Movie Review: Sleeping Beauty*.

*It has come to my attention that I give away too much in my movie reviews, so the asterisk will now serve as a blanket *spoiler alert* from now on.

I usually don’t care for indie, artsy films with an “underlying message”. Give me fluff and fun any day.

So it was unusual for me to want to see Sleeping Beauty, the latest Cannes Film Festival effort by Julia Leigh, starring Sucker Punch’s Emily Browning.

Let’s just say I should have left well enough alone and left it to the creative/hipster Nova Carlton crew to nod understandingly along with the quiet and confronting scenes, while I scoffed at the pretension and a group of girls up the front laughed at the copious amounts of nudity.

This was something I took issue with. Normally, nudity doesn’t bother me so long as it’s not gratuitous and lends itself to the story. Browning’s naked body in almost every scene was an integral part of the story when she becomes the titular “sleeping beauty”. However, she also slept naked, went topless at the request of her dying friend, and basically hung around in her natural state. Which is all well and good if this were real life, but the stunted acting and unrealistic dialogue made it clear that the storyline certainly wasn’t realistic. I counted nine instances of Browning’s nudity, not to mention the bondage party at the beginning of the film, which introduces Browning’s character, Lucy, to the underground perversion club she’ll now be working for, and the three old man peens who try to have their wicked and disturbing way with Lucy. But, as madam of the House of Sleeping Beauties, a novella by Nobel prize-winning author Yasunari Kawabata on which Sleeping Beauty is allegedly based, says, “there will be no penetration”. That’s comforting, then!

While I felt that at some point during the movie, Browning’s nudity went from being artistic to exploitative, the same could be said for the men of the movie. Only the older patrons of madam Clara were seen in all their glory, which didn’t take away from Leigh’s commentary on the youth and beauty of Lucy, but was perhaps an effort to objectify the men who objectify Lucy.

 

 

 

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Sucker Punch Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Sucker Punch’s Emily Browning on Slut-Shaming in Hollywood.

Image via IMDb.

Magazines/Movies: Sucker Punch’s Emily Browning on Slut-Shaming in Hollywood.

From an interview with the cast of Sucker Punch, “Fight Club”, in NYLON:

“I had a very tame and mild love scene with Jon Hamm. It was like, heavy breathing and making out. It was hardly a sex scene. Baby Doll has been sexually taken advantage of by her stepfather, and the idea of the scene is that, at the end, she’s finally taking control of her own sexuality because she’s realised how she needs to find her own freedom. And it correlates with that sex scene. It’s her essentially coming on to him.

“[Jenna Malone, who plays Rocket in the movie says] ‘She’s in control!’

“Exactly! And I think that it’s great for this young girl to actually take control of her own sexuality. Well, the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] doesn’t like that. They don’t think a girl should ever be in control of her own sexuality because they’re from the Stone Age…”

The scene was cut.

Maybe if it had remained, Sucker Punch could have lived up to its girl-power hype and not amounted to what it did.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Sucker Punch Review.

Image via IMDb.

On the Net: “With a Gun Between Her Legs,” Take 3.

From “Gosh, Sweetie, That’s a Big Gun”, a dialogue between The New York Times’  chief film critics, A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis, on The New York Times website:

“The question is why are so many violent girls and women running through movies now, especially given that the American big screen hasn’t been very interested in women’s stories, violent or not, in recent decades, an occasional Thelma, Louise and Jodie Foster character notwithstanding. There are other exceptions, of course, usually romantic comedies that are so insipid and insulting I want to kill everyone on screen. Wait a minute—is it female rage fueling this trend?

“It is interesting how frequently the violence of these girls is overseen or inculcated by a father figure who is not always a literal dad: Nicolas Cage in Kick-Ass, training his killer pixie to use sharp blades, big-caliber guns and foul language; Scott Glenn in Sucker Punch, urging his girl warriors into battle; and Eric Bana in Hanna, sending his darling out to fight the wicked witch (Cate Blanchett). Are these paternal figures reassuring or creepy?

“The bad seed isn’t new, but what seems different is that young women and girls can kill today without being necessarily and fatally pathologised.

“It used to be easier to make movies with women. You could put them on a pedestal and either keep them there (as revered wives, virginal girls) or knock them down, as with femmes fatales.

“[David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo]… movie will be better than the Swedish model because he’s the superior director, but I also hope he will more forcefully engage the theme that was blatant in Larsson’s book, as evident in its blunt original title: Men Who Hate Women.

