Tag Archives: film

I wonder why the feminist gaze

This is probably not the blog you are looking for. Or maybe it is.

I have just come back from seeing Wonder Woman – and this is going to be my review.

Now, what feels like years ago.. well it probably was years ago, I remember Gal Gadot being announced to play Wonder Woman. I questioned the choice. After all, she is a Amazonian Princess and a demi god to boot. I wanted a physically strong, imposing role model to look up to. I didn’t want some skinny broad who would blow over in a strong breeze. But when I saw her on screen in Batman vs Superman, it was clear that we have the perfect actress to play Wonder Woman. There was something, a presence, charisma, she made the character come to life, she made it her own.

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So let us say, I have been anticipating this movie, more so than any movie in a long while. And would you believe, I almost missed the release? It was put out by Warner Bros with an almost embarrassed, apologetic sniffle. Why ? What marketing ploy is this? To see if a woman could sell herself? To prove that a good movie needs no introduction? But it has done well, although strangely there have been a lack of reviews or spoilers cluttering up my newsfeed. Which instead of looking at with suspicion, I will count as a good thing as it has taken 4 weeks for me to watch it!

Now I know some of you will be waiting to watch it, or just prefer watching at home. So this will not contain any spoilers, but more an overview of the movie. One thing that has been bought up time and again…. Wonder Woman being the ‘first strong female lead’ although the quote was erroneously placed at someone’s feet (does it matter now) the problem is that the idea gathered traction pretty quickly. Lots of people championing this new direction for movies. First we had Brave, Frozen and since animation went so well… we ‘finally’ have Wonder Woman.

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But do we? I mean let us look at these 3 movies very quickly. Brave was a film about a frankly bratty girl, who gets her mother into a difficult position because, she is a brat. And it featured a heavy male supporting cast including her little brothers who also offered comic relief. I can’t really say I cared for her and I can’t see that this was any different from a standard Disney movie. Frozen, we have the bratty teenager who doesn’t get her own way and runs away from home. Gets her little sister into trouble, help on hand from 3 males in the form of a human, a snowman, a moose, and trolls.. I mean.. where do we start with this. Elsa is not a strong role model. She is a teenager. And Wonder Woman. Well, what can I say, the girl wasn’t doing it by herself. At no point in her life was she left to her own devices or given her own agency. She is supported by men, who have their own agenda. But allow her to show her humanity. 

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Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the movie, and her humanity, her empathy and sympathy for the human condition gave the film much needed depth that films like Batman struggle with. Dark Knight was a study in how we should feel sympathy for someone but because of the male gaze, it felt frustrating and frankly wasted good story time. And this is also why I struggle with the idea that Wonder Woman is a feminist film, or frankly that it has a feminist gaze. Yes, it is important to see more female role models for girls, to see strong empowered women. To show Hollywood that yes, if you film it, we will indeed come. In droves. We love this shit. However, the film was not feminist. Don’t cheapen the idea of feminism but suggesting that giving a woman a sword and letting her fight her own battles it is feminist. The same old story, I mean it was almost as formulaic as a Disney movie. We have a lead, a love interest, the foil and then we have the supporting cast who help move the story along. 

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Lynda Carter Directed by Vincent McEveety

However, I don’t want to put anyone off watching this movie, it flowed well, the acting was fantastic. There were plenty of laughs which felt natural and not planted (looking at you Marvel!) and there was chemistry amongst the various characters. The story was not forced, it didn’t feel shoehorned and there were some really heartbreaking moments. The fight scenes were fantastic and honestly, this is a movie that will have wide appeal without really trying too hard to appeal to everyone and ending up not appealing to anyone. 

But I would just like you all to remember, some of us grew up watching Sigourney Weaver,Carrie Fisher and Linda Hamilton kicking ass. Not inspite of being female, not because they are female. They were just strong characters. And going forward, Gillian Anderson, Sarah Michelle Geller. I could go on. But the point is, that many of us have unknowingly had strong female role models whether we analysed it or not. Nor is it a bad thing to be inspired by a male rolemodel. I agree having strong female leads and roles are important. But we need to have them just because, not to make a political point. Because frankly, making it political muddies the water unnecessarily. 

