If any of you readers are like
me, the holiday period involved a bit of a break from the world of news and
analysis. Instead, it’s been spent at the movies. Yes, the recession has sent
us all running into Hollywood’s arms, but unfortunately those arms are
historically sexist, racist, and everything else-ist. So how did this year’s
crop of movies stack up, feminist-wise?
Perhaps the biggest movie, and the biggest subject of debate, is Jame’s
Cameron’s 3-D sci-fi extravaganza, "Avatar," about American
profit-seekers on a distant planet, Pandora. The movie is visually thrilling,
and it has Cameron’s trademarks: a soaring, epic feel and a cringe-worthy
script. But "Avatar" is also a parable: the humans are colonizers,
the aliens, Na’avi, who worship the earth and celebrate their connection to all
biology, are a thinly-veiled allegory for the Native Americans. The film also
features a record number of feisty, skilled, funny heroines who are neither
empty love-interests nor tokens. While calling the film feminist goes too far,
it’s certainly delightful to enjoy a silly action movie without groaning over
the flat, unoriginal use of the female characters. Furthermore, the movie’s
hokey earth-mother sensibility definitely keeps it on the right side of the
Nancy Meyer, who wrote and directed this grown-up chick-flick, has a lot going
for her. Her dialogue is snappy, her female characters have a frenetic quality
that while predictable, is appropriate for the "have it all" era. She
knows how to milk an awkward situation for laughs, and creates palpable
chemistry between her leads. In that sense, "It’s Complicated"
doesn’t disappoint. Meryl Streep and Alec Balwdin are absolutely perfect as
Jane and Jake Adler, mid-life divorcees who unexpectedly fall back into an
affair, and several scenes–one in which Streep’s Jane confronts her therapist
and demands that he tell her what to do,
and another which all the older folks smoke pot and act silly in front of their
unknowing offspring–are comic gold. Furthermore, although Meyers shows the
emotional toll of Jane and Jake’s cavorting, she doesn’t chastise the
characters for their hanky-panky. The affair, ill-advised though it is, helps
Streep’s Jane reinvigorate her life and her sense of self as sexy and still youthful.
The motto at the end is "no regrets," despite the heartache.
Who would have thought that an animated puppet-movie about foxes based on a
children’s novel would be a playful interrogation of conventional masculinity?
This Wes Anderson film features a fox who, far from being fantastic, is so
obsessed with proving his manhood by being a thief that he plunges the entire
animal community into near doom. It’s very funny, and the puppets render it
more palatable than some of Anderson’s more self-indulgent films.