Amnesiacs Make the Best Lovers: “Spellbound”

First of all, my apologies for the (very, very) long hiatus! I was in Boston, and not inclined at all to do any work. But, I mean, it’s Boston; can you blame me?

In any case, let’s get to the point: Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound.

Despite being from 1945, this beautiful black-and-white film still retains a freshness that the ravages of time usually take away from ordinary movies. Of course, it completely stereotypes psychoanalysis and mental illness—and especially overdramatizes the latter. But I took that with a grain of salt. After all, the film was made during a time in which mental illness was extremely stigmatized; and, as such, those individuals who did suffer from mental illness were largely kept out of sight by their families. So the world, Hollywood and all its directors were left to wonder. And films like Spellbound are what resulted.

Spellbound opens with a group of young women playing cards. It is clear that they are in some sort of waiting room, but the kind of waiting room is unclear—until one of the young women is escorted to a room in which the young psychiatrist Dr. Constance Peterson is waiting.

Constance Peterson, played by Ingrid Bergman, is a very quiet, logical woman. She does not open her heart to anyone or anything, and approaches everything in a rational, scientific manner. In other words, she is the—grain of salt, grain of salt!—“perfect” psychiatrist. That is, until the handsome, but mysterious, Dr. Anthony Edwardes, played by a young, dashing Gregory Peck, arrives to take the place of Leo G. Carroll’s Dr. Murchison, who, after taking time off due to a nervous breakdown, has been asked to leave.

Excepting a strange incident involving lines drawn on a white tablecloth with a fork, Dr. Edwardes seems to be a healthy, functioning young man. And things go swimmingly between him and Constance—until Dr. Edwardes collapses in surgery, and, after a quick comparison of handwriting, Constance realizes that “Dr. Edwardes” is not really Dr. Edwardes.

When the now-anonymous man awakens, Constance asks him who he is, and where the real Dr. Edwardes is. Of course, he does not know the answer to either question. The only thing he (thinks he) knows, thanks to a cigarette case, is that his initials are “J.B.” And, given the sense of fear he feels when he looks at the case, J.B. believes he killed the real Dr. Anthony Edwardes—he just doesn’t know how, when or where. After battling with herself—her old self, the one that refused to feel—Constance surrenders to her emotional side and decides to help J.B., no matter what it costs her.

But J.B. won’t have it. He loves Constance too much. So, in an effort to protect Constance from himself and repercussions the may come from helping him, J.B. departs in the night, leaving Constance only a note telling her that he is going to a hotel in New York City.

Constance awakens to a group of police officers and several other psychiatrists at her door. As it turns out, the other psychiatrists believe J.B. to have killed the missing Dr. Edwardes, and have set the police on his trail. Fortunately, they do not see the (rather obtrusive) white envelope on the floor containing J.B.’s note. As soon as they leave, Constance snatches the note from the floor, reads its contents; and, after what is perhaps the longest, most distracting day of her life, disappears quietly for New York City.

After she arrives at the hotel indicated in J.B.’s note, Constance, with the aid of the self-proclaimed hotel “detective,” locates J.B. Constance races to his room, telling J.B. that, as his doctor, she will not leave until he is cured of his amnesia. When J.B. protests, Constance says, “I’m here as your doctor only. It has nothing to do with love.”

And, because it would be totally silly if she were serious, they then kiss and embrace and all that mushy stuff.

Unfortunately, their romancing is cut short by the discovery of Constance’s photograph in the daily paper. She and J.B. make a quick getaway, and travel to the home of Constance’s old mentor, the quintessentially Freudian Dr. Alex Brulov, played by Michael Chekov. Even though Constance tells Brulov she and J.B. are newlyweds on their honeymoon, Brulov is no fool, and quickly realizes that J.B. is an amnesiac. But, fortunately, he is also a very good man, and decides to aid Constance in helping J.B. discover who he truly is, and what happened to Dr. Edwardes.

The trio goes on a quest into J.B.’s psyche to uncover the truth. And while it’s a lot of fun to watch, most of this quest is just a lot of Hollywood pseudo-psychiatry. Most of their “analysis” revolves around a dream and the fact that J.B. seems to be afraid of lines in white. What’s more, the entire thing devolves into the stereotypical trope that something traumatic happened to J.B. in his childhood; and his repression of this event is also causing him to repress his entire identity.

Right.

Regardless, as I said, it’s still a very good film. The balance between talking and action is entirely appropriate for the kind of film it is—a who-(really)-done-it, driven by the mental and physical journey of two characters—and there is truly never a boring moment. I found myself either very intrigued, and trying to work out just what was going on—I even talked aloud to myself!—or on the edge of my seat, holding my breath, nervous for the characters’ welfare.

Of course, such an emotional investment would not have been possible without both the unfailing genius of Alfred Hitchcock—I like to pretend films like Under Capricorn don’t exist—and the big acting names of the day. There’s a reason Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck have been remembered.

You know, apart from their astounding good looks.

But in all seriousness:
Aside from the melodrama that sometimes creeps into Peck’s performance—he does, in my opinion, occasionally ham it up, reacting too strongly to some event or another, or making an extravagant production out of having amnesia—both he and Bergman exemplify what romance used to be on the silver screen—“back when film was film,” some would say. They neither oversexualize nor underplay the romantic tension that exists between their characters. While you can feel the magnetism between them, they aren’t constantly falling into each other’s arms, and actually convey feelings of genuine concern and love for each other. Bergman’s accent sometimes gets in the way of being able to understand what she is saying, but that’s just a small technical detail that doesn’t actually hurt the film or the acting itself. All it means is that you have to listen closely to the dialogue, which is important in a film like this.

And that’s the beauty of the dialogue in the film. All the clues you need are embedded in the characters’ lines. The end of the film is very satisfying. Unlike many mystery flicks, in which you have to notice itsy-bitsy details that may or may not make sense, anyway, Spellbound doesn’t leave you feeling frustrated, because you realize that all the clues were clear, and right under your nose all along. While this film does follow the traditional mystery plot—the timeline is linear, and you are given all the clues—it doesn’t actually matter. The twist at the end is just clever and unexpected enough to keep the story fresh. So if you go into this expecting to watch a 1945 version of Memento…you should probably just watch Memento.

After all, while he’s certainly no Gregory Peck, Guy Pearce is far from hard on the eyes.

Christian Bale Is A Fucking Badass: “Equilibrium”

To sum this movie up in one sentence:
Christian Bale is a badass.

It’s really as simple as that. Yes, of course, there is plot and action and all that other stuff a movie normally has, but it all really seems to be supplementary material to show just how badass Christian Bale is.

Or, should I say, how badass Christian Bale is as John Preston, his character in Kurt Wimmer’s 2003 film, Equilibrium.

