‘Laggies’ and the Perils of Success


Lynn Shelton’s best known films, the great ‘Humpday’ and the equally delightful ‘Your Sister’s Sister’ stood out in a similar way. Shelton devised and wrote scripts that became the basis for the actors’ improvisation (with the ‘”‘final draft’ put together in the editing room”)–and made films that seemed fresh and distinct from the usual Hollywood product. Each film had a surprisingly tight structure and was funny in ways that never occured to mainstream filmmakers. As I sat through Shelton’s latest movie, ‘Laggies,’ (which opens this Friday, Oct. 24) I couldn’t help feeling deflated. Shelton’s transformation into a mainstream director is a little like if Bergman had had second thoughts and ended up going on a diet and let Hollywood makeup artists make her unrecognizable.

‘Sinister’: Or as I Like to Call It, “Don’t Move Your Family into a Murder House”


‘Sinister’ is a film in which the viewer is expected to root for a man whose personal dreams trump his entire family’s sense of safety in their own home – which is fucked up and frustrating and detracts from a film with some incredibly freaky moments.

High School Hospital: ‘Red Band Society’

Seen here in no way invoking The Breakfast Club.

‘Red Band Society’ presents the high-school dynamic explored in a sick-lit microcosm. It’s largely fluff and nonsense, but it’s quite entertaining nonsense on the whole – not least because Octavia Spencer is a treasure and is marvelous as the superheroic Nurse Jackson.

The Trauma of ‘Private Violence’

Advocate Kit Gruelle.

It is absolutely clear that throughout ‘Private Violence,’ Hill allowed Gruelle to take her into a world that she felt compelled to share with the public. That trust, that “wide-eyed curiosity” (as Gruelle said of Hill’s directing technique), created a documentary that not only pays homage to the strength and tragedy of women whose lives are torn apart by male partner violence, but also serves as a wake-up call that the system–law enforcement, news media, medical professionals, local and federal court systems–are not serving victims the way they should. ‘Private Violence’ is a public testament to the horror of domestic assault.

Bitch Flicks’ Weekly Picks


Check out what we’ve been reading this week–and let us know what you’ve been reading/writing in the comments!

‘Fight Club’ As a Classic Romantic Comedy and Closeting Drama


What happened to the romcom? Apparently, men started to enjoy them. Should we feel flattered by this male appreciation of a genre created in its modern form by women like Jane Austen? Or insulted that male appreciation of the romcom can only occur by refusing to appreciate it as romcom? “You show me your sensitive side, then you turn into a total asshole.” Is that a pretty accurate description of the attraction and sneering rejection of the male audience for romcom?

The Coolest of Them All: An Ode to Marlene Dietrich

A woman way ahead of her time

What modern cinema audiences should be interested in is his or her place in Hollywood history, and socio-cultural significance. Dietrich is a radical, and progressive cultural figure in terms of her sexual and gender identity. On and off screen. Her off-screen identity was also subversively androgynous and was often signified by her masculine attire.

Seed & Spark: ‘Actress’ and the Messiness of the Moving Image


In the film I follow Brandy’s unfolding drama as-it-happened, hanging the film on her trained actor expressions and captivating ability to theatrically display fragility, anger, and force of will. The film is a documentary in the sincerest way; Brandy’s performance is the truth I was observing. ‘Actress’ is about the roles we play and how we get trapped in them; the role the viewer sees Brandy wrestle with most vigorously might be the role of documentary subject.

‘The Good Wife’: Being Bad

The Good Wife centralizes the conventionally marginalized wife figure

The premise of ‘The Good Wife’ brilliantly sets up and challenges particular gender roles and expectations. Julianna Margulies plays the lead character, Alicia Florrick. Given Margulies’ age – she was 43 when the show began – and popular culture’s continual privileging of youth, particularly with reference to women, this is an achievement in itself. Alicia’s married to Peter Florrick (Chris Noth, who’s no stranger to playing “bad boy” partners after his role of Mr Big on ‘Sex and the City’), who has just been jailed following a string of political and sexual scandals. The pilot sees Alicia dutifully standing by her husband, remaining silent as he apologises for his indiscretions, before the show cuts to several months later as Alicia returns to work as a defence attorney following 13 years as a stay-at-home mom.

All You Need is White People: Whitewashing in ‘Edge of Tomorrow’

Tom Cruise is White Dude in 'Edge of Tomorrow'

Learning that ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ is based on a Japanese work with a Japanese hero with the action set in East Asia really changed my feelings about the resulting film. I actually really enjoyed the movie despite its derivativeness and lapses in sense-making, well-chronicled by my colleague Andé Morgan here. But now it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Because I’m fine with liking an unoriginal and illogical sci-fi movie, but I’m not so cool with liking an unoriginal, illogical, and racist sci-fi movie.

Because turning Keiji Kiriya into William Cage, casting Tom Cruise, moving the action to Western Europe, and casting white people in 98% of the speaking roles are all racist acts perpetuating bullshit white supremacy in Hollywood.

The “Blurred Lines” of Body Horror and Rape Culture

Still from John Carpenter's The Thing

The idea of “coulda, shoulda, woulda, didn’t” in regard to the source of most body horror films is very reminiscent of the way we as a society deal with victims/survivors of rape. Why is it that people immediately feel bad for MacReady and the boys when they’re attacked by The Thing without ever telling them they were “asking for it” by playing with a stray animal, but at the same time we’re still seeing news reporters and politicians try and discredit rape victims and assume it was the victim’s fault? Body horror is very closely related to rape culture because it puts a mask on the violence of rape by putting it in the context of an “other worldly invasion” and makes it permissible to revel in the other person’s destruction.

‘Dear White People’: Satire, But Serious


Writer-director Justin Simien’s crowd-funded ‘Dear White People’, which has its US release (and real distribution) this Friday, Oct. 17, feels like a similar breakthrough. The film follows four African American students at prestigious Winchester University: gay (though he says he doesn’t believe in “labels”) student newspaper reporter Lionel (Tyler James Williams); straight-arrow, high-achieving son of Winchester’s Dean, Troy (Brandon P Bell); ambitious aspiring reality TV star, Coco (Teyonah Parris, whom at first I didn’t recognize in modern hair, dress and light contacts: she also plays Dawn on Mad Men); and Sam (short for Samantha) White (Tessa Thompson), the acid-tongued, outspoken college radio host of the title program, which includes proclamations like “Dear white people, breaking news: the amount of Black friends required to not seem racist has now been raised to two. Sorry, your weed man Tyrone does not count.”