“I think the first [Lisbeth] Salander movie ran into a serious problem when it tried to translate Larsson’s anger about pervasive sexual violence into cinematic terms. It is in the nature of the moving image to give pleasure, and in the nature of film audiences—consciously or not, admittedly or not—to find pleasure in what they see. So in depicting Salander’s rape by her guardian in the graphic way he did, the director… ran the risk of aestheticizing, glamorizing and eroticizing it…

“The risk is not dissolved but rather compounded when the answering, avenging violence is staged and shot in almost exactly the same kind of gruesome detail, since the audience knows it is supposed to enjoy that. In other words, even though the earlier violation can be said to justify the later revenge, that logic turns out to be reversible. You could call this the I Spit on Your Grave paradigm. It is definitely at work in Sucker Punch, which gains in sleaziness by coyly keeping its rape fantasies within PG-13 limits and fairly quivering with ecstasy as it contemplates scenes of female victimization.

“The gun-toting women and girls in this new rash of movies may be performing much the same function for the presumptive male audience: It’s totally ‘gay’ for a guy to watch a chick flick, but if a babe is packing heat—no worries, man!

“Jean-Luc Godard posited that all he needed to make a movie was a girl and a gun… To put the gun in the hands of the girl may be a way to cut out the middleman, as it were, and also, as you suggest, to maximize commercial potential by providing something for everyone…”

[NY Times] Gosh, Sweetie, That’s a Big Gun: Women as Violent Characters in Movies.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Sucker Punch Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “With a Gun Between Her Legs,” Take 2.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “With a Gun Between Her Legs”: Why “Strong” (AKA “Sexy” Whilst Being “Strong”) Female Characters Are Bad for Women.

Images via The Independent, The New York Times.

Movie Review: Scream 4.

Of the reviews I’d read of Scream 4, I wasn’t expecting a good movie. If, by good, I mean critically acclaimed. But since when is the fourth sequel of a horror movie ever critically acclaimed?

I like my movies unrealistic, fluffy and so-bad-they’re-good. (Think Burlesque, not Sucker Punch.) Usually those are the ones with the poor ratings. And usually they’re my favourite.

Scream 4 certainly lived up to its bad review=good movie hypothesis. Dare I say it trumped the first one, even?

In essence, that’s what Scream 4 was trying to do. It was a “meta-text”, as my friend Eddie pointed out to me.

Like, in the first film, when central scream queen Sidney Prescott is unknowingly talking to Ghostface on the phone, and she says horror movies are insulting because “the girl is always running up the stairs when she should be going out the front door” (even though Sidney does exactly that only moments later!) This occurs in the third part of the first scene of Scream 4, which sees the “blonde haired, big boobed” victim, who has a very high GPA, FYI, running up the stairs when she can’t get the front door unlocked.

The precursors to that scene feature 90210’s Shenae Grimes and Pretty Little Liars’ Lucy Hale in the opening scene, which is actually the opening scene of Stab 6, followed by Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell watching that scene, which then feeds into the opening scene of Stab 7! Phew! It makes much more sense when you’re actually watching it!

Eddie also highlighted the meta-text in Scream 1, when Randy is watching Halloween and is warning Jamie Lee Curtis’s character, the original final girl, to look behind her, when his very own psycho killer is standing right behind him!

It has been said that the original Scream is for horror film lovers, like Randy, Scream 2 is for horror film makers, and Scream 3 is for those in the business (obviously, because it was set on the Hollywood back lot, but it didn’t pack the punch the other Scream’s did). You really have to be a Scream devotee to unravel all the “underlying meaning” in the fourth installment, which is designed to either be the first instalment of a new trilogy, or a re-do of the first film, depending on box-office success. As a pillow-lipped Gail notes at a police press conference, the killer is mirroring the original spate of killings. But it is so well done, movie-goers could commit to it without having a prior knowledge of the Scream franchise.