Equilibrium is basically The Matrix meets Fahrenheit 451, with a sprinkling of 1984. Libria, as the society is called, is comprised of unfeeling people. Literally. As the name implies, Libria’s inhabitants are “liberated” of the deleterious burden of emotion. After World War III, humans realized that they could not afford another such tragedy; and, having singled out emotion as the primary cause for destruction, developed a drug that entirely suppresses the human emotional response. This drug is called Prozium.

(And I am fighting very hard not to equate it to Prozac. Bear with me.)

But humanity has not stopped there. The government, known as the Tetragrammaton, run by a man called Father (read: Big Brother), has ruled illegal anything that could potentially incite feeling, and continuously updates the list of banned items that could lead to what is known as “sense offense.” Sense offense—not “sex offense,” as I mistakenly heard it the first time, and had to rewind the scene a bit—is exactly what it sounds like: If you feel any emotion at all—anger, love, sadness, anything—you are guilty of sense offense. In fact, the government has posted special child guards around Libria to pick out sense offenders. And the government means business: If a (rather creepy-looking) child in black points down at you from his guard-flanked pedestal, you probably won’t make it through the night.

The government’s crowning achievement against the crime of sense offense, though, is an elite guard known as the Grammaton Clerics. The Clerics are trained in the deadly art of Gun Kata, also known in the movie world as Gun Fu , as well as in various other martial arts. It is their job to hunt down and arrest sense offenders, thus keeping order and uniformity—keeping equilibrium. And it is to this guard that Bale’s John Preston belongs.

Preston is an almost legendary Cleric, whose own wife was a sense offender, which is possibly the reason he’s so dedicated to his profession. We first see Preston in the middle of a bust: Several armed sense offenders are holed up in a building, hording a cache of priceless paintings and other assorted banned materials. But, armed though they are, the “insurgents” are no match for Preston. He literally runs down the door, sliding into the room on it. And then—silence.

But not for long: Preston starts shooting. The rebels don’t stand a chance; within seconds, they’re all dead.

Having quickly and efficiently dispatched the rebels, Preston proceeds to search the building for sense contraband, which he finds underneath the floorboards. Among the items found is Leonardo da Vinci’s The Mona Lisa, and a book of William Butler Yeats’ poems. The former is destroyed in a fiery blast, a la Fahrenheit 451, while Preston’s partner, Partridge, played by Sean Bean, confiscates the latter.

Or so it seems. Preston notices that his colleague is behaving rather oddly, and realizes Partridge has not only kept the book for his own use, but has been skipping his Prozium intervals. Partridge has been—*dramatic pause*—feeling.

Duh-duh-duuuun!

Of course, this can only end in death. And it does. Preston plants one between Partridge’s eyes after Partridge quotes a (completely unrelated) line from Yeats’ The Cloths of Heaven at him.

(Okay, mini rant time: Seriously, guys. The Cloths of Heaven is a love poem written for Maud Gonne. If you’re going to use poetry, use it correctly. Rant over.)

Partridge’s replacement is the ambitious Brandt, played by the sexy, suave Taye Diggs, who swears he’s going to “make his career” with Preston.

If that isn’t foreshadowing, then I don’t know what is. Because I’m sure you can guess what happens next. Preston misses a dose of Prozium—the vial falls from the bathroom counter—and starts to feel. And once he starts to feel, he doesn’t want to stop.

These strange things called “feelings” open up an entirely new world for Preston. He is unable to live his life objectively; everything he touches, hears, sees, affects him. As you might imagine, this causes a wee bit of trouble in the workplace. Preston can no longer carry out his duties as a Cleric (read: heartless murder and destruction) as effectively as he did before—and the sly Brandt takes notice.

To make matters worse, Preston finds himself falling in love with Emily Watson’s Mary O’Brien, a sense offender he arrests the first day he’s “off his meds”. Because the film likes to be blatantly obvious at times, Mary’s physical appearance exemplifies the height of Romantic feeling: tumbling, chestnut locks; large, blue eyes; soft, fair skin; and full, rosy lips.

In other words, she’s pretty much a breathing J.W. Waterhouse painting .

Preston’s love for Mary and his desire to save her life give him the gumption and the courage to fight the Tetragrammaton. He joins forces with the Resistance, and attempts to infiltrate the Tetragrammaton in order to kill Father. Of course, many things go awry, but if I told you what they were, then there would be no point in watching the movie, now would there?

(I will, however, tell you not to expect unicorns and rainbows at the end of the flick.)

Despite the fact that the cast is pretty spiffy, the acting is only so-so. Bale’s transition from an unfeeling killer to a sentimental killer is fairly well-done, but I still felt that he didn’t approach the transition itself in the right way. If you think about it, suddenly having the capacity to feel would be quite the shock to someone who had never experienced feeling before. But Bale seems to take it in stride, and doesn’t quite give it the uumph such a change would be expected to evoke.

Diggs plays the role of heartless bastard very well. Unfortunately, this doesn’t exactly strain Diggs’ acting talent, as the role mainly consists of empty smiles and blunt, pointed lines, with a side of honed martial arts skills. Watson, as Diggs’ character’s polar opposite, plays the part of the pretty motivation decently, but remains rather two-dimensional. Part of her problem isn’t entirely her fault: She doesn’t get many lines. But with the limited screen time she’s given, she mainly just sits there and trembles, like a Romantic leaf, thus rendering her flatter than she was probably meant to be.

The other baddies are just that: Other baddies. Aside from Father, played by Sean Pertwee, and Dupont, the man behind father, played by Angus MacFayden, no one actually stands out. And, in fact, it is not the pair’s acting that make them memorable. They stand out primarily because of the characters’ roles in the plot: Father, because he is essentially Big Brother, and Dupont, because Preston reports to him frequently throughout the movie. So, aside from Brandt—who barely manages to fill the role of interesting villain—the bad guys are kind of…boring.

Still, boring villains or no, the action sequences are phenomenal. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, they mainly serve to show how many cool things Bale can do in a limited amount of time, but it doesn’t really matter. This film is an action-packed Sci-Fi, and it treats itself as such. Sure, the movie skims the waters of philosophy—should humans really feel?—but its main function is to entertain, and it knows it. Even though the movie itself isn’t amazing or unique in any way, it doesn’t put on airs, and pretend to be something it’s not. So if you don’t go into this film expecting to have a Socratic discussion about the nature of human feeling afterwards, you should thoroughly enjoy this movie.

Unless, of course, you have an aversion to awesome.

Love,

Film Bitch

Forget “Westside Story”: “Tuff Turf”

Ah, the 1980’s. A time when leg warmers were chic; spontaneous, synchronized dances among total strangers were common; and James Spader was sexy and young.

(And, okay, he’s still sexy. He’s just no longer young.)

Aside from a twenty-something Spader looking damn fine in a black leather jacket, and Kim Richards’ rather colorful outfit and provocative pose, the box of Fritz Kiersch’s 1984 high school drama Tuff Turf doesn’t look like anything special. In fact, the tagline—“Where enemies are made, reputations are earned and love is the most risky affair of all.”—makes it seem as though the film is going to be a trashy ‘80’s movie with lots of teenage angst and gangland wars. Think Sixteen Candles meets The Lost Boys, minus the whole vampire thing, of course. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that it was not only a smoldering Spader I could enjoy, but the movie itself.

