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Rom-coms that centre around adult women tend to be about unbelievably gorgeous career woman who just haven’t found the right man, and that right man is almost always a well-built, clever, and extremely handsome man.  He probably lacks a heart-on-his-sleeve sensitive side, but the woman need only scratch beyond the bickering and the brusque exterior to find it.  Perhaps this is true of teen movies that centre around girls as well.  After all, Molly Ringwald ends up with Jake and Blane, not the Geek or Duckie.  In whatever circumstance (yes, Ringwald was the outsider in both those films), you rarely see a film in the genre where the athlete is the star.  Oh, there are exceptions, but even in She’s All That, it’s Rachel Leigh Cook that goes on a journey, not Freddie Prinze Jr.  So perhaps the makeshift rule that should be completely disregarded after reading is that if a film is targeted at women, the guy can be hunky and awesome, but targeted at men, the guy will often be an awkward outsider, maybe even a loser (the exception here is Say Anything, in which Lloyd Dobler is much-beloved, an athlete, but still sensitive and culturally savvy enough to be considered outside the ‘conformist mainstream’, if that’s what it is).  I suspect, to go further and narrower, this happens a lot in films about teens/young adults because the (typically) male director was himself a sensitive, artistic sort, and their own nostalgia might be wrapped up in the story enough to the point that they identify with the underdog protagonist.  The boys in these stories, through disconnection with the mainstream popular kids and through a lack of experience with the opposite sex, have a tendency to construct idealized notions of women, and in many cases, a particular one.  The three films herein discussed all deal with boys who do just that to varying degrees of success. Read the rest of this entry »

Inglourious Basterds

September 10, 2009

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Back in the mid-90’s, I recall a critic (possibly Ebert, but I can’t positively remember who it really was) saying that watching Pulp Fiction was to watch a kid let loose in a toy store.  The kid was, of course, the film’s co-writer and director Quentin Tarantino, and he wanted to play with everything.  It was pop art nonsense at it’s most explosive, vibrant, and shallow (and I mean that in the best way possible).  It released a slew of imitators and rip-offs, but the original excitement has never really dulled.  A critical darling for a time, Tarantino now finds himself, 15 years later, sometimes still praised, oftentimes derided.  Claims that he’s not what he used to be are based on his 21st Century output, which admittedly contains the lackluster Death Proof, and that he’s given himself over to fanboy self-indulgence.  Granted, nothing since (and including Basterds, we’re only talking about four films here, also assuming you believe Kill Bill to be two separate entities) has reached the emotional and character heights reached by Jackie Brown, his most (only?) mature film. Indulgence is certainly an issue, but Death Proof’s best moments came when he was fully embracing his exploitation B-movie love, providing a thrilling and tense finale, while Kill Bill popped with a visual inventiveness rarely seen in action films whilst also providing some fantastic Tarantino trademarked dialogue scenes.  So how does his latest opus, Inglourious Basterds, fare?  The short answer is ‘quite well, all in all.’ Read the rest of this entry »

The Hurt Locker

September 9, 2009

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Kathryn Bigelow is no stranger to the macho adrenaline junkie.  Point Break and Strange Days are all about the rush, whether it is surfing, robbing banks, or feeling someone else’s experience.  The Hurt Locker is no different, this time setting the action around a staff sergeant in a bomb disposal unit in Iraq.  I’ve mentioned the failings of Iraq War based film ventures before, and Bigelow wisely sidesteps the issue completely.  This is not a political film, but neither is it a straightforward action picture.  It’s thrilling at times to be sure, containing some of the best suspense sequences this year, but it’s more interested in the characters and how they function in such a high-pressure environment. Read the rest of this entry »

District 9

September 6, 2009

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Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 is a rare treat.  Its high concept is established with an opening presented as a mockumentary, providing exposition in a witty, politically pointed manner.  The first thirty or so minutes of the film are extraordinarily good, no doubt as it was an extension of the short feature from which this current version was borne.  What’s so rare about it as how it eventually (and yes, to a degree, sloppily) abandons this approach and becomes a fairly standard fugitive/sci-fi/actioner, and I wasn’t left disappointed in missed opportunities.  When I say “standard”, I should add that this is actually executed with an above-average level of skill, even if it never truly rises beyond the tropes of the genre. Read the rest of this entry »