Scream 4 centres around Sidney’s return to Woodsboro on the final stop of her book tour, to promote her debut publication, Out of Darkness. Ghostface number four and/or five sees this as the perfect opportunity to seek revenge on Sidney for deserting Woodsboro in the aftermath of the first wave of killings, and leaving its residents to clean up her mess. Or so the killer says in a phone call to the main character, leading the audience to believe the killer is either Sidney’s aunt—Emma Roberts’ character’s, Jill, mum—or Deputy Judy (a throwback to Dewey’s derogatory nickname in the first film), who has a massive crush on Dewey, whom she bakes lemon squares that “taste like ass”, according to jealous wife Gail. When Deputy Judy approaches Sidney in the stairwell of Jill’s house after a neighbour is murdered, asking if Sidney remembers her from high school, it seems very likely that the killer could be her. But we know well enough by now that it’s never that obvious…

Eddie noted that Scream 3 was meant to have two killers, one of which being an old classmate of Sidney’s who felt she left her and Woodsboro behind. Maybe Judy’s not so unlikely after all…

The killer takes to filming their conquests after a suggestion from Gail, who totally kicks butt in this version, gravity-defying forehead and all. What am I talking about? Gail kicks butt in every film, almost always getting in the last shot (Billy in Scream 1 and Mickey in Scream 2. Who will it be in Scream 4?) Except for the fact that she seeks advice from high school kids when “going rogue”, and hunting for the killer herself when Dewey brushes her off. Didn’t she live through four killers herself? I’m sure she knows more than a bunch of 16-year-olds.

If New York City is the fifth character in Sex & the City, then technology certainly plays a major role in Scream 4. So the inclusion of said bunch of 16-year-olds lends itself to this notion, with YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, text, GPS and a whole host of other teen techno gadgets playing a role in the killer’s quest to become famous.

In this day and age, you don’t even have to do anything to become famous. Just ask Snooki and the cast of Jersey Shore. And, as the killer says, “everyone loves a victim”. But none better than the original…

[Wikipedia] Final Girl.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Burlesque Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Sucker Punch Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Pretty Little Lucy.

Images via IMDb. And a special thanks to Eddie, for helping me with this post.

Movie Review: Sucker Punch.

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

This is what the main character’s, Babydoll, David Carradine-esque wise fairy godfather tells her midway through her pointless journey to find a map, a knife, fire, a key and… something else (which *spoiler alert* is when Babydoll realises the story is not about her, but Abbie Cornish’s Sweat Pea, and sacrifices herself to what is alluded to as gang rape in order for Sweat Pea to escape. On a side note, WTF is Cornish doing in this movie? She’s, like, a serious actress and stuff.).

Well Sucker Punch didn’t stand for anything (if you exclude the exercise in how bad movies are made, and the kinder-whore schoolgirl images in director Zack Snyder’s spank bank, which I have), and fell for every gratuitous slow-mo’ up-skirt shot in the book.

The film commences with an attempted rape scene, a trademark of Snyder’s. (Pop culture website The Vine suggests that Carla Gugino, who plays Polish psychiatrist/burlesque madame in Sucker Punch and the Silk Spectre in Watchmen, look into “an AVO against Snyder, given she has appeared in two of his films and her characters sexually assaulted in both”.) Babydoll is framed for the murders of her mother and sister, and is dragged away to an insane asylum in “skin-coloured, rain soaked PJs”.

There her father requests a lobotomy, which will go ahead in a few days. During that time, Babydoll escapes to the Inception-like double dreamland in her mind, where the asylum and its exclusively female inhabitants morphs into a burlesque club.

The only way she can—again—escape this fantasy land (if it’s Zac Snyder’s your fantasy, why would you want to escape it?) and entrance her subjects is by dancing, which then turns to a post-apocalyptic “ancient Japan (or maybe China; all look [the] same, right?)” where Babydoll and her insane/burlesque/warrior troupe meet the wise man espousing useless proverbs at every turn as they accumulate the four items they need.

Sucker Punch actually has potential; if not for the excessive violence, hideous sexualisation and the non-plotline, it could have been good.

The story eventually returns to the real life of the asylum when the lobotomist/High Roller (an out of place Jon Hamm) “comes for” Babydoll, which is the most interesting five minutes of the film.

The Vine says, “We don’t really give a shit about any of our heroines [three of which *spoiler alert* are murdered], because neither does the film: they have no inner-life, no story beyond ‘they are sex slaves in foxy pin-up outfits’.” I found myself daydreaming about an alternative mask I could wear to a masquerade party a few nights later; to me that was more interesting than sitting through the pointlessness.

Give me a pen and a copy of the script and I think even I could do the remnants of an okay storyline and Abbie Cornish justice. I will now be boycotting all future Snyder efforts. No emphasis on “effort”.

[Jezebel] Why Sucker Punch Really, Truly Sucks.

[io9] Sucker Punch Goes Beyond Awful, to Become Commentary on the Death of Moviemaking.

[The Vine] Sucker Punch Movie Review.