I really hope that you enjoy Wonder Woman for what it is, a fun comic inspired movie that gives a welcome break to Marvel. I really enjoyed the colour pallet, where Marvel tends to go with very bright, clear colour pallets in their movies, there is a clear definition between good and evil. DC continue to do colour studies using muted hues, in this case, a wash of blue. It worked well, there was still enough brightness but it help cast the mood over the entire movie. I mean there was a war going on, people died. This wasn’t a touchy feely, nice movie to feel good about. The killing started almost at the outset. But it handled this well. There was enough character development that you didn’t feel anyone was just there to fill up some dialogue. This for me, is what DC has always been good at. Looking at the reality, that things are not always going to be bright and beautiful. That life can be hard, gritty, things are not always easy and it is how we handle what is thrown at us that teaches us something about ourselves. Life is hard kids, it is dirty, and you will get bruised, but your true character will show through 😉 There have I rescued you all from the feminist rant?

One final thought. Can we edit the last 10 mins from a movie. Please. Just stop. When you feel the sappiness… just cut it right there. 

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Thanks for reading 🙂

Geek before it was mainstream

So, this weeks show is all about box sets and I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle the question from my gaze. What am I going to watch maybe, or cosplaying from popular shows (like GoT) but with a modern twist. Which I did respond to my co-presented with a rather over enthusiastic essay about cosplay which I don’t think was deserved and would probably would have served better as a blog. Then I got thinking about how both Marvel and DC are releasing films and television series which are very much mainstream.

I came up with the second idea this morning, but having given it some thought over the day, I think I can combine both topic ideas.

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My love of cosplay is well documented and so it is obvious for me to look at this side of things. However, when looking at updating a character like Dany from GoT, it really depends on where you fall in cosplay. There are those that will copy a costume exactly, those who will cross play, do casual looks based on a favourite character, armoured Disney princesses are popular at the moment, and to stay with a theme for a moment, apparel like Twisted Disney. But the one thing that remains constant in these is that you are instantly able to recognise the character. It is very much a visible acknowledgement of the character you are portraying. We work in visuals when we cosplay, often we are sharing on social media, or building portfolios, modelling our handiwork. So the costume we design needs to be visually identifiable.

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Which leads me to the observation (that I am not alone in making) that I am winding my way around to slowly. That pre millennium, every show was cleanly costumed. Let us take a quick look at the X Men – leading the way for comic to film cross over. If you didn’t ever pick up a comic, you may have come accross the X Men as a cartoon. And remember all those individual and interesting costume designs ? Each one designed for the personality of the wearer. This goes back to what I was saying about a visual representation of the character. Because comics are primarily a visual medium in the same way films are, with dialogue being secondary (and that is an argument we can have on another day). But if you put the X Men films alongside either comic or cartoon that you remember, there is a marked difference.

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The costume is identical for each member, the individuality is left at school. Once you become a full member of the team you dress, like a member of the team. If you look at shows like Agents of Shield, even shows like The Flash, Arrow, hell let’s throw Super Girl and Jessica Jones in there. The body of the story, the content for the majority of the episode is conducted out of costume. The segments of the show that see our hero, or anti hero in costume (if in fact there is one) is very small and tends to be there to underpin rather than highlight the entire show.

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It is easy to point out that tastes change, and that what was fashionable in the 70/80 and early 90’s certainly isn’t what is attractive to people any more. That we like things to have a sleeker design, just look at our phones, our cars, our lives. I could talk about how the uniformity indicates an end of childhood, and that even while different you are part of a controlled group. But again, a topic for another group. The fact is that superheroes have always worn a uniform but recently the uniforms have changed direction.

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And that, that is what makes these shows more accessible. The fact that we are not made uncomfortable by people dressing up, making fools of themselves, that for the most part they dress like ‘normal’ people. Even in films like The Avengers, they spend as much time in ‘civvies’ as they do ‘in costume’. If you look at shows like Batman (yes, I mean the one with Adam Weston) then you notice that there is a distinct flip between the amount of time that was spent in costume and the amount of time in say, the more recent spate of Batman movies.

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It is about accessibility, you can relate and understand and it makes the shows, and films more palatable to a wider audience. It means that the shows will be watched by people who have no interest or understanding of the background of the film of show – as can be seen by the popularity of the films spawns by the Marvel Universe. This is a genre that has bought the Geek culture into the mainstream. super heros previously resigned to only serious collectors or fans, banished to childhood are now being enjoyed by entirely new audiences because now, being interested in Geek Culture isn’t seen as bad as it once was.And let us not forget, the Avenger that most people want to laugh at Aquaman …. he is had a total make over, and I really cannot wait for that movie 😉

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As for box sets that you might want to check out – Netflix has an abundance, there is my personal favourite – Gotham, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Daredevil. Available on Sky – we have The Flash, Arrow, Agent Carter and Agents of Shield with more being planned.

