Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sidney Prescott?

Writing about slasher movies and writing slasher movies again is like breathing again. I miss it so much.

That said, I've had some thoughts lately! Time for sharing!

They mostly revolve around this lady:

One Miss Sidney Prescott. I might venture to say, my favorite survivorgirl?

But here's what I'm thinking--judging (and I mean JUDGING) by the following things:

-All of her outfits in Scream 3
-Her perpetual singleness
-Her traumatic experience with men
-Her job in Scream 3 working as a councilor for women in crises over the phone,
-Her haircut,

So I'm thinking that perhaps, Sidney is being set up to be a lesbian.

Please don't misunderstand--I don't think all lesbians have short hair and wear sort of androgynous khaki pants (?) and are ultra-feminists, or fit any mold for that matter, but I know how movies work, and if there's a lesbian, it's likely that she's going to have some level of cliche to her, which Sidney certainly seems to. Perhaps it'll be a Dumbledore scenario, or perhaps it'll  be openly addressed in the next installment, whatever that is.

Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part--I think it would be a fantastic aspect to add to Scream 5 (please god, please please let this happen) or the reboot of the Scream franchise (It's too soon. Shut it down. Shut. it. down). Perhaps it's time to comment on the real seriousness of Sidney's loosing her virginity to a serial killer (and perhaps having her only sexual experience be with a serial killer, which is entirely possible with the rest of the plot,) and the fact that the world/God is beginning to accept homosexuality so it's no longer a "sin" that can be punished in a slasher movie situation.

Of course, this thought, along with some jokes about a script I'm working on with my BFF, led me to think about lesbianism in slasher movies in general. has it ever been addressed in a popular movie?

The only instance I could think of in my viewing experience is the lesbians in Stupid Teenagers Must Die.

Let's talk about Stupid Teenagers for a second. It's thought of as a decent parody of bad slasher movies, with "all the normal stereotypes!" This is the movie that originally inspired me and my aforementioned BFF to write slasher movies. The rest is history.

Anyways, one of the stereotypes Stupid Teenagers throws in there is this pair of lesbians who are constantly having sex. Which is all well and good for them, being edgy, whatever--but lesbians are simply not a slasher movie stereotype, at least not from the pool of slasher films that I've been watching. From some very superficial internet research, it seems that the most common slasher film that contains lesbians is the misnomered horror porn, such as Zombie Strippers, etc. (disregarding a few films that are specifically lesbian horror films, such as Femme Fatal)These are different from slasher films. Very different. Really, I think they're based on the misconception of what horror films are.

This begs the question, of course, as to whether or not it would be relevant to address Sydney's apparent sexuality in another Scream film. Even though it isn't a hot button issue in the realm of slasher film, it is a hot button issue in the real world, and current events are addressed in the Scream films (technology and fame in Scream 4 for instance).

Thoughts? Rebuttals? 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

It would be wrong to write that Halloween post and then not do a Christmas post. So here we go!!

Guys, watch this trailer:

I'll give it a moment to sink in.

There's this trend with movies right now, where, when you hear the title or see the trailer, you realize immediately that it's going to be a fantastic film for one of two completely opposite reasons: it's either going to be legitimately epic, well done, thoughtful, and entertaining, or it's going to be so entirely off the handle ridiculous that it will still be thoroughly enjoyable to watch.

This movie...may have been both of those things?

Let's talk about it.

Ok, in case you didn't catch it from the trailer, the film is about finding a monstrous Santa Clause buried deep in a hill somewhere in Finland. This is that Christmastime horror that I was talking about before--already, the story is somewhat unorthodox. It is also a premise that leaves room for so, so much badassery.

The main characters, a group of working class Finnish men living in the Arctic, originally have no vested interest in the whole Santa scheme--they are, as you saw in the trailer, upset because something--or someone--has killed all of their reindeer, which they herd for meat and fur. It is only a group of Americans and one small child who are concerned with the Santa situation.
One of these people tops my list for 'Most Badass Characters of 2011'

It is only appropriate that a Christmas film focus on a child, which is where the main quirk in this film really comes through--even though it is a Christmas movie, it is also an action film, so the typical child main character of the Christmas aspect of the film somehow manages to also become a totally competent action hero.

For the first half of the film, nobody believes the boy, Pietari, that there is an evil Santa buried in the mountain--until, of course, a creature that appears to be Santa is found in one of the illegal wolf-traps set up by Pietari's father. It is only then that people begin to believe the child, and he leads three middle aged Finnish men into battle not only with their American opposition, but with a group of bloodthirsty elves and an enormous frozen goat monster. Throughout the film, the child completes various nearly superhuman feats and gives the men instructions one would only expect from the most experienced of action heroes.
Yeah, secretly a crazy action hero. Obviously.

This is only the very, very basic premise, however--and from that, as well as from the heavy handed one-liners in the trailer, you would have trouble believing that it managed to be a quality film as opposed to a ridiculous and over the top piece of cinema.

The part that doesn't fit into the basic premise, however, is what gives the film it's depth, and it's all very surprising. The strange, epic main plot is a vessel for two thoughtful and complex themes.

Pietari's mother died long before the story we see occurs, and much of the film shows us the struggle his father has being a single father and providing a warm and parental touch to the little family's life. It is simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking to see the gruff butcher try to provide for his child not only materially but emotionally, as well, particularly at Christmastime. This sub-plot revolves around the father only having gingerbread cookies for dinner for days on end--in theory, a child's dream, but a meal that ultimately is not practical or nourishing.