Images via The Vine.

My Week in Review (Plus a Couple of Extra Days Thrown in There).

It’s been a very busy week here at The Early Bird Catches the Worm, and will continue to be for the next week or so. Whoever thought of scheduling Easter on the same long weekend as ANZAC Day was “seriously disturbed”, as Elle Woods would say.

Sunday 17th: Got back from an early Easter weekend with my Mum in Bendigo, where I caught up with some friends, sat in the hairdresser’s chair for a couple of hours, went secondhand book shopping and to the Bendigo Art Gallery.

Monday 18th: Was all tuckered out from my weekend in the country I decided to lie in bed all day and watch Grey’s Anatomy.

Tuesday 19th: Did some blogging and jogging and went to see Sucker Punch. As my Facebook status that night said: “Well, it certainly lived up to the first four letters of the title.” Review pending.

Wednesday 20th: Ten hour shift at work.

Thursday 21st: Got up, went for a jog, blogged, went to the supermarket, work, waxing of the nether region, cleaned the house, friend’s 21st.

Friday 22nd: Slept in, had 21st cake for breakfast, watched Paper Giants, Desperate Housewives, Criminal Minds and Grey’s Anatomy.

Saturday 23rd: Work.

Sunday 24th: Work and fell asleep at 8:30.

Monday 25th: Had to get a taxi to work ’cause trains and trams were down due to the ANZAC Day march. Worked on the blog and had a Scream movie marathon at a friend’s house in preparation for seeing the latest instalment next Tuesday.

Today: Was at the airport at 6:30 this morning to send of April, who’s leaving for Canada at 10:45am. The Maccas breakfast that followed did little to ease my pain…

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] So Misunderstood.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Women in Fiction: Are Our Favourite Fictional Females Actually Strong, or Stereotypes?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Women in Fiction: My Favourite Fictional Females.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Guest Post: Pop Culture Power Women.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Bendigo Art Gallery: Giving the Metro Museums a Run for Their Money.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Book Shop: Book Now, Bendigo.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Week in Review: 22nd–28th November, 2010.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Week in Review (Plus a Couple of Extra Days Thrown in There): 6th–12th November, 2010.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

“The Fashion Industry’s Anorexia Problem.”

Gala Darling offers an interesting take on pageantry. It seems not all beauty queens are vapid glorified prom queens with “miles of hair extensions, industrial-sized cans of hairspray and gallons of butt glue”.

Do you have to be a mother to be empathetic?:

“The reason Queensland Premier Anna Bligh was able to handle the flood crisis with such competence [is because she is a mother], according to a fellow mum. How true, how true, clucked a host of TV talk show mums the next day, as the commentators all agree that Anna won the ‘image’ war over Julia in the aftermath. Then of course she would—only a mother can cry with conviction for lives lost.”

90210: “The Sexist Postcode”?:

“So 90210 was an important early building block of enlightened sexism because it insisted that the true, gratifying pleasures for girls, and their real source of power, came from consumerism, girliness, and the approval of guys…”

My friend Anthony and I were discussing the benefits of cheap Coles milk when we paused and though, what exactly does cheap milk mean for farmers and why all the fuss? Rick Morton of MamaMia is here to answer our questions.

Also at MamaMia, the defence force sex scandal.

Speaking of, MamaMia’s 3.0 launch is the only blog redesign I’ve liked in recent months (Jezebel, I’m looking at you).

“Wait? What? This is where it gets interesting for me as a sex positive parent. My son just went from wishing he was sexy to shaming a girl for being just that? I rolled up my sleeves and got ready to do some unpacking.” The unpacking the primary school backpack on “Slut-Shaming on the Playground”.

This is just plain wrong: “The 15 Most Inappropriate Baby Outfits”.

The cigarette packaging reform.

Michael Cole, WWE announcer, tweets a gay slur. GLAAD faux pas or staying in character?

Are disability jokes really that bad? Or are we all just going PC crazy? (Just ask Laura Money and Kieran Eaton at their Unfinished Business stand-up show for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.)

The meaning of Sucker Punch according to io9:

“1. Insane people and sex workers are interchangeable.

“2. Women can only triumph over adversity in their dreams.

“3. Action movies spring from the imaginations of enslaved, mentally unstable prostitutes.”

“Do You Know What a Normal Female Body Looks Like Anymore?”

