Friday, March 22, 2013

Feminist Film Moment - Freeway


FREEWAY (1996)

(Note: If this post is your first encounter with my Feminist Film Moment postings, kindly read the rules of engagement before reading, commenting, etc.)

Written and Directed by Matthew Bright

Cast:  Reese Witherspoon, Keifer Sutherland

Synopsis:   Little Red Riding Hood and Reese Witherspoon like you’ve never seen either before.

Moment: Vanessa gets the upper hand on her would-be rapist.

TRIGGER WARNING: VIOLENCE AND REFERENCES 
TO SEXUAL ASSAULT


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Rationale:

To hell with waiting on some woodsman! Finally a version of Little Red Riding Hood where she fights back against the big bad wolf and prevails! Vanessa is on her way to her grandmother’s house when she hitches a ride with Bob who unbeknownst to her is the Freeway Killer. He gains her trust, makes her reveals intimate details of her life and then turns on her. But homegirl’s not going out like that. There’s another great scene later where Vanessa revels in how she whooped that rapist ass, but you’re going to have to get your hands on the flick to see that. If you like your humor dark and your fairy tales edgy, you’ll enjoy this flick. 

Today's Reese Witherspoon's birthday. Happy birthday, Reese. Thank you for all the Feminist Film Moments. If you look at her career, there's quite a few of 'em. 



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Feminist Film Moment - I Like It Like That


I LIKE IT LIKE THAT (1994

(Note: If this post is your first encounter with my Feminist Film Moment postings, kindly read the rules of engagement before reading, commenting, etc.)

Written and Directed by Darnell Martin

Cast:  Lauren Velez, Jon Seda, Griffin Dunne 

Synopsis:   When her husband gets arrested, stay-at-home mother Lisette finds a job – and a new sense of herself – that shakes up her family.

Moment: Chino defies his homeboys when they urge him to hit his wife.


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Rationale:

I’m undecided as to whether or not an ultimate goal of feminism should be to eradicate all gender constructions such as femininity and masculinity. I’m pretty confident, however, that part of the feminist enterprise is to recreate masculinities that are not predicated on patriarchal pillars. One such pillar is violence, and that brings me to today’s Feminist Film Moment. When Chino suspects that his wife Lisette cheated on him with her boss, his boys are quick to suggest that he regulate her with a public beating.  Chino’s flawed, no question, but he doesn’t get down like that.  The fact that he resists the pressure to hit his wife at all – never mind in front of crowd of men that believes she has it coming – is a profound act of resistance.  And given the dangerously pervasive myth that Latino and working-class men are somehow more violent than those of other socioeconomic backgrounds, this moment is full of intersectional win. Daps to writer and director Darnell Martin creating this image and one of my mentors Lillian Jimenez for pointing it out to me. 

Oh, and on another note, nice to see a movie where the gossips are men because, you know, they're not beyond it. They just call it networking or some shit like that. 




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Friday, March 15, 2013

Feminist Film Moment - Sex and the City


SEX AND THE CITY (2008)


(Note: If this post is your first encounter with my Feminist Film Moment postings, kindly read the rules of engagement before reading, commenting, etc.)

Written by Michael Patrick King based on the TV series created by Darren Star which is based on the book by Candace Bushnell

Directed by Michael Patrick King

Synopsis:   Big leaves Carrie at the altar, but enough about those two…

Moment: Samantha breaks up with Smith.


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Rationale:

We can debate the overall feminist bona fides of Sex and the City. I liked the show but was no stan ‘cause I could relate to this popular foursome just so much. (Fans will say that the women on this show talk about sex and relationships like real women. Meh. My contention is that Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha speak the way wealthy White gay men think straight White women who aspire to affluence speak.) That said, the movie, and the show aren’t without moments that make me say, “Yaaas!”

