Women’s History Month: Theda Bara

What is the first image that comes to your mind upon hearing the term “sex symbol”? Could it perhaps be the famous image of Marilyn Monroe and her billowing white skirt? Could it perhaps be a provocative album cover of Madonna--or even a sensual smirk and devilish eyes on the face of Elizabeth Taylor? What if I told you that sex symbols existed even before some of your grandparents were born; would you have any trouble buying that? Well, get this, in 1885 an infant, with the name Theodosia Burr Goodman was born. An infant who would grow to be so hauntingly beautiful  that a simple glance at a vintage photograph of her could stare at and bury itself into the deepest recesses of your very soul. This woman is none other than Theda Bara: one of America’s most prolific silent film actresses--one of cinema’s first sex symbols.

Review: The Wolf Hour

“The Wolf Hour” is set in an era ripe for cinematic depiction; the summer of 1977. We spend part of this summer with reclusive agoraphobic June (Naomi Watts) as she is cramped in the smoldering heat of her stuffy, dusty, apartment in a dilapidated South Bronx walkup. An apartment with a window which--as June peers through with a cigarette in nudged between her pointer and index finger--seems to be a television with a crime show playing on repeat. The apartment itself is coated with dust; we see piles of books graying with grime, and what would appear to be discarded items pilling up in every corner. June herself has greasy coffee-colored hair; she is fleeced with a perpetual sheen of sweat. It’s miserable--the oppressive bleakness in her apartment mirrors the brutal crime outside. This is a rousing, dark look at a depressed, tortured woman’s self-imposed isolation. A near-colorless depiction of a mental struggle which is carried defiantly, from beginning to end, by a stunning performance from Watts.

Review: Banana Split

“Wait, which Sprouse is this?” I asked myself as “Banana Split” began. The Sprouse in question here is Dylan--brother of Cole Sprouse (as seen on Netflix’s Riverdale); one of two twins who’ve left their Disney days behind. The Sprouse brother here plays Nick, yer typical high school beach blonde with long hair and a toned physique. This tale begins with him and his best friend, April (Hannah Marks); they instantaneously mutually decide to take their friendship to the next level. Within the film’s first two minutes, you see it all: their first date, their first fight, the first time they have sex (if seeing Zack Martin of “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” in a sex scene served as a reminder of how old you’ve gotten: welcome to the club, I’m here for you), and their eventual breakup.

Review: Seberg

Jean-Luc Godard’s "Breathless" made her the star of the French New Wave; this star, however, was an image that its actress, Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) wanted to escape from. ‘Seberg’ is a tale of how she attempted to do precisely that. In her efforts to distance herself from the frivolity of the movie industry, she was punished. She was tormented and harassed by the hands of a paranoid government and their propagandist media counterparts; sound familiar? Stewart is an interesting choice: She isn’t particularly known for the sweetness and perkiness that Seberg is, however, like Seberg, has made a name for herself in French cinema (with some help from Oliver Assayas, she has been given the chance to act alongside and demonstrate her talents with Juliette Binoche).

SXSW Exclusive Review: My Darling Vivian

Year: 2020 Runtime: 90 minutes Director: Matt Riddlehoover Stars: Rosanne Cash, Cindy Cash, Tara Cash, Kathy Cash By Mique Watson History is replete with stories of the silent women behind their rich, famous husbands; mere specters looming in the background. Likewise, innumerable stories of this sort have been widely ignored--here, we offered remuneration for one.... Continue Reading →

SXSW Review: Rare Beasts

“I give really bad blowjobs” laments Mandy (writer/director/star Billie Piper) on a first date as “Rare Beasts” opens. Mandy, a clearly agitated yet quirky woman prone to over-analyzing herself sits across her work colleague, Pete (Leo Bill). He postulates that he is religious that “modern women have more testosterone coursing through their veins than blood”. Mandy’s response? She ends the date by sprinting across the street and regurgitating the dinner they had just had onto the sidewalk. This is the best indicticator of the tone to follow: a blend of cringe-inducing, self-deprecating, visual humor confidently presented through a woman’s unfiltered vision. This is a wonderfully stylish and brave film that offers a new and unique perspective on the role of the modern woman in today’s society.

Review: Swallow

Somewhere in upstate New York, Hunter (Haley Bennett) stands on a balcony of a cold, glass house which overlooks a gloomy forest. This is a house with sapphire drapes which match her various knee-length skirts. We are immediately inducted into a world of isolation and familiarity--a world of neatness and artificial perfection. A world which, director Carlo Mirabella-Davis suggests, is one no normal human being could instantly acclimatize themselves to; one so laced with control and implemented order. Hunter has a perpetually fixed smile of obedience and understanding on her face whenever she’s in the presence of her husband, Richie (Austin Stowell); it’s a smile so forcibly fixed, it has the authenticity of a hundred dollar Prada bag. Hunter, for a long stretch of this film is the perfect embodiment of mute feminine submission; it’s as if she herself understands that she is better seen, not heard. She spends her days mostly idle; decorating her soon-to-be-born infant’s bedroom, making dinner, and playing mindless phone games.

Review: The Invisible Man

The question I am you all have on your minds is: what’s the point? Why bother attempting to remake a classic film, based on a century-old novel? I scratched my head the moment I heard Leigh Whannell (screenwriter of “Saw” and Insidious”) was attached to pen the screenplay and direct. Given the recent trend of ‘woke’ films bombing--and the decision to shift the focus away from the invisible man himself--I couldn’t help but be baffled by how anyone thought this project was a worthwhile idea. Now that I’ve seen it, I am horrified about just how current it feels. Universal clearly wasn’t interested in re-hashing old scare tactics and merely re-presenting an old tale with updated CGI. This iteration is one designed to deliberately carve out a new domain of horror on screen; it has brought to screen a reality that has existed for many people throughout time—a reality that has never been accessed on film before, especially with this much tangibility.

Review: Brahms: The Boy II

If you’ve seen 2016’s “The Boy”--one of the more peculiar entries to the horror genre as of late--you’d, like me, be trying to decipher how on earth a sequel could ever come to exist. Upon learning about this project, I found myself in a state of utter bewilderment. The first film ends with a twist so unexpected it overturned the entire storyline that had preceded it...and then it ended. So, how on earth did screenwriter Stacey Menear and director William Brent Bell plan on presenting a sequel that would not result in us, the audience, anticipating an already known reveal?

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