Monday, September 15, 2014

Something Old, Something New . . .

I haven't done one of these in quite a while - here, I'm going to take a brief look at four movies that fit into the "Bridal Package" - something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

The "something old" really goes with the Bridal Package - it is James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein, which I just used with the introduction to film class last week. I just love this movie for all sorts of reasons! One of those reasons is practical - Bride is short (75 mins.), so it can easily be shown in class without interruption. My class, who has already digested Metropolis and Dark City, seemed to really enjoy Whale's mix of dread, humor, and science-as-black-magic. There's so much to love in this movie that you really ought to treat yourself if you haven't seen it.

The "something new" is a realization that hit me while grading the latest stack of film responses from my class. For years, scholars have been howling in the wilderness that media images matter, so it matters that girls see female characters being active participants in stories rather than passive "women in refrigerators." By the same token (snicker!), it matters that people of color see themselves on screen, that disabled people see themselves on screen, etc., etc. Media images are tremendously powerful and the greatly shape how we view the world. Reading this most recent batch of papers, it occurred to me -

  • it's working. 

Really, it's working. My students (okay, too small a sampling to be statistically significant, but let me have this one, okay?) see passive female characters as the exception, as a remnant of the "old school." They expect women to be active, smart, and involved. Oh, there's still work to be done, no doubt about that, but all God's children said "amen."

The "something borrowed" is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. (Borrowed from the rental stack.) I re-watched this just last night over a supper of delicious, juicy homemade burgers and I had this driving desire to go get an apple pie for dessert. Cap2 is astonishingly good, not just as a superhero movie, but as a movie. Period. Full stop. Done in the style of a 70s spy thriller, Cap2 asks us some uncomfortable questions about security v. freedom, personal responsibility, and trust. Oddly enough, sitting quietly for a few minutes after the credits rolled was a great way to ponder the ways the world has changed since the events of 9/11, which continue to reverberate in our lives, whether or not we admit it.

. . . .and the "something blue" is the new release Dolphin Tale 2. (Blue for the water - see how this works?) You know, this actually is exactly as advertised - a heartwarming, sincere story. The power Winter the amputee dolphin has to connect with damaged humans and show them (and us) what is possible is well worth seeing. No darkness, no gritty "Sophie's Choices" to be made, heck - not even a villain. (The government agent who wants to remove Winter from the aquarium wants to do it because dolphins are social animals and need to be paired up with another dolphin; they do very poorly in captivity alone.)

So there you have it! Four films worth exploring all in a single column!

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