Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Few Summer Movies Worth Seeing Before They're Gone

I didn't see that many movies in the theater this summer but there are a few worth seeing if you get the chance.

I wasn't expecting that much out of The Baader Meinhoff Complex since I figured it would be one of those low budget movies that looses its excitement in its adherence to fact. Instead, it ended up being an actually well made movie that had me on the edge of my seat for the whole two and a half hours. The Baader Meinhoff Group also known as The Red Army Faction were a communist inspired terrorist group that fought against whatever they deemed to be fascist. You could maybe see them as postwar West Germany's way scarier Weather Underground, except they managed to last almost 30 years and killed about 34 people. Its worth noting though that they were far more popular among their people - at the time 25% of people under 40 sympathized with them, 10% said they would hide a RAF member, and many intellectuals heralded their cause. These facts bring up post war German guilt making the whole motivation, tactics, and subsequent punishment far more complicated than American equivalents. Though I did find it interesting that they studied Herbert Marcuse, who I mention in my Angela Davis post as being Davis' mentor.

The film is helped along by the fact that everyone in the RAF seems to be damn sexy and completely ridiculous - I heard in an interview with the author that when they were being trained in Jordan by the Palestinian Liberation Organization that they not only insisted on free lovin but Andreas Baader wore his red velvet pants the whole time they climbed through ditches with automatic weapons. I was really into the fact that the group had so many awesome female leaders....I knew a bit about Ulrike Meinhof from Semiotext's Hatred of Capitalism and the writings of Chris Kraus but it was incredible to watch her leave behind her already established journalism career and two daughters to fight with the RAF. Another founding member Gudrun Ensslin, who was also Baader's girlfriend, was one of the most compelling parts of the movie. Her balls out approach and tits out personality made the movie. Overall one of the best things about the movie is that the RAF could be both heroes and bad guys. While you can't help admiring their fervor and commitment its interesting to read more about it these days and note the fact that their goals and views were not as great as we might think. The lawyer who represented them recently noted how his politics at the time made him a liberal and now they make him a conservative. I can't even begin to know enough to write a decent post on this topic but I've definitely been moved to learn and read more soooo five stars for The Baader Meinhoff Complex.

The other summer movie that is totally worth seeing is Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker. I think this movie is worth seeing on the big screen not just for the explosions but because it will make you feel the entire range of human emotions...its genuinely hilarious at some parts, not to mention scary as shit and strong and sad and all of those. I was talking about it with a guy at work and he was like " yeah, i guess I felt every feeling but horny" and I noted that might just be cause he's a straight guy. The rest of us got a new appreciation for muscles, brawn, and play fighting. Kathryn Bigelow is known for her ability to make awesome dude movies. With movies like Point Break and K-19:The Widowmaker under her belt it seems that every interview with her includes a "why do you want to make guy movies" type question. In a time of Confessions of Shopaholic and Bride Wars who wouldn't want to make "dude movies". I also love Kathryn Bigelow because her IMDB bio reads:

A very talented painter, Kathryn spent two years at the San Francisco Art Institute. At 20, she won a scholarship to the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program. She was given a studio in a former Offtrack Betting building, literally in a vault, where she made art and waited to be criticized by people like Richard Serra, Robert Rauschenberg and Susan Sontag. She later graduated from Columbia's Film School. She was also a member of the British avant-garde cultural group, Art and Language. Kathryn is the only child of the manager of a paint factory and a librarian.

With all that aside The Hurt Locker has been racking up nominations for Best Movie, Best Director, and Best Actor at numerous award ceremonies and film fests. I really enjoyed that it manages to be a movie that both pacifists and soldiers currently fighting in Iraq can enjoy and feel strongly about. It seems to tackle the issue of being a soldier more than the issue of why we're at war... which takes a lot of the pretension, classism, and partisinism out of the movie helping it to avoid the marginilization or predictability that many other war movies face. However, when you concentrate on 'small' issues like individual lives it makes it so much easier to see the entire 'war as drug' overlying them. You can see this movie and pick it apart for themes or you can see it cause the explosions rule - as A. O. Scott put it in his New York Times review " If The Hurt Locker is not the best action movie of the summer, I'll blow up my car". Either way you should go see it.

I don't want to go that into Jennifer's Body because its clearly not everyone's cup o' tea but if you like B movies with all their tackiness and you don't like Jennifer's Body you can go watch Sorority Row, gag on Audrina Patridge, and get out of my face. Honestly I had a lot of fun yelling "oh no she didn't" with the rest of the downtown Brooklyn audience and then picking apart all the feminist undertones on the way home. Any movie that allows both of those is awesome in my book. Check out director Karyn Kusama's take on the feminist angles here

Jennifer's Body reminded me of Mary Ann Doane's essay Film and The Masquarade that I mentioned in my Girls Who Wear Glasses post. This part in particular:

" But the figure of the woman with glasses is only an extreme moment of more generalized logic. There is always a certain excessiveness, a difficulty associated with women who appropriate the gaze, who insist upon looking. Linda Williamson has demonstrated how in the genre of horror film, the woman's active looking is ultimately punished. And what she sees, the monster, is only a mirror of herself -both woman and monster are freakish in their difference - defined by either "too much" or "too little". "

This is interesting in the context of Jennifer's Body since 'the good girl' wears glasses and yet is the Betty to Jennifer's Veronica. So in a way this makes them both the same person and also the good girl fighting the bad monster inside her. Its telling that the movie opens up with the line "Hell is a teenage girl" and that Diablo Cody means that both in the way that it's hell to be a teenage girl and as any parents will tell you- hell to be around one. This movie does a great job of using beauty and being female as a parallel to monsterhood, both being deemed heroic to slay.

While the movie manages to also be a great story on how sometimes you need to let your shitty girl friends go while remembering to acknowledge the misogyny (and indie bands) that have made them that way.... its also a great story of embracing empowerment without being a blood sucking bitch. Though I hear teenage boy blood makes your skin look really good.

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