I don’t really get out much to see new movies–the best I can do is get them on NetFlix and hope that I can manage to stay awake past 9 p.m. to watch them. So, international travel permits me an almost unparalleled opportunity to watch a variety of recent movies! Herewith are a few short reviews of the movies I saw (and/or dozed through) on the flight back home from our spring vacation:
- The Blind Side: O. mai. Gawd. I’m shocked that anyone involved in this movie was considered for an Academy Award. This by-the-numbers plot traffics in some of the worst stereotypes I’ve ever seen in pop culture in my lifetime. It’s like a bizarro world view of how the U.S. really works, wherein the “bad guys” who threaten the African American protagonist are all black (drug dealers and a rep from the NCAA), and the “good guys” helping the protagonist are all rich, white people (the adoptive family, the tutor they hire, and top U.S. college football coaches.) One exception: one white “bad guy” is a high school teacher who dares to assign the young football hopeful a D for his schoolwork! Yeah, that’s a reasonable representation of how power works in America: if only the evil high school teachers and drug dealers would yield all of the power to rich white people and let them do whatever they see fit, all of our problems would be solved! I saw nothing special in Sandra Bullock’s performance of a stereotypical pillar of True Womanhood, although I thought they could have afforded to give her a better dye job. (How she beat out Gabourey Sidibe for Best Actress is beyond me.)
- Whip It: A totally awesome movie about a high school misfit and reluctant beauty pageant contestant from Bodeen, Texas who goes to Austin and becomes a rocking Roller Derby queen, starring Ellen Page, Juliette Lewis, Kristen Wiig, Marcia Gay Harden, Alia Shawkat (“Maeby” from Arrested Development) and Drew Barrymore (who also directed the film), among a bunch of other women actors of all ages. It’s a great coming-of-age movie, with some of the classic markers of the genre (the first love affair, the confrontation of parental foibles, tensions among friends), but it’s smart and sensitive without being overly sentimental. If like Tenured Radical you also didn’t like The Hurt Locker because of its simplistic and hackneyed portrayal of masculinity in war and because of its exclusion of women characters—Whip It is the antidote.
- The Informant: Dozed through it, although I noticed that it had an almost exclusively male cast.
- The Violinist Soloist: I dozed through it, but Jamie Foxx sure made the most of putting on the full crazzy for the camera. Man oh man, the Academy sure likes to reward biopics and characterizations of real people (The Violinist Ray, The Blind Side), don’t they? This is another movie that (surprise!) focuses almost exclusively on male characters. America really loves seeing stories about nice, white people helping out poor black people, don’t we? Why is that? (Dr. Mister saw the whole thing–he said it was incalculably better and more complex than The Blind Side.)
- Precious: Just kidding. Do you really think Delta Airlines–or any other airline–is going to pick that as an in-flight movie? Not in a million years!
An incredibly adventurous friend of mine decided a few years ago at the age of 42 to join a team that skates in the Detroit Derby Girls league. (When she was deciding on her derby name, I voted for “Helen Surly Brown,” but I don’t think that’s the one she went with.) I learned a lot about the modern roller derby demi-monde through hearing about her experiences. (You gotta respect a sport that chronicles its injuries in such loving detail.) Do any of you have experience either watching or participating in roller derby? It looks like a blast–but I’m too much of a chicken myself. (Especially after my friend blew out her knees after one season with the DDGs!)