The movie begins with Nick Hauser, played by the pretty, but tough-looking Paul Mones, and his gang of miscreants hanging out late at night at a local newsstand in downtown Los Angeles. At first, it seems strange that they’re there; they’re not even pilfering the dozing vendor’s money. But the reason quickly becomes obvious when the camera cuts across the street. The colorfully-dressed, very attractive Frankie Croyden (Richards) leans against the wall of a building, while a lone man in a rather nice-looking grey suit stands at a bus stop. Frankie, carrying various school accoutrements—papers, notebooks, etc.—walks up to the man, who, as any breathing heterosexual male would do in the situation gives her the once-over. She “innocently” asks for change for a fiver; and when the man inquires as to why she is out so late alone, she turns on the flirtation—and turns his attention off to anything but her. It’s pretty easy to guess what happens next: Nick comes up behind the man, pulls a switchblade on him, and demands his money. But, suddenly, a blonde youth on a bike speeds through, singing Be-Bop-A-Lula and making snappy comments at the same time he pours beer over the gang members, thus rescuing the innocent (if skeevy) older man. Cue Frankie looking a bit surprised, but admiringly, in the direction in which he disappears.

This mysterious hero is, of course, our very own Spader, playing Morgan Hiller, an intelligent, but troublesome high school senior, recently arrived from Connecticut. After Mr. Hiller’s business went under, the family moved to Los Angeles. Mrs. Hiller is still having trouble adjusting to her sudden drop in social class and lifestyle. Morgan’s deviant behavior isn’t making her any happier, either, and she lets him know it—every time they speak. And to top it off, Morgan’s appallingly yuppie, rising lawyer of a brother, Brian, is the family-dubbed “golden boy,” who can’t resist emphasizing the fact that he is the family favorite when he comes to visit.

Needless to say, Morgan is pretty sick of his family, and deliberately goes looking for trouble. Fortunately (?) for him, he doesn’t have to look very far: Nick is still pretty pissed about Morgan’s bike stunt; but he gets even angrier when Morgan pursues Nick’s “property”—Frankie. One ruined bike and two fantastic dance sequences later—‘80’s movies are famous for ‘em!—Morgan is hip-deep in trouble—and love. Even after enduring a brutal locker room beating at the hands of Nick and his gang, Morgan is undeterred. Rather than backing off, Morgan pays Frankie an unexpected visit, and insists they give it “a shot”. “You know,” says Frankie, “it’s not going to change anything.” To which Morgan responds, “It could. It could, and a chance is worth everything.”

(At which point I swooned. I also may or may not have played that sequence over again.)

Of course, I can’t tell you how the movie ends. I can’t tell you about the sensual love scene towards the end; and I certainly can’t tell you about the extremely well-done, if a little over-the-top, “final battle”. That would be cheating. You’re just going to have to see said scenes yourself.

I will, however, tell you a little about the actors’ performances. As you may have guessed, I am a big Spader fan, and it’s not just his looks (promise!). Even as a greenhorn actor with only a few movies under his belt, the young Spader was already forming his own style in this movie. He plays the role of the intelligent prodigal son very, very well. Though Spader’s lines are somewhat trite at times, he manages to make them sound interesting and important; and even though the funnier lines actually belong to his geeky sidekick Jimmy Parker, played by a very young Robert Downey, Jr., it is actually Spader’s lines that stick in your mind. Spader’s facial expressions are to die for, especially since they’re essentially the same ones he uses today. I personally did a little joy-wriggle in my seat when I saw him turn on what I like to call his “courtroom Boston Legal” face.
Though Richards does the pretty-girl-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks well, it is a little hard to believe her transformation from bad girl to relatively less bad girl. This is not a fault of her acting; it is more a fault of the character she is playing—basically white trash whose highest aspiration is to get married. Unfortunately, save for a brief exchange between Frankie and Morgan, the script never suggests Frankie changes her mind about what she wants out of life during the course of the film. Not to give anything away, but this leaves you wondering what happened to the “just get married” plan at the end of the movie.
None of the other actors’ performances are really worth remarking on, mostly because they are archetypal teen drama stereotypes. It’s not that their acting is bad by any means; it just isn’t noteworthy, since you could watch any other film in the same vein, and get the gist.

Tuff Turf combines the best aspects of ‘80’s teen drama without the dreck. No, it’s not Oscar material, but it’s damn good, and far more worth the watch than a relative equivalent, like Pretty in Pink. After all, Spader went somewhere.

(Sorry, Molly. You weren’t really that good an actress, anyway.)

Yours with love,

Film Bitch

I Don’t Wanna Be Friends: “Hotel Chevalier”

What can I say about Hotel Chevalier that it doesn’t already say for itself?

This short 2007 Wes Anderson film, meant to precede his longer, most recent flick, The Darjeeling Limited, can actually stand on its own. And not only can it stand on its own, but it is actually better than The Darjeeling Limited. Now, this is not to say The Darjeeling Limited was bad, but it certainly didn’t have the emotional depth or impact of Hotel Chevalier.

The film opens with Jason Schwartzman’s character, Jack Whitman, lying in a Paris hotel room in a yellow bathrobe. From the state of the room—very, very lived in, to say the least—it is instantly apparent that he has been there for a while. After calling down to the front desk for a grilled cheese, he receives an unexpected phone call that sets him on edge. The feminine, sultry, somewhat disinterested voice on the other end asks him what room he’s in, and, after he grudgingly gives its owner the number, the same voice tells him she’ll be over in thirty minutes.

Jack springs up from the bed, and starts frantically cleaning the room and himself. By the time the voice and its owner arrive, Jack is all spruced up in a sleek suit and looks as uncomfortable as can be.

As it turns out, the voice belongs to Jack’s ex-girlfriend, played by Natalie Portman. Interestingly, she is nameless in this particular film, and remains so throughout The Darjeeling Limited, too.

(For sanity’s sake, let’s call her JEG. ‘Kay?)

Jack and JEG don’t actually talk all that much. But what they do say is so hurtful, so painful to hear, that it is enough. It is clear Jack still loves JEG, but that she is just using him. For example, though he responds to her statements, she doesn’t acknowledge what he has just said. Instead, she talks at at him, mechanically, without emotion.

A bit predictably, they end up in bed together. Jack remarks on the bruises he finds on JEG’s body—and they are everywhere; she really does look brutalized—but she does not respond to his questions about them. And when he asks if she has been with anyone else, she pauses for a very long time before saying, “No.”

(A pretty obvious link to the bruises, but since I like the film so much, I’m willing to let it go. This time.)

They never have sex on screen—I can’t bring myself to say “make love”—and I was personally glad of it. Given the level of emotional pain their exchanges were meant to inflict, I can only imagine what sex would have been like.

