Tag Archives: movies

New Film: Middle of Nowhere

Winner of the Best Director Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, MIDDLE OF NOWHERE follows Ruby, a bright medical student who sets aside her dreams and suspends her career when her husband is incarcerated. As the committed couple stares into the hollow end of an eight-year prison sentence, Ruby must learn to live another life, one marked by shame and separation. But through a chance encounter and a stunning betrayal that shakes her to her core, this steadfast wife is soon propelled in new and often shocking directions of self-discovery – caught between two worlds and two men in the search for herself.

Ava DuVernay is back! And I have been dying to see this film.

The Evolution of Snow White

By Guest Contributors Paul and Renee, cross-posted from Fangs For The Fantasy

One of the newest trends we’re seeing in speculative fiction is the revisiting of fairy tales, especially in a modern setting–they’re almost a unique sub-genre of the Urban Fantasy and Fantasy genres.

And, in many ways, this is very important to do as fairy tales are some of the very first stories many of us are exposed to as children. Unfortunately, they’re also very old stories–and contain a lot of very old and sadly prevalent tropes that have stayed with us over the years. Generations of children have grown up with stories of helpless princesses, passively waiting for a handsome (and anonymous–after all, any man will do if he’s in the right place at the right time) prince to save them from abject peril. There is no question that this iconic image–repeated over and over in fairy tales, has had a profound effect on our culture, our society, and our view of gender roles, and there have been numerous excellent posts deconstructing the damaging messages of fairy tales.

There is no fairy tale that can be considered more centre stage than Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. An ancient tale, it rose to prominence when it became Disney’s first full-length animated movie and was forever cemented front and centre as not just a fairy tale–but the fairy tale. The ultimate tale of the protagonist–poor, helpless, sweet and oh-so-fair Snow White is attacked by her evil stepmother, while she helplessly sings to wildlife and eventually resides in a glass coffin to be rescued.

This is clearly an image that needs challenging–and, appropriately, Snow White is front and centre of the fairy tales that are being revised for the modern world. Between Once Upon A Time, Mirror Mirror, and Snow White and the Huntsman, we see a very different princess. The modern Snow White does not lay in glass coffins awaiting rescue. Her reaction is to attack, not to run away in fright, or maybe sing a little ditty to bluebirds. The modern Snow White kicks arse, she wields a sword, actively hunts down the Evil Queen, and she stands shoulder-to-shoulder with her Prince Charming.

One of the things that we love most about Once Upon a Time is that, while Mary Margaret may be the soggiest lettuce in town, Snow White is a highwaywoman, a fighter, and a swashbuckler–every bit Prince James’s equal. Snow White is no longer a prize to be claimed, no longer an object to be won, and no longer a passive element in what is supposed to be her own story. And if she needs rescuing, she is quite capable of rescuing herself, thank you very much.

This is both so very needed and very empowering. It’s powerful to not only create new stories that empower marginalised bodies, but re-examine these old tropes and challenge them in a way that not only sets a new paradigm but highlights how wrong the old paradigm was.

Continue reading

Sundance Pick: 2 Days In New York

“Madcap comedy” is the only phrase that really describes the absolute ridiculousness that is Julie Delpy’s 2 Days In New York. There really isn’t any other term that fits–the experience is akin to watching a circus unfold in your living room, which I assume is the point. Julie Delpy is Marion, a deeply eccentric Parisian-born artist based in New York who is trying to juggle the demands of a new and blended family with her art. When her French family is flying in to support her solo exhibition, her tranquil relationship with her radio host blipster husband Mingus (Chris Rock) is put to the test. Over 48 hours, the entire household is thrown into chaos.

A few things that happen in the film: a violation of sexual boundaries involving an electric toothbrush, wanton keying of limousines, smelly situations at customs, a French nudist captivates a bored American doctor, the children decide they want to be a dead princess and a dead bunny for Halloween, stoned shenanigans in the co-op elevator, and Marion sells her soul, which results in a minor brawl.

And did I mention a cardboard cutout of Barack Obama is a major character?

Delpy, who wrote and directed the film, makes the most out of the short screentime cramming in as much commentary on family life and the art world as she possibly can. A follow-up to 2 Days in Paris, Delpy balances the pace of her city subjects with the quiet calamity of modern life. The film spins so fast that in the middle of the madness, it takes more than half of the movie before I realize 2 Days in New York has managed to pull off an amazing depiction on an interracial relationship. Race is not the most important thing between Marion and Mingus, and it certainly isn’t their primary conflict throughout the film. Instead, where race intersects with their lives is subtle.