 

Warcraft cashcow

So this is in no way meant to be a negative post, so please don’t get the wrong end of the stick! Giving blogs a title can be a chore!

So as you may or may not be aware, the Warcraft movie has been released. It was a staggered release over 2 weeks worldwide. It is predicted to do better in Europe that in the USA (which I assume is its biggest single market) and I have noticed several forums where people in past months have become rather upset that it is getting to North America last. I can’t quite say why this is, but I imagine it has a lot to do with generating interest.

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Now there is also a lot of confusion about the film, this is not a World of Warcraft (the game) movie. This is a story of the Warcraft universe, there were 3 games released before the all encompassing MMORPG that is usually referred to as WOW. This is effectively an explanation of how things happened, offering a history, a timeline, a backstory. So I guess for some it might be confusing. But if you have played Warcraft for any period of time, you will understand that the time lines are confused at best, and you won’t necessarily understand the history or who the key players are.

With each expansion is a new storyline and a shift in the universe and even time line, so really when you think about it… how are you going to capture that in a movie. What storyline are you actually going to pick to go down. What side do you pick?

So yes, this movie is a back story, to help us all catch up and what I assume will be a trilogy of movies that will net Blizzard some more money. Again, I sound negative, but you can’t blame them can you ? Why not build on your franchise. I guess what a lot of people will be asking is why it has taken so long? Well remember the Street Fighter movie, or the Dungeons & Dragons movie? Do you REMEMBER them? They are bad and in the case of Street Fighter, creepy. Go watch it… you will have a niggling suspicion that there is something a little ‘off’ about the movie. The sound track. Or lack there of, no ambient sound. It is off putting in its silence. And the Dungeon and Dragons movie is truly cringeworthy. Like it legitimised every assumption and stereotype about the franchise.

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But I digress, Blizzard, in World of Warcraft, have a cash cow. To the point that they are able to take a little more time over other games (let us not think about how long it took to release Diablo 3, and personally it felt like a massive let down. Yes it recreated the other 2 games beautifully… but again a little too accurate considering the time between the releases of the games) and even work on off shots of the game, Hearthstone being a massively popular game which combines a card game with the WOW universe. They have recently added Overwatch to their stable which makes for a pleasing change of direction and hopefully initiate new players to the franchise.

There was an understanding, long held that WOW would stop level 100. That is, that the last expansion allowing players to reach 100 would be the maximum level. That they would then release an entirely new game. But this hasn’t happened. And why should it. Right now, as in today, I had a look at the EU/English speaking servers. I have played for over a decade and so I have characters on numerous servers. Not a single one was listed as having a high population, barely any was touching a medium population. Because people have leveled, they have leveled a few characters, they have done all that can be done and have seen all there is to be seen. Until the next Expansion is released (end of August) people are winding down, enjoying their summer, remembering what friend’s and family look like, and generally relaxing. All hell will break loose when the expansion hits, and the servers will be over populated once again.

So back to the reason for this blog, the movie, the Warcraft movie that has recently been released. It has been timed rather well to cover the down time while everyone waits for the next expansion and hopefully will bring new and old players to the game. Again, it is generating an interest in the genre and game, a game that has been going for over a decade which is pretty good going. It is an innovative marketing strategy!

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I went to see the movie, I was warned by my SO that I would hate it, I have a history of being over critical when watching movies, including genres that I like (The Hulk, X Men) and he still laughs at my falling asleep during The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, then waking up during the credits and proclaiming that the movie was shite. In my own defence, I fell asleep. It can’t have been that good a movie 🙂 I also fell asleep during the first Captain America movie… I am a very critical person, in most aspects of my life, so my SO was right in suspecting that I would end up disliking the movie. I was willing to give it a chance, after all, I did give Batman VS Superman a chance!

So let us fast forward to the end of the movie, I walked out of the movie theatre smiling! Literally smiling,  I was really on a high watching a game I have been playing for many, many years, come to life. I don’t want to spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it, I promise! The movie is fantastic, the cities we all know and love come to life, you can feel yourself being transported into the film. It is the little touches, the spells you recognise along with the in game description (you will laugh, I promise). There is enough background and characterisation that you care about what happens to them, that you become attached but understand the motivation that drives them.

There is something for everyone, there are good looking girls, good looking guys, there is family, romance, there is fighting, explosions, intrigue, magic. Somehow it manages to blend everything seamlessly and it works. It doesn’t feel like a movie about a game, it works because it isn’t a movie about a game, it doesn’t rely heavily on prior knowledge. It isn’t a film for gamers. The things I mentioned earlier, like the spells, the cities, they are part of the rich tapestry of life in a fantasy setting. It is the perfect all round movie that will actually keep an entirely family entertained and should be judged on that and not its pedigree.