(I’m not kidding:
JEG: “Whatever happens in the end, I don’t want to lose you as my friend.”
Jack: “I promise I will never be your friend. No matter what. Ever.”

Yeah.)

Moving back from the pain of the words for a moment, the dialogue itself was extremely substantive. From the few back-and-forths they have throughout the film, their story emerges. And that’s one of the marks of a very well-done short. Like a short story, a short film must build a plot in a relatively short period of time, and shorts that rely mainly on backstory are the hardest to build: They don’t get the luxury of flashbacks or time.

But it is not just the dialogue that helps to establish the situation and the story. It is also the actors’ body language. And this is where Portman and Schwartzman shine. However, this is not to say that either Schwartzman’s or Portman’s acting is stellar, or even spectacular. In an interesting reversal of the usual, it is the film that actually supports the actors and their styles.
Now, I’ve never really been a fan of Portman’s acting, but, in this case, her particular style is suited to the character. In my eyes, Portman has never really been able to convey the sense of “getting into” her characters, and this shallow acting works in that her character is not an especially deep person, and is clearly out for herself. So the “out of touch” feeling I usually get from Portman actually supports her role in this film, and makes the story stronger as a whole. Schwartzman, for his part, is a good actor. Not extraordinary, but good. And good is all this film needs. His somewhat restrained gestures and movements around Portman’s character at once convey a sense of dread and tired, hateful love, and are only enhanced by his small, somewhat monotone voice.

The first time I saw this film, I didn’t see The Darjeeling Limited afterwards. But it didn’t matter. As I said in the beginning, Hotel Chevalier can stand on its own. In fact, part of me wishes it hadn’t been a companion to The Darjeeling Limited, as it is a far superior film. Hotel Chevalier needs no follow-up. It is beautiful alone.

In solidarity,

Film Bitch

Put The Blame On Mame, Boys: “Gilda”

Ever seen this clip?

It’s from Gilda, a 1946 black-and-white noir directed by Charles Vidor. It is perhaps the most famous clip of Rita Hayworth that exists—and for good reason. It is one of the sexiest scenes ever filmed, and Hayworth plays the sizzling temptress of the title in a movie that is as unique as Gilda is enticing.

The film begins ordinarily enough: Glenn Ford’s Johnny Farrell, a gambler, has just pulled a fast one on a group of sailors in Argentina—and, as Johnny says, he doesn’t know Argentina, but he does know sailors, and knows he’d better get out of there right quick. Unfortunately, he doesn’t make his exit quite quickly enough. The next thing Johnny knows, he’s got a gun to his back, and is being told to give up his recent winnings. Not at all by chance, a man stylishly dressed in black suddenly appears and rescues Johnny using a walking stick that doubles as a small dagger.
As it turns out, this mysterious man is Ballin Mundson, the wealthy owner of a high-end casino in Argentina, played by George Macready. Mundson has been watching Johnny, and, after seeing him trick the sailors out of money with a set of loaded dice, takes a liking to him.

(So the guy’s got strange taste. You want to take it up with him and his walking stick?)

After watching Johnny win a lot—and I mean a lot–of money in his casino, and realizing that he could be a useful “friend” to have around, Mundson makes Johnny the overseer of his casino so that he may jet around the world. On one of these trips, Mundson comes back with a little something extra: A wife. Who just so happens to be incredibly beautiful and irresistible, and sings like a “canary,” as Mundson so affectionately calls her. And since Mundson can’t be around all the time, he wants someone to make sure his little warbler “stays in line.”

Guess who gets the job?

Problem is, Johnny already knows this beauteous bird—a fact he only realizes once he’s already accepted the job as wife-protector. As it turns out, the woman in question is Gilda, Johnny’s old flame from New York. Johnny and Gilda just so happen to hate each other’s guts—and it shows. “Johnny,” says Gilda upon their unwelcome reunion, “is such a hard name to remember and so easy to forget.”

(OUCH. Sheath those claws, kitten!)

This animosity is not lost on Mundson, but he does not put two and two together, and is puzzled at his wife’s behavior towards a man whom he believes to be a stranger to her. While Mundson continues to wonder, Gilda and Johnny continue to actively hate each other.

But is it really hatred they feel for one another? Well, yes. But, at least for Gilda, that hatred is also coupled with love. Gilda goes out of her way to make Johnny jealous by dancing and canoodling with various attractive men on the casino’s dance floor, even going so far as to leave with one of them. And because it is Johnny’s job to watch over her, he always intervenes and pulls her away from these men. This is something Johnny is not at all unhappy to do, because it’s pretty damn obvious he doesn’t like seeing Gilda with other men—he just won’t admit it to anyone, least of all himself.

After weeks of intense emotion and frenzied, hurtful words, Johnny’s guard falls the night of a costume ball at the casino. He and Gilda end up kissing in her bedroom—and Mundson just happens to walk in right when it starts getting good.

Mundson has been having problems of his own with Gilda, especially after he learns that she and Johnny are former sweethearts. So you can imagine what seeing them locked in a passionate embrace might do to him. And that, in Mundson’s case, is suicide—or so it’s made to look. After storming out of the room in a rage, Mundson takes to the skies in his seaplane, and ostensibly flies it straight into the water, where it explodes into flames.

Gilda and Johnny, believing Mundson dead, marry. But, Johnny, as it turns out, is actually the cold-hearted son-of-a-bitch Gilda believes him to be. Does he love her? Maybe. Does he lust after and hate her at once? Absolutely. Not only does he leave her alone from the get-go on purpose, but he makes sure she can never ever see other men. He even goes so far as to hire a man to pretend to fall in love with her, and propose marriage to her—in another country! Quite simply, he takes pleasure in watching her suffer.

As you might imagine, poor Gilda is less than pleased about this. She is a prisoner everywhere she goes, and cannot, even for a minute, experience real freedom. But that’s what makes this movie so interesting to watch. Usually, the gorgeous woman of a Hollywood flick will have some savior, some rescuer of some sort, to help her get out of a terrible situation, or will be able to make her way out by herself. Gilda has neither a rescuer, nor can she escape the many eyes of Johnny’s hired men who happen to be wherever she is.

(Hint: That’s not a coincidence.)

What I simultaneously loved and hated about this film is how quickly the tables turned on Gilda. One minute, she was making Johnny jealous and amusing herself with any man she liked, completely independent, regardless of the fact that she was married; the next, the entire world is her prison. By loving Johnny, Gilda has unwittingly sacrificed her freedom. And, little by little, this sacrifice kills her naturally feisty nature, until Gilda is left a broken, insecure woman.

While this film may seem as though it is about the tumultuous relationship between a gambler and a siren from his past, it is actually more of a tutorial about how to break a confident, independent woman. Granted, to do it with Johnny’s particular touch, you need a lot of money and power, as well as underground connections, but the basic principle is still the same: Make her believe she has nowhere to run, and can’t function on her own. If you’re successful, she’ll come crawling back to you, and submit to your will without a fight.

