Sunday, December 05, 2010

Netflix says that I like "dark movies with strong female leads"

So you all get 2 movie reviews. One about a famous and awesome real woman, done by a man, and one about a fictional but courageous teenage girl done by a woman. I'll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but here's a spoiler warning anyways.

First, Agora. Rachel Weisz is Hypatia, philosopher, atheist, brilliant teacher in Alexandria right at the crux of the struggle between Christians and Pagans. She is perfect, so perfect that she's more of a pedestal goddess than human being. But I don't care, I'd watch her anyways. Also, it doesn't pass the Bechtel test. (blah blah blah, it's not like she'd have had a best girlfriend to confide in back then, blah blah blah).

That said, for who knows what reason, the director had to throw a rape scene into the movie. Perhaps because Hypatia was only allowed to do things she did in Alexandria because she was considered a virtuous woman, Amenabar threw in a rape scene so that there was some sexual tension. But the movie didn't need it and it would have been better served if the rapey character was shown struggling with the choice between logic and Christianity more. That's a much more interesting struggle than "I want a woman and she doesn't want me".

But watch the movie anyways because 1) Rachel Weisz 2)Hypatia 3) The atheist is the only reasonable person in the city. This ain't no throwing the Christians to the lions, and the Pagans don't come off any better.

Next, Winter's Bone. 17 year old Ree Dolly has to go find her meth making father and get him to appear in court so that her family doesn't lose the home and land he put up as bond. Her mom is nearly catatonic. Ree's the only person looking after her and her little brother and sister. It's written and directed by Debra Granik and Jennifer Lawrence's performance as Ree is amazing. She's tired and terrified and braver that anyone should ever have to be that young.

It's also an interesting portrayal of the codes of violence. There are rules, even in the poorest segments of society, of who you can hurt and how. It's a fucked up kind of chivalry (chivalry in itself is fucked up- but that's a whole other essay). Trying to keep track of the complicated rules of who you're safe with and who you're not safe with and what kind of behavior gets you hurt requires a flow chart, or as Ree says being "a Dolly, bred and buttered".

Winter's bone is sad but really good, and deserves every one of the awards it's up for. And it totally passes the Bechtel test. Some of the most crucial moments of the film are between Ree and the wife of the most feared man in town, and he doesn't get more than a line or two.

So what are you all watching?

No comments: