Friday, December 24, 2010

Pixie Lit xmas special!

Let’s face it: every Christmas you end up at a friend’s house drinking wine and sniffing pine needles and someone says ‘Hey! Lets watch a MOVIE!” and every year every December I do the rounds of offending nearly everyone I know by admitting that Love Actually is ACTUALLY my least favourite film. Ever. Since this has happened thrice this December already, I thought I would put together my personal list of the goods and bads that xmas film and tv have yielded over the years, and why they suck or rock.

Home Alone 1 & 2 - Everyone agrees. It’s got humour, it’s got bad guys, it’s got an ingenious kid that makes all kids watching think that they to could potentially foil two robbers in their tracks by beating them over the head with paint cans, etc. Plus – Harry’s scream when Kevin puts his brother’s tarantula on Harry’s face is potentially the best and funniest scream in the cinematic history.

A Muppet Christmas Carol - yes, I cry every time Tiny Tim speaks. Yes, the though of Kermit and Miss Piggy making babies is scary. But what could be better than Charles Dickens as a Muppet musical? It’s so cute and hilarious! Even the vegetables are scared of Scrooge!

Cute as pie!
To Grandmother’s House We Go - a lesser known and more controversial contender, this is the only Olsen Twins film I’ve ever seen. But I watched it every year as a kid, and I think it’s quite important because it means my Olsen twin memories are happy and fun and full of reindeers and fairy floss (as opposed to scandal, eating disorders, bad fashion sense, bad films, etc. Though Jared Padalecki starred in one of their later movies…awesome.)

Best. Kiss. Ever.
The Office Christmas Specials – portrays my favourite onscreen romance of ALL TIME (yes, I love it even more than Buffy and Angel, more than Simba and Nala, more than Leia and Han, more than me and a young Marlon Brando, which granted never happened ‘onscreen’): that of Dawn and Tim finally getting together. I cry every time I think of her opening her paint set in the car (in fact I’m welling up just thinking about it...)

A Mom For Christmas – Any tele-movie about a mannequin coming to life played by Olivia Newton John and being supermom and accidentally burning a house down deserves to be here no questions asked.

Santa Claus - And though I haven’t actually seen it, this looks incredible. A 1950s Mexican film about Santa fighting demons from space! Read summary here!

Dear Best Friend: you're booted if you try this.
Love Actually - apart from Alan Rickman who is great in anything (but best as Snape) and Colin Firth (also great in anything, but the GREATEST as Darcy) this films sends a terrible message! In fact Alan and Colin give terrible messages too even though I love them! What, love is anything you make it? Love is all around, in the affairs, and the sleeping around, and even though Colin Firth is amazing as if his part of the storyline would EVER happen! Talk about giving people unrealistic expectations! And Kiera Knightly’s husband’s best friend telling her he loves her AFTER she’s married? Inappropriate!  My best friend BETTER NOT PULL THE SAME STUNT or they won’t have a best friend anymore! GAHHH! And as if the little boy at the end would actually make through the airport in time to meet that girl! And as if a girl like that would ever kiss a guy like him! I’m sorry but it’s true! Laura Linney is the only person in the film who characterises love as being self-sacrificial when she gives up hooking up with the dude she likes in order to look after her brother, but even then the audience is left feeling like she got jibbed. Whatever happened to love being about the other person? About caring for someone in spite of yourself? For taking joy in serving another person? DIDN’T HAPPEN IN THIS FILM! PLUS EVERYONE IS SO FREAKING ANNOYING except Emma Thompson she’s quite good although she gets TOTALLY SCREWED OVER by her husband. LAME. Here endeth the rant.

Miracle on 34th Street - I could go on and on about this one as well but let me keep it brief: the conclusion of the film is basically that we should believe in Santa (and not just believe in him, but have it ruled in court that he exists) because “What’s worse? A lie that brings a smile? Or a truth that sheds a tear?” That’s right kids. It best to LIE to KEEP PEOPLE HAPPY. Don’t go near the TRUTH in case it UPSETS SOMEONE!!!

Home Alone 3 - Um…Macauley Culkin was in rehab (and was like 18 years old) at this stage, and since the largest fan demographic of the first two films were also like 18 years old (some too in rehab) at this stage I’m not quite sure who this sequel was trying to reach.

The so-called hierarchy of attractivness. A bad xmas msg!
The Holiday - Admitting I don’t love this film earns me more death stares than Love Actually. It’s not coz I don’t like the storyline (though of course it’s totally unrealistic. I have also already complained about Jude Law’s bad fake tan) it’s because what’s with ‘the hot’ couple and the ‘not’ couple? As if meeting the man of your dreams also equals meeting someone equally as attractive as you. Personally, I find Kate Winslet and Jack Black way more attractive than Jude and Cam-Cam, but please! It’s shameless!