(Man, this guy’s practically Hitch.)

So while this film may feature a beautiful, interesting, self-reliant woman in the title role, it is all about making sure you understand just how ironic it is that the title is the name of the very woman the movie sets out to break. This is not a film about sexy independence and love experienced by the film’s (supposed) main character. It is about the various ways in which an angry ex-lover may exact revenge on said main character. In fact, Gilda is actually quite a secondary character; she is only the main character in the perverse sense that tormenting her is the entire motivation and drive behind the plot.

And you thought Chinatown was messed up.

I’m sure you saw this coming, but I loved Hayworth in this film. She was absolutely stellar. Not that either Macready or Ford were terrible, by any stretch of the imagination; but they were far outshone by the radiance that is Hayworth. And though her wardrobe is jaw-droppingly lovely—I desperately want this outfit, along with many others I could not find on Google Images—it is Hayworth’s natural sex appeal and clearly strong off-screen personality that makes her glitter. Hayworth’s characterization of Gilda seems to stem from a trait already inherent in herself, which makes her ideal for the part, and makes it easy to understand why this is arguably her most famous, and most fabulous, role.

Oh, notice how I didn’t mention what happens with the whole Mundson-faking-his-death aspect of the plot. Now you’ll have to watch the film.

Yours in confidence,

Film Bitch

Try That in the Key of Sex Flat: “The Piano”

If the only impression of Jane Campion’s directorial work you’ve ever gotten is Bright Star, then you are severely missing out. The slow, relatively boring romance that is Bright Star is far from reflective of her early work, namely The Piano. And by “far from reflective,” I mean far from the intensely erotic, almost tangibly sensual composition that is The Piano.

Released in 1993, The Piano is the story of Ada McGrath, a mute English widow played by Holly Hunter. Because it is the 1850’s, women are still treated like property; and because Ada is still young and attractive enough to be “profitable,” her father marries her off to a man she has never met, and she and her young daughter, Flora McGrath, played by a pint-sized Anna Paquin, are shipped off to live with him on his plantation in New Zealand.

Ada hates the place from the outset. It is wet and cold a good deal of the time—though, being from England, you think she’d be used to that by now—and she feels like an alien, both inside and outside her home. To his credit, her husband Alisdair Stewart, played by Sam Neill, does try to make Ada feel welcome and comfortable; but the fact that she can’t speak, coupled with Alisdair’s somewhat stiff demeanor, distances them, and makes their interactions awkward.

Ada’s only comfort is her beloved piano, which she has had shipped over from England. To say Ada loves the piano would be an understatement: It is as much a part of her as her own beating heart, and is one of the only ways she may audibly express herself. So when Alisdair decides to leave the piano on the beach, because it is so heavy, it is as if Ada has lost a part of herself.

(And Alisdair wonders why she doesn’t take to him…)

The plot takes a turn for the romantically complicated when a former Englishman named George Baines, played by the stellar Harvey Keitel, is introduced. George works for Alisdair as a translator for the Maiori laborers, as well as a sort of handyman/overseer on the plantation. As luck would have it, George takes an interest in this queer mute woman and her yappy, but adorable little daughter. I probably don’t even need to say it, but, for the sake of the review, I might as well: This interest quickly develops into lust after, at Ada’s insistence, he takes Ada and Flora down to the beach so that Ada may play her piano. And that’s when George realizes two and two equal sex.

George moves the piano from the beach to his home on the island; and when Ada asks for it back, he says that she may have it back—key by key, and only if she agrees to give him piano lessons.

Piano lessons. Right.

Needless to say, the lessons swiftly develop into Ada basically whoring herself out for the piano. Of course, this is not to say she does not enjoy George’s attentions—they are certainly better, in her mind, than the advances of her stiff (no pun intended) husband—and it is not long before she looks forward to the “lessons.” But George suddenly grows a conscience, and tells Ada he does not want to make a whore of her for her piano.

A little late there, buddy.

Still, Ada insists on seeing him. But what would a good, steamy romance be without the lovers getting caught? Alisdair notices the positive change in his wife, also puts two and two together—though, in his case, it does not equal sex—and literally boards up Ada and Flora in their home.

Being without George is torture for Ada; and when she can stand it no longer, she uses certain, ah, “tactics” to convince Alisdair that she loves him, and will not see George if allowed out of the house. Alisdair subsequently takes the boards off the house—and hot, passionate sex between George and Ada ensues.

Despite all the sex this movie has to offer, it is also surprisingly romantic and tender. You can tell George and Ada actually care for each other. And what makes this movie so fantastic is that you can see how Ada’s love for her piano is slowly transformed into love for George. This is not to say that she loves the piano any less; however, because she associates George with the piano, she falls in love with him, which personally led me to wonder if she would have fallen in love with him at all, had he and the piano not been connected in a romantic, physical manner in her mind.

Another thing that really struck me is how there are no clearly defined “good guys” and “bad guys” in this film. The lovers certainly aren’t “good”: Not only are they sneaking around behind Alisdair’s unsuspecting, trusting back, but their entire affair began when George decided it would be a good idea to coerce Ada into sleeping with him. Ada is no better, as she leaves poor little Flora to fend for herself when she and George are making the beast with two backs; and, after the love affair begins, her motherly interaction with Flora is reduced only to necessity, such as when she needs Flora to be her “voice”—she and Flora communicate with hand signals, and Flora “translates,” if need be—or when she wants Flora to perform some task for her.
Alisdair is to be pitied—somewhat. In his defense, Ada does not make his life any easier: She arouses him, but will not let him touch her; she ignores him; and she glares at him. I mean, how much can one guy take? However, this does not excuse the times—yes, plural—Alisdair decides it would be a good idea to try to rape Ada. Enough said.

Surprisingly, the acting in this movie is all pretty much on an even keel. Everyone’s very good, but no one particularly shines, save perhaps Paquin—but that may be due to her age, and the fact that she had to remember so many lines (‘cause, man, does that kid talk!). I feel as though the actors did not have to work very hard to make the film good, because it was good from the outset. Having a great cast helps—and I’ll admit, I am a sucker for both Neill and Keitel—but, in the end, the film’s premise was interesting enough not to require amazing actors. Neill, Keitel and Hunter are just an added benefit.

Yours forever,

Film Bitch

Caught in a Bad Romance: “9 1/2 Weeks”

So remember how my first impression of 9 ½ Weeks was that it was going to be a sexy, wonderful movie? Well, I wasn’t too wrong. I just missed the part where it was incredibly painful to watch.

The fact that 9 ½ Weeks was directed by Adrian Lyne, famous (infamous?) director of Fatal Attraction, probably should have tipped me off right away that this movie was going to be no sexy, but happy, walk-in-the-park romance. But it didn’t, and I began the movie, blissfully unaware of what awaited me.

