Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday vidspam

Hello, all! I just got back from Christmas with my family, and I wanted to stop by to share some things on my mind.

In my very first post, I shared issues with It's a Wonderful Life...a movie I used to love. This year, I seem to have found a new Christmas movie, and that's White Christmas. It's the whole package: a buddy movie, a holiday film, a musical, and even a patriotic (and timely) shout-out to the armed forces. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It may be the actual "anti-IAWL". The message, if there is one, seems to be that the best way to help others is to do what you love. Very Joseph Campbell, non?

Here, in my opinion, is the most brain-breaking moment of the movie. we sadly bid farewell to an all-around entertainer, a classic sex symbol, and a free spirit ahead of her time. She also happened to sing one of my favorite Christmas songs. Rest in peace, Eartha Kitt.

Happy Holidays to all, however you celebrate.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Californication rant (Season 2 spoilers)

Okay, so I just got done watching an episode of Californication..."In a Lonely Place". In it, Hank hooks up with his daughter's English teacher, only to find out that she is the single mother of his daughter's boyfriend.

What really got me was that the boy was absolutely incensed. Okay, I will allow that the circumstances in which he found out (i.e., Hank coming downstairs naked) were far from ideal. But he acted as if his mother had been somehow dishonored.

Are we really living in in such a patriarchy, where it makes sense for a fourteen-year-old boy to act as the warden of his mother's chastity? Last I checked, I did not think a women in this culture had to defer to their oldest male relative, even if that relative was younger than her. Hank's daughter Becca was crushed as well, but that was only because of her boyfriend's irrational reaction.

Both Hank and the English teacher were available and consenting adults. They did nothing wrong. This could have been a teachable moment, but instead, Hank caved to a child's demands over his lover's protests. Her response should have been: "Look, I'm the parent here; and sex is healthy and fun as long as it'safe and ethical."

Okay, I realize that not everyone's values system allows for sex outside of marriage; but I don't think that was the paradigm that the boy was operating from. Even if it had been, Hank's mother was not a helpless victim and, I would argue, was no more besmirched than he was.

Of course, none of this kept Becca from getting all the best lines, as usual....

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Let the Right One In

Last Saturday, I had one of the worst night's sleep of my life. I had just seen Let the Right One In ("Lat den Rate Komme In") at Nashville's historic Belcourt theatre.

This Swedish film revolves around Oskar, a lonely 12-year-old boy living in a Stockholm tenement in 1982. He finds companionship when Eli, a strange girl his age, moves in next door. Soon, however, murders begin to occur in the area. The audience gets to see that the man living with Eli is committing them...but that she seems to be in charge. It isn't long before Oskar, like Bella Swan, figures out what his new friends really is.

As other reviews have pointed out, the action takes place in winter and mostly at night, either outside or under artificial light. This goes a long way toward setting the tone. While there are no weak performances here, Lina Leannderson's Eli is a fae and unsettling presend from the moment we meet her, when she executes a graceful drop jump from a jungle gym

As with most horror movies that are actually good, the true horror here is human nature. The bullying that Oskar stoically suffers is some of the worst that I've ever seen onscreen. There is believable and often moving tenderness between Eli and Oskar...such as the scene where she eats a chocolate to avoid hurting his feelings, and ends up retching shortly after. At the same time, this is juxtaposed with the cruelty she shows to others.

The story takes few liberties with vampire lore. These vampires have to be invited in and have to stay out of sunlight. (There is some ambiguity on how vampires are made.) There are a few cinematic innovations. Animals react strongly to vampires...very strongly. We never actually see any fangs, but we do see what happens if a vampire comes in without being invited. This is also not a movie that makes vampirism itself sexy. The murders committed for Eli are disgusting, and the victims are humanized. Her own attacks, too, are vicious--due to her age, she uses deception rather than seduction. You feel the horror of life with a monster.

Like Twilight, this movie deals with budding sexuality. It looks at an earlier stage, however, and never directly addresses the mechanics of adolescence. One dialog is a mirror of one that takes place in Twilight ("How old are you?"). There is one scene, where we see what vampires look like in pitch dark, that is creepier than anything in Twilight.

For vampire romance, I prefer stories like The Silver Kiss. The vampire moves on, in one way or another, because it's existence is unnatural, and it would not wish that on the one it loves. The human lover returns to normal life, both stronger and wiser for the experience.

This is not that movie.

Instead, at the end, we are left remembering the fate of Eli's human "father", and wondering Oskar's fate will be the same if he does not become a vampire. The looming question makes the tenderness that the children share, even in the last scene, all the more bittersweet.

I expected that Let the Right One In might be more frightening than Twilight. I did not expect it to be more romantic.