Die Hard 2 – even though Die Hard is one of my favourite films and not strictly about Christmas, it does take place on Christmas Eve and is responsible for my fear of flying. Coz, what if some looney mucks up the instruments and my pilot misjudges the distance to landing and Bruce Willis isn’t there to light a cigarette and blow the looney up. 

Lets finish up with the greatest xmas special ever - Star Wars Happy Life Day. Keep an eye out for the baby wookie!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Azzled and Padazzled

I know I recently wrote about character Dean Winchester from Supernatural but seriously the man (and his brother Sam) deserve a post all to themselves. Really they deserve a whole blog EACH – ten blogs each – nay, the whole internet­but I have neither time nor skills to implement this.

Jared and Jensen
The two fictional fighters of fantastical crime (otherwise known as Jensen “Robobabe” Ackles and Jared “Too Chiseled To Be True” Padalecki) are actually the sole selling point of the show. It’s almost embarrassing at times, with the occasional (and superfluous) topless shot, manly rescuing and action, and the mandatory 5-minute bromance scene at the end of each episode where the boys share some emotional issue with each other, pat each other on the back, crack open a beer and then drive away in their (gorgeous) Impala. Sometimes I get the impression that the producers tripped over some screenplay that was on the floor (because it had fallen out of the trash) but saw the cost-benefit ratio in hiring ridiculously good-looking actors to attract a large female audience, and saving money by not having to hire a writer.

And really, apart from the boys’ appearance, I’m not sure how the CW Network gets away with such a show - even though I also was totally sucked in (and DVDs are really cheaps in the UK, got a whole season for less that 10 quid! whoo!). The premise of the show is two brothers fight all sorts of evil, ostensibly to protect the world. But really, the evil-fighting bit is just a backdrop to a hopelessly male-centric narrative, about men in all sorts of personal crises resolving their issues with and through other men. This in itself is not a bad thing, by the way. But rather than focusing on solving mysteries or using their wit to get out of tricky situations (like MacGyver) Supernatural is about two pretty Hollywood boys pretending to be hardcore (they drive an old impala, listen to Metallica and Black Sabbath, and drink beer all the time) having some sort of brotherly argument about family, self-esteem or their future together as a family, and then resolving it at the end in aforementioned bromance moment (and these moments are totally endearing and mostly very well acted). They have male role-models only: at first, their father, who they spend the first season searching for, and later Bobby, another hunter of evil who helps them along the way. (And even later, Castiel, an angel). For 5 seasons that’s pretty much what you get.

Sam and Dean have a man-to-man in the graveyard
While this male-centricity is sometimes interesting and develops (sort of) over the seasons, the women are not portrayed so favorably. Female characters are pretty much absent – unless they are evil (like the demon Ruby) being rescued (like a girl in nearly every episode) or being kissed/slept with (like a girl in nearly every other episode). It’s quite difficult to articulate female roles in this show without positioning them as passive – ie girls were rescued; girls were killed; girls were kissed. It’s troubling that women have so little agency in this world. Even Ruby, the demon, is not really a girl – the demon just possesses girls’ bodies, so the female body becomes a shell to be inhabited and used by some evil external force. Seriously: didn’t we get over these kinds of narratives in like the 19th century??!?

Despite all this – here’s the stumper: the viewers are mostly teen and adult females (though, to be fair, the stats show lots of guys watch it too). Of course, this is because the good-lookingness of Dean and Sam is so great it outweighs any desire to analyse the gendered power structure presented by the destabilised sons, absent fathers, substitute male role-models and passive women in the show. Furthermore, their brotherly love is so exclusive that it almost repudiates female voyeurs even as it draws them in, making girl viewers believe that if they were the one to meet Dean and Sam, they really could win the heart of a Winchester.

So in a way…Supernatural provides something quite special for women which isn’t seen very often. They to feel an attachment to the brothers (you really do feel you know them like sooooo intimately after all the bromance moments) they get to experience foreclosed desire – and the unattainability of the boys, due to their brotherly exclusiveness, makes the desire all the sweeter (or something like that). Plus the eye candy, I guess. Anyway, it’s a show for women, much like the trashy 18th and 19th century gothic novels which were primarily read by women and contained an abundance of male characters, sexy demons, evil woman, etc. And while I may disagree with the objectifying aspects (of men AND women) of the show, I can't devalue the fact that at least it works for women in a way some other shows don't.

This all kind of freaks me out a bit - not because of its gender representation in the show but because I like it in spite of its gender representation.  Furthermore, I liked a show that in some ways objectifies men; and as someone always ranting about how bad it is to objectify women, this troubles me of course! So much so that I'm having a little break in the middle of season 4 till I get over it all and the desire to find out what happens outweighs my moral obligation to the advocacy of gender equality. You know what I'm sayin'?? (So NO SPOILERS PLEASE I will watch it again someday! I hear the show becomes more self-reflexive and aware of it's hilarity in the later seasons...)