9 ½ Weeks follows a recently-divorced New York art gallery assistant, Elizabeth, played by Kim Basinger. Though we never really get the full backstory, you get the feeling her divorce wasn’t only recent, but that it wasn’t pretty, either—then again, what divorce is?
Though her divorce hurt her deeply, Elizabeth is tired of being alone. So when she makes eye contact in—appropriately, for those of you who know your Shakespeare—a fishmonger’s shop with the young, handsome John, played by the not-yet-disfigured Mickey Rourke, something in her stirs to life. But before she can say anything to him, he leaves the shop, presumably never to be seen again.

But there wouldn’t be a movie if he didn’t show up again, now would there?

A few days later, Elizabeth runs into him at an antiques flea market, and things…progress…from there.

(Ladies, here’s a tip: When a man you don’t know buys you a three hundred dollar scarf, you know you’re about to be a kept woman.)

Elizabeth and John’s relationship is brutal from the outset. Though they do not sleep together the same day they meet in the flea market, John does take Elizabeth to a small cabin close to the water. There, he tells her that they are totally alone. No one could hear her, even if she called out. Elizabeth becomes (understandably) frightened, and asks to leave. John assures her he was only kidding, but you get a rather uncomfortable, queasy feeling that he really wasn’t.

When they do get around to doing the deed, it is an erotic, sadomasochistic spectacle. John and Elizabeth experiment with everything, from food play to cross-dressing to humiliation and violence. Predictably, it is John who suggests and initiates everything, since Elizabeth is, as we realize through her actions and reactions, a novice in this particular sexual field. Elizabeth becomes more and more disconnected from her professional life, and is often distracted at work. She begins to look wilder and more disheveled, and her friends begin to notice the change in her.

But, aside from a brief scene that establishes him as a successful, wealthy man of Wall Street, we have no idea what John’s life is like outside his sexual encounters with Elizabeth. And that’s what makes him so darn creepy. You see, all we get of him is the side that comes out during sex play with Elizabeth, which is to say we see him as a cold, domineering son-of-a-bitch who gets off on hurting Elizabeth emotionally. The little he reveals about himself—that he’s had many other women, hinting that he treats them all in much the same way—only reinforces this image.

So it’s kind of weird when Elizabeth falls in love with John—and he with her.

(Or so he says.)

Rourke is excellent in his role as, well, an unfeeling asshole. Yes, he is extremely attractive, but he also gives off a very unsettling air. And this doesn’t just have to do with what we see on screen during the sex scenes between him and Basinger. Something about the way Rourke carries himself, and the way he looks at Basinger with guarded, but hungry eyes, makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. It’s truly creepy—yet you can’t help but see how Basinger’s character is attracted to him, because he also exudes the promise of excitement, and something more and different.
Basinger plays a bit more of a three-dimensional character, but this is not to say she is necessarily any easier to read than Rourke. Yes, she is much more vocal about her feelings during the dialogue of the film, but, oftentimes, one of the only ways we understand what she is really feeling is during sex play, and only then through her physical cues. And because her words sometimes do not match her actions, Basinger’s Elizabeth is as almost as unreliable a source of truth as Rourke’s character. Basinger plays her role beautifully, and though we do get more of Elizabeth’s backstory, we get only slightly more of her inner self than of John’s. Much like Rourke’s eyes, Basinger’s facial expressions are guarded; but, unlike Rourke, every now and then, she allows emotion to surface in her eyes—but only for a few seconds.

The film itself is primarily composed of John and Elizabeth’s various sexual encounters, and doesn’t actually have much of a plot outside the sex. But that’s the point of the film. The action does not and should not revolve around the characters’ lives outside their sex play. The point of this film is to show the dirty (in the worst sense of the word) side of romantic involvement. And it does this excellently. By the time the film ends, all you want to do is watch a Disney movie, and pretend that there is such a thing as a happy ending for everyone, and that love and pain don’t ever actually go together. But don’t be fooled. Sure, Elizabeth and John “love” each other—but why? In the end, it is all about the emotion. They are both in need of feeling. And isn’t it better, says the film, to hurt than not to feel at all?

(I am now going to go watch Mulan.)

Yours always,

Film Bitch

Same Old Song and Dance: “Nine”

Nine is a movie that can’t decide whether it wants to be Moulin Rouge or Chicago. Unfortunately, it gets stuck somewhere in the middle, and ends up being a sort of spastic song-and-dance number that’s about as graceful as a cat on roller skates.

Director Rob Marshall clearly wanted to recreate the feeling of his smash hit of 2002, the aforementioned Chicago. Much to my dismay, he failed miserably. Nine focuses on a renowned movie director, Guido Contini, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, as he struggles to make his next big film. Hounded by the press, Guido feels increasing pressure to produce another extravagant money-maker—trouble is, he’s totally stuck.

And because he is a Hollywood version of an Italian male, Guido almost always has sex on the brain. Thus, the various women in Guido’s life—nine in total, an obvious reference to the nine Muses—dance around his head in fabulous, sparkly dance numbers. These women are played by a host of spectacular actresses, from Judi Dench as Lilliane La Fleur, Guido’s no-nonsense secretary, to Carla Albanese, a (married) sex pot played by Penélope Cruz, all of whom are introduced within the first few minutes in a glamorous montage that smacks heavily of The Cellblock Tango scene in Chicago.

(There are literally women in backlit boxes dancing and singing, each getting their own introduction via an individual mini-number. Yeah. Chicago.)

While I am all for glitter, dancing and music, I am not okay with a story that, without it, would be uninteresting—which, unfortunately, Nine is. Stripped of the makeup and sequins, Nine is the story of a washed-up old man who can’t seem to stop lying, and often cannot keep his penis in his pants. Unfortunately for Guido, his infidelity and lies finally catch up to him, and his Muses slowly abandon him, one by one.

The first to go is Carla, who accuses Guido of never having loved her, through the entirety of their affair. The next to go is Guido’s wife, Luisa, played by the beauteous Marion Cotillard, who is fed up with Guido running around on her, and afterwards lying to her about it, even though she knows perfectly well what is going on. The next is the actress Claudia Nardi, portrayed by Nicole Kidman, who admits that she had loved Guido for many years, but resigned herself long ago to never being with him.

And so forth.

Though it really does tug at the heartstrings a bit to see Guido suffering slow abandonment, it is still hard to feel sorry for him, because, at the end of the day, it really is his fault. Personally, I couldn’t help but think that, if he hadn’t lied, he would still be happy and successful. But the point is not the “what if.” It is the “is.”

Despite the big name cast, the only actor who truly shines is Day-Lewis. Because the movie revolves around his character, it is easy for Day-Lewis to strut his stuff. And he struts it well, in the way only Day-Lewis can. But because there are so many women, it is hard to establish truly deep female characters. Thus, almost all the women seem to be rather flat, two-dimensional characters, and are only able to portray the personas the screenwriters decided to slap on them. Granted, each woman is supposed to represent some aspect of Guido himself, but that does not mean they must be only that aspect. However, because of the limited screen time the actresses are given, they are unable to explore their characters in depth. Even Dench, the best of the bunch, is relegated to her old role as the no-nonsense, surrogate mother-esque M persona. This is rather unfortunate, as almost all the actresses have the potential to be brilliant in their roles.