This is one of those moments.  Let me break down why Samantha’s break up with Smith is no little thing. Bad enough women are socialized to feel inadequate if they don’t have romantic partners, those of a middle age are particularly vulnerable to negative messages about their waning desirability. It’s the reason why they’re at once pressured to become cougars and then ridiculed if they actually succeed in sleeping with or even forging substantive emotional connections to younger men. (The many layers of fuckedupedness shrouding the term cougar is a post in its own right although I’m sure some other feminists have nailed it already.) According to these pressures, Samantha must be dysfunctional to not be happy with Smith.

But unhappy she was. Enough that she had to go. And Samantha leaves the relationship with no guarantee of what she will find. All she has is faith that who she is in her own right – that is, independent of her relationship status – will make prove the decision wise. That’s a powerful message for all people but especially women who are constantly told that being with the wrong man is better than having no man at all (shout out to the heterosexist assumption, too.) 

The fact that Samantha is almost fifty when she chooses to break it off with a man who’s deemed highly desirable (on both meaningful and superficial criteria) instead of settling for less than fulfillment and sparring with women half her age to protect what’s “hers” makes it that more potent.



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Feminist Film Moment - Real Women Have Curves


REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES

(Note: If this post is your first encounter with my Feminist Film Moment postings, kindly read the rules of engagement before reading, commenting, etc.)

Written by Josefina Lopez and George LaVoo based on the play by Josefina Lopz

Directed by Patricia Cardoso

Cast:  America Ferrera, Lupe Ontiveros, Ingrid Oliu, Soledad St. Hilaire

Synopsis:  A young Chicana struggles between her mother's cultural expectations and her personal desires. 

Moment: The title says it all! 



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Rationale:

Although told with a Latino cast, Real Women Have Curves tells the universal story of individuating from our parents and their expectations for our lives.  This film also shows one take on how gender, cultural and class can intertwine to shape those expectations and make them difficult to resist.  But resist Ana Garcia does, and this feminist film moment is only example.  In this scene, she doesn't just stand up to her mother (played by the late and underrated Lupe Ontiveros who was one of several people of color overlooked during last month's Oscar in memorian tribute), she inspires resistance to our society's narrow standards of beauty.  It's wonderful on film so I can only imagine how powerful it was on stage!





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Friday, March 08, 2013

Feminist Film Moment - Brown Sugar


BROWN SUGAR (2002)

(Note: If this post is your first encounter with my Feminist Film Moment postings, kindly read the rules of engagement before reading, commenting, etc.)

Written by Michael Elliot and Rick Famuyiwa

Directed by Rick Famuyiwa

Synopsis:   Best friends Sydney (Sanaa Lathan) and Andre (Taye Diggs) love hip-hop... and possibly each other.  

Moment: Andre's wife Reese confronts Sydney with her love for Andre. 


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Rationale:

The two women in this scene are deeply emotionally attached to the same man. Reese (Nicole Ari Parker) is his wife. The other is Sydney (Sanaa Lathan) is his best friend. And here they cross paths at a boxing class. Naturally, their sparring match is going to devolve quickly into a catfight, especially 'cause, you know, they're Black women, right? Wrong!  Daps to screenwriters Michael Elliot and Rick Famuyiwa for resisting lurid expectations by depicting not one but two multidimensional female characters in conflict who handle the matter with maturity and dignity. 

You may argue, "Well, they're just behaving like adults." The fact that they're Black women in love with the same man - one of those proverbial good Black men - makes theirs a feminist interaction because of the racist (both overt and internalized) pearl-clutching over (1) the number of marriageable Black men available and the (2) desirability of Black women.  I have no doubt that if Black women were given more opportunities to write and direct narrative features, scenes such as these would be the norm, reality TV housewives be damned.  Still it's nice to see that some brothers can take the opportunity that male privilege has afforded them and represent the sisters right.  Too few of 'em do. 

And I have to say as a screenwriter, I though this was an effective example of giving characters an interesting context for their conversation, especially when they're characters in conflict. 




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