Wish I Were Special: Gay Panic, Masculinity, and the Queer Other in “Creep” and “The Gift”
(Author’s Note: Hey, look, it’s the paper I presented at the Visions Film Festival and Conference in April!)
This evening, I’m here to talk about masculinity, and clearly, as you can see that I’m the bastion of heteromasculinity, I am the right person to do such a thing. I would like to talk about two films: Creep, the found footage horror film, and The Gift, the suspense drama, and how one operates to stigmatize the queer other and how one comments on the very framework of toxic masculinity that engenders that discourse of stigma. I’ll be exploring concepts of masculinity, gay panic, and queerness and the ways in which they are utilized as generic tropes within these films, framing the entire works as either satire and critique or perpetuation of oppression. Read the rest of this entry »
Looking Good, Looking Great: Clothing, Power, and Identity in “The Last Laugh” and “The Marriage of Maria Braun”
(Author’s Note: This was originally written for my German Cinema class.)
In response to a rather myopic comment about a purse, Doug (Rich Sommer) shoots back, “Fashion is not about utility. An accessory is merely a piece of iconography used to express individual identity.” Much about this costuming and construction of identity is discussed in the 2006 adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada, but this idea of creating one’s own form of iconography through accessories is exemplary in FW Murnau’s The Last Laugh – where the clothes seem to literally make the man – and in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun – where, in spite of economic strife, the lead exerts her power through clothing. Read the rest of this entry »
“I Looked for You”: The Queerness of Mistress America
“I got rejected by the Lit Society. I’m so suggestible, like, I think that because I got rejected, I think I can’t write.” Tracy tells this to Brooke, whom she has known for maybe three hours, give or take. And yet, the closeness and trust that Tracy feels in Brooke, and perhaps vice versa, transcends the limitations of time. One can immediately tell that the moment Brooke appears on screen, they are as in awe of each other as we are of them. Read the rest of this entry »
Retro Grade School: Grease Live and Transgression
I don’t know what, exactly, my mother was thinking showing me Grease when I was three or four. Next to Bringing Up Baby, it was the single film that I watched the most, playing on a loop for most of my childhood. I know the film as well as well as Jan knows the toothbrush jingle. And that other people have connections to Grease not dissimilar to mine is indicative of the cultural influence the film had, and perhaps of how not-actually transgressive it is. Is it that my/our parents just sort of looked past its discussions of sex and peer pressure in favor of its catchy songs? Or is it because, by the ‘90s, it had nothing interesting to say about the very subject matter it wanted to be “radical” about?
Napoleon’s Complex: Guy Ritchie’s “The Man from UNCLE”
After the release of Die Another Day (2002), the future of James Bond was in flux. Though the film had become the highest grossing one in the franchise’s history, Die Another Day tapped into a kind of ridiculousness that was, even for a series whose real life veracity was rarely ever of concern, unpleasant for most critics and fans. An invisible car, DNA replacement therapy, Madonna trying to act. In an effort to recall an old fashioned Bond, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade began to adapt Ian Fleming’s first novel Casino Royale, and, in the midst of a litany of legal issues regarding the rights to the series between MGM and Sony Pictures, (perhaps) inadvertently imbued Bond with a sense of what critics noted as world weariness. Casino Royale finally saw its release in 2006, and this new Bond colored by misanthropy was an element amplified by Craig’s style of acting, at once brutish and cognizant that the very anger and figiidty was itself a shield for vulnerability. This Bond was a hardened, human Double O, more aware of his sociopolitical climate, and of himself, than he had been before. This kind of disdain for his own iconography would continue to inform the subsequent films, becoming more and bitterer, angrier, and numbed, peaking in Spectre, where you get a sense that Craig (and the writers) don’t sincerely believe that Bond should even exist within a contemporary context.
So, while the evolution of the Bond films has grown grittier, darker (per Roger Deakins), dustier (per Hoyte van Hoytema), and even, if one is to believe the opening text of Spectre, deader, we enter a fantasy version of spying under the guise if “how it used to be”, but whose superficiality and very cleanliness is as indicative of the same sort of cynicism. Opening with a bunch of archival footage splashed in red, it’s not that images of Berlin being bifurcated is indicative of communism, but in sardonicism. It makes its “verisimilitude” stylish in a way that conventional filmmaking declares it shouldn’t be. Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of the 1960s show, also not coincidentally conceived by Ian Fleming, The Man from UNCLE is selling a poisoned love letter to the past and present. (Even the font of its subtitles is funny!) Read the rest of this entry »
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