(The exception to this is Fergie, who plays the prostitute/wild woman Saraghina, whom Guido met as a child. Her acting is pretty much on par with her acting in the music video to her song, London Bridge.)

Though I sincerely disliked the way the movie used an amalgamation of gorgeous costumes, singing and dancing as a sort of crutch to dress up an otherwise-bland story, I did, in fact, enjoy these aspects in and of themselves. They were all superbly done, and done in such a way as to highlight the most important aspect of each character’s personality. One of my favorite numbers centers around Kate Hudson’s American-born Vogue journalist, Stephanie. Her song is an appropriately high-fashion, lights-camera-action sequence that—much like a photo spread in a glamorous magazine, such as Vogue—alternates between color and black and white. Though the lyrics express a love for fashion and high culture, they do so in a way that links Stephanie to Guido: Her lust for clothing and glamour mirrors her lust for him; and because Guido’s movies are partially known for their couture and glitzy costumes, these passions are inextricably linked.

The film also features some lovely shots of the Italian coast. Some of the most beautiful scenes actually come at less important points in the movie. For instance, when Guido is driving to Milan to escape the madness of his life in Rome, the camera pans out to show his car circling the bend of a steep incline overlooking a deep cerulean sea. The film unobtrusively highlights the beauty of Italy, specifically Milan, where most of the action takes place, both at night and during the day. During scene in which singing and dancing are absent, the film makes good use of the scenery to highlight the characters’ actions. In turn, the characters’ clothes and general appearance emphasize the beauty of their surroundings, and the two combined help to set the mood of the scene.

But I didn’t pick up this movie to watch it for the scenery. I picked it for the plot. And, sadly, without the singing and dancing, the plot is pretty damn boring. Granted, there are some pretty smokin’ sequences—though her acting is less than commendable, Fergie’s song, Be Italian, is one of the sexiest movie numbers I’ve seen—but they don’t quite make up for an otherwise uninteresting plot. And the fact that Marshall was too timorous not to make the movie an Italian version of Chicago mixed with a dash of Moulin Rouge does not work in its favor.

Like Guido, Marshall’s use of so many women in pretty costumes inevitably came back to bite him in the ass. But unlike Marshall, Guido actually makes a decent movie in the end.

My love forever,

Film Bitch

Published in: on June 20, 2010 at 12:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Not Your Typical Dance Flick: “Footloose”

Tragedy struck at the library yesterday. Not only did they not have 9 ½ Weeks, but they didn’t have The Full Monty, either. So, I am sad to report, there will be no stripteases in this post, sexy or otherwise. But there will be dancing.

Footloose, based loosely on actual events in Elmore, OK, is one of those classic ‘80’s movies that almost everyone knows, or has, at least, heard of—after all, it is one of the youthful Kevin Bacon’s most famous roles.
(But, sadly, while he was cute in 1984, he hasn’t aged all that well.)

Bacon’s Ren McCormack is, as I described via text to a friend the other day, “a youthful city upstart” from Chicago who has recently moved to the sleepy, parochial country town of Bomont, where the most exciting activity the kids engage in is a thrilling game of Chicken, using tractors. Ren is first spotted by town belle and firecracker Ariel Moore, played by the rail-thin Lori Singer, and her group of giggly girlfriends in church. Though Ariel feigns disinterest, she is secretly intrigued by this handsome young stranger who has come to town—and who can blame her? As a preacher’s daughter, Ariel is expected to be the model child; so, of course, she rebels in all sorts of ways, which doesn’t go over too well with her father, Reverend Shaw Moore, played by John Lithgow—especially when she *gasp* listens to rock and roll music, which is, in the opinion of the town’s middle-aged and up members, the greatest sin one can commit, as it promotes “easy sexuality and relaxed morality.”

So imagine how pleased Revered Shaw is when Ariel starts hanging out with Ren, who, in everyone’s estimation, is practically the next Anti-Christ: Not only does he listen to rock ‘n roll, but he dances, and reads “blasphemous” books like The Slaughterhouse Five. Ren is not unaware of the town’s prejudice, but tries not to let it get to him. And though it’s a bit hard to ignore just about everyone, save your buddy Willard, throwing dirty, you’re-a-heathen glances your way, Ren takes out his frustrations by—you guessed it—dancing.

(Or, more accurately, pretending to be Spiderman in an abandoned barn while a hidden Ariel watches.)

Of course, it’s not long before Ren has almost every kid in town interested in this mythical thing called, “dancing.” So when Ren gets up in front of the town council—Bible in hand, literally—to preach the goodness of dancing, practically the entire eighteen and under crowd comes to show support. Problem is, the practice has been outlawed for such a long time, that no one really knows how to do it, unless they’re “rebels” like Ariel and her posse. Eh. Details. Ren makes sinners out of all of ‘em in no time.

Footloose is by no means a “good” movie, in the sense that it’s deep and meaningful. But it is “good” in the sense that it’s silly and fun, and pretty much epitomizes the dance craze that briefly swept the movie industry in the ‘80’s. Moreover, it reveals the (unfortunate) stigmas that many progressive or different ideas encounter in the face of—to put it bluntly—religion. For example, about three-fourths of the way through the movie, the more religious members of the community actually hold a book burning outside the public library. If you’re anything like me, and associate book burning with Nazis, and then realize that that shit still happens, then you’re going to feel a little freaked out. So, like I said: The movie’s not especially deep and meaningful. But the way it manages to show the uglier side of reactionary ideology, while at the same time remaining a light-hearted ‘80’s dance flick is worthy of respect.

And, strangely enough, this is not your typical some-actors-are-good, some-actors-are-awful movie. Everyone fits his or her role more or less perfectly. Singer is really good at being the token rebellious, somewhat bratty bitch of a girl (which leads me to wonder what she’s like in real life…), and her dancing isn’t too shabby, either. Bacon, of course, is good at getting in your face, and acting the tough guy. But I’d have to say, of all the actors in the movie, my favorite is (believe it or not) Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Rusty, Ariel’s best friend. This is the Sarah Jessica Parker waaaaay before she became famous, for anything, Hocus Pocus included. Parker is anything but sexy; instead, she’s an adorable little ball of happiness and sass, which is incredibly endearing and then some. Given Rusty’s character and some of her lines, Parker certainly didn’t have to be as chipper and upbeat as she is in the film. But the fact that she is makes me think that Parker may have infused some of her real self into the character, which makes Rusty all the more realistic. And while many of the other characters were either a bit too awkward for my liking—see Chris Penn’s Willard; though, with a name like “Willard,” I’d be awkward, too—or too archetypal (see Singer), Parker comes off as a genuine high school student, and is, in fact, the most believable character in the entire film.

Now, this movie is no Dirty Dancing, which is probably the most famous dance film of the ‘80’s. But that’s really only because, aside from the stunt double’s gymnastic feats in the I’m-a-frustrated-teenager barn scene, the movie doesn’t actually focus on dancing as much as one would expect, especially given the (wonderful) opening credit sequence. However, this does not mean it should not be labeled a “dance movie,” as the main conflict actually does revolve around dance—just in a slightly different way than you might think.

All my lovin’,

Film Bitch

P.S. I have figured out how to fix the links, so the picture of Kevin Bacon works! Success!

Step right up! It’s Monday Madness!

Happy (?) Monday!

Before I start:
I’m still fighting with the links! As I said before, WordPress keeps adding quotation marks to the end of a few URLs; thus, some of the hyperlinks don’t work unless you physically delete the quotation mark at the end of the URL. I’m really, really sorry about this, and will try to have my more Internet-savvy friend help me work out the kinks.

But onto the news!

Oil!? We don’t need no stinkin’ oil!

Obama set off today on yet another trip to areas of the US affected by the BP oil disaster. Only this time, he didn’t go to Louisiana—Alabama, Mississippi and Florida have become the states to be most recently directly affected by the disaster.

Obama will be using his first Oval Office address to talk about the disaster, and “use the disaster as a springboard for pushing Congress to pass comprehensive energy and climate change legislation that includes a crackdown on the oil industry.”

Uh, okay. That’s all well and good, and I certainly support this particular policy move, but wasn’t he just spouting plans to drill for oil barely three months ago? And didn’t he put a comprehensive climate and energy policy on the back burner in favor of the absolutely incorrectly-named “clean energy”?

(Believe it or not, sir, there is no such thing as “clean coal.” Trufax.)

Clearly, what we have is a case of a wibbly president. I can’t tell where he stands anymore. During his campaign, Obama ran on a green platform; then, a little over a year into his term, he announces that he wants to focus on “clean” energy, and drill for oil. But after a massive oil disaster occurs, he backpedals, brands the oil companies as “evil,” and imposes hefty fines on BP.

Hate to break it to you, Mr. President, but who did you think would be in charge of your drilling operation you proposed back in late March, early April?

(If you guessed, “oil companies,” you’d be right! Where’s Vanna White when we need her?)

If Obama’s indecisive nature weren’t bad enough, BP, as it turns out, isn’t being entirely candid about the oil spill. For a company that’s responsible for the biggest environmental disaster in US history, you think they’d want to avoid as much trouble as possible, right?

Guess not.

The above article mentions several shady-sounding incidents involving the media and BP officials. For instance, when a federally-approved CNN camera crew tried to interview workers from the Louisiana State Animal Response Team who were volunteering to help clean animals soaked in oil from the spill, a man from the LASRT turned them away, saying, “I make the final call.” Yet BP maintains that it is utterly open about the issue, and that such incidents are anomalies and shouldn’t be taken as representative of the whole.

But, as the article points out, BP failed to release tapes of the oil actually spilling out into the water until late May, at the behest of Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey; and only after the tapes were released did the scientists realize BP was severely underestimating the amount of oil flowing into the Gulf.

Suspicious? I think so.

In a bit of good news concerning the spill, though:
According to this Business Week article, BP may lose its US contracts and leases after the spill is cleaned up. Interestingly enough, though the spill is undoubtedly BP’s greatest crime, there have been other incidents in the past, such as the explosion in 2005 of a BP oil refinery in Texas in which fifteen people were killed, as well as a pipeline leak that released over two hundred thousand barrels of crude oil into Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in 2006.

What bothers me is that the government did not see the need to take BP to task over these two incidents, even though they occurred within a year of each other. Admittedly, the accidents happened during the Bush, Jr. administration, so I’m not all that surprised. But why wasn’t there a greater outcry from the American public? Why didn’t we push harder against our dependence on oil?

I am happy BP is paying the price. But isn’t it time we actually sober up and take initiative ourselves? As I mentioned above, I believe, at this particular point in time, Obama is too wishy-washy to trust. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up drilling along the coast in a year or so. I know it’s hard to believe that one person can make a difference, and, yeah, if it really only were one average Joe who cared about the situation, I could understand that view. It would be like screaming at the top of your lungs at a rock concert. One person can’t be heard. But think of how much noise we can make if we all scream together.

One nation, divisible

Arizona recently enacted a strict immigration law that essentially discriminates against everyone who’s not Caucasian. Now, I don’t actually disagree with the idea behind the bill itself, which is to identify and deport illegal immigrants. Many jobs that could be held by currently-unemployed American citizens are being held by illegal immigrants, not to mention the fact that many of the immigrants who are employed are being exploited and abused, but can’t actually go to the authorities about it, as their illegal status would be exposed. But that does not mean that the way Arizona governor Jan Brewer is going about enforcing the bill the right way. Essentially, the bill says that anyone who looks Hispanic and has “shifty eyes” can be questioned by the police. I’m not kidding.

Since enacting the bill, Brewer’s approval ratings have skyrocketed overnight. And apparently, she thinks this means it’s okay to take the routing to the next level: Targeting the children of illegal immigrants. Oh, and, just so you know, the “official” term for the child of an illegal immigrant is an “anchor baby.”

Wow. Let’s just break out the KKK while we’re at it.

The new bill would deny birth certificates to any children born to illegal immigrants, making it impossible for an illegal family to put down roots in the United States. As I said, I am all for a crackdown on illegal immigration; but I take issue with targeting the children, too. For one, it’s actually unconstitutional. If a child is born on American soil, it is an American citizen. No contest. Take a look at the 14th Amendment if you don’t believe me. Secondly, these are children. They have no control over whether they are here or not; it’s their parents who have come here illegally. So denying a child his Constitutional right for something that’s not his fault in the first place does not sit well with me.

Not only that, as many have been quick to point out, legal Hispanics no longer feel secure in their own neighbourhoods. Many feel as though they are the subjects of heightened suspicion and mistrust. This creates communal divides—and I shouldn’t have to say this, but, given all the other problems we have right now, the last thing the United States needs is the public’s distrust of one another. We need to be a unified nation, not a divided one—but Arizona’s new law is doing everything in its power to make sure we are as divided as can be.

(As a side note: Brewer looks kind of like The Mummy. That alone should spell trouble.)

I’ve decided to only post two news items today, as the first one was rather long, and I need to get some more work done for Ivory, as well as run to the library to get the next film I plan on reviewing: 9 ½ Weeks, starring the lovely Kim Basinger and the as-of-yet-not-disfigured Mickey Rourke. If you haven’t seen the (what I am hoping to be ) good, inevitable sexiness that will ensue, check out this YouTube video.
(Warning: The last few seconds are slightly NSFW. As in, you see Kim’s rather shapely behind.)

Will I rip it to shreds? Will I love it? Stay tuned!

Regards,

Film Bitch