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Misc Movie and TV Reviews

Tuesday, April 10, 2018 - 08:00

I've had a few movies on my to-review list since I watched them last year, so here is me giving up on writing anything lengthy and thoughtful in order to catch up on all the movies and tv series I can remember watching that I haven't talked about yet.

Battle of the Sexes (2017) - A dramatized biopic about the publicity-stunt tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973. The movie provides a fascinating behind the scenes look at Riggs' motivations in setting up the stunt, as well as giving a good picture of the no-win situation in which it put the various female tennis champions that he tried to drag into it. If he won, hey, it proves men are inherently superior to women; if they won, hey, they were world champions up against a middle-aged amateur, what does it prove? The movie also includes a very sweet low-key look at King's romance with Marilyn Barnett. The one aspect of the film's depiction that rather grated on me was how it tried to frame Riggs' over-the-top sexist rhetoric as being an obvious put-on, even in a context where the outrageous economic discrimination againt women's tennis was part of the plot. I'm sorry, but I remember the 1970s and I remember the media around the "battle of the sexes" and there was no sense that the men publicly bashing on women's competence and professionalism were "ha ha just joking to be theatrical." Riggs was an asshole and the men who encouraged him were assholes and the media who played along were assholes and we still have to deal with people like them. So don't try to make him "loveable".

Coco (2017) - Pixar makes another heart-wrenching story about love and family and pursuing your dreams. Don't get me wrong: I loved this movie, with all its plot twists and turns, and I loved the conclusion, and everything. But it's a typical Pixar story in how it completely centers the male characters and their relationships. The animation is glorious. The cultural references were fun. (I totally loved the idea of Frida Kahlo doing artistic design in the afterworld.) I'm aware that Pixar went through some cultural rough spots in developing this story and came perilously close to making a complete hash of it. And however well they succeeded after regrouping, there's still a strong whiff of cultural objectification, but it's not my place to judge how well they succeeded or failed on the cultural end.

Black Panther (2018) - I've kept swearing off superhero movies and keep getting lured back to give them one more chance. This is the first time I've had no regrets at all about giving in. Not only is the movie visually glorious and full of a far more complex and nuanced plot than is typical for the genre, but it was chock full of strong, beautiful female characters with immense agency within the plot. It says a lot that this movie, headlined by a male character, felt to me twice as strong on female presence as Wonder Woman did. I really enjoyed how the movie engaged with the flaws and conflicts within its own premises (regarding the pros and cons of isolationism). And I'm overjoyed that it has done so well at the box office, though--like many woman-centered films--it has clearly been held to an impossible standard of success. If it had merely been the third highest-grossing superhero film in history, one gets the sense that the usual suspects would have tut-tutted, "Well, we gave it a try to center a non-white story, but it just didn't work out." Yay for overwhelming success, but lets keep moving toward a world where we can get broader representation in films without them needing to be superachievers to be considered viable.

A Wrinkle in Time (2018) - This was another visually-gorgeous, daring movie, with casting that went beyond the usual defaults. But although I loved the cinematic experience, I found the plot mildly incoherent. A few weeks later, I have a hard time remembering more than scattered snapshots of imagery. (I read the book a very very long time ago and didn't refresh before seeing the movie, but that was probably for the best.)

And now for a couple of TV shows that I've belatedly been tasting via iTunes.

Wynona Earp - On a whim (and based on a vast amorphous pressure from fans in my larger internet community) I picked up the first two sesasons of this weird western show and have watched the first four episodes. That's been enough to conclude it just isn't for me. Oh, I can see the beginnings of the same-sex romance that everyone is so excited about, but there are too many elements in the show that just Aren't My Thing, mostly the regular, extended gruesome violence and the "bad girl" main character. Sorry, but I just don't get the appeal of violent nihilistic self-desctructive protagonists.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Once again, I was inspired by the general love this show gets from my internet community to give it a try. And after the first two episodes I'm really kind of "meh." I don't like the protagonists. Either of them. And I don't think there's a single female character who rises above the level of cardboard.

So that catches me up on the visual media reviews, I think. Next to tackle getting caught up on books.

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