 And, as Pietari points out, in his adorable, tear-jerking way, they aren't as good as mother made them. Perhaps, however, this mano-y-mano relationship is what eventually allows Pietari to prove himself to his father, so that he is no longer treated like such a small child.

The other sub plot is only hinted at, because the film is mainly from the point of view of a small child. In a To Kill a Mockingbird-esque way, social and political turmoil is hinted at when the reindeer are killed, and when the men notice something strange happening on the mountain that is eventually revealed as Santa's tomb. The adults are constantly discussing the potential that Russian agents had killed their reindeer, or were working on some secret project on the mountain. Though it is never clearly explained in the film, there is a very complex undertone of the Finnish-Russian political relationship, which, as far as I can tell from the internet, is mainly stressed by border control issues, which are the focus in this film.

So, this Christmas, when you're debating between Santa Clause is Coming to Town and It's a Wonderful Life, make the unorthodox choice--pop in Rare Exports for a surprising, action-packed, touching and thoughtful holiday movie. Think of this movie as your Aunt Jill's pumpkin pie--you were really looking forward to the iconic sugar cookies and the decadent eggnog, but in the end it's the pie you go back for seconds on.

...or, you know, don't think of it that way. Maybe it's best that you don't.

Happy Holidays, everyone!! 

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is owned by CINET and Petri Jokiranta, copyright 2010. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chinatown, Roman Polanski, Noir, and a discussion of ART.

Guys, I have been a Noir fiend lately.

I keep going back to watch a slasher movie, but something else on my Instant Queue always catches my eye instead--Scarlet Street, The Third Man, The Stranger, Double Indemnity, the list goes on and on. Noir is like the slasher films of the forties and fifties. Low budget, not necessarily respected in its time, very, very genre-riffic (I just made up that word,)...all fantastic. Perhaps I will blog about the similarities and the importance of low budget movies sometime in the future.

Today, however, I'm going to write a bit about Chinatown, because I decided that I'd watched enough Noir that I'd understand it.

And I think, as much as one ever can understand Chinatown after watching it only once, I do.

Spoiler time.

A little summary for you--as far as I understand, Chinatown is a modern-noir, which is now almost forty years old, but that's fine. It's not shot in black and white, which is very important to the genre, as far as I can tell, but you've got the hard-boiled private eye with all his catchy lines, a Los Angeles that I fully believed was in the forties, the gorgeous, GORGEOUS femme fatale (Faye Dunaway ohmygoodness) and a murder for everyone to get tangled up in.

The standard plot was set up and followed very well, with various surprises around every turn. I suppose the trick to noir is that you have to know the surprises are coming, but you can't know what they are--right? Perhaps?

In any case, that's how this movie worked, and it was thoroughly enjoyable. There was also a big discussion about government corruption and capitalism which I was really invested in, but don't feel any need to get into here. The various societal commentary, the biblical allusions, the structure of Chinatown has been discussed plenty, and unless you're my film studies professor, we aren't going to get anywhere by me repeating all of it.

The thing about Chinatown that hasn't been discussed is the fact that it deals very directly with pedophilia and was directed by Roman Polanski.

This is something I've been trying to grapple with--when an artist has created something brilliant, but done something that our society considers evil, how much are we to separate the artist from his art? On one hand, we want to appreciate the art without it being colored by our perception of the artist, and examine its merits and its impact objectively. However, we also want to maybe see how the artist's moral ambiguities affected his work, and even just give an artist credit for something beautiful they've created regardless how much we disagree with their other actions or even the message they are sending in the work.

I addressed this issue in a play I wrote this year for a class in which D.W Griffiths was a character.  D.W Griffiths made the film Birth of a Nation, the first American feature-length film, which naturally had a huge impact on the ways films were made and distributed. Also, it was super racist and about the KKK.

And, unfortunately, except in very film-savvy circles, that's what he's remembered for, which is a shame, because he made plenty of other movies. Another, more common example in film is Walt Disney--made great movies, changed the way we see animation and television and mice, also was a Nazi.

Do we accept the fact that these brilliant men had flaws, and appreciate their work regardless? Or do we pretend that they didn't have those flaws at all? It's a difficult conundrum, especially when they directly address their asocietal (made up that word tooo) morals in their work, the way Griffiths did with Birth of a Nation or Disney did with Song of the South.

For those of you who don't know, Roman Polanski is largely considered to be a pedophile--in 1977, three years after Chinatown was made, he was arrested for unlawful sex with a thirteen year old girl, plead guilty, and fled to London. In Chinatown, it is revealed near the end of the film that Faye Dunaway's character was raped by her father at fifteen, which becomes a major plot point in the film.

It's fascinating to me that no one has discussed the similarities about this aspect of the film and how they connect to Roman Polanski's sex scandal in the seventies; the girl in the movie was in her early teens, raped by an older man after his wife died. Polanski's victim too was just a teenager, and his wife was killed in 1969.

However, the director is much more associated with the main character than with the character of the father--the background of Jack Nicholson's detective is that he failed to save a woman in his previous career in Chinatown and as a result, she was killed, and he became rather despondent and apathetic. This lines up fairly well with Polanski, who cites not being at home the night his wife was murdered as his biggest regret and says that it left him pessimistic and with "eternal dissatisfaction about life."

Perhaps it is out of respect for Polanski and the film that nobody has made this connection, which would be, in my opinion, the best way to deal with the situation. The crime he committed was a mistake, and the worst of his character, while this is one of the most brilliant things he created, if not the most brilliant. Hopefully, years from now, it will be looked upon as such, and hopefully someday we can look at other artists' work the same way.