed ode to Blake Lively's ass as well as a surprisingly well-executed woman versus nature thriller. On both levels, it succeeds gloriously, and so you essentially get two films for the price of one.

For those of you out there who were on the fence over whether or not Blake Lively was attractive, your fears can finally be put to rest. Nearly the entire first third of the film painstakingly documents in fantastic, high-def detail, every curve that Lively can possibly muster. Director Jaume Collet-Serra displays an impressive level of dedication to capturing on film every sun-soaked inch of Blake Lively's body, including a few inches you didn't even know existed. It's the kind of dedication to one's subject matter that most documentary film makers would kill to achieve. In all fairness, if I had a body like Blake Lively's, I too would want it preserved for posterity and chronicled for inclusion in the historical record. Purely in the service of scientific and academic discourse, of course.

As much time as The Shallows dedicates to showcasing Blake Lively's ass, I wouldn't categorize that aspect of the film as gratuitous. Of course, I might be biased by the fact that I am a heterosexual man who is, at the moment of writing this, out of the known striking distance of her current husband, Ryan "Deadpool" Reynolds. (Incidentally, after seeing Reynolds in Deadpool, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that I would have enjoyed the film just as much (if not more so) had he been cast as the lead in The Shallows and had his ass so lovingly documented in service of the film.)