If race is blatantly brought up as part of the plot, it is often played for cringe-inducing laughs. Manu, Marion’s former flame who is currently dating her sister Rose, is a one-stop shop for racial ignorance posing as innocence. He tries to curry favor with Mingus’ sister Elizabeth (Malinda Williams) by saying she looks “just like Beyonce, only sexier.” Chagrined at finding out that Mingus doesn’t smoke weed, he off-handley remarks that Marion “found the only black guy in New York that doesn’t smoke.” And when Mingus’ friend from the Obama Administration comes to town, Mingus is mortified when Manu starts randomly calling him “Kumar.” (This friend was not played by Kal Penn.) Luckily, after a day or so, Manu is deported for lighting up in front of a police station.

2 Days in New York is a fun romp, with a strange, but satisfying ending that proves that love (mostly) conquers all.

Sundance Pick: An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty • Teaser from Terence Nance • Terence Etc. on Vimeo.

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty defies categorization, in all the best ways possible.

The first thing to know is that the film isn’t a linear story. It’s a complex and complicated exploration of modern love, an intriguing dance between two characters circling the possibility of a relationship, born out of mutual infatuation. Avant-guarde storytelling in the key of noir, Oversimplification blends animation, live action, and narration to tell the tale of Terence falling in love with Namik. The characters are real people, based on their own lives. Nance earned his spot in the New Frontier section of Sundance – in addition to the innovative, movie-within-a-movie style of storytelling, animation also plays a key role. Exploring his inner emotions through stop-motion figure dolls and beautifully rendered scenes, Nance essentially uses this film as therapy, working out the complicated tangle of his messy romantic life.

Refreshingly, black women are Nance’s muses. Often in cinematic depictions of black love, the relationship is construed as adversarial. Here, as Nance documents the many loves that fit his archetype of “brown, maternal, well read, well traveled,” black women take center stage, his love for each of them palpable through the screen.

But is what he feels for them really love? Nance believes so, and spends most of the film trying to articulate what he loves about Namik, and how his past relationship history lead him to this point of nearly breathless anticipation. The film is ripe with themes for exploration but I will have to leave most of those paths untouched. Nance has created a work so complex, it is almost like recorded performance art. Thus, I agree with Tambay – it needs to be experienced. Hopefully, it finds a distributor because it deserves to be seen and experienced by as many people as possible. Nance’s story is both familiar and strange, and tends to provoke a lot of self-reflection in the audience. Who are we, when we are in love? I’m still mulling over my own answer.

Sundance Pick: Filly Brown

Walking in, I thought I had Filly Brown pegged. The trailer gave me the impression it was like every other hip-hop movie I’d ever seen:

  • Young kid from the hood trying to make good? Check.
  • Prerequisite positive rap song that feels like it was pulled from Ghostwriter? Check.
  • Street pressures that are easily overcome? Check.
  • Mandatory plot for women, involving sexing up your image to get signed to the majors? Check.

But hey, I had just gone through three really depressing movies about the fall out of the drug war. I needed something to lift my spirits, and I will shamelessly admit that I enjoyed Brown Sugar. On the real, Filly Brown could have been a Lifetime produced version of the Somaya Reece story, and I still would have watched it!

Luckily, I was wrong.

Okay, on second thought, I wasn’t that wrong. Two and a half of the four I listed above were in the movie. But the team behind Filly Brown managed to add enough new elements to make the standard tropes feel fresh. Continue reading

Sundance Pick: Celeste and Jesse Forever

Writing a good romantic comedy is tough.

Writing a good divorce comedy is tougher.

So the fact that Rashida Jones nailed both her performance and her part of the screenplay entire movie is something very special.

Celeste and Jesse Forever follows a long-term couple in the midst of a breakup. Having been best friends for the past twenty years, Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) find themselves divorcing–in spite of their continued chemistry. Celeste, a trends analyst and pop-culture commentator, is the epitome of a responsible business woman. Jesse is an unemployed artist, who spends more time scheming on surfing than actively planning out his life. They bond through some strange shared loves (like masturbating lip glosses, baby corn, and other things that look like tiny penises) but Celeste initiates the divorce since Jesse has failed to grow up. Continue reading