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#FORTHEHORDE

Also if you saw the movie and want the leggings, go check out Wild Bangarang By Clicking HERE

Horrific Childhood

Growing up in the Eighties, there was no shortage of horror movies, ones that shaped and influenced me, I keenly remember watching things like Child’s Play, Nightmare on Elm Street, Carrie, Poltergeist. There was never a moment where it was suggested kids shouldn’t watch these movies, many hours of play primary school with mini Freddie’s terrorising the rest of the playground.

I remember being introduced to the Hellraiser series while being looked after by my neighbours after school. I was hooked, it was colourful, gory and the scene in the hospital has never left me. Let us also not forget movies like Gremlins, Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters – movies that were to a greater degree aimed at a younger market.

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A friend shared an article that expressed the dismay at the lack of horror for children these days. I did a quick search for horror movies for children, it threw up things like Nightmare before Christmas, Monsters Inc and Frankenweenie. Which I think really, misses the point. I even found A Neverending Story on the list. Horror? Really, are we calling challenging scenes and emotions horror? Most of the themes become scary only when you get older and the full implications of the movie and what it is actually saying. The only thing that really might upset a child, is the same thing that upsets me and that is a pony possibly drowning in quick sand. But themes of death and sadness are not things that children should be shielded from, they are a part of life and children don’t get a free pass in real life. Why hide it in their films?

But death, in and of itself isn’t horror, and subtle themes, again will be missed by children. You have to remember that when you watch something as an adult you have a different, not necessarily greater, understanding that that of a child. This means that when you watch the same movie as an adult, you are no longer viewing it as you might have done.

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Now I am going to go in a slightly different direction for a moment but please bear with me – it will all come together!

When I was a child, my mother made a friend, I was never entirely sure how this relationship started, or how it continued as she didn’t really seem to enjoy Helen’s company. Helen had a daughter a little younger than me, and we spent time together, I spent weekends with them. Not sure why, I never really enjoyed it, and since my mother had children it didn’t give her a break. Now one of the things that my mother couldn’t understand and didn’t agree with was Helen’s insistence that her daughter not wear a school uniform. Not that her daughter went to a school that didn’t have a uniform. No, that her daughter was given special privilege to not wear uniform. So instead of just being part of her class, she stood out in her entire school.

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Again this might sound like I am going on the weirdest tangent but there is a reason for this colouring in, please bear with me. It was something that Helen took from her own childhood, she hated wearing uniform. She therefore felt her own daughter shouldn’t be put through the same thing her mother forced her to go through. And another hold over i have noticed is homework. I have lost count of the amount of people how keep bringing this up. That they don’t understand the point, that their children should learn enough in their school day, that they should be able to wind down after school, that it isn’t the parents responsibility to educate their children. I won’t go on. But it illustrates a point.

People are using their own experiences to colour the experiences of the next generation. When people don’t like wearing a uniform or doing homework, instead of appreciating or understanding why these things are important. But this is something to expand on in another blog post.

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My point is that decisions on what movies to make, what to give the green light to, are made by people  remembering the ‘video nasty’ movies from the Eighties and Early Nineties. It is entirely possible that they are trying to remove the possibility  of their children being subjected to the same. When you look at what is considered as horror for children, you are looking at movies like Coraline. I really like it as a film, but horror it isn’t. The storyline will appeal to most children, who hasn’t felt that their families are being entirely unfair and wanted to start over. But again what we catch as adults watching this movie is darker than what children will be watching. We are not watching it with the gaze of innocence. We understand more because of experience. Remember the difference in tone between the songs of innocence versus songs of experience.

We don’t have technicolor gore in our movies, we have a different taste now. Most of our horror is psychological, it is the shock value, paranormal. Most gore horror is now reserved for Zombie films and series that seem to have become more popular with the rise of other horror. Instead of a class hack and slash, we are terrorised by what lies beneath, what could be, what once was. This again is a throw back to what was popular when our generation was beginning to develop conciousness. Our generation, the generation after us, we remember the cheap thrills and gratuitous violence and have segregated it. We like our horror thoughtful, we like to have our shocks in the dark. We like to have bumps in the night and now a bloody body.

Now before you point out the obvious, yes there are movies out there in the main stream that bask in the gore, but they are the exception. They are not as prevalent as they once were. So what I am trying to say, in a rather long winded, and round about way, it isn’t just that the horror aimed at children is somewhat sanitised, horror has become something different. Everything evolves.

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