Francine Pascal as feminist literature pioneer?:

“In the beginning, that wasn’t enough for many booksellers, who deemed Sweet Valley too ‘commercial’ for their readers. The Times snubbed the series; librarians fought to keep their stacks free of the ‘skimpy-looking paperbacks,’ as one library journal put it. It was Pascal’s fans who defended her: buying a dizzying 250 million copies before the series published its 152nd and final title, in 2003. The series even became a case study in how to get young girls to read. ‘Sweet Valley changed the dynamics of the industry,’ says Barbara Marcus, who, as former president of Scholastic’s children’s business, published The Babysitter’s Club, Goosebumps, and Harry Potter. Sweet Valley spawned seven spinoff series, a TV show, a board game, and dolls. Not until Twilight came along have girl fans been so loyal.”

In this vintage post from the time of Jersey Shore’s debut, Irin Carmon discusses the cast’s views “On Beauty & Not Even Looking Italian”. Quite interesting, actually.

It’s time to go, Betty Draper.

Forget menopause; say hello to “manopause”.

First the video music world, now the movie world: Rebecca Black’s film debut in “Sunday Comes Afterwards”.

Porn WikiLeaks: damaging the reputation and safety of porn performers by publishing addresses, personal documents and hateful HIV diatribes (SFW).

The ugly step sister?

Images via Jezebel.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Rebecca Black is subversifying the pop world.

“Yet here the discerning viewer notes that something is wrong. Because it is a simply matter of fact that in this car all the good seats have already been taken. For Rebecca Black (her name here would seem to evoke Rosa Parks, a mirroring that will only gain in significance) there is no actual choice, only the illusion of choice.

“The viewer knows that she’ll take the only seat that’s offered to her…”

The Awl even goes so far as to say Black’s relationship with the rapper in her “Friday” clip might be Lolita-esque, and that the video is a commentary on “a crypto sex scene from which we return to the suburban house party”. Creepy.

What it feels like for a (tween star) girl.

I hate answering the phone. When I lived at home, I would never answer the landline when it rang. Now that I fend for myself and can only afford one phone, I only answer numbers I recognise. So does Pamela Paul, via MamaMia.

Extremely racist anti-abortion billboards aimed at African Americans.

Lucy Ormonde asks if it’s acceptable for women to make the first move. My answer: hell yes! Otherwise I would never get any action!

“Words That Are Transphobic & Why.”

The Sartorialist’s “sturdy” shitstorm.

It’s okay to be “fat”, just as long as it’s in the right places, ie. bum, hips and boobs, allowing for a small waist, à la Kim Kardashian and Christina Hendricks.

After reading this review, I can’t wait to see Sucker Punch: a “Burlesque meets Inception” amalgamation of “bustiers, fishnets and glitter instead of asylum uniforms” where Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish et al’s characters reside in the film. These are just some “of the many clues that we are not actually inside the mind of a young girl, but inside Zach Snyder’s spank bank!”

Perhaps it could have been titled something else, but “How to Be Skinny” has some good points.

Kate Walsh is not a loser!:

“She’s certainly not a loser, based on her many accomplishments. Having a baby doesn’t instantly turn you into a winner. If you feel like a loser for not having a baby, that is your personal truth, but it is not The Truth. And! The fact that so many media outlets picked up this one sentence segment—from a long cover story with quotes about divorce, high heels and Lady Gaga—shows that we, the public are the real losers, for placing so much importance on how a woman uses her uterus.”

“5 Seconds of Every #1 Song From 1993–2011.”

“What Celebrity Culture Means:” Asking completely unqualified famous teenage boys their opinions on abortion and rape:

“‘Thanks for joining us tonight Mr. Bieber. What are your views on climate change? How do you feel about Iraq? And what do you think of the criticism levied against the parents of the Columbine shooters?’”

Going Gaga for breast milk.

On catastrophes and guilt.

Is gay marriage really the hallmark of society’s downfall? Not according to this fab pie chart.

Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, John Galliano et al: our obsession with celebs behaving badly.

Sarah Ayoub-Christie likens the freelance market to war, via Lois Lane, on The New Adventures of Superman. I’m inclined to agree!

“Jackie O & the Twisted Politics of Being a Bad Mother” at MamaMia.

Jezebel has also picked up the story.

Where’s the (nerd) love?

Today’s celebrity perfumers could take a lesson from the late Liz Taylor in personal branding.

90% of Facebook users take note: “Ten Words You Need to Stop Misspelling.”

The fashion life cycle of the meat dress.

Images via Democratic Underground, Graph Jam, Feministing, The Awl.