2016 • 100 minutes • Universal Pictures
I am not an acolyte of the Coen brothers. I even thought I’d never seen a Coen brothers movie until a friend of mine helpfully pointed out that I’d seen both O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Fargo. This lack of attention and devotion is no slam on them—I do want to see Inside Llewelyn Davis for reasons that are totally not related to Oscar Isaac—but rather more an indicator of where I stand in the landscape of American cineastes.
So I was sold much more on the setting—1950s Hollywood, in that last gasp of the studio system—than on the directors. And, of course, on the promise of Channing Tatum dancing. It’s now a commonly acknowledged fact that Channing Tatum’s moves will bring in the masses. This is how Magic Mike XXL was willed into existence by all of America, the same way we got Keith Richards into Pirates of the Caribbean.
Ms. Marvel: Generation Why
by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt
2015 (originally published 2014) • 136 pages • Marvel
Ms. Marvel: Generation Why (or issues 6 through 11) finds newly minted Ms. Marvel, Jersey City’s own hometown hero, navigating the usual trials and tribulations of a teenage superhero—hiding her identity to protect her loved ones, interfacing with the larger world of superheroics, and, of course, saving the day. Specifically, saving the day from the Inventor, the strange cockatiel-human hybrid who has been kidnapping teenage runaways for assuredly nefarious purposes.
Generation Why keeps up the same high level of quality seen in Ms. Marvel: No Normal—unsurprisingly, as the only major difference in the creative team is Jacob Wyatt stepping in to illustrate issues 6 and 7. Wyatt plays nicely in the quirkier house style of Ms. Marvel (I especially love the way he draws Kamala’s prominent nose), but Adrian Alphona’s teen indie movie in a bottle style is still the most perfect complement to G. Willow Wilson’s writing.
If we can just make it to March without any more snow or me being sick, I’ll be a happy monster.
This week, Renay and I continued our adventures in Xena with “Callisto.” Also at Lady Business, I shared my favorite media from January, which were Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Late Night Tales: Jon Hopkins. (I listen to more than eighties music! Sometimes I have to calm down.)
2009 • 94 minutes • Magnolia Pictures
Humpday centers on two college buddies a decade after their youthful exploits. Ben (Mark Duplass) is a married man with a stable job and a nice house getting ready to conceive his first child with his beloved wife Anna (Alycia Delmore). Andrew (Joshua Leonard) is a vagabond artist who shows up at their doorstep in the middle of the night, in town to secure some funding for his latest art project. Despite Anna’s best efforts to be a good hostess, Ben and Andrew end up at a party in a queer artists’ colony one night. When a couple excitedly explains to them their plan to submit a film to Seattle’s Humpfest, an “amateur dirty film festival,” Ben and Andrew drunkenly decide to submit a film of their own to the festival—filming themselves having sex, which will be “beyond gay” since they’re both straight. The next morning, they find themselves making excuses not to back down from the project.
Unmoored in time, Humpday feels very slight, but it’s important to remember that in 2009 (oh, those ancient times a mere seven years ago), bromances were trending in pop culture—Apatow movies had gained cultural ascendency, “Guy Love” was a cheeky ditty capitalizing homoerotic overtones, I Love You, Man was in theaters, and even sexy new hit British show Sherlock had fun with letting Sherlock and John be mistaken for a gay couple. (This was back before we knew that the fun Sherlock was having was at our expense.) But it was nearly all of the “no homo” variety, with physical affection and therefore queer romantic or sexual behavior being played for laughs.
Forty Million Dollar Slaves
William C. Rhoden
2006 • Crown • 304 pages
It may not come as a shock to you that I am not a sporting woman. I may enjoy sunshine and long walks nowadays (having come to terms with the fact that, in many respects, I am a glorified dog), but, in childhood, I aligned myself against organized sports after a coach mocked me for sulking behind my long hair instead of participating in fourth grade. I deeply suspect that sports is a bit like religion: it really helps if you were in the thick of it as a kid, although it’s obviously not necessary.
So, despite being a pop culture junkie who gnashed her teeth at the demise of Grantland, sports has never been a part of my life. I only understand sports through the lens of fandom (we are not so different, you and I, Cheeseheads), but even that’s through a lens dark with my culture’s toxic narratives about masculinity, violence, and race. But I had no idea how far that rabbit hole went until I came across Adrienne Elyse’s post on Feministing wondering how to square feminism and just plain ethics with sports fandom. What utility does sport serve us as a cultural practice, and why is that utility served with exploitative practices such as looking the other way when it comes to violence against women? In that post, she specifically names Forty Million Dollar Slaves as a good resource into understanding how modern American sports exploits young black athletes.
Dear White People
2014 • 108 minutes • Lionsgate
Dear White People opens in the aftermath of an “African-American-themed” party at Winchester University, a very tony Ivy League school somewhere in the United States. As national news covers the story, several characters stare, shellshocked, directly into the camera. It’s only Tessa Thompson’s Sam White who watches back, a camera glued to her left eye and an appraising look in her right one.
And that’s when I screamed in delight, because there are few things I love more than the fourth wall being coolly, elegant broken to make a point about who is seen and who is being seen. (If you would like to enjoy a pop music version of this, I direct you to Madonna’s performance of “Vogue” at the 1990 MTV Awards.)
The Empress Game
by Rhonda Mason
2015 • 352 pages • Titan Books
As concepts go, The Empress Game seems pretty clearly suited to my taste: a galactic empire elects its empress not through political process, but through the Empress Game, a tournament of ritualized combat where any woman with a title can compete for the seat. The mysterious but brutal pit fighter Shadow Panthe is hired as the illegal double for Princess Isonde, the emperor-elect’s politically powerful beloved, but participating in the game will bring her uncomfortably close to her past.
Ooh! Action, awesome ladies, and mysterious pasts? Sold! (And also sold on the strength of that cover, which insinuates both female empowerment and pulpy delights. I am a simple woman of simple tastes.) When I saw that Thea recommended this at the Book Smugglers, I immediately added it to my list.
I desperately need this tin to store my hardcore sewing supplies.
It’s snowing like a monster here in New York, so I’ve been spending my weekend wearing the same pair of thick socks, making oatmeal cookies, and crafting. (Painting a tin and cutting some postcards out of a Star Wars-themed cereal box is crafting, right?)
At Lady Business, Renay and I continue our Adventures in Xena with “The Greater Good.”
The Princess Diaries
based on the novel by Meg Cabot
2001 • 115 minutes • Buena Vista Pictures
If, by some strange and vengeful act of God, every Disney Channel Original Movie was wiped from the face of this earth, we could probably reconstruct them using The Princess Diaries. Despite its theatrical release, its Whitney Houston production credit, and the good name of Gary Marshall back when that meant something other than another American rendition of Love Actually (Mother’s Day, coming to theaters April 26th, I am literally not joking), The Princess Diaries is nothing if not the platonic ideal of the DCOM: glossy, sweet, and fun, complete with the optional side order of a big star (Julie Andrews) gracing a smaller production with her presence.
It’s so sweet, in fact, that I remember being very disturbed as a preteen by the discovery that the Grandmere found in Meg Cabot’s novel (upon which the film is based, obviously) bares little resemblance to Julie Andrews’ kindly Queen Clarisse. I mean, she’s amazing—tough as nails, glamorous, and a fan of permanent makeup—